Writen By Strive Masiyiwa (ORIGINAL)
When I was in the US recently, I decided to drop in and visit one of our key partners, a company called Roku. This company supplies the specialized decoder for Kwesé Play that allows us to digitally “stream” all our Kwesé TV channels, plus services like Netflix and 100 others so far. It can only be used with a fibre optic cable in the house and is better than a satellite decoder.
Roku is one of the revolutionary companies coming out of Silicon Valley. (Roku itself came out of Netflix). Small by U.S. standards, Roku dominates the likes of Apple in this market segment. It has over 38m users in the U.S. alone. (It recently listed in the US and is now worth over $2bn!)
One of the challenges when you approach new companies that have new products is that they’ll often tell you they aren’t ready for global expansion. (And when they do begin to expand, Africa is generally not high on the agenda because there are bigger markets like China and Europe).
Africa is highly fragmented and difficult for those who don’t know how to navigate in it. This is a normal business reaction and I don’t get mad about it. Even Chinese, European or Japanese companies do the same. Those that do come to Africa generally go to South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya and Ethiopia first because they are the big markets.
(Don’t launch into a tirade over the unfairness you see. This is not the platform… read on and learn from the ranger!)
In launching Kwesé Play (https://www.kwese.com/play) we wanted to get access to the Roku device, because it’s the best in the world. We knew they hadn’t yet started their global expansion, and thought it highly unlikely that they’d accept to make a push into Africa at this stage in their growth.
__We decided to try anyway because we wanted the best #Product for our customers!
We were thrilled when they agreed to come and work with us in Africa, without a hesitation.
“We think Africa has huge potential,” they said, “and we are prepared to work with you guys. We know Africa!”
The other day I learnt why, and it’s the reason I included this story in the Lion and the Ranger series.
As I sat there with one of Roku’s key executives, and the one who had led our initiative in their company, he told me that after his graduate studies in the United States, he wanted to spend a year working in Africa so he went to live and teach in rural Tanzania. He could even speak fluent Swahili.
That was the connection!
We had a champion for Africa in the c-suite of one of the most important future companies in the media industry!
Wow, wow, wow!
He said he even follows me on Facebook. (I told you we have some very interesting #People of good will reading your comments!)
# Flashback: In 2014 I launched a program to invite young American graduates who had just completed their graduate studies to spend up to six months working for companies in Africa. We called it the Africa Business Fellowship (ABF). (http://www.africabusinessfellowship.com/)
As I explained to President Obama at the time: “When these guys return home, they will one day do business with us in Africa. If I walk into the c-suite of a major company in the US and the person running it has worked in Africa, you can be assured they’ll have a totally different mindset compared to someone who just visited as a tourist. We want business partners that take Africa seriously. I want to invest in that future.”
__In my long journey as an entrepreneur, I’d learned from experience that the people who give you an open door are those who have spent time on our continent. Even in China and Europe I had seen this.
After listening to me, President Obama heartily endorsed the program.
I then got in touch with some companies in Africa, and also identified two partners who now drive our ABF program: In the US, a group called Management Leadership for Tomorrow helps recruit our Fellows (https://ml4t.org/) and in Africa, the African Leadership Network helps identify companies where the Fellows are placed (http://africanleadershipnetwork.com/)
We’ve been receiving American graduates for the last two years. As I write today, several are working for companies throughout Africa!
Our Fellows will go on in their careers to join companies like Facebook, ROKU, IBM, and Disney. When YOU pitch up to do business in the years to come, some of them will probably be running these giant companies! They will receive you with understanding and a deep knowledge of the challenges you face. They will be your partners… provided, of course, we treated them with true African hospitality!
Now the guy at Roku was not one of the graduates of our ABF program, but it shows exactly what I had in mind.
# What is your leadership lesson from this story?
Remember to write: “My leadership lesson is… (one paragraph max).
Think back to how the ranger approached the problem of the lion eating cattle in the village in Part One. Are you following the same old tracks or creating new ones?
There are many problems out there and we need to approach them like that ranger. Some solutions will take some time to bear results, but we must be patient.
To be continued. . .
Image credit: Some of the ABF Fellows from the USA who worked in Africa this year (and attended the NBA-Africa game). Next time you see them they will be senior executives or even CEO of a giant American company. You will appreciate them even more then!