Viredo has been incubated at Turbine following their participation in our last Test Drive Program. The founder Martin De Navacelle chats with us to share his wonderful journey of becoming an entrepreneur following his incubation and explains what his start up is all about.

Tell us about yourself and what were you doing before your entrepreneurial journey?

I started my career as a software engineer and I am currently employed at Spoon Consulting. I have always had a love for electronic devices and working with them became a passion for me. Soon I started collecting broken and unused hardware to repair and turn them into running conditions again. This is how I came up with Viredo.

Viredo– Recycling old computers and electronics

An estimated amount of 60,000 computers are replaced every year by companies in Mauritius. This in turn has a great impact on the environment. At Viredo, we strongly believe that these products can have a second life after repairs and upgrades.

Viredo helps companies engage in environment protection by collecting & repairing their IT equipments.

My team and I collect IT equipments from companies and rebuild them after destroying all the data that they previously contained. We upgrade the products and then sell or rent them locally to companies who do not really need high end computers for their work. We believe that in this way we are able to decrease dumping and pollution and help the local economy as well.

What was your thought process when you saw the ad of Test Drive?

I was already driving this recycling activity for a couple of years when I saw the ad. I thought that this would be an excellent opportunity for me to further develop my business idea so, why not give it a chance and apply!

What was your experience of participating in Test Drive?

A key turning point in my project!

Turbine‘s Test Drive Program helped me in turning my vision into a real project. Super interesting workshops and continuous help and support from Turbine’s business coaches have really helped me. Participants were challenged throughout the journey and everyone was keen and motivated to work even harder.

Though I did not win the first prize, Viredo was incubated at Turbine. We have weekly meetings with our business coach and attend workshops that Turbine organizes to help us with our business.

What advice would you give to someone with a business idea?

Come and validate your idea through Turbine‘s Test Drive Program.

You’ll definitely not regret it!

 

Following Test Drive which was organized in October 2019, Recyclean is one of the 6 projects that has been incubated in the beginning of this year at Turbine. Sharon Lennon shares with us her journey and explains how she came up with Recyclean.

What were you doing before starting your entrepreneurial journey?

I am 32 years old and my entrepreneurial journey started 12 years ago when I had to take over the direction of a family business. After 10 years of ups and downs, I took the decision of shutting down the company mainly due to financial issues. I had a dream of opening a restaurant one day and I was able to achieve it in 2018 along with my mother. However we had to put an end to it for some medical reasons.

But being an entrepreneur at heart, I had to find a new business idea and I came up with Recyclean.

What is Recyclean?

In April 2019, while surfing on the internet I came across an environmental solution that exists in Namibia. With the growing concerns for environmental issues, it was clear to me that there was a business idea to develop for Mauritius as well. I created Recyclean to provide to households a weekly doorstep collect of their recyclables to sort and deliver to recycling factories in exchange of a monthly fee.

It will not be wrong to say that Mauritius has an uneducated population when it comes to recycling and going to segregation points which are generally located in supermarkets’ parking lots takes a lot of time.

Recyclean was born to address 2 issues that are convenience and gain of time. We therefore decided to be the link between those who want to recycle but either don’t know how to do it or do not have the time to recycle.

What was your experience of getting started? How did Test Drive help you with this?

Having learnt from previous failures, I did not want to make the same mistakes. I had to find a solution that would provide Recyclean with the right structure, professional expertise and coaching to help make the wisest decision. Following interview with one of Turbine’s coaches it was rapidly clear to me that Test Drive was exactly what I was looking for.

Three weeks of workshops and coaching have proved the Test Drive to be even more than what I expected. It is more than just a shared workspace, more than just coaches guiding your decisions, it’s a family. A family with every member ready to help at any time. Be ready to be challenged along the way and to have your business challenged from workshop to workshop.

What advice would you give to someone with a business idea?

The best advice I could give you if you have a business idea and you really want to do things correctly right from the start, is to enroll in the next Test Drive Program. You definitely won’t regret and the worse that can happen is that you’ll be making friends while sharing pizzas.

 

 

 

 

It is daunting to be your own boss. It is so easy to fall prey to the day to day activities of a business and to let that become your routine. As a founder, it is important to get out of that routine every now and then to have a bird’s eye view on a situation that one may find themselves in. Here are 5 points to check yourself on.

1.     Falling in love with their idea

It is difficult to tread the fine line between believing in your idea and being in love with your idea. Believing in your idea equips you with the resilience you need as an entrepreneur. You will often be approached by individuals who will question the feasibility, or the impact of your business idea and it is important for you to have studied the matter enough to be able to defend why you believe in it.

But falling in love implies something different.Granted, love is blinding: But in business, this can cost you a lot. Falling in love with your business means that for some reason you have some deep emotional attachment and an emotional stake in your company’s success or failure. The result of this can lead to the founder(s) being, excuse the pun, blinded by all the bright aspects of the business and often ignoring the red flags. It can also mean that you end up relying far too much on your own efforts to make the business work as opposed to finding the sustainable ways for you to grow.

2.     Misunderstanding the Launch

Presenting your work to people can be a hard thing to do. It’s a brave thing to put one’s work out to the public and to have people use it, critique it and even at times compliment it. As a result, I often find entrepreneurs meticulously fine tuning their products before going to market. Now my advice here is by no means: “Forget attention to detail.”! It is however important to stay lean in the early phases of your venture and the reason for this is twofold:

  • Staying lean as a business means you are deploying the exact right resources to a precise aim. It saves you time, money and a lot of other resources.
  • Launching your business is very similar to testing a scientific hypothesis. Your aim is to assess the customer’s needs and the best way to do so is to keep your product lean. The more features (variables) you add to your product, the more difficult it becomes to truly assess the feedback. Staying lean allows you to limit your variables and to get accurate customer feedback.

The launch of your product need not compete Apple’s new iPhone releases. There are several ways in which you can launch:

  • Launching through a party where you invite your friends and family and ask them for their honest, anonymous feedback.
  • Launching to your online community: Create a social media page and assess what feedback you get. Are you getting genuine interest? Or do you need to add more value to your product?
  • Launch at Universities: this can be an excellent way to gauge customer feedback if you are building a product/ service that caters to a younger age bracket.

Another unfortunate, yet common, misconception is that if you release your product or service too soon, then other people may start copying it. However, the truth of the matter is that launching at an early stage identifies you as the first mover, enables you to gauge your customer feedback first hand and starts generating trust amongst your customers.

3.     Not paying enough attention to regulatory frameworks.

Being an entrepreneur isn’t always the most glamorous job. It is a thrill to be accountable for your own business but if Spider man’s grand father taught us anything: with great power comes great responsibly. Running a business means being accountable and creditable to stakeholders. These can be your clients, your partners, investors and even your employees. It means paying your taxes and obtaining the right licenses and permits. Failure to do may result in fines and/ or delayed delivery of services both of which are not a very appealing phenomenon for stakeholders to want to work with you.

There is a reason why they say being employed is a secure road to take: Being an entrepreneur means payroll for employees, accounting and taxes. It can be easy to take it for granted when you work for a big company, but it becomes a challenge when you don’t have the resources dedicated to do just that in your company. These are also very sensitive aspects of businesses, as small mistakes can end up costing you a lot.

4.     Not innovating in time

Innovation can often be tied to the word startup but, a startup that is innovative is in fact always diversifying what it has to offer to its consumers and by so doing is creating barriers to entry.

Not innovating in time can have disastrous consequences for a company of any size. It allows the competition to catch up with what you offer your customers, decreasing your share of the market. A good example is the strategic failure that caused Kodak’s decade long decline in growth as digital photography took over bigger and bigger portions of their customer base. In this situation, Kodak didn’t exactly fail because they failed to innovate; they released the first digital camera in 1975 but failed to market it correctly by fear of damaging their already lucrative film business. This allowed time to their competitors to develop their digital solutions which ended up significantly damaging Kodak’s revenue over the decade that was to come.

5.    Human Resources Management and Leadership

A business depends heavily on the human resources it is built with. There comes a time in every founder’s journey when they must decide between hiring the more competent person versus hiring the person that is just starting out but is asking for less. One might initially think that this could be good for the business cash flow, after all cash is king! But it is also important to note that if you treat your employees correctly, show them that their development is also important to you then they actually become assets that grow and generate more and more revenue for you as you start to expand your business.

Turbine’s third Test Drive was run in October 2019 and IKES won the first prize out of 15 participants and out of 115 applicants to the Test Drive Program. Incidentally, the company is also one of the 6 projects that has been selected for the Incubation Program at Turbine. Founder Ben Javed opens up to us about his motivation to start Ikes and his experience with Turbine.

 

About Ben

Ben Javed is an IT engineer specialized in networking/ telecommunications/ videoconferencing and he started his career in 1999 at Blanche Birger and then joined Currimjee Informatics until 2007. He then proceeded to join La Sentinelle team in 2008 to handle the “Showbizz” business unit, all the while being the Commercial Director of Radio One . He left La Sentinelle in 2010 to start his own entrepreneurial journey with Event Creators, an event management company. Along with two business partners, he scaled up the company from three working staff members to 10 full time employees with an annual turnover of Rs 15M. Ben has been involved with Event Creators for the last 10 years as Sales/ Concept Director and has now decided that it is time for a change. He tried to make a move by turning a hobby into his latest  business venture, IKES.

 

WHAT IS IKES?

IKES is a business venture  with ecology as a priority. The business aims to transform used wooden pallets  into trendy furniture and to make it available at an affordable price. The up scaled furniture is then delivered right at the doorstep of each customer.

The plan is to offer three services and products to different segments of the Mauritian market:

  1. Selling/ Renting  of ready made furniture as per current trends – to hospitality & event industry.
  2. Ready to assemble pieces of furniture for DIY enthusiasts to indulge in their hobby at home.
  3. Workshops and a Makerspace for those DIY enthusiasts who would like to take their assembling skills to the next level through a space that provides all the tools and equipment for them to make more complex structures possible.

Ben answers a few questions for us:

What was your thought process when you saw the ad for the Test Drive?

When I saw the ad for Test Drive, I was in a research and development ( R&D) process to ascertain where and how to start the business venture. I was analyzing the market and gathering all information about the business requirements. Seeing the Test Drive program made me think it would be the perfect opportunity to go through that process in a structured manner. It was also an opportunity to get professional feedback on the strategic decisions I was looking to make.

How was your experience of participating in Test Drive?

I come from a scientific background and have never had any business learning experience except some themed workshops on specific subjects. Participating in Test Drive has been the best entrepreneurship training so far with a pragmatic approach to key business implications: Marketing/ Financials/ Strategic Planning/ Forecasting and creating an overall vision and while testing it at the same time! The business experts who delivered the Test Drive workshops were able to deliver valuable and actionable knowledge to the participants  while the business coaches provided helpful information of what was expected from the participants. I found myself thinking about a wider view/ long term vision of the business this way. In an addition to this, the network and exchanges with that I had with other participants to the Test Drive Program helped me make more educated and well thought out assumptions about the various different aspects of the new business idea.

It was so interesting to meet so many people from so many different backgrounds working on such different projects and still being able to find real synergies with them.

What advice would you give to someone with a business idea?

Test Drive it before taking any step!

 

In October 2018 Turbine,  ran the first edition of the Test Drive Program. Katapult was one of the 30 projects pre-incubated at Turbine and one of the 4 of them that followed through into the incubation program. Today, Katapult is an award-winning start-up that’s making ripples in the African region. Jade Li chats to us about this fantastic journey in becoming an entrepreneur.

What were you doing before starting your entrepreneurial journey?

I was working as a medical device engineer. I designed and developed medical devices from conception to implementation in production. This involves defining specifications for the product, along with the CAD design, prototyping, testing and finally setting up procedures for manufacturing.

What was your thought process when you saw the ad for Test Drive in 2018?

At that point, I had been wanting to do this for a long time, but I didn’t really know where or how to start. When I saw the Test Drive ad, it was exactly the opportunity I was looking for.

 

What was your experience of getting started? Was it more difficult than you thought it would be, or was it different?

When I started in January 2019, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into and I think that’s probably why I took the plunge. Thinking back now, it was a lot harder than I could have ever imagined. Over the course of the year, there were weeks when I thought: “Oh I’ve got this, I know what I’m doing” and then there were weeks where I felt like everything was out of control and I was overwhelmed. The one thing I’ve learned this year: Don’t sweat the small stuff. I am sure that I am only at the beginning of my roller coaster journey and there will be more twists, turns and dips ahead.

How did the Incubation at Turbine help?

Where Turbine really helped for me was the support that they provide. Meeting with my coach Aysha every week has been so helpful. The entrepreneurial journey can be very lonely when you don’t have the right people around you. Aside from the weekly meeting, the people at Turbine are always here to help.

 

What went wrong?

Things did not go according to plan. At the beginning, I had assumptions about the market that turned out not to be exactly what I thought. So, I’ve had to change my business model a few times. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m getting closer.

 

 

What were the milestones you were able to celebrate?

There were so many milestones to celebrate this year!

  • Leaving my job to work on Katapult full time
  • Doing my first workshop
  • Doing my first workshop at a school for the after-school activities
  • Hiring my first team member
  • Winning the 2nd prize for Total Startupper Challenge
  • Winning the Peer Review competition at an accelerator called Yher in Johannesburg

 

 

What would be a piece of advice that you would give to anyone with a business idea in mind?

 

If you have an idea, make a prototype and go out there and test it. And apply to Test Drive to get the support you will need!

 

 

After the successful completion of the Turbine Test Drive 2018 in last October, four start-ups have joined the Turbine’s Incubation programme in January 2019. These start-ups are Friend’livery, Katapult, Connectme and Feuilles et fleurs.

Going green is not just a thoughtful decision to take with regards to the environment. It also enhances the way customers perceive a company. For instance, for the same service, a client might choose one firm over the other just because it is eco-friendly. Firms can thus impress consumers and potential collaborators by opting to protect the environment.

There is no need to make drastic changes. A company can start shifting to eco-friendly means through some simple steps. Building a green business from scratch also involves the same ideas: rejecting practices that harm the environment to adopt those that support it.

Firstly, these are the materials that an environmentally friendly company should avoid using:

  1. Plastics that are made from polyethylene
  2. Multilayered packaging
  3. Styrofoam
  4. Polystyrene
  5. Fossil fuel energy
  6. Materials that cannot be recycled

A firm wishing to go green can use the following instead:

  1. Plant-based plastics
  2. Biodegradable plastics
  3. Alternative energy sources
  4. Recycled materials and products
  5. Recycled moulded packaging
  6. Post-consumer recycled polyethylene bags that are made from recycled waste

Just by changing the products that the firm uses, it is already positively enhancing its ecological footprint. In this sense, going green starts by producing less waste and favouring natural, recyclable energy.

This is only the beginning though, as many other measures can be taken to make a company eco-friendly. The list below shows certain steps than a firm can follow to drive its environmentally sustainable growth:

1. Invest in nature

Planting trees outside the office not only contributes to the protection of the environment, but also beautifies a building’s exterior aspect. Inside the building, plants can be used to purify the air. Scatter potted plants throughout the office, both in the lounge and next to employees. This will brighten up the atmosphere, make clients and new recruits more at ease and increase productivity to some extent.

2. Save energy

Switching off the lights when they are not in use decreases the amount of energy waste that a company produces. The enterprise can also opt for energy-efficient lighting instead of incandescent bulbs. At the same time, it can choose to replace old equipment and machinery with new, eco-friendly items. Adopting this practice also helps to save money on the electricity bills, resulting in an additional fund. This extra money can be used to better the company or to further finance the firm’s green venture.

3. Opt for electronic data management

Getting rid of unnecessary paperwork can significantly reduce a firm’s negative impact on the environment. Computerise as much data as possible. This is not only eco-friendly, but also saves money as there is no need to buy as much paper anymore. Recycling used paper which is no longer needed is another green practice.

4. Reduce oil consumption

A company will truly be environmentally friendly when its employees also adopt this value. For instance, carpooling is a good way to save oil and money. Public transportation and telecommuting are additional options that can be considered.

 

This is only a beginning. Many other measures can be adopted to build an environmentally sustainable business. It is never too late for a firm to decide to go green. The first step can be small, but its impact will undoubtedly be impressive.

When you think about launching your start-up in Mauritius, various questions and doubts arise. Will you get funding? Does Mauritius have a market for your business? Will your start-up be able to grow within the island? However, despite its shortcomings, Mauritius may be just the right place to launch a start-up.

Helpful development schemes

Mauritius offers several development programs to help entrepreneurs in their venture. Schemes such as the SME Partnership Fund, the Mauritius Business Growth Scheme and the AFD Green Lending Scheme are available to business launchers. They can assist in both the opening and the growth of a start-up. Another way through which entrepreneurs can get support is incubators. These organisations specialise in the nurturing of a business. This includes, but is not limited to training, funding, legal assistance and the provision of office space.

The Mauritian market and growth opportunities

As a developing country, Mauritius is hungry for and open to new ideas. Innovation is fuelling the booming technological sector and creativity is being sought out everywhere. Now would therefore be the best time to introduce your idea and to try it in a start-up. Many young entrepreneurs have tested the waters, tasting sweet success. Some of them are Blast Burson-Marsteller, Focus Events, Sweat and Laugh, amongst others. As the country continues to develop, it will rise in terms of economy and innovation, providing further growth opportunities to Mauritian businesses.

Beginner friendly environment

Aspiring entrepreneurs who want to launch their first business will find Mauritius to be right up their alley. If you are Mauritian, you can count on your familiarity with the country and its citizens for a pretty smooth start. Mauritians who open their business on the island already have an idea about what their market will welcome or reject. They also benefit from the support of their family and friends, which is an invaluable asset. Before becoming a fully-fledged enterprise, start-ups often have to go through trial-and-error phases. While some aspects of a new business may pass with flying colours, others may fail. Dealing with failures is hard for anyone, even more so when in an unfamiliar place surrounded by unfamiliar people. As such, it is always a good idea to start in a familiar environment.

Foreigner friendly too

Favourable conditions also welcome foreigners who wish to launch a start-up in Mauritius. With the country’s low-tax jurisdiction and investor-friendly environment, the process to open a business on the island is quite smooth. Foreign entrepreneurs can also benefit from the support provided by the schemes and organisations mentioned above. Since Mauritius is a small country, it can also be a perfect test location for a start-up. Trying out an idea can be risky depending on the scale at which the test is carried out. Therefore, reducing the impact of the success/failure by testing in a small area can be beneficial to new businesses.

While Mauritius is small, it is a fertile hub for entrepreneurs. Its current status as a developing country prompts further growth, offering the right environment for the launch of start-ups. Whether you are enthusiastic or hesitant about opening your business, the advantages and opportunities that the island provides will undoubtedly be beneficial to your venture. So, ready to take the first step?

Every aspiring entrepreneur wants his/her idea to attract attention and grow. In this sense, Turbine gives a valuable opportunity to Mauritian entrepreneurs. Indeed, it enables them to participate in a pitch session which allows them to unveil their idea(s) to sponsors and potential investors. The second season of the Test Drive crowned Clean Ocean as the winner with a Rs 50 000 prize offered by PwC Mauritius on the 19th of March 2019. Keep reading this article to find out more about the programme and its participants.

What is Test Drive?

Turbine, an incubator under the ENL Group, launched the Test Drive as a high-level competition between entrepreneurs with innovative projects. The competitors were tasked to present their idea within one minute only. Of course, to win, they had to make sure their projects appealed to the jury. A questioning session followed the presentation, a part that the owner of the Clean Ocean project found particularly stressing. In this section, participants were asked to extrapolate on and/or defend their idea according to the queries of the jury. However, the difficult stages of the Test Drive allowed for a winner to be chosen amongst the many brilliant competitors.

Pitch Day

All Pitch Day participants accompanied by the Turbine team and jury members namely Olivier Ma, Sarah Boulanger and Wesley Oxenham.

Focus on the new edition’s participants

Suffice to say that the participants were indeed brilliant. The companies that presented their ideas in the Test Drive were extremely diverse in terms of operating sectors. Apart from Clean Ocean, Roomscout, Swap & Share, Parent Academy, E-sitters, Mod2vi, Soursop, Rwazi, MauProbleme, Momanzer, One Urban Garden, Get Famous, Vehicle Service Plan, Sweat and Laugh, Tablier/Sabliers, InTouch, Feelocal, HerDeals and Data Vector all took part in the competition. Amongst these businesses, Mod2vi and Roomscout also shone alongside Clean Ocean as runner ups. Turbine’s latest graduates, Fundkiss Technologies Limited, AVR Plato Technology Limited and Fancy Dreams Limited, were also handed their certificates on that day.

Hector Noel presenting the Fundkiss Technologies Limited team with their graduation certificate for the Turbine Incubation Program.

Hector Noel presenting the Fundkiss Technologies Limited team with their graduation certificate for the Turbine Incubation Programme.

And the winner is…

Finally, it is time to introduce the winner of this year’s Test Drive. Rick Bonnier, the young man behind the Clean Ocean project, succeeded in making his project shine the brightest in front of the jury. He presented a robot capable of sensing plastic while both at the surface of a body of water or within its depths.

An idea which boasts both innovation and an ecological initiative, Clean Ocean was attributed a cheque worth Rs 50 000 by Olivier Ma, Partner at PwC Mauritius and the 2019 Test Drive sponsor. Rick Bonnier is positive about using his reward to further his work on his robot. One of the improvements that he mentioned is the addition of a solar panel to the machine.

 

To conclude, while the Test Drive demands companies to compete against each other for the prize, it also brings them together. Entrepreneurship can be a very tough path to follow. As Rick Bonnier says, “I have met many nice people and above all, [the Test Drive] allowed me to converse with people who are living through the same experiences I am. It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one who wants to start my own business”. Mauritius is sure to hear more about Clean Ocean and all the other businesses that participated in the competition in the days, months and years to come.

 

An incubator is by definition a growth infrastructure which helps new ventures develop into successful businesses. The process usually involves the provision of physical and communication facilities as well as networking possibilities and education. Via the assistance provided, the start-up will eventually gain access to capital.

Origin

The concept of incubators was born in the United States in the 1950s, but primarily became noticeable in the mid-1990s. Indeed, the dot-com boom resulted in a chain of incubators and 2005 finally saw the creation of Y Combinator. This American organisation is one of the leading incubators around the world. It is at the base of successful companies such as Dropbox, Airbnb, Twitch, Quora and more such enterprises.

Y Combinator is also known as the company which sparked the rise of modern incubators around the world. For instance, there are approximately 7000 incubators worldwide, according to the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA). Amongst these, 1250 can be found in the United States alone, 700 in China, 400 in Brazil and 220 in the United Kingdom. Mauritius also has some incubators, although the numbers are less impressive.

Impact of incubators

All of these incubators are impacting on the worldwide start-up scene and individually changing specific entrepreneurial landscapes. The survival rates for businesses that go through incubators are reportedly around 92%. Their success is attributed to various aspects.

Guidance

While some value the development of business skills, others highlight the networking advantages that come with incubator programs. Start-ups gain both credibility and value when associated with incubators and the latter’s sponsors. Also, they are less likely to scramble with official/legal paperwork with the provided guidance. These contribute to raising a confident batch of start-ups that can tackle markets and challenges with relative ease.

A good work environment

The provision of office equipment and a functioning work space also impacts on the entrepreneurial scene in various ways. Firstly, these give entrepreneurs the necessary tools they need to cultivate their ideas and to network with other start-up owners. The potential for growth is considerably greater in this sense.

The whole ecosystem benefits from incubators

Also, with access to these facilities, entrepreneurs are given a place to start, which boosts their involvement in their project. It is therefore safe to say that incubators promote and actively participate in the growth of entrepreneurship on various levels.

For instance, the start-up ecosystem is seeing changes at both macro and micro levels with the involvement of incubators. The organisations help with the economic growth of a country. They also have a hand in the creation of wealth, jobs and innovation ventures. Additionally, incubators aid in the fostering of an entrepreneurial culture on a local level. They promote research and create opportunities for university students and in certain cases also impact on international trade.

On a more specific note, the changes that incubators are bringing to the entrepreneurial scene in India reflect the local population’s drive in terms of start-up creation. However, while around 5000 businesses are created in the country each year, a lot of these start-ups end up dying due to a lack of support. This can be attributed to the gap between entrepreneurs’ expectations and incubators’ offers.

In any case, Mauritius has a lot to learn from incubator experiences and impacts worldwide. The advantages that these business hubs provide can be very beneficial to the local entrepreneurial scene.