Posts

Marc Israel is Turbine’s newest addition to the team of coaches who accompany our startups. He’s an engineer by qualification, having majored in Robotics which he claims was not a very sexy choice at the time that he was in university. He made up for that by serving in the French army for some time.

He has subsequently developed a very impressive professional track record in launching his own IT services company which he sold with the intention of catching a break from the hustle and bustle of his Parisian life, little did he know, he would never be returning there as a resident.

Marc started consulting for Microsoft and was subsequently appointed as Director of Marketing in Cloud Computing there. After 17 years of service, he left Microsoft last year. He explains that he had been experiencing an increasing amount of pressure from the corporate world and that he felt the need to start something of his own again. He moved to Mauritius and now has a company in Technology and Digital Transformation in companies around cloud computing and slowly exploring AI.

Mauritius being a tiny market, he was lucky to have had Mauritius as a target market when he was working at Microsoft. This means that he knew a lot of people in the industry before starting his own venture. Despite this, he was still bootstrapping at the beginning. He knew that he had to expand beyond Mauritius and use technology as a leverage for that.

Our incubated had quite a few salient questions that Marc candidly responded to. Here are a few of them:

  • How do you convince your customers that the solution you are offering is the right one?

He asks for pain points within the company, he explains. Be it in the production line, or in IT, or in anything that they can come up with. He says it is important to know to ask the right questions that need solutions. This may not come over night, but can become apparent after a couple of meetings. Once this process is complete, he says it is important to obtain a proof of concept for the proposed solution.

He emphasizes that there are still certain myths around AI. This is the reason why he has decided to launch a series of Talks called AI Tuesdays: To educate more people in Mauritius around AI.

 

  • When you don’t have a big brand’s credibility behind how do you go about creating trust with your target market, especially Mauritius?

First of all, it isn’t always the best thing to be associated to a big brand, beyond positive brand equity, it can have tons of opponents. If your target market is Mauritius, then you need create awareness around your project.

If your target market is not Mauritius, then forget about Mauritius and try tackle international markets. Scale from the get go. Think about what you can offer for free now that you can get money from later: Think about how you can attract as many people as fast as possible. Scale is the essence of the game.

It is also important to give some thought to your value proposition and think about what you are you offering that other people are not and how you are doing it. Think in terms of customer benefits, don’t fall in love with your features.

 

  • With regards to scaling to Africa, what is the advice you would give?

One of the first things to keep in mind when thinking about scaling to Africa that Africa is a continent, not a country. Often what works in one country will not work in another. Target is key!

Secondly, it is also important to note that out of approximately 1 billion people in the entire continent, you will probably only be target about 30% to 40% of the population, which as a percentage seems small but would still represent approximately 300 to 400 million.

As a final piece of advice to entrepreneurs wanting launch their startups Marc suggests to go swift and to go fast. Acquiring business is one of the main priorities that you must set for yourself.

Social media has been gaining more and more importance across the years with the rise of digital advertising. At the local level, various Mauritian entrepreneurs have opened sustainable social-media exclusive businesses. Others have boosted their start-ups thanks to well-timed and focused social media marketing strategies. Others still use their accounts to create online portfolios for their products. What makes these communication and socializing platforms so lucrative and advantageous to entrepreneurs? Find the answers below:

 

Social media is free/inexpensive

Be it Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, all of them enable users to create free accounts. Entrepreneurs do not have to spend a rupee to set up their business online via these platforms. The advanced advertising options also do not cost much. This makes them especially convenient for beginners and small businesses who cannot afford an actual website. They do not have to pay monthly rent, labour costs and/or invest in merchandise to display. For instance, various on-demand food businesses have flourished with these low-cost options.

 

Social media is user-friendly

Most of the popular social media platforms are easy to use. They are designed to make users comfortable and they make business-running easy. Young entrepreneurs excel at working with these sites and apps and can expertly launch their start-up online. On the other hand, some members of the aged population might find the technology daunting. However, if taught properly, they will surely be able to use the platforms. Busy people also find it easier to use online means of browsing and shopping. Social media is, after all, less time consuming and location-sensitive than traditional brick and mortar stores.

 

The platforms have a large daily user-count

Social media platforms provide entrepreneurs with access to an important number of local and foreign potential clients. They offer opportunities for mass viewership and for a considerable rise in popularity. This also applies in vice versa. Users can easily access information and pictures about entrepreneurs and their businesses. This helps to build a reputation and increases communication between businesses and clients. Additionally, thanks to the use of artificial intelligence and databases, potential customers receive advertisement campaigns according to their interests. This maximises chances of them visiting the advertised page and buying the product.

 

Social media is a trendy form of doing business

The contemporary society is very receptive of innovation. Social media businesses embrace this trend and become part of the online community. Incidentally, the rise of influencer marketing perfectly highlights the increasing popularity of digital advertising. By using influencers to promote a product, entrepreneurs target the local population in a very trendy way. This can also work to increase the credibility of the business, thus attracting more customers.

As seen above, social media offers a wide range of opportunities to entrepreneurs. From setup to marketing to customer management, these platforms work to facilitate business creation and development. Entrepreneurs who wish to evaluate their start-ups before investing also sometimes turn to social media for a test run. Various other advantages include employee communication, instant company updates, maintaining an online presence, keeping track of the competition, etc…

Entrepreneur is not an easy career path, even less so in the ever-changing digital age. While there are new opportunities for start-ups each day, few of these last long enough to culminate into a business. This is because there are several factors that, if not addressed, can considerably hamper progress.

An ever-changing environment

For instance, it is well-known that the world is currently changing faster than ever. Information is being passed around in milliseconds and people’s attention does not stick to one thing for a long time. As such, entrepreneurs have to constantly adapt to the ever-changing environment in which their business is being developed. Demands and market specifics can shift at sudden rates, thus requiring entrepreneurs to be increasingly flexible.

Fierce competition

The decrease in new enterprises is also a notable factor. In the 1980s, 15% of the all businesses were start-ups. This percentage has now dropped to 8%. This is due to the sheer amount of competition that entrepreneurs have to deal with. Most of this comes from big companies that are constantly innovating to adapt to changing markets. However, innovation also means that new technology emerges every day. This enables many new businesses to thrive in the digital world.

New opportunities

Looking closer at the digital age itself, various aspects impact on the way in which businesses are being developed. With the rise of the internet, businesses have lots of opportunities for development. Indeed, many entrepreneurs can make use of helpful online platforms to launch and boost their start-up. Social media websites offer highly valued exposure. Many even use the internet as a basis to create their start-up.

For instance, the retail and commerce business has changed so much in the last decades. Online shopping is thriving and payment systems are less and less cash dependant. The internet also gives entrepreneurs access to a more global market.

New challenges

While all of these advantages are very much real, the downsides of the internet are still present. For instance, establishing an online business is considerably expensive. Developing a website can cost a fair bit of money and so do app-designing and digital marketing. E-businesses also have to rely a lot on advertising, which can be quite pricy. They need to reach their target markets, and unlike brick-and-mortar stores, they do not have a noticeable physical presence.

Another threat that entrepreneurs have to deal with in the digital world is hackers, spammers and conmen. As said above, information is being passed around at phenomenal rates. This is because the information is stored on the internet or on a computer. However, these can be easily hacked into by experienced cybercriminals and the data can be damaged, stolen, sold and/or leaked. A start-up dealing with sensitive information has to install counter-hacking solutions or employ tech specialists to prevent data thefts. In turn, these countermeasures can be quite expensive. These web-associated costs and risks can also dissuade entrepreneurs from launching their business or even lead to bankruptcy.

 

While the digital world can foster new ideas for entrepreneurs to open start-ups, it also presents challenges. These can be risky, so business launchers have to be well prepared to face and overcome the obstacles. Still, be it now or twenty years ago, getting started with a business has always been challenging and will no doubt still be in the future. The key is to take advantage of the positive changes introduced by the digital world. By adapting and learning from their mistakes, entrepreneurs will eventually tackle the difficulties presented to them.