US VCs should get off their arses

US VCs should get off their arses

US-based VCs (venture capitalists) should get off their arses and realize that there is a greater world out there than what they hear about on the US East or West coast. I’m not talking about Europe or Israel either. I’m echoing what Ben Parr said in a recent Tech Caucus email that:

we in the Silicon Valley / LA / NYC bubble have no clue what’s happening in Africa.

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Microsoft Partner Summit and the new economic landscape

Mteto NyatiI attended the Microsoft Partner Summit Africa, and heard some interesting points in the keynote address made by the two executives who run Microsoft’s business for most of Africa – Nteto Nyati, Managing Director of Microsoft South Africa, and Hennie Loubser, Regional General Manager for Microsoft WECA (West, East and Central Africa).

HennieLoubser

  • The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) are now areas where most growth is projected;
  • 6 of the 10 fastest growing economies are in Africa;
  • a number of Microsoft employees from Africa who have been working abroad are repatriating from Europe and the US back to Africa;
  • there are 1300 large and mid-market companies in Africa from which Microsoft gets 75% of its revenue in this region;
  • Africa has become a continent of hope and opportunity;
  • on the African continent, the community expects companies to become an integrated part of the society – profitable returns to company owners must also accompany returns to society.

This led me to these thoughts:

  1. the focus of economic growth in the world has moved from developed economies (the so-called North) to the emerging and developing economies (the South);
  2. this change should have some impact on the issues and location of technology innovation;
  3. a good deal of technology innovation focuses on mostly ‘northern’ business, consumer and societal issues;
  4. there is an expectation, particularly in the North, that the source of technology innovation should still occur in certain ‘northern’ locations;
  5. Points 1 and 2 do not agree with Points 3 and 4

It makes me proud therefore to say that SYSPRO is an African company that supports the real issues of small and medium businesses throughout the world. Comments of “how can innovation come from Africa?” should now be discarded for the irrelevant and arrogant rubbish that they are.


Some other information from the keynote

Microsoft SA’s FY2011 growth areas:

Public sector 43%
Entertainment and devices 32%
Enterprise services 28%
Enterprise group 22%
Small & medium business group 20%

Microsoft SA’s FY2011 market share changes:

Web browser + 11 pts
Email, calendaring + 17 pts
Unified communications + 7 pts
Database server – 2 pts
Smartphone – 7 pts

Some Microsoft Africa stats (via IDC):

PC shipment growth 15%
Serve shipment growth 6%
Software piracy rate > 80% (US $785 mill) in 2010

Gartner/AMR supply chain top 25

I was alerted to the 2010 supply chain top 25 report by the AMR division of Gartner. The list of ‘winners’ are:

 

From an African prespective, it will be interesting to see how Walmart’s strategy to enter the African market via its 51% ownership of Massmart will impact on the supply chain practices of the local competitors.

So Gartner/AMR, do you have any country or regional analysis and predictions for us?

Africa’s Internet participation to grow?

One of the über-bloggers in the social media space, John Moore, has written a post which shows the current world Internet penetration rates.

Obviously, from an African perspective, it’s sad to see how poorly the continent scores.

However, there is good news. Mark Shuttleworth’s Foundation has published a chart of the number of undersea cables that are coming to Africa. When you see at how poorly the continent has been served up till 2010, it’s no surprise that Africa’s Internet usage was so low.

With all the bandwidth that’s going to become available in the next 12-18 months, it will be interesting to see how Africa’s Internet participation starts to change.

New platform for the new decade

I read with much interest Don Dodge’s predictions for 2010 and the new decade. I find predictions a bit of a waste of time – when you look are what people predicted for 2009, about half came true, which is what a random selection would give. However I was struck about the prediction on future computing and mobile computing.

“Your cell phone will become your primary computer, communicator, camera, and entertainment device, all in one … I think in the near future there will be docking stations everywhere with a screen and a keyboard. You simply pull out your phone, plug it into the docking station, and instantly all your applications and data are available to you … Your phone will have enough storage so you can decide which applications and data are stored on your phone, and which will be in the cloud.”

When I look at what I can already store on my cellphone, this prediction seems quite plausible. But if people store applications on their phone, which they will presumably choose themselves, and if they decide to use the cloud to select their preferred applications, how will this impact the role and responsibilities of the company IT function? Their role of deciding what applications are suitable for the organisation becomes irrelevant, but they still have to ensure application and data security and integrity.

 “Mobile phones are clearly the next computing platform … Mary Meeker of Morgan Stanley says Mobile Internet usage is bigger than most people think, and it is exploding.”

Application developers will have to re-consider the presentation layer for a different user interface and experience, and will have to assume that the mobile interface will be the preferred or default one, rather than as a side issue.

Where I do have a problem is the predictions about cloud computing and mobile bandwidth:

The explosion of reliable broadband bandwidth, virtualization technology, cheap storage, memory, and servers, has made Cloud Computing the obvious choice for the next decade … Why buy servers, hire IT admin to manage them, buy operating system licenses, application licenses, pay 20% maintenance fees every year, worry about security updates/breaches, hassle with asset management, etc., when you can just “pay as you go” with cloud computing resources?
The new 700Mhz wireless spectrum became available in 2009, and will be built out over the next decade … Cell phones will see the same explosion in bandwidth in the coming decade, which will enable new applications and uses.”

This is a simplified view of the world. Firstly, business applications for even small and medium businesses are getting more complex. I’m not talking about simple accounting or CRM solutions, but the complex applications to manage orders, receive and dispatch inventory, schedule and manage manufacturing operations. It isn’t as simple as paying and starting, as the “pay as you go” mantra likes to make out. It may well be that business hands over the management of the application infrastructure to a cloud provider, but every successful business has a particular way of working that is different to others, and that is unlikely to be assisted by a standard enterprise application.

Secondly, the comment about mobile bandwidth is US-centric. Developing countries like South Africa are constrained in all sorts of bandwidth (Internet, radio, cellphones) because they have been already allocated to developed countries years ago. That is not to say that cellphone bandwidith will not significantly increase. What Don fails to note is that the growth of the mobile Internet will probably come more from developing regions like Africa than the US, as reported by Opera and Google.

However you look at it, the next decade is probably going to redefine the way we use, consume and interact with computing resources.

Test your software in Africa

Erik Hersman makes an interesting comment about branding Africa for software development:

there is a real competitive advantage to developing and testing software in Africa. After all, if it works in Africa, it will work anywhere.

How many people (outside of SA), know that Mark Shuttleworth’s Ubuntu comes from this continent?