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Making your users better, and when not to listen to them

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” – Bill Gates, Microsoft

Product design, good product design at least, isn’t necessarily what you think would make good features on the product. Rather it is about solving your user’s problems in the most efficient manner for them. Very few users fall into what you’d call the ‘prototype user’ archetype, who’s excited to test out new features regardless of what they may be.

But your average users want something useful that’s going to have a positive impact on their lives, or at least on the usage of your product. That’s why good product design is dedicated to making the user better and not just the product itself. 

We can see this in advertising, where products are dedicated to showing how they improve users’ lives. From Apple’s “1000 songs in your pocket” to the new Apple watch ads. They’re all dedicated to showing you what the product does for you or how it makes you better as a person. 

However, sometimes, like a child who doesn’t want to eat their vegetables, users reject features that are likely to improve their experiences. For example, when Facebook introduced newsfeed they initially received an enormous amount of backlash. With various groups petitioning for the removal of the feature. Now could you imagine a world where you’d have to go to each of your friends’ individual profiles to see any new updates, it sounds downright absurd.

Even more recently when Twitter announced they were increasing their tweet limit from 140 characters to 280 characters, they also received initial negative feedback from users. But now both of these features are accepted and most users would probably say that they’ve improved their experience on both products. So, this then raises the question, when shouldn’t you listen to your users? One thing to remember often is that there are a silent majority and a very loud minority, so unless you’re soliciting feedback from a very large sample size of users, a lot of the noise you hear isn’t necessarily going to represent the entire user base. It’s also important to analyze what your customers do, not what they say. Users can often be resistant to change, especially if the change may seem to make a dramatic change to their general experience.  But often their behavior doesn’t reflect this, and they end up coming to terms with the changes that have been made.

The key thing is to always hear what your customers have to say, but not necessarily listen to what they say. It is important to recognize both our, and our customer’s shortcomings when it comes to accurately predict the future. So, it’s necessary to carry out a thorough analysis of how to validate features and your business – which we’ve talked about in an older blog post (see here). Once you do this, you can feel confident enough to weather and navigate the storm of initial naysayers who want you to reverse any changes to your product you’re making, and make a positive impact on your users’ lives.

That’s all folks! Now, let’s dive into the other parts of Series V.

Portfolio Chatter

Have you read the latest edition of Founder Diaries? We talked to the founders of Verto Fx. Read here.

VP Partner, Kayode Oyewole and Odun Eweniyi of PiggyVest were on a panel at the just concluded Social Media Week Lagos 2020 discussing wealth creation in this digital age. Watch here.

New Year, New Trove. Trove Finance got a facelift with a new logo, fresh UI and a bunch of new features on the mobile app. Update your Trove app to enjoy all the awesomeness. See the announcement here. Get the app on Google play or you can download it on the App Store.

Have you met the SaltBox team? See here.

Congratulations to VP portfolio company ThankUCash (Connected Analytics) on getting into 500 Startups Batch 26! Read the TechCrunch article here.

Did you read the piece by TechPoint on how we determine the companies we back, our highs and lows? Read here.


Inside VP

An update on Ventures Platforms’ partnership with USAID on the E-Wash project. This project is being implemented in three states: Imo, Abia, and Sokoto states. We are happy to announce that 53 CSOs have been on-boarded in Imo and Sokoto States. Read the post here.

We have officially launched the AgriLab ideation and incubation program! The opening event unveiled the 15 AgriTech startups selected to take part in the 3-day workshop. The event was graced by Hon. Muntari Dandutse & reps from The Embassy of Ireland, ECOWAS and Thrive Agric. Five startups, ePoultry, AgroLinka, The Farm People, Farmporte and Cultiventure, emerged victoriously and would proceed to the program to stand a chance to win $2,000  each and a trip to Ireland. Read the tweet announcement here.

Applications are still open. Make a difference in the Abuja startup ecosystem – join the Mentor-Driven Capital program and become a mentor! The application closes on 5th March 2020. Apply here.


What are we reading?

What you do is who you are by Ben Horowitz


Are you building a market-creating innovation? We would like to know more. Apply here.


We’re social! Follow us on Twitter for updates.


See you next month,

V.

2020: The Year The World Went Remote

Working remotely? Here are some practical tips for managing your team.

“The option to work from home when needed, or to try a different lifestyle without having to change jobs, is a win for everyone.”

Scott Berkun, former remote team leader at WordPress, author of the “The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work” book

As the world and everything in it responds to the changes the COVID-19 pandemic has forced upon us, many companies have had to switch to working remotely. Unfortunately, while remote work isn’t a new concept, in Africa companies largely still prefer onsite presence, so switching to 100% remote brings about a culture shock and massive loss in productivity if not properly managed. In this writeup, we share our experience and how we are implementing 100% remote work at VP.

Ventures Platform has always experimented with remote work, so this didn’t come as a complete shock to us, before now team members could take a day or two each week to work remotely. However, we have never done 100% remote for all team members, so this in itself is a new experience for us. We have never also had our Park – the Ventures Park shut (we are usually open 24 hours). 

In Africa, there are 4 major challenges to Remote Work

  1. Irregular Power Supply 
  2. Subpar Internet Connectivity 
  3. Distractions at Home
  4. Lack of face to face engagement and supervisión 

In this article, we will be sharing a few tips for managing your remote team – and this will hopefully help even if you are doing this for the first time.

Provide your team tools and resources they need to work efficiently during this period

Well, we are not quite sure of how long this remote working will last for, and so it is important to provide all the tools your team members will need while working efficiently from home. The basics include a power bank, a fuel allowance or a small solar system that can power their laptops, internet subscription and maybe a subscription to a project management software.

Find ways to relieve your team of the burden they are sure to experience (either anticipated or requested) by working remotely. 

Set a cadence of engagement 

Communication is, in fact, the most important component of a successful remote working plan. There has to be a routine around how you check-in with your team. It should be structured and in fact, calendared. While this can be for the entire team you lead, you should also establish one on one and predictable calls with your team members. Remote working is much more efficient and satisfying when you set the expectations for frequency, timing, and communication with your team. Our cadence at VP has three components;

  • Weekly scrum – This is done every Monday, on Google Hangout/Zoom. These check-in meetings are for the entire team and direct reports, to ensure that everyone is in sync.
  • Slack-up – We do this every day and on Slack. It is to establish what was done yesterday, identify and solve for blockers, and state what will be done today.
  • End of week review – These are typically done at the end of the week. This meeting is for a recap, and sometimes to set the expectation for the following week. 
  • Track Performance – We use Trello for this, we have structured our Trello boards to have –  Tasks, In-progress, Reviewed and Completed, so team members move each deliverable across the various categories. Have clear expectations for what needs to be achieved each week 

Design opportunities for some social interactions

Loneliness is one of the most common complaints we get during remote work. As a matter of fact, we realized that the extroverted team members suffer this the most (I am ambivert so I suffered too). If you do not provide opportunities for your team members to connect with one another in their remote work environment, then they will suffer from social isolation. In the long run, this can affect productivity.

To curtail this, you can design ways for your team members to interact socially. It is fine to have informal conversations around non-work topics –  we have this either way when we are at work physically, so this should not be a problem. You can leave some time for this during your check-in calls and just catch up on each other. To take this a little further, you can have dance parties online (video conferencing), work out sessions, rap sessions, knowledge sharing sessions, and a host of other activities. 

Lastly remember, that great companies are forged in hardship, so don’t give in to despair, offer encouragement and support to your team members and also spend some time off the news doing things that make you relaxed and happy.

That’s all folks! Now, let’s dive into the other parts of Series V.
Portfolio Chatter
Exciting news! Fast Company has listed two VP portfolio companies PiggyVest and Tizeti as part of the most innovative companies in Africa! For more information click here.

Congratulations to VP portfolio companies, CrowdForce and Send for graduating from Y Combinator 2020 winter program!

VP Founding Partner, Kola Aina, will be a guest on a tweet chat with the OIIE team to discuss the COVID-19 Innovation Challenge on the 6th of April 2020 at 11:00 am.

As the world is going through the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have been doing their bits to provide aid to the general public, GeroCare has taken it upon themselves to provide face masks and hand sanitizers for the elderly. We all need to play our part to #StaySafe. If you know anyone in need of this, kindly click here. They have also built a self-screening tool for #COVID-19 from the good people at GeoCare. To get a self-test online, visit here.

The guys at Trove have written an article about Coronavirus stock market selloff. Read here.

Learn how you can leverage on #ThankUCash Data to keep your customers safe from COVID-19. Read here.

VP portfolio company, ThankUCash (Connected Analytics) has graduated 500 Startups as the only African startup in its 26th batch.

Founders of PiggyVest, Odun Eweniyi, Somto Ifezue, and Josh Chibeze have been included on this year’s Lord’s Achievers Honorees 2020 list!

Read how Kudi Agents can stay safe during this Coronavirus period here.
Inside VP
Ventures Platform is happy to announce the seven teams that emerged winners of the #COVID19InnovationChallenge! These products have since started building and will Demo tomorrow for possible off-takers. If you’d like to watch, please send a DM to @vplatformhub for possible selection. We have been able to do this with the backing of the partners at NCDC, Lagos State Government, Nigeria’s Governor’s Forum and all our mentors, coaches, volunteers, and the entire VP team.

The Executive Director of Ventures Platform Foundation, Mimshach Obioha, facilitated a virtual session at the AfriLab Hub’s Learning Week #2020AfHLW. To get more information, visit here.

Hey Folks! We are currently working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic but it is still business as usual. You can always reach us via our social media handles or email address. We would love to know the impact of remote working on you as well as the challenges being faced.
What are we reading?
What you do is who you are by Ben Horowitz
Are you building a market-creating innovation? We would like to know more.
Apply Here
See you next month and stay safe,

V.

Ventures Platform and Lagos State Government Partner in Fight Against Covid-19

#COVID19InnovationChallenge Final Call for Applications

Monday 23rd March 2020. Abuja, Nigeria.

Ventures Platform, the Africa-wide network that supports entrepreneurs and innovators to succeed, today announced a partnership with the Lagos State Government through its agency, The Lagos State Science Research and Innovation Council (LASRIC), in a bid to find tech-enabled solutions to address the current Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic. Ventures Platform and LASRIC will provide funding and rapid operational assistance to the selected teams and startups alongside technology and business industry experts, including LoftyInc, ACIOE, Wennovation, Flutterwave, AGS Tribe, SilverChip Consulting, Bluechip Technologies, IROKOtv, Vazi Legal, Lakunle Runsewe, Manasseh Egedegbe, and also supported by Facebook.

Applications for the #COVID19InnovationChallenge has been extended to Monday 23 March 2020, as the Ventures Platform team continues to search for hackers, developers, enthusiasts or founders to build solutions for the pandemic and experienced professionals in technology, public health and pandemic research, healthcare investment, public sector engagement, digital experience management, virtual care, entrepreneurship development, and support.

Ventures Platform opened applications for their #COVID19InnovationChallenge to find tech-focussed ideas around heat mapping, preventative or information bots, solutions to assist with lifestyle adjustments, COVID-19 reporting and more. The mission for the cross-community collaboration is to rapidly build and scale solutions that will have a significant positive impact on the current pandemic, not only in Nigeria but across the continent. 

Six successful applicants will be selected by Ventures Platform and LASRIC to participate in the #COVID19InnovationChallenge and will receive a $2,000 equity-free grant, opportunity for further funding, as well as access to virtual workspace and mentorship from some of Africa’s top, healthcare, business, and technology leaders, including; Rebecca Enonchong, Alexis Roman, O.O Nwoye, Seun Onigbinde, Titi Akinsanmi, Dr. Ola Brown,  Dr. Ifeanyi Nsofor, Dr. Ebi Ofrey, and Dr. Femi Kuti.

On launching the #COVID19InnovationChallenge, Kola Aina, Ventures Platform founder, says, “Due to the rapid spread of Coronavirus, we really do not have a moment to lose, which is why we are grateful to have assembled such a talented and influential group of program partners and mentors, as we look to move on this very quickly. Our partners, like us, understand the need for action today. We know the talent is out there, now our job is to provide an enabling environment as well as access to mentors and funding so that our chosen companies and innovators can focus on building the best solutions for this big challenge in support of the NCDC and other actors.

“We are especially pleased to welcome on board LASRIC as a partner; challenges like the one we are currently faced with will only be solved through a proactive and dynamic collaboration between the private and public sectors. When LASRIC approached us, to partner on our #COVID19InnovationChallenge, we were delighted to accept. Their ability to mobilize support at such short notice, speaks highly of their commitment to protecting the people of Lagos State, Nigeria and the rest of Africa and we cannot thank them enough”.

African nations have, so far, not recorded the same volume of COVID-19 infections as other countries. However, Governments across the continent are taking more preventive measures, as they start planning for the pandemic to take more hold within their countries. The Ventures Platform  #COVID19InnovationChallenge is part of the wider global push to apply technology and innovation to curb the spread and prevent future outbreaks.

Olatunbosun Alake of LASRIC adds, “The Lagos State Science Research and Innovation Council is partnering with Ventures Platform as we look to solve issues around the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is important that the State tackles issues around the pandemic in areas such as tracking, managing and solving related problems even for various health issues at large. We believe that this partnership and the Venture Platforms’ stellar record in delivering such projects, the breadth of their technology and business networks, will help us source a number of products and services that will help vast swathes of our population stay healthy and protected. We also believe that what works here in Lagos will help the rest of Africa”.

Aina concludes, “The response we have received to-date has been astonishing. Such as the level of interest been, we have even extended the deadline to close of play on Monday 23 March, in order to review as many strong applications as possible. The entire Ventures Platform team is ready to select the top six applicants, and get to work with them straight away so that together, we can get ahead of the curve and build products and services that benefit millions of people not only in Nigeria but across the whole of Africa too”.

Applications for the #COVID19InnovationChallenge are open here.

-ENDS-

For interview requests or additional information, contact Towsyn at Wimbart[email protected]

About Ventures Platform Hub

Ventures Platform Hub is a catalyst for innovation & entrepreneurship across Africa. It provides smart capital through its early-stage fund, Ventures Platform Fund, it provides infrastructure and nurtures communities of entrepreneurs and innovators through Ventures Park and it builds pipeline by providing capacity and ecosystem support through its not-for-profit – Ventures Platform Foundation. More information about Ventures Platform Hub is available at www.venturesplatform.com.

About Lagos State Science Research and Innovation Council

The Lagos State Science Research and Innovation Council is Lagos State’s semi-autonomous Research and Innovation promotion and funding agency. Its primary mandate is to create and promote a culture of problem-solving through Research and Innovation. LASRIC manages a percentage of Lagos States capital budget for the purposes of resourcing cutting edge research and enabling the industries of tomorrow.