Lessons on Building a Tech Startup: 2021 Update on Newsbyte Africa

Hello friends!

Here’s a quick recap of the latest happenings in Newsbyte Africa from a co-founder perspective.

INVESTOR DEMO DAY

My sister and I were racing through the streets of Joburg in October, 2020. There was surprisingly an awful amount of traffic for a mid-afternoon, week day in central Joburg. I was running on very little sleep, which had become my default status over the last few months. Last night though, I had stayed up, working on my masters thesis, packing for London and refining our Jamlab Africa Pitch for the investor demo day which would take place in an hour.

Just in time, I hurtled through the living room and logged onto Zoom-

“Yes, I’m here!” I yelled, just as Tshepo, lead of the JAMLAB Africa, team called me.

And then I did it, Joe.

I pitched our baby, Newsbyte Africa, as a low-bandwidth newsreader.

WHAT’S BEEN UP WITH NEWSBYTE SINCE THEN?

Since then, we’ve found a tech partner. My tech partner, and cousin, put a tech team together in November and we had a dev meeting to discuss the next stages and deadlines.

It was incredibly eye-opening.

I ended that meeting with a sense of awe that this was really happening, but I also felt intimidated. The bigness of executing this project loomed large, I felt sick, the kind of sick you feel when you’re about fail.

It’s too late to turn back now, I remind myself. You’ve just gotta figure this thing out.

Earlier in the year, we had had a meeting with a dev company which had made me feel less afraid. They were really great, but came with a hefty pricetag. We’d also had a meeting with a larger group of developers who’d failed to get back to us timeously. I took that as a sign that the partnership was not meant to be.

Instead, I was now meeting with this team, my now current team: a very passionate group of young, self-starters. After the meeting, I put together a product specs document for the first time, what should the look and feel be? What functionalities are key, and in bold, wrote the UX is the most important thing.

A screenshot of Newsbyte’s first Dev meeting.

EXPERIENCING FIRSTS

I also love that I’ll be experiencing a few firsts in developing this product. I’ve always loved tech, but had somehow believed that tech was for the computer scientist to make and the creative or artist to use. So unfortunately, my lack of tech training wanted to get the better of me.

But (and there’s always a but) as with everything in life, there was a lesson to be learned. Mine was that I belong here in the land of entrepreneurship: my passion, my dedication and my commitment to see this through, make up for the lack of technical training, even as I learn more to fill the gap. My business sensibility is important, my ability to bring two disparate fields together matters.

I don’t need to know how to do everything. That’s what co-founders are for. That’s why words like complement exist.

HERE’S WHY I’M DOING THIS

So, in a bid to share the milestones of Newsbyte Africa and increasing product market fit, I’ll be sharing some of my productivity, startup, philosophy and tech-related thoughts on a weekly basis. Any interesting things I read or watch related to the above topics will be here too.

Why?

Well, I tweeted the other day that I want to be all right with failing publicly, and I want to be a student of life. Committed to learning. Where failure is a lesson just as important as success. Failure to deny yourself the opportunity to learn is the real failure. I also want to be accountable to someone outside of myself (more on this later).

Join in if you’re into that sort of thing.

See you on the other side.

Pumulo Ngoma

Co-founder Newsbyte Africa + Student of Life

P.S. What resonated with you, what didn’t? As a student of life (Ha!) I want to get better at this, so let me know in the comments.

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