From 3 to 4 August 2018, I participated in the inaugural #SheLovesTech South Africa hackathon, presented in partnership with Oya Venture and WeThinkCode_. The focus of the hackathon was technology in education and addressing issues facing women. The aim of the workshop was to expose women in tech to the necessary thinking to create and pitch a sustainable business plans to investors. The workshop participants inspired female-driven ventures across the African continent. At the end of the last day, participants’ pitches were judged by a panel of tech founders for a chance to win a trip to China for a week-long bootcamp and international conference later this year.
During the workshop, an impressive line-up of entrepreneurs shared their hard-earned wisdom about the business of starting a business. I was humbled by their entrepreneurial spirit. Both participants and workshop facilitators inspired me, not only with their enthusiasm to solve problems they see in the world, but their willingness to support each other by sharing the knowledge they’ve acquired to positively impact others’ businesses.
The first session started off with learning to tell a compelling story to both customers and business stakeholders. Nwabisa Mayema, founder of nnfinity, mesmerised us with her ability to unlock the story within and helped us to structure our thinking to convey that story in the best way possible. She rounded off the session with inside information on how to survive public speaking and leave the audience inspired. The lesson I learnt is that, if you are not convinced about your own idea or product, you’ll be hard-pressed to convince anyone else. Customers’ attention has become a commodity, so when they pay attention to a business, it is essential to provide them with the value they expect.
The Friday sessions ended off with Justin Drennan, founder of Parcel Ninja, sharing his insights into the South African venture capital funding landscape, covering each of the five elements of a brilliant sales narrative. Justin illustrated how important it is to show sustainability when sharing business opportunities and making sure you understand the scope of the opportunity and what you will be spending your money on. I believe that what Justin was hoping to get across is that businesses must be great at showing their customers that they have the means to make their promise come to life. Justin was followed by Lee Zuk from Oya Venture, who shared her insights into the legal aspects to consider when building a sustainable business from the ground up and the importance of compliance from Day One.
Saturday kicked off with a bang as growth hacker and marketing genius Lauren Dallas, founder of The Growth Academy, explained the core marketing principles for acquiring customers, following up to convert prospects into paying customers, and more importantly, retaining those customers through customer value creation. Lauren explained that the customer journey begins even before a customer pays for your products or services. My philosophy as a User Experience Designer is to use each interaction with a customer as an opportunity to learn. In many ways, the acquisition phase is the most important time to learn from customers, as this is when they are fully aware of their need and are searching for the right business to solve their problem.
The final session of the day, before preparing to pitch our ideas, was presented by Tamarin Morell, founder of Strategy Builder. Those who’ve worked with Tamarin probably know that she gets straight to the point. Tamarin started by encouraging us to dream big and voice our aspirations for our businesses. She then emphasised the importance of having an actionable plan to achieve our visions. Vision is important, but not more so than acting towards achieving the goals we set out to accomplish. A good business strategy is to take small, measurable actions towards a goal. A user-centric business must measure the impact of its decisions on the customer experience.
At the end of it all, I walked away feeling inspired to keep sharing the promise of user centricity and continue working towards better products, experiences and ideas on how to scale the user experience wisdom I’ve acquired throughout my career with businesses big and small.