#OccupyTech: Take the money out of tech…and put the impact back in!

UPDATE: Really like @NonieMG‘s comment so I’m giving this post an alternative title: “Take the SH out of IT!”


The inspiration for this post came from Wangechi Mwangi, a recent high school graduate and founder of AZMA, a social network that aims to consolidate community service efforts among Kenyan high school students.

Now that that’s out of the way…

We are caught in a rat race – and if you stop one of the mice and ask them why they are running around in circles, they will not give you a definite answer!

That’s the culture we’re adopting in the local tech ecosystem…hot on the heels of our American Silicon Valley counterparts. We’re so indulged in activities that we perceive to be crucial to our ideas’ success yet after giving it much thought, we’re really wasting time on unimportant things.

I’ll give two examples.

Last week I ran an event at the m:lab called Wireless Wednesday which focused on User Experience research for startups with mobile products. The lead discussant, Franco Papeschi of the World Wide Web Foundation (LOVE these guys!), went on and on about how weird it was that local (and some international) developers didn’t spend at least a morning to ask people to test their app with a real audience and give them feedback. (Kindly note that the test referred to here are in the UX context).

I had an answer. In my understanding of the dev mindset, most people would rather spend that time chasing after venture capital and as soon as they get it, they’ll pay off some UX professional to do the necessary tests and research and give feedback.

Notice something flawed about this? Look at it from the flip side. Instead of wasting time and energy seeking venture funding, why doesn’t the developer invest that time in UX tests that will ultimately result into an app/service (whatever) that people will love, use perhaps because it fulfils their needs or solves a problem? Won’t users be more willing to pay for it if this is the case?

Example two.

University education is weird!

I did a Bachelor’s degree in Business Information Technology in college (and I spend every night wishing I had dropped out!) and I do remember one of my lecturers telling me that one core principle of software development was to solve problems – and this was well illustrated using the software development life cycle diagrams. I found the diagrams boring…but I now realize their importance – something that has continually been sacrificed for what people keep chasing after in the rat race.

While coursework hasn’t changed much, a lot of co-curricular activities supporting coursework has. We’re increasingly seeing universities shifting their focus on their core goal (i.e. research) to looking for grants left right and center.

I recently attended an event at Strathmore University‘s iLabAfrica where the patron (or whoever he was) went on and on about all the grants they had received in excess of hundreds of millions of shillings. I had one question for him: how many smiles have you put on your beneficiaries faces and does it justify the sum of money you are the chest thumping about?

Here’s the bottom line.

Unless you are directly making an impact in someone’s life with you apps and all the hustle around them, you’re really doing nothing meaningful. I’ve said this over and over and over on this blog and in others I contribute to.

For some reason, no one seems to be listening…yet, none of these seem to know what they are doing.

I recently had a chat with two people I have a lot of respect for: Jay Bhalla and Phares Kariuki. We went back and forth about how devs have no clue about how venture capital works, business model innovation or even basic pitching skills. That isn’t the striking thing though.

What shocks me about this is that despite the lack of insight into these and other fields, a number of guys are plunging themselves into the ecosystem! Why would anyone do that!? So far, my answer is simply for the money…and two, coz every other mouse is doing it!

Get real people!

Money is driving people in totally wrong directions!

Sober up and think about it for a second.

What’s more meaningful and worth your hustle? Money or impact?

About mtoto wa jirani

...the boy who changed the world...

17. November 2011 by mtoto wa jirani
Categories: Uncategorized | 6 comments

Comments (6)

  1. Awesome post Simeon, “Taking the SH out of IT”, I think that tech needs to take the common sense business approach, work on the product from the consumer end, get consumers then, seek for funding to expand this great user friendly, problem solving tool. As opposed to the other way round.

    • Love that! “Take the SH out of IT!” Made it the alternative title to this post.

      I agree with your model. Work on a value add product which consumers will purchase then expand etc. I however will caution that people need to know that what I’m referring to here as “value add” could be the key to creating an impact and not just making money as an end goal .

      Thx Nonie!

  2. Speaking from a developer’s perspective we develop apps that we think are best for the market from our thoughts and opinions not looking at what is the best for the society! but that mindset is changing haiyaa!

    • …and that’s the problem! Who lied to you that YOU DECIDE WHAT APPS ARE BEST FOR THE MARKET!?

      There’s a little something dev’s don’t really invest time in (just like UX). Its called MARKET FORCES! They are the guys who run the show…not devs!

      The dev is not the focus…the ecosystem is!

  3. Hey ! great article