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Looking back 150 years ago, if a young man wanted to make a fortune, he had to go to the goldfields of California or Johannesburg. It was called the “gold rush.” About 100 years ago, it was all about being in the oil sector somewhere. And 25 years ago (my time), it was about getting into telecoms (GSM).
Now there’s a new “gold rush” which started since the telecoms revolution gave birth to the rapid expansion of the Internet. Every single day, entrepreneurs across the world, including Africa, are launching tens of thousands of businesses on the Internet!
In my last post, I wrote: “Afterthought: When you think about building a business on the Internet, there are five things you should be thinking about:
#1. How can I use the Internet to help grow the business we already have? There is no entrepreneurial activity that cannot benefit from the Internet. Websites, social media platforms, are all platforms that can be used to grow your business in terms of its sales and profitability by reaching more customers, quickly and cheaply.
It will quicken your growth. It is key to getting to the global marketplace.
#2. How can I use the Internet to spur innovation?
#3. How can I use the Internet to lower barriers of entry, including capital and cost?
#4. How can I use the Internet to access skills, expertise, and partnerships?
#5. How can I build actual Internet businesses?
This last question takes the game to a completely new level altogether. It will be the subject of my next post.”
I promised to discuss #5, so let’s get started: You and I are now on a platform called Facebook. Most people who use Facebook don’t even stop to think that it’s a business. I have even had people write me through Facebook and say they would like to be on the Internet!
You probably use WhatsApp, another Internet-based business. Perhaps you have used Uber, or bought things on Jumia and Konga, and you used a search engine from Google or Yahoo. All these businesses rely on the Internet.
Facebook first launched in 2004. It’s now worth $430+bn, close to the GDP of two of Africa’s biggest economies like Nigeria at $486.8bn (2015- World Bank) and South Africa at $317.6bn (2015- StatsSA). Google (Alphabet) is even bigger at about $645bn, last time I looked.
The titans of the Internet — Alibaba, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Tencent — are all bigger than nearly all mining, manufacturing, telecoms, and natural resource companies in the world today! Even the likes of Apple and Microsoft are only able to compete with them because they manufacture phones or provide software used to access the Internet.
Almost all these companies were started by young people, often whilst still at college. Many aren’t even 40 years old. These guys never knew there was such a thing as tenders on government contracts. They knew no ministers of government, and had never met a President!
__You do not need powerful friends and relatives in high places to get access to the most valuable piece of “real estate” in the history of the world. What you DO need is access to the Internet!
Even the #YoungOld like me are getting into this gold rush. Please don’t leave me behind guys! Share with your teacher!
Your turn: This week I want you to showcase (only) ventures that you have set up on the Internet. This time I’m not looking for websites. I want to see businesses that are simply Internet businesses. Also include any not-for-profit enterprises.
Remember Kenya’s Ushahidi that I wrote about last year when I showcased Juliana Rotich in my series? #AfricanLionnessRoar! World class! That is our future.