The flagship event on the Launch calendar, Pitch Night, received a revamp in 2020. Due to national regulations aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 virus, many events were either postponed or cancelled completely.
For the first time ever, Pitch Night was held as a hybrid event, viewed by a small audience on site (including pitchers & judges) and by a larger audience streaming online, last year.
The Launch team caught up with the first-place winners of both Pitch Nights, who briefly weighed in on their individual experiences of the event, and the progress that their start-ups have made 5 & 6 months later, respectively:
What did Launch Namibia’s Pitch Night mean to you personally and to your innovation?
GV: Personally, it boosted my confidence to believe in the concept even more. Since the event was live streamed, the business idea was heard by thousands of viewers and the feedback has been overwhelming.
LS: Pitch Night represented the beginning of our journey. At the time, all we had clearly identified was the problem and the idea of a potential solution that still had to be shaped. The event enabled us to share the concept with the world and a stunning judging panel, who provided various insights that served as the basis of what we did from there.
NNt: It meant validation, especially in a country with a small pool and ecosystem of tech-influenced concepts, so it meant that our concept could thrive in this small pool.
NNu: Pitch Night was an amazing experience for me and my team, everything we prepared for was achieved. Our head craft innovation needed such an exposure.
What is the biggest challenge that you have experienced since the event?
GV: Keeping up with the queries and operational demands. I was quick to realize that I needed to readjust the processes to accommodate more processes due to the constant changes in the world of IT.
LS: Finding & working with local freelancing web developers to develop the platform. We could not find any credible directory and had really unpleasant experiences with many of the professionals we found due to the lack of commitment and proficiency. Fortunately, we could deploy our MVP for two weeks of tests in January and now have more than 50 freelancers & a dozen SMEs on our waiting list. We spotted a few unexpected vulnerabilities during the test and are working against the clock to take the final MVP live.
NNt: In between juggling a full-time job and other work portfolios, the main challenge has been finding the time to begin the pilot phase of the concept before the initial launch.
NNu: I believe this is the same thing every Namibian start-up experiences – the funding and business support.
Where would you like to see your start-up in three years? What do you hope will be different compared to now?
GV: I would like to see Tutors Hub being the number one stop online platform for students to get access to top qualified tutors in the country. I would like to see more users sign up and more engagements on the platform.
LS: Since we have a very ambitious and complex project at hand, for the next three years I see us still working on improving the platform and expanding on its capabilities, enabling SMEs to generate greater results and become more competitive through content marketing.
NNt: I hope to see Autono-Me in at least one other SADC country like South Africa, with a considerable number of companies and workers registered onto the platform. What will be different is the platform perhaps morphing into an app for download and more efficient navigability.
NNu: We see ourselves breaking barriers and competing internationally. I hope to see many larger corporations in Namibia taking youth entrepreneurship very seriously and lending support where necessary, and where they can.
What lesson can you share, having made so much progress despite this time of crisis?
GV: Start. Just start with whatever idea you have. There will always be a crisis of some sort or another. Starting allows you to learn how to deal with some of these crises.
NNt: There is no right time to start because time is your asset, not an assumption or suggestion.
NNu: Do not wait to figure things out before starting, certain things can only be learnt during the process – just do it! The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. Perseverance is key. The pandemic has put many out of business unfortunately, but for us, it’s a great opportunity that presented itself.
Are you looking for any kind of support, resources or funding?
GV: Yes of course. Donors are welcome, always. I am also looking for people to partner up with, especially in the north and coastal towns to help create brand loyalty towards the system.
LS: We are looking for more web developers to expand our network and partnerships related to our activity. Most importantly, I would like to express our gratitude towards Launch Namibia and StartUp Namibia for all the opportunities brought to us, and our amazing mentors, Mr. Keith Handura and Mr. Gerhard Malah, for providing all the guidance and support we were looking for to realize our mission.
NNt: Yes; a solid marketing strategy (that comes with its own needed resources), to on-board businesses onto our platform. The more companies we have, the more opportunities for employment exists.
NNu: Definitely. We are looking for funding in terms of products prototyping, products certifications, technological systems, marketing and operations.
Launch Namibia is proud to have executed its first twinset of the virtual Pitch Nights in 2020 and we look forward to the continued growth and impact of this initiative within the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Further, gratitude is extended to our partners and sponsors, who made the event possible: StartUp Namibia, First National Bank, UNDP Namibia through its Accelerator Lab, Ubuntu Events Technology, KESA Media, Dololo and the UN House. Stay tuned to our social media platforms for updates on the Pitch Night 2021 series!