One of the worlds celebrated scientists and Nobel Prize (Physics) laureate, Albert Einstein is credited for saying, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” In present day’s fiercely competitive and fast paced world, entrepreneurs are increasingly required to master the art of the elevator pitch to convey their business idea in a clear, succinct and compelling manner to potential investors, mentors or clients.
The elevator pitch denotes the rare opportunity entrepreneurs have to ignite interest in their business idea or product. It is a brief, persuasive speech that does not last longer than a short elevator ride of 15-to-30 seconds, hence the name. In an article written in the America business magazine, Forbes, Kristi Hedges states that, “There’s a well-told adage that you only get one chance to make a first impression. From personal relationships to business meetings, we’re taught that people form opinions of us in a few moments, and that we should be ready to show our best at all times.” On both sides of an exchange, and with every new encounter, one is evaluated and yet another person's impression of us is formed.
In business, making good first impression with potential investors, mentors or clients allows one to, “Maximise their connection in a minimal amount of time and start making valuable additions to their network from the get-go,” says author and coach in the leadership and life skills space, Todd Dewett. He goes on to say these first impressions can be nearly impossible to reverse or undo, making the first encounters extremely important, for they set the tone for all the relationships that follows.
Budding local entrepreneur Tumelo Mapila has adopted Einstein’s wisdom and the culture of making impressive first impressions as one of his personal and business life’s enduring lessons and guiding principles. Mapila lives by the ethos of author and motivational speaker, John Calvin Maxwell who asserts that, “Your network is your net worth.”
Building and nurturing strong business networks is important for supporting personal and enterprise advancement as it earns entrepreneur’s social capital, which compares to money in the bank. A strong network can help one build visibility, connect with influencers, and open up doors for new opportunities. “Networking is a valuable way of expanding one’s knowledge and learning from the success of others, gaining new perspective and fresh insights, as well as raising one’s profile, expanding one’s sphere of influence and meeting prospective business partners, suppliers, customers and staff,” says Mapila.
Growing up in Botswana’s thriving democracy and burgeoning economy, Mapila was acutely aware of the contradictions presented by the opportunities the prosperous country availed to its citizens and the hardships and sacrifices his doting civil servant mother endured to give him and his siblings a decent life. With a taste for the refined things in life, the young man was very clear, from a very tender age of the type of life he wanted to live. Having watched the rough and tumble experienced by his entrepreneur uncle and the amazing rewards he enjoyed for his patience and hard work, Mapila was convinced he was not cut out for the 8am to 5pm work regime. He concluded that, entrepreneurship was where he belonged.
The road to entrepreneurship is however, never easy and at one point Mapila joined the heart-wrenching ranks of the country’s youthful job seekers in the unemployment trenches. “This was one of the lowest points of my life from which I suffered bouts of depression,” he states. He goes on to say it was at this point that his uncle threw him a lifeline when he took him under his wings and helped him establish his own company. The mentorship provided invaluable guidance and lessons that helped him develop and grow his entrepreneurial skills.
Bitten by the entrepreneurial bug at an early age, Mapila went on to overcome the initial stumbling challenges and become the founding CEO of All Bosses (Pty) Ltd. The company offers research consultancy services that engage innovative data collection and analytic technologies. All Bosses flagship service offering is Focus Surveys, a dynamic and robust intelligent data collection and analysis reporting service.
Businesses – in general and startups in particular – face a myriad of challenges. The lack of business experience and the wherewithal to get the right exposure and make the essential business networks can stifle and may even kill off a budding enterprise. American policymaker, academic and director of the project on Technology, the Economy, and National Security (TENS) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, David Edelman says, “It’s a false economy to put your faith in customers discovering you unless you make a concerted effort to grow them with a proper structured plan to promote your startup.”
This is one lesson Tumelo learnt earlier on in his entrepreneurial journey of self-discovery. He learnt that in present days highly competitive business world, an international outlook and collaborative approach are some of the critical requirements that underpin a vibrant startup ecosystem. He testifies that, “Networking and brand awareness are two of the critical business development components that have promoted and grown this enterprise.”
He says the story of his company’s life began with the establishment of Focus Surveys in 2013. After a difficult and painful start, the company got a break when it was engaged to do data collection and analyses for the country’s premier business to business (B2B) exhibition and conference, The Global Expo in 2015. That being their first major job, they went all out to make a bold statement and prove to the client that they were more than capable to execute the task on time and within budget. Mapila boasts that their final submission to client was exceptional to the extent that they were later invited to present their report to The Global Expo executive committee which affirmed their credibility and assured them of future jobs.
Mapila’s first encounter with Botswana Innovation Hub was through the company’s technology entrepreneurship development programme, First Steps Venture Centre (FSVC) when in 2013 he participated in one of the programmes pitch sessions. The pitch sessions accord entrepreneurs the opportunity to present their business ideas to prospective investors, mentors and collaborators. “Participation in the FSVC pitch sessions gave us increased confidence and launched us further into the local and regional market,” he says.
Botswana Innovation Hub is an innovative and networked company that promotes technology, entrepreneurship and commercialisation on a purpose built Science and Technology Park. Around this, Botswana Innovation Hub is building opportunities in tenancy, membership, a globally-connected innovation ecosystem, and world-class client services. Emboldened by the roaring success of their maiden participation in the FSVC pitch session, Mapila enrolled Focus Surveys into the technology entrepreneurship development programme and went on to benefit from an array of the programmes service bouquet. These include, hot desking, business advisory, brand activation and publicity, technology entrepreneurs coaching and mentoring, and match making which connects start-ups with the right business partners.
In March 2017 Botswana Innovation Hub collaborated with DEMO Africa in an initiative that sought to provide local entrepreneurs with the opportunity to pitch at the DEMO Africa competition which was held in South Africa that year. DEMO Africa is a product of a partnership between The U.S. Department of State, Microsoft, DEMO, USAID and Startup Weekend called Liberalizing Innovation Opportunity Nations (LIONS@FRICA) Partnership. LIONS@FRICA seeks to connect African startups to the global ecosystem though its flagship programme, DEMO Africa.
Focus Surveys participated in the DEMO Africa grand finals in September 2017 and emerged victorious in the prestigious local pitching competition. The company went on to participate at the DEMO Africa competition in South Africa where although they did not emerge in the top five finalists of the of the fiercely contested regional competition, Mapila’s sterling performance at the DEMO Africa competition earned his company a slot on the LIONS@FRICA Innovation Tour which was held earlier this year in Silicon Valley, California from February 10th till 18th 2018. An Angel Investor was convinced by Mapila’s Elevator Pitch and saw the relevance and growth opportunity in Focus Surveys and pledged to sponsor the company to participate in the prestigious StartUp Grind competition.
The LIONS@FRICA Innovation Tour is focused on knowledge sharing with leading Silicon Valley stakeholders and networking opportunities that are intended to yield deeper engagement between the company and potential partners. While in the U.S., the company participated in a series of events including StartUp Grind, and other curated side events across the Silicon Valley ecosystem. This presented Mapila with multiple opportunities to pitch his company’s products, services and technologies to select groups of investors, industry leaders, diaspora groups and expert panels.
Prior to the Silicon Valley excursion, Mapila had participated in another pitching competition organized through the Botswana Innovation Hub partnership with the Southern Africa Innovation Support Programme (SAiS). In that competition known as SLUSH, Mapila put up an awesome performance as always and went on to win the local edition of the SLUSH 2017 pitching competition. He proceeded to represent the country at the finals of the global pitching competition in Helsinki, Finland. SLUSH is a startup and tech event that facilitates founder and investor annual meetings with the aim of building a world-wide startup community that helps the next generation of great, world-conquering companies move forward.
Mapila’s journey to success is testimony that a refined Elevator Pitch can open business opportunities and that indeed one’s network is their net worth. The exposure of an enterprise earns it social capital which is an essential resource in the knowledge-based economy and as DEMO Africa executive producer, Harry Hare affirms, “The entries this year certainly kept up with the DEMO Africa spirit to produce innovative and creative ideas that are bound to transform the technology landscape and we are excited by the growth of innovation and technological advancement in Africa as portrayed by our finalists.”
Focus Surveys latest feat confirms Mapila as master of his craft. The young man knows his story and he can break it down for you clearly and convincingly in less than a minute. He is the undisputed national champion of The Elevator Pitch. Having conquered the local and regional scene, Mapila has now joined the elite global league where he hobnobs with the world’s best at Silicon Valley. Thanks to FSVC for identifying, developing and nurturing this technology-oriented startup business to grow into international markets.
Mapila concludes, “I am grateful for the opportunities received through Botswana Innovation Hub’s technology entrepreneurship development programme. The many pitch sessions we have participated in, including The DEMO Africa and SLUSH competitions have helped us polish our pitching skills and provided invaluable experiences that exposed us to different networks and a globally connected innovation ecosystem.”
Marcian Concepts have been contracted by Selibe Phikwe Economic Unit (SPEDU) in a P230 million project to raise the town from its ghost status. The project is in the design and building phase of building an industrial hub for Phikwe; putting together an infrastructure in Bolelanoto and Senwelo industrial sites.
This project comes as a life-raft for Selibe Phikwe, a town which was turned into a ghost town when the area’s economic mainstay, BCL mine, closed four years ago. In that catastrophe, 5000 people lost their livelihoods as the town’s life sunk into a gloomy horizon. Businesses were closed and some migrated to better places as industrial places and malls became almost empty.
However, SPEDU has now started plans to breathe life into the town. Information reaching this publication is that Marcian Concepts is now on the ground at Bolelanoto and Senwelo and works have commenced. Marcian as a contractor already promises to hire Phikwe locals only, even subcontract only companies from the area as a way to empower the place’s economy.
The procurement method for the tender is Open Domestic bidding which means Joint Ventures with foreign companies is not allowed. According to Marcian Concepts General Manager, Andre Strydom, in an interview with this publication, the project will come with 150 to 200 jobs. The project is expected to take 15 months at a tune of P230 531 402. 76. Marcian will put together construction of roadworks, storm-water drains, water reticulation, street lighting and telecommunication infrastructure. This tender was flouted last year August, but was awarded in June this year. This project is seen as the beginning of Phikwe’s revival and investors will be targeted to the area after the town has worn the ghost city status for almost half a decade.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has slashed its outlook the world economy projecting a significantly deeper recession and slower recovery than it anticipated just two months ago.
On Wednesday when delivering its World Economic Outlook report titled “A long difficult Ascent” the Washington Based global lender said it now expects global gross domestic product to shrink 4.9% this year, more than the 3% predicted in April. For 2021, IMF experts have projected growth of 5.4%, down from 5.8%. “We are projecting a somewhat less severe though still deep recession in 2020, relative to our June forecast,” said Gita Gopinath Economic Counsellor and Director of Research.
The struggle of humanity is now how to dribble past the ‘Great Pandemic’ in order to salvage a lean economic score. Botswana is already working on dwindling fiscal accounts, budget deficit, threatened foreign reserves and the GDP data that is screaming recession.
Latest data by think tank and renowned rating agency, Moody’s Investor Service, is that Botswana’s fiscal status is on the red and it is mostly because of its mineral-dependency garment and tourism-related taxation. Botswana decided to close borders as one of the containment measures of Covid-19; trade and travellers have been locked out of the country. Moody’s also acknowledges that closing borders by countries like Botswana results in the collapse of tourism which will also indirectly weigh on revenue through lower import duties, VAT receipts and other taxes.
Latest economic data shows that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the second quarter of 2020 with a decrease of 27 percent. One of the factors that led to contraction of the local economy is the suspension of air travel occasioned by COVID-19 containment measures impacted on the number of tourists entering through the country’s borders and hence affecting the output of the hotels and restaurants industry. This will also be weighed down by, according to Moody’s, emerging markets which will see government losing average revenue worth 2.1 percentage points (pps) of GDP in 2020, exceeding the 1.0 pps loss in advanced economies (AEs).
“Fiscal revenue in emerging markets is particularly vulnerable to this current crisis because of concentrated revenue structures and less sophisticated tax administrations than those in AEs. Oil exporters will see the largest falls but revenue volatility is a common feature of their credit profiles historically,” says Moody’s. The domino effects of containment measures could be seen cracking all sectors of the local economy as taxes from outside were locked out by the closure of borders hence dwindling tax revenue.
Moody’s has placed Botswana among oil importers, small, tourism-reliant economies which will see the largest fall in revenue. Botswana is in the top 10 of that pecking order where Moody’s pointed out recently that other resource-rich countries like Botswana (A2 negative) will also face a large drop in fiscal revenue.
This situation of countries’ revenue on the red is going to stay stubborn for a long run. Moody’s predicts that the spending pressures faced by governments across the globe are unlikely to ease in the short term, particularly because this crisis has emphasized the social role governments perform in areas like healthcare and labour markets.
For countries like Botswana, these spending pressures are generally exacerbated by a range of other factors like a higher interest burden, infrastructure deficiencies, weaker broader public sector, higher subsidies, lower incomes and more precarious employment. As a result, most of the burden for any fiscal consolidation is likely to fall on the revenue side, says Moody’s.
Moody’s then moves to the revenue spin of taxation. The rating agency looked at the likelihood and probability of sovereigns to raise up revenue by increasing tax to offset what was lost in mineral revenue and tourism-related tax revenue. Moody’s said the capacity to raise tax revenue distinguishes governments from other debt issuers. “In theory, governments can change a given tax system as they wish, subject to the relevant legislative process and within the constraints of international law. In practice, however, there are material constraints,” says Moody’s.
‘‘The coronavirus crisis will lead to long-lasting revenue losses for emerging market sovereigns because their ability to implement and enforce effective revenue-raising measures in response will be an important credit driver over the next few years because of their sizeable spending pressures and the subdued recovery in the global economy we expect next year.’’
According to Moody’s, together with a rise in stimulus and healthcare spending related to the crisis, the think tank expects this drop in revenue will trigger a sizeable fiscal deterioration across emerging market sovereigns. Most countries, including Botswana, are under pressure of widening their tax bases, Moody’s says that this will be challenging. “Even if governments reversed or do not extend tax-easing measures implemented in 2020 to support the economy through the coronavirus shock, which would be politically challenging, this would only provide a modest boost to revenue, especially as these measures were relatively modest in most emerging markets,” says Moody’s.
Botswana has been seen internationally as a ‘tax ease’ country and its taxes are seen as lower when compared to its regional counterparts. This country’s name has also been mentioned in various international investigative journalism tax evasion reports. In recent years there was a division of opinions over whether this country can stretch its tax base. But like other sovereigns who have tried but struggled to increase or even maintain their tax intake before the crisis, Botswana will face additional challenges, according to Moody’s.
“Additional measures to reduce tax evasion and cutting tax expenditure should support the recovery in government revenue, albeit from low levels,” advised Moody’s. Botswana’s tax revenue to the percentage of the GDP was 27 percent in 2008, dropped to 23 percent in 2010 to 23 percent before rising to 27 percent again in 2012. In years 2013 and 2014 the percentage went to 25 percent before it took a slip to decline in respective years of 2015 up to now where it is at 19.8 percent.