Marek Zmysłowski is an amazing entrepreneur who has written a real-life thriller based on his career in Poland and, most intriguingly, Africa.
I have met Marek Zmysłowski twice in Africa and, more recently, in London. The nights we had in Johannesburg and Lagos were legendary, but a gentleman never tells.
He is a Polish firebrand and whirlwind, driven by entrepreneurial zeal and loves life almost as much as I loved his book, Chasing Black Unicorns.
They say that there is a book inside every journalist… and that’s where it should stay. I would also say that there’s a book inside every entrepreneur and that’s where it should be buried, but not in this case.
This story is more like a Robert Ludlum African-based thriller and it rolls and rolls like an exciting rollercoaster.
It begins slowly with a young Zmysłowsk dreaming of big things in a small Polish town. His ambition knows no bounds as he chases the zloty and dollar by working in finance and, memorably, in the funeral business. He spends what he earns and he loves spending as his internet pioneering makes him a Polish player.
Then an opportunity arises with Rocket Internet to set up the ‘African equivalent of Expedia’ in Nigeria. Zmysłowsk takes up the challenge and heads to Lagos and in the next couple of years does the almost-impossible in doing exactly that.
Then the problems begin. Agent provocateurs, dissembling investors, strategies-from-above and all of the above magnified by the chaos of Nigeria mean trouble for Zmysłowsk. Not only is he ousted from the business he built up, but his new venture is seen as a threat.
Before he knows it, he is on Interpol’s most wanted list and endures prison after being arrested at Warsaw airport expecting to be extradited to Nigeria.
I won’t spoil the ending because there is much to read and admire here. His writing is crisp and he never loses faith even when the Gods seem out to screw him over. His book is a hell of a ride, I recommend you join him. A really excellent story.
Grammy-winning artist is bringing his Akoin vision for Africa to November summit
Akon, hip-hop superstar and one of Africa’s most renowned philanthropists, has accepted a speaker slot at the crypto and blockchain focussed show in November.
He will be speaking about his Akoin token and how he hopes the blockchain-based cryptocurrency can empower young entrepreneurs in Africa to strengthen the continent’s rising economies and support the development of sustainable communities.
Akon’s vision for Africa is already in position, with first steps taken in Senegal’s capital city Dakar, where Senegalese President Macky Sall has gifted him 2,000 acres to establish an Afro-futuristic city.
The whole idea with the city is to create a renewable city. Crypto is the money spent in the city; all digital. All renewable energy; no gas, no nothing. We’ll create platforms of all of today’s newest technologies embedded within the city itself.”
Through the artist’s Akoin Foundation, inspired entrepreneurs will develop future-forward businesses and promote innovation, economic stability, and growth across Africa, as well as in the wider world.
Through the Akoin ecosystem of crypto-based DApps and Apps, rising entrepreneurs can learn, earn, spend and save, as well as have more transparency and security within these daily economic building activities, including civil engagement.
“I think banking systems can definitely benefit from blockchain, but the voting system will probably be the number one system for the technology,” he says. “The good thing about blockchain is it leaves a footprint,” explains Akon. “You can’t do anything without it being open for everyone to see it – it opens the road to transparency.”
Eman Pulis, founder and CEO of Malta A.I. & Blockchain Summit, commented.
With a vision so clearly in line with the best hopes for the blockchain world, Akon is sure to be a huge draw for the conference audience at November’s Malta AIBC. We’re excited to work with him in using blockchain to make the world a better place for everyone.”
The fourth revolution of humanity includes everyone and this book explains how we’re all likely to be involved.
There is only one thing wrong with this truly awesome book by Chris Skinner about technology and that is the title – Digital Human. This book covers so much more than what sounds like just-another-book-about-the-so-called-future.
The author knows his stuff, but his stuff is not only general, it focuses on the future of money, the fall of banks and the revolution that he knows is going to happen.
I’ve met the author and he is a modest, humble and deep guy who clearly cares about the future and the best way to deal with it. In print (which is the best way to read this book) he writes clearly and smartly; I read Digital Human in three sittings.
As somebody who has shared podcasting with Skinner a couple of times, I’ve always been impressed by his knowledge of FinTech and here it shines through, not least his understanding (and respect) of what is happening in Chinese FinTech, an area that deserves much more exposure.
He acknowledges a debt and respect to Yuval Noah Hariri and his best-selling books Sapiens and Homo Deus, but this is a different book, albeit worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as Hariri’s works of brilliance.
There are a couple of interesting stories here about early money, prostitution and the etymology of the word ‘whore’ and ‘harlot during the Sumerian Empire, but that’s just for the populists.
Skinner is about to embark on some serious travelling around Africa to find more stories about life and banking for what will presumably be his next book, I can only envy him both projects.
Sometimes it’s difficult to praise fellow-writers, especially when they are known to each other, but in this case it’s easy. Digital Human may well be a terrible title, but this is a terrific book; for those in the the know and those who aren’t.
Let’s hope they change the title when the paperback comes out.
VConnect Founder Deepankar Rustagi explains why Africa is the place to be and why African SMEs are the future of the continent’s prosperity.
Welcome to Mob76 Outlook, Deepankar. Tell us about VConnect.
We are based in Lagos, Nigeria and we want to be the leading player in Anglophone countries with high internet penetration in Africa. The market is there. According to NBS, the market for online demand-in service-businesses will be $3.6 billion by 2020.
We are playing a critical role in the growth of African SMEs and transforming the way service sector businesses engage with their customers.
To many people, Africa is the so-called Dark Continent, but what’s really happening there right now?
The economic challenges faced by Africa (its dependence on oil, and the non-existence of the middle class) are not hidden from anyone. Providing growth to SMEs in the service sector will append a more dependable stream of revenue.
What is your company doing to help?
We want to transform local SMEs into emerging brands in Africa. More than 75% of SMEs in Africa do not survive the second year of operations. Access to market is one of the major challenges faced by these SMEs.
VConnect is a platform for finding local service professionals and allows users to search for and connect with service businesses to access reliable and affordable services.
We enable businesses to acquire and, more importantly, retain customers by making them more accessible online. Businesses need to take just three easy steps: register on VConnect, respond to enquiries from potential customers and engage to transact.
Our platform is unique as it is easy enough for the SMEs in Africa to promote themselves online using their mobile phones. We help them create their business profile and generate and manage leads for their products and services.
Why did you set up the company?
I grew up in Lagos and have spent more than 18 years here. After engineering work brought me back to Lagos, I noticed the difficulty people faced in finding businesses and how difficult it was for businesses to market themselves and reach their customers. That’s when we decided to start VConnect.
How much traction does VConnect have?
* 1.5 Million monthly users
* 2,000 SMEs actively engage with customers every day
* 15,000 connections made every day(no. of times users get in touch with businesses)
* 75% are mobile users (both businesses and users)
Who are your major competitors?
They are Connect Nigeria, Finelib, Businesslist.ng, Jiji.ng and Olx
Why are you better and different from these other players?
We are an SME tech company, changing the way businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa acquire and engage with customers. We enable businesses to not just generate leads and acquire new customers but also, to retain them, whereas our competitors only enable the business to be listed on their platforms.
As for users, unlike our competitors, we don’t just provide contact information of service professionals but understand users’ requirement and connect them with multiple reliable service professionals for them to get maximum value for their money.
How much funding have you received to this point?
Tell us about your founders and team
We are a single founder company and our team consists of 57 people. I founded the company in March, 2011 and have since worked with my team as the CEO, overseeing product development, management, and engagement. During this course, I’ve also completed a Venture Capital program from Haas School of Business, Berkeley and an entrepreneurship course from Stanford SEED, West Africa.
Our core team encompasses of product management, business development, sales, operations, finance, digital marketing and brand/category management all run from our base office in Lagos.
Our CTO is a seasoned programmer with 14 years of experience and has been a part of VConnect since its inception. Our product and marketing heads both have more than eight years of experience in defining the growth path for startups in Asian countries.
Very interesting, Deepaankar, thanks for sharing your story with our audience.
The author of The Rift is a white man who knows Africa and who made his living writing for Time magazine.
Alex Perry knows his subject and chronicles the changing times of the continent as well as the extraordinary Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuściński.
Praise indeed, but deserved. His anger at the way Africa is portrayed, and the aid organisations who almost profiteer from their involvement, is measured and volcanic at the same time. What he offers is an alternative view to the way Western media belittles the land-where-humans-were-created.
There was one personal bum note, however, with The Rift. Two years ago I received the biggest ovation of my life at a conference in Kenya when I derided the so-called Silicon Savannah moniker foisted on Nairobi’s tech hub and told the African audience they had no need to be compared to Silicon Valley.
Unfortunately, it appears that Perry was the person who coined this phrase, so on that subject we shall agree to differ. On the rest of it, we agree completely and this is an important book that should be read by anybody who wants to get a feel on what is happening in Africa. I loved reading it.