When you look at some of the world’s most innovative companies, you witness a trend of creating forums and channels for upcoming talents to improve their knowledge and skills. Thriving Startups and established companies for example have yearly forums, platforms where industry leaders get to share their views about the future, what the companies are working on and giving a chance for upcoming innovators to showcase their creations. Here I am talking about developer conferences, annual letters, prototypes, trends, experimenting and stuff. This creates a culture of continuous learning, expanding the market and creating future talent.
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Facebook F8: This is an event held mostly annually for entrepreneurs and developers who build things around the website. Over the years, the sessions begin with a keynote speech from founder, Mark Zuckerberg and then followed by various breakout sessions. New products are also announced in such events.
SpeceX Hyperloop competition: It gives students and no-students a chance to showcase different designs of scalable prototypes of a new mode of transportation. To facilitate the platform, SpaceX built a 1.6 km test track where the competition took place.
Other trends such as one by Jeff Bezos yearly shareholder letters shed light into what the leader thinks about the industry. Founders of Facebook, Y Combinator among countless others also write the annual letters. The annual letters are mainly available in the public domain and serve as important pointers on opportunities that industry enthusiasts should be working on. I think these serve as a good reference point to where the industry is going and therefore propels growth both in customers and talent.
Furthermore, to establish more university-industry linkages, established founders give lectures in universities. Peter Thiel has lectured a whole unit on startups at Stanford University. Y Combinator is also doing the same and now has an online startup school.
I think the above examples show why Silicon valley and USA continues to innovate. There is a whole ecosystem of linkages which continuously builds talent and a learning culture. I am particularly concerned with the industry-university linkage. When established founders teach some courses in universities, students interested in the startup world get real-time information about what the industry is about and use that knowledge to better enhance their classroom understanding. Also when SpaceX organised a hyperloop competition early this year, it attracted submissions from students in USA and outside the US. They competed in what could be the future of transportation. These are a bunch of probably 18-22 year olds already getting real world experience about future engineering prospects while still studying.
I think Kenyan startups and companies should aim to establish more of such platforms. They would be good grounds to nurture future talent, influence the direction of innovation and create room more opportunities. Young talents get a glimpse of what is going on the industry and then try to come up with new inventions, ideas about solving some of our day to day challenges. Also such platforms would probably solve some of the current challenge whereby corporates are complaining that graduates have book knowledge but no industry experience. I am not talking about internships, but probably different kind of engagements that bring together industry players, students, enthusiasts on a day of building prototypes, ideas, concepts and getting a glimpse of what these companies are focusing on. Currently, there are platforms such as Nairobi Innovation Week by University of Nairobi among others. Also, ihub has hosted various conferences ranging from developers and blockchain conferences. I think this would apply to any industry as a way of passing out knowledge they have accumulated while at the same time learning of trends and creating an innovation culture. Eg Cytonn creating a platform for sharing new real estate models, linking up interested parties etc. How about MPESA organising annual forums for showcasing new trends, innovations in mobile money or Twiga foods undertaking class in Egerton University about food ecosystems in Kenya.
Maybe it is because some of major organisations in Kenya have not developed capacity to manage such things. Nonetheless, i think it would be a good idea that would ensure creating a fertile ground for more ideas, innovations and knowledge which would end up benefiting them too in the long run. This could apply to any other company, Cellulant, Safaricom, etc. In Nigeria, Hotels.ng is currently training software developers in order to ensure Nigeria has more competent developers to drive the technology revolution. Mark Essien of Hotels.ng says in a tweet that “providing a training ground for software developers is not charity but a way of ensuring the company survival”. The Arena kenya has also been organising series of events called MatchMentor that aims at building mentorship platforms and learning from other thriving professionals in various industries. It is exciting to see how this concept evolves with time. Therefore long term strategies are necessary because industry leaders should contribute more to what they would like to see in the future. By doing so, they ensure their own companies’ survival through available of future talent, more customer and new frontiers while keeping the culture of innovation and learning alive.