Why I decided to Start-UP!

There is a range of reasons why people decide to start-up. Here's my expeirnece!


Henri Kouam

3 years ago | 3 min read

Its start-up week in Cameroon? I gathered with a few friends and family and thought out loud about what one should do in Post-COVID times. I moved back to Cameroon in January 2020 from London, where I worked for over 6 years as an economist in the city, whilst equally working with some international NGOs on development projects in Africa.

After a stressful and intellectually rewarding time at several firms in the city, I wondered if I could be of use in Africa, specifically Cameroon.

How did I get here?

As a corporatist, I was adept at reflecting and thriving in new environments. From Start-ups to the Daily Mail to global development projects, I did my best to leverage every single skill I was learning.

My mantra for evidence-based policy and positive change wasn’t far behind. January 1st, Cameroon was vastly different; underinvestment was a visual assault, mentally and physically.

During the first five months, I worked as an expert on a global network, which enabled me to provide unique intelligence to businesses across India North America, Asia, and Europe.

This was highly engaging and wonkier than the work I had dome before, but I relished it. As COVID intensified, I was contracted to work with our Ministry of Finance on economic analysis to help inform decision making. At first, I was honored but as time passed I asked myself whether I could be doing more.

And then we Develop!

Whist in London, I began working as a Fellow for Nkafu Policy Institute, a leading think tank in Africa. I began merging economic research to development needs, which was at once challenging and interesting.

My decision to escape the virus and develop grew, as I could play a greater role in facilitating economic development, whilst contracting on the side. having taught myself to code using python, I began wondering if it is time to start something that could help the private sector digitize faster.

This is scary as I have used python mainly for econometrics and have never built an app, so how qualified I’m I to build solutions for businesses and sell them? I have been grappling with this question for the past 7 months, whilst I completed Machine Learning courses to upskill myself. During this time, I asked myself three questions?

1). Does Cameroon need an innovation hub, creating solutions for businesses across health care, manufacturing, transport, and the public sector? Yes, they do even as several companies provide solutions to businesses already. This caused me to, at once, panic and stall.

2). Is there a market gap: Yes, the underinvestment in digital capacity glaring; from grocery shopping to the doctors, there is no shortage of opportunities.

3). How do I find a partner? I have no idea but I thought I would rely on friends from school that have a good understanding of the market and share the same vision.

Why I decided to take the plunge.

Development is all about making evidence-based recommendations that improve people’s standards of living, reduce poverty, and ensure inclusive economic prosperity. However, technology is indispensable to economic development as it improves governance and access to services and goods that are currently unavailable for millions of people.

Mobile payments allow a farmer in the remote parts of the country to receive payments for their rice, tomatoes, and other vegetables.

As a radical secularist, I believe technology will become even more central to development in a post-COVID world. I have, indeed, benefit from some of the best market research out there, but the decision to take the plunge is driven by the need as well as the opportunity. The easy and fun part of the building has begun and I look forward to the future even more.

Is it ever the right time?

No it’s not.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from working for start-ups and development agencies alike is that once must constantly adapt and create opportunities whilst leveraging what one may.

A mix of factors are not idyllic to a highly subjective and personal journey, but I strive for a culture of inclusion and plan to learn as much as I can along the way. I hope this article helps anyone thinking about making that decision to weight the pros and cons faster; I have learnt to fail quickly and learn fast.

The philosophical grounding of the adage above is not limited to start-ups. It might signify a point in time or a stage in the start-ups life cycle! All the best!


Created by

Henri Kouam







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