My 2016 Year Review: I Bounced Back
When I left London for my home city Douala, Cameroon, I was lost on both professional and personal plans.
I was penniless. My wife and I were going through tough times, and I had not fully recovered from my failure with Sincuru. With no financial stability and no significant achievement, moving back home was a massive failure.
Despite that, I've always remained determined to bounce back.
After 2 days home, I started telling myself that moving back could the best opportunity to redeem myself. I started thinking about why my wife insisted I move back home. She felt that with my skills and network, I would be more useful here and could achieve great things.
So on the 31/12/2015, I set myself 4 goals for 2016:
Join a leading African tech startup at a Product Design role
Start and commit to a Design-related side project
Build my Design portfolio
Create Tech/Digital think-tank in Cameroon
Looking back, I have to say that my wife was right: 2016 has been a fantastic year workwise.
What I did right
The Startup: Kerawa.com
If you’ve read me before, you already know Kerawa.com. We are one of the leading classifieds platforms in French-Speaking Sub-Saharan Africa.
I joined the company in February 2016 as Head of Product. I oversee Design and Growth.
Since I joined the company, we grew 2.5X, from 200K visitors to more than 500K. Satisfying, and exciting for our future!
I know how much work we still have ahead. We want to deliver the best experience to our users and customers. Ultimately, we remain committed to our mission: making public information available to everyone. We won't stop until we achieve it.
The Side Project: UX Bantu
If you design experiences for African users, you have faced this yourself: everything is new. We have to invent new patterns. We have to build things in a completely different way from what we read on Western blogs. Africa is just a completely different playground.
African users are unique in their own way, so must be respected as such. They deserve to be served with products tailored to them.
I realised it only one month after I joined Kerawa. We, Designers on the continent, needed an easy way to find stories of each other's work. So my plan was to curate these stories and send them every week to my peers.
The 11/03/2016, I started a weekly newsletter called UX Bantu.
The feedback since then has been incredibly humbling. This one from Nigerian designer Opemimo Aikomo was particularly gratifying:
Every issue, called UX Bantu Stories, is delivered to your inbox Friday 8 AM GMT.
Today, 601 people discover how people are solving African problems with Human-Centered Design. The movement is growing, and you can indeed join the community.
The Think-tank: Mboa.Tech
I love the energy of the tech movement in Cameroon. We create amazing products, solve real problems and, above all, have amazing talents.
However, there is no bridge between tech/digital policy designers and tech entrepreneurs. As a result, all the good work from the tech sector is often more used abroad that in our country. We do not see the benefits of our solutions locally.
Thinking global is good, acting local too, but doing both is better.
I gathered a few friends in the industry to put forward concrete policy proposals. design to unleash the full potential of the tech sector and deliver real impact for people.
6 months in, we made some progress and now need to pick up the pace.
What I did wrong
Building my portfolio
I have been freelancing since I moved back. I though I’d used this to craft a good portfolio. I did not do it, only posting an older project I worked on in London: African Foodie.
Building a portfolio is a hard thing to do because of the emotional attachment to all the products we build. I had a hard time deciding which one should go in the portfolio, and how that portfolio will look in the first place.
Wanting something perfect led me to never shipping.
2016, The Bounce-Back
In 2011, I started a small Micro-fund for African female farmers. Mwanamke Afrika was my then side project, and my introduction to entrepreneurship.
In 2012, I quitted my day job at Societe Generale in Paris to study Agriculture. I moved the UK and went to the Royal Agricultural University.
In 2013, I quitted my MSc. in Sustainable Agriculture to become a full-time entrepreneur with Sincuru.
In 2014, I raised some money though the Bethnal Green Ventures accelerator in London. I tried to turn Sincuru into a real startup, but closed the company in December.
In 2015, after a long battle with the British immigration, I went to work for the food startup Pronto. I was fired after a month, and ended up returning to my home Cameroon later.
In 2016, I joined a startup trying to transform my continent, built a growing side project and started tech policy design movement in my country.
What's on for 2017
I tweeted this the very first day of this year.
This is what 2017 means to me: I want to solve real and big problems around me. Through Kerawa, my side projects, and deeper engagement in my community.
So here are my goals for this year:
Kerawa: 3X Growth
We grew 2.5 last year traffic wise. In 2017, our target is 3X.
UX Bantu: 10X
In 9 months, our mailing list grew from 30 to 601.
In 2017, my goal is to hit 6,000 members. That will mean sharing even more interesting an relevant stories, to keep a high-quality audience.
As I mentioned above, feel feel to join the movement.
My Personal Website
This is an important one for me. This year, I will join the May 1st Reboot movement to launch a brand new personal website, including a portfolio. Watch this space!
African Marriage Podcast
Last year, I wrote about the dilemma of the African millennial. I was pointing how hard it is for African millennials to live with liberal values in African societies dominated by conservatism and communitarianism.
My wife and I met in 2011, and got married 3 years later. She’s been with me through all this roller coaster. We certainly are not the only African couple in this situation. We made mistakes on handling my entrepreneurial journey as a couple, dealing with our families, etc.
We believe we have a duty to share with other African couples how we navigated troubled waters, because this is exactly what we needed.
Making, my Personal Newsletter
Last year, I started a personal newsletter: Making. I unfortunately stopped.
In 2017, I will get back at, reset and commit to it.
Making is my own accountability system: every week, I will share the progress I made on all my projects. So please, do subscribe if of interest. And above all: l hold me accountable for everything I share.
2017 is a great year to build things. So let’s talk less, build more, and solve real problems. Shall we?