Week One

On the first day with WopeCar, I introduced myself to the team. I told them about my career path, my experiences in Europe and Cameroon and I shared some personal information about myself to hopefully connect the team. I think that because I shared that personal information, we as a team were able to create a very comfortable working environment.

I introduced 2 weekly meetings (on Tuesday and Thursday) to be able to learn fast about the operations of WopeCar but also to enable my colleagues to share their daily experiences on the ground.

During the first week, I realized that my Startup does not work data-driven. Somehow, decisions are made based on ambitions and not based on reality. That’s the reason why I introduced a list of information that needed to be collected from the client, which could enable us to identify and document current challenges.

What I found very impressive in Accra, is the fact that people are “doers”. When one has an idea, he immediately starts selling. This is a very valuable lesson since in Germany it’s the complete opposite. In Germany, people tend to wait and analyze every little piece of data to avoid making wrong decisions. I believe that finding the balance between both approaches, in either country,  can increase economic activity.

 

Week Two

On the second Week at WopeCar, I learned even more about the company’s attempts to find an optimal commission rate. When the founder started selling his product, he approached car rental businesses with a rate of 20%. Later he had to reduce it to 10% since no client was ready to pay such a commission. The more I talked with the CEO about his business, the more I got information about the business model. Most of the time, that information helped me a lot in clarifying and specifying the challenges. At this stage, the actual challenge is to shift the interaction with the clients from phone calls to a purely website-based interaction. Solving this problem would most likely create the foundation for expansion to Kumasi because an increase in clients can only be managed appropriately through automated processes. 

I also used the tool “Google MyMaps” to identify and visualized all car rental businesses in Accra.

After analyzing the challenge closely, I figured out that shifting the customer’s habit from calling the salesperson to simply using the website, could be attained by gradually communicating and to a certain degree, training customers in understanding the benefits of booking through the website. Incentives could be created for those who use the website. 

After several phone calls with the CEO and a meeting with the operations manager, we agreed upon my proposed solution, which I will work on next week.

 

Week Three

In the third week, I started working on the “rental schedule” that I received from my colleagues Theo and Amanda. This sheet contains data on all car rental transactions of WopeCar in the year 2019. The CEO explained to me that because WopeCar does not own the cars it rents out, their negotiating power is relatively low. That’s why the CEO was very sure that the commission has to be at around 2-3%. Already during the first week of working with the startup, I learned that one must assume that all information given to me is wrong and needed to be checked again. These lessons proved to be valuable because after calculating the commission for every single month, I found out that it was at ca. 13%. I calculated further KPI’s that should support a data-driven decision process.

Furthermore, I explained to Theo and Amanda how to work with Google MyMaps. I also explain to my Colleagues why mapping out the car rental businesses in Accra could help WopeCar allocate resources more efficiently.

I introduced the data analysis sheet to Theo and Amanda and with their help, we were able to specify who our actual customers are and their specific sales volume.

 

Week One

The first week of the aXd has come to an end so I took the time to reflect on my experiences thus far. One of the challenges I faced in the first week of the @axdprogram was figuring out where exactly I could add the most value to Hatua Tech’s business. Hence, I focused on speaking to all the different teams and key stakeholders, to lay the foundation for strong working relationships and in order to understand the reality of their work, the different processes that are currently in place, as well as their goals and aspirations. Through this, I learned a lot about business culture and beyond in Ghana — including the central importance of respectfully building relationships before undertaking any work in a new environment, especially one that is cross-cultural.

Before delving right into the work talk, I soon realised, that in the Ghanian context, it was important to begin with a more personal conversation, in order to establish rapport and trust that could even include asking about someone’s family. This was a key learning for me, as it’s something that doesn’t usually happen right away in a German business context. Once I followed this advice, I noticed a much stronger connection in conversations which served as a catalyst to dive deeper into the business aspects of each person’s lives as well. I truly value this way of connecting in the business world — at the end of the day, we are all more than our jobs, and authentic human connection can thus make any business experience more pleasant and productive.

 

Week Two

Before we went on our trip to Ghana, all of us participated in an Academy with the goal of preparing us as well as possible for our time in Ghana and for our work with our startups. While you can read as much as you want about the Ghanaian economy my learning curve went up so quickly while being with the start-up. Doing business here can be quite different. So when I worked with Gloria, who is a sales representative at my start-up, I learned so much doing sales here when we went through her sales process. Gloria taught me that companies expect to be “chased” with calls and e-mails as to them it shows them that you really care about your product. 

 

I also got to participate in a branding workshop that Kevin ran for his startup. We did an exercise that goes by the name of news of the future, where one selects a set of relevant magazines, for example, Forbes, Time Magazine and Vogue Magazine. Then you get around 20-30 mins to create a headline and a subline for news about one’s business 10 years from now. The goal is to understand one’s brand vision and brand values. For me and Kevin’s start-up, it was super insightful to be a part of this process and I believe that it is valuable to anyone with a relatively new business. 

 

We also visited Elmina Castle on the Gold Coast and it was one of the most intense experiences I’ve had in the last few months. Elmina Castle was a central point of the transatlantic slave trade. We toured the castle and our guide explained the horrors that took place at the site. 

This is an excerpt from Elmina Castle’s Wikipedia page: 

The slaves were held captive in the castle before exiting through the castle’s infamous “Door of No Return” to be transported and resold in newly colonized Brazil and other Portuguese colonies. Up to 1,000 male and 500 female slaves were shackled and crammed in the castle’s dank, poorly ventilated dungeons, with no space to lie down and very little light. Without water or sanitation, the floor of the dungeon was littered with human waste and many captives fell seriously ill. The men were separated from the women, and the captors regularly raped some of the helpless women. The castle also featured confinement cells — small pitch-black spaces for prisoners who revolted or were seen as rebellious. Once the slaves set foot in the castle, they could spend up to three months in captivity under these dreadful conditions before being shipped off to the New World. An environment of harsh contrasts, the castle also had some extravagant chambers, devoid of the stench and misery of the dungeons only a couple of meters below. For example, the governor’s and officers’ quarters were spacious and airy, with beautiful parquet floors and scenic views of the blue waters of Atlantic. There was also a chapel in the castle enclosure for the officers, traders and their families as they went about their normal day-to-day life completely detached from the unfathomable human suffering they were consciously inflicting.

 

I highly recommend the book Home Going. It’s about two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, who are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. It’s a very captivating story that allowed me to understand the history of the slave trade by means of a novel and excellent storytelling. I find the following quote from the book very powerful: “We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.”

 

I want to finish off this post with a quote from a plaque at the castle: In Everlasting Memory of the anguish of our ancestors.  May those who died rest in peace. May those who return find their roots. May humanity never again perpetrate such injustice against humanity. We, the living, vow to uphold this. ”

 

Week Three

This week was very interesting for me. Working with any new person can initially be challenging. You have to see how the other person likes to work and understand their style of communication. 

 

I know that I work best when collaborating with others, which is often as simple as bouncing ideas off another person or talking an idea through. Since my startup has been around for close to ten years and the founder is very busy with the day to day management of the 20 people strong team, I consulted with the aXd program and decided to further collaborate with Kevin on my work for Hatua Tech.  We started out the week by taking the time on Monday to go through some work that Kevin had done for his startup, Tukwan. On Tuesday, I briefed Kevin on my work with Hatua Tech and we went on to meet with Nehemiah and Hatua Tech’s technical lead, Agbesi. We focused on analyzing the business’ needs and which value I could deliver to the company by the end of the program. During this meeting, we explored a lot of different ideas and solutions. Some of the key needs we defined were: updating the website to reflect the needs and solutions for their key industries, creating specific sales pitch decks for those key industries and brainstorming simple yet effective marketing ideas. The meeting left me motivated because it left me with a more precise idea of the value I will be able to provide for Hatua Tech.

 

We also got to visit the German embassy and the Ghanaian-German Center for Jobs, Migration and Reintegration. It was very interesting to learn more about their work, how they connect Germany to Ghana and hear about the programs that the German Ghanaian center offers to support people in Germany who want to return to or work in Ghana. You can find out more on their website: https://www.returningfromgermany.de/de/programmes/deutsch-ghanaisches-zentrum-fuer-jobs-migration-und-reintegration

 

Lastly, we visited Aburi Botanical Gardens. Below you can find some pictures of our visit:

 

Week One

One year ago, I could never have imagined that I’d be living and working Accra, collaborating with a local insurtech startup in addition to juggling school and personal projects. In the one week I’ve been here, together with Insurerity’s founder, Richard Adarkwah, I’ve analyzed Ghana’s national insurance industry, broken down software-as-a-service cost models, pitched to potential clients, and discovered the addictive drive that comes with building a business from the ground up.

 

What I love about my work is that I get to brainstorm ideas, refine the business’s strategy, and constantly interact with brilliantly minded entrepreneurs who are just as eager to innovate, disrupt and make things happen! I’m a big believer in learning by doing – and so far, the aXd program has given me the opportunity to do exactly that. 

 

Of course, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. Even though I’ve lived in 7 countries, adjusting to a new place takes time. Accra is a bustling city that never stops moving. At the crack of dawn, “trotros” can be heard speeding down the highways. Sundays are filled with the sound of energetic church services in full swing. On the roadsides, the informal economy thrives: young and old are peddling their wares – from warm, deep-fried bofro to fresh, whole coconuts. As a visitor, your challenge is to adapt, explore and appreciate the experiences and lessons this place has to offer.

 

If the last 7 days are anything to go by, I can’t wait to discover more!

 

Week Two

This week was all about pivoting and adapting. I came to Accra to work with Insurerity on refining their business model as an insurtech startup. In the last few days, we’ve realized that the product we want to offer – an online aggregator for Ghana’s insurance industry – might not be the product that the market needs right now.

 

Richard and I have spent countless hours pitching to potential clients and getting advice from industry experts. What we’ve concluded is that there is a huge gap in the market for insurance software. This means back-end and front-end systems that simplify business processes, are more client friendly, and facilitate data-driven management. 

 

The advantage of working on a tech product is that being agile is relatively easy – you don’t face massive sunk costs and sometimes, giving a client what they want is as straightforward as changing a few lines of code. This is where we currently find ourselves. Ghana’s insurance industry is ripe for digital solutions that help them reach their clients better – and that’s exactly what Insurerity has to offer.

 

Do, don’t say

 

One thing I love about working with Insurerity is that our small team is flexible and efficient. We have one developer who works remotely, one person doing sales, another handling finance, and then Richard and I leading business development. As we’ve incorporated feedback over the last few days, it’s been wonderful to see how fast new ideas get implemented. There is a general “can-do” attitude that I think other work cultures have a lot to learn from. 

 

Do I ever get frustrated? Yes! I’m used to an action-oriented approach – I cut to the chase and want to discuss results. Sometimes, however, I find that far more emphasis is placed on relationship-building with clients. What seems “inefficient” to me might just be a different way of doing things, and I’m learning to be patient with that while still challenging my colleagues to reach for more. 

 

Every meeting, interaction and task is a learning opportunity on both sides.  I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone, but I’ve also felt empowered to lead where I know have something to offer. There is so much value in learning to work with people from different backgrounds and in different contexts. Now more than ever, our world needs people who can bridge these gaps – and right now, it feels incredibly meaningful to be doing just that!

 

Week Three

It’s week 3 in Accra, and Richard and I are learning fast that doing business with a traditional sector that has historically been slow to adapt is no easy task.

 

We’ve been pitching to both brokers and insurance providers with our software model. To put things in perspective, most providers still use manual processing and don’t have a digital client front-end or an all-in-one back end for managing business processes. In 2018, the industry saw a 318% increase in customer complaints. The national penetration rate dropped to <1 %. Talk about a tough environment.

 

We’re moving fast with one potential client, but this week we realized there were a whole lot of gaps we still needed to fill. For example:

 

  1. Creating a software agreement. Thankfully, the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce in Ghana (AHK) has been really helpful in providing us with legal services.
  2. Ironing out a complete project plan. Right now, we’re using Trello to manage product-related tasks. 
  3. Thinking about hiring and compensation. When your startup is a smaller than five person team, you suddenly realize that landing your first major client requires additional hands.

 

In other words, you might have a great minimum viable product, but the magic really lies in execution. Are we nervous? Yes. But we have wonderful support from the likes of AHK and Founder Institute, the world’s largest pre-seed startup accelerator.

 

Is it all work though?

 

To be quite honest, most of my time in Ghana has been taken up with juggling the work I’m doing for Insurerity and university coursework. It hasn’t always been easy. But I also came into this knowing that it certainly wasn’t a holiday. One highlight this past weekend was visiting Bojo Beach and Krokrobite, two hotspots for relaxing in the sun, wading in the water and eating fresh fish by the seashore. I’ve accepted that sometimes, experiencing the bustling work life in other countries is just as rich – if not, more – as the standard “tourist experience”. You get to see what it’s really like living in a place on a day-by-day basis, so no regrets here.

 

 

 

Week One

Wrapping up the first week here in Accra, I can already say that I’m super thankful for the opportunity. Working in a foreign country against a different cultural background, as opposed to travelling, can be quite the challenge, but potentially so much more insightful at the same time. I have learned that many Ghanaians have a can do attitude. Instead of overthinking and second guessing their ideas, they simply go for it while learning along the way. Time and punctuality is, as expected, not seen as rigid as in Germany. To many, showing up late is better than never showing up. This requires that you just have to stay more flexible throughout the day and should be open towards cancelling your plans and making new ones, if necessary. Lastly and connected to this, I’ve been told that deadlines should not be kept. Reason being that when an assignment is submitted on time, people tend to feel like the person just rushed it to keep the deadline. If the person, however, is taking a few extra days to complete the task beyond the deadline, it seems that they have given it some extra thought and put more effort into it.

I’ve spent this first week getting to know the status quo of the startup I’m working with. After an assessment of the competitive market, I started to create and visualize some first marketing ideas and put together some dos and don’ts for social media – an area in which the founder specifically asked for support.

Thinking about next week, we’ll in cooperation define the core DNA of the brand. With this foundation, it will be quite easy to inform any marketing decisions and beyond that even sell the brand to potential investors and customers.

I am very much looking forward to diving deeper and will keep an open mind to all the learnings that might come from week two.

 

Week Two

My challenge to getting to know the company and the idea behind continued after the first week. After the branding workshop, which went very well, we narrowed down the character of the brand and created a vision for Tukwan. Surprisingly, we immediately agreed on the future vision for the company and its potential and put the vision into a few concise words: “With technology, we make Africa easily and affordably accessible to our customers. Our insights allow for authentic experiences and meeting new people.”

Based on this, it is now our task to implement this vision in the daily work, making sure that every marketing initiative (and even those measures outside of marketing), helps to strive for this goal; while every employee internalizes the vision for themselves to work on one shared belief.

We also showcased, as part of a small gathering, the current status of our work to the involved organizations that helped finance this project. All five fellows were asked to present themselves and their work, and the founders introduced their business and its purpose. Alongside this, there were speeches from the initiator of the aXd-program and the CEO of iSpace, who connected us to the startups in Accra. The atmosphere was very celebratory and it almost felt like some sort of graduation although we fortunately still have two weeks to go.

Aport from this, we continued with the work for social media. A day trip to Cape Coast with the entire group, allowed us to take images and videos, which we’ll again use for the social media accounts of Tukwan. Besides a fun activity, namely going to the jungle at Kakum nation park, we also visited one of the most important historical sights in West Africa, Elmina Castle. From here, for nearly 4 centuries, Africans were being held captive for up to four months and then sold and shipped to the Americas or other parts of the world. Visiting this sight and learning about its history should be done by every African, and POC living in the diaspora, in my opinion.

Looking at my personal state and after having found some sort of routine here by going to the office on a daily basis, I have gained an even greater level of respect for entrepreneurs. Distances in Accra are very long, paired with the partly unbuilt roads and the weather conditions, it can be quite exhausting to get to ones workplace. It is not rare that some people take up to two hours to commute to work daily in the morning. This, of course, makes it quite relatable why punctuality is not as precise. I also feel like my brain functions differently in the Ghanaian heat; I am quite productive in the mornings but after lunch this state quickly changes and I start feeling quite tired. This example reminded me to keep an open mind as it is quite easy to judge something, you personally have not experienced yet.

 

Week Three

Our last week in working with the start ups here in Accra has begun. This last week is all about finalizing our work, summarizing the learnings and theoretic examples and handing it all over to the start up founder. What is important to me in this step, is that the work I have created is tangible and understandable, so that Phil, the CEO of Tukwan, can use this as valid info to his business.

I am also starting to grow closer to some people colleagues and co-workers. One of the IT specialists here at iSpace approached me with a business idea of his own, humbly asking for advice. Together, we closely looked at his ideas and pinned down the concrete business concept to make sure the idea is profitable and sound – at least in theory. Now it is on him to test the idea in practice.

It showed me that the people here really appreciate our input and highly value our opinions. It also made me realize that I enjoy sharing with others what I have learned in my professional career, hoping these insights can inspire and uplift someone.

 

It will take a bit of time to reflect on everything after this month full of new experiences, but I can already say that I will miss working here. The open arms people greet you with, the collaborative atmosphere in the coworking space, the fun everyone brings to work and the feeling that my startup could be the next big thing and me having been a small part of its journey to success. 

 

Week One

Since getting to know my team and the founder Cynthia of the young start-up TrusteeFarm, I understand
why I was matched with her. Cynthia is straightforward, funny and tough. Besides Cynthia, the
TrusteeFarm team consists of Joseph and Eric. They just remind me of me and my two friends from
college.
On my first day, I immediately noticed the dynamics, because the team had decided the week before to
give the marketplace a different name, created a new logo and a new pitch deck. But for me, it was
important to first understand how the three of them work and what challenges they face. And besides
my work on the pitch deck and the business plan, I realized that I could bring in some ideas from my
previous experience.
In order to learn a little more about the way the three of them work and their daily routine, I
participated in a few different meetings. The meeting on Tuesday with a potential farmer did not go as
expected. Afterward, we analyzed the reasons and jointly developed a structure for the next meeting,
which took place the next day with UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization). It was
a small sense of achievement to see that the preparations were worthwhile and that the next meeting
went very well.
It is simply very exciting to see what it is like to work in such a young start-up where the structures are
not yet so entrenched. Before, I have always worked in companies where the structures are already
established. Here I have the opportunity to contribute further ideas in addition to my main tasks and
make a noticeable difference. It is simply fun to work with my colleagues, as we talk about the different
cultures at lunch and an interesting exchange takes place. Besides, it is just nice to see that the
suggestions you make are accepted and that we work together on one idea.
Sometimes it is still very surprising for me to see how quickly the founders change something and simply
do not have the structure that I am used to as a German. But I think that is part of the challenge. I am
very happy to be part of this program and to work together with Cynthia, Joseph, and Eric. Thanks,
aXd program!

 

Week Two

At the end of my second week, I already feel like a team member. Cynthia, Eric, and Joseph take me to
their appointments and always include me in team e-mails. They ask me every day if I got home safely
and if I had something to eat.

Right at the beginning of the second week, I was able to go with my team to a meeting on a farm. After
we had met the owner of the farm the week before, we had an appointment with the farm manager,
who introduced us to the different kinds of fruits and vegetables he can offer in our market place.
The appointment went smoothly, but the way to the farm was not so easy. The driver who was supposed
to drive us to the farm in Sankope (2 hours away) arrived 2 hours later. So the day was exhausting
because we were back in Accra at 7 pm. But it was still interesting to see how Eric, who has an
agriculture background, is in his element.

Besides the visit, we had a long meeting together on Tuesday and talked about the pitch deck version I
had prepared for them. My ideas were accepted and we discussed some things together. Besides,
Cynthia, Eric, and Joseph took team photos so that both a professional team picture and individual
pictures could be shown on the pitch deck.

In addition to the pitch deck, I created a meeting template that the team should use to hold and
document regular meetings even after my time is up. Because before there was no digital
documentation available. Joseph had already explained this to me and presented an idea for a
documentation option for meetings with external parties, which I incorporated. I have learned from my
previous companies that regular agreements and documentation is very important.

On Friday the presentation of our program took place and together with Cynthia I was able to show our
work and I think everybody noticed that we are a good team. On this day I had the chance to meet the
founders of the other startups and I talk to all of them. What I could observe: Everyone has a backup
plan! So not only Cynthia has a second business but also the founders of the other start-ups, which is
very remarkable.

 

 

Week Three

 

Our time is nearly over. I just realize I&#39;m not ready to go back. I wish the project would last two or three
months. In my to-dos, which I determined at the beginning with Cynthia, the only thing missing is the
financial plan.

Setting up the financial plan, I am faced with a challenge because you simply notice that we are working
differently and more precisely in Germany. Here I have to ask Cynthia every little detail and you notice
that the start-up is at the beginning and some things are not yet fully thought through. I have to see how
I can process the information to create something useful.

Nevertheless, it is also the case that other things come up from time to time, like on Monday. Since
Cynthia has to pitch in front of potential investors on Monday, we sat down again and practiced.
This week I noticed how much interest there is in the project and us as Fellows. This was shown very
clearly by Instagram, that the Youtuber Yeboah interviewed us and that we were invited to the German
Embassy. It is nice to see that the project inspires other people and that it is a project that is needed.