Building an Internet business

__”The times they are a-changin”…

Looking back 150 years ago, if a young man wanted to make a fortune, he had to go to the goldfields of California or Johannesburg. It was called the “gold rush.” About 100 years ago, it was all about being in the oil sector somewhere. And 25 years ago (my time), it was about getting into telecoms (GSM).

Now there’s a new “gold rush” which started since the telecoms revolution gave birth to the rapid expansion of the Internet. Every single day, entrepreneurs across the world, including Africa, are launching tens of thousands of businesses on the Internet!

In my last post, I wrote: “Afterthought: When you think about building a business on the Internet, there are five things you should be thinking about:

#1. How can I use the Internet to help grow the business we already have? There is no entrepreneurial activity that cannot benefit from the Internet. Websites, social media platforms, are all platforms that can be used to grow your business in terms of its sales and profitability by reaching more customers, quickly and cheaply.

It will quicken your growth. It is key to getting to the global marketplace.

#2. How can I use the Internet to spur innovation?

#3. How can I use the Internet to lower barriers of entry, including capital and cost?

#4. How can I use the Internet to access skills, expertise, and partnerships?

#5. How can I build actual Internet businesses?

This last question takes the game to a completely new level altogether. It will be the subject of my next post.”

I promised to discuss #5, so let’s get started: You and I are now on a platform called Facebook. Most people who use Facebook don’t even stop to think that it’s a business. I have even had people write me through Facebook and say they would like to be on the Internet!

You probably use WhatsApp, another Internet-based business. Perhaps you have used Uber, or bought things on Jumia and Konga, and you used a search engine from Google or Yahoo. All these businesses rely on the Internet.

Facebook first launched in 2004. It’s now worth $430+bn, close to the GDP of two of Africa’s biggest economies like Nigeria at $486.8bn (2015- World Bank) and South Africa at $317.6bn (2015- StatsSA). Google (Alphabet) is even bigger at about $645bn, last time I looked.

The titans of the Internet — Alibaba, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Tencent — are all bigger than nearly all mining, manufacturing, telecoms, and natural resource companies in the world today! Even the likes of Apple and Microsoft are only able to compete with them because they manufacture phones or provide software used to access the Internet.

Almost all these companies were started by young people, often whilst still at college. Many aren’t even 40 years old. These guys never knew there was such a thing as tenders on government contracts. They knew no ministers of government, and had never met a President!

__You do not need powerful friends and relatives in high places to get access to the most valuable piece of “real estate” in the history of the world. What you DO need is access to the Internet!

Even the #YoungOld like me are getting into this gold rush. Please don’t leave me behind guys! Share with your teacher!

Your turn: This week I want you to showcase (only) ventures that you have set up on the Internet. This time I’m not looking for websites. I want to see businesses that are simply Internet businesses. Also include any not-for-profit enterprises.

Remember Kenya’s Ushahidi that I wrote about last year when I showcased Juliana Rotich in my series?#AfricanLionnessRoar! World class! That is our future.



by 13 Replies

About Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet, a diversified global telecommunications group with operations and investments in over 15 countries. His business interests also include renewable energy, financial services, media and hospitality. Masiyiwa serves on a number of international boards, including Unilever, Rockefeller Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Advisory Board, the Africa Progress Panel, the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board for Sustainable Energy, Morehouse College, Hilton Foundation's Humanitarian Prize Jury and the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council. He is one of the founders, with Sir Richard Branson, of the global think tank, the Carbon War Room, and a founding member of the Global Business Coalition on Education. Masiyiwa took over the Chairmanship of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) from Kofi Annan. He is also Chair of the Micronutrient Initiative, a global organization focused on ending child hunger and improving nutrition. In 2012, Masiyiwa was invited by President Obama to address leaders at the Camp David G-8 Summit on how to increase food production and end hunger in parts of Africa. In 2014, Masiyiwa was selected to Fortune Magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”. As a philanthropist, he is a member of the Giving Pledge, and his contributions to education, health and development have been widely recognized. Masiyiwa and his wife finance the Higher Life Foundation, which provides scholarships to over 42,000 African orphans. In 2015, he was the recipient of the International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award and was presented with a UN Foundation Global Leadership Award for the work of the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust, which he chairs and helped establish to fund the deployment of African healthcare workers to combat the outbreak in West Africa.

13 thoughts on “Building an Internet business

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 1.
    Some more great news! This week we relaunched KweseSports.Com as a partnership with ESPN (the world’s largest sports broadcaster and part of Disney). It already has nearly 10m unique users, making it Africa’s largest sports website! Homework for this week: Take a look and tell me what you “see,” not as a sports fan, but as an entrepreneur:

    – Can you see how we are making money?
    – How many people do you think we employ to keep this site updated with information?
    – Can you see the impact of the partnership we created with ESPN?

    The site can be accessed at:

  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 3.
    Each one of us is a consumer of something. We’re all customers to businesses. I love my customers very much, but I didn’t set up this platform to talk to customers in my various businesses. I set it up to awaken the giant of the young African entrepreneur… And let me tell you, it’s happening! Every day, young people write to me and stop me in the street, and want to discuss their entrepreneurial ventures (social and for-profit).

  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 4.
    Can you make a pitch to investors in three minutes, and persuade them to invest millions of their hard-earned money in your venture? This will be my next big topic: “How to make a pitch”! More on this coming soon!

  4. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Our joint venture with ESPN, to create Kwese| ESPN is one of the best businesses I have been involved with for many years. If you think carefully about what I said on this FB post, you will appreciate why. It is more important to me than developing a new mobile network business!

  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Waju writes,

    With ecommerce, this is what you can do. I launched an ecommerce store for my wife on shopify, and she’s been giddy with excitement at the results. Of course, she leveraged on my experience with fb ads. These are her results so far.

    My reply,
    This is what everyone should be learning to do.
    We have to drive awareness of this kind of opportunity.

  6. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Theodore writes,

    Me and my partner started and its been a great learning experience for my online entrepreneurial life…

    My reply,
    You and your partners should persist with this. In soccer they would say “you have been awarded a penalty, all you need to do is score!”
    Well done.

  7. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Paul writes,

    I think its time for an African Entrepreneurship summit..I remember you mentioned this sir

    My reply,
    You are right.
    However we should also think in terms of doing it Online, so more people can “attend”.

  8. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Silas Fifah Wrote:

    Sir,I have been following you for you for the past two years and I really appreciate your support toward my growth in entrepreneurship. I am a young man with lots wild business ideas.Transforming Africa through entrepreneurship has always been my burden.However as a student the thought of where to start from and putting my academics at risk was always the fear to venture into a business.Encountering you was and still heaven sent.Through your teachings(Facebook posts and YouTube videos)I came to realize the essence of my smart phone rather than using it for chatting and hunting “big butty girls”( sorry for my words) with no vision but just for pleasure,waist of money,time and energy.
    Sir, by Gods grace I have been able to set up an entity which is into the sale of authentic sneakers and all kinds of shoes. I don’t have any physical shop or a show room but it’s booming. I sell on Tonaton, OLX,Jumia,Instagram,Facebook and through WhatsApp.
    You can also visit my online store

    Though the beginning of this business seems very small and useless but it takes the prudent to understand that becoming the number one sneakers shop in Africa and the world at large is my vision.

    Silas A Somiah
    C.E.O of sneakerfifah
    University of Ghana,legon.

    My Reply:

    Silas Fifah,
    Although your post was long, I still read it.
    I’m pleased to see the progress you are making.
    Well done.

  9. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Abdelaziz writes,

    Dear sir
    I want to tell you about my businesses , i have two internet based businesses mainly in Facebook .
    1- Traditional Ethiopian Clothes
    2- Ethiopian spices
    I sale all my products online warldwide by the internet & i deliver them with in 3 days to every corner of the warld . I earn so many dollars a day from it .
    The internet helps very very much a changes my marketing starategy entirely ( i have a BA Degree in Marketinhg ) but i thought a traditional form only . The internet is complete change in regards of Marketing , ……

    My reply,
    I have always wondered how long it would take for people to grasp the very opportunity you have found!
    We should have a site like this for every single African country.
    I urge you to move quickly, and expand.

  10. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    I’m attending the AU Reform meetings today.
    In my opening remarks I shared the following analytics:
    #1. Only 15% of intra-African trade whereas:
    -68% of Europe, 56% Asia, 40% North America.
    I used these statistics to call for the removal of barriers that make it difficult for Africans to trade with each other.

    #2. The majority (60%) of our Continental citizens are under the age of 30. The mean age is 19 years old.
    We must not only listen to them but involve them, if the AU is to be relevant to them.

  11. Tapiwa Zimudzi

    Alphabet, Amazon, uber ,Air b n b, Facebook, microsoft, apple, snap all started in the US and spread. tencent, alibaba, weibo, are Chinese. do I need to relocate to start my internet business? if I start it in Africa won’t someone replicate it from the US? have not heard of global internet companies starting in Brazil, Germany, Zimbabwe, India even. they are all localised. do I need to relocate?


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