Richard Zulu describes himself as a “start-up enthusiast, Tech rockstar, Developer Outreach, Internet and social media addict.” He has a passion for “enabling individuals within the tech community turn their ideas and products into businesses”. He is currently a co-founder and Program Diretor of Outbox Hub in Kampala.
Below is the interview he did with PC Tech Magazine – this interview was first published in the February Issue [print].
Q: Tell us about Outbox
Outbox is a technology incubation, collaboration space, and innovation hub for techies – as well as other people in the technology space to meet and create ideas that they can later on turn into sustainable businesses that utilize a mobile phone and the internet.
Those are the three aspects of Outbox. So, first of all, we focus on fostering technology entrepreneurship – which we do through the incubation of utmost 5 startups in our incubation program. We take these through business and technology training, thereby helping them become sustainable businesses.
As far as Collaboration is concerned, we create a space where like-minded people can come together can co-create. You see, when businesses thrive, there’s also a possibility of inter-marketing, because of the various skills that these individuals have. All that boosts entrepreneurship. That’s done through the space, and also the kind of events that we hold.
Our main focus is entrepreneurship, but not everybody is born to be an entrepreneur. Which brings me to our third aspect, Capacity Building.
We engage with different groups in various events through which we equip them with skills we believe can empower them to perform better in their various fields. We hosted over 20 events last year alone.
We’ve been able to work and take in three companies – startups – and last year one of them was able to obtain funding to help them set up.
Q: How significant is the funding?
It’s very significant. Quite a lot.
Q: Which company is that?
Unfortunately, I can’t disclose.
Q: How does Outbox benefit?
At the end of the day, we want to have impact. Our current focus is to create sustainable businesses that drive relevance on the mobile and web. Having such milestones will encourage other people to embrace the kind of initiatives that we are trying to push out here – it leads us more to our final objective.
Q: How do you sustain your activities?
Outbox’s sustainability model is built around quite a number of things. First of all, Outbox provides the co-working space – a space that comes at a price. Entrepreneurs pay to have access to the internet, access to our partner network – Google, Samsung, e.t.c – and access to our business support services.
We also host a number of events – people rent the premises to host various events.
Outbox is run as a business.
But you have partners who are giving you seed funding; how do they benefit from your activities?
Most of the partners we work with align with the objective of creating sustainable businesses, and that’s how we look out for our partners. Working with such an initiative helps them push their objectives as we achieve ours. Having all of us working together in the ecosystem will later on help us realize our goals.
Q: You’ve heard of the law of diffusion of innovation? How does this fit into your business plan?
One thing we have realized is that it’s still a challenge for most of the people to understand what we do. When you talk of words like Innovation, collaboration – some people don’t quite understand what we do.
Most of the people we have in this space are early adopters – people who go out of their way to learn what it is that’s going on here.
The kind of marketing we do is mainly through out-reach activities – universities and the like. Our approach to outreach is very targeted, and we have intentionally kept it that way.