May 30, 2017

Digital Technology in Côte d'Ivoire Is Transforming the Way People Live, Work, Play and Communicate

Following from my previous post about a GSMA report focusing on the growing mobile technology sector in West Africa and the socioeconomic benefits this will bring to the region, the London, England-based organization also published a report asserting how "the mobile industry has contributed to enormous change" in the West Africa nation of Côte d'Ivoire. Available in both English and Français, the report explains: "Digital technology in Côte d'Ivoire is evolving rapidly, leading to the emergence of new services and applications that are transforming the way people live, work, play and communicate."

The report claims "mobile technology is also revolutionizing the delivery of healthcare and agricultural services. Platforms have been developed that enable doctors and health professionals to communicate directly with patients through voice calls and SMS, significantly benefiting rural communities that would otherwise have to travel long distances to receive such services." Moreover, "Mobile platforms have also been used to provide farmers and agricultural firms with up-to-date information on market prices, production techniques and weather. Such mAgri services currently have almost half a million users in Côte d'Ivoire."

The report also illustrates the beneficial role mobile technology will play in achieving the "17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seeking to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This high-level ambition is made specific by the 169 targets that sit behind the SDGs and provide greater direction, quantification and timing for each goal. The intention is to meet all the targets by 2030, with some requiring earlier attainment."

Encouragingly, "The mobile industry was the first to come together and make a commitment to sustainable development and the goals. As part of this commitment the GSMA has started to assess how mobile technology contributes to the SDGs. The first report was launched at the UN Private Sector Forum in September 2016 and provided a framework to assess the industry's impact on the SDGs.

"All SDGs are affected by the mobile industry to varying degrees. Basic voice connectivity offers many societal, economic and environmental benefits, and upgrading to mobile broadband, to smartphones, and further to M2M (machine-to-machine) and IoT (Internet of Things), together with rapid digital transformation, creates a significant opportunity for the industry to support governments in meeting their SDG commitments."

The report dives deeper on mobile connectivity and its impact on SDGs by explaining: "The mobile industry's core mission is to provide connectivity. The provision of voice, SMS and data connectivity impacts all 17 SDGs. For example, mobile connectivity reduces the costs of accessing information and can create or expand markets by enabling the mechanisms for buyers and sellers to discover each other and conduct transactions, driving more inclusive growth. This is particularly relevant to SDGs 1 – No poverty, 5 – Gender equality, 8 – Decent work and economic growth, 9 – Industry, innovation and infrastructure, and 10 – Reduced inequalities.

"Another example is the use of mobile for emergency calls and broadcasting, which can play a critical role in the response to and management of natural and man-made disasters, which is relevant to SDGs 1 – No poverty, 2 – Zero hunger, 3 – Good health and well-being, 11 – Sustainable cities and communities, and 13 – Climate action. Additionally, mobile services enable users to access essential information such as health advice and educational tools, key to SDGs 3 – Good health and well-being and 4 – Quality education."

The report's final chapter focuses on opportunities for public-private collaboration. It notes that "mobile financial services have had a significant social and economic impact in many countries and are a key driver for many SDGs. Today, Côte d'Ivoire has the highest penetration of mobile money accounts in West Africa, and mobile money is already being used by the government to facilitate the payment of over 1.7 million secondary school fees each year. Further rollout of mobile financial services will continue to contribute to Côte d'Ivoire's achievement of the SDGs.

Image: GSMA
"Additional areas of opportunity include other mobile-enabled services such as energy, health and education. Given that just over 50% of the population have access to electricity, providing innovative ways for people to access electricity is important, particularly in rural areas, such as with pay-as-you-go solar home solutions. For this to be realized it is important to have the right infrastructure in place as IoT is still nascent in the country. Additionally, given low levels of literacy in the country and low health outcomes (such as high levels of maternal and infant mortality, and high levels of food insecurity), the Ministry of National and Technical Education (MENET), the Ministry of Health and mobile operators could collaborate to meet the goals on good health and well-being (SDG 3) and quality education (SDG 4)."

I agree with the claim presented in the report's Executive Summary: "Closer collaboration between the Ivorian mobile industry and the various line ministries of its government offers a strong opportunity to support Côte d'Ivoire's social and economic progress." Do you have specific ideas on how mobile technology can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

May 29, 2017

Mobile Technology Is Helping to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals in West Africa

A new report published by GSMA explains that "by the end of 2016, there were 172 million unique subscribers in West Africa, accounting for 320 million mobile connections. The sub-region's subscriber penetration rate now stands at 49%, slightly higher than the 47% penetration rate across the wider Sub-Saharan Africa region." The Mobile Economy West Africa 2017, which is available in both English and Français, further asserts: "Over the next four years, West Africa will see average subscriber growth of 6%, one of the fastest rates globally, resulting in an additional 45 million subscribers by 2020. The biggest market in the sub-region – Nigeria – will account for two-thirds of this growth, with another quarter coming from Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Niger and Senegal."

In the chapter titled, "Mobile Enabling Innovation," the report says: "Mobile has emerged as the platform of choice for creating, distributing and consuming innovative digital solutions and services across West Africa. This trend is driven by the rapid expansion of mobile networks across the sub-region and the growing adoption of smartphones. More than a quarter of the population now subscribe to mobile internet services, a figure that will nearly double to 43% by 2020."

Furthermore, mobile technology is "helping achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the subregion, providing access to tools and applications that address a range of socioeconomic challenges. Mobile has been used, for example, to spread awareness of disease outbreak, such as the Ebola virus in 2014/15, and by the World Food Program to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees and displaced persons in Mali and Nigeria."

In the chapter titled "Realizing the Full Potential of Mobile Across West Africa," the report notes that "the mobile industry makes an important contribution to the economy across the West Africa region, driving economic growth and jobs while helping to fund public services."

I am encouraged by the findings of the GSMA report with respect to the role mobile technology will play in West Africa's socioeconomic development. In the coming years, my colleagues and I will see local startups in the region developing innovative platforms and services in cloud computing, connected devices, e-commerce, financial technology and mobile applications (particularly in education and health).

What are you thoughts about the report?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

May 25, 2017

Build Stronger Relationships, Not a Larger Network

Members of SeattleU's CSSA and
invited speakers attending
"Class of 2017 Networking
Night" on May 24, 2017
As the 2016-17 academic year comes to a close, I reflect on my interactions with young adults attending one of the colleges or universities in the Seattle area. Receiving the honor of participating in Seattle University's Chinese Students and Scholars Association's (CSSA) "Class of 2017 Networking Night" on May 24, 2017, I was asked to speak about entrepreneurship and the opportunities and risks of owning your own business.

I informed the attendees the three reasons why people start their own business: (1) be your own boss, (2) be in creative control, and (3) make a lot of money. I cautioned the SeattleU students that successful entrepreneurs rarely consider the option of making a lot of money when taking on the risks and responsibilities of owning a business. While entrepreneurship provide the opportunity to generate substantial income, most successful entrepreneurs will attest that much personal sacrifice is the price to pay for achieving such success. An entrepreneur runs a high risk of failure if they are considering the financial gain that can be realized through owning a business. The freedom of being your own boss and maintaining creative control of the development of your product or service are the primary drivers for successful entrepreneurs.

For those considering taking the plunge into entrepreneurship, I recommend they do not:
  1. Build a company with no revenue;
  2. Follow shiny objects (opportunistic);
  3. Lie to themselves or others about their traction;
  4. Focus on too many things at once;
  5. Use the word "I" (building a successful venture requires a talented, hard working team);
  6. Ask investors to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA);
  7. Think they are the only company in their space; and
  8. Calculate the future value of their stock.
Conversely, entrepreneurs need to:
  1. Fix a problem;
  2. Tell a story that people will understand;
  3. Hire for ambition;
  4. Get to know their customers;
  5. Make informed decisions;
  6. Understand time has the same value as money (and manage both wisely);
  7. Become a shameless self-promoter (without becoming obnoxious);
  8. Project a positive image;
  9. Be accessible;
  10. Master the art of negotiations;
  11. Get and stay organized;
  12. Follow-up constantly;
  13. Have a business plan; and
  14. Focus.
Serving as a panelist at the Technology and Business Association at the University of Washington's "2017 International Biz-Tech Forum" on Feb. 27, 2017, I emphasized how assembling a strong team is essential to building a successful business venture. A mentor advised me early in my career to "surround yourself with people smarter than you."

Members of SeattleU's CSSA
visiting the Seattle office of
TR International and ROI3
on Mar. 10, 2017
My colleagues and I had the privilege of hosting members of SeattleU's CSSA at our office in Seattle, Wash. on Mar. 10, 2017. The conversation focused on our business operations, challenges and risks of doing international business, and career advice to those about to enter the workforce. During the discussion, I presented the following ten items that are essential in serving as an effective leader:
  1. Good communicator;
  2. Coachable;
  3. Lead by example;
  4. Know your strengths and weaknesses;
  5. Always improve your skills;
  6. Take responsibility for your actions (mistakes);
  7. Do not micromanage: trust your colleagues;
  8. Give credit where credit is due;
  9. Avoid criticizing, condemning or complaining; and
  10. Expect results.
In my conversation with students attending the University of Washington's chapter of the China Entrepreneur Network's "Dinner with Professionals" on Nov. 3, 2016, I recommended they build stronger relationships, not a larger network. My recommendation connects well with an article, Nick Corcodilos of Ask The Headhunter®, published that correctly notes:
Most jobs are found and filled through personal contacts, not through job postings, career centers, or employment agencies. College students' first job is to meet people — preferably people who work in companies and on products and services you think you’re interested in. Those people will educate you about work and about jobs and employers. The sooner you start developing these contacts and learning from them, the better.
I appreciate Mr. Corcodilos' additional insights on relationship building:
Smart managers tend to hire people they know, or people known to their employees. While this might bother you because it seems unfair, consider that it's prudent because it lowers the risk of getting a lousy worker. Would you loan money to a friend, or a total stranger? Would you trust your business to someone a friend vouched for, or someone you don't know anything about? This is just basic human nature – but it's not unfair. It's a good survival mechanism.
What advice do you have for those of whom are in the early stages of building their career?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

May 22, 2017

Heath Johnson's Experience of Running the Boston Marathon

While a runner for all of his adult life, Heath Johnson, a certified personal trainer and President of Colorado-based Get Fit With Heath, Inc., participated in the 121st running of the Boston Marathon. [Disclosure: I serve on the board of directors of Get Fit With Heath, Inc.] At the age of 46, this was his first time participating in the world's oldest annual marathon. Given my interest in digital health, as well as following Heath's journey as a runner over several years, I saw value in interviewing him about his experience of running the Boston Marathon on Apr. 17, 2017.

The following interview had been edited for clarity and length.

What was your experience of running the Boston Marathon and what steps did you take to prepare for the event?

HJ: Running the Boston Marathon was a great experience!! I particularly appreciated the organization of the race. With respect to my preparation, since Jan. 1, 2017, I put in over 800 miles in training runs since Jan. 1st. Hearing that the Boston Marathon's course has a lot of uphill and downhill, I tried to focus my training runs with a similar topography. As of February, I did speed work.

Did you use any mobile applications or wearable devices in preparing for the Boston Marathon?

HJ: I did not use any mobile applications, but I used a Garmin GPS watch to track my time including miles ran. While I probably should have during the Boston Marathon itself, I never track my heart rate since wearing the device is uncomfortable and I question its accuracy. I did read books about the Boston Marathon such as Michael Connelly's 26 Miles to Boston: The Boston Marathon Experience from Hopkinton to Copley Square.

What diet or nutritional guidelines did you use to prepare for the marathon?

HJ: I stuck with a high-protein breakfast such as steal-cut oatmeal and milk. I tried not to eat a lot of processed food. In the evenings, I tried to eat fruits and vegetables together with a protein sources such as eggs, fish, chicken. On average, I tried to eat 4-5 meals a day.

What was your routine for race day?

HJ: I slept well the night before and felt comfortable in the morning up to my start time at 10:25 am EDT. I may have been a little worried about the weather forecast since it was expected to be unusually warm and perhaps hydration would be a factor that would impact my performance.

What was your experience of running the race itself?
The race course was challenging so I was happy that I was properly prepared. I stayed hydrated as there were water stations located throughout the race. However, I did see a lot people near the end of the race course withdraw as a result of dehydration. My goal was to finish between 3:20:00 and 3:30:00. I ran the first mile in 7:33 and finished at 3:26:01.

Do you have any final thoughts about your experience of running the Boston Marathon?

HJ: The journey is the most important thing. People told me to enjoy every mile of the race and I took this to heart because you do not know if you will get this opportunity again. So many things have to go right to have this opportunity. Qualifying for the race is actually more important to me than the race itself--running the Boston Marathon was the celebration.

I want to thank my friends and family for their wonderful support during this remarkable journey. I also want to thank my wonderful fiancée, Anita Lyle-Glenn, for her love and sharing the experience with me in Boston.

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

May 16, 2017

Great Experience Participating in the Seattle University Business Plan Competition

The following is a guest post by Yan Tang.

Last week, our team 701 COFFEE got together again and had a debriefing meeting for the Business Plan Competition which was held on April 18th, 2017 at Seattle University campus. Even if our team was not selected as one of the final four teams, deep in our heart, we all agreed that the competition was not the end of this business; instead, we believe 701 COFFEE is in a right direction to achieve its business goals. This meeting again showed that we are a integrated, passionate and committed team. Our coaches Aaron Rose and Priyanka Kamath and team members Sonam Priyan and Sara Mae all shared their experiences involving in this competition. Everyone proposed many great suggestions to help 701 COFFEE keep grow and thrive in the vibrant community.

As a team leader, taking 701 COFFEE to the Business Plan Competition was a quite challenging but rewarding journey for me. The challenges came from the worries about failing to meet the team's expectations, though none of them meant to give me any pressure leading the team. It was my high standard to pursue a perfect process that challenged me. Other than that, I enjoyed communicating with everyone to put our business plan together, to visualize the business and to know more about our team members.

I have learned tremendously from our teamwork and this competition. But I would like to share two things that impressed me a lot along this journey. The first thing is definitely the TEAM, TEAM, TEAM!! I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the team. Two heads are better than one. One person cannot always have the best solution or make the best decision, and the team brainstorming would generate many creative ideas. In a team, we are more likely to perform better and make more sensible decisions by putting heads together than by working alone. What is more, we will always have support and encouragement. Sometimes, when you are unsure about something, or feel incompetent in completing a task, your team will lead a way for you and share their views with you. Our team 701 COFFEE is such a supportive team. From drafting the business plan to Elevator Pitch/Tradeshow, everyone was eager to contribute ideas and do our best. I was so proud of the day when all our team members were wearing our red team T-shirt showing our unity and passion to Business Plan Competition audience.

The second thing is be passionate about what you are doing. Everyone in our team either has full time jobs or full time school, but each of us was highly committed to each strategic meeting, marketing research and the business plan writing. If we did not have enough passion and belief in what we were doing, it was very challenging to work together three-month long when everyone was already having a lot workload from job or school. There is no doubt that some of us might have felt exhausted or confused about the future of the business, but our passion and belief in turning 701 COFFEE into a profitable business constantly motivated our team to work hard, collaboratively and creatively. As a result, everything in our team went incredibly well and smooth.

When preparing for the Elevator Pitch on behalf of the team, I was so unconfident and stressful. I worried so much that I could not do a good job pitching on the stage and let my team down. My mentor Sue Oliver kept encouraging me to unleash my passion and let passion lead my way. She said:" your job is not to feel scared, but to get audience excited by your passion." She proposed a 10 x 10 practice plan to me. Whenever I practice the pitch 10 times, I text her. So I am supposed to text her 10 times to let her know that I have practiced the pitch 100 times with passion and enthusiasm. I ended up practicing 150 times in total, and I also found the confident and passionate self during the practice. I am sure on the day of competition, the pitch I did was the best of all among 150-time practice and got audience excited. I also realized that passion is such a strong power that can lead the team and individuals to overcome hurdles and to keep trying to be good, better and great!! I believe that our team members have learned different things that are valuable to them from this competition. 701 COFFEE team ignited my passion and helped me grow a lot, and I appreciate our team spirit a lot. Everyone asks me if I had fun in this competition. I said, absolutely!! And I am quite sure that I will do it again next year.

We finished this competition, but we will never stop supporting 701 COFFEE, a local family-owned business in Seattle Central District.(Located at 23rd Ave and Cherry Street) We are looking forward to seeing more accomplishments from 701 COFFEE.

Yan Tang is enrolled in the Professional Master of Business Administration (Marketing) program at Seattle University. She also serves as a Business Relationship Management and Small Business Coach at Seattle University's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center. Previously, Ms. Tang worked for Manpower in the company's Shanghai, China office where she served in several roles including Service Consultant, On-Site Project Manager for IBM Shanghai, and Recruitment Consultant. Ms. Tang may be contacted at