Africa Online: Check out “The Shift”

Technology is changing lives — even saving lives — in Africa, the world’s second most populous continent. For entrepreneurs, this also presents an opportunity of epic proportions.

In Rwanda, for example, where electricity is available to less than a quarter of the population, more than 60 percent of people now have access to mobile phones. And although only 8 percent of Rwandans are internet users, that number is growing rapidly.

In The Shift: The Entrepreneurs and Companies Bringing Africa Online, my good friend Elizabeth Gould who produced the Techstars documentary series on Bloomberg TV now reports on some of these inspiring stories of ingenuity and entrepreneurship in Africa. A production of BloombergTVAfrica, this will be an ongoing series about technology and entrepreneurship across Africa. In the first segment, Rwanda, Kenya and South Africa are featured:

African entrepreneurship has really been moving forward for some time now. A while back I invested in a company called Mobius Motors, which is based in Kenya. Mobius designs, manufactures and sells durable, affordable vehicles designed for typical road terrain, usage and income profiles in the region. The company also makes transport platforms that local entrepreneurs can customize for various transportation businesses.

Here’s a second segment about Kenya’s mobile money revolution. It’s great stuff.

It’s exciting to hear about all the development taking place and the lives being improved across Africa, and it will be interesting to see what the future holds for the continent. I look forward to upcoming installments of “The Shift” with more compelling stories of the individuals and companies who are creating that future.

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Could a new source of power fuel new wearable tech startups?

The interesting thing about startups over the last ten years has been watching the cost of starting a company drop so that really just about anyone with a couple of months can launch something on the web that can be interesting.

"Epiphany Eyewear" by Erick Miller

“Epiphany Eyewear” by Erick Miller

Those launching products that need to produce molecules — physical products that need a truck to get delivered to the end user — face a higher hurdle.

But it seems like that hurdle is dropping, because there are so many interesting startups making products that I’m so interested in these days.

The problem with nearly all of these products is that they require battery power. Batteries are inconvenient, and often too large for the form factors that would be ideal. Or if they’re small enough, they don’t last long enough.

Well, there’s one battery that could change this forever: Me.

And you, too.

Some researchers from Korea — where they’ve been known to develop and commercialize technology pretty quickly — have come up with a wrist band that can generate electricity from the heat of the human body. I think this could be really transformative.

So much of the space of mobile devices is taken up with a battery. Imagine a FitBit that you wouldn’t lose because it’s not a plastic widget, but more like a sticky note. Imagine a Nike Fuel Band that doesn’t have a problem with screws because it doesn’t need screws to hold in a battery. Imagine a GoPro that you wear on your head like a golf visor. Imagine bluetooth noise-canceling headphones that fit in your ear and are powered by the heat from your ears.

Imagine charging your phone by plugging it in to your belt.

Just as cheap development fueled an explosion in startups, a massive jump in power availability and convenience could be the thing that makes wearable tech take off.

And then from there, how much longer will it be before this intermediate step of wearable tech becomes the next step of fully implanted technology? I wonder if kids today will all be “bionic” someday soon? It will be fun to watch.

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Wha?!? A $5M business plan competition!

Wow, the folks in Buffalo are cranking it up. They’re created a $5M business plan competition. It’s called 43North and they will make the following awards:

1 $1m award
6 $500k awards
4 $250k awards

Head over and check it out. It looks amazing.

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Talking about startup communities at Startup Grind

Really fun time at Startup Grind. Thanks to them for putting on such a great even. Here’s the fireside chat from that event. These things never have real fires. I guess they don’t need that in California.

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1Q is too good to be true

I am an investor in a startup company called 1Q that can use your help and benefit you at the same time.  Sign up with 1Q and you (or a designated charity) receive $1 every time you respond to a multiple choice question sent to your cell phone via the app.  Companies pay $2 to 1Q for every response they receive.  Companies get market research from 1Q and you get paid.  Facebook, Linkedin, Google and other websites use your information to make money and none of them pay you.

You can receive questions based on the location of your residence, your current location and other variables.  For example, a question can be sent so that it is received only by 1Q members sitting in one of 31 NFL stadiums on a given Sunday; “Why do you drink Miller Lite?  A. Tastes great  B. Less filling  C. Not a fan  D. Never tried it.”  Companies receive a statistical breakdown of responses to their survey instantly.

You can register for 1Q at If you have an iPhone or Android phone, access the link from your phone to download the free app.  Complete as much profile information as you like (the more information you include, the more questions you are likely to receive).  If you don’t have the app, questions will be sent to your cell phone by text message.

There will be a limited number questions sent to your phone during the startup phase but questions are expected to increase significantly in 2014.  If you like the app, forward this email to your friends.

One of the big questions I wanted to ask you as readers of this blog is that this is one of those things that sounds too good to be true, and many people automatically think it’s not legit. But it is. Would you use it? Why or why not? And how would you explain it differently?

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It’s Open Angel Forum #8 in Colorado!

November 18th, 2013 is the 8th open angel forum in Colorado. This is a simple dinner in Boulder with active angel investors. We usually have 4-5 companies pitch, and around 20-25 angel investors in attendance.  Open Angel Forum started because we think startups should never pay to pitch, and we prefer a simple dinner together to a more contrived event. There’s no cost to startups, and the format is simple and friendly.

Learn more at

Want to attend as an angel investor? Register here ->

Want to attend and pitch your startup to investors? ->  (deadline Nov 5, 2013)

I hope to see you there on November 18th!


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