Interview with Jon Gosier – Speaker @startupfest
We’re extremely lucky to have someone like Jon Gosier presenting at the International Startup Festival! No stranger to startups, Jon is a software developer, designer and inventor who has led a number of successful technology projects across Africa, but you might know him best as the founder of both metaLayer Inc. and Appfrica. Having started several meaningful projects in Africa, Jon is killing both the “international” and “startups that matter” birds with one stone! A frequent public speaker, Jon is bound to make his presentation fruitful and engaging—and we can’t wait for him to take the stage.
Startupfest: What one thing did you realize was a completely wrong assumption during your career?
JG: That Silicon Valley was the infallible and unparalleled center of genius and creativity. Don’t get me wrong, the Valley is awesome. But the realization was intelligence is spread evenly throughout the world, opportunity is not.
I think the healthiest thing for me a few years ago was to realize you can have an impact on the world from anywhere. Even from Uganda.
Startupfest: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs about selling early versus make big bets?
JG: I have a tech entrepreneur podcast where I try to share little bits of advice like this called GosTalk.tv so I really like this question. I think the first-time entrepreneurs dilemma is usually that as soon as there’s validation for the idea, they start to get nervous that that will be the first and last opportunity they have to win. So some guys want to sell at the first opportunity. That’s perfectly fine, because no one knows your situation like you.
However, having turned down a few acquisition offers in my career (I won’t say for which companies), it comes down to what makes you tick as a person and as an entrepreneur. Is it solving the problem you set out to solve? Is it having a bucket load of cash? Is it being sucked into a larger company where you can bypass the corporate ladder and have a leadership role? Only you can answer that question.
Startupfest: What one piece of technology could you not live without, which wasn’t here 10 years ago?
JG: My iPhone, definitely. Especially as apps like DropBox and SimpleNote start to blur the lines between what’s cloud and what’s mobile. The iPhone is like the digital equivalent of a Swiss Army knife and they keep cramming in new gadgets. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find another smart phone that suits my needs like it does, and I’ve tried quite a few. I like Android but the fragmentation is killing it, if Chrome OS ever gets traction I’d love to see them switch.
Startupfest: What do you think we’ll take for granted in 10 years that isn’t here today? What will look stupid and out of date?
JG: Venture Funding. I think that there are a number of forces working against institutional finance, for better or for worse. But in my opinion, the biggest force working against it is inequality of access. So companies like Kickstarter come along and all of a sudden anyone, from almost anywhere actually truly has a shot at financing their good idea. So it’s an ambitious statement, but I think the filter of the institutional VC will likely be irrelevant in a decade (at least for early stage companies).
Startupfest: How do you think startups should handle the trade-off between doing good, making money, and building an open marketplace?
JG: I don’t think you’re doing any substantial good if your non-profit (or for-profit for that matter) is not sustainable, meaning there’s no business model. I started my first company, Appfrica, in 2008 in Uganda and from day 1 we were cash-positive. Four years later we’re the same. We’ve grown, we’ve shrunk but I never borrow what we can’t pay back, and aside from some early seed funding we’ve never had to think about it.
At metaLayer it’s a bit different. We did an Incubator (DreamIt Ventures) and we did raise cash to help scale, but we were profitable before doing either. The money was a tool to grow, not our only hope of survival.
I think there’s a healthy element of fear and responsibility when you know you aren’t living on someone else’s blank check. That can be said for non-profits operating off grants and it can certainly be said for for-profit startups surviving too long off VC backers. Revenue from customers or some sort of model is what makes me most comfortable as an entrepreneur. Then again, every so often there’s an Instagram or a Color and I just have to ‘shut the front door’.