The Entrepreneurial Tourist!

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Strive Masiyiwa

“Whenever you see a successful business person whom you might even admire, don’t be intimidated to think you might never get there. They started just where you might be right now. Every lion was once a cub. So practice your roar, and learn the hunting skills…”

There is an urban legend I’ve shared with a few of you before which goes like this: One morning a young American tourist was traveling through a typical African township whilst on holiday after graduating from university. As he watched the early morning hustle of people trying to get transport for work, all driving the same direction, he must have heard someone shout:

“Lift! Lift!”

Next thing a private car stopped and people jumped in. The jam-packed cars, all full, headed to the city. Others were in “little buses” which have different names in every African city, but in many ways are the backbone of transport in urban Africa.

“We give each other lifts!” one of the drivers had told this young tourist when he questioned what was going on.

“It’s all entrepreneurial and much more efficient that our own (American) transport system,” he observed later with much enthusiasm.

If you have ever been to Los Angeles, where he comes from, the scene at the same time would have been very different… cars bumper-to-bumper, barely moving, each with just one or two people inside.

For Logan Green, the entrepreneurial tourist, the African transport solution was not as chaotic as some would consider. It was actually more efficient than what he saw back in the more advanced economy.

“If we can get people to share their cars, and get paid for it as they do in Africa, we would have fewer cars on the road, and traffic would move,” so he reasoned.

With Africa’s solution in mind, Green returned to America and developed an App to help people find a “lift” from someone driving their way…

The idea of a “ride sharing” app was born!

Green started his first ride-sharing company in 2006, and sold it to a big international rental car agency several years later. He then co-founded another company, named after what he heard in Africa. It is called “Lyft” and is now valued at more than $15bn! Lyft will soon list on a major stock exchange.

I first came across the idea, not through Logan Green’s Lyft, but when I was visiting one of my daughters at college, in New York several years ago.

She told me she traveled on “Uber” and did not need a car!

“Uber?” I had no idea what she was talking about.

I went out to try it, and loved it. No more car hire for me, thank you very much!

“How does it actually work?” I asked. “What is the actual #process?”

I learned what probably most of you now know: The vehicle belongs to the entrepreneur. Uber sources customers for the entrepreneur and gets a commission, using a highly sophisticated platform which the customer accesses with an App.

Now most of you will remember a few weeks ago I wrote here about GoGoVan, Hong Kong’s first US$1bn start-up and asked you to read an article. I was so impressed with your responses, the five lessons you said you learned from it and shared as comments, that I decided to turn this into a series…

How do we begin?

“If you want to truly succeed, identify a human need, and reach out to solve it.”(Rev TL Osborne).

To be continued. . .

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Strive Masiyiwa is a member of the Africa Progress Panel (APP), a group of ten distinguished individuals who advocate at the highest levels for equitable and sustainable development in Africa.

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