Austin Okere (CWG Boss), flanked by co-authors Steve Blank (left) and Bob Dorf (right)
at Columbia Business School, New York
The group chief executive officer, Computer Warehouse Group (CWG), Mr. Austin Okere has joined crop of leading world entrepreneurs as he became an instructor at the Steve Blank “Lean Launch Pad” Class, Columbia Business School (CBS).
By combining content from the world’s leading experts in customer development with local mentors and leaders in an intensive flipped-classroom style course, the movement was able to create a unique, effective experience for teams of entrepreneurs that are serious about growing a customer-driven startup.
The programme is already being offered in 15 cities around the world, with another 25 programmes launching in February with the goal to expand the programme to more than 100 cities in 2013.
Seasoned entrepreneurs such as Steve Blank are teaching NEXT in Silicon Valley, Andy Sack (TechStars Seattle founder) in Seattle, Alex Farcet (founder of Startupbootcamp) in multiple European cities, Eric Koester (founder of Zaarly) in Washington, DC with countless others joining.
The Eugene Lang Entrepreneurial Center at CBS, where Okere has been a guest lecturer since 2009, conveyed in their invitation their belief that his experience and contribution to entrepreneurial ship in emerging markets will provide unparalleled contribution to the class of aspiring entrepreneurs.
The Computer Warehouse Group, whose case study is a regular feature at Columbia Business School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, as well as many other institutions in Africa, including the prestigious Lagos Business School, chronicles the trials, challenges and triumph of entrepreneurship in the challenging environment that characterizes Sub Saharan Africa.
The Lean Launch Pad course provides real world, hands-on learning on what it is like to actually
start a high-tech company. It is a practical class where the goal is to create an entrepreneurial experience with all of the pressures and demands of the real world in an early stage start up.
The syllabus for the course is drawn majorly from the bestselling book, The Startup Owner’s Manual, co-authored by serial entrepreneurs Steve Blank and Bob Dorf, and the revolutionary new book, Business Model Generation co-authored by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur.
These two books provide insights into powerful, simple, tested tools for understanding, designing, reworking, and implementing business models, through a business model canvas, that defines unique value propositions for specific customer segments, and the relationships and channels to deliver these to the customer to maximize revenue. It also helps the entrepreneur identify key resources, partners and key activities to be performed and at what cost.
The course provides a comprehensive step-by-step guide to getting startups right. It walks entrepreneurs through the customer development process that gets them out of the building to develop wining products that customers will buy.
There is an increasing global focus and emphasis on entrepreneurship as the most viable vehicle for job creation. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2011 report, there is an upsurge in entrepreneurship around the world, with a total number of about 400 million spread across 54 countries. The GEM in its 2006 report revealed that there was a systematic relationship between a country’s level of economic development and its level of entrepreneurial activity. It noted that countries with similar per capita GDP tend to exhibit similar levels of entrepreneurial activity.
At low levels of per capita GDP, industrial structure is characterized by the prevalence of many very small enterprises. As per capita income increases, industrialization and economies of scale allow larger and established firms to satisfy the increasing demand of growing markets and to increase their relative role in the economy.
On his involvement in the Block Week Course at Columbia Business School Okere said “I believe that it is better to have a thousand millionaires than a ten billionaires. It is better still to have a million people with access to a hundred thousand dollars, if they can be taught how to nurture and grow it through entrepreneurial endeavor; and I intend to do something about it, so when I was invited, I did not hesitate in accepting, with a view to bringing the concept to Africa”.
Okere whose entrepreneurial advocacy has taken him on similar teaching expeditions across Africa; through Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania also remarked “I like to put the story of the Computer Warehouse Group out there because such success stories contribute immensely to the attraction of capital to the region, which combined with the entrepreneurial acumen and the youthful population unleashes waves of economic boom, which in turn lifts the pile at bottom of the pyramid into the more desirable networked economy of the emerging global village. Besides, it provides the perfect opportunity to be a brand ambassador for Africa”.
Okere, one of Nigeria’s foremost entrepreneurs has made quite a name for himself over the past 20 years, growing the Computer Warehouse Group into a $130 million revenue company, with 650 staff spread across Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda and Cameroon. In 2012 he was named ICT Man of the Decade by ICT Watch Africa Digital Network, and CWG was named Conglomerate of the Year. The organizers cited CWG’s immense contributions toward the growth and development of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), youth empowerment through ICT education, and nation building.
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