How 208 dollars helped 38 entrepreneurs

Over the past five years I have assisted 38 entrepreneurs in developing countries to fulfil their dreams, or just helped them earn money to put food on the table. And I’ve done this with a total of USD 208.

In early 2009 I found Kiva, a web service devoted to micro lendings with the smallest deposit of just $25 (€20 or SEK 180). In May 2009 I made my first deposits and co-funded Salifou in Benin to purchase stock for his electronics store and Jonatan in Peru to buy wool for his knitting.

At first I was sceptic but as I saw the repayments coming in I realised this was a fantastic idea. This is not charity, I help real people to earn money for themselves and I most often get my money back.

As I get repaid I relend to new entrepreneurs and I have over these five years just lost about $41. My $208 has so far helped 38 entrepreneurs with $1,375.

If you haven’t tried Kiva yet do it now. It is helping real persons, helping themselves – and it feels good too.

Once upon an App

Yesterday I wrote a bit about my first steps in mobile development using WAP. This came about as found an old user’s manual for another mobile app we presented in 2001.

Palm3TRXThat was a actual app, as they are defined today, downloaded to your mobile device, with local storage and synchronisation to the company’s server.

It was developed for the Palm which was the mobile device of its time. The Palm PDA was fantastic, it didn’t really have online access but could be synced using a cable to your PC. Later came the Handspring Visor (using the same Palm OS) which could be equipped with a GSM pack turning it into a mobile phone and internet connected device. It was heavy, bulky and quite ugly but it was fantastic, and yes I still have one in a drawer.

The first app we made was called planet.TRX (Time Reports & Expenses). It never sold much but it was an interesting start. Some time later we developed a custom reporting tool for a huge international company and that app got an international award. By the way, it was also used and appreciated by our client.

Apps have became big business, they are sometimes better than their desktop counterparts and the online connected app is a necessity in many peoples’ lives. I am not part of this industry any more but it was really fun at the time.


Once upon a WAP

Some fifteen years ago I started developing mobile applications, or in today’s terminology solutions as some of them where mobile web solutions requiring the user to connect using WAP.

7110It was back in 1999, I was living in London with my new start-up SolutionPlanet. One day I wandered into the huge book store Foyle’s, just too browse and because I like books.

I came out with a book called “WAP development” and went straight home to see what this was about, what possibilities the mobile internet brought. I was convinced that the mobile was an important on-the-go channel for information.

The development was rather constraint, the bandwith low, the cost for connection high and the interface rough. But it was what we had and we made the most of it.

One of the first solutions that came out of this new knowledge was mobile access to your inhouse Lotus Notes e-mail. Our solution came to be very popular, especially for the executives that needed access to e-mail from anywhere at any time. Our users came from Benetton, Aprilia motorcycles, Dunhill and lot’s of other companies around the world.

Mobility has come a long way in the past fifteen years and I’m please that I was part of its start.


The Startup of You

This book wants us to think of ourselves as entrepreneurs in our own careers. I like this approach a lot. Looking upon yourself and your skills as a startup, you have to change, adapt and pivot to meet your changing environment. You are in “permanent beta”.

The book is written by  Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha. Hoffman is a co-founder of LinkedIn and its current chairman. And this is the books only drawback. Some chapters and many paragraphs just come across as use cases or sales pitches for LinkedIn and after a while this is all you hear. Sad really, as the basic concept is really interesting.

Reading this book and combining it with the ideas of Business Model You can truly change the way you look upon your professional life.

Business Model You

If you are familiar with the Business Model Canvas introduced in the best selling book Business Model Generation you will certainly understand and like this book.

The Business Model Canvas is a handy visual way to summarise and describe any business or product idea on a single sheet of paper. Business Model You builds on this but look upon you as a “personal business models”.

This is a really interesting concept when it comes to looking at your skills, needs, and possibilities in an ever changing marketplace.