It is true that many heroes remain unsung. I submit that this is not always a bad thing. I rather agree with those who never meaningfully recognize their heroes because the reality of their heroism is not moving enough; it doesn’t stir men’s blood, as Shakespeare put it. Whether it is praise for promise-filled politicians or dubious religious extortionists, or just our unproductive adulation of favorite telenovela characters, I’m of the view that heroism should be made of sterner stuff (again, apologies to the bard).
Still, I do claim to hold the gavel on what the proper substance of heroism should be. Id doesn’t matter, though, because I do not have to. Like you, I can tell instinctively and experientially when I have been inspired, led, or persuaded. My heroes do not need to have moved mountains; they only need to have moved me.
“The journey is the reward!” This has been Mawuli Adzoe’s Skype status for as long as I can remember. Yes, the statement is a vivid reminder of Steve Jobs’ life story owing to a no doubt fantastic book on it, and yes it is a famous Chinese proverb that has pointed the way to a more enlightened life for many. For me, though, it quite simply the truest epitome of the life Mawuli is living; one bent on changing his world; one which continues, daily, to move me.
Like me, Mawuli is a software entrepreneur. We went to University together, but did not cross paths much. My best recollections of him are those in which he gave me lifts around campus while driving a large empty church bus. I had quite frankly quite forgotten about him until I entered the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology. There he was, a man on a mission, chasing a dream.
Meeting Obstacles and Shining
It is often said that failure is the friend of an entrepreneur. It’s no doubt been true for Mawuli, and I can say that he knows it. After his team failed to secure investment for a business, which to me at least looked set to disrupt file sharing in ways that would impress and surprise Dropbox, Mawuli did what every true entrepreneur does and picked himself up. This time leaner, certainly meaner, and free as a bird.
LeanerI never saw a man bootstrap more shrewdly. Spending a year working for Saya Chat allowed him to his brain sharp, and stay within the geographic sphere within which the fire of entrepreneurship could still burn in his heart. It also meant he could save modestly but significantly towards the birthing of his true love: a bitcoin exchange service for financially isolated Africa.
Making online payments can be a real nightmare in Africa. Our bank cards are often declined, merchants have great trepidation doing business with us because of a reputation for fraud, and payment services like PayPal flatly ignore – Ghana for example – because of this. As a result, we are essentially ostracized from the burgeoning world of online commerce, and only get in via small wickets and windows here and there. Mawuli planned to change that.
PayButton would do for Africa what PayPal did for the rest of the world, and it would do it with the hot new virtual currency, bitcoin. For the better part of a year, this was a team of one, for a dream of many, running on a little bit of coin. And then something happened. The market spoke.
MeanerPivoting is not popular in entrepreneurship. It is seen by many founders as a sign of defeat and as an indication of bad judgment from the outset. Pivoting means that you have failed, even if temporarily. It also means a fresh investment of sweat and tears, and money is needed to ensure survival. I’m learning from Mawuli that quite to the contrary, the willingness to face and execute a pivot with alacrity is a mark of that shrewdness and sanguineness that every successful entrepreneur must have.
Africans wanted to participate in the bitcion revolution. But this was mostly unknown territory, especially in Ghana. It would involve a lot of learning and a great deal of risk. The gauntlet had been thrown down but Mawuli responded, and with vigor. Kitiwa was born.
Kitiwa has already made life better for many people, and has processed payments legitimately and promptly, that would otherwise have never been made. The door is opening on Africans now, one bitcoin at a time, and Mawuli is making it happen.
Journey ManSo why does this otherwise regular, plain – even typical – story about a young entrepreneur move me? Well exactly because it is plain, regular and rather typical. Mawuli’s journey is a journey that we all make. Because of this the promise I see in Kitiwa and its ambitious founder enter the realm of my own possibilities. I too am a software entrepreneur. I can relate, but even better, I can learn.
Mawuli shows that success is possible for the common man, and not just as a point of fact. What do I mean? If he were already successful, he’d go down as another confirmation that success is possible just because it has happened. But that fact has already been proven.
Countless successful entrepreneurs have shown us that success is a definite possibility. The best they can do to help us emulate them is relate the story of their journey. Often though, a “long time ago” story is unrelatable, irreplicable, or even irrelevant in a different context.
Mawuli’s is a story I can learn from in real time. His example speaks boldly to me: “Sure, the light is there at the end, but this is how to reach it, turn by turn, hill by hill, sea by shining sea, mistakes, triumphs, regrets, lessons all included. And all the while smiling, he reminds me that the journey itself is the reward!
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This I Know a Ghanaian Star article was written and submitted by Agana-Nsiire Agana, is a writer and software entrepreneur who is based in Accra and has a big appetite for literature. His works can be found on: cerebralsparks.wordpress.com, and wordsnbirds.com.