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On March 4th, 2022, The Seeds [1] network hosted the first edition of its Digital Network [2] meeting on the theme “Sharing your entrepreneurial idea - opportunity or risk?”.

Here we share with you the insights resulting from the meeting.

Digital Network # 1 by The Seeds

The 2-hour evening was structured into the following main highlights:

- 15 min presentation of the Seeds initiative with an interview of its president (Steve Pentang) followed by a presentation of the Digital Network, the theme of the day, and a presentation of the Keynote Speaker for the evening

- 20 min of intervention by the Keynote Speaker on the theme of the evening

- 30 min break out room where the audience was able to work in small groups on the first series of questions

- 10 min plenary session to debrief the 1st workshops

- 30 min break-out room where the assembly could again work in small groups on the 2nd series of questions

- 15 min plenary session to debrief the 2nd workshop and conclude the evening

The Keynote Speaker for this first evening was Benjamin Ngongang, President of O'Botama (, one of the reference Cameroonian Incubators.

From the outset, Benjamin chose to put his finger on one of the points of confusion that several entrepreneurs face: the confusion between the notion of an idea and the notion of a business. For our speaker, A company is certainly first and foremost an idea, but it is above all an execution or implementation of this idea.

Voluntarily provocative, our speaker considers that: Not sharing ideas actually increases the risk of non-success of projects. However, an idea is not to be shared with just anyone in any way. For the sharing of the idea to be successful, it must be done in a clever way. Benjamin identifies 3 different audiences with whom entrepreneurs should share their idea:

- The target clients: To test the fit between the idea and the market, the entrepreneurs are targeting.

- Investors: To confirm the business potential of their idea.

- And more unexpectedly, entrepreneurs in the same sector: to identify potential synergies between projects.

After Benjamin's presentation, the assembly was invited to reflect in small groups on the following 4 structuring questions:

1) What are the origins and motivations of this temptation to be overly secretive when undertaking?

2) Should we be afraid to share an entrepreneurial idea?

3) Sharing your business idea? Opportunities and risks

4) How to spot a bad approach to secrecy in entrepreneurship and how to get rid of it?

What are the origins and motivations of this temptation to excessive secrecy when undertaking a business?

To this question, the meeting identified factors that can be of several kinds, grouped into the following main categories:

- Education and culture: The school system in which Africans are taught from childhood is often a system inherited from colonisation that emphasises individual competition between pupils rather than healthy collective emulation.

- Personal experience or narratives: Lack of experience or self-confidence can also be one of the sources of the temptation to secrecy. The African unconscious and conscious are populated with many more or less verifiable cases of entrepreneurs who were discouraged in their ideas by individuals who then self-appropriated those ideas.

- The environment

o Mentalities: Tendency to individualism, lack of benevolence between individuals and communities, and lack of sincerity in human relations can lead to a lack of trust between individuals and slow down the will to open up to others.

o Security and capabilities: The African legal framework does not benefit from a culture that is widely shared and accessible to the greatest number.

o Competition: It is common knowledge in Africa that many entrepreneurs, especially in the informal sector, tend to copy ideas that seem promising.

o The field of intervention: Some fields are areas where scientific or technological advance is the driving force behind the difference.

Should we be afraid to share an entrepreneurial idea?

Unsurprisingly, the opinions of the assembly were divided on this point, with arguments in favor and against. Illustration:

· Yes, you should be afraid to share your business idea

o Especially when it is an idea that can be easily copied or reproduced by others. Some personal experiences show that you should not share your idea when it is not yet mature

o The business world is a jungle, so you should not put yourself at risk of being eaten for the simple reason of not having your idea protected

o […]

· No, you should not be afraid to share your business idea:

o It is not so much the idea that counts as the execution of the idea. So, you can share an idea without sharing how you want to execute it

o Hiding an idea makes it impossible to check its relevance

o […]

Sharing your business idea? Opportunities and risks

The elements identified by the assembly around this question are summarised in the following table

How can you spot a bad approach to secrecy when undertaking a project, and how can you get rid of it?

On this question, the assembly spoke from personal experience, providing some practical indicators and tips:

· It is essential to define a vision, objectives, and a timeline in order to be able to realise the gaps you are taking with the implementation of your project. Thus, by becoming aware of the gaps, it is perhaps a sign that the project needs a new breath of fresh air, which may come from the outside

· You need to develop your own capacity to give feedback to others and to receive feedback from others

· […]

In conclusion, for an African entrepreneur, one way of approaching the question of the opportunity or risk of sharing his or her business idea is to take into account at least the following three dimensions

- At what stage of my project am I?

- What are my needs?

- To whom can I turn?

The wealth of the day's discussions enabled us to draw up the following simplified schema, which could help African entrepreneurs to better consider the secret during the different phases of their project.

Figure 1: A secret guide for Entrepreneurs

For The Seeds, the hosts of the Digital Network #1 evening:

Yawo AFANDE, Fabrice CHUEMBOU, Thierry DJEUMO, Jules KEGHIE,

Evariste HAPPI, Steve PENTANG, Randolph ODI, Gael TCHOUKIO.

We are looking forward to seeing you at the Digital Network #2!

[1] The Seeds is an association dedicated to promoting leadership and entrepreneurship in Africa by coaching entrepreneurs and supporting their initiatives through its extensive network of expertise both in the African diaspora and on the continent. [2] The Digital Network events by The Seeds are recurring spaces for meeting, exchanging, and generating shared knowledge around leadership and entrepreneurship in Africa. Welcome, this space is yours.
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