Entrepreneurship in times of corona: Innovex

Dealing creatively with challenges is second nature to entrepreneurs. But how do African entrepreneurs deal with a global crisis such as the corona epidemic? We asked Innovex, a Ugandan company that uses solar energy via IoT, Internet or Things.

Life as we all know is never straight forward. It’s full of highs and lows but what’s important is that we maintain our faith and vision for the future. This week, we caught up with David Tusubira, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Innovex, an IoT (Internet of Things) start-up based in Uganda. For those of you not familiar with IoT, in simple terms, it means a network of internet connected objects that are able to collect and exchange data.

Early days of Innovex

Innovex was developed out of Makerere University, Uganda’s top university by a group of inquisitive engineering students. As David explained: "after {we} identified a gap in the practical teaching of engineering courses…. the company started by offering training and reselling electronics components…. {then} the three founders had a shared ambition of making hardware that they could manufacture and sell on the market."

David and his team found an opportunity within the PV solar distribution chain which led them to develop ‘Remot,’ an IoT based energy management platform. This caught our attention and led us to bring them into our SusTech4Africa programme. Through the programme, we were able catalyse Innovex as David shared: "{the} OVO social loan of 20,000 Euros enabled Innovex to procure much needed testing equipment for our hardware manufacturing. This loan also enabled us to secure an 80,000 GBP grant from the Energy Saving Trust which has transformed Innovex's product, Remot into a market ready product & service."

Added value of OVO

Alone, we can’t transform the likes of Innovex but we can ‘open doors’ to more opportunities. In Innovex’s case, we were also able to connect them with leading Flemish institutions as imec and ed&a. Additionally, our volunteer coaches were able to provide guidance on sales development and revenue generation, helping the company turn a profit.

However, if being a start-up wasn’t tough enough, COVID-19 made doing business even more of a challenge as David told us: "the international travel restrictions have hindered multiple crucial activities that were to be undertaken in foreign countries. The in-bound restrictions have limited productivity of staff and also brought sales and other business operations down to a halt."

Ambition remains

COVID-19 has stopped nearly everything, well almost everything. As David told us that Innovex has been able to create remote working structures and procedures for the team during the lockdown period. Looking beyond COVID-19, David pointed out: "we have in our business plan to hire at least four more employees before the close of the year and… are building a marketing and sales campaign with a target of selling over 5,000 units of hardware before mid-next year."

Other exciting news to share is that they’re in the process of creating a local manufacturing plant. It’s rewarding to hear this news from David, allowing us to reflect at OVO on the impact we have on companies. To learn more about Innovex and their services, you can visit www.innovex.org. To hear more about our success stories and see how you can support OVO, contact us.

Text: Andrew Herweg - Final editing: com&co