He must have been eleven, at most twelve years old, when he started his first company. Or rather, a small business at school in renting video games and selling tasty treats not available in the school canteen. Douglas Baguma from Uganda clearly has entrepreneurship in his blood. Today, he runs Innovex, an innovative company experiencing rapid growth with the support of OVO.
Douglas has fond recollections of that period at school when he clearly already had an eye for what interested his friends. Because solving a problem with a new product or service is at the heart of innovation. “In fact, I always wanted to be an engineer and that is what I eventually became,” says Douglas. “During my studies, I started looking for ideas with which I would have an impact on people’s lives. That is how Innovex came about.”
In 2015, together with two engineer friends, Douglas started a company targeting solar panel installers with Remot in a B2B business. Innovex produces and sells smart electricity meters and has developed a ‘software as a service’ model for monitoring and analyzing the performance of solar energy systems. Whereas in Flanders we put the power produced by our solar panels on the grid and turn back our counter, in Africa they have to make do with a completely self-sufficient off-grid system.
“My ambition? To let the whole of Africa make use of our product!”
Douglas explains: “Our clients had to regularly go on site to carry out maintenance and inspection at the medical centers, schools and private individuals’ premises where they installed solar panels. Their products regularly exhibited defects and the after-sales service was inadequate. In addition, they lacked reliable data for the solar panels. With our meters and software, they can monitor the performance of the system remotely and intervene in a timely manner. As a result, they no longer have to go out so often and can spend their time improving their products to make them cheaper and available to more people.”
Currently, 18 distributors in Uganda are already Innovex customers. But the company is also active in neighboring countries and has signed contracts in Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and the DRC. It was not all plain sailing. “The hardest thing about starting a business is finding the right people,” says Douglas. “As a new entrepreneur, you have to invest time and money, while many people prefer to earn a lot of money from the get-go. The importance of surrounding yourself with the right people is something I had to discover gradually.”
“Many business plans that we see are based on dreams rather than reality. Douglas has succeeded in taking his company to the next level in three years.”
Today OVO provides Douglas and his colleagues with the right environment. He discovered the organization when it was on the Inspiration Tour in Uganda in May 2017. After a successful pitch and subsequent contacts, OVO included Innovex in its portfolio as a B2B project. In the context of the first SusTech4Africa campaign in November 2018, a delegation from OVO again visited some projects in Uganda, including Innovex. For four volunteers from OVO, that was the immediate motivation to personally invest in Douglas’ company.
Thierry Deflandre, Jan Flamend, Frans Verschelden and Johan Geysen immediately saw its future and each invested 5000 euros. It was not only about the strong, convincing impression that Innovex made: the company is also providing an answer to a clear need in the market. “Besides monitoring, their software also predicts the behavior of the installation. This permits timely intervention which benefits both the end customer and the distributor themselves,” Johan Geysen explains.
“I immediately felt that the project had potential for growth. Six months later, I am a proud accelerator.”
“Douglas realizes that a good sales approach is key to the success of Innovex. In our work sessions, we therefore put a lot of energy into value selling skills.”
With the 20,000 euros which Innovex borrowed through OVO, the company was able to develop smart meters in such a way that the cost price was halved, and the profit margin thus increased significantly. “A tremendous boost,” says Douglas. “But the coaching I get from OVO to better manage my business is invaluable.” Jan Flamend and Thierry Deflandre follow Innovex closely. “Now it is a question of developing his marketing and sales skills,” Thierry says. “The product is in place and ready to enter the market. By reinvesting part of the profit, Innovex can grow further.”
What is Innovex?
Innovex is a B2B company selling technological solutions that help to further the socioeconomic development of African countries. Think of IoT systems, monitoring applications and customized robots and drones. By 2021, Innovex aims to be active in at least 25 African countries.
- Sales: USD 80,000
- Investment through OVO: € 20,000
- Duration of OVO investment: 2019-2021
- Number of employees: from 3 in 2015 through 11 in 2019 to possibly 14 in 2021