Archive | February, 2016

SJ31 – Tech and Entrepreneurship in Africa with Mannie T’Chawi and Jason Israel

We were honored to have two very special guests on Startup Jab this week: Mannie T’Chawi and Jason Israel joined us to talk about tech, entrepreneurship, and Africa.

Mannie T’Chawi is the co-founder & CEO of LayerCake; a social enterprise that promotes financial inclusivity and security in Tanzania. He also serves as the Director of International Outreach and Business Development for CULTIVA Solutions, a DC-area education consultancy and brokerage. In addition, Mannie consults on international development efforts helping to strategize, execute, and build partnerships between US and Sub-saharan Africa based organizations.

Jason Israel is a dedicated public servant, naval officer, and educator with over 15 years of experience in military and civilian leadership positions at the federal, state, and local levels. Currently a Commander in the Navy Reserve, he recently deployed to the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa where worked in Somalia toward a more stable and secure future for the east Africa region. Jason is passionate about educating and empowering youth to rise to their full potential and has spent his free time teaching and mentoring students in each community he’s lived. A native Marylander and resident of Baltimore, Jason served as Director for African Affairs for the National Security Council at the White House until earlier this year.


  • Mannie: “Thanks to the success of mobile banking platforms in Kenya, for example, Africa has started moving towards mobile banking, which is really mobile transfer. It’s the equivalent of having your money in Verizon or AT&T rather than a a bank… Mobile transfer works for people fairly well, but you can’t exclude banks from the process. There needs to be unity, and less friction, and [my company LayerCake] hopes to provide that… You’re allowing them an opportunity, in a predominantly cash-based economy, to actually grow their wealth and savings rather than it literally being cash under their mattress.”
  • Jason: “What Mannie’s doing is really the driving force behind the change that we want to see in Africa. It’s a great example of looking at the institutions, the strengths and weaknesses that are in the country, and trying to build the capacity of the local banks in order to confront a challenge that is uniquely Tanzanian.”
  • J: “One of the greatest parts of my jobs [at the National Security Council] was hearing all of these stories about what entrepreneurs are doing to solve these unique problems.”
  • M: “People don’t realize that there is a lot of entrepreneurial expertise already in the market… Africa is a market that has always been wrought with necessity and is full of inventors.”
  • M: “The strategy for winning in Africa, no matter the vertical or industry, is being the connective tissue.”
  • J: Regarding “brain drain,” “I think it’s a myth that it’s just, ‘I can make more money in New York or London, so I’m going to head there.’ There are a ton of talented people leaving [Africa], and either a nation lacks the capacity or desire [to keep them in the country], or there’s a corrupt reason where somebody’s getting some money to allow people to leave.”
  • M: “We don’t just need big, bold moves, but we need a lot of big, bold moves all at the same time.”


Some of the cool efforts going on in Africa:

And check out: Somali Entrepreneur Raises $100 Million For Money Transfer Startup WorldRemit

SJ30 – The Business of Narrative Podcasting with Wolf 359

This week, we’re pleased to welcome Gabriel Urbina and Zach Valenti from Wolf 359, a podcast about the advantages of floating, tiny and alone, in the middle of nowhere. A drama in the tradition of the Golden Age of Radio, Wolf 359’s bi-monthly episodes tell the story of Doug Eiffel, the communications officer for the U.S.S. Hephaestus Research Station, currently on Day 448 of its orbit around red dwarf star Wolf 359.

Join hosts Teague Hopkins and Jason Nellis to talk about how Gabriel and Zach bootstrapped a successful radio show, the art and science of narrative podcasting, and life in isolated, zero gravity conditions.

Links and Highlights

EPISODE 30. This podcast is no longer a spring chicken, folks.

Gabriel dreamed up a character who was monitoring a radio on a space station, and made the “fatal error” of sharing his idea on Facebook. Zach (a voice-over actor) saw on Facebook that a voice-over actor was needed for a one-man radio show. The rest is destiny.

Listen to the first three seasons of Wolf 359 here.

  • “We were both attracted to the idea of doing something together and getting it out there quickly.
  • “What’s great about the first season, when it was basically our moms listening, it gave us a lot of freedom… It took us about 10 episodes to figure out what worked and what the show wanted to be.”
  • “Our philosophy was, let’s put things out there, let’s see if it works, and then let’s polish… [but] it needs to be a certain level of quality.”
  • “A lot of the first few episodes were built on, ‘Hey, I did this guy a solid once.'”
  • “From day one, we wanted to put something out in the universe that people could look at, and so we could really establish ourselves [in our respective careers].”

Zach does “sensual voice-overs” for, which, according to Gabriel, is “exceedingly mature and tasteful and well thought-out.” We say, go try it and find out for yourself (and happy belated Valentine’s Day!).

  • “The biggest technical challenge is making it work when people are recording in different spaces and different rooms with different sound qualities… We eventually solved that by deciding that the people who are remote will always be heard through a kind of filter, an ‘in-universe’ reason for their voices to sound noticeably different than everyone else’s. It was a moment of, ‘we’re going to try to turn this bug into a feature.'”
  • “We are fearless about the weird things that we do… but we rarely, if ever, have the next move planned.”
  • “There are critical times where it’s like, ‘Zach, it is now time to turn the “make shit up” button on’ (or off).”
  • “There have been times when it’s been a choice between having a 13-episode second season and get our merchandise together, and it’s always felt better to focus on making more and better shows.”
  • “Focus on making something that YOU love. The one thing we found in our nerdy, off-center taste is that we’re not alone, so in making something that we love, we inadvertently made something that other people love. Focus on that, because you can control that.”
  • In the beginning, “we tried all kinds of guerrilla marketing tactics when it was just our best friends and their cat listening to us… We tried to do the stereotypical ‘growth hacking’ to create our online presence, and the effect that had was… nil.”

View replay on

This episode previously aired on Wednesday, 4/17/16, at 3:30pm ET

SJ29 – Sex, Innovation, and Morality for Startups

We’re living on the edge today: Jason and Teague are recording from the same location at WeWork Wonder Bread Factory.

Links and Highlights:

Let’s get ready to DROOOOOOONE.

Can drone racing become as big as eSports?

The Drone Racing League Wants to Be to Drones What the WWE Is to Wrestling

  • “Explosions and money are the center of any good venn diagram.”
  • “Like any other sport, there’s already a push to sensationalize it and ‘sexy’ it up… The sport is not even out of the hospital bassinet.”

Jason and Teague toss out a FREE BUSINESS IDEA for our listeners. If you steal it and launch it, please make us VIP customers, #kthx.

Renaissance Florence Was a Better Model for Innovation than Silicon Valley Is

  • “Today, folks are often thrown to the wolves in a lot of ways: sink or swim. It’s a lot harder to find the kind of support you once got, where someone said, ‘I’m going to pay your bills so you can go build things.'”
  • “There’s a reason we keep doing Shakespeare, and a reason we keep bringing up penicillin.”
  • “When you give a mind an opportunity to just be told, ‘go try something and don’t worry about failure,’ there’s real opportunity there… I don’t think potential trumps experience, but potential and experience should balance each other.”
  • “One of the great ways startups can get a leg up is by hiring people who punch above their weight; finding people who have enormous people who haven’t been given their shot yet.”

Zenefits Founder Resigns

  • “Is what you’re doing actually harming consumers or harming competition? Is there a problem with pushing those boundaries, whether that problem is purely legal or whether there’s a moral issue at stake?”
  • “In a lot of ways we have a culture that advocates for screwing up, sometimes intentionally breaking laws and regulations, and then just apologize for it, mea culpa, pay a fine, and move on.”
  • “The moral question is, who’s being hurt by the laws that you’re breaking?”
  • “Zenefits is the latest in a series of very public companies that have skirted laws and done things that they know are immoral, and as a culture, how okay are we with that?”

New startup aims to transfer people’s consciousness into artificial bodies so they can live forever – TechSpot

  • “This is the beginning of every schlocky sci-fi novel I’ve ever read. Every single one.” (Here’s the definition of schlocky, btw.)
  • “We’re talking about condemning ourselves to a ones and zeroes existence because we’re afraid of dying.”

Questions from Quora:

As a non-technical co-founder, what should I be looking for in my Tech Co-Founder in terms of traits, skills, etc?” – (40:55)

  • “I like having a drinking buddy.”
  • “You as the non-technical co-founder have to ask yourself what you’re really looking for. There are some non-tech co-founders who think they’re hiring a general contractor, the same way I’d hire someone renovate my kitchen, fix my bathroom, and paint my house… They have the perception that they’re bringing in a one-size-fits-all ‘tech’ person, and that’s a perception problem you have to get past first.”
  • “When you’re bringing in a co-founder, you’re not actually hiring them… It’s finding a technical co-founder to partner with, so can you partner with them?”
  • Finding someone who’s willing to work with you at all is actually a good start.

My prototype is done. I aim to take on clients from another country. Can I do this without actually being based there?” – (49:12)

  • “The answer is almost always, ‘yes it can.’ The question is, ‘should it be?’”
  • “What’s the value of building a product you can’t sell outside your door right now, unless you intend to move there eventually and go sell it, or you have a ground game you’re really confident in?”
  • The more layers between you and your customers, the slower the feedback loop will be.
  • “Getting someone to use a product is hard. Building it is comparatively easy.”

This episode previously aired on 2/10

SJ28 – Aspire with Lily Cua and Marcy Humphrey

This week’s episode will introduce you to, software that helps companies make smart investments in their workplace perks so that they can recruit, engage and retain the best talent. Lily Cua, founder and COO of, and Marcy Humphrey, Head of Perk Operations, join Startup Jab to share how they are building Aspire, fill us in on the hippest, hottest HR trends, and tell us if office beer pong really is a good idea.

Lily focuses on Aspire’s client acquisition and expansion efforts. She is always keeping an eye out for unique and engaging workplace experiences to build into the Aspire platform, and loves the fact that her job allows her to work with some of the most innovative and creative businesses in the country. Lily is a graduate of Georgetown University and in a previous life was a consultant at PwC. Most importantly, she is a gifted arcade basketball player and brunch enthusiast.

Marcy is a graduate of Georgetown University, and has been in the DC area ever since. Marcy keeps the gears turning at Aspire by working in partner strategy & operations and managing client relationships. She also develops marketing content and is constantly looking for the coolest new HR trends to chat about. She counts among her many talents solving world hunger with Excel shortcuts and running faster than your average snail.