The Microsoft BizSpark Show celebrates African ingenuity ahead of Nov. 5 anniversary

The Microsoft BizSpark Show kicked off a series of shows to air through Nov. 5 to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Microsoft entrepreneurship program, which delivers no-cost tools to bootstrapped developers and founders who are building the world’s next great companies.

Monday’s guest was Elvis Austins, the founder of literacy startup SpellAfrica Initiative. He explained his bootstrapping approach to the Microsoft BizSpark Show Monday as a way of giving hope to other entrepreneurs out there who lack programs and support for their efforts.

SpellAfrica is a non-profit initiative that teaches people how to spell via SMS. Austins created this service to teach himself how to spell without having to lug a dictionary around. The simple idea delivers daily spelling and dictionary words to youths and adults throughout Nigeria, via the country’s cell networks and SMS.

His story shows that resolve, access to entrepreneur programs on the Internet and making those global connections is the wave of the future for entrepreneurs around the world. As more cities gain access to broadband in Africa, and as smartphone adoption increases, the opportunities for building IT-focused businesses in Africa will grow.

Austins is a prime example of a new trend towards “doing more with scarcity,” according to BizSpark Show guest Professor Ndubuisi Ekekwe, the show’s second guest, who is the founder of First Atlantic University, an entrepreneurship university set to open in Nigeria in 2014.

Having nothing but pay-to-use Internet access that was spotty at best, Austins hunted down perspective partners through forums and Bing searches until he found a way to incorporate his business in New Zealand.

African entrepreneurs are increasingly working within their own countries to solve critical problems using technology. Those countries, like many countries in Asia and parts of the developing world, are increasingly moving from economies of technology consumption to economies focused on building tech jobs and startups.

Professor Ekekwe called out the great work that he has seen Microsoft perform in Africa through the Microsoft 4 Afrika initiative. There are also dozens of offices in Africa through which our teams deliver software training and insights into building businesses through programs like the Microsoft Innovation Centers.

The Microsoft Bizspark program, which offers no-cost software to entrepreneurs making less than $1 million in revenue per year, also has more than 620 startup companies registered in its three-year program for bootstrapped companies.

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Douglas Crets
Social Strategist and Editor, Microsoft BizSpark