Welcome to this month’s edition of Twenty for Twenty, a special segment in my blog where i sit down with one inspiring twenty-something year old . I’m joined by my fellow countryman, Farai Nechikwira, one of the young voices making noise in the entrepreneurial world, welcome Farai!
For the duration of this interview I’ll refer to myself as TB and Farai by FN
FN: Hi Brandon, it’s my pleasure to be here!
TB: Haha believe me the pleasure is all mine…shall we?
TB: Before we get to the business side of things, first let’s get up close and personal, tell us a little bit about yourself. (Age, current occupation, where you live back home, etc)
FN:Im currently 23 years now, in my third and final year doing pure mathematics, although I can be found occasionally programing Python, Ruby and C. In Zimbabwe I have no specific city I live in though I was born in Masvingo I have lived in Bulawayo and Harare during my later years
TB: Give us some info on your academic background, where did it all start, which schools did you attend?
FN: When I was young my elder sisters who were then in primary would not hold their excitement in learning new stuff by bringing it to me. So got acquainted with academic stuff before I attended crèche and I believe it has since given me a slight advantage when it comes to academic prowess lol. I attended Runyararo primary school and later Pamushana High school, all of them in Masvingo Province. I never faced troubles with my academic except for a brief period during my ZJC when I performed poorly in the subject Shona.
TB: Studying Maths as a major is quite something, do you consider yourself an intellectual or having slightly above average intelligence perhaps🧐😅 ?
FN: This question has two sides I guess. In my own opinion I think I am interested about anything intellectual and that means hard stuff, but mainly in the scientific fields. But I always feel like I am not intelligent enough, if such thing even exists. On the other side, people who I have encountered with have always nicknamed be Einstein, maybe because I am able to solve a couple of counter-intuitive math/physics, or computer science related problems. I do think I am above average intelligence though based on the statistics that I learnt at schools with students considered intelligent and I would easily surpass them in intellectual activities we conducted. I also won a gold medal in the National Physics Olympiad in 2016. This is a very competitive olympiad which is used as a heuristic my Zimbabwean professors to identify some intelligent students. But trust me my intellect is questioned everyday as I advance in abstract math, that I sometimes feel dumb.
TB: Wow that was mighty impressive winning the olympiad like that! You made waves in 2017 with a brilliant entrepreneurial pitch you made to one of Zim biggest tech moguls, what was the innovative idea you presented then?
FN: It was a startup idea focused on the manufacture of aircraft engineering parts from scratch, the first of its king in Zimbabwe. I think big tech moguls were more moved by my ambitions of dreaming seemingly impossible ideas at a young age and the way I framed my pitch. In the end they advised me to rather commence with achievable ideas like drone manufacturing.
TB: I’ve heard you’re what is known as a technopreneur, what exactly is a technopreneur?
FN: A technopreneur is a fancy word for describing one who is tech savvy and then trying to use technology for the purpose of entrepreneurship. The name is fancy but what happens under the hood are stressful days calmed by the anticipation of success at the end of the tunnel.
TB: You’ve hardly slowed down since then and have since been part of a new initiative to bring about fresh solutions to Africa’s tech solutions and growth, how has the experience been so far?
FN: Being an entrepreneur is both fun and stressful, fun in the sense that you have the zeal to solve problems that you or your colleagues face and trying to bring an idea into life. Its like just watching your baby grow healthy and happy, as those with children like to put it that way. The experience has been awesome as I have met people I never thought I would meet, and realizing the same people appreciate the kind of entrepreneurial ideas you propose. I have learnt important concepts on how you can build a successful business on the African landscape by virtue of meeting successful entrepreneurs
TB: Hanging out with the big dogs obviously has some perks, visiting different cities and meeting new people, what’s been the best place you’ve visited so far?
FN: I think Kigali, Rwanda stands out the most. Not only did I enjoy the scenary and wildlife parks there, the East African dishes they offered, !but I was impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit in that small country. The country is rapidly developing and its people are impressed with what the government is doing. It’s not surprising that some prominent investors land in Rwanda leaving out some bigger African Countries.
TB: Your wallet probably got a few quarters doing all of this, what’s the biggest item you’ve ever splurged some of your prize money on?
FN: Haha, I won’t respond this question, at least for now.
TB: I would probably start feeling myself if I made some techno-moves like that, how do you manage to stay grounded and handle the pressure from academics and the techno-projects at the same time?
FN: Because there is still more work to be done and milestones to be reached. I am more result oriented and generally not a fan of celebrating small wins, that’s why I am probably working in silence. As for the pressure, I make sure I respond to it in the most optimum way that does not raise false alarms or information.
TB: They say that a healthy mind cannot reside in a weak body, do you exercise at all or just do the occasional push ups after waking up?
FN: I realized most startup founder become successful at the expense of their health, as I alluded earlier that startups are stressful and can take up the whole of your time, and decided that adding some regular exercises to stay in shape is vital. So I regularly hit the gym two hours per day, six days a week.
TB: So when you’re not thinking of the next brilliant idea, what do you like to do in your free time?
FN: I’m usually found watching some science fiction series, or solving some math related programming challenges.
TB: So…is there a Mrs Farai at the moment?
FN: No, but I am on the market
TB: What’s the worst idea you’ve ever came up with that you never pitched
FN:Well, it was coming up with a mobile app that would be more like Snapchat, but mainly focused on editing female/male body shapes, not just faces such that they appear geometrically appeasing.
TB: Besides this sure-fire path you’re on, what is your dream career?
FN: At first it was to be an aerospace engineer, but now I want to be a mathematical physicist.
TB: If you could travel through time and sit down with one great scientist, who would you sit down with?
FN: As much as I hero worship Albert Einstein, I would like to have a chat with Sir Isaac Newton. I would brag to him how tech has since advanced, and teach him to take selfies lol
TB: Studying in a foreign country surely has its ups and downs, what do you like most about studying in Algeria?
FN: The answer to this will be more specific to my field. Learning in a foreign language, especially math has proved helpful since I get the chance to read original research papers in French that were published by prominent French speaking mathematicians. This is because most of the important concepts in math were rigorously developed in France, and came to anglophones in form of translations.
TB: What’s the greatest book you’ve ever read?
FN: The Road to Reality by Roger Penrose, is an intellectual history on how sciences started and where they are now.
TB: Do you think a university degree is important to make it in life?
FN: Having a university degree is on average sufficient to make it but not necessary. I have learnt entrepreneurship by doing rather than by learning
Some MBA course.
TB: Say I want to be a technopreneur too, what would i have to do?
FN: I guess you would have already google searched about it so my advice is to start solving problems that you or your close friends encounter, not with the aim of being wealthy as wealthy will inevitably follow if you build something that enriches peoples lives. I am creating a podcast meant to answer such questions, it has 3 episodes so far. look it up on Spotify by searching Goggettaz Entrepreneurship Talk by Farai Nechikwira and Dumisani Mahlangu.
TB: Lastly, what word of advice would you give to a kid who hates maths class?
FN: Usually kids hate math mainly because of the way it’s taught, which is usually by unnecessary threats/ humiliation, instead of it being fun. So the kid can be motivated by teaching him/her math in a fun interactive and visual way and explaining