Dickson Mushabe the founder of Hostalite is not sorry for his mistakes. In fact he even wrote a book about how he’s not sorry and it’s been selling like hot cake! You need to read the book “I’m not sorry for my mistaeks” to understand why he’s taking such an unapologetic stance!
I dropped by Dickson’s office in Kampala’s Silicon Valley (read Kanjokya Street) and we had a chat about his journey at Hostalite and how he has managed to grow it from the time when he was the only employee, acting as Managing Director, Accountant, Receptionist and Cleaner, to the industry leader that it is now.
Starting Hostalite six years ago
Six years ago, Dickson Mushabe started a web design and hosting company after being frustrated by his developer on a previous project. The delays he experienced forced him to open the website and try to figure things out on his own, and then later he realized he might not be the only one with trouble finding a good service in Uganda.
Fast forward to 2016, Hostalite is one of the leading web development and hosting firms in the region. Along the way Hostalite added other products and services like data recovery, software development and an email marketing tool, MailWonder which was launched last month and already has subscribed clients.
“We don’t want a client who has joined us to go elsewhere to look for another related service, we want to provide all the IT services that they need,” Dickson says about innovating as a business.
Challenges of starting an IT company in Uganda
People weren’t used to websites back when they started. A website was seen as something for big companies, so potential customers were few and it was tough selling to those approached.
The other is the costly and unreliable internet. When your work is in the cloud, with no internet you get stuck. When your main ISP has problems you fall back on mobile internet bundles. Fortunately over the years the cost of internet has come down a bit and reliability has improved.
Hostalite wasn’t spared by the common hurdles that a growing business faces like getting customers, keeping them, expansion, recruitment and others.
“Fake it till you make it”
Many businesses that started the same year as Hostalite didn’t make it to the end of the year. Very few are still operating today, and fewer at the level that Hostalite has reached. Dickson says his key to success was thinking big right from the start, and portraying himself as big. That helped them get big clients even when they were small, and when they delivered results, those clients referred them to others and the cycle continues to this day.
The future of IT in Uganda
On the topic of the future of the IT services industry, Dickson had this to say, “From what I see, we’re going mobile. So anything to do with smart phones and smart gadgets is going to be trending. Mobile solutions in general. Whatever system you develop should be mobile friendly. At the moment when you have a smartphone you don’t need a laptop.”
He also adds his voice of caution about the innovation design process, as we have heard from several leaders recently. Enthusiastic tech entrepreneurs need to ensure that their “innovation” solves a real problem. If the product you create solves a problem that doesn’t exist then you will not have market for your product.
“You start on the drawing board, then move out into the real world and check whether you have empirical evidence that the problem is significant. You must involve your intended users and develop with them. That way you are sure that you are on the right track as you go along,” Mushabe advised.
The family man: Achieving Work – life balance
Dickson is a family man, you just can’t miss it if you know him even for a short while. If you don’t see a photo on his desk or his Facebook profile, he will talk about his wife and children. In fact he says that the instruction in the Bible for a man to leave an inheritance is his driving force.
“For me, my family is my number 1 priority. For example this month I told my wife to park her car, I drop kids at school, drop her at work and pick her in the evening. I don’t want my busy schedule to interrupt that. Weekends also are family time. I cannot do much if my family is out of order. So all my free time I’m with my family,” says Dickson.
You can’t help but wonder how he manages to do well at work and still have time for family.
But he has two answers for that:
Delegation. Time management.
Dickson once did an experiment where he made a table with slots for each hour in the day, from morning to when he slept. Then he’d keep recording what he did in that hour. He noticed that the work that he did after 5pm would take much longer since he was no longer sharp and fresh.
“If you find that you constantly have too much on your desk it means you might have to delegate more work to your team,” he says.
“Here at Hostalite, business goes on well without my presence. I have delegated to the team and empowered them, so the company doesn’t entirely rest on my shoulders,” Dickson adds.
Love at first sight?
As we wrapped up our conversation we went off topic a bit. I always like to see what techies think of non-tech things. Like Love.
“I believe falling in love is a process. Someone can’t meet me in the morning and tell me they love me the same day. Maybe they can like something about me, like how I dress or look but not loving me. I believe love grows over time.”
You can read the rest of Dickson Mushabe’s business story in his book. You can find order information on his website: