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Marching Strong Three Years After the Unusual Solutions Competition

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November 29th, 2023

Image1 Michelle Korir

By Brice Sikem Nyuykonghi

The Unusual Solutions Competition organized by WeRobotics looked different from most alternative funding opportunities when I first came across it. WeRobotics was betting on early-stage ideas to help them validate these into viable concepts and subsequently create working prototypes. I believe this was done in recognition of the fact that many young people, especially in the global south, have brilliant change-making ideas but lack the resources to initiate and transition these ideas into meaningful ventures.

When applying for the unusual solutions competition, I belonged to the ‘idea only’ category with zero entrepreneurial experience and nothing more than a belief that my little idea could change the world. I remember how excited I was when I got selected for the first phase of the competition and quickly began implementing, with lots of dedication, my idea on environmental risk communication in frontline communities. Six months later, I was in the spotlight for winning the Unusual Solutions grand prize, and shortly afterward, I founded my startup, Map&Rank.

Running a business wasn’t quite the glamorous experience I imagined when we started at Map&Rank. The smooth path I had envisioned for business growth was soon riddled with many hurdles, including frequent burnout, inexperience, and quite a handful of unrealistic assumptions. Interaction with fellow entrepreneurs has since helped me accept that change-making is a rocky road with pits and falls and that I am not alone in facing these numerous challenges. Despite these hurdles, our determination to make progress was strong. Fortunately, we had a diverse ecosystem of professionals from the Unusual Solutions team to help us successfully navigate this early and challenging stage of business. I’ll emphasize here that without this technical, business, and impact mentorship, our chances of steady growth and establishing a healthy business vision would have primarily been compromised.

On the bright side, this journey of over three years has equally had successes that we are very proud of. First and foremost will be the incredible team of 13 young men and women passionately driving our vision of spatial inclusion (SPACE-4-ALL) for critical safety and livelihood decision-making in communities vulnerable to climate hazards. Our work today is being conducted in over 21 communities in Cameroon, where through our open-source platform Residat, we are collaborating and supporting local councils with location-intelligent data for efficient disaster risk response and management. Through our work with Residat, we recently joined the UNICEF Venture Fund’s community of problem solvers to develop our open-source solution further to address climate inequities faced by children in particular.

To date, WeRobotics’ Unusual Solutions team continues to support, mentor, and help us navigate uncharted territories as we strive to achieve a sustainable and prosperous business status. We know firsthand how essential this post-competition collaboration between funders and founders can be in shaping supportive and insightful spaces for young entrepreneurs to thrive. I eagerly look forward to the portfolio of changemakers the next Unusual Solutions competition will bring on this beautiful journey.

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