Founders Spotlight:Tebogo Mogaleemang (Founder & Organization Lead,Spectrum Analytics)


As a natural-born problem solver as well as a lifelong learner and student of the human condition, Tebogo recognized and set out to plug up the holes which were apparent in the country's preexisting tech offerings. Through Spectrum Analytics, he and his team want to show how the correct utilization of technology can create better lives. In this interview, he chronicles how they plan on doing this and so much more!

In your own words, tell us who Tebogo Mogaleemang is

I wear a couple hats. However, I do consider myself an ardent student of the human condition. I have been curious about being human for as long as I can remember and that has made me a curious lifelong learner. This has allowed us to explore different fields over the years. These however can be condensed into problem-solving and community building. Education-wise, I graduated with a Masters of Engineering in Electronics from the University of Southampton in 2008. The thing I love about problem-solving is that it always forces one to learn appropriate tools for the job, and over the years I have grown to pick on Systems Thinking and Design Thinking to enhance my problem-solving toolbox. I also have advisory roles in the Computer Science & Information System department and the Centre for Business Management, Entrepreneurship, and General Education at BIUST. 

What made you decide to go the entrepreneurship path after a couple of years in a corporate setup?

My love for problem-solving! I found the corporate world restrictive in expressing that. Entrepreneurship is no different really - one monetizes from a solved problem. The transition was really easy for me as an engineer as problem-solving is the essence of any engineering discipline. The other factor was my appetite to build solutions with impact. In hindsight, I realize that I get motivated by purpose in what I do and the corporate world didn't offer a taste of that. Even though I am an engineer, I consider technology in and of itself useless, so entrepreneurship offered me a way to apply it in solving problems I care about.

Please briefly take us through your journey to being a tech social entrepreneur?

I actually became an entrepreneur out of necessity - and accidentally. After leaving my job in 2013, I took a year out for some self-reflection. A friend linked me up with a company that wanted to hire an IT person and during the 'interview' I convinced the company to let me come in as a consultant. While they thought they had a technology problem I realized their challenge was more than just technology. My whole experience on the project made me realize why companies struggled with operationalizing their strategies - by failing to align them with processes, people, and technology. This is at the heart of most challenges around us - especially in the public sector. My high appetite for impact through my work led me to deliberately think about technology as a tool for addressing our community problems, so tech social entrepreneurship became a natural evolution. It is difficult for me to know how to do something for the benefit of others and just sit back with acting.

Please tell us more about your startup, Spectrum Analytics

Spectrum Analytics is an innovation studio that offers solutions for organizations looking to adapt and thrive in the digital economy. Businesses face many challenges due to digital disruption, so we saw a need for services and products to allow them to start, accelerate and sustain their digital business transformation. We really offer end-to-end solutions including data analytics, application development, process innovation, and cybersecurity. We also build our own products - with a bias towards social-oriented challenges. We were one of the five out of 395 companies that were funded through BIF 3rd Call For Proposals in 2020. Our solutions MmaB matches vulnerable Batswana to social assistance programs and services in the ecosystem by digitally transforming how we currently deliver these.  This part of Spectrum started off as more of a CSI kind of thing for us, but it has become an integral part of who we are as a company. It bodes well with our mission to creatively disrupt the status quo through technology-driven innovation.

What was the motivation for starting Spectrum Analytics?

I think it is the recognition of gaps in our local offerings and the desire to showcase how technology - if well utilized - can create better and sustainable lives and industries. To specify, it was our underutilization of data that motivated me the most. In the Digital Economy data is a key value driver, so seeing missed opportunities and linking its underutilization to our systemic problems motivated us to create a company that closed the gaps.

At Spectrum Analytics,your tagline is “data.insight.value”. Please elaborate on this

Data is a digital mineral that is now everywhere due to the increasing adoption of digital technologies. In and of itself, data is useless, so to make use of it, you need to extract actionable insights from it. Value is then generated by acting on the intelligence derived from the data. We coined that tagline to emphasize how companies can love from raw data to business value. The process of deriving insight from data is analytics, and we offer a spectrum of services there. It all really played well with our thinking around what we want to do.

As a B2B enterprise specializing in relatively new and emerging concepts such as Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence, what challenges have you faced?

When we started in 2017 I was surprised at how local organizations were left behind - including what we now pick as the early movers. So the initial challenge we had was that we were trying to promote solutions that companies didn't know they even needed. So we had a high hurdle to jump there. The lack of skills and talent is another factor that we faced, and really still face now. As a local company in a highly innovative space, we faced a lot of credibility challenges early on. We still see organizations that want us to have project experience in a space where everyone is doing things for the first time in the country. That perceived credibility issue is a big barrier with multinational corporates who make decisions outside the country and mainly run satellite offices here.

How have you been trying to overcome those challenges?

Well, it will forever be a work-in-progress. We have engaged the early movers to understand the local landscape better. This has really asked to be grounded and aligned with industry shifts. For the digital skills gap we identified, my work with developer communities and students is to address that. We have been hosting monthly meetups, tutorials, and boot camps on emerging technologies, use cases, and best practices for the last 3 years. I am proud to share that we have influenced how our tertiary institutions teach students and the learning tools they use in these emerging fields. I have mentored startups through BIH's Microsoft program to assist them in using emerging technologies to improve their products and services. I also have offered guest lectures and public lectures on 4IR technologies and related topics through BIUST and UB. I believe these are important to raise public awareness and ground our ecosystem on how to think about technology and its usefulness relative to our daily challenges and aspirations. There is no better way to demystify these technologies to the public.

On the other hand, what are some upsides to working on a startup engaged in such a new and niche field?

You grow from continuous learning. You are forced to get used to working under uncertainty as well - which is important for innovative problem-solving. As a startup you do not have the resources to do everything on your own, so you are forced to collaborate where possible to avoid needless re-invention of the wheel. The freedom to experiment is critical as well, and it is something that most corporations do not offer. It really frees one from the fear of failing and endless tinkering - those are important to sustainable innovation.

You are also involved in various social initiatives like being the founding organizer of PyData BW and a STEM Ambassador. In your opinion, how important are such initiatives in the growing adoption of emerging technologies in Botswana?

Very important. I founded the local PyData chapter because I identified a skills gap in data analytics, Machine learning, and AI back then. Having had practical exposure in these fields before they became buzzy, I decided to share my knowledge on tools and technologies used by those at the cutting edge of these fields. The global PyData offers a platform for sharing knowledge and learning from and with others - globally and locally. Everything about PyData represents the application of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics disciplines. These allow organizations and individuals to solve some really amazing problems. This is why I invested time in other local developer community activities (GDG Gaborone, Facebook Developer Circles Gaborone & Women In Machine Learning & Data Science Gaborone).  The most innovative and successful countries are good at leveraging STEM innovations. Emerging technologies offer us new and endless opportunities to solve our problems as a country. They offer us a path towards our sustainable development through the exploitation of our human capacity to solve our own challenges - which is what the knowledge economy we find elusive as a country is really all about. With STEM, I have been in the STEM Festival Organising Committee since 2017 - it is only this year where I am not directly involved.

From being involved in such initiatives for a couple of years now, how would you gauge their effectiveness, and if there is a need to, what can be done to improve this effectiveness?

I have seen the transformation of our landscape from developer community activities. We have influenced local tertiary institutions to upgrade their courses and teach students how to solve problems using cutting-edge technologies and best practices. Our interactions with students and their growth have been priceless for me. I have seen some of them grow right Infront of my eyes! Unfortunately, the work with developer communities is on a voluntary basis and has little support from industries that harvest the capacity we build. We could do more with ecosystem collaborations and mobilization of resources through CSI budgets. Industry engagement and the open sharing of challenges and solutions can enrich our events as well. It is the work we have done with primary and secondary school students introducing them to coding - through playing with robotic kits - that remains one of my satisfying initiatives. Unfortunately, this work also didn’t get industry support as well.

Botswana has big ambitions of being an active part of the 4IR but adoption of AI & Machine Learning technologies, which are core components of the 4IR, is still very low and slow. What do you think can be done to speed up the rate of adoption?

First, there is an awareness challenge on technologies driving 4IR and what 4IR really is. For example, in forums, you will always hear some people saying we are not ready for 4IR or that we are on 2IR or so. These are comments that show how people really do not understand what is really going on. The factors driving 4IR are shaping our reality now, so readiness is immaterial, as we are being influenced whether we like it or not. The second challenge is that we are not showing how the average Motswana can benefit from 4IR. To close the gap we should look into our socio-economic challenges and highlight how 4IR driving technologies can help us solve them. At the moment we are stuck in a buzzword bubble as our people cannot relate. The third challenge is that most 4IR dialogues in Botswana are driven by 'old' people. We need to get young people involved as these are the generations who will lead the 4IR revolution as they are agile and have the energy to drive out transformation efforts. In recognizing these challenges, we came up with a project we dubbed 4IR4Vision2036 which was to raise public awareness on 4IR and highlight how they can be used to address the challenges we need to overcome to achieve our sustainable development aspirations. Unfortunately, we had to park the campaign due to Covid-19 and a lack of support. Siloed approaches by different stakeholders do not help in this instance. However, we have been challenged to bring this back recently.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers regarding what Spectrum Analytics is up to,projectwise, currently, and in the near future?

We are currently re-inventing ourselves from within and expanding our business offerings through global partnerships - to augment our own capabilities. Please watch the space for all that we will soon announce. We are also building great internal products as well. Besides the projects I have already mentioned, specifically MmaB and 4IR4Vision2036, we are soon going to launch a really exciting project called Hack4Blood. With Hack4Blood we intend to address the perennial shortage of blood in our national blood banks through inclusive innovation appealing to all stakeholders in our ecosystem - including all the readers. We are re-inventing ‘motho le motho kgomo’ to demonstrate what we can do if we re-learn to solve our complex challenges together. Watch the space this month!

What advice can you give to businesses that are still hesitant to adopt and incorporate emerging technologies like the ones being offered by Spectrum Analytics into their business processes?

In the words of Marshall Goldsmith ‘What got you here won’t get you there!’ These technologies are disrupting all aspects of our lives, transforming how we live and work. Any organization that is not leveraging emerging technologies risks becoming obsolete within a few years as it fails to meet its customers’ needs and transform its business model to gain a competitive advantage. The opportunity cost is going to be immense for digital laggards.

From an entrepreneurial perspective and experience, what advice can you give to people looking into founding a tech startup in Botswana?

I will advise them to just get started and think beyond Botswana especially given the landmark African Continental Free Trade Area agreement now in place. With business models evolving as well, it is also important to think about collaborative platforms - local and global - and avoid competition for zero. With so many community challenges there is also a need to future proof our new ventures to balance profitability with impact - allowing us to build solutions that add value to our communities. Tech innovation is all about continuous disruption so it is important to be comfortable with experimentation and more experimentation. With tech, it is also easy to fall in love with one’s idea and forget about the people we build products for, so taking a human-centered approach to building solutions is key to building great products that our users will love and use.

Lastly, please share with our readers where you can be reached if they are interested in getting in touch

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