4 factors for successful innovation


The four key factors underpinning all successful innovation can be distilled from the story of the invention of the world wide web by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, according to Dillon Mann, head of communications at the World Wide Web Foundation.

Speaking at the inaugural AHUB held last week during the AfricaCom conference, Mann said four key lessons can be gleaned from the invention of the web, to achieve future successful innovations.

First, he said, innovations must look to solve a general problem in the market.  Second, innovation should combine two or more existing systems in a new or unique way.

Third, the timing of a new product or service launch must be right for the market, Mann said.

Finally, the entrepreneur behind the innovation must be persistent, and have the willingness not to focus on cash at first.

“Tim Berners-Lee have away the internet for free. I’m obviously not encouraging all entrepreneurs to do that; but if you look for example at Facebook, they had a long period of product focus before they moved on to monetisation,” Mann said.

While Berners-Lee’s invention has obviously become a global phenomenon, Mann said all innovators face ongoing challenges in today’s world – even with inventions like the internet -, which include difficulties in scaling.

“Only 43 per cent of the world is online, so if you’ve ever been online, you’re in the minority, which is man,” Mann said.

“The main problem is that it’s very expensive to get online, especially in developing countries.”

With regard to the web specifically, Mann said corporate attempts to control usage through the creation of “walled gardens”; as well as governmental control – such as surveillance, and censorship -, are the key challenges the internet faces in the modern world.


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Inspired and excited by the African tech entrepreneurial scene, Gabriella spends her time travelling around the continent to report on the most innovative tech startups, the most active investors, and the latest trends emerging in the ecosystem.

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