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One of the most useful resources available for entrepreneurs are other entrepreneurs.  Individuals who have gone through the startup process before, or who are experiencing similar challenges, are often the people who can provide the most valuable, first-hand advice.  Offering far more than advice, some entrepreneurs are devoting most or all of their own startup’s mission and function to helping other entrepreneurs.  Here are two startups dedicated to paying it forward.

Francis Onwumere – Prowork

When talking with Francis Onwumere, it is immediately clear  that he possesses the type of innovative vision needed to understand how entrepreneurship can help not only the individual, but entire communities on a large scale.  It is a combination of his infectious enthusiasm for startups, his ability to recognize real problems, and his skilled approach for solving these problems in a tangible way that led him to tackle one of Nigeria’s most pressing challenges for startups: team collaboration.Onwumere attended Startup Weekend Lagos in September of 2011 with the goal of developing a group messaging system for small companies.  Like many Startup Weekend attendees, his vision soon evolved with the help of his team.  Understanding that collaboration is essential to the success of a startup, Francis began to add layers to his group messaging concept that shifted the focus to communal project management.  By the end of the event, they had developed “Prowork.me”; a collaboration platform that enables individuals to manage tasks in a variety of work settings  with real time collaboration, updates, and reporting features.  Prowork accommodates teams ranging from only a few people to large enterprise scale projects.Francis sees entrepreneurship as a growing culture in Africa; “Generally, people here are looking towards entrepreneurship instead of getting a job where you could be asked to leave at any time”, he explains.  The interest in entrepreneurship isn’t lacking – but Francis did recognize early on that Africa, in many ways, is still behind the curve in terms of implementing seamless communication. He explains, “We noticed everyone here needs help with collaboration. It’s one of the biggest problems that keep us from startups … I think that Prowork is doing its small part to help people.”One feature of Prowork that Francis hopes will help individual entrepreneurs build up a strong work background is a system of tracking individual contribution to projects.  He explains, “You can measure your performance in any part of a project – so we figured that if we could share performance publicly, then people could see that this person has constantly delivered on all of the projects they have been a part of.” It is expected that this feature will become a crucial part of future team-building processes.

Other features include adding team members through email notification, assigning tasks, sharing cloud files, receiving push notifications, tracking progress, generating reports about the project, and conducting live chats or calls. Prowork is available for mobile, web, or desktop – ensuring that regardless of location or preference, individuals can access their projects.

Francis plans on attending another Startup Weekend event to find more team members to join Prowork.  In the future, Prowork might be another place where entrepreneurs can locate team members. Francis explains, “Going forward, we want to see Prowork do more of that: help businesses collaborate and also find people they need.”

Mikael Cho – Ooomf

Mikael Cho, founder of newly-launched company “Ooomf”, is also on a mission to take down challenges that many entrepreneurs face.  While at Startup Weekend Montreal, Cho witnessed countless exciting ideas for products.  However, Cho knew that many of these would remain just that — ideas.  Cho identified that without the right resources or momentum, many fledgling startups would extinguish before they could hit a stride. He knew that these ideas needed to be cultivated, and ideally, garner a following of some kind before their launch.

In order to buy more time for promising products, Cho developed his own startup, Ooomf, to function as a platform where promising new apps can ‘exist’ and garner enthusiasm from communities before their launch date.  At the post-launch stage, Ooomf provides efficient ways of marketing apps to the public and even maintaining community support for apps hoping to stay alive in the Apple store. He explains, “the goal is to help mobile developers get a passionate user base as they move from pre launch to app store and after that.”  Cho envisions a ‘safer’ development stage that simultaneously offers publicity for exciting new apps.  Even minimal exposure for ideas ‘in progress’ can keep startups afloat during that crucial incubation time while the product is developing.  Ooomf is also a place where app developers can share more about their story with their followers and describe their progress more personally. Ultimately, Ooomf is providing a whole new layer to the development time frame in which a “buzz” is created for apps that will support their production leading up to launch and beyond.

 Cho attributes his ‘chain reaction’ of successes to Startup Weekend.  It was primarily from observing the atmosphere at the Montreal event that he was struck with his idea – and it is where he met organizers from a startup incubator that Ooomf was later accepted into.  Participating in the incubator then led to an investment, and now, Cho is positioned to offer a valuable resource to other entrepreneurs.

Both Ooomf and Prowork were developed in response to problems or challenges that keep startups from progressing to the next level.  Mikael Cho and Francis Onwumere are entrepreneurs who believe in empowering others – and by responding to the needs of entrepreneurs, leaders like Cho and Onwumere will become critical assets for startup ecosystems.  Co-founders and teams know better than anyone else how challenging it is to start a company from scratch; they are the most natural resource for other entrepreneurs.  By tapping into experience-based knowledge, future startups can progress more quickly and efficiently.  Startups helping startups: one of the most efficient and progressive ways to build and support entrepreneurial ventures.

Claire Topalian Claire Topalian
(@clairetopalian) Blog, Professional Writing, Communications and PR Specialist. I craft compelling, mission-driven content for companies and individuals that amplifies brand awareness, fosters community, and drives engagement. My experience includes work with tech startups, major corporations, and international non-profits. @clairetopalian