The journey so far: Eric Rutayisire, CEO, Charis UAS
Eric Rutayisire is the founder and the CEO of Charis UAS, a Rwanda-based unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) company. The company provides diversified services based on the drone technology to various industries, including agriculture, construction, media production and others. Its service offering includes drone pilot and safety training, as well as maintenance.
1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.
The adoption of the technology was a challenge. I thought that it would be easy for people to see the value of the technology, but I was wrong. Many were sceptical about a young African building such technology and many told me it was going to fail. Many times, we were kicked out of offices because people thought that we were just kids playing around.
We worked for an entire year for free just to prove the value of the technology to our customers and to understand their needs. We received feedback, [and] we tuned our solutions to meet their needs. Then the value of our solutions couldn’t be ignored.
We provided cheaper, faster and high-quality services compared to the existing services. [As a result] demand started coming in a lot.
2. Which business achievement are you most proud of?
Last year, we more than tripled our crew and revenue in just a year and opened [an office] in Côte d’Ivoire. This was quite an achievement.
3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.
Sometimes, I can lose patience when dealing with people/vendors who are not reacting fast to our demands. I surround myself with people who are more patient than myself and let them handle the negotiations.
4. Which popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?
I don’t agree that before starting a business, you need to write a long business plan and invest in having people help you write it. It’s totally a waste of time and money. Business plans are just wishes and are full of guesses that will never materialise.
Just start by building your MVP [minimal viable product]. Eric Ries describes it as: “A minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”
[Thereafter] go to the market and let the market tell you what is needed, then refine your idea based on their feedback.
As you iterate and pivot based on the market, you will then find a winning formula and a product that you can scale. Best book for this is The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.
5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you got started?
Sometimes not knowing the hard work involved in being an entrepreneur is actually a blessing. Otherwise, if you know the trials and hardship an entrepreneur goes through, you may never start a business. So, better to learn as you go.
‘The journey so far’ series is edited by Wilhelmina Maboja, with copy editing by Xolisa Phillip.