The #HustleTales of David Gonahasa, Founder of RoundBob

Roundbob.com is a Ugandan technology start-up created by David Gonahasa in 2013 and developed on the possibility of making travel more accessible to Ugandans and Africans to various destinations worldwide. David believes that travel, both domestic and cross-border, has the potential to change Africa by providing exposure, business opportunities and job creation. It is on this premise that he developed RoundBob.

Current Location:

Desk at Krish Mall in Bugolobi.

Current gig(s):

Roundbob.com and Roundbob.com.

Current computer(s):

Lenovo Thinkpad X220.

Current mobile device(s):

Huawei something and Nokia something (easier on the battery).

Terms that best describes how you work:

Grit (it has to happen) and “What if…?”

How did you end up at your current gig?

I quit the last one and figured why not try travel. While I was doing that, RoundBob was born. There is also the official version, I was planning a trip and realised it was so difficult to find options and everything seemed too expensive. As such I thought, why not create a way to make it easier for me to travel…

round
www.roundbob.com

Are there any career decisions/life choices/failures that were fundamental in making you the person you are now, doing what you are doing now?

I created my first start-ups in 2004, marketuganda.com and mediaflower.com. We made money selling web hosting and a web directory in a market that was not ready. When these failed I went on a job hopping spree, doing about 8 jobs in 7 years, reporting to different CEOs and most importantly learning.

I went from advertising to Broadband over Powerlines, Telecom Distribution, IT, Mobile Payment systems and more. This did several things like giving me a mix of influences and knowledge, but more importantly, it gave me the confidence and belief that we have the power to create change in our communities and create lasting entities. It also made me understand the sacrifice it takes to make that happen.

I should also add that the opportunity to work across multiple African countries in the past made me realize how possible it was to scale a business across Africa, and also learn models that would make this possible. So, RoundBob was built to scale from day one.

To be honest, the decision to start Roundbob was a fluke. It could have been anything else, like franchising a hygienic rolex brand (the Chapatti Rolex), but the fundamental motivation was the same – solve a problem with a relevant solution.

On a lighter note, I also really do appreciate the liberty that creating a successful startup has the potential to give.

Is your startup able to fully support you or do you have side gigs to sustain you as it grows? Any stories of some of the struggles/sacrifices you’ve had to make to see this dream come to life?

When I decided to start Roundbob, that was it. I actually quit a very good part time gig to focus. Without this focus, I doubt we could have achieved the growth and traction we have today. The thing about focus is you have to fully immerse yourself into what you are doing. Now, it can be very rough. As a matter of fact, in hindsight I wish I had created some cash generating activity before I took this walk. Anything really to make sure the rent is covered and the basics are…but no, I took the tougher “jump in head first” option.

We as a team have had to make sacrifices; downsizing on almost every level, occasional shakedowns and making great great friends with the rolex guy. More importantly, these sacrifices have enabled us to focus our energies on creating what we think is the best product that will guarantee revenues and also cash flows.

Now about the, “Is the start up able to fully support myself and my team?” the best answer to that is WE GET BY!

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Google Analytics, Crazy Egg.

What’s your workspace like?

Organised chaos. I know where everything is until someone tries to organise it.

How big is the team of people you work with and what’s your formula for managing them?

The team fluctuates between 7 to 11 individuals. My formula is “we are a team”. We share the same vision for this product and believe in it. That keeps us together even when things are rough.

On a more technical level, we define roles, responsibilities and deliverables then check on these as often as possible. We also have a level of project autonomy. Plan your day, it may be flexible, but deliver on what you need to do. This may be a very fluid mechanism of management, but however it does keep a start-up team together especially when remuneration is not the real incentive.

What’s your best time-saving trick/life hack?

It is never that serious. Also, things seem easier when you have some adrenaline running.

How do you get the adrenaline running?

Shoot it…not! The pressure of a startup will do that to you. It just keeps you going. I once had the chance to rally and driving on those roads and the constant rush is almost comparable to what you will go through running Roundbob. It may not be as fun, but yeah, the challenge will just get it going.

A completely unrelated answer (this is not a piece of advice), it helps to do a power slide once in a while.

power slide
Powerslide, just what the doctor recommended.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

Hmmm… the good old notebook (I plan to graduate to a diary one day) and sticky notes. However, I must say everything seems easier with a personal assistant.

What beef do you have with all the to-do apps? Tried any of them?

Maybe I just have a good mind and can remember very many things. Whereas I am innovating within the tech space, for some reason I just never got into using to-do apps or calendar tools. I know there are some amazing ones, but writing a daily to-do list and a 5-things-to-accomplish weekly list seems to work. At least I use my phone alarm so cut me some slack!!

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?

My TV. It makes more sense than some people. Plus, depending on what you watch, it could make you more knowledgeable.

Some of the TV shows/things on TV you usually end up zeroing on to?

I watch a lot of Bloomberg, especially on the weekends. It is like free business school. From understanding markets, business decisions, interviews with global business leaders and profiling some of the biggest businesses, it just makes a lot of sense. One of the shows there I watch is Studio 1.0 where I get to see chats with Tech leaders and CEOs and get a slight glimpse into their minds. The other is INSIDE, a program that profiles different businesses. Those and a lot more. It really helps to watch this kind of thing if you are running a business.

I have seen real stories of persistence, innovation and absorbed a lot of information. For example, I learnt that by 2035, 1 in 5 global travelers will either be leaving or travelling into China. Such knowledge does support some of our business decisions like getting into China.

One other thing I really like to watch are Ted Talks. This may cost you some data, but you will be surprised at the sheer amount of knowledge through experience you can find there. From life skills to business skills and much more. Why I appreciate these more is that you get to hear from an experience perspective, not assumptions and hypotheses like you will find in many books.

What everyday thing are you better at than most?

Risk taking and doing things otherwise considered dumb and irrational.

How do you recharge?

Plug in the battery pack – sleep!! That and driving around aimlessly. The latter really clears the mind.

What do you listen to while you work?

Everyone screaming about everything. That and Billboard Top Hits of the 90s. Oh, and my new favourites Floetry, Jessie Ware & August Alsina.

maxresdefault (1)
Jessie Ware

What are you currently reading?

The stash of overdue contracts and a number of travel industry reports.

What usually leads you to buy a book? Any books you’ve read recently that have impacted on you? 

To be very honest, I don’t buy many books. I pick them up as I go, usually if I am travelling. I am still the kind that asks, ‘Does this book have pictures?’. I will however buy a book based on the author. For example, I will buy any and everything Paul Arden. He has a rather interesting writing style, minimalist and greatly sarcastic but with very strong underlying lessons.

My reading is very targeted. If I want to learn about a specific thing or industry, I will buy or collect as much information as possible. This will give me very industry/topic-specific knowledge.

Yes, some of the books, articles, and blogs I have had the chance to read have been rather inspirational. I pick the lessons and adapt them to my life where relevant.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

A mix of both really. I would say introverted extrovert (I’m more of the latter).

What’s your sleep routine like?

Enter my bed, close my eyes and hopefully sleep. Also, hopefully at night. On a more serious note, that is one of the things that goes out the window on this entrepreneurship journey. I sleep when I have a chance to.

How do you strike a balance between work, family, friends and other social obligations?

Since starting Roundbob a lot has suffered. It has been work work work. As a matter of fact, in 2016 I hope to figure out that balance. Ask me again next year…

Any mentors/role models that you are working with/have inspired you and what lessons have you managed to learn from them? 

I have learnt from a couple. I will not mention names, but I will mention some of the things I have learnt;

  • Be humble and tactful. It gets you far.
  • Grit. Suffer, with hope.
  • Pivot. If it’s not working, find out why and how to get it working.
  • Define the Why, What, How of your business.
  • Companies are about revenue. All other things simply enable you to achieve the main goal.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

2 pieces;

Because you have 2 legs doesn’t mean you can climb 2 trees at the same time. Climb one tree get to the top, place your flag, climb down, and then climb the next.

In business, find a marching band (trend), get to the front of it and, like in baseball, hit them where they are not. (differentiate)

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see ___________ answer these same questions.

Brian Longwe

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Yes (*cue shameless plug) Please visit Roundbob.com an African focused travel booking platform that will help you afford to travel. Open a travel wallet and put aside a little for that next trip. You may be shocked at the options and discounts.

Also, I would like to send shout outs to….not!!

If you have any additional questions for David, feel free to drop them in the comment section below. He will try and answer those he can. Click here to read other Hustle Tales

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The Hustle Tales (adapted from LifeHackers, How I Work series) asks people that are doing epic things how they go through their daily routines to make sure whatever is needed to get the job accomplished is done. If you are interested in doing one these interviews or know someone you think should do one, inbox us with the details and we’ll see if we can make it happen.

Written by Hustle Tales

The Hustle Tales (adapted from LifeHackers, How I Work series) asks people that are doing epic things how they go through their daily routines to make sure whatever is needed to get the job accomplished is done.

If you are interested in doing one these interviews or know someone you think should do one, inbox us with their details and we'll see if we can make it happen.

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