It's easy to get overwhelmed by the number of tasks to do in startup life. As you know we were very active in building awareness of our brand and vision in the early beginning. This is important, but our values have always been action over words. Showcasing that you can execute. You have to make sure you find the right processes for your team, find the right people to do it with, and build the product right. It is all easy to sit and talk about it yet it’s quite a different thing to go out to the field and do the work.
Now that is exactly what our main focus was in 2019 and still is. Doing the work and building the Diwala platform and App. As we found ourselves going back and forth to Norway and Uganda for these tests quite a lot, we realised we needed one of our team members in Uganda on a full-time basis there. Marina, our adventurous CCO so happened to volunteer for the position — and moved to Uganda with the mission to hold in the product design, testing and start paving way for the implementation of Diwala in Uganda.
As you might remember, we issued the first-ever blockchain-based credentials on the African continent in December 2018 with our development partner Clarke International University. Since then, all throughout the year 2019, we have been testing and developing the platform and app with development partners Clarke International University and Fontes Foundation.
In Diwala, we are dedicated to building technology that is inclusive for all. That is why 2019 was dedicated to making sure 100% of a class can achieve the verification value of their certificate or credential from our platform. What we came to realise when building a product in Uganda, Kampala Is that not everyone has a functional smartphone. Therefore, as we kept testing with people from various backgrounds, some people were not able to receive the certificates.
Learning from our collective experience, we know the need to build products with human ethics and values grounded into them. So we aren't creating divides among people based on their financial background, but rather build tools that include and give everyone a chance. We felt it was our duty to make sure that no one falls behind when offering this service to people.
We will always keep working on ways to optimize the reach of our platform, and the next step on this will be how we can offer our service where there is no internet service, although that is another juicy challenge for us to tackle in the coming years.
We did a lot of things in 2019… And as product development was number 1 on the list, we found it necessary also to do a few other things…
As you might remember from one of our previous articles “The importance of SOFT SKILLS in Uganda”, we are in Diwala very focused on finding ways to support youth and skill development through our Skill Identity app. As we started a big round of interviews in January/February with various employers in Uganda on their recruitment and verification processes, it became quite evident that students struggle to get practical experience. To address this, we built a project together with our collaboration partners CIP, called “the iamemployable program”.
The Iamemployable program is a postgraduate internship program that trains graduates in practical and soft skills and gives the students digital proof and verification of this training. The purpose of the Iamemployable program is to strengthen the employability and skills of newly graduated young people, as well as enabling easy and secure verification of competencies for employers.
We launched a test of the program in August 2019 with great interest from both teachers and the students. Due to COVID-19 restrictions in Uganda we are currently reiterating on how we can adapt the program to the country guidelines and still link students to digital opportunities.
The iamemployable program is a union, and we are connecting the most relevant, innovative, and needed skill providers together with the students that need it. We, therefore, welcome all practical and soft skill trainers in East and West Africa, to please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org, so we can showcase your skill development services to our Skill identity users.
Our vision for a skill identity is not just to showcase your certificates and past experience — but also to help and guide people on their journey ahead.
We see the need to grow awareness, knowledge, and a community around blockchain technology and self-sovereign identity. On our journey of meeting people all over the world, we have realized that the general public’s knowledge around blockchain is highly tied to topics concerning crypto. We felt like there was something missing… a community. About your future digital identity, its possibilities, challenges, and everything around it.
You might have seen us advertising for the event on our social media pages, and maybe you even attended one of the meetups. It has, to our delightfulness, been a positive receiving event- and in our meetup group, we currently have a member group of a growing 437 members and we managed to hold 5 meetups in 2019 with a number of important and interesting actors.
If you, reading this — want to get invitations to join in, we have currently, (due to COVID-19) made all meetups to webinars, and it’s possible to attend anywhere you are in the world. Would be happy to see you there next time, which will be announced in this group. https://www.meetup.com/didnorway/
This program is created by Mastercard and NFT Ventures and focused on partnership opportunities collectively with Mastercard. By building the Lighthouse Development Program, Mastercard and NFT seek to put their partnership values into practice. Pairing the energy and innovation of fintech with the stability and distribution at large corporates, they want to strengthen the entire ecosystem, increasing the size of the industry we all share.
We wanted a strong advisor on scaling an international blockchain startup. So lucky for us, we received investment and were admitted to the Dlab program in New York in September.
New York, is definitely something else. They are NOT joking around there.. And they have speed and hustle factor-like nowhere else we have been. Dlab truly helped us to structure our internal processes better as well as getting us ready for a larger investor round.
Dlab program at the Dlab offices in New York, where the whole team visited and worked at various times before Christmas 2019.
SOSV is a global venture capital firm with over one hundred employees. They have close to a thousand companies in their portfolio and invest in 150 new startups every year. Emurgo is the venture arm of the Cardano Blockchain.
The dlab program included a 200 K USD from SOSV & Emurgo, which allowed us to scale our team. YEY
We expanded our team, with a new Chief Product Officer. And we chose no other, then Julie Otterdal, who worked for us as a consultant in 2018. We were so happy with her back then, and we had indeed been missing her a lot since she left. We decided to try our luck and offer her a job, and it so happens that she accepted!
We are truly lucky and blessed to have her on board, as Julie is the most amazingly empathetic person, and a process-driven, system lover- UX machine! She has been a great benefactor to improving our systems. Julie is in charge of driving the Diwala product forward, and we are truly confident in her abilities to make the Diwala platform and app, the best it can be.
Although it was a challenging year for us, it’s been an amazing learning experience that set the foundation for years to come. We have built the core functionality of the Diwala platform this year, and we have refined many of the important functionalities. Rome was not built in a day and it’s the same with product development. We will never stop iterating and improving the platform, but it’s important to take a moment and realize that we have come a long way since the very beginning of Diwala.
One of those moments was the graduation ceremony with our development partner Fontes Foundation, where all students received certificates from the Diwala platform. It was a special moment for us to see both students and parents excited about digitally verifiable Diwala certificates. Fontes Foundation has been our development partner since the beginning, and they have helped us see and look into many of the specific technical challenges needed for optimization. We were happy to share this special moment with them.
During 2019 we were also lucky to get some recognition for our work. In February we got selected as a Blockchain Impact Award Runner up, featured in Newsweek magazine. Check out the article here
Thank you so much for believing in us Newsweek and The One Initiative 🙏 We are so proud to be featured. See the article from The One Initiative here
As the year of 2019 rounded up, we finished the Dlab program after a very intense prep time for the next year to come and our big funding round. We had a very clear path, strategy, and goals ahead. We released the Beta version of our Skill Identity app right before Christmas, and a refresh of some core features in the platform — a lovely Christmas gift to all. It was indeed a big milestone for Diwala.
The team had grown, not only in knowledge but on personal levels too and we felt ready and prepared to tackle whatever would come in 2020! We thought… We had absolutely no idea what 2020 would throw in our faces… And that story my friends… will have to wait for the next article :)
The Diwala Team
Read the next article and story of 2020 here; https://www.diwala.io/post/2020-looking-back-at-the-year-that-was
Or read the Story of the beginning of Diwala here; www.diwala.io/post/the-story-of-diwala