Having been engaged with startups from East Africa in the E4Impact MBA program for the last 6 years, I have had a chance to interact, teach, mentor, coach and judge several startup competitions. This has given me valuable insights for startup success which I would like to outline for startup founders to follow if they intend to be successful.
Find something that truly is your passion
My primary advice? Make sure you’re doing something you love and are passionate about, it will make long days feel shorter and keep you focused on your goals. The quote from Steve Jobs aptly puts the point across “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
Make sure there is a need
Sounds simple? Not really, make sure you’re providing something that people want, not what you think they want. Carry out some simple market research to be sure of what the market needs.
Building a startup is hard work, and unfortunately, quite time consuming especially at the beginning. To make it work, you’re going to need commitment and lots of ‘sweat capital’ so don’t give up easily. If there is one main reason why startups fail is because the founders quit. As Steve Jobs said, “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance…. Unless you are committed, you’re not going to survive. You’re going to give it up. So you’ve got to have an idea, or a problem or a wrong that you want toright that you’re passionate about; otherwise, you’re not going to have the perseverance to stick it through.”
Many African startups rush to borrow funds immediately they have an idea and easily get into the debt trap. Bootstrapping means starting an enterprise with little or no money, but utilizing the resources readily available to you. This means keeping your budget low, not taking a salary, working with your team to develop your product for sweat equity or outsourcing some functions altogether until the business grows.
Become vertically integrated
Forming a variety of partnerships within your value chain can be crucial to your success. Do not be too reliant on yourself. Always look for opportunities and partnerships within the supply chain where you can become integrated and save money. Also make sure you have multiple channels so you are not tied to one distributor. If you have the product, don’t just sit there and wait for someone to come move it to the end user find ways that this can be done easily, quickly and cheaper.
E4Impact East Africa Manager