It can get rough when you're starting a business, even when you're just starting out on your tech career. If you look and ask around, you'll notice that the executives and founders who made a success of their startups and tech careers are where they are because they took advice from others who had done it before.
Through our podcast, African Tech Coversations, we spoke to 7 business executives in the tech ecosystem in Africa to hear what they attribute their startup and / or career success to.
In this article, I have compiled some of the best tips that these executives have shared. This includes lessons learned and anything else they would have told a younger version of themselves.
Mteto Nyati, CEO of MTN South Africa
1. "The key thing that makes a person enjoy success in the corporate world, I learned that the hard way, you have to be a team player. You come all the way in school, you are able to become successful all by yourself but immediately you get to the world of work, the rules change. If you want to go far, you have to be able to work with others."
2. "The second thing is you need to learn to ask for help. A lot of us think asking for help is a sign of weakness. I would encourage people to shout and ask for help early"
3. "I would say the third thing to succeed in the corporate world, surround yourself with people that can support you. Have an executive sponsor or a mentor. They can guide you. Leverage their knowledge and experiences."
Justin Spratt, MD of Quirk Africa
4. "The investment needed to start a web technology business is very small thanks to the Internet. The Internet has democratized the starting and creating of businesses."
5. "Start stuff. Youngsters live in a very special time, at the moment we have world peace and not having to send youth to wars. The intersection of the internet and peaceful times means young people can do a lot of stuff. I don't think young graduates should focus on career, I highly recommend they take a year off just to make stuff."
6. "There's a lot of money that's going to go looking for young, African creative talent. There's just not enough good stuff yet, so be a part of that good stuff and you'll see everything come right."
Oresti Patricios, Founder & CEO of OrnicoGroup
7. "The tech is a small part of it. It really is about the people behind the tech. I'd rather invest in a company that has above average tech but amazing people. Rather than amazing tech and terrible people."
8. "You need to create your own space. I don't want us to be competing. How do we carve our own niche? I want us to constantly create our own category and not compete."
9. "Business is about people."
Trevor Wolfe, MD of Springleap
10. "We got about R90 million in funding to start a new business unit and two years later we crashed it. It was a heart breaking lesson, i.e. we spent a year in a room building products without talking to customers. So when we launched we found that people didn't use the product and by then it was too late to try and rescue it."
11. "If a client says 'that looks interesting' then it's a NO, if they say 'yes' it's a MAYBE and if they say 'here's $5' then it's a YES."
12. "If no one is buying it's probably because you haven't hit product market fit."
Dominique Collett, Senior Investment Executive at Rand Merchant Insurance Holdings
13. "I think if you design a business for exit, you're going to fail. In order to build a business you have to have a higher purpose. If you're not building a business that is greater than yourself, you're going to fail. If you're building a business focussed solely on exiting or making money, then you're not doing something to change the world."
14. "You need to build a business hat is ambitious and you really believe is going to change the world. If you have that kind passion and that kind of energy you become irresistable."
15. "You're not going to build an A-list team or get people to put in 20 hours a day if your only purpose is money, it has to be something bigger than that."
Matsi Modise, MD of SiMODiSA
16. "Your passion will always pick you up in the morning. Your ability to be resilient, your ability to be loyal to your passion is something that will always keep you moving."
17. "If you're passionate about something someone will always, somebody will recognise you and want you to be part of something bigger."
18. "Don't be a victim, whether of color or gender. By doing that you liberate yourself."
Brandon Doyle, Co-Founder & CEO of Convergence Partners
19. "As a small business you can't afford to get your hiring wrong, because one wrong person in a small team can be a big problem. My hiring philosophy has always been to hire people I know or through one degree of separation, i.e. people I know through other people I trust."
20. "Everybody needs a couple of mentors in their careers, I was very lucky I had a few of those. I was lucky I worked with some brilliant minds, who weren't only brilliant but were willing to share their views with me."
21. "With all this digitization and overload of information, nobody wants loud mouths on top of all of it. Introverts are back, especially in ICT if you look around. Anyone feeling anxious feeling they are a bit shy and can't keep up with the more forward speaking extroverts, stick to your guns, the quiter more considered, thought provoking people are coming to the fore."