Last week Tech Hub held its monthly Meet and Greet event supported by Akribos Capital which saw some start-ups gathering to learn about how to invest on the stock market. It was a busy weekend in the local start-up ecosystem. It is exciting to see that Start-ups are looking for exposure and networking opportunities as such events are a good way of exchanging ideas and learning from each other.
This week are going to focus on the need to network in order to grow your start-up venture. As a Zimbabwean start-up founder you have been taught to remain secretive and avoid sharing too much. This week I want to say to you, following this path is the easiest path to failure for your start-up. I am advising you to stop this practise and go out the share your ideas and refine them through the free advice that you will get from those you interact with. What more, you may soon find a new business partner that your business needs to move on to the next level.
In Zimbabwe do we have the right support and are we doing the right things to grow our ventures? Take for example two types of entrepreneurs or start-up founders. The first one is running their business from their office somewhere in the industrial sites in Harare and they don’t interact with anyone. Day in day out they drive to their office and work from their office on the phone and waiting for customers to call or come to their premises.
The second entrepreneur is the same line of business and is working from a co-working space in the Central Business District. Each day he meets new people and attends events and training sessions hosted around the city. Instead of waiting for customers to come he is meeting other entrepreneurs and potential customers who help him shape his business and spreading the word to others.
Which of these entrepreneurs do you think stands a chance in our highly competitive environment? Who is more likely to succeed and who has more information than the other? It’s the entrepreneur who makes it a daily habit to meet new people and exposes their ideas to more and more people so that he gets useful feedback.
Most start-up founders feel that venturing out of their office is a waste of time and think that staying in their offices all day is the right way to run their business as they appear busy. As a startup advisor I meet many start-up founders who make this mistake and eventually find themselves failing. Despite having great and promising ideas, they fail because they did not refine and adjust their ideas using feedback from others. Doors were not opened and remained closed for them because they were too busy not leaving their comfort zone! They would not sacrifice time out of their ‘busy schedules’ meeting and interacting with others.
Every time I meet people with the great ideas but in some cases execution is lacking. Many discussions are held and ideas shared, but when it comes to execution there are many excuses ranging from I don’t have the time, I have no access to capital or foreign currency.
Zimbabwe like many developing countries is facing the problem of unstructured support for innovative entrepreneurs. We see a lot of start-ups failing at the very stages because there is no support mechanism to help ideas blossom into enterprises. This needs to change quickly if Zimbabwe is to develop innovative start-ups that solve real problems.
Few start-up founders reliase that their problems can be solved through the following;
I have heard many start-up founders complaining that they can’t get capital or an investor in their business and I have asked them, have you ever attended an event where you spoke to an investor or start-up advisors? Many say no, and this is the biggest problem for most start-ups. Not interacting and venturing out.
Not admitting that we have no experience in running a business and putting in place systems that work for a business is also one major problem for many start-ups. We are too proud to ask for help and sometimes we feel we know it all. This is always a recipe for disaster as we cannot be good at everything. Accepting this early on during the life of your start-ups cuts your journey and enhances your chances of success.
Hands up if your business is a one man enterprise! You do everything from marketing to running day to day operations. Without you the business is as good as dead. Many start-up founders fall into this trap and watch their business collapse or fail to grow. The problem is it is not easy to find a partner or the right person to work with in your business. There are just too many moving variables to make it work for a number of start-up founders. This is makes it even more important to make the right decision when building your team.
Be clear about who you partner with and do your home. Deciding who to include in your team is a huge subject requiring more time to dissect. Suffice to say select someone who adds value and does something you don’t do in your start-up. The stronger your team the bigger your chances are of attracting the right investors and growing your enterprise.