In my experience interviewing start-up founders and CEOs on their strategies and financing plans, I have observed that there are a common set of reasons start-ups struggle and fail.
There’s also a consistent set of factors that make companies successful – and it takes more than a brilliant idea. There will be sweat and tears. Yet, start-up success still isn’t guaranteed. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of good advice on how to avoid building a business that ends up falling by the wayside.
At the Google Launchpad Accelerator Africa graduation ceremony in Lagos, Nigeria last month, Hustle picked the minds of IT start-up founders, and heard their tales of hard work, of trying and failing before finding their version of success.
Four of the 12 African companies that got into the third cohort of the accelerator programme were Kenyan: Data Integrated, a digital payments platform; Kwara, which provides a banking platform for microfinance institutions and Saccos; OkHi, a physical addressing platform; and Tambua, which provides a powerful, non-invasive diagnostic tool for tuberculosis and pneumonia.
Here are some of the business tips these founders shared:
1. Get started on the right foot
What starts well, runs well. Before you launch your start-up, you need to get a few things right. Make sure you have enough money to sustain your first year of operations, because you will need it.
Also, find a support system and the right mentors. Build a customer base before officially launching. Do your homework and become an expert in your field. Get your legal and tax issues in order, and above all, be passionate about what you’re doing.
2. Network and learn from other businesses
Look for opportunities to interact with your fellow entrepreneurs or industry experts. For instance, the Google Launchpad offers start-ups access to Cloud and Firebase Credits, three weeks of all-expenses-paid training at Launchpad Accelerator Africa (in Lagos and Nairobi), access to Google engineers and inclusion in the Launchpad Accelerator Global Community network of alumni and mentors.
The 12-week programme gives participating founders the chance to build relationships, share ideas and challenges, and mutually benefit each other. Get plugged in to interact with your peers.
3. Address excuses
Fear of failure can be crippling and a hindrance to sustaining your start-up. That’s why you need to let go of excuses to move forward. If you find yourself blaming your geographical region as the reason for your failure, you’ll never find success. Consider working with a life coach to overcome any personal hurdles that stand in the way of your professional progress.
Entrepreneurs tend to think they can do it alone. No one can whistle a symphony; it takes an orchestra. You’re going to need support, so make sure you hire the right team for your business. And don’t just hire talented individuals who have the skills that you lack; instead, find experts in the field who will take you all the way to the top. Also, look for people who buy into your vision and want to support it.
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