By Pumulo Ngoma
Throughout the Jamlab Accelerator Programme journey, I noticed that my approach to entrepreneurship changed and I wanted to share some of my key thoughts.
1. Trust your intuition
This has become my mantra. My other mantra is don’t overthink it. By that I mean that you know when something is working. I think that there’s a certain ease and a certain flow when an idea’s time has come.
You’ll know it.
I believe that our dreams are given to us for a reason, and we have to give ourselves permission to fulfill those dreams, particularly as Africans in tech who have often been overlooked.
Our context, our African context, provides an unmatched richness.
Within the cohort, I was particularly struck by the community-based approach that the majority of the start-ups evidenced – from Jabari Development Agency, to Coffee Colour Communications – there was an underlying sense of duty to the community that I believe should characterise African-centred businesses. Through the members of the cohort, I learnt that there’s a way of doing business that doesn’t involve brute force, aggression or violence.
2. Surround yourself with people who know more than you
It’s not always easy to ask for help, but something that I’ve learned is that if you want to scale up, you have to get used to enlisting greater minds, and greater talents in service of your idea.
I think that one of the reasons why South African and African startups in general fail, aside from socio-economic factors, is the lack of social support.
You need people on your side to advise you, to keep it real with you, to support you and to keep reminding you of the bigger picture when you’re tempted to forget.
I’m talking about a boardroom of mentors who serve different functions, and the sooner you have them, the better.
3. Embrace criticism
This is a tough one.
Probably the toughest pill to swallow, especially for us entrepreneurs who think we know all there is to know.
Over the course of the Jamlab journey, I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut. Yes, I’m sure you have an Oscar-worthy comeback, but is it possible that you will learn more from taking in constructive criticism than you would from ignoring it?
Life is a classroom. Be a perpetual student. Make it your mission to learn something from everyone, learn from other people’s failures just as equally as from their success.
Take notes from people who are were you want to be in life, who don’t only have the bank balance, but the emotional, spiritual and intellectual bandwidth that you seek as an entrepreneur.
GET CURIOUS ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE’S SUCCESS AND FAILURES.
Ask yourself, if I were them, what I would I have done differently? Before we pivoted into Newsbyte Africa, I had explained our startup idea to our cohort who then asked some clarifying questions.
I thought, “What is it that they don’t understand? Am I not explaining it clearly enough?” Their questions triggered more questions and made me think,
“Okay, if the cohort doesn’t understand what we’re trying to do with this startup, then we need to refine the idea more until they do.”
And that’s when I realised that we were attempting to do too many things at once. We scaled back and focused on one concept and that was a game-changing moment for me. It was a lesson in being teachable and flexible.
4. The best ideas aren’t in your field
I mentioned in a previous blog post that some of the best innovations aren’t happening within the media spectrum, but outside it. It’s important to source ideas from beyond the media field in order to incorporate and innovate within this field. A particular highlight for me was witnessing all the innovation and behavioural changes that have come with Covid-19.
5. Spend more time testing than talking
I also realised that the role of technology cannot be overstated, particularly within the African context. There’s a hunger and demand on this continent that is unlike the demand anywhere else. This demand is evident through rising Internet Penetration rates and the increasing presence of Google and Facebook’s Internet connectivity projects. This demand for technology is only going to increase over the next twenty years and I think it’s important to integrate new technology into our startups as much as possible. Getting tech teams together, and hearing developers talk problem solve was, and continues to be, a fascinating process and was a learning curve for me. Getting the tech to work requires effort, but the reward is always great.
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