Social Edge Africa turns four months this October, the journey has been tough, interesting and we keep learning a lot each new day. I have five lessons that I would like to share with you today on my experiences in the last four months with Social Edge Africa; well not just in the four months but previously I have worked in start-ups, small and midsized companies in various departments and I would like to share what I learn while in employment and after setting up Social Edge Africa. This is specifically addressed to start up entrepreneurs and those who want to get into business in the near future. You really need to read this keenly and think about it!
1. You’ve got to know your sport!
What do I mean here? We’ve got loads of people who go into business without getting their facts right. A good number too doesn’t have information and recent data to guide their strategy and help them understand the industry sadly our people perish for lack of up to date, reliable info & data. You need this to create a value proposition for your service or product, why? before you go to pitch to clients, investors etc you need to have hard data from credible sources to back up your arguments less you'll sound very shoddy! Before you take that leap into business please do your research well, identify the gaps, see the challenge then package your business to tackle or address a specific problem or need in the market. Before you create another social network for Africans, Kenyans or Kikuyus ask yourself exactly why people should join it! Before you think of biting a piece of G+ pie in the market think about their might in terms of (huge budgets, human capacity, technical expertise and experience in the industry). This is critical because you need to know what you are up to! If you have that and you’ve got a uniquely positioned product, then let’s move to the next point!
2. Have a business model.
This is simple, how do you make money? What are your revenue streams or sources? You’ve got to know how you will make the money otherwise you aren’t in business. Every app you develop isn’t a company, can you monetize your stuff? Who pays for it? Is yours a B2C or a B2B company? Participating in hackathons is good, if you win there’s good PR coverage for you, prize money and gift hampers but that’s not why you exist as a company that’s if you are an entity yet!!! Press coverage doesn't pay your bills and in most cases what you get is an inbox full of congratulatory messages from friends & enemies alike and a few new followers on Twitter! I see lotsa social businesses which operate like NGO’s, because their founders are always looking for grants and support from companies. It’s not bad if there’s a UN body that pays your office rent and administrative costs however you need a model that can sustain itself economically. If you already have this in place, let’s move on!
3. Know where to fish!
Know where to sell, how do you approach these customers?, where are they found? Where do they hang out?! Do you have people on the inside? How good are your networks? After you have a business model in place, please understand you are a startup….don’t start an events management firm then walk into EABL or Coca Cola and ask to organize their next big launch or pitch for Safaricom Live experiential deal! Not unless you really have the connections in there and some good financial capacity to execute their big ideas. Please remember you don’t even have a good portfolio that you can showcase in the pitch. Worse still do you have good answers to questions like “who are you, where else have you done this, why can you do it better than others"? So where do you start? Friends, family, former colleagues, the last company you worked for are good places to approach, seek leads and get introductions to a few key decision makers in the companies in your prospect list
Think about high value clients that can pay for your product or service when you deliver. They could be individuals, small and medium sized companies, NGO,s, schools etc. Focus on working where there’s less competition because it doesn’t make sense when you spend a whole two or three months moving from one company to another pitching for new business and doing follow ups yet you’ve got no business yet! If you already have clients and more coming in then let’s move to number three…..
4. Can you deliver?
This is where the real shit is! Preparing a PowerPoint with all the good ideas and concepts you copied online is really simple….so here you have landed the deal, you have the LPO with you….do you have a talented team to deliver in place? Do you have the finances? Most start ups shut down here, because they simply didn’t deliver on what they promised! If you nodded yes to all those ideas the client floated here’s the time you do the real thing…the fancy things you said you can do…the apps…the 3D games…cool sites…my advice to you is please don’t promise what you can’t deliver if you want to build a good mutual business relationship with the client you have. If you are a cab company and you said you have a fleet of 15 cars yet in real sense you have 2 please know where to get the other 13, the fuel, salaries for drivers before you are paid after two or so months! Business isn’t that easy my friend and it gets tougher when you can’t deliver. If you’ve got that set and in place you are about to get RICH. So let’s move to number 5 and see how you’ll do it!
5. Show me the money!
Here’s where another load of the “would be” successful guys fail! With all the hustle and hard work, money is now here, the bank balance looks pretty fine. The bank now even calls to ask whether you need a loan, overdraft facilities etc! Sounds good? Middle class indulgence sets in to some guys, the wardrobe changes, it’s time to move to a bigger crib in a better neighbourhood, if the deal was good, there’s a new car, people start serious partying here, girls…check! Westie, Naivasha, Coasto….Check! What I am trying to say here is, when that big break comes, please re-invest part of the money into the business to boost your technical, financial or human capacity…..this sounds boring to most of the young guys reading this but if you burn the mullah on liabilities you’ll find yourself in the position you started! You may consider giving a bonus to your hardworking team to keep their spirits and morale high, it’s also time to give contracts to one or two talented interns that you have already with you. Always and I say always know that a company is a good as the people it keeps. After the first big break IT’S NOT YOUR TURN TO EAT!!!! If you found this helpful please follow me on Twitter @KenyanMarker, let’s have a chat there plus you can also share the link with your friends on social media....be a SocialPRO~, share good links & information with others~Pass it ON!