Startup

Pitching is one of the things that many (first time) founders dread – but unfortunately cannot avoid. You pitch your business every day and to everyone: investors, customers, collaborators, potential employees, and other prospects. As a matter of fact, your success or failure as a startup founder, in most instances, is underscored by this singular act: pitching.

From experience of helping many entrepreneurs prepare their pitches – as well as reviewing/judging hundreds of pitches through my work with organizations like Seedstars World, Adansonia, Impact Hub Accra, etc here are simple hacks for pitching your startup to investors.

  • Know who you’re pitching to

It goes without saying, there are different kinds of pitches for different kinds of people. The way you pitch to an impact investor will definitely differ from the way you pitch to an angel investor. That will equally differ from the way you pitch to a customer or prospective employee. Know your audience and prepare your pitch to highlight the metrics they’re looking for.

The thing a lot of founders do not take into consideration is the panel they are pitching to have seen several hundreds of pitches before. They probably have certain red flags they look out for in pitches. Once you make any of these mistakes – especially at the early stages of your pitch – you’ve automatically shot yourself in the foot.

Again, from my personal experience, judging pitches can be a lot of work sometimes. If your pitch is another boring, rehashed rhetoric, it can be difficult to gain the attention of your audience. So, put the effort to understand what the investor is looking for and see if your business actually meets those criteria. If you just need someone to hear you out, that’s different. But if you need them to take some form of investment decisions, you must put yourself in their shoes. No matter how much someone wishes for you to succeed – as most pitch judges often do – if you don’t connect with him/her, you’ll lose the attention.

  • Start with why

Simon Sinek’s 2009 Ted Talk argued that inspired leaders and organizations, regardless of size and industry communicate from inside out.

Why?

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Sinek’s talk is in consonance with research carried out by neuroscientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). The team was able to show that reasoning and behavioral control are dependent on different regions of the frontal lobe than the areas called upon when making a decision.

Starting your pitch with your why helps you highlight the purpose, cause or belief that drives your business. This is an easy way to connect with your audience – instead of the conventional approach of hoping your product description will pique their interest.

People want to be a part of something big. Your “why” is how to demonstrate your passion for the problem you’re solving. Think about Nike’s vision of everyday greatness. That vision has gone viral because it encompasses everyone. People who, ordinarily, would have felt left behind can now connect with the feeling of greatness by simply putting on a pair of sneakers.

  • Communicate the problem you’re solving and how you solve it

One of the things I notice from many pitches I judged is: A lot of founders spend so much time talking about several irrelevant things except the problem they’re solving. Don’t waste your time with too many irrelevant details. Tell your audience exactly what you’re building.

  1. Highlight the reason why this problem is persistent and requires urgent attention.
  2. Explain how you’re solving it and who you’re solving it for.
  3. Talk about the uniqueness of your solution from that of your competition.
  4. Talk about the size of the market you’re addressing and the potential size you can capture in the foreseeable future. As Patrick McKenzie, a developer at Stripe Atlas rightly said, “venture investors are looking for companies which can sustain revenues of hundreds of millions of dollars per year, minimum. “Niche” products where the ceiling is millions of dollars are only interesting to the extent they unlock adjacent, bigger markets.”
  5. If you’ve already launched, talk about your users. Your success stories might be one of the key differentiators for your pitch – include testimonials or news features if you’re giving a powerpoint presentation. Use graphs or charts to show your growth and traction as it’ll be easy to comprehend.

Remember, your investor might not understand all the intricacies involved in delivering your solution. Avoid all jargons and buzzwords. Make it easy for people to understand how your service starts and ends. Don’t make anyone figure out your key points. Tell them directly.

  • Talk about your financials

Gary Vee was right, how you make your money is more important than how much you make. Clearly, explain the costs involved in starting and running your venture to actualize the key milestones over a period of time. From my experience, there are two key things many investors want to see from your metrics:

  1. Value creation. That is, can the business make a profit and does it work on a per-customer basis at any point in time?
  2. Scalability. That is, what is the size of the market the entrepreneur is addressing and how attractive is it?

Here’s an insight: your business model should tell a crisp story of the user economics in terms of customer acquisition cost (CAC) and long-term value (LTV). Therefore, show how the business makes money. Highlight the costs involved in acquiring users, and make a clear projection of your revenue.

Even if you’re still early in your journey with no traction (quantitative evidence of product/market fit) whatsoever, it’s important that you demonstrate you have the potential of generating revenue and making a data-driven decision. But if you do have traction, ensure you calibrate and over-index on that. Know your numbers: revenues, growth margins, profitability, etc. This article has extensive information on startup metrics you should pay attention to.

The caveat, however, is to be careful how you site your financial projections. Manipulating your revenue is fraudulent behavior or a sign of incompetence.

  • Do talk about yourself and your team

It’s been said many times that investors do not necessarily invest in a business idea but in the entrepreneur. It’s true. Business ideas like Uber, Facebook, Airbnb or even Amazon did not look impressive to a lot of people at conception. Their teams built them to what we know them to be today. Therefore, ensure you do not sell yourself short!

If you have built something exceptionally well or achieved any form of success in the past, talk about it. It does not necessarily have to be in line with the business you’re pitching. Maybe you finished your college course work while building a startup: talk about it!

Entrepreneurship requires an awful amount of discipline and commitment and investors are mindful of this. They will always use your previous success as plausibility for success in your new venture. The same goes for any history of failure you decide to share with them. Failure can only be a plus if it resulted in something meaningful and worth talking about.

Further, ensure you highlight the complementary skills and expertise of your team members. That means: Your team should not be skewed to one direction. If this is the case, be sure to mention your plans for (or how you’re) balancing the skills.


Don’t just pitch an idea, a prototype is better than several pitches.

If you have a prototype, do bring it to on your pitch day. Understand your fundamentals and handle your pitch like a conversation. It’s great to have aspirations but your pitch will always be weighed on a scale of your business strategy. Don’t pitch the product, pitch your business. A lot of us – entrepreneurs – spend so much time discussing the product or service but say so little about the business. Also, be specific. Know what you’re asking for or the exact amount of money you want. In the same vein, before you send or deliver any pitch, it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of the investor. Many investors want to see that you understand the investment risk.

Finally, if you’re delivering a powerpoint presentation, make your slides as easy-to-read as possible. Don’t clutter the slides with unnecessary information. Keep images and graphics to the minimum and review your stuff before your pitch day. Use this Y Combinator Seed Deck template to structure your deck.

At the end of the day, a pitch is not a war. Try to have fun while keeping your eyes on the goal and on the judges. Be authentic and be yourself. Even if you miss your lines, as many people often do, don’t stop! Keep pitching and if things do not turn out the way you expected, there’s always another opportunity. Don’t take rejection too hard.

My best wishes on your next pitch!


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About the Author

Tom-Chris✨ #Readyforwork
Tom-Chris Emewulu is the President & Founder of SFAN. He is an education enthusiast, entrepreneurship and career coach, a consultant at Mastercard Foundation, Seedstars Ambassador for Ghana and an aspiring venture capitalist. He is a big believer in people and has trained hundreds of young entrepreneurs on how to find their purpose, actualize their goals and tell compelling stories about themselves and their work. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

L’Afrique Excelle connects startups from Francophone Africa with mentors and investors. They support you to raise up to $5M from investors and link you to expertise from leading investors, entrepreneurs, and sector experts.

They are looking for 20 scalable technology ventures in the late seed or pre-series A stage, well-positioned for growth and cross-border expansion in the Francophone Africa markets, and looking to raise between $250K and $5M.

Deadline: January 4th, 2019

What’s in it for you?

L’Afrique Excelle will provide selected startups with:

  •  Structured access to Francophone Africa-focused investors throughout the program and at a Venture Showcase at VivaTech in Paris
  • Mentoring from two successful entrepreneurs or investors (international and local) to develop accurate company valuations, financial forecasts, risk management, and customer acquisition strategies. Access to other expertise is provided based on your specific needs.
  • The opportunity to engage with investors, domain experts, and corporate partners as well as peers at two all-expenses-paid residencies – in Mali and in France.
    Support in developing investment packages so you’re ready for investment following the program.
  • Knowledge through curated content designed to teach you everything you need to know about marketing, financing and market expansion.

Criteria For Eligibility

  • Your start-up is for profit and registered, with a team of at least three people
  • A digital or tech product/service currently available in the market
  • Either based in or deriving at least 75% of turnover in one or several of the following Francophone Africa markets: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, DRC, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, and Togo
  • You have a very strong management team
  • You can demonstrate tangible traction, evidence of revenue and potential to scale
  • You are seeking investment capital in the range of $250K – $5M
  • While there will be exceptions, most likely your start-up has already received investment capital, as debt or equity, or received grants from donor organizations or prize money from competitions.

Language Component

The main language of the program is French, so fluent French is a requirement for participation. The application has to be submitted in French, the interviews will be in French, and the majority of Mali and France residency sessions will be in French. The final pitch at the Venture Showcase, however, has to be delivered in English, so an intermediate level of English proficiency is desirable.

What is Expected From Participants

The 20 finalists are expected to participate in the one-week residency in Mali (March 25-30, 2019), where the final cohort of 10 will be selected. The selected 10 startups will proceed with the rest of the program and are expected to:

  • Engage regularly with mentors (4-6 hours a month) over 6 months.
    Remember it’s a two-way street – both mentors and mentees learn and commit to this relationship. In many cases, we expect these relationships to last long after the program has ended.
  • Over 6 months, participate in up to 5 virtual webinar sessions run by global experts with inputs from leading African and US investors and successful entrepreneurs.
  • Participate in the one-week residency in France (May 13-18, 2019), including the Venture Showcase at the VivaTech event in Paris
  • Engage with your peers part of the cohort, along with mentors, investors and strategic partners.
  • Come with an open mind and be willing to learn and collaborate

SELECTION CRITERIA

The criteria for selection are as follows:

  • Commercial Value of your Product/Service (25%) – The company addresses a real problem in the market. The digital or tech solution is different from others in the industry. The product or service is catalyzing social change.
  • Strategy for Growth (25%) – There is potential to expand locally and into new markets. We can see demonstrable progress and your startup is scalable.
  • Management (25%) – The team has the qualifications needed to make the business successful.
  • Market Traction & Financials (25%) – We will evaluate the market traction and potential market size. We’ll also look at the business model, revenue streams and unit economics, and if any outside funding has been raised before.

Application Portal: Click here to apply now.


 

“Entrepreneurs have crossed “the risk line” from the “Time-and-Effort Economy” to the “Results Economy.” For them, there’s no guaranteed income, no one writing them a paycheck every two weeks. They live by their ability to generate opportunity by creating value for their clientele.” – Dan Sullivan, Strategic Coach.

Here’s a disclaimer: this article is for people who want to *really* understand what entrepreneurship means from a practitioner’s point of view. It is about practicality and how to thrive in the chaotic #StartupLife. If you are not ready for behind-the-scenes usually not told in TV commercials or keynote speeches, stop reading right now.

Since the last decade or more, entrepreneurship has become a fancy and celebrated word. CEO/Founder/Owner status is sexy to add to your social media biog.

People love it – being “on my grind”, “a girl boss” is so cool to post on Twitter.

You hold your shoulders high at events and social gatherings because when you introduce yourself as a founder, it seems to correlate you’re among the crème de la crème of society.

Today, “quit your job and become an entrepreneur” is the Holy Grail for success and significance in many circles. Consequently, many young people just waffle through school with the hope of finding success in entrepreneurship.

It wasn’t always this way.

Although the first usage of the word “entrepreneur” dates as far back as 1850, popular pieces of literature suggest that the term “entrepreneurship” was coined around the 1920s. The reason is not far fetched. It used to be that you go to school, study hard and when you graduate, a job will be waiting for you. And, after many years of working hard and serving your company, you retire with a gold watch and other great benefits. Life was stable and the future was predictable for the most part.

person walking holding brown leather bag

Unfortunately, that assurance disappeared around the 20th century. Hence, you can study really hard in school and graduate with a mountain of bills and little pipeline opportunities. All around the world, there has been an increasing decline in middle-wage occupations. This decline has been attributed, in part, to the advent of computerization and the spread of automation. One WEF study suggests that five million jobs will be lost to AI by 2020.

In light of this, a majority of 12 million Africans entering the job market every year are left with no option than to take up the plow in creating their own opportunities through self-employment.

Furthermore, being an entrepreneur has never been any easier than it is today with internet penetration.

Alas, the media celebration of global business icons like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, etc is a development which has fascinated many to go into entrepreneurship. Startup founders are now seen as pioneers with a high level of respect in society – a figure that has risen steadily over the past decade or more. For many, entrepreneurship is a fast lane for making money and becoming famous.

Unfortunately, a year and a half into the journey, reality sets in and all of sudden, you discover that entrepreneurship is nothing close to the filtered pictures on social media or TV commercials.

No one tells you about the sleepless nights of backbreaking work in finding product-market-fit nor the ungodly amount of pressure startup founders go through daily in turning their ideas into a product or service. The filtered media reports often miss the days when it seems like someone has a hammer at both sides of your head…the days when you have to go through the threshing floor.

Everyone wants to be Zuck but in reality, only one in five businesses in Africa achieve scale in five years. According to a Venture Capital for Africa research, the road to startup funding in Africa is a long one, and 9 out of 10 ventures never make it. The worst-case scenario, which we’re already seeing, is an increased rate in the suicide rate in the entrepreneurship space.

It is not my intention to paint a pessimistic view of entrepreneurship or to stop you from pursuing your ambition. On the contrary, my goal is to help you understand that, in practice, entrepreneurship is a long, arduous journey that requires stamina, education, and community support.

Not many people will read this article to this point. Making it this far means only one thing: you’re the one I wrote this piece for. To help you turn the impossible dream of creating your empire into an improbable, or perhaps inevitable concept, I have a few recommendations that might help you put in the pieces to weather the storm.

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There’s no denying the fact that at any age or social status, entrepreneurship is a very risky business. It’s a world filled with risk, uncertainty, and chaos. Therefore, the day you decide to open up shop is the day you have to assume it’s now you and you alone. If you are expecting someone to do it for you, then perhaps, you should consider doing something else. Why? Even the people who could help you may choose to ignore you. You’re now the last man on the line so it’s up to you to put the puzzles of this journey together.

Again, nothing is given, everything must be earned.

It’s not enough to just do it. You need a certain kind of mindset and skills for this craft. At the early stages of my journey, I often thought that people will understand that I’m young and new in the process and so they’d “take it easy” with me. Come to find out, when you’re green, they’d screw you the hardest. They’d take advantage of your naivety and youth.

Hence, I strongly recommend that you avoid the overwhelming temptation to just do it and create some level of management, process, and discipline around your work. Because quite frankly, if you don’t, you will burn out. You will lose focus.

And so, I implore you to reverse engineer your thinking and figure out whether you need to find/keep your day job or join an already existing team. If you are just romantic about entrepreneurship and being your own boss, your hindsight could be your biggest obstacle. Without structure or skills, it’ll be difficult to create quality deliverables for your clients.

In his book, Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Steps to A Successful Startup, Bill Aulet stated that the single necessary and sufficient condition for a business is a paying customer. Therefore, if you’re building a business, you must ensure that you’re making money.

But to make money, firstly, you have to solve a problem people actually have and are willing to pay for. As Eric Ries stressed in his book, The Lean Startup, you need to see the problem from the eyes of your target market. The market always wins; no matter how fancy your technology or service looks, if it does not solve an actual problem, people won’t care about it.

Also, if you have to offer your delivery at no cost, ensure you’re getting useful data in return or find a way to pass the cost onto someone else. Whether your business is a charity or for-profit, have sustainability at the back of your mind from day one.

Furthermore, understand that even though you created a super important solution to a problem, the cynical majority will not pay attention. People will only care when you give them a reason to care. And so, you must get over your inhibition and promote yourself and your work like it’s your last job. If there’s any insight you’d ever get from this article; if there’s any lesson I’ve ever learned in my entrepreneurial journey, it is the fact that you are the PR girl or boy of your brand. No one will tell your story better than you will. Understand marketing and master it. In the words of Benjamin P Hardy, marketing is nothing more than applied psychology. It’s about connecting with people, persuading them, and helping them.

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Finally, seek support. Even the best entrepreneurs had help along the way, so, don’t isolate yourself in your little corner. Reach out for help when you feel overwhelmed. In this day of social media and digital technology, everybody looks like a lion on the surface. Most people look like they have everything figured out but when you peel off the surface, you realize it’s just a bunch of facade for most people.

Entrepreneurs are often reluctant to ask for support and for the most part, due to ego and low self-esteem. No one is good at everything. If you don’t ask for help in dealing with the social stress and challenges of the digital world, you will get into deep trouble.

Being vulnerable is often a sign of great strength. This is a marathon and not a sprint, and anyone that hope to win a marathon must be open to all the help along the way.

Build a team, join a community, get a mentor, have a life outside your business, set time aside to refill and recharge. Above all, surround yourself with positivity and move from competition to collaboration.

In conclusion, if you want to be an entrepreneur, I implore you to deploy a serious self-awareness in understanding the level of energy and skills you bring to the journey. The truth is that the only level playground there is in this journey is your work ethics and resourcefulness. Consequently, before you talk about your big ideas, first, make up your mind to out-work, out-last, and out-improve your peers. Because, if you don’t have a parent or family connection that gives you access to money and privileges, that’s probably the only guarantee of survival in the lane. And when you have put in the work, be patient and trust the journey. There’d be times when it’ll look like nothing is working. There’d be days it’ll seem like everyone else is moving faster than you. More than ever, this is when you need to be calm and stay focused. What you’re building is important, it’s precious, so be patient and do it well.

Entrepreneurship is a great adventure, it is exciting, and the reward is the ability to live on your own terms. If you have a dream of a change you want to make in this world, if there’s something you want that’s worth sacrificing everything else for, this is the best time to make it happen! Become an entrepreneur with a difference!


About the Author

Tom-Chris✨ #Readyforwork
Tom-Chris Emewulu is the President & Founder of SFAN. He is an education enthusiast, entrepreneurship and career coach, a consultant at Mastercard Foundation, Seedstars Ambassador for Ghana and an aspiring venture capitalist. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Need help building your empire? Reach out to us to request a meeting with one of our coaches via info(at)sfanonline.org. To get our bi-weekly email of inspiration, career and business insights. Subscribe here.

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By: Carl Manlan, COO, Ecobank Foundation

Agriculture is the future of work in Africa. This may seem counter-intuitive, and, to be sure, technology will play a critical role to ensure that 12 million Africans entering the job market every year find their fulfillment along national, regional, continental and global value chains. Established technology start-ups like Alibaba, Airbnb, Amazon, and Youtube created platforms to capture economic value. Those riding the wave of these startups in Africa are disconnected from where the value lies on our continent: agriculture. 

Agriculture was the foundation that sprung into manufacturing then industrialization in North America, Europe, and Asia. That was the path taken to transform economies. In Africa, we started along that trajectory and then we got caught into development that held the promise that Africa would catch up. We did not. In the process, agriculture lost its importance. In Ghana, the average cocoa farmer is 55 years old, yet many young people are unemployed. That disconnect between the opportunities for an apprenticeship in agriculture is an example of the issue we must address. Click To TweetWhile agriculture might be perceived as a dead-end career for youth, the sector employs 60 percent of the labor force in Ghana and sustains 66 percent of the livelihoods of the population. 

Diversification along agriculture’s value chains through a host of start-ups could allow us to leapfrog through adequate storage, use of renewable energy and greater access to markets. Songhaï in Benin, Kailend in Togo, and Kheyti in India hold some of the answers that we ought to have. While farmers would not make the current Forbes 30 Under 30 lists, they could become a central part of what youth focuses on if employment and stronger ecosystems are what some tech entrepreneurs are trying to build. Without that ecosystem, most of the celebrated entrepreneurs would not have flourished because the means of production, savings and disposable income would not have been available.   

For example, the increase in bandwidth created an opportunity for Youtube to become a platform for access to content. The existence of a reliable payment system combined with a reliable property market and identification systems gave Airbnb a platform. Most importantly, Airbnb came at the height of the recession when individuals were seeking to either save on accommodation or earn cash. Alibaba and Amazon, search engines with warehouses, connecting willing and able market players. All these companies, at various stages, can capture economic value at a price that people are willing and able to pay. 

Most start-ups that are household names today took advantage of an important, but often overlooked factor; timing. It is estimated that timing accounts for 42 percent of success and failure for start-ups. But they benefited from strong agriculture, manufacturing, industrial complexes that created a generation that could accumulate wealth. We are yet to create that generation in Africa, partly because agriculture does not entice youth for the creativity to transform it. But my generation needs to make agriculture great again. To succeed, we need appropriate farm infrastructure to support large-scale farming and post-harvest activities. We also need secondary value addition and processing for small-scale operators in view of plugging into local to global value chains.

As such, one can start any menial job as a stepping stone to where one wants to be. To have limited our range of possibilities to urban tech entrepreneurship while agriculture still employs the largest share of Africans is a structural change that we ought to address. Tech start-ups need a customer base with disposable incomes beyond urban centers. A strong agricultural rural base is the foundation of economic transformation. Click To Tweet Without that foundation, we are repeating similar mistakes that gave prominence to development aid for our countries and external sources of funding for African start-ups. 

The real innovation, one that transforms community life, will come from mastering agricultural value chains for smallholder farmers. Increasing productivity and income in Africa starts with smallholder farmers. They represent 70 percent of the population. They produce 80 percent of the food consumed in Africa and are at the forefront of strategies for agricultural transformation. As such, AgroCenta, in Ghana, provides smallholder farmers with a route to market via digital platforms. In addition, its integrated solution offers logistics and transportation. It is an indication of what start-ups could do to direct resources towards strengthening the foundation. It is our moment to transform for good. Pooling our own resources to raise patient capital is the starting point for our agricultural ventures. Start-ups need to understand people and systems so that their innovation solved a real African problem. The Forbes 30 Under 30 list needs a new category: Agriculture. Corporate Africa, in the absence of direct funding, has a range of skills and capabilities that can complement the absence of funds. 

Africa has a plan. But it continues to be punched in the face by unemployment. Start-ups without deeper roots in agriculture will not take us to where we want to go. Our destination is wealth for all. Our best vehicle is agriculture. Tried and tested by others, it is time we make agriculture the start-up that matters.  


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About the Author

Carl Manlan is the Chief Operating Officer of The Ecobank Foundation. He is an economist with over ten years of experience in health, finance and project implementation. Carl worked with the Economic Commission for Africa as a Mo Ibrahim Fellow and with the African Union and New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD) on a private sector initiative to assist the African Union to fight Ebola in West Africa. Follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Join Carl and other thought leaders at the Student Entrepreneurship Week at British Council and Kempinski Hotel. You can get tickets at the event website.

Image Credits: Carl Manlan, Mink Mingle

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Our best definition of a startup is found in the book, The Lean Startup by Eric Ries: A startup is a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

To wit, there are three essential elements that make up a startup business:

a.) A startup is a human institution. A human institution refers to a group of people “that have come together in significant for a common social purpose and maintains collective focus on the human relationships (within and beyond their limits) that have helped them to flourish.”

b.) A startup is designed to deliver a new product or service. A startup’s product or service must be a new innovation.

c.) A startup thrives under conditions of extreme uncertainty. Regardless of size of the company, the industry, or sector of the economy, Ries argues, any business that is creating a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty is a startup.

With this definition in mind, we have selected 20 brilliant low-to-no-cost tools that can help you scale through these moments of uncertainty and build a radically successful business. Starting from choosing a business name and registering a domain, to managing teams, to getting your accounting, marketing and customer relations together, here is a quick arsenal for an incredible startup Showtime!

1. GoDaddy: Domain. Website Builder. Office 365. Email marketing

GoDaddy makes registering Domain Names fast, simple, and affordable. If you have a smart business name in mind but unsure whether the web address is still available for the taking, simply log on to GoDaddy and look it up. They also provide you with options you can choose from, with a suite that helps you build a website, create a work email and so on.

2. GitHub: A web-based Git repository hosting service

GitHub is a web-based repository hosting software that brings teams together to work through problems, move ideas forward, and learn from each other along the way. It is used by over 1 million teams worldwide.

3. Slack: Where work happens

Slack is a cloud-based set of proprietary team collaboration tools and services. It’s where the people you need, the information you share, and the tools you use come together to get things done. The beauty of this tool is that you can create different channels to streamline team conversation with ease.

4. Asana: Use Asana to track your team’s work & manage projects

Asana is a Project Management and Collaboration Tool which helps keep teams organised, connected and focused. It is one of the most popular project management tools and offers convenient integrations.

5. Moqups: Online Mockup, Wireframe & UI Prototyping Tool

Moqups is a stunning HTML5 App for creating high fidelity SVG mockups, wireframes and clickable prototypes. It lets you create website and app prototypes without any technical knowledge.

6. Canva: Amazingly Simple Graphic Design Software

Canva makes design simple for everyone. It helps you create designs for Web or print: blog graphics, presentations, Facebook covers, flyers, posters, invitations and so much more. With Canva, you can create beautiful designs yourself!

7. AngelList: Where the world meets startups

AngelList is a website for startups, angel investors, and job-seekers. Its goal is to introduce entrepreneurs to sophisticated investors and simplify the process of early-stage business. An AngelList profile is also an important visibility platform, the platform has a mission to democratize the investment process.

8. Buffer: Social Media Management Platform

Buffer is an intuitive social media management platform trusted by brands, businesses, agencies, and individuals to help drive social media results. You can enhance your social media management with Buffer, it puts all your different social handles in one place — help you manage faster, smarter, and safer.

9. RocketReach: Find anyone’s email address, phone numbers, social links

RocketReach Email Lookup lets you find email addresses and phone numbers given name, company, or LinkedIn URL of anyone and everyone. Their google chrome extension is even integrated with LinkedIn, making it easier to know client e-mail address to connect.

10. Wave: For all your Accounting

WaveApps is an easy invoicing on the go. It helps you send unlimited customized, professional invoices, for free! You can also link your bank account unto the platform for easy bookkeeping. This is an incredibly useful tool for startups, and it’s used by over 2 million people around the world.

11. HubSpot: Inbound Marketing & Sales Software

HubSpot is an inbound marketing and sales platform that helps businesses attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers. It includes tools for social media marketing, email marketing, content management, analytics, landing pages and search engine optimization, among others.

12. MailChimp: Marketing Automation — Sell More Stuff

MailChimp is a popular online email marketing solution which lets one manage contacts and send emails. It helps you design email newsletters, share them on social networks, integrate with services you already use, and track your results.

13. Medium: Read, write and share stories that matter

Medium is a place to read, write, and interact with the stories that matter most to you. Every day, thousands of voices read, write, and share important stories on Medium. You can integrate it into your website, freeing you from the trouble of building a blog at the early stages.

14. Unsplash: Beautiful Free Images

Unsplash is a website dedicated to sharing copyright-free photography under the Unsplash license. The website claims 25,000 contributing photographers and generates an estimated 1 billion photo impressions per month.

15. Upwork: Hire Freelancers

Previosuly called Elance-oDesk, Upwork is the world’s largest online workplace where savvy businesses and professional freelancers meet. It is an effective platform to get quality output at affordable costs.

16. Google Analytics: Start analyzing your site’s traffic

Google Analytics is a freemium web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic. It shows you the full customer picture across ads, videos, websites, social tools, tablets and smartphones.

17. Keep Google: Save to Google Keep in a single click!

Google Keep is a note-taking service developed by Google. With the Google Keep Chrome Extension, you can easily save the things you care about to Keep and have them synced across all of the platforms that you use — including web, Android, iOS, and Wear. Take notes for additional detail and add labels to quickly categorize your note for later retrieval.

18. JotForm: Online Form Builder & Form Creator

JotForm helps you create online forms the easy way. Whether you’re looking to generate leads, collect order payments, conduct customer surveys, find applicants for a job, or register guests for an event, JotForm’s easy-to-use form builder lets you build a customized online form to fit your exact needs in minutes.

19. Grammarly: Free Grammar Checker

Grammarly is an English language writing-enhancement platform. Grammarly’s proofreading and plagiarism-detection resources check more than 250 grammar rules. The grammar checker instantly eliminates grammatical errors and enhances your writing. Grammarly is trusted by millions every day.

20. Smartsheet: Less Talk, More Action

Smartsheet is a software as a service application for collaboration and work management. It is used to assign tasks, track project progress, manage calendars, share documents and manage other work. It has a spreadsheet-like user interface to help teams collaborate, plan projects and manage tasks.


Bonus Tools
Timeanddate: Current Time (World Clock) and online and printable Calendars for countries worldwide. Find the best time for web meetings (Meeting Planner) or use the Time and Date Converters. Online services and Apps available for iPhone, iPad, and Android.

HelloSign: HelloSign is the world’s leading free eSignature platform. Send and receive electronic signatures securely with our end-user solution or our eSignature API.

Zoom: Zoom is a modern enterprise video communications, with an easy, reliable cloud platform for video and audio conferencing, chat, and webinars across mobile, desktop, and room systems. Zoom Rooms is the original software-based conference room solution used around the world in board, conference, huddle, etc.

Calendly: Calendly helps you schedule meetings without the back-and-forth emails. Say goodbye to phone and email tag for finding the perfect meeting time with Calendly. It’s 100% free, super easy to use and you’ll love our customer service


Have more tools to add? Drop them in the comment. Subscribe to our mailing list to get our emails of inspiration, business, and career tips.

Image: Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

A step-by-step guide to building for the next billion

You’ve probably heard that 90% of all internet startups fail within the first 120 days.

For May edition of #SFANLiveChat, we invited two entrepreneurs who have built remarkable online companies to share their insights on how to actually get it right.

Kojo Dougan is the Director of Interpay Africa, an electronic payment platform that makes transactions and e-commerce simpler, secure, and seamless, while Melissa McCoy is the Founder and CEO/CTO of ConnectMed, a South Africa and Kenya-based online Medicare company that helps patients access quality and faster/efficient healthcare.

The combination of their expertise served our agenda very much. Below are some of the thoughts from the chat that stood out to us:

1. Find a need and provide an epic solution

“You have to solve a problem that people actually have. But it’s not always a problem that they know they have, so that’s tricky.” — Joshua Schachter (creator of Del.ici.ous)

A lot of people who are beginning their entrepreneurial journey often focus on building a product or service before finding a market. Unfortunately, this is one major reason for the failure of many startups. But to improve your chances of success, Kojo says, identify a need and aim to provide a relevant solution to that need.

In most instances, you’ll need to do some research to understand where there are gaps in the market: listen to your frustration or those of people around you. Find out what people are complaining about.

When you have identified the market gap, then you’re set to dig a bit deeper:

  1. Why is the issue persistent?
  2. How do people currently solve this problem?
  3. What can you do better than the players on the ground?

The result of this research will help you create a solution that pays off. ‘”Paying off’ to me means that we’re positively affecting our patients’ lives — every time we do that, it’s worth it,” Melissa says.

2. Build your tribe

“If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it still make a sound?” — Jehookah Jarmon, Gorvenstof, Ukraine.

You may have equally heard the clichéd phrase “build it and they won’t come.”Guess what, it’s true! Just because you’ve built something cool does not mean that customers will come to you by auto-pilot. To find people who are interested in what you’re offering, Melissa says, you need to do the legwork of identifying an already established market or a new one.

Depending on what your business is, the first thing to do in finding your users is to create a clear picture of who this hypothetical customer is. “We create user personas — young professionals, new parents, university students, and shift workers — that we developed through surveying.”

Position yourself as a customer, Kojo says, would you revisit several times? Would you be interested in making several purchases? Use the product again? “Observe, listen, monitor, personalize the solution; user experience is key.”

The art of copywriting

Whether you’re creating a new product for existing market like Apple or creating a new market like M-Pesa, you need to master the art of copywriting. “We use HubSpot to do A/B testing on emails to decide on the best copy,” Melissa says: We also create our own A/B tests with Facebook Ads to see what’s best.”

If you choose to create your own copy, this article by Henneke Duistermaat has valuable insights on how to nail it like Apple.

A great copy helps you highlight your value proposition and find your tribe.

                           https://hbr.org/1999/01/creating-new-market-space

3. Create a monetization strategy

“The single necessary and sufficient condition for a business is a paying customer.” — Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Steps to A Successful Startup by Bill Aulet (2013)

Now that you’ve acquired an audience, you need a strategy to turn them into loyal customers and brand ambassadors.

To be able to convert your website visits into sales, it “must be informative, interactive, simplified and allows visitors to sign up or understand how to use your product/service,” Kojo advice.

At ConnectMed, Melissa and her team leverage analytics to understand their users and how to deliver better services. “We have a funnel (site visits > signup > consult) and use event track to quantify where users fall off and session record to qualify why.” She says: Basically, pick one metric (for us it’s consults booked) and then understand the funnel to get there and keep optimizing.

A word on pricing

In a previous chat, we looked at how you can price your product or service. Although the focus is on a different audience, it has valuable insights you can apply.

At Melissa’s ConnectMed, they started with a higher price point to ensure their product is perceived as quality and then offer a discount on the first one to try.

But at Interpay, Kojo says their strategy is influenced by market forces. “As we have progressed, we have passed on economies of scale to our merchants.”

4. Review and Refine

“Ideas don’t come out fully formed.” — Mark Zuckerberg

When you have implemented your model, always review what works and what doesn’t, Melissa says. “Try to listen to the committed users that love you for determining best-added features. Our product development has been iterative — we started with base telehealth platform and added features based on user feedback”

Kojo reiterates that as much as you want to acquire new clients, you must also pay attention to your existing clients. “Learn, learn, learn; know what’s trending and stay ahead of curve.”

Above the bottom line

You have some structure and process, then you’re ready to play in the big league.

It’s time to launch and scale your impact.

How to launch your product or service

  • Firstly, decide on the type of launch you want — either a stakeholder launch or a media launch.
  • Then you need to figure out your timelines, it’s always great to have enough time for pre-launch PR. Do not neglect the impact of influencer marketing; try to make your product available to key influencers in your industry for some great reviews/publicity.
  • If you don’t have an elaborate budget to do a massive stunt, get on with what you can do and start marketing. The launch date is for you to tell your audience that a new kid is in town!
  • Understand that it’s your job to create your press release; a lot of bloggers won’t have the time to edit or review it unless you’re paying for that service. Also, know when is a good time to submit your article to enhance the chance of it getting published. Aim for the local bloggers first as they’re the easiest to reach.
  • You’re the PR girl/boy of your brand; keep releasing fresh insights, products, and announcements to remain visible to your audience.

When you have something great going on, the city needs to hear about it, so make as much noise as you can about your work.

Achieving scale…

Once you’ve launched your product or service, it’s time to scale your work. Depending on what you’re offering, look for strategic partnerships that create better leverage. Partner with banks, MNOs, MTOs, FSPs, to provide a solution to end user, Kojo advice, “our business will not be where it is today without our partners. We have two categories: partners and merchants.”

Unleash the power of email marketing.

Experts have confirmed that email is the crown jewel of online marketing strategy.

According to McKinsey, Email marketing generates 40 times more revenue than Facebook and Twitter — combined! Actually, you are 6x more likely to get a click-through from an Email than from a tweet. Furthermore, Email marketing can generate an ROI of 3800% and $38 for every $1 spent.

To grow your mailing list, work with partners who you can incentivize to share their lists (e.g. every booked consult from a user on their list gets X KES), Melissa says. Also, you can table at events to get participants to subscribe to your list. “Finally, a pop-up CTA on the site that asks for email in return for the discount has worked well for us.”

The bottom line

Building a successful online business takes time and skill.

But like every skill, it can be learned. As we’ve established above, if you build it, they won’t come. So, your best bet is to: a). Find a need and provide a viable solution to it; b.) Build your market — find the people that need your offer; c.) Ensure you have a monetization plan; d.) Ensure your product development is iterative; e.) Launch and Scale

“Stay focused, don’t go alone; work with your team, get your team motivated, believe in your dream, believe in your team, be mentored, don’t wait for a perfect moment- just create it,” Kojo concludes.


We’re interested to know what you think about this subject and what has worked for you, please leave your thoughts in the comment. To stay in the loop on what’s going on at SFAN, subscribe here.

One of the biggest challenges startup founders and small-scale business owners face is maintaining a strong financial infrastructure for their business. According to forentrepreneurs.com, one of the most common reasons startups fail is because they mismanaged the funds they had.

This is why we were super excited to host Toro Orero, Managing Partner of the Silicon Valley-based VC fund, DraperDarkFlow and Rebecca Enonchong, Founder of AppsTech and Founding Board Member of the African Business Angel Network (ABAN) and VC4Africa, at April edition of #SFANLiveChat. Our goal was to explore how startup founders can manage and grow their finances.

Here’re lessons we learned about fundraising, bookkeeping, taxation, and founder’s remuneration.

On Fundraising:

The best place to raise money from is your customers

“Of those who submit business plans to venture capital investors, less than one percent will get the money they seek.” — HUFFPOST.

At the early stages of your business when you haven’t validated your concept, it’ll be very difficult to get the attention of lenders or venture capitalists. The traditional belief is that you ask loved one for loans to help you prove your idea and develop a route to market before sending any pitch deck to an investor. “When you have some traction (users, revenue) and are ready to scale,” Rebecca says, “that’s the ideal time to look for external funding.”

However, Toro argues that the right time for fundraising is never! Instead, he says, startup founders should focus on turning their ideas into a business i.e. doing something somebody will pay for. “It’s a tripod stand of beliefs starting with you as the startup, then the market, then the investor — in that order.”

Depending on what your business model is, this can be a great approach to growing your business. Companies that have utilized this formula include Airbnb, Banana Republic, Dell, etc.

               woman using telephone standing near building                        

On Bookkeeping:

Hire an accountant from day one or assume that role with discipline

“The first mistake Startups often make when doing their books is not doing any — until it’s too late.” — Tim Haggard of My Bookkeeping Online.

Majority of startups do not have any form of financial records for their business transactions.

Why?

No time — the work piles up until the thought of attending to it is a mental torture in itself.

It’s expensive to hire a professional accountant.

It’s not necessary since they’re not accounting for anyone yet.

“As entrepreneurs, we neglect the back office. We need to get our finances in order from the beginning,” Rebecca says: “You should be obsessive about your bottom line. Join a co-working space/incubator that offers an accountant or you could get together with other entrepreneurs and share one accountant.”

At the early stages of your startup, Toro says, assume that all your personal finances now belong to your company, then work for your company and pay yourself nothing. But, track everything! “Have a financials analytics tool, just the way you have a back-end dashboard for your website/app.”

If you can’t afford specialist accounting software, there are free software and apps like WaveApps that give you great convenience in keeping your books and tracking your cash flow. At very least, you can use excel as it does the sums for you and is pretty easy to manipulate.

As entrepreneurs, we neglect the back office. We need to get our finances in order from the beginning. Click To Tweet

woman using phone while sitting inside the room

On avoiding over taxation:

Focus on getting positive revenue first

Numerous businesses overpay their taxes every year by overlooking various tax deductions — Michael Raanan

Taxation has become a burden to most businesses. But don’t think about it. “That’s overthinking and premature. Get revenue positive first, and then worry about that later. When you get revenue positive, get advice — you may need to reincorporate offshore into a developed market or even stay local. Reincorporate offshore and let your local operational entity be a wholly owned subsidiary of your offshore entity,” Toro advice.

Stripe Atlas is a product that promises to help you incorporate your company in the U.S with a U.S registered bank account, top tax/legal guidance from top American firms, and a free Stripe account for receiving and making payments world over. They’ve partnered with numerous startup accelerators and hubs around Africa to make ease of their acquisition efforts and can be an option for you if you’re looking to incorporate offshore.

“Keep track of all your expenses even transportation. It all adds up,” Rebecca cautions.

If your company is not making great profit margins yet, you have no business paying yourself. Click To Tweet

woman laughing while on call

On founder’s remuneration:

Pay yourself last if at all

“When it comes to paying yourself, there needs to be a fluidity to compensation.” — Ryan Holmes, founder, and CEO of Hootsuite Media Inc.

Founder compensation has been a subject of much debate over the years. “Pay yourself last and pay yourself least. Save salaries for the most talented folks you can find,” Rebecca says.

To give your baby a chance at life, you have to be willing to live a few years of your life like most people won’t in order to live the rest of your life in a manner that most people can’t.

“I’d also add that if your company is not making great profit margins yet, you have no business paying yourself,” Toro buttresses.

As Jay Samit, author of the book “Disrupt Yourself” puts it, “you are getting more than cash compensation from your startup. You are getting to pursue your dream, test your mettle, have creative autonomy and retain a sizable portion of equity. Your lifestyle should be frugal and as bootstrapped as your startup.”

woman using laptop while looking at her left side

Bonus point: We asked Toro and Rebecca what they look for in companies they invest in.

Rebecca: It’s all about the entrepreneur. I want to see that grit, that fire, that determination to succeed no matter what.

Toro: I look for rocket ships, not parked cars. A parked car needs me to take off; a rocket ship will take off regardless of my investment.

In the final analysis, It’s all about the money

The biggest financial mistake startups make is thinking sales are same as cash. “Cash flow is everything,” Rebecca says.

At certain times in the business, you’d be forced to lower your business costs. To avoid hampering customer experience, Toro recommends that:

1. You fire those five average staff and keep that one outstanding one

2. You promise your customer just one thing but do it EPICALLY.

Always remember that money is the lifeblood of a company. If you don’t have money, YOU ARE DEAD. So stay alive.


Were you inspired by this article? Check out this one on how to jumpstart your business success. To be in the know on subsequent Live Chats and events, please subscribe to our mailing list.

Last Saturday, we invited Chinedu Enekwe, Co-founder and Executive Director of TipHub Africa and Lajuanda M. Asemota, Director of Diversity and Inclusion of Singularity University for the February edition of #SFANLiveChat. The Live Chat comes ahead of SFAN’s Quantum Leap Career Fair 2017: Technology and the Future of Work in Africa and was held on the topic, Building a Distributed Team.

But, why a distributed team?

A distributed team is a team that’s connected to their purpose but maybe not their location. It’s no secret that great local talent is expensive and difficult to hire across a number of industries. Technology has made it possible for hiring managers to hire from a global talent pool.

We were very enthusiastic about chatting with Enekwe and Asemota because they have both built and led distributed teams at TipHub Africa and Singularity University respectively.

Here are 4 insightful lessons from the meeting:

1. Build trust and coordination through effective communication

Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs once said that communication is both the biggest obstacle and the solution to developing trust within remote teams.

“To build trust in a distributed team you must be thorough, almost annoyingly consistent”, Chinedu says. “Learn habits and patterns that work with each team member”. But at the initial on-boarding stages, it’s important that you create a period of a face-to-face meeting or weekend retreats for folks to physically connect with team members.

Lajuanda observed that as the team leader, you need to do some occasional personal check-ins with everyone. You have to genuinely care about people for them to trust you and stay on track with the rest of the team. “Coordination comes from communication. So creating multiple channels for updates is the key.”

Organisations are no longer built on force, but on trust — Peter Drucker.

2. Maintain culture through value-driven autonomy

It is common knowledge why fixing the culture problem in a co-located team could be easier than in a distributed team: distance, under communication, and lack of collaboration. This need not be the case. “Organisational culture is intangible, so location doesn’t have to be the driving factor. Values do”, Lajuanda says. “In my companies, I start by reviewing team values. I keep the team engaged by regularly inspiring them to live those values.”

With a team that spans between Washington D.C and Lagos, Nigeria, apart from open communication, creating offline meetings are vital for Chinedu in encouraging sharing and team relationships. “If distance doesn’t permit, at least do quarterly virtual retreats”, he says.

woman in white tank top sitting on bed in front of laptop computer

3. Ensure that your team members are actually working

Achieving productivity is among the fears that hold managers from going remote. Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, was once in the news for scrapping Yahoo’s remote-work policy.

“At the heart of the question of productivity and teamwork, is creating accountability”, Chinedu explains. “Accountability isn’t complaining about one another, it’s about completing tasks. This links back to creating a culture of communication so work can be delegated and silos of silence don’t form. When a team member goes silent, I try to read it like a pulse to plan our next move”.

Through her work at Singularity University, SpeedUpAfrica, and her own experience design company, Lajuanda often manages a diverse team that implements several high-level, multi-faceted events and programs for hundreds of leaders in Silicon Valley and beyond. Achieving productivity requires great project management skills, she says, “I use Smartsheet, Trello or Asana, and automate reminders for the team to update the project tracker. I also combine one-on-ones with briefing sessions and team meetings”.

4. Leverage technology to keep the team engaged

Whereas a co-located team can afford a foosball table, inside jokes, shared experiences and a meeting room with whiteboards to develop its personality and enhance collaboration, remote team banks on different technology tools. But knowing what works for different teams is the key to this. All tools aren’t common in all regions.

“My favorites are Slack, Smartsheet, Google Apps, IFTTT, Zoom, and Timeanddate.com”. Slack is your virtual office because of the various channels it accommodates. Oh did I mention the GIFs and Memes!?

“My team lives and breathes daily chats on Whatsapp Group (love those check marks!)”, Chinedu says, “for meetings we use Google Hangouts without video when on the continent –it just works”.

In responding to the question of the best tool to track time and do payroll for distributed teams, by the team at Rise Africa Rise, Lajuanda noted that her team uses Zenefits. “I’ve also heard of small organizations using Gusto, Wave, Freshbooks. My advice: Get a full demo and use what works”. Understand that all tools might not work equally for every region, find out what works best for you.

Why could a distributed team fail?

Distributed teams fail due to lack of consistency and communication. In some cases, lack of maturity, Lajuanda explains. “Everyone has to understand the importance of doing what you say you will and supporting each other”.

In his book, Exponential Organisations, Salim Ismail outlines new organizational structures that leverage exponential technologies for a shifting global business mindset. This is very vital for a distributed team.

Before transitioning your team to remote or on-boarding new folks, have a “trial periods” to test things out, Chinedu cautions. “Every team isn’t built to be distributed. You have to figure that out quickly”.

In the final analyses, building a great distributed team requires that you go in with your eyes open. And to make it work you must, build trust and coordination through effective communication, maintain culture through value-driven autonomy, ensure everyone gets their stuff done, and leverage technology tools to create fun and collaboration in your team.


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The blurb: Have a vision for your business, find creative financing methods, create a culture of accountability, know your key performance indicators, and maintain consistency. Click To Tweet

The third edition of #SFANLiveChat was held on January 14, 2017. This brilliant session hosted two highly esteemed serial entrepreneurs: Romeo Effs, the Business Gladiator, Strategist & Fixer and Anie Akpe, founder of IBOM LLC, Innov8tiv, Women In Tech Africa and NetworqApp.

Below are five key takeaways from the discourse. If you missed the previous edition, take a look at this beautiful recap.

• Before you launch, create a vision for your business

Ask any sailor or captain, he’d tell you that you can have the best airplane or the best ship in the world but if you don’t have a compass to navigate your way, the entire crew will keep drifting endlessly. The same is true for your business. When you think of launching a business, Anie says, you have to ask yourself the following questions: “what is the purpose? Who is interested in what am creating and will they buy what am offering?” This thought process will help you to align your business with a great vision.

But, in defining the vision for your business, you must ensure that you include vivid images and signposting.

“I’ll use myself in this instance,” she continues: “My goal is to lose weight. In order to lose weight, I have to have a vision of what I want to look like. From that image, I now decide what is my projected time frame? So with a business, you have to envision what you want to see in the next 1, 3, 5 or 20 years. The time frame helps in bringing your vision to clarity. No vision or dream is too big.”

• On financing — think outside the box

Robin Sharma once said that ideation without execution is a mere delusion. However, turning your idea into a viable product or service that is backed by a great team often requires a lot of funding.

Startup funding depends on which part of the world you are in, Romeo explains, “Some markets are more mature than others. In the UK and USA, there are mature Angel Networks and government schemes to help entrepreneurs. In other parts of the world funding often come from family and friends or traditional places such as the bank or credit cards. Credit Unions and Crowdfunding are equally other viable options. But, a brilliant way to finance your idea is to get an order and then walk into the bank or to someone with this order and ask them to fund it. You could also try invoice factoring if you get an order; ask customers to pay part up front, but, in the absence of these, you have to look at personal things of value that you can sell to get money to put into the business.”

Speaking from over 15 years of experience in entrepreneurship and Corporate America, Anie underscores that numerous successful entrepreneurs didn’t initially start their businesses with a lot of money. They started with mentors, worked from home, used part-time or contract staff, bartered/traded services, and they used free software to market their businesses. “With a lack of startup funds, they used their creativity,” she says.

• On creating a culture of accountability — unleash the power of goal setting

According to a McKinsey report, among the biggest challenges faced by businesses trying to build their organizational capacity is the lack of accountability and buy-in. In order to get accountability, you’re going to need to set goals, Anie stresses. “Your Goals quantify and define what happens next. Now, questions you need to ask yourself as it relates to your team include:

  1. What is the background and reason for establishing this team?
  2. Who and how many people will be depending on the output of you and the team?

The more team members feel involved in defining the answers to the mentioned questions, the more they will embrace accountability. Overall, make sure you focus on creating a consistent shared-purpose team environment.”

Contributing from Jacksonville, Florida, William Jackson emphasizes the need to ensure that your team is as passionate as you are about the business goals and mission.

• On key performance indicators — start with the rate of conversion

A lot of businesses fail because they do not use the right metrics in measuring performance. Depending on what your business is, Romeo recommends, the key metrics you should use to measure your growth are the number of leads, the number of completed transactions, the rate of conversion, the average sales value, the sales margin over products sold, and the cost of goods sold or cost of customer acquisition.

“Let’s state that business metrics should be compared to established goals or business objectives,” Anie says. “As a wise business owner, you must ensure that you have the right technology that helps you measure these key indices: sales revenue (include marketing cost, price changes and discounts that you have given) and repeat business (customer loyalty).”

On a traditional level, it’s imperative that you create benchmarks by looking at what’s going on in the industry. Whether you’re a new or established business, you need to pay attention to your daily completed goals compared to the monthly and yearly goals.

• On maintaining consistency — internalize them

Romeo’s advice for maintaining consistency in your business process is that you make them a habit — get them entrenched in your business and team. Creating a consistent message could require that you “outsource the work to a professional to produce in batches in advance, and then reuse on all platforms. Find the right technology to enable efficiency and automate.”

Ultimately, you need to “know your ideal customer and build that tribe — the market where you will be selling. Build a consistent process to manage cash flow. Trust your gut and trust the process. Never stop; just keep stepping up and getting things done. Implementation is constant, it never stops — it is the entire journey not a phase of the journey. It is; execute, evaluate, adjust, execute, evaluate, adjust and the cycle goes on and on.”

Anie buttresses the fact that there are free software tools to get started with at the initial stages of your business as it relates to your budget. “When a business is smaller, it’s easier,” she says. “The best advantage for consistency is when you use it to measure your results — you can create accountability and consistent message about your company.”

Conclusion

If you want to jump-start your business in 2017 or any year, it’s important that you create a vision for your business, remain consistent with your process, and research the tools and platforms that connect you with your target audience. “Stay focused! As the phrase goes; ‘Just do it.’ Do your research and put fear aside,” Anie recommends.

Says Romeo: Ensure you have a strategy or roadmap to follow and get a coach or mentor to help keep you accountable.


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On June 24th, 2016, SFAN brought marketing and branding minds from across Ghana together, in Accra, to discuss the startup pipeline from lead, to a new customer, repeat customer and finally tribe member.

The branding panel featured Jemila Abdulai of Circumspecte.com, Rodney Quarcoo of Magic Unltd, Sadiq Abdulai Abu of MUSE Africa and Lakeshia Marie of Ford Communications, while the marketing portion included Princewill Omorogiuwa of 3rd Floor Digital, Kajsa Hallberg Adu of Blogging Ghana and Lenny Simmons of ClakImpressions.

With a little pause and reflection in the week since the event, these are Dorodrum’s top 3 takeaways from SFAN’s latest Future Executives Business Breakfast Meeting (FEBBM4) focused on marketing, branding, and budgets. Take a peek at the previous edition.

#SFAN #HUBACCRA

1. You’re Only as Good as Your Roadmap

“You market to create brand awareness. But if you don’t know who you are, you can’t know what you are creating awareness about.”
Expressed most succinctly by Lenny Simmons, CEO of ClakImpressions, every panelist at FEBBM4 underscored the importance of developing a roadmap laying out the core values for your startup to maximize your relationships with consumers in the marketplace.

But a roadmap is not a fixed or defined thing. Instead, it is a promise to your team and to consumers about the firm into which they are buying. It is the essence and identity of your startup and the fundamental reason that customers believe in the product you are selling them — and return to buy again. In Steve Job’s much anthologized 1997 words, “though the product may alter, the core values should never change.”

While Sadiq Abdulai Abu spoke to Muse AFRICA’s extensive brand workshop process, engaging the founding team to develop a roadmap, tagline, logo and brand package before launching their platform, Jemila Abdulai spoke to her trajectory scaling a personal blog to a publication, developing her brand identity primarily for the purpose of the platform’s growth.

“Unlike Saddiq,” she explains, “I didn’t go out and do hardcore brand research because Circumspecte started a personal blog. The branding was essentially my identity. When I decided to open it up, making it more overt that I was focusing on Africa and not only Ghana, I found that I needed to gradually distance myself from the platform.”

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2. Deliver on your Paper Promise

A strong brand is two-fold. It is at once the paper promise made to your customer (the value proposition you offer them and the colors, fonts, logos, and taglines you use to express it) and the experience that the consumer has with you every step of the way. If the packaging is the promise, the delivery is the experience.

Speaking from his journey growing photography agency RQV into a branding and communications agency, Magic Unltd CEO Rodney Quarcco is familiar with the importance and long-term impact of the brand experience. “As much as you try and tell your target market who you are and what you are it goes beyond that. Your brand is not just the color, it is the association. It is how people perceive you and experience you, as opposed to what you want them to see.”

It is easy to consistently deliver on your promise. And that is ok.

If a critical part of branding is consumer interaction and quality delivery, setting customer expectations and meeting them is key. As a startup, constantly looking to build a larger network, acquiring more business and customers, this portion of quality can quickly become tricky.

For Jemila, Rodney and Sadiq speaking on their ability to maintain a quality experience for their customers, delivering on the brand promise meant making a number of different choices all centered around the much-forgotten fact that the decision making ends with you.

“If you make your projections and you see you may fall short, you must anticipate that this may happen and mitigate it,” Jemila explain. “You are the one making the rules. Just because there is a certain demand, does not mean you should shift the quality of the company too. You might get new people but your original audience will leave.”

As with many startups, for Rodney, scaling RQV Photography meant hiring and training a team to help tackle the immense amount of work he was receiving. Alongside building a larger team, communication, again, was a critical point in maintaining quality. “You can’t always keep your promise when you are short staffed, and if you falter how do you come back? You cannot shadow and follow each of your team members so you do what you can and do the things that work. Above all, be honest with yourself, and with your client. Hopefully, they will empathize, but communication is Key and it is essential to be proactive and not reactive.”

3. Branding can Balance the Budget

Marketing does not always have to mean hard earned Cedis down the sink, as a strong and coherent brands help trim services when necessary, and bypass more costly traditional forms of advertising.

For MUSE Africa’s case, while reviewing and unsustainable sales strategy the strength of their brand guided the restructuring process and gave them the confidence to trim back their production efforts. “When we realized we had to we scale back, our roadmap kept us in line, and the brand that we had established as our baseline. It told us what we couldn’t compromise on and informed our limits on restructuring.” Working within these confines, Sadiq successfully led his in trimming back their costs and their sales strategy, without compromising on their quality.

For many startups and SME’s brand coherence and quality is all the more important as advertising budgets are unforgiving, making customer service the best and cheapest resource for reaching a larger market.

As Kajsa Hallberg Adu, Co-founder of Blogging Ghana, and Princewill Omorogiuwa, Founder of Simon Page College of Marketing, point out, “there is nothing that can advertise better than your customer service and you can truly advertise all you want, but if your offering is crap, you can win a customer today and lose them tomorrow. And today, Social Media is word of mouth.”

In effect, for every Google Adword campaign you run or digital ad campaign you purchase, there is a free alternative that may just secure the push that you need to grow your customer base a little wider and deeper — be it through content marketing on LinkedIn, content creation through brand blogging, on regular social media postings.

You cannot aim further than you can see.

Mentioned in passing, Rodney’s sentiment is underlying but central to the fourth Future Executives Business Breakfast Meeting.
Branding and marketing are not afterthoughts than can simply be tacked on to the end of a venture, a final shot to secure a sale. Yes, they are the core of the products that we sell to our consumers, but most importantly they are our expression of the vision and ambition that we sell to ourselves — and the level of achievement to which we will be accountable.

You cannot know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’re coming from.

In a world drowning in competition and heavy in distraction, your relationship with your customer and tribe is key, but your relationship with the company that you create, and the team that you lead is just as critical. Take your time with it.


This recap was written by Nashilu Mouen-Makoua

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