Sunday Sermon: A few Things for Aspiring Entrepreneurs and Founders

Get it done

Sunday sermon for the 1%
I randomly ask entrepreneurs I meet a bunch of questions just to dodge a rehearsed pitch. You know folks will pitch every where, just this Friday someone delivered an elevator pitch in the bathrooms and sent a deck right after.

I am trying to find my way back to blogging – Twitter ruined it you know, so here’s a couple questions first.

1. Why are you doing this?
2. What does success look like to you?
3. How can we help you make it happen?

People are driven by different reasons and desires to start or be a part of something – but one of the things that sets us apart is how we define how success looks like. Whatever it is always remember it’s your race, and mind your business.

So here are a few tips you want to consider:

1. The art of the start

In the early days of your company, stop wasting your time pitching (to investors) and start selling (to customers). It’s not a startup, run it like a business from day one. Nothing will ever prepare you enough for entrepreneurship journey and the world of startups – dive in when you are ready. To be honest, it’s all about fighting for your survival, everyday.

2. Here’s to progress

The real threat to your progress is not people who don’t believe in you or say no. Be careful when your inner circle is cheering you on. Also, shit happens when you start ‘killing it’, when it starts happening faster than you can pause to think ahead or reflect!

3. Signal vs noise

Do not take move fast and fail faster and other popular startup mantras as sound advice. People who have done it over and over again will always show and tell you how to go about it. Get advice from someone who is two or three steps ahead of you – they can relate to where you are and mentorship from someone who has walked the entire journey (sometimes over and over) and can tell you an end to end story.

4. Hold on, before you start killing it

Where do you get your validation from? Is it being ranked among “top X under Y”!’? Winning awards?
Being listed on startups to watch?
Amount of funding raised?

Success is a bad teacher, but failure only teaches you what didn’t work. Keep your head down – some of the opportunities landing in your inbox are distractions. It’s okay to pass , forward or say no. Understand what you need to get to the next level and shamelessly pursue it.

5. Keep at it

If you want to keep learning from someone, learn to ask the right questions and stop looking for the right answers. A mentor for example is your sounding board, not a teacher! There’s no right answer or one way to do it – listen, analyze and make a decision – press play. One thing though, indecisiveness is worse than a bad decision. Someone has to call the shots, it’s not a democracy.

6. Cut the BS

Before you start giving talks, conferences for whatever reason, always keep in mind that people and organizations are already paying so much to be told what they want to hear, to read what they’ll enjoy and see what pleases them. BS doesn’t sell anymore. Keep your story real, and focus.

7. Scaling it

In the world of startups, people often set the metrics to measure almost everything. In this era where everything is data driven, the real BS lies in the numbers backed by statistics – you have to interrogate, connect the dots and pick insights. Data can be very misleading especially if you query it wrongly.

8. With growth comes some pains

Step out of your immediate network and hang out with another tribe. Also stop putting boundaries or walls around where certain things happen – ‘Innovation’ doesn’t happen only a hub or lab. Go beyond that and you’ll pick a clearer signal. Good things often come from very unlikely places. Always leave the doors behind you open.

9. It’s not enough to be liked

Do not use your “Africanness”, your colour or gender to defend mediocrity or entitlement, to lower the bar so you make the cut or to advance to the next stage. Pursue excellence, let your brilliant work cut through.

10. Enjoy the ride!

It’s all about the process not the proceeds, the journey not the destination, the events not the outcomes.

IMG Credit: User Vic, Flickr