In Summary
  • Investors are always eager to back businesses that have the potential for scalability across different markets.
  • Bolaji Akinboro, my co-founder, who heads the business in Nigeria, always reminds me that this was a watershed moment for Cellulant.

Africa’s ongoing digital revolution has not only fast-tracked economic development across the continent but also produced a fresh crop of young and dynamic entrepreneurs.

Tech hubs in major cities like Nairobi, Johannesburg and Lagos are teeming with young men and women determined to roll out homegrown tech businesses that can rival Facebook, PayPal, Alibaba and other global heavyweights.

Some of these young innovators have enjoyed a relative level of success. This is illustrated by the heightened investor interest in African tech start-ups, majority of them youth-led.
Last year, venture capital funding in African tech start-ups reached a record $560 million (Sh56 billion), a 53 per cent increase from $367 million in 2016, according to a report by Partech Ventures, a venture capital firm.

With the steadily growing investments in youth-led tech start-ups, it is tempting to sensationalise the achievements of a few and forget the multitudes who suffer successive failures despite the commercial viability of their solutions.

TREMENDOUS TALENT

I have experienced first-hand how difficult the entrepreneurial journey can be — especially when you are trying to figure things out all by yourself. In my entrepreneurial journey, I have found three principles that can be particularly useful to youth who have tremendous talent but lack the benefit of experience.

In 2004, in the earlier days of our business, we convinced Dr Samuel Kiruthu to serve as our board chair, a position he holds to-date.

We greatly benefited from his business acumen and experience as he interrogated our financials more exhaustively and helped us to establish strong corporate governance structures.

Bolaji Akinboro, my co-founder, who heads the business in Nigeria, always reminds me that this was a watershed moment for Cellulant. Having a board that held us accountable to our business plan helped us to realise that a business is not a hobby. People had staked their entire careers and reputations on us. Failure was not an option.

As an entrepreneur starting out, it is important to reach out to experienced people outside your core network to help you to set up a board and establish solid corporate governance structures.

RAISE CAPITAL

This will help you both at the beginning and later on in the business when you want to raise capital from investors.

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