What young, aspiring African entrepreneurs need is more of mentorship at their early stages than the much more sought after funding. When an innovative idea is pitched to an investor, the next stage shouldn’t be funding. What the investor needs to do is tap into his/her wealth of experience with Startups and offer to guide. More of that and less of funding (except all that investor has to offer is just a wad of cash).
Funding is important to help a Startup get from point A to point B but it’s volatile and if you have no idea what you’re doing, your burn rate would probably beat that of burning Sulphur. It’s my view that funding should come after guidance. You don’t put the cart before the horse. Entrepreneurs should seek mentorship first before funding. Chances are that your mentor, having being pleased with your development, would write you a fat check. Who drops a fat wad of cash into a rookie’s laps without either going over their expenditure plan or offering to mentor them every step of the way?
Also, what is obtainable in Europe, Asia and the US isn’t here in Africa. These are different market terrains and this is where experienced, established African entrepreneurs come into play. They came, saw and conquered. These champions understand the hurdles, challenges and the distractions peculiar to the African terrain and can offer quality advice on how to scale through. Established African entrepreneurs should offer internship slots to aspiring entrepreneurs and help them measure data and learn while they build their product until they can attain Product-Market fit. Sometimes last year, Mark Essien offered to incubate aspiring Nigerian entrepreneurs with the conditions clearly spelt out. I don’t know how that panned out though.
Last May, I asked him for a Sales internship slot and he accepted. It was a wonderful learning experience for me as I improved my sales ability. You think you can sell? Try selling a free product/service to your target audience and see how often you get rejected. Some people would even tell you to your face that they don’t feel comfortable using your free service as they are wary of what could be lurking behind. Maybe it’s just a Trojan horse.
I worked as a Client Relationship Intern in Lagos and Osun states and I met with diverse Hotel managers with different orientation. Imagine pitching a recognised platform that wants to help their business grow and you still get rejected. I’m hoping I can get an internship slot in management this time around at another Nigerian Startup. I stand to be corrected but I’m an aspiring African entrepreneur and as tempting as funding is, all I ask for is mentorship and networking.
This post written by Olushola Adebayo first appeared on his LinkedIn Page
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