Business / Business News

Vhahangwele Nemakonde
Digital Journalist
6 minute read
25 Jun 2019
10:27 pm

17 tips on starting a successful tech start-up

Vhahangwele Nemakonde

Twelve start-ups that graduated from the Launchpad Accelerator Africa Class 3 were provided with some nuggets of wisdom.

Picture: Google Launchpad Accelerator

The third Google Launchpad Accelerator Africa class graduated on Friday in Lagos, forming part of 23 startups from Classes 1 and 2, who have created 385 jobs and raised over R272 million.

Launchpad Accelerator Africa Class 3 comprised of 12 startups from six African countries – Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Uganda.

58% of co-founders were female.

Also read: How Google can help entrepreneurs kickstart their tech start-ups

Teams who graduated were trained in machine-learning technologies and implemented AI in their product as a result. The startups in this class raised about R129 million in funding, created more than 120 jobs and accumulated over 270,000 users on their services.

The 12 startups that graduated are:

54Gene (Nigeria): Improves drug discovery by researching multiple genetically diverse African populations.

Data Integrated Limited (Kenya): Develops solutions that automate and digitise payment processes for public transport. (Egypt): Connects patients to credible nutritionists and dietitians online to help them maintain a healthy and optimal weight.

Kwara (Kenya): Provides a rich digital banking platform to established fair lenders such as credit unions or savings and credit cooperatives, with an open API to enable and accelerate their inclusion into the formal financial ecosystem.

OkHi (Kenya): A physical addressing platform for emerging markets that is on a mission to enable the 4 billion without a physical address to “be included”.

PAPS (Senegal): A logistics startup with a strong client-care orientation, focused on last mile delivery in the domestic market that features live tracking, an intelligent address system, and automatic dispatch.

ScholarX (Nigeria): An education startup that connects high potential students with funding opportunities to help them advance in their studies.

Swipe2pay (Uganda): A web and mobile payments solution that democratises electronic payments for SMEs by making it easy for them to accept mobile as a mode of payment.

Tambua Health Inc. (Kenya): The Tambua App turns a normal smartphone into a powerful, non-invasive diagnostic tool for Tuberculosis and Pneumonia. It uses a cough sound acoustic signature, symptoms, risk factors and clinical information to come up with a diagnostic report. (South Africa):’s CX Research Platform helps companies understand their customers by turning their customer research into insights, personas and customer journey maps.

WellaHealth (Nigeria): A pharmacy marketplace for affordable high-quality disease-care (such as malaria treatment) driven by artificial intelligence.

Zomila (formerly Zelda Learning) (South Africa): Provides free online career guidance for students looking to enter university and then links them to funding and study opportunities.

Speaking to the graduates, Wiza Jalakasi, head of international expansion at Africa’s Talking shared a few tips on how to build a successful tech company. With at least 10 years of experience of doing start-ups, Jalakasi said he made mistakes and failed along the way, however, it was those same mistakes that set him up on a way to success.

He said:

  • Building a business takes time, for most, it takes four to five years. There is a process that is involved and it’s not always colourful. It’s day-to-day grinds, doing seemingly mundane things and you need to get it in your head that that’s the only way for you to get where you’re going. Fall in love with the process.
  • You need to focus on your business. It’s very easy for you to get distracted by ecosystem events. Don’t be your start-ups. Spend your time and energy on things that are directly related to the outcomes of your business. Mind your own business, drink water. Remain teachable. Check your psychology as grow, especially when people start talking about you. Don’t let that get into your head, tomorrow is another day and you still need to pay your bills.
  • Spend time with your customers. If as an entrepreneur you’re not willing to get your hands dirty, it’s not going to work out for you. Do not fall in love with this notion that you can sit on your high table with a laptop on your lap and think this is how you’ll build your business. Sometimes you need to sit down and talk to someone to get things done. That’s how you build a technology company.
  • When you see similar business pop up, that’s a good thing. It validates that there’s value in the space that you’re creating and it’s important for you to be aware of what’s happening in the industry. Don’t be scared when you see the competition and don’t double down on trying to beat the competition directly. Focus on your customers.
  • If you’re trying to run a business and you’re trying to avoid accounting, it’s not going to work. You need to get comfortable with basic administration. You need to be running a profit and loss from day one.
  • Don’t have a goal of making a profit immediately. You’ll make a loss for many years. What’s important is keeping those records so when the time comes for fundraising, you have your ducks in order.
  • You may think investors don’t want to see losses on your books but what investors are looking for is a consistent attitude towards record-keeping and responsibility, you must build that from day one.
  • The company culture is what you as the founder do on a day-to-day basis. You can’t build culture through writing nice bullet points. It’s what you do on a day-to-day basis and you can only lead by example. Be deliberate about the culture from day one.
  • Fundraising is about telling a good story. The market doesn’t always reward great ideas, if you fail to tell a good story you might not have access to capital. Be good at storytelling. If as a founder you are not good at storytelling, find someone who can do it for you.
  • If you’re not good at storytelling, start building relationships early. Some investors will back you simply because you’re consistent with information and they’ve seen you grow.
  • Expansion is extremely difficult. You’ll spend twice your budget. I don’t recommend that start-ups jump into expansion from day one. Stop and validate your idea in your home market and respect that base.
  • Kindness is an important tool that you can leverage to build your start-up. Be kind to yourself as a founder. Separate yourself as a founder from your start-ups. The success or failure of your start-ups will never be tied to the success or failure of you as a person.
  • Your business partner will more likely become one of the most important people in your life. Have empathy for who they are – their strengths and weaknesses. Take time to cultivate an authentic relationship in which you as co-founders can have extremely difficult conversations on a day to day basis without breaking the company.
  • Take care of yourself. You can be a start-up founder and live a normal life. This idea that you need to be breaking your back to make your start-up work is not true. Let it go.
  • Be kind to your staff. The people working for you are going to make a pass on opportunities that they could take advantage of elsewhere. If you treat your staff members as your first customers and your job as the CEO is to make sure your customer is happy, they will actually build the business for you.
  • Be guarded about your reputation and integrity, people will use it to decide on whether to work with you.
  • You don’t get what you don’t ask for. Speak to people and share your progress and struggles.

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