It’s a marathon, not a sprint, says startup guru at SA Innovation Summit, Newsline

CAPE TOWN – The South African Innovation Summit 2020 kicked off virtually for the first time ever this week, with respected experts offering tricks of the trade to inspire and guide innovators and thought leaders.

On Tuesday, the executive director of the Owners Scaleup programme at the IE Business School in Madrid, Spain – Joe Haslam – shared advice for entrepreneurs.

The summit is the largest startup event in Africa and provides a range of platforms for development and showcasing African innovation.

It also facilitates thought leadership and brings together top entrepreneurs, corporates, investors and policy makers to support and inspire economic growth across the continent.

Haslam spoke about the difference between growth and scaling for startups, saying it had “never been easier to start… but never been harder to scale”.

The perception of entrepreneurs had broadened, he said, as had the concept of entrepreneurship, which years ago was considered an anomaly, considering most people had been reared to find good work.

He also honed in on the importance of management.

“One of the things one really needs to do is harness an exponential function in a business because once exponential growth starts its an incredibly powerful force. That’s what we need to try and do,” Haslam said.

He described a startup as an organisation formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.

Research showed most startups failed because they did not know their terrain or what to do with it, said Haslam, using the example of “trying to grow a cucumber without knowing what a cucumber really is”.

“A really important feature is to run experiments and the experiments are the mindset you need to dig into. Whether you’re a big company or a small company everything is based on experiments. There’s no truth other than what can be proved by an experiment.”

He said that once a company surpassed 10 employees, scaling needed to be contemplated.

“It’s not about the idea, it’s about your capacity to experiment and your capacity to undertake that you found something that works,” Haslman said.

“Complexity kills, simplicity scales,” he emphasised.

He said venture capital was not all-important and that deep industry knowledge was key. As such, older entrepreneurs were more likely to succeed in their businesses, with 45 being a good age to start the journey into entrepreneurship.

He ended the session with a pearl of wisdom: “Company building is a marathon, not a sprint”.

-African News Agency (ANA)