Control or growth? (Part 3)

__The journey to build a bigger business.

For those of you who have read some of my early writings, you will know that I started very much like a lot of you. We were originally four partners who were each required to put up $75 into an “investment club.” Two of them did not put up their share, leaving only two of us who were committed. That happens even today. So if it happens to you it’s not the end of the world.

The two of us remained together for a while as 50:50 partners until we split up because each of us wanted to do our own thing. That too happens. Keep the friendship and move on. My former partner is a lifelong friend.

I was alone as 100% shareholder for several years, working hard, borrowing from everyone I could think of just to keep my head above water. It was hectic and nerve racking, just like it is right now for some of you.

Eventually I figured out how to get a bank overdraft, and then spent my life working to pay it back on time, until it felt like that’s all I was working for! My little business grew, and I ended up employing more and more people. There was no one to teach me the ropes, but I knew that if I was going to be a successful entrepreneur, I must learn from those who were successful. So I read a lot about international entrepreneurs from all over the world, and attended local business events where I could meet and talk to people.

I was constantly asking questions of others, and also of myself…

“How did they fund their businesses?” was always at the top of my mind.

In asking such questions I did not take anything for granted with simplistic answers like a high school student. I asked questions and researched. If I got in front of an established entrepreneur whom I knew not to be a thief, I would ask the same question:

“How did you finance and grow your business?”

It did not take long to find out that the subject was big and complex. There were many ways to fund a business, but many of them were not available for African entrepreneurs. I did not complain or waste my time lobbying and writing letters, because I was looking for a solution.

I knew a lot of big men in my town and country, but I did not dare approach them because I knew many of them well enough to know they would simply take over my little business. This was a reality of developing countries in general, and I had read terrible stories from Africa, Brazil and India.

__It is a genuine fear and you must tread cautiously, even today.

So I soldiered on, just like many of you today. I kept searching for the type of organization which could invest in ventures like mine, whilst allowing me to keep control of my destiny. This is what each of you that is at that stage in business should be doing.

If you have been in business for a long time, and think you already know it all, remember my dictum: “When you think you know it all, that is the point at which you know nothing!”

I was constantly writing letters to organizations if I heard about funding support for young entrepreneurs. I even visited embassies to meet their trade people. Many of those people are there even in your own country. Look them up. Find out about their programs.

__I was constantly alert! You have to be!

And it was because I was READING all the time that I learnt about an initiative in which the International Finance Corporation (IFC) part of the World Bank Group was planning to set up a “Venture Capital Window” for young African entrepreneurs. It was an obscure little comment somewhere, but it was enough…

I had seen it! (Then I “katalambano-ed”! Seized the opportunity!)

I found a massive organization that was prepared to invest and take equity in my business. In the next part I will tell you about how I sold 25% of the business, and launched myself to the next phase of my entrepreneur’s journey. Hold onto your seat!

To be continued. . .

by 19 Replies

About Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet, a diversified global telecommunications group with operations and investments in over 15 countries. His business interests also include renewable energy, financial services, media and hospitality. Masiyiwa serves on a number of international boards, including Unilever, Rockefeller Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Advisory Board, the Africa Progress Panel, the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board for Sustainable Energy, Morehouse College, Hilton Foundation's Humanitarian Prize Jury and the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council. He is one of the founders, with Sir Richard Branson, of the global think tank, the Carbon War Room, and a founding member of the Global Business Coalition on Education. Masiyiwa took over the Chairmanship of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) from Kofi Annan. He is also Chair of the Micronutrient Initiative, a global organization focused on ending child hunger and improving nutrition. In 2012, Masiyiwa was invited by President Obama to address leaders at the Camp David G-8 Summit on how to increase food production and end hunger in parts of Africa. In 2014, Masiyiwa was selected to Fortune Magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”. As a philanthropist, he is a member of the Giving Pledge, and his contributions to education, health and development have been widely recognized. Masiyiwa and his wife finance the Higher Life Foundation, which provides scholarships to over 42,000 African orphans. In 2015, he was the recipient of the International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award and was presented with a UN Foundation Global Leadership Award for the work of the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust, which he chairs and helped establish to fund the deployment of African healthcare workers to combat the outbreak in West Africa.

19 thoughts on “Control or growth? (Part 3)

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 1.
    Finding investors and equity partners for a business sometimes reminds me of the trek of the wildebeest in East Africa. When they get to the rivers there are huge crocodiles waiting! They have to cross because going back is not an option as survival of their species requires that they cross. This is the hardest part of the game without a doubt. And in Africa, unfortunately, it is 100x more difficult than anywhere else in the world.

    Reply
  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 2.
    For those of you who watch entrepreneurial shows on Kwesé Inc, you will know by now that very few investors will put money behind an “idea” which is not yet a business. The only time an idea gets backing is when you are dealing with an inventor who has patented the idea. If you look at my story I started with what little I had and battled my way to get the business going. This is what investors want to see.

    Reply
  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 3.
    It is important to do your homework when looking for investors. There are a lot of bad people out there. You can easily lose your money or business through fraudsters. So do your homework.
    If it is not a well-known and established institution, then make sure you meet other people who got an investment from that organization. Don’t be hasty or listen to vague and rosy promises. Do NOT sign agreements without an independent lawyer helping you.

    Reply
  4. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 4.
    In today’s photo is someone I greatly admire, Kirsty Coventry. Her Olympic achievements over the years for our country Zimbabwe are because of great discipline, without which great success in any field is absolutely impossible.

    Reply
  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought:
    Remember this comment I made a few weeks ago?
    It was meant for African leaders and their policy makers:

    Afterthought:
    In 1991 I visited San Francisco to see for myself measures that local and state authorities were taking to promote entrepreneurship.
    Based on what I saw at the time, it did not surprise me when companies like Google, Facebook, Uber, Twitter, and many others began to emerge within a decade.
    In 2008, I spent a month in China studying what they were doing to develop entrepreneurship. It reminded me of what I had seen in California. I was totally stunned!
    Today China boasts some of the fastest growing global companies, and is the only serious competitor to the US when it comes to building global companies.

    #Policy does matter:
    There is a lot African governments can do to use entrepreneurship as a driver for jobs and wealth creation.

    “What do you “see”?”

    Reply
  6. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Benson writes,

    Happy new year Mr Strive
    Thank you family for the support and votes
    I have been adjudged the AFRICAN HEALTH PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR
    I pledge myself to do all I can to contribute to the rise of Africa

    My reply,
    Well done!
    You are a champion!

    Reply
  7. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Ejike writes,

    Very timely piece.

    Thank you so much for sharing Sir.

    Over the Christmas holiday I finally read the international bestseller, ‘Start Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle’ by Dan Senor and Saul Singer.

    I think this is a seminal work for all political leaders and business leaders.

    From this all important book, I was intrigued by how Israel triggered a proliferation of successful start ups and homegrown businesses by developing its Venture Capital industry.

    From the book, I learned how the Israeli government championed the establishment of venture capital firms through its ‘Yozma’ initiative.

    Today Israel is brimming over with entrepreneurs and global businesses as a result.

    Interestingly, venture capital firms do not only provide funding, they ‘mentor’ entrepreneurs and help them build world class management teams.

    We are in dire need of this here in Africa.

    Now Venture Capital is something we have not developed in Africa because of our parochial minded political actors and the dismal business education of our youths.

    But until we develop world class Venture Capital firms, we are not going to build world class businesses.

    Businesses thrive in America because of Wall Street and Venture Capital firms. The history of Goldman Sachs, ‘Money and Power’ was another very fascinating read that highlighted the seminal importance of building a venture capital firms, hedge funds, and investment banks to building a robust private sector.

    These books coupled with our grim realities in our continent, have inspired me to help develop large venture capital and equity firms in Africa to help build world class business institutions in Africa.

    AND I WILL!

    In the immortal words of Mahatma Gandhi, ‘We must be the change we wish to see in the world’.

    My reply,

    I’m in the “Start Up Nation” (Israel) until the 10th January 2018!
    If I could I would give that book as a present to every African leader.

    Reply
  8. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Dare Adu-Samuels writes,

    Seeing that I’m a future African leader, can I have a copy of the book (and other books) you sir?

    My reply,
    If your heart is truly in becoming a future African leader then you must put your money into it (fulfilling that dream). So even if I wanted to “give” you a copy I would not do it, you must buy it for yourself.
    Who is it that said “where your treasure is that is where your heart is also”?

    Make it a principle of life, that if something really matters, don’t ask to get it for free, insist on paying for it.

    You can get your hands on this book [Start Up Nation] within a week, if you want it, and read it to completion within the time it takes to watch a football match.

    Reply
  9. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Sharon writes,

    You give me more motivation to get connected to the world with how you are well informed Dr, thank you!

    My reply,
    Being informed is the secret!

    The richest man in recorded history left us this nugget of wisdom:

    Proverbs 4:7
    Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom:
    and with all thy getting get understanding.

    Wisdom also includes becoming skillful at what you do.
    “With all your getting get understanding”.

    Reply
  10. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    About Kirsty Coventry:

    She is the second most medaled female athlete in African history (after Maria Mutola of Mozambique):

    Kirsty Leigh Coventry (Zimbabwe)

    Born on 16 September 1983 in Harare, Kirsty Coventry is a Zimbabwean swimmer specializing in backstroke and four medley competitions. She discovered international competition in the late 1990s, and her first participation in the Olympic Games was in 2000 in Sydney. Four years later at the Olympic games of Athens 2004, she became the first individual Olympic champion of her country. She confirmed her new status by winning several awards at the world championships, including two world titles won in 2005 in Montreal. After underperforming in 2006 and 2007, Coventry beat the holder of the world record in February of 2008. A few months later, at the 2008 Summer Olympics, Coventry retained her Olympic title in the 200 backstroke and won three other silver medals.

    My wife and I travelled to the Beijing Olympics, and also London to support her.

    She is a Kwese Sports Ambassador, along with Dikembe Mutombo Of DRC the NBA Hall Of Fame.

    Reply
  11. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Ada writes,

    Wow! Never knew you started this small like some of us. This is a huge relief for me because am beginning to wonder how people like me can actually attract big & international investors. Am so eager to read your next post so i can learn more about this subject…..

    My reply,
    The thing that excites me even more is the knowledge that most of you are better equipped than I was at the same stage in my career:
    #1. You are more skilled;
    #2. You are smarter, and more educated;
    #3. You are better connected globally;
    #4. You are quicker to learn and execute;
    #5. You are more compassionate..

    And above all, you are God fearing and therefore Wise.

    There are people already on this platform and following our very conversation who are going to totally transform Africa, and propel it to the full realization of its potential, and that is just awesome!

    Reply
  12. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Jerry writes,

    Dr Strive Masiyiwa, I desperately Need this book,Pls how do I place an order. I will buy more than a copy

    My reply,
    Jerry, Facebook is just one of the millions of things you can do on the Internet. Don’t allow it to become your “internet”. Facebook is just one room in this mansion we call the Internet.
    Explore the whole house!
    It will take you less than 5 minutes to find this book on the Internet, using another room of this great mansion like Amazon.
    Enjoy your mansion!

    Reply
  13. IfeOluwa Oludiran

    This testimony looks so much like my story, except that I am yet to get to the point of that breakthrough; but am very optimistic and assured that am on the right track.
    Thank you Sir, for sharing this wealth(of wisdom and experience), African descendants will bless you because of the positive and blissful ripple effects of your sacrifices in mentoring us.

    Reply
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    I feel it interesting, your post gave me a new perspective! I have read many other articles about the same topic, but your article convinced me! I hope you continue to have high quality articles like this to share with veryone!

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