Pause: If you have an idea, get started.

__You can make money, or excuses, but not both…

What do you do when you have an “idea”? I made this comment recently and some of you asked me to make it a full post. When you have an idea, first of all, have the humility to appreciate that the probability that someone else has had the same idea, even before you, is 99%…

So do your research! Even with the best research skills, it should take you months working several hours a day to establish what others are doing in that space. Today, you at least have the Internet. The beauty of the Internet is that you really have an opportunity to do a “global search” into any new idea.

You can look at what people are doing in the USA, China, Philippines, South Africa, Kenya, etc. You will be pleasantly surprised at how universal entrepreneurship really is. Don’t despise looking into places you have not been to, or be dismissive of places you think are “backward” or “too small”!

One of my favorite searches is to look at patents. As a technically-minded person, I love patents and really anyone can read them. Some ideas, of course, are not on the web or patented. This means you must read articles, ask questions, and so on. Not so long ago, that was the only way to do research!

Your research will establish one of two things:

#1. You truly are the first person in the world to have this brilliant idea! If it is an invention or innovation, you must first then seek legal protection for it. There are experts you can find to help you on how this is done. Choose the right one! Once it’s protected then you can go out to seek support to turn it into a business.

#2. Someone else is already doing something similar. As I said above, 99% of the time someone already has this idea, and is more advanced in executing than you.

In business, that’s not the end of “your” idea. You must now look at various other options:

-Are they in your home market, or elsewhere?
-Can you collaborate?
-Can they license you?
-Can you compete?

Often it is not smart to re-invent the wheel, so maybe find a way to work with them, if they are not a direct competitor to you.

In any case, if you are not already in business, then it’s time to start one. Do a proper business plan. #SeniorClass, if you have some good business plan resources, please share them with your fellow entrepreneurs here.

As you put together your plan, be honest in assessing your own skills and capability!

Do you know how to raise money? When was the last time you tried?!

If you have been trying and trying to raise money and you have failed, simply blaming the system as being rigged against you is not always the best response. Sometimes, it may simply be that you don’t know as much about it as you think.

Perhaps you need to find a “co-founder” or even “co-founders”… #Peoplewho have skills that you don’t have.

Investors prefer people who have co-founders. When I started Econet, I realized that my knowledge in raising money for something this big was not enough, so I persuaded a friend of mine who worked as an international banker to join me as a “co-founder”. He became the Finance Director, and held 10%. He was also a great prayer partner in difficult situations.

#GetStarted! Set up a business, however small. Show you are serious.

Investors will come, but only to people who started something!

And please, let me say again! Do not make the mistake of shopping around an “idea”! 99% of the people who do that get burnt, and there is no legal recourse for it!

Unless you are holding an exclusive license or patent, be careful about talking carelessly to people, and writing about your idea openly (even on this platform). Don’t rush to newspapers to declare your plans. The only time I allow our people to make press statements about anything we are working on, is when we are ready to bring in customers. Competitors are real in any business area you enter. They don’t owe you a living.

You have to be quick, nibble, adaptable…and above all smart. Know when to fight, or to flee to a special corner. Nearly every great company out there once had a competitor or competitors that could have eaten them like a snack.

But the converse is also true: Every great company has a small competitor right now that will eventually challenge them and win!

Now is the time to banish all fears and excuses from your #mindset.

You are each stars already, in your own different ways.

Go get started.

End.

by 10 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.

10 thoughts on “Pause: If you have an idea, get started.

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 2.

    You have heard the expression: “Don’t make perfect the enemy of good”…

    The product or service does not have to be “perfect” the first time. It would be great if it were, but that rarely happens. Try it out on a few people, and if they like it, and are prepared to pay you for it, then get started. What is important is for you to work round the clock on improving it continuously! Keep listening to your customer, doing your research, innovating…

    Don’t procrastinate!

    Reply
  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 3.

    Once you have started two things will happen:

    #1. The customer will start to dictate the product! To paraphrase, “A business idea is only as good as your first contact with the customers.” Accept this as a challenge, and be prepared for very radical change.

    #2. Face the competition! You are going to face competitors big and small. There are others out there who were working on exactly the same concept who will simply accelerate their plans… it’s not theft!

    Others will @FastFollow you… it’s not theft! (Unless you have patented IP, like I said before).

    Others will try to shut you down, and they might find ways to do it, that avoid breaking the law!

    I once started a new venture. One of my largest competitors looked at what I was doing, and just took my key people and launched a similar service. It’s brutal out there, so don’t be naive.

    #Persevere.

    Reply
  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 4.
    If you are planning to start a business, you have to decide right up front, what type of business person you want to be. There are many kinds of business people out there. By now you should have noticed that I fall into the category of entrepreneurs who like to start and build a business. I’m not into the “hustle” as some like to call it. I will not do something simply because I have heard, “That’s where the money is…”

    The “hustle” is just not my game. I’m not interested in tenders, and one-off deals.

    Now I will not stand in judgement to those who are into the hustle, but I just want to declare up front that I don’t know how to do it, and so don’t have much advice, if “the hustle is your thing”!

    Reply
  4. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    #Reflection:
    I’m not a “power politics guy”! There are people who believe that success in business is about “who you know at the top, and not what you know.” I can understand why so many people feel that way, particularly when you see that “instant riches” (appear) to come to those who have powerful relatives. That is not how it should be. Today more than at any time in our history, it is increasingly possible to build your success without “power politics”…

    I believe that it is possible to drastically reduce or even eliminate this approach of doing business within a generation.This does NOT mean you shouldn’t be talking to, or engaging with political players in your country, but you should not be trying to benefit on the basis of relationships, proximity to power, or tribal affiliation.

    Reply
  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    #Reflection:

    The biblical Joseph said to his brothers:
    “When you sent me away, your motivation was for evil, but God used it for good”.

    I really only became a good entrepreneur when I was confronted with having to survive as an outsider.
    I learnt to be tough, only on the inside.

    “You must be as innocent as a dove, but as a shrewd as a serpent”…

    “My strength is made perfect in your weakness…”

    The Master said.

    I believed you could be successful no matter the conditions.

    Sometimes my competitors were the ones invited to right the rules under which we had to compete with them. Imagine what happens when your competitor is the state operator, and the government does not like you.

    So each time my staff came and complained, I would say things you now know:

    #NothingTurnsOnThis!
    #We fight in the conditions and not the conditions.
    #Your political influence and power will never be greater than the grace I enjoy.

    These became as statements of faith.

    Reply
  6. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    #Reflection:

    A young entrepreneur once called me, and asked for an urgent meeting.
    He told me his father had just been elected President of their country.
    It was at a time when mobile licenses were like cash registers.
    “I can get a license issued, but I want to be your partner.”
    I politely declined.

    Now this my friends, this kind of thing, has happened to me over the last 20 years no less than 10 times.

    Each time I would go before the Lord and make a little prayer:
    “Lord today I took a stand based on your values. You said I would not suffer loss, if I make such a stand. Please remember to compensate me 100 fold for this stand.”

    Reply
  7. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    #Pause:
    Breaking News!

    One day I received a long document with all sort of allegations against the management of our company in Zimbabwe. The writer claimed to have evidence that our company had been under invoicing on Customs Duty payments. The amounts ran into hundreds of millions, and exceeded even the original cost of equipment!

    The man wanted to see me, so that “we can make it go away.” He threatened to go the authorities if I did not meet him.

    I called the CEO of the business in Zimbabwe, who explained what I already knew:
    “It’s a massive extortion, and he has been threatening us.”
    We agreed to face down whatever they threw at us, even though we knew we would face no mercy, given the animosity with the government.

    We agreed to just sit tight. I never agreed to meet the guy, and we instructed our legal teams to prepare for a big battle.

    Next thing the Customs authorities raided our offices, and this was followed by a massive tax bill running into almost US$100m.
    It was all over the media.
    We were called cheats, and some demanded arrests.

    December 2013:
    We went to court, beginning what was a five year legal battle, that finally ended today [over 5 years later] when the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe [the highest court] dismissed the entire claim. They said our taxes are in order, and we do not owe even 1 cent!

    We are the highest tax payer, having paid over US$1,5bn in taxes. We have been the highest tax payer for more than 10 years.

    The justices found that we are an exemplary tax payer and citizen.

    #Rejoice with those who rejoice!

    Reply
  8. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Chukwuemeka Amadi writes,

    Thank you so much sir for this words of wisdom.

    Sir, I’d like to ask, you made mention of not shopping around your idea… Sir how do we sell our idea to an investor (or investors) without shopping?

    Secondly, how do we know that an investor who turned us down, do not go behind and build same idea up using our business model…?

    I will be glad if you address this question, sir.

    Thank you

    Chukwuemeka

    My reply,
    First of all you need to understand who is, and is not an investor!
    Not everyone who has money is an investor.
    Before approaching anyone to invest you need to do your homework thoroughly.
    In business we call this “due diligence”.

    One mistake and you are toast.
    Don’t rush. Ask around quietly about the person or their business.
    If you are a first time entrepreneur, it is always recommended to first approach friends and relatives, or professional venture capitalists.
    If this investor puts money in this business, will they need you?

    Always try to ascertain the intentions of the other party. What is their end game, and does it align with your own?

    # You ask:

    “Secondly, how do we know that an investor who turned us down, do not go behind and build same idea up using our business model…?”

    If you choose your investor carefully this will not happen.
    If you make a mistake you are toast!
    And if you do end up a nice snack, put it to experience and learn from it!
    This game is called entrepreneurship!
    You have to have a stomach for calculated risk—but remember you cannot go forward without taking “risk”!

    Reply
  9. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Ivan Ddumba writes,

    Many people say “rich people are evil and to be rich u need to have sacrificed someone or made satanic rituals” I was very glad to know u; a rich man who loves God.

    My reply,

    Here are some verses from the Bible:

    Genesis 24:35
    The Lord has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy. He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys.

    Deuteronomy 8:18
    But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

    1 Chronicles 29:12
    Wealth and honor come from you;
    you are the ruler of all things.
    In your hands are strength and power
    to exalt and give strength to all.

    2 Corinthians 9:8
    And God is able to make all grace (every favor andearthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the needbe self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation].

    3 John 1:2
    Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in every way and [that your body] may keep well, even as [I know] your soul keeps well and prospers.

    I found these in the Bible just for you, because I thought you might also want to know what God also has to say.

    Reply

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