Reflection on my greatest pitch ever (so far)

__The audacity of faith, plus a LOT of preparation and practice.

Listen to me, child of Africa, (and indeed any entrepreneur from wherever you are): I know there are hurdles that appear so insurmountable to you right now. I’m here to tell you that you can overcome and reach your dreams!

Here’s a story some of you have read (parts of) before: When the government of Botswana issued a tender for two mobile licenses in 1997, they hired a team of international experts from Sweden to help adjudicate offers from five companies. (I’ve spoken at various times about the faith in God that led me to submit a bid but I will not talk about it today).

Then-candidate Barack Obama was propelled into the Presidency of the United States by what he called the Audacity of Hope, and I say (in the same token) that I was propelled into business by what I call the audacity of faith!

# Faith, hope and love; these three abide!

There were five bidders: MTN, Vodacom (in partnership with Botswana Telecoms), Bharti of India, France Telecom (Orange) and Mascom Wireless (the name I gave my consortium, which was short for Masiyiwa Communications).

The consultants advising the Botswana Telecoms Authority asked each bidder to come make a pitch and answer questions. A full day was set aside for each bidder.

Our competitors came in private jets. On our side, some of my team traveled by car from Harare in Zimbabwe (a day’s journey) because we could not afford air tickets!

# Did you know that Faith has a twin?

It’s called Grace!

# We planned meticulously.
# We rehearsed the bid questions over and over again.
# We set up a mock process in our offices, and got a team to act as the adjudicators, and ask questions.
# We practiced and practiced and practiced for two solid weeks!

When the day came, we appeared before a panel of adjudicators made up of Botswana government officials and telecoms experts from Sweden. The meeting was chaired by a leading Botswana lawyer called Mr Moses Lekaukau, a huge man with a thundering no-nonsense style.

I began my pitch by greeting the chairman in Setswana, their mother tongue. I then went into my pitch.

I can still remember some of the data that I used on Botswana’s demographics, its economic growth, the potential market… numbers, numbers, numbers!

After my initial pitch, they began to grill us on our presentation which was more than 900 pages: “On this page, you say that… Please explain, and what is the source of your data?”

My team and I knew that document like the back of our hands, and we enjoyed each question. The grilling lasted the whole day. I was fasting on that day, too!

A few weeks later the Botswana government announced the winner was Mascom Wireless and France Telecom (Orange) had come in second!

It’s is now 21 years since that “pitch.” We went on to set up Botswana’s and our own first telecoms business, which remains to this day the country’s number one operator.

Imagine my position at the time:

# No experience;
# Facing global competitors;
# No money.

I was also black. (In the minds of most people at that time, there was no such thing as a serious black entrepreneur).

__Never allow yourself to become a “grasshopper in your own eyes,” even if others see you as nothing more than a grasshopper.

Since then, I’ve pitched to some of the greatest investors in the world, and global leaders including in 2012 to the G-8 leaders. My greatest pitch though at a personal level was this one in 1997 in Gaborone, Botswana. I will forever be grateful to the government and people of Botswana for the opportunity.

Above all, I thank God for the audacity of faith that gave me an indomitable spirit that refused to accept my circumstances.

End.

by 17 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.

17 thoughts on “Reflection on my greatest pitch ever (so far)

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 1.
    Some of you have gone ahead and read Neil Patel’s article in Entrepreneur magazine which he kindly allowed me to republish for you here. I hope you enjoyed it. Please look up #9-#13 on your own, then tell me of all the tips which was the most helpful to you?

    1. Take only ten minutes.
    2. Turn your pitch into a story.
    3. Be laser-focused.
    4. Explain EXACTLY what your product or service is.
    5. Explain EXACTLY what is unique about your product or service.
    6. Explain EXACTLY who your target audience is.
    7. Explain EXACTLY how you intend to acquire these customers.
    8. Explain your revenue model.
    9. Be wildly enthusiastic.
    10. Dress to kill.
    11. Practice your pitch.
    12. Anticipate questions, and answer them ahead of time.
    13. Show them the exit.

    You can find the full article at https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/251311

    Reply
    • Johnbright

      To me, number 11-12 is the ultimate. When there’s clarity in your pitch and you can answer all questions it’s shows you have a clearer vision than your competitors. Thank you sir for this insightful piece.

      Please reach me. I’ll like to ask you a personal question. ijohnbright@gmail.com

      Reply
  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 2.
    When we were well established in Botswana years later, the chairman of that adjudication process (who was now the regulator) told me that my pitch had made him examine his own faith even though I had said nothing about God throughout the presentation.

    From then on, our conversation would often end in a discussion about faith. He died several years ago. Africa has many unsung heroes, and he was one of them, because he allowed himself to listen with an open mind to young people (like I was at the time). If you are a senior civil servant somewhere in Africa today, I urge you to reflect about what you’re doing to help young people realize their dream.

    Reply
  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 3.
    A dear friend who was a road engineer told me that the biggest threat to a road was a seed: “A seed in the ground will break a concrete road if it gets just a drop of moisture,” he said. “I can understand that,” I answered quietly. “It’s like when faith makes contact with a dream.”

    Reply
    • munyaradzi bvuchete

      awesome, aligment of seed with moisture and the outcome is magnificent, in the same vein, alignment of faith and a dream, the outcome will leave us speechless.. this is very inspirational, thank you

      Reply
  4. Patience

    That account of events is inspiring.
    I am currently working on a research assignment for my business innovation and entrepreneurship. We are researching on top entrepreneurs that we know. I am researching on you and the organisation that you set up. I have managed to find most of the information that l need from the internet. I would however like to know the following from you.
    1. What is your own working definition of entrepreneurship ?
    2. Name 3 things that you enjoyed doing as a young boy maybe between the ages 12 and 18.
    3. What were your top 3 favourite subjects in school?
    4. What are the top 3 things you would encourage an entrepreneur to do?
    5. What are the top 3 things you would discourage an entreprenuer from doing?
    6. What are your current hobbies?

    It is short notice but l hope to get your feedback, either in written format or a video.

    Thanking you in advance.

    Reply
  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought:
    how we funded our bid.
    One day as I was walking in Harare long before the bid for the license in Botswana, but whilst I was fighting my legal battles in Zimbabwe; I ran into an old friend who had just returned from an expatriate assignment working for an international bank.
    “I’m thinking of starting my own bank”, he told me over coffee.
    “I have a better idea; why don’t you join me, and I will give you shares in my telecoms venture. I need a partner who understands finance at the highest level, because I’m just an engineer.”
    And we struck a powerful partnership which was in place for 5 years before that bid in Botswana even took place!
    Years later he sold his shares through the public market and went to start his own bank.
    Now you understand how we were able to put the financing structure for our bid, enough to satisfy those Swedish consultants and the Botswana government experts.
    # You find partners that augment your own skills deficiency. This is not rocket science.
    Who are you hanging out with?

    Reply
  6. Epiphanie Mugeniwabagara

    Dear Strive Misiyiwa,

    I read on a regular basis your publications on Facebook or your blog, and each time I find in them inspiration for my projects. This post about “the audacity of hope” or “the audacity of faith” makes echo in my mind as I am currently working on gathering African researchers especially those who are interested in supporting science, technology and entrepreneurship in Africa.
    The ultimate goal of my projects is to work in order to move Africa gradually away from its current position as an importer of technological products and bring it to a position of an exporter of high-added-value technological products. I believe that this is possible since Africa has enough brains (inside or outside Africa) that are capable of such achievements. But the only condition for that is to set up a favourable environment for research and entrepreneurship.

    Few days ago in a discussion with a collaborator of mine we mentioned your name as the right person who could launch Africa in satellite-related R&D and create new job opportunities and develop skills for African young scientists and engineers.

    If you are interested I can provide you more details the business with satellite-based services.

    Best regards,

    Dr Epiphanie MUGENIWABAGARA

    Reply
  7. ELINA PHIRI

    Reading this has highly motivated me,now l have the courage to stand tall and be able pitch my business idea,through faith and believing in God.

    Reply
  8. Eku McGred

    Thanks Prof. Strive for your mentorship: my dream of having a copy of the African Child Poem in the hands of every child of African heritage came one step closer with the launch of the ‘African Child Exhibition’ in London on the International Day of the African Child. We were honoured to have Prof. Chris Imafidon(father of Britain’s brainiest family and world’s most mathematical family according to BBC and FOX news) and former Mayor of the London borough of Harrow Ma Nana Asante with us #AfricanChildPoem #AfricanChildExhibition #IAmAnAfricanChild

    Reply
  9. Epiphanie Mugeniwabagara

    Dear Strive Misiyiwa,

    As I already mentioned it in my previous comment (June, 20th 2017) I am currently working on gathering African researchers especially those who are interested in supporting science, technology and entrepreneurship in Africa.

    At the present stage, a Nobel Prize laureate, a renowned Astronaut and academics, all living in Europe have expressed their support for this project and have even agreed to be mentors for African students in Science and Technology. Only they suggested that an imminent African personality from the field of Science-Technology and Entrepreneurship join them in their role as mentors.

    Would you agree to join our team of mentors?

    It would be a great honour for us to count on your mentorship.
    I will be very pleased to provide you more details about this project.

    Best regards,

    Dr Epiphanie MUGENIWABAGARA

    Reply

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