The Return of the #BuffaloHunter

__Shhh! Don’t be an amateur!

Many years ago I was on a flight, and sitting there I listened to two guys in front of me speaking in hushed tones. As I listened carefully, I realized they were from a competitor company discussing a very interesting opportunity that I had not heard about!  Wow!

As soon as I got off the plane I did two things: First of all, I moved in quickly and took over that deal from right under their nose. To this day, they don’t know what happened!  No regrets on my part, those were fools!

Second, I told my people, never, ever, open your mouth about what we are doing in public. Don’t discuss business issues whilst on the phone in public, and don’t sit next to each other on the plane or bus!

It never ceases to surprise me how careless people are about what they are doing. Some just do it to boast, and those ones I won’t talk about here!  (We don’t have the boastful type on this platform.)

When I was a graduate student at university, one of my engineering professors asked me to help him on a criminal court case where he was an “expert witness.” We had to set up an experiment to demonstrate that a person who claimed to have overheard a confession could not possibly have heard it from where they were. It was a very technical sound engineering experiment at the time. Through that work I learnt not to say too much in public…!

Actually a good entrepreneur does not talk about what they are “planning to do” before the business reaches the customer.  If you must, talk about what you have “already done.” Otherwise keep quiet.

This is a principle I try to use all the time.  When you get into serious business, your competitors are constantly studying what you are saying or doing. It’s not just a question of being accidentally eavesdropped by the guy sitting behind or in front of you on a plane…

And don’t make the mistake of assuming certain people are harmless by observing the way they’re dressed, or even their age, or gender. You can make a deadly mistake through thinking someone is not important!

There are also detractors who, whilst not being an actual competitor, are consumed by what can best be described as a “spirit of jealousy” and will go out of their way to destroy or impede the work of others, even though there’s no gain for them. It’s part of life, so don’t give them the ammunition they need.

Some time ago, I wrote a series about how you protect your plans, and Intellectual Property (IP), including ideas and inventions. Go back to it, and study it carefully.

Even on this platform, please avoid giving details about what you are “planning” or “thinking” about, without taking adequate measures to protect it in the professional manner.  Don’t send or publish business plans to people.

It is like leaving your wallet on a counter in a bar!


by 36 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.

36 thoughts on “The Return of the #BuffaloHunter

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 1.
    People often say, “We heard you were recently in such and such country. Why didn’t you tell us in advance?” The answer is simple, “If I came for philanthropy purposes, or issues to do with my public not-for-profit work, I will say in advance, but not if my trip was business.” When I’m traveling on business, I want to be as quiet as possible. I’m always slipping in and out of countries, virtually unnoticed.

  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 2.
    When I was still in the construction industry 30 years ago, one of my workers asked to see me one day. He was a very low-level guy. “Boss,” he said, “I was at a bar the other day, and I bumped into a guy I used to work with. He told me their company is about to be awarded the biggest building in Harare, a new headquarters for the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. He said there’s no tender because it is highly specialized.” I listened quietly, and then thanked him. The following day I wrote to the Minister, creating a big stink. It was then put to tender and we won. My guys could do that because of two reasons: They understand that it’s our business together; it’s how we feed our families. And they’re trained to listen and move quickly to protect our interests.

  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Kwesé weekly quiz:
    I’m still giving away decoders for Kwesé! So here’s the latest question: I will give a decoder to the first person from the 13x countries available online at who answers this question: Name at least 3x shows on Kwesé Inc, that help entrepreneurs make a pitch for investment. Winners will be posted on Kwese.Com/News in a week. Don’t forget to put your country (of the 13x only) and put your answer right here!

    Note: Quiz is only available on my official Facebook page

  4. Thabitha Moyo

    Am learning a lot, that has been my weekness and it cost me a lot, thanks for this lesson.

  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Johncross writes,

    Sir, I’m an eighteen year old 200 level engineering student from Nigeria, actually studying Industrial Production Engineering. I really have passion for entrepreneurship and already have some ideas. Doing business is kind of affecting my performance in school. I’m actually confused because I don’t know if I should wait till I graduate before facing business or to just continue mixing business with schooling even if it affects my grades. Would appreciate if I get a reply from you sir. God bless!

    My reply,
    There is no easy answer to this question because people like Bill Gates, and several others left university without finishing, and still did very well!
    However, I know they would agree with me that it is better to err on the side of caution:
    Leave the business for a while and finish your studies with the best possible results. You have a life time to become a great entrepreneur.

  6. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Darlington writes,

    The world of commercial espionage.

    My reply,
    This is not about “commercial espionage” which is a criminal offense. I would never allow an employee to steal Intellectual Property, or bring me something which has been stollen.
    Hacking into other people’s internet is also criminal behavior even if it done by a state actor. If anyone brings me information obtained by hacking I will never accept it, and neither should you.

    However if something has been published by someone speaking publicly in a place they can be overheard then it is “public domain” and now available to anyone who overheard, or read it in a newspaper!

  7. Pindukayi Musarandega

    Quite eye-opening. The other way of looking at this is: keep your eyes and ears open even at what may be mundane events. Tap intelligence from the reckless ones like what Mr Masiyiwa did.

  8. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Whenever I call one of my executives on the phone, the first question I ask them is “where exactly are you?”
    I might even add, “who are you with?”

    If they are in a place which is public, I will usually ask them to call me when they are free from public spaces, and other people that are not authorized to hear my communications.

    #We operate in a competitive world. It is so easy to give away hard earned opportunities by being careless.

  9. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Boasting to friends about the things you are involved in at your place of work can be a very dangerous habit. I know a guy who boasted to a friend (probably to impress), about a deal they had been discussing on the board of a major international bank. The friend rushed and bought shares in the bank. The guy on the board of the bank was later arrested and jailed because it was “insider trading”.

    Learn the art of discretion before you rise to key leadership positions.

  10. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Boasting to friends about the things you are involved in at your place of work can be a very dangerous habit. I know a guy who boasted to a friend (probably to impress), about a deal they had been discussing on the board of a major international bank. The friend rushed and bought shares in the bank. The guy on the board of the bank was later arrested and jailed because it was “insider trading”.

    Learn the art of discretion before you rise to key leadership positions.

  11. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Pamela writes,

    I worked for an American Telcoms company some years back and we were trained every 3months on the company’s ethics. There were a lot of “donts” Talking about the company’s business with your colleague over lunch, in a public place was a No, No.
    Most times we would joke about it that we were probably working for a security agency. It is as a result of things like this that such policies are usually in place.
    So I have extended that into my life and business as well. Never discuss sensitive business issues in public places.

    My reply,
    Best practice!
    Thank you for sharing.

  12. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Apollo writes,

    This means idea can’t be taken to market teacher strive. If I get a prospect investor to pitch, should I tell lies about what I intend to do? Nigerians are sharp! I’ve seen a lot of messages of young stars who are curious to know what I am doing after seeing my posts here. I thank God for his God given dream. Even me, I don’t understand my idea well. I keep learning about it everyday.I am complicating it the more…. Making it more funny and somehow stupid. Thank you!

    My reply,
    Every single day of the week I discuss ideas with other companies and entrepreneurs but I’m always careful about when and what I share with them. I don’t lie and I don’t mislead, however I make sure I’m protected from my ideas being stollen, or disclosed to an unauthorized party.
    When we are ready to share confidential and proprietary information with the other party, we ask for an exchange of agreements called Non Disclosure of Information, and Non Circumvention. If the other party is not willing to sign such an agreement it is a red light flashing!
    Many of these agreements can be obtained from a good lawyer or even on the Internet, and you can then adapt them to yourself.
    It is not about how big your business is but how big your idea or invention.
    When you ask for such agreements, serious investors will respect you more, because it shows you know what you are doing.

  13. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Joseph writes,

    Thanks my Distinguished Mentor, most of us have discussed a burning business idea with friends only to see them implementing same, and call off your bluff when you protested of being betrayed.

    My reply,
    This is not a challenge unique to Africa. Entrepreneurs face this problem all over the world, even in America.
    There are also well established ways that entrepreneurs follow to ensure that even as they discuss their ideas with people they are also able at the same time to protect them. Study comments I have made many times on this subject.

    • slope

      This is a great little post with some valuable tips. I totally agree. The way you bring passion and engagement into the things you do can really change your outlook on live.

  14. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Mpakateni writes,

    Dr Strive Masiyiwa. Would you recommend going on shows like dragons den in the UK? One similar show was also started on ZBC. Once you are on the show you are pretty much giving every viewer the insight into the type of business you are in. Even though the dragons don’t buy your idea to invest in it you are at risk having multiple people (big or small) start the same business and creating more competition for your own business.

    My reply,
    There are two key issues you need to consider:
    #1. Most people who go on those shows already have a business, and are not simply talking about plans.
    It is ok to discuss a product or service that you have already developed.
    #2. You must also exercise judgement. Sometimes the opportunity to raise money outweighs the risk associated with open disclosure of your business plans.
    It is your call.

  15. Tapiwa Zimudzi

    it is astonishing how peope do not esteem their ideas. they showcase their ideas at tech hub meetings for a $500 prize money. next thing ecofarmer is born and they are bitter. I should look for your IP protection posts and arm myself. thank you for this candidness Dr even though many shall criticise you.

  16. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Several years ago our team developed an incredible telecoms product but we needed a partner. So we approached one of the largest most reputable players in the industry. My team made an incredible presentation, and they really liked the product. They kept asking for more and more information which we provided.
    One day they told us they were going to have a tender because of their procurement procedures. And yet they were using our plans!
    We had not made them sign a non disclosure agreement (NDA), and we could do nothing to stop them!
    They then entered into a JV with another international company (because they deemed us too small!…they even recruited my staff that had worked on the project…

    I write about things I know from sometimes very bitter experience so that you don’t have to go through it yourself, that is what a father does.
    # Be wise.

  17. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Jeremiah writes,

    Sir! While it’s nice to keep quiet, the life of an entrepreneur is that of always pitching to customers and especially investors for seed capital or grants, and in so doing you must share your innovations with the judges. What can you say about this? Thanks for your reply!

    My reply,
    Pitching to customers and pitching to investors is not the same thing; so don’t confuse the two.
    Here we are talking about talking to people before you actually do something in a careless manner that allows those people to run away with it.
    I will talk about pitching to investors in my next post!

  18. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Not long ago we entered into an EXCLUSIVE partnership with a global player to represent their products in Africa. Several of our potential customers tried to secretly circumvent that agreement by going direct. They only managed to embarrass themselves because I knew that is what they would do after seeing the product, and my agreements are watertight.
    Now you understand why I said sometime ago that a good entrepreneur always has access to two key advisors:
    A lawyer, and an accountant.
    This is why you need to know a lawyer, and be constantly talking to them about your business ideas. Lawyers are not just there to help you in criminal matters.

    • slope game

      Thanks for sharing.I hope you continue to have such quality articles to share with everyone! I believe there will be many people who share my views when they read this article from you.

  19. rose

    a wonderful article, Given so much info in it, These type of articles keeps the users interest in the website,
    and keep on sharing more … good luck!


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