Somebody asked me, what the key ingredients to success are. Every individual has a different definition of success and different criteria to eventually declare they have become successful. In technical terms, different KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). The same questions are asked in the context of a startup. What does one need to build and run a successful startup? What is the secret sauce?
Last weekend we heard the CEO of Konga, a multi-million dollar African startup that is shaping the retail business in Nigeria and many other African countries. According to Forbes, Mr. Sim Shagaya is one of the most powerful men in African business scene today and a very successful entrepreneur. He spotted an opportunity, a trend and jumped on it. He truly exploited the power of internet and predicted the demand for online retail in the growing Nigerian economy. Konga is, what he called, born at the intersection of internet and retail. Today Konga employs over 1000 people and is directly supporting thousands of small businesses in Nigeria. For me, that’s real success.
Not surprisingly, during Q&A session, one of the question was – what are the 3 main factors of Konga’s success. Timing, luck and the team. Upon asking what would he choose as the single most important factor, he said – the team. People are the foundation in success or failure of a startup. I couldn’t agree more. My first venture that I started with 2 other friends almost 10 years ago, failed. I did learn a lot though and in my experience there are 3 ways to check if your team is destined to success or failure.
It may be ok to partner with people that do not share the same vision as you in the beginning. But you all soon need to sort out the differences and have a common vision of where you want to go you’re your venture. In the beginning everything is chaotic anyway and the differences give an opportunity to have a healthy and constructive discussion that should lead to a better direction for your venture. Not having a shared vision can create conflicts during execution phase which can adversely affect the business.
Mr. Shagaya said he would hire passion instead of skill, any day. It’s no secret that you are probably the person most passionate about your idea. Are others in your team too? Early on, team members not passionate enough will soon lose steam and slow down everything. A passionate team can do wonders even if they are not skilled or have no money. Passion brings a hustling mentality, no matter what, team gets down to businesses and finds a way to cross any hurdle. Partner with passionate people.
Does it need elaboration? Many successful entrepreneurs will tell you, partnership in a startup is like a marriage, trust your partner. If you cannot retire with the same person, don’t partner with them today. It takes time to build and maintain trust. And if you find a partner or partners that you can trust, that’s where you should start, everything else comes after that.