Getting African startups to compete on the global stage
By Thando Ncube
Africa is poised to be the next frontier among emerging market tech-startups. It’s obvious that to do this effectively, money is extremely important. Yet most times, tech startups need more than just money to compete. What is often overlooked is a factor that is arguably more important than money; access.
Access to real support and to the right networks.
Earlier this year, my startup, Zonotho, received Angel investment. Armed with this cash, we multiplied our efforts and grew the business!
Over the next 6 months, we did quite well. Our Angel investor decided to inject even more cash. The deal was concluded very quickly but when the time came for the money to be deposited into our account – our bankers disappointed us with prolonged delays and poor communication. We went through a whole 6 weeks of frustrating back and forth escalations, emails, bureaucracies, phone calls, complaints and threats. This entire exercise was unnecessary and extremely exhausting. We had to divert valuable time and attention away from building our business just to get a rudimentary banking problem sorted.
On reviewing the experience, it was clear that the real issues arose from our bankers not understanding startup-related concepts like SAFE agreements. It was also around a lack of understanding of just how much faster the pace of startup life is compared to large corporates or small businesses. What we needed at this time was a banker who understands startups. One who does not stand in your way but does everything they can to give you real support to ensure that you succeed and contribute to the growth of the economy.
For the people at the back: Startups don’t always just need funding. Sometimes we need the right support; Governments to pass enabling laws, and formal institutions to understand the needs of their tech-startup customers. We need more opportunities for startup founders to network with like-minded people.
This is the biggest reason we are thrilled to be selected into the top 12 African startups at the SA Innovation Summit 2020. We are also encouraged by companies and government agencies supporting startups as well as the latest talk of a South African ‘Startup Act’. With the right financial and non-financial support African startups have an excellent chance to provide unique innovations to the rest of the world.
Thando Ncube is the co-founder at Zonotho.