What it takes to be a techpreneur in Africa

Updated on 10 October 2014

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What it takes to be a techpreneur in Africa

Entrepreneurs cannot embark on their journey alone. Although they might come with the idea by which the business will run, they still need support. This was voiced by techpreneur and founder of software company Tenderware, Tania van Wyk de Vries’, at the Tech4Africa Johannesburg conference yesterday.

The two-day event serves as a platform for techpreneurs to share ideas, and to inspire new ones, while also providing insight on how to find success as a tech startup in Africa.

“Although it’s been said many times, but it’s important to surround yourself with people who share the same vision as you,” says Pretoria-born Van Wyk de Vries, who left the corporate world to start Tenderware.

Van Wyk de Vries was speaking to an audience made up of startup entrepreneurs, business owners and students.

“The key is to stick to what you know. Make a business by selling your services/skills”

Growing organically

Van Wyk de Vries says she does not believe in relying on external funding or investors, and that she started her company with her own money. Although she is not opposed to entrepreneurs getting funding or investments, Van Wyk de Vries insists it can be done without the latter.

“The key is to stick to what you know. Make a business by selling your services and skills”, she says.

The business woman also urged entrepreneurs who are starting out to reinvest the profit they make, straight back into the business.

“You may not be able to pay yourself a salary for a while but this will ensure your business continues to grow; eventually you will get to a point where your business will sustain itself.”

‘Look after your hard-earned cash

Hiring good staff is also key, says Tania Van Wyk de Vries, who recalls her business losing R750 000 because of hiring mistakes she made.

“Carefully select the people you want to work for your company, because at the end of the day it’s your hard-earned cash you need to look out for”, she adds.

Lessons in failure

Experienced entrepreneur and startup owner Andy Hadfield, 34, also took to the stage at the conference, to share his personal experiences with failure.

The techpreneur’s own startup Real Time Wine, a social discovery app for wine, closed down early this year because of the limited market for the service, and he also admits to not monetising the platform quick enough.

“With the closure of Real Time Wine and the publishing of a certain blog post that did the rounds, I’ve become the poster boy for startup failure!

“I’m happy to wear for a little bit, hopefully not forever.”

“Like it or not, failure is a part of startup culture”

Since then, Hadfield has gone on to start his own consultancy firm – andyhadfield.com – and offers services such as strategy, product development and professional speaking to blue chip South African clients like Hollard, Discovery and Telkom.

Hadfield says they’re on a mission to change the stigma the South African startup scene has around failure. “Like it or not, failure is a part of startup culture. Everyone forgets that 95% of these things fail,” he says.

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