Starting a Business in Africa can be quite challenging and scaling comes also with a fair share of its own challenges.
Failing in business is okay, but for most African Entrepreneurs, failure is like a taboo and most people don’t even talk about it.
Having started off her journey into entrepreneurship as an undergraduate student, who decided to turn her school project into a viable business, Hilda Moraa, Founder and CEO at Pezesha is a household name when it comes to the Fintech field in Africa.
She got listed on Forbes’s list of Promising Young Africans and co-founded Weza Tele – a Kenyan fintech startup that was later acquired by Afb for $1.7 million.
Later on she founded Pezesha, a Digital Financial Ecosystem for connecting MSMEs to Capital that recently raised $11 million pre-Series A equity-debt round led by Women’s World Banking Capital Partners II with participation from Verdant Frontiers Fintech Fund, cFund and Cardano blockchain builder Input Output Global (IOG).
To many this, spells success, but to Hilda, her success is as a culmination of lessons she has been able to gather overtime from failing a number of times in her entrepreneurial journey.
During our last After Office Hours with Hilda Moraa session, Hilda described her journey into entrepreneurship as one that hasn’t been a sprint but a marathon over the years.
Having founded a company that she later had to sell off, Hilda emphasized on Failure and why it was important to let failure be a part of your learning curve and equation for success as an entrepreneur.
Hilda, who is also an author of a book, A Kenyan Startup Journey, shared her story and explained how she was able to embrace and talk frequently about her failures with detached emotions so that she can guide others in doing things the right way in order to achieve success.
Here are some key take-aways from the session:
Another great lesson gathered was that you have to understand that your failure will always reveal a few loop-holes that you can learn from.
There is an essential function to failure that most people miss, at a severe cost to their development.
When you fail at something, you get a rare chance to see your shortcomings. Failure reveals flaws and weaknesses that demand improvement.
On her side Hilda, mentioned that Pezesha is what it is now as she had to go back and gather lessons from Wezatele.
One great lesson that she carried with her as she was setting up Pezesha was building on a strong foundation from day one something probably wasn’t a priority while setting up Wezatele
“My biggest fear was never failing but missing out on other opportunities by starting Weza Tele. In the beginning, my co-founders and I were afraid to talk about our failures, we did not even recognize them as failures but saw them as simple mistakes we made and these mistakes ended up being gifts in disguise, adding to our knowledge and wisdom,” she said.
She said that her team failed terribly not just from their initial products but also from the retention of the early adopters.
As a leader, she said that she failed to put the right processes and structures in place. I initially failed at being a people’s person and giving others full control to make decisions when I just needed to trust them and give them ownership.
With time, Hilda says that she has learned to let failure be a part of her learning curve and equation for success.
I embrace and talk frequently about my failures with detached emotions so that they can guide others and myself to do things the right way in order to achieve success.
Failure is the whole process of development. Your company finds flaws in itself after failing at something and then works to improve them.
Over time, those efforts pay off as the company gets the skills it needs to take on larger and harder projects. And with those larger projects come bigger payouts, which you can use to grow your company even more.
Lesson:Don’t ever languish in failure; it’s not something you should be comfortable with harboring.
Make sure that you hit the ground running after every defeat and make earnest attempts to avoid it in the future.
Ensure you learn from the failures and make the best out of it. There’s nothing shameful in failing fast; it’s admirable. It’s all a part of growing stronger.
As Hilda put it :”Choose the pain you want to fight. either from GIVING UP or from BUILDING UP.”
According to Harvard Business Review, for every IPO there are over 30 acquisitions each year.
But while nearly all entrepreneurs and their board members know that an acquisition is the most common destiny of a successful startup, they rarely strategize about a potential sale, something that Hilda said shouldn’t be the case.
“As a Founder you also need to think of an exit strategy. It is important to think about the end in mind and then work backwards,” she said.
Though quite neglected, exit planning is so important. This majorly could be because a number of myths and biases about selling a business have rendered exit planning discussions a taboo topic in the startup community.
And since creating and executing an exit plan is not a solitary endeavor and requires close collaboration with key stakeholders — senior leadership, board members, major investors — this taboo effectively shuts down any exit planning initiative before it gets started.
This shouldn’t be the case, Hilda advised that founders should have this conversation with key stakeholders as early as possible as this honest dialogue around your long-term strategic options, will help you better influence and shape the ultimate fate of their startups.
Pezesha recently secured $11 million pre-Series A equity-debt round led by Women’s World Banking Capital Partners II with participation from Verdant Frontiers Fintech Fund, cFund and Cardano blockchain builder Input Output Global (IOG).
The round also included a $5 million debt from Talanton and Verdant Capital Specialist Funds.
Raising funds, stated Hilda, is mostly an uphill battle for most startups . In their case, before securing the latest funding, they had made over 30 pitches and 15 of the pitches failed.
Apart from Pezesha, Ken Njoroge Founder Cellullant, in an interview with Capital FM in 2018 said that among the hurdles the company had to jump was meeting over 60 different investors over a two year period that took up 400 pitches across the world.
Hilda advised founders that while seeking #funding, they also need to do their homework and due diligence.
“#DueDilligence while seeking funding shouldn’t be one-sided. Ask your potential investors the hard questions as well. Today, securing funding goes beyond storytelling. Its about teams, numbers, right culture and people willing to buy into your vision,. Ensure you get it right first,”
On Mentorship, Hilda stated that finding the right people to buy into your vision is quite important and explained how mentors played a big role in helping her becoming who she is today.
She stated that she is lucky to be surrounded by the best mentors in her career who continue to believe in her and support her in her entrepreneurial journey.
She also emphasized on the need of peer-to-peer mentorship: “These are trusted networks of friends in the same environment going in the same direction and captaining their ships as you are.” she explained.
“You can learn from them and get their advice based on their experiences. Most of the things I’ve learned have been a result of asking my peer startups how they did it. This was possibly the wisest way I learned and I would recommend this approach to every start up especially those based in co-working and incubation spaces. Take advantage of the community around you and optimism your networks,” she concluded
After Office Hours is a monthly event organized by Nairobi Garage that happens every last Thursday of the month. We bring in entrepreneurs whom we feel have excelled in their areas of expertise to share their entrepreneurial journey with our community.
We have an upcoming After Office Hours with Mark Mwangi CEO and Founder Amitruck. RSVP your attendance here and join us then.