Thursday, October 01, 2009

Few things as exciting as starting a business

Amongst all the exiting developments, projects and business deals from last year, one of the highlights for me was the successful start up of a community for entrepreneurs and investors where business ideas get funded. Together with my business partner, we have long dreamt of contributing to business funding to support entrepreneurs in South Africa. Finally we were able to launch Investors Network and today the business is going from strength to strength. During the process of doing this though, I realised just how much I love setting something up.

Amongst the many experiences I recall from setting up the business, what really stands out for me is the realization of the challenges that entrepreneurs face when starting a business in South Africa. The difficulties with telecommunication, the struggle with the banks, the many bits of paper work and the fact that almost everything takes much longer than first anticipated. But most of all the day we first opened the doors is what stands out most. Few things in the business world beats that feeling.

Starting a business is one of the best feelings you can experience (along with jumping out of an aeroplane – but that is for another day!) You realise that entrepreneurs don’t do these things just for money but for the sheer thrill. I have met many would be entrepreneurs seeking investment from me in the last few years. I do get turned off immediately if I suspect the only desire driving the team is money. It simply is not enough to keep you going.

I also remembered a quote from an entrepreneur that I had worked with on a project a few years ago. She said that you do not have a business until you have a customer. The events of last week brought that to life for me. Many of us come up with great business ideas and some of us may do something with this idea (like form a company) but very few take the critical step of turning that idea into a business. That is truly the scary bit – but it is about emotions rather than money.

Investors will not invest in a business that cannot prove strong customer demand. Sometimes all you need is a letter of intent or pre-orders and you have transformed your idea into a business.

My advice in this blog is to all of those of you who have a great idea but have not done something with it….

Go for it – make it happen. I promise you that even if you crash and burn – the thrill of having gone for it will give you a smile that will last for eternity. To misquote Dickens “Better to have loved and failed, than not to have loved at all”

All the best, and as always, I am happy to help

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