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When you start a business it is important to have a childlike obsession with your idea and truly believe that it will work and that it is the right thing to do, says Hannes van Rensburg, CEO of Fundamo.
Fundamo is one of South Africa’s tech success stories exiting to Visa for a whopping US$110-million in 2011. But the journey to that great exit for the mobile financial services company wasn’t all smooth sailing.
At an intimate Angelhub Founders Dinner, an event dedicated to connecting entrepreneurs around a table to share their “war” stories, van Rensburg dispensed some key lessons on his journey with Fundamo.
According to the CEO, staying committed to a business can prove very difficult when all the odds are stacked up against you and you are the only one that seems to believe in the idea.
“You have to keep thinking that you are doing the right thing, that’s very important,” he says.
When the Cape Town-based Fundamo was bought out by Visa, it had more than 50 active mobile platforms across 40 countries, including Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Not bad for a company that at one stage nearly lost everything. Since its acquisition, the mobile money platform has teamed up with Visa to unveil an emerging market-based product that allows people to access a prepaid account through their mobile phone.
The core lessons that came out of van Rensburg’s candid conversation with the table of entrepreneurs look at five key things:
He believes that being passionate about an idea helps you sell the concept better. Fundamo was originally conceived in 1999, a period in which mobile payments were not an option and seemed an impossible idea. Van Rensburg’s passion for the technology helped him see the potential it had. Envisioning a future that few else could helped him persevere.
Believe in what you do
Something he cannot seem to stress enough is the importance of believing in the product. “You have to have mad belief in what you do,” he says. He encourages entrepreneurs to be unwavering in their belief, because again, they are doing the right thing.
Van Rensburg places a lot of value in having a childlike curiosity, especially when working in tech. During the first days of Fundamo it would have been easy to give up on an idea that no one really understood, where the technology was barely available. A childlike interest helps entrepreneurs stay the course for something, and it’s important to posses wonder and a take an opportunity to learn.
Protect your IP
Fundamo holds quite a few patents, aggressively protecting its core technology in every region of the world it is available. The entrepreneur reckons that it is incredibly important for startups to protect their intellectual property because sometimes it is all they have.
Get the right investors
Though investors come to the party with cash for the business, van Rensburg stresses that it is necessary to find the right investor, because the right investor determines the difference between an okay company and a great one.
“Yes investors bring the money but the right investor will make your company invincible,” he says.