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How SA tech entrepreneurs plan to take time out this festive season


Taking time out is vital if you want to run a successful business. Sometimes you need to stop to see the wood from the trees.

Which is why Ventureburn has sampled a number of tech startup founders on the value of taking a break and how they plan to spend this festive season.

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Giraffe co-founder Anish Shivdasani says he plans to take a week off and spend time with family, it’s what he does every year. He says it’s critical to take breaks.

The Joburg-based startup runs a web platform that matches job seekers with job placements. Early this year the startup closed a second funding round (see this story).

“Entrepreneurs rarely get time to switch off and disconnect, but it’s really important and therapeutic to do so. I’ve delegated enough to my team to ensure the business can run in my absence.

“Delegation is really critical if you want to scale. If you don’t delegate, you become a bottleneck as decisions cannot be made without you,” says Shivdasani.

I’ve delegated enough to my team to ensure the business can run in my absence of me this festive season says top SA tech entrepreneur

He says he always returns to the office early in January, when things are still relatively quiet. He takes this time to critically analyse the last year — what went to plan and what did not.

His expectations for 2019 are quite high. “I always set the bar high. We hope to start international expansion in late 2019, but we have a lot of work to do before then,” he adds.

“In terms of tips, I’d encourage all entrepreneurs to ask themselves this one single question — what is stopping us from growing faster?” he posits.

Meeting with mentor

Similarly, Joburg based insurtech Fo-Sho has two goals for 2019 — to expand the firm’s customer offering and to get an office in Botswana up and running.

The startup was last year part of accelerator Startbootcamp Cape Town‘s first cohort (since renamed SBC Afritech).

It’s been a tough year for Fo-Sho. The startup lost co-founder Mithun Kalan, who Naidoo said in May decided to pursue other interests, primarily because he was not enjoying the constant engagement needed with potential investors and partners.

“We still remain good friends and he always helps out when he can,” says Naidoo.

But before he leaves to take a break with his family — as he does every year — Fo-Sho CEO and co-founder Avi Naidoo says he plans to meet with his mentor.

“I will take away from this meeting key insights about my successes and failures from the year and reflect on the outsider’s view on these events,” he added.

Prepare ahead

While everyone else may be heading to the sea, co-founder of fintech startup i-Pay, Thomas Pays, says he plans to stay in Cape Town (where he lives) for the end of the year and spend time reflecting on the year and on refining the company’s strategy.

“To be successful you always need to prepare ahead of time, I believe the week does not start on a Monday but the Sunday when you can prepare for your week ahead, it also allows you to come on Monday ready ahead of everyone. Similarly, I am using December to further prepare for our year ahead,” he says.

The startup secured a R10-million investment from venture capital firm Kalon Venture Partners in November last year (see this story).

He says the wants the company to reach at least six million SA consumers and businesses on its payment platform next year and has been approached by most major industry leaders following the growth of i-Pay.

Simple goals

The co-founder of insurtech startup Yalu Nkazi Sokhulu says when it comes to setting goals for the business in the new year, he tries to keep it simple by not committing to doing more than three big rollouts.

“We do so by going away from work as a team for a day, where we find consensus in deciding on what comes next,” he says.

He says he keeps a “type of an achievements diary” where he records at least one positive outcome daily in five to 10 words.

“I find it’s a powerful motivator and reminder that I can use throughout the year, that cuts through all the daily challenges that one faces that often leaves you depleted,” he says.

In May the Johannesburg-based startup revealed that it had raised an undisclosed amount of funding from the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) (see this story and this one).

Sokhulu says in 2019 Yalu aims to cover all forms of bank-issued debt, in order to give more consumers the ability to exercise their right to choose a credit life insurance provider of their choice.

He advises other entrepreneurs would to consult with their board or advisory board on goal setting.

“Having people not involved in your daily grind but who are invested enough to want to see your venture succeed, brings in a much needed fresh perspective,” he explains.

Getting away from the business

SnapnSave founder Mark Bradshaw says he values time away from the business. The Cape Town based startup’s app facilitates discounts for shoppers on their favourite products, wherever they shop, just by snapping a photo of their till slip.

“Often entrepreneurs find it difficult to leave their business in the hands of someone else, but even taking a few hours of reflection time is so important.

“Whether it’s going for a hike, or a bike ride, you need some time to let your mind wander and think creatively in order to figure out where you want to go, and how you’re going to get there,” says Bradshaw.

He adds that it’s important to get away from the daily routine for a few days in order to be able to see the bigger picture and set the direction for the upcoming year.

“As an example, I’ve recently returned from London, which not only gave me the opportunity to see how technology is being used differently in this market and pick up on new trends that may apply to the retail space in SA.

“Just strolling the shops for a day was invigorating and helped me focus our strategic growth plans for coming years,” he says.

Last month VC company Kalon Venture Partners and retail solutions company the Smollan Group SA announced that they had increased their stake SnapnSave to over 50% with a new funding round totalling R7-million (see this story).

Being a company that services the retail sector things are not expected to slow down over the holiday period. But Bradshaw says he will try get some time away with family.

Going away as a team

Similarly co-founder of Joburg based insurtech Pineapple Matthew Elan Smith says he and his co-founders are trying to schedule in taking more breaks for 2019.

Last month the startup was recently selected out of hundreds of insurtech businesses to take part in the Hartford Insurtech Hub 2019 class, which aims to accelerate our business in the US (see this story).

“We found it very valuable to go away for a few days as a team and be in a relaxed destination. It allowed us some space to evaluate where we are and where we want to be next year and come up with concrete plans on getting there,” he said.

In 2019 the startup aims to launch a motor insurance product and increase user growth and expand to other regions.

Staying healthy

Hailer founder Malvin Nkomo, who is taking on ride-sharing giants Uber and Taxify with this startup (see this story), believes taking a break once in a while is “key”.

“No matter how busy I get, I get enough rest daily. My productivity is a function of the amount of rest I get. I maintain a healthy physical lifestyle of endurance cycling and marathon running,” he says.

Nkomo recently completed the Soweto marathon and the 94.7km cycle challenge. “My team is very supportive in all of this and they are competitive enough to handle everything when I’m not around,” he adds.

He says 2018 was a “very productive” year for him. “I took a lot of risk entering into a market that was a bit tough with very limited resources. The lessons learned could not be exchanged for any amount of money,” he says.

He plans to continue working over the festive season, and adds that “basically there won’t be much relaxation”.

His goal in 2019 is to build a much stronger coherence between team member.

“Being a decentralised team means that at times we lose touch with the human emotion of every team member and expect them to deliver at all costs with ridiculous deadlines.

“Some team member go through difficult times at their workplaces because the bulk of the team is not permanent and they do this after hours. This leads to a lot of pressure exerted to some members and this year we did strain some of the guys emotionally,” he adds.

Find your purpose

Khokela Daula, the co-founder of SA legal startup Baobab, says taking breaks is important. She says she works out five days a week and meditates twice a day. This year she plans to spend time with her family at Christmas.

In September the startup was been named the Southern Africa winner of justice accelerator The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law’s s (HiiL) annual Innovating Justice Challenge. Daula also got a lucrative contract as a fitness instructor for a corporate company.

Says Daula: “The biggest thing in life is to find your purpose, figure out what it is that you are here to do.

“Once you find that, then being in the trenches while you are building also feels so rewarding because you are doing something that you are passionate about and that you feel is either your life’s purpose or very much aligned with it.”

Featured image: jill111 via Pixabay

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