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Vinny Lingham’s Views On Focus, Changing The World And Why You Should Give Some Of Your Business Away

Silicon Valley-based tech expert, investor, South African Dragon’s Den judge and serial entrepreneur Vinny Lingham knows what it takes to launch a great business. Here are his views on what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

GG van Rooyen

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Be willing to give away some of the business

If you want to grow your business quickly, you need to be willing to trade money for equity. However, you don’t want to give too much away. You still want it to feel like your business. You need to ask what percentage you’re happy with.

Most entrepreneurs have one thing in common: They want to change the world

This can obviously be a great motivator, but it can also be dangerous. You can’t get lost in the big picture — you can’t just be a dreamer. In order to be successful, you need a strong pragmatic streak. You need to be a pragmatist with a hint of idealism, not an idealist with a hint of pragmatism.

Related: This Entrepreneur Got Vinny Lingham To Invest In Him By Crashing His Party

Entrepreneurs are born not made

At the age of six I was already selling stuff. My first ‘product’ was ThunderCat stickers that I sold to kids at school. By eight I was selling Verimark products at a local Christmas fair, and by the time I was a teenager I was selling computers.

Even while I was earning my degree, I never stopped my entrepreneurial pursuits. That’s the kind of drive you need if you want to be a successful entrepreneur.

Focus is incredibly important

You can’t try to be all things for all people. You need to do that one thing that you’re better at than anyone else in the world. Trying to create too many products and enter too many markets at the same time is a bad idea.

You need to focus, focus, focus.

I invest in the person as much as the idea

I want somebody who is incredibly passionate and shows a deep understanding of their subject matter. You need to be an expert in your field. I also want someone with loads of stamina and determination.

Building a successful business is never easy, so I want to be sure that the person I back won’t give up when things get tough. They need to be in it for the long haul.

Related: Yola: Vinny Lingham

Success is not about luck, it’s about hard work

People sometimes say that I was lucky to receive a big investment in my business, Yola, but it wasn’t about luck — it was about hard work. Success doesn’t happen overnight. You need to hang on to your dream and keep working, even when it seems as if things aren’t working out.

Quite often, persistence is the key to success. Just keep chipping away at it.

You need skin in the game

A big reason I managed to get funding for Yola was the fact that I had been willing to put all my own money into the business. I had invested about R2 million — everything I had. This showed that I was really committed to making the business work. I really didn’t have any other option!

Failure is a reality of entrepreneurship

I don’t like failing, of course, but it is also a great motivator. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. Everyone fails and makes mistakes. The important thing, though, is to reflect on your mistakes and learn from them. Do you really know why you failed? You need to consider this question very carefully. Did you truly fail for the reason you think?

Related: South African Entrepreneurs Blazing a Trail Overseas

Entrepreneurship can ruin relationships

Building a business can be all-consuming, so it’s important to remember what really matters in life. Success without anyone to share it with is not worth much. My greatest success, I think, is that I’m living my dream while being surrounded by the people I love.

Take care of your health

When people ask me what I would do differently with regards to my entrepreneurial journey, I always say that I would take better care of my health. Building a business requires hard work, but you need to try and maintain some sort of balance. You need to look after yourself.

GG van Rooyen is the deputy editor for Entrepreneur Magazine South Africa. Follow him on Twitter.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. King_Anonymous

    Aug 5, 2016 at 19:11

    Excellent tips from an excellent man.

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Watch List: 50 Top SA Black Entrepreneurs To Watch

South Africa needs more entrepreneurs to build businesses that can make a positive impact on the economy. These up-and-coming black entrepreneurs are showing how it can be done.

Nicole Crampton

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Early-stage South African entrepreneurial activity is at an all-time high of 11%, according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, and entrepreneurial intentions have also increased to 11.7%. With both activity and intentions growing significantly year-on-year, there are more businesses opening up around South Africa than ever before.

The increase in entrepreneurship has seen the rise of more black entrepreneurs across numerous sectors. From beauty brands to legal services and even tech start-ups, these are 50 top black entrepreneurs to watch:

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Watch List: 50 Top SA Small Businesses To Watch

Keep your finger on the pulse of the start-up space by using our comprehensive list of SA small business to watch.

Nicole Crampton

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Entrepreneurship in South Africa is at an all-time high. According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), total early-stage entrepreneurial activity has increased by 4.1% to 11% in 2017/2018. This means numerous new, exciting and promising small businesses are launching and growing.

To ensure you know who the innovative trailblazers are in the start-up and small business space, here are 50 of South Africa’s top establishing companies to watch, in no particular order:

  1. Livestock Wealth
  2. The Lazy Makoti
  3. Aerobuddies
  4. Mimi Women
  5. i-Pay
  6. AfriTorch Digital
  7. Akili Labs
  8. Native Décor
  9. Aerobotics
  10. Quality Solutions
  11. EM Guidance
  12. Kahvé Road
  13. HSE Matters
  14. VA Virtual Assistant
  15. Famram Solutions and Famram Foundation
  16. BioTech Africa
  17. Brand LAIKI
  18. Plus Fab
  19. LifeQ
  20. Organico
  21. 10dot
  22. Lenoma Legal
  23. Nkukhu-Box
  24. Benji + Moon
  25. Beonics
  26. Brett Naicker Wines
  27. Khalala
  28. Legal Legends
  29. The Power Woman Project
  30. Aviro Health
  31. AnaStellar Brands
  32. Data Innovator
  33. Fo-Sho
  34. Oolala Collection Club
  35. Recomed
  36. VoiceMap
  37. ClockWork
  38. Empty Trips
  39. Vula Mobile
  40. SwiitchBeauty
  41. Pineapple
  42. The Katy Valentine Collection
  43. OfferZen
  44. KHULA
  45. Incitech
  46. Pimp my Book
  47. ART Technologies and ART Call Management
  48. Prosperiprop
  49. WAXIT
  50. The Sun Exchange
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How 28-Year Old Entrepreneur Adam Fine Is Leveraging The Global Phenomenon Of Five-A-Side Football

Adam Fine of Fives Futbol discusses how he leverage a global phenomenon and the value of strategic partnerships in business.

Monique Verduyn

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Vital Stats

Nothing about Adam Fine is by-the-book. The 28-year-old entrepreneur describes himself as a slightly big child. He’s the CEO of one of the most exciting start-ups in South Africa, having leveraged the global phenomenon of five-a-side football to start a business that has grown almost as fast as the game itself. Not bad for a venture that was launched with the princely sum of R85 000 — Fine’s life savings at the time.

He started it in 2011, with a strong focus on corporate social investment and making a positive social impact. It was by forming strategic partnerships that Adam really managed to grow Fives Futbol. He’s opened pitches in prime locations that serve both the school and corporate markets, while still being accessible for social impact interventions in local communities.

Related: 3 Local Entrepreneurs Share Their Business Challenges And How They Overcame Them

Pivoting at the right time is key to growth

The challenge:

In the last 18 months, Fives Futbol has trebled in size, and achieved some amazing milestones — it now employs 50 full-time staff, and 80 part-timers. It’s one of the factors that drives Adam, as many of his employees support up to eight family members. It’s now also represented in four provinces and 15 locations around the country. By September, there will be 18.

Quick growth means you have to be able to pivot quickly when things do not go according to plan, and mostly they don’t, Adam says. “If things are not working you should be able to ‘pivot’, to shift your focus. And do it fast. It’s not a sign that things have gone wrong by any means, on the contrary, it means you have the insight to recognise that there is a problem with the assumptions on which you have built your business model. The decision to pivot is a big one, and not something to be taken lightly. It requires you to take a hard look at your reallocation of resources, and to do it with an open mind.”

The solution:

In Adam’s case, construction delays, councils taking their time to approve, or having to put money into rolling out sites as opposed to marketing, means the promotion of a new site will slow down, for example, because the business does not yet have a large marketing budget.

“When we run behind on the construction of a new site, R40 000 can suddenly become R100 000 — but here’s the thing: If a deal comes along that will probably harm your business in the short-term but enable significant long-term growth, sometimes you have to juggle what you have so you can make it work.”

The Lesson: Choose your investors carefully

Fine says he’s lucky to have a solid group of investors that he has cultivated over six years. “Their input is invaluable. They’ll say, ‘slow down’ or ‘have you thought of this?’, ‘have you factored in that?’ The ability to develop a good relationship with our investors has had a significant impact on the success of the company. Over and above money, they provide wisdom, guidance and connections.”

His relationship with his investors is key. While many entrepreneurs make it just about the money, Adam understood something else — he has a pretty cool brand with a great cause behind it. So, while investors are asked for money all the time, he was able to offer something more than just a business idea — alignment. He generated enthusiasm for the ‘why,’ behind the business. Like most of us, it makes investors happy to know that they are helping to make a positive difference.

And while it’s easy to bandy about the word ‘partnership’, Adam has worked hard to make that a reality. He set out to find like-minded people who are passionate about the business and the cause, which is why they are able to serve as great resources for advice and insight.

Related: Richard Branson’s ABCs Of Business

“The best way to ensure that you and your investors have a valuable and lengthy partnership is to make sure that everyone is aligned on the vision.”

This includes Adam’s team. The internal culture of an organisation is vital to its strength and growth. “Without our team we don’t have a business for investors to support — our people are critical to our success. They’re the executors of the vision at the end of the day.”


The Lesson:  The value of strategic partnerships

Much of the growth of Fives Futbol has been fuelled by finding the right sponsorship partners in key industries. To overcome the challenge of a limited marketing budget, Adam has secured sponsorships with big brands like Adidas, Total Sports, Debonairs, and Klipdrift, allowing Fives Futbol to use their access to communities as a marketing platform to derive income as well as scale. And it works both ways.

“Because we have a national footprint and a team of people, we run activations for our partners, which also provides us with an ancillary revenue stream,” he says. “Knowing how to join forces with other businesses has been a key factor in making the business successful. Our strategic partners have enabled the business to leverage their brand to give us more exposure. When it works well, a strategic partnership can be just what you need to speed up the growth of your business.”

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