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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




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.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. King_Anonymous

    Aug 5, 2016 at 19:11

    Excellent tips from an excellent man.

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25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton



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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.






Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Company Posts

Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect




Vital Stats

It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.


“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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