Flying Sparks — Learning from some of the industry’s big doers

Ghana’s tech industry like any other in the world has talkers and doers. The doers are usually hard to pin down so it’s always a great opportunity to be in a gathering full of successful doers who are willing to share their stories of the ups and downs they’ve encountered on their paths to success.

Flying Sparks is a roundtable conversation among entrepreneurs on the tips and tricks for ensuring startup success. Organized by Mark Davies, this maiden edition held at his apartment had a very informal setting. The four sessions were very interactive and led by people who have lived the topics.

Lessons of an Entrepreneur

Daniel led this session and shared his experiences on his entrepreneurial journey from his farming days to heading Esoko in Ghana where he moved the company from USD800K to USD3mil revenue. This is what resonated most from this session — It is important to believe in yourself and what you’re setting out to do, to the point where you should be able to totally defend your vision.

Growing to Scale

With investors throwing the “is your business scalable” question at entrepreneurs these days, it was insightful to get some tips from Praveen on the subject of scaling. He took Busy Ghana from approximately 100 to several thousands of customers and from a predominantly cyber cafe driven company to an ISP. He noted that scaling starts with the individual. Do you want to scale? Do you want to be as big as KFC or just a one branch restaurant. Choosing not to scale is necessarily not a bad thing and Mark pushed that we always question the decision to scale. Alfred shared how scaling EgoTickets too quickly hurt his small team in terms of providing support. Before one decides to scale, it is important to stay small and focused for a while to learn the ropes and master your business model.

Leadership & Culture

To be sitting in the Google country manager seat for a couple of years means Estelle must be doing something incredibly right — and rightly so. She handled the session on leadership and culture flawlessly, sharing with us some principles she has built up along the way. One principle that sparked a debate, mostly because some entrepreneurs had previously been burnt practicing the principle was, ‘lead with your heart not your head’. We learned that with time one gets better at making good judgments, but yes, a good leader definitely needs to be empathetic and draw your team to yourself.

Managing your money & Investors

If someone who worked on books that got his company funding from the IFC, World Bank and Acumen talks about money, you know they know what they’re talking about. William’s delivery left the startups wanting to hire him there and then after explaining various statutory requirements startups had to get right from the get go, giving advice on how to properly document every coin that gets in and out of the business, how to be investor ready and how to manage investor expectations.

The meet-up lasted for a good 6 hours with no minute of boredom. Looking forward to the second edition.