Posted by: Isaac Bruce | July 13, 2011

FLYING WITH A STARTUP

It is interesting; I mean it is always interesting working with startups. If you have been following my earlier posts and discussions, I have now moved down here in Koforidua for a month and some weeks now. Against all odds, it is refreshing to move out of Accra for a while. Though I am still caught up sometimes in my ‘Accra/Ga life’. However, I love it so much and if you can’t find me in the office, I am jogging on the streets of Koforidua.

Let’s not digress, my past work experience has been with huge multinationals and large companies where it is quite different. Apart from the challenges and situations you face as an individual one thing that does not really draw me to large organizations anymore (at least for now) is there is really not much room for improvisation or making any meaningful change or even just testing and tweaking things around. I must admit, I am no guru or anything like that but I am still just talking from my experience.

I have been biased to think small companies with an annual turnover less than a million dollars with about 8 member team will be able to take decisions with the same risk and even returns that large companies will be able to take. I have learnt this in a hard way than anyone. So the fact is, startups or smaller companies are always testing and tweaking a lot of things for the first time to find a practical balance between what will work and what will not. Gosh, I just felt like I have not achieved anything some few hours ago when our whole strategy had to change. Another thing with smaller firms is that your gut feeling is also as important as the high cost of research you will be doing. This, they can’t afford half of the time.

The primary focus of this post is for a moment act like as a career counselor, to offer this advice especially those fresh out of college or still in college to consider working with a startup or even starting with a startup yourself. Again I have to reiterate that I am no expert or anything but I feel I can boldly advise anyone on this. In Ghana or developing countries, chances are high that you will find yourself in smaller organizations than large multinationals that have been around for many years and too good at what they do.  Notwithstanding, startups and smaller firms have not had much confidence and even the resources to engage the fresh grads and the explorers they will usually need.

Let’s not drag on about this but my advice to myself and others is to start small and move fast in learning about whatever they are interested in. Almost, the only way that seems possible to me now is a startup, don’t get me wrong. I might just be out of this world to think this way, but I can’t wait to hear from your experiences and what you think about this whole situation.

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Responses

  1. Two days ago, I was contemplating on why most Africans (especially young graduates) are unable to start up from scratch. This was the bye-product of a personal thinking process of what to do next with my life after my degree in Oxford University. Then one thing struck my mind that led me into further thinking: Most humans do not have endurance, patience and commitment to work hard and wait for the change they want to be or see.

    Indeed, starting up small is never easy. It takes time. It is full of uncertainties and prone to series of failure. It is totally uncomfortable, especially because it requires hard work and lots of sacrifice. And as young graduates, we have to immediately prove our worth to society by the wealth we possess, for this is the measure of success that justifies our long years in school. So for many, the best way is the easiest way out: to get employed in some ‘big company’ where we can apply our skills, gather some experience and most importantly earn the cash. We often give this excuse as the precondition to start up well (which I believe is logical/commonsensical). And for some societies, starting small on your own as a graduate means, perhaps, you are not smart enough for the job market. No graduate wants to merit the tag.

    Continuing my thoughts yesterday after school, I ended up on YouTube listening to some motivational speeches by people whose wild imaginations have taken them far. Then I discovered a familiar trend: All these people, including Bill gates, Oprah Winfrey, J.K Rowling, paused to ask the question ‘What is my purpose in life? What do I possess to achieve this?’. For me, this constitutes the most important step to living a happy, fulfilled life.

    Because we do not have patience to nurse the seed and watch it grow, we never even bother to find the seed inside and/or around us. But if we take time to do a sincere self audit, most of us would not have to settle for jobs we dislike or for those that underestimate our abilities.

    It is never easy to start up, but it takes the bold to try. And the bold are ordinary people who make the decision and never turn back. We are all capable. When we take the first most important step to learn of what interests us, we automatically enter into a train of events that takes us to our expected end. My fun fact below is a full proof.

    Fun Fact:
    As I listened to Opera’s speech to Harvard graduands, she mentioned that anybody who searched their names on google would find they went to Harvard. So I checked my name in google to confirm, and guess what I found!

    My very good friend Diana Dayaka Osei – a great young entrepreneur in Ghana- had cited my facebook post in her comment on this article, which also happens to be the very subject I’ve been thinking about. And as I read my own piece (which has been cited by Diana), I felt proud that I could write. I quickly read through all the other scattered short pieces I’ve ever written. Most of them were motivational. I now realise writing is one of the things I like to do to inspire others. I have a dream, and that dream is to speak to large crowds of young wo/men, motivating them to aspire higher in life.

    Now, come to think of it: If i hadn’t taken the interest in myself to know who I am and who I want to be, I wouldn’t have had all the thoughts about the challenge of starting up, which wouldn’t have led to my listening to motivational speeches on YouTube, which then wouldn’t have directed me to google, and then to this page and finally to self awareness of my ability to write and hopefully inspire others. I may never have experienced the increased confidence I feel now.

    Dear reader, my final remarks would be this: To live a happy fulfilled life, always remeber the most important step to starting up, and cultivate the virtues of endurance, patience, hard work and commitment to get there.

  2. I concur with Isaac Bruce’s point on college grads engaging with start ups. It is a great way to acquire work experience and to make a difference in the lives of others.

    That said, let me share some words of wisdom from Dr. Pipim, a US-based Ghanaian author who speaks to young people worldwide. These words are sourced from a facebook post by a very good friend of mine, Pauline Anaman, an Oxford University Scholar:

    “After listening to Dr. Pipim’s lecture this morning on ‘This Mind: What Is Wrong with our Mind?’, I picked these very important points:

    1. ‘Unless Africa significantly increases it’s intellectual capital, the continent will remain irrelevant to the 21st Century and even beyond. Africa needs innovators, producers of knowledge, and wise men and women who can discover, propose and then implement progressive ideas’. This is a statement by the father of the internet- a Nigerian man named Philip Emeagwali ( I understand that surprise look: you’ve never headed of him, have you?).

    2. On implementing ideas and changing the continent, the very known Kwame Nkrumah also said ‘Revolutions are brought about by men; men who think as men of action and act as men of thought.’

    3. Africa’s problem is not with formal education like it is always amplified…we have enough of that. I’d agree with Pipim on this to some extent, given the number of graduates produced every year, and the bulk of people in higher education both home and abroad. The issue us with the quality.

    4. Thinking right in our actions and acting right in our thoughts is what we need to produce the right balance that effects the changes we need. In other words, having ideas is great, but just not enough. Acting ideas is also great, but again not enough. Both are complete and effective only when the agent of change engages the mind in thinking through what is right (my version of Nkrumah’s assertion).

    5. Like it or not, to think and do what is right is to have regard for God-the source of all knowledge and wisdom.

    6. Why are most African leaders power hungry and corrupt? Why all the suffering and pain in the continent and even in the so-called developed regions? Why is everyone self seeking?

    7. The answer is this: ‘And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting’ (Romans 1:28).

    8. The African youth is the hope of Africa. In aspiring for professional excellence, let us also seek spiritual excellence by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).

    Guys, forget about past mistakes. Shall we start afresh?”


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