When it comes to running a business, Lungisa Matshoba has come a long way. His first attempt was at 13 years old when he started a business card printing company. Twenty years later, this East-London born entrepreneur has two start-ups under his belt.
He created his first tech business in 2005. Yeigo was one of the first mobile VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) solutions in South Africa. The product allowed you to make calls to another Yeigo user for free. This company was sold to a Swiss brand Telfree in just two years.
His second business, Yoco, is a mobile point of sale platform that allows small businesses to accept card payments.
He co-founded the business with four friends and is now the Chief Technology Officer at Yoco.
We spoke to Lungisa about the lessons he has learnt while running his businesses. He also offers some important advice for everyone trying to get their entrepreneurial hustle on.
What is the one thing you wish someone had told you about starting a business?
It’s going to be a long road, it’s going to be tough, it’s going to take every ounce of ingenuity you have to survive, and even more to stand even the smallest chance of success. But you are going to enjoy every minute of it, so long as you realise that stress is not something that will go away, but something you will learn to manage, master and appreciate.
Secondly, don’t go into debt. Many people think if they’d just had access to capital, their business would be easier to manage. Many entrepreneurs usually do not understand what they’re getting into when getting business credit or loan. That business loan comes with strings attached. The credit cards will drag your business down.
The last thing, while stress can be managed, do not ignore fatigue, it can be physical or mental, but your limits are your limits, and while you can push yourself to your limits, you can not go beyond them without trading the now for tomorrow, and this journey has many tomorrows.
What do you think is the one thing that entrepreneurs tend to neglect in their business, that is very important?
The customer. They are why you started doing what you are doing, yet so often as things grow and scale, they can also start to take a back seat to processes and the daily challenges you face running your own business. Don’t let that happen. Build everything around them, and they will reward you with loyalty and help you to create long term brand equity and a sustainable competitive advantage.
This does not mean you do not need processes or that the other challenges of running a business do not matter, because they do. Running a business is a process – and you have to work at it day in and day out. However while the lack of this process will lead to you failing, a lack of a customer centric approach will in the long term lead to you never truly succeeding – and in business sometimes a fast failure is better than a long slow journey to nowhere.
People tend to think that success is an overnight thing, can you tell us how long it took to set up your business?
It took us a year to get to the point where we had an agreement with our banking partner that would allow us to operate. A further 8 months to get to the point where we could process our first transaction, and then another 12 months to launch our software in 2015, after a successful beta programme, with 500 merchants. At the end of 2016, we had acquired over 5 000 SME merchants, growing 10x in a year.
Today, we have more than 10 000 merchants acquired. The company has doubled in size since the beginning of the year and is now adding over 1 000 new SME merchants to the platform every month.
But this is because we really did our ground work before going to market.
Another misconception is that entrepreneurship is easy. Can you tell us about some of the challenges and hardships of being an entrepreneur?
I look at my three co-founders and we are all very different people from the four that started the business. Wiser but also more weather worn, like people who have navigated around the desert long enough to know where the sand dunes are, but too short to really have yet found the oasis. I can not think of a single part of entrepreneurship that is easy.
Sleep will become an enemy, even though you will need it more, stealing away productive hours, and robbing you of productivity, remember, the creative mind only thrives with sleep.
It also turns out that you are a terrible boss to yourself, pushing yourself harder than you would ever have been pushed by anyone, or would ever be willing to push anyone.
Do you have any advice about getting funding?
Entrepreneurship is about identifying gaps and needs in the market, then developing solutions to meet them, and then formulating a sustainable model for such solutions, making it a business (setting up its potential to make revenue and returns for potential investors).
It’s not always about business plans and great ideas, it’s about building solutions for human challenges and turning them into businesses – that’s when you become fundable.