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Fintech founder reveals: 5 things I learnt on my entrepreneurial journey

Picture credits: Kuda

Being a founder is extremely challenging. It requires having an idea and the ability to see it through, usually against all odds. It requires relentless dedication, a passionate team and in most cases capital to get things off the ground. This journey is often difficult, but there are some tips and tricks I’ve learnt along the way. 

I founded Kuda, a neobank making financial services accessible, affordable and rewarding for every Africans globally – regardless of location – at the end of 2019 alongside CTO Musty Mustapha. In under 5 years, we’ve grown our customer base to over 7 million customers globally. However, this success did not come overnight. Like with most things, it has been a great learning experience and my time at Kuda – as well as my previous experience founding two other companies – has taught me a few things. 

Here’s what I’ve found most useful as a founder: 

1. A good team is essential

An idea is only half the battle as a startup founder. What helps to take your concept from a dream to reality is having such a belief in what you want to do or produce that you’re able to convince others to join you on your entrepreneurial journey. Startups are a risky business – they’re fast paced and demanding, but they’re also fun and exciting. Who doesn’t want to be on the cusp of creating something new or doing something better than it’s previously been done before? 

We’ve all heard the theory of the first follower and the first employee at a startup is a person who takes a leap of faith to join the founder(s). From there, the idea becomes legitimised and it’s easier to expand your team. A good team is one which brings expertise, experience, and trust into the equation, propelling your business forward from day one. 

2. Money matters

Funding is your startup’s lifeblood. The global economic slowdown has meant that investor sentiment has shifted towards being more cautious. So while investors might not be writing the same ticket sizes as they were two or three years ago, there is still capital to be found. If you know where to look. 

Crafting a compelling business plan and pitching to investors is key. Whether you’re targeting angel investors, venture capital firms, applying for accelerator programmes or crowdfunding, it’s important to clearly convey your value proposition. This, in combination with outlining the market opportunity and execution plan must be demonstrated in a concise and compelling way if you want to get investors to believe in your vision. Potential investors want to rest assured that there’s a strong product-market fit and potential for a substantial return on investment.

With capital comes the money to expand your team and operating markets, you can launch products as well as invest in marketing and PR – all crucial to creating a sustainable and well known business. 

3. The proof is in the pudding

A startup needs customers and lots of them. Fostering a customer-centric culture will enable employees to create a product or service that generates loyalty and buzz. It’s crucial to provide users with the best possible experience and rigorous safeguards (especially for a b2c company). This in turn results in an unparalleled growth journey and as such, taking on customer feedback and incorporating their feedback and wants and needs into your business helps build the optimal company. 

4. Do things that ‘guarantee’ survival 

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “nothing is certain, except death and taxes”. However, there are some things founders can do to make their startup more viable and likely to stand the test of time. While one cannot account for macroeconomic or socio-political factors, an entrepreneur should be able to confidently navigate challenges, effectively build and manage teams, and practice robust financial management and resilience. 

Challenges include overcoming regulatory hurdles and compliance – does your company meet the necessary requirements or have the appropriate accreditation to operate in the field it does? You also have to consider whether you’re responsibly scaling the business as nobody wants to peak too early or venture into new markets before they’re ready. Recruiting a skilled team is obvious, but you shouldn’t forget the importance of retaining and motivating this group of people. A good leader is persistent and resilient and has a keen awareness of financial sustainability and resource allocation. Part of this funding is best spent on building brand recognition and reputation. These are but a few ways to help your startup go the distance. 

5. Know when to pivot 

Perhaps the hardest lesson to learn is knowing when enough is enough. Sometimes you’ve done everything you can – you have a great idea, a dedicated team and capital but things still aren’t working out. That’s okay. It’s a painful part of the journey but it doesn’t mean it’s the end. So even if this particular business ‘failed’, it does not mean that you are a failure or should give up on being an entrepreneur. Maybe the timing wasn’t right; you could have been too early or too late or simply unable to ride the current tech wave. The great thing about being an entrepreneur is that you’re always thinking, innovating and wanting to create. It’s about pivoting and tenacity. 

Everybody’s journey is different and there’s no way my entrepreneurial experience can be distilled down to five tips! These are just the ones that I’ve found useful time and time again.

Babs Ogundeyi is a Nigerian entrepreneur and the co-founder and CEO of Kuda Bank, a digital-only bank based in Nigeria. Kuda Bank aims to provide digital banking services to individuals and businesses in Nigeria, offering features such as no-fee accounts, budgeting tools, and instant transfers. Ogundeyi has played a significant role in the fintech industry in Nigeria, advocating for financial inclusion and innovation.

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