Yes! They have no shame. But come to think of it, how will you have shame as an entrepreneur? It takes a lot of guts to start and build a sustainable business. Except, of course, where entrepreneurship is being used as a buzzword or an excuse for unemployment. I have spoken to a number of entrepreneurs and I am one myself. That notion that employees have about “being your own boss” is misplaced and naïve at best. If your motivation for becoming an entrepreneur is to be your own boss, please have a rethink. I will explain how it works.
I thought that being an entrepreneur would give me more time to do other things outside of waking up in the morning, rushing to join Lagos traffic and coming back home really late at night. I thought that as an entrepreneur, I will have time for other things. Alas, that’s a lie from the pit of hell.
As a serious entrepreneur, you will discover that you get busier. This is because you are practically fighting for the survival of your business on a daily basis. You are always selling your business or service to everyone you meet at every time, using every available channel. You are always monitoring what every business within and outside your space is doing. You take meetings at odd hours, you don’t have good enough sleep at night because you are dreaming (having nightmares actually) about your business.
This is a noble course, you might be thinking, so why did I say entrepreneurs are shameless?
Example 1 – Break the rule and ask for forgiveness
I was on a radio show discussing technology and technology businesses. One other guest (an entrepreneur) was at the studio with me discussing the same issues. We were told before the show that we should be careful about what we said and not to advertise any product or service. Once the radio show producer left, I knew in my mind that the entrepreneur had already “forgotten” the instruction. We were talking about digital payment in Nigeria.
So once the question was popped, the entrepreneur jumped in. “This is the problem, and this is what we at LayStack are committed to doing. We have built this robust infrastructure that ensures little or no downtime so that merchants can receive payment online with the click of a button.” As if that was not enough, when the presenter asked for our final words at the end of the show, my entrepreneur friend just got into the groove again – “The world is becoming digital, and every business should have a digital strategy especially by creating avenues to receive payment for their services electronically and that is why LayStack was established. To ensure the that these pain points are addressed. Our API is easy to integrate and bla bla bla.”
The host was visibly angry with this entrepreneur. At the end of the show, the entrepreneur then apologized. He mentioned to the host that selling was his default setting and he couldn’t help it. Once the presenter left, the entrepreneur told me that how could he leave thousands of listeners and not sell his product to them… It was intentional.
It takes a lot of courage to intentionally break the rules with a plan to apologize though you are not sorry. It’s just part of the plan!
Example 2 – We copy you and there is nothing you can do about it
This example is the reason for writing this article actually. I will write another post on how first mover advantage is overrated.
— Ahmad Mukoshy (@mukoshy) May 22, 2018
Last week, I saw the announcement that Taxify has raised $175m and a $1bn valuation. I felt it was an interesting story, especially coming from this Estonian startup that didn’t appear to have the warchest that Uber and Didi has. This Estonian startup was also not a regional principality like Grab, Yandei, Ofo or even Ola. Taxify was expanding across Africa. They had not raised too much money so I imagined how these boys would compete. Amongst other things, they struck an early partnership with Didi which I thought gave them strong leverage, but from a strategic standpoint.
However, it was during the announcement of this funding round that the shamelessness of the founders was revealed. The TechCrunch article revealed that Markus (the CEO) mentioned that Taxify FOCUSSES on being the second mover, most often behind Uber! “We go to markets where ride-sharing is already a proven concept… we come in and we improve on that by having cheaper commissions and giving more back to the riders and drivers. We don’t want to get into these regulatory troubles by wasting millions in lobby battles.”
What the CEO said, in essence, is that, “We wait for Uber to open up a market. We are not trying to do anything different, we just copy them, but charge the drivers and riders a bit less, and that is our strategy.” When I read that story, I thought, “Who says this to the press??” Only shameless people do. Most startup entrepreneurs pride themselves on “innovation” but clearly not these Taxify boys. We are not trying to be innovative, we just follow Uber wherever it goes, plain and simple.
Example 3 – Jump in on the Thread
This is a funny example, and the records are still available. A certain guy tweeted about PayStack having POS machines and how impressed he was. Then another entrepreneur, following the thread, tweeted at PayStack about how to get one of those POS terminals for his business. Then suddenly, the CEO of PayStack’s major rival jumped in on the thread about how they can deploy POS terminals too and how they can do it in 24 hours.
There have been discussions about how Iyin got into the thread; if it is below the belt, ethical or even necessary at all. However, as an entrepreneur, all you think of is how to sell even if you have to use your competitors’ platforms, just sell it!
Are you considering being an entrepreneur? I believe that you have to assess your shame level. You need to know if you can do some things mere mortals consider shameful. Can you sell on the bus? Can you sell on radio without paying for advert placement? Can you disclose that your strategy is to be a copycat or can you jump in on your competitors’ threads to sell? If you answered NO to some of these questions, you might need to check that decision to start and run a business again. This game is about selling. No time!