10 Short & Practical Business Tips For Startups In Kenya

Life is interesting. In my entire working career I have almost always worked for startups in one form or another. I have worked for startups from my bedroom and I have worked for some in the swankiest offices in Kenya. I have worked for startups that had no capital and therefore my sales would be the capital to make things tick. At the same time, I have worked for startups that had been funded to the tune of millions of dollars and therefore we were at least guaranteed timely pay cheques and Friday happy hours where drinks flowed freely and endlessly. I have seen more startups than I can care to remember fail and others succeed spectacularly. Indeed, I have had the front seat to know what works and does not work which led me to do this blog post. As as an Entrepreneur and one who has dabbled in more than his fair share of startups, I thought it would be interesting to share 10 short and practical business tips for startups in Kenya based on my own experiences. This is list is NOT meant to be exhaustive but rather the 10 most important things that I was able to whittle down from an initial list of around 40 tips. I hope you find them useful:

  1. Investors do not invest in business concepts – they invest in startups with customers, most of the time that is. Therefore, its imperative to have something tangible to pitch to an investor showing that you already have momentum and what you need is funding to accelerate your startup’s growth.
  2. The fishing is best where few dare to go – the biggest problems yield the best return. This is a fact when it comes to entrepreneurship so don’t be shy – aim high and you will be rewarded with the best returns on your effort. This means gunning for the biggest customers, brands, businesses, projects, etc. The truth is you have nothing to lose trying and you may actually win. The payoff is worth it.
  3. Business is personal. Friends and family will be your biggest supporters from day one. This is especially true in the early days of a startup. From giving you business to making referrals, this is how the startups that have grown to become the biggest businesses in the world all started.
  4. Hustling, selling, or getting customers is the most important thing in working towards the viability of your startup even if you have a superior technology offering. Therefore, make sure that bringing on-board paying customers who actually get value from your offering(s) is your number one priority. As the saying goes, cash is king – your startup can and will not run without cash coming in. 
  5. Delegate if/when possible or go mad more or less certainly. A two person startup is very different from a 20 person small business. You can’t do it all as the business starts to scale. Therefore, figure out early how you plan to run your business as it grows so that you don’t end up losing your marbles, literally!
  6. “What can go wrong will go wrong” as Murphy’s law states. Your business plan. Your funding. Your co-founder. It all can go wrong. Employees will leave. Even your co-founder can leave. The thing then is how do you deal with this happening to keep your startup going? Have a plan A, B, C, D….etc.
  7. The best talent is often very shy. Look hard. Really hard. It could be right under your nose. Hiring the best people you can afford to work at your startup is priceless. The best people are not always the most academically qualified or highly paid.
  8. Tenacity is the fuel to make your startup succeed. Therefore, building a startup is not for the faint hearted when you have no money to fuel your car, pay your rent or keep the Internet running. Failing, and failing again and again is simply practice for success. Use failure as a stepping stone – not a stumbling block.
  9. Network with a limited number of entrepreneurs – a mix of successful and struggling entrepreneurs. This will help you build context for what works and does not work between the two groups. Think of them as a brain trust – they will keep you going. They will have the answers when no one else has them. They could and can save your startup from failing.
  10. Your health and wellbeing is more important than your stratup. Your family is more important than your startup. Therefore, figure out a work/life separation. There can be no balance between the two. Go to the gym, run, or ride a mountain bike on your down time. Spend time with family. Get enough sleep. Work smart. Play well.
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  1. September 14, 2013 at 7:07 pm — Reply

    Beautiful post! As a person who as also dabbled in startuos all my working life I must say these are invaluable tips. A must read for anyone even remotely dreaming of getting into business

  2. Kage Kemibaro
    September 15, 2013 at 9:29 pm — Reply

    Moses, some great points. Its amazing how you think out of the box. I especially love point 9 which speaks of a brain trust. Who would have thought!!! You should publish or make a course one pays for to teach and inform about start-ups. Think about it……..

    September 28, 2013 at 10:54 am — Reply

    Great word.Thanks a lot.

  4. September 12, 2017 at 12:27 pm — Reply

    No. 6 is critical. We always start a business expecting things to go our way.

    A “what can go wrong will go wrong” attitude will get the entrepreneur to think of and plan for everything- well maybe everything that can possibly go wrong. More tips from Kenyan Entrepreneurs here…http://biasharacoach.com/success-tips-kenyas-top-100-mid-sized-companies/

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