Doer, not a Dreamer
Having an idea is one thing and making the idea happen is another thing. This is what differentiates those who dream and those who transform their ideas into a reality. It takes patience, perseverance and focusing on your vision to make it work. Startup founders are often described as courageous and optimistic people because of their faith and boldness to start a journey into the unknown.
As Ron Conway puts it, “Any time is a good time to start a company.”
I’m Samuel Masinde and I began Cardplanet Solutions Ltd. with Rogers Muhadi. At the beginning, I didn’t know starting a company would be a lot of work, naïve as I was. I had just graduated from college with no experience because I didn’t want to work for a corporation. For those who have worked for a startup, you probably understand the many obstacles and rock bottoms that almost every startup would face. But rather than making you give up on your dream, these obstacles should make you work even harder. With this attitude you will succeed sooner.
When you look at tech giants like Facebook, Youtube, LinkedIn, Google and Twitter, one may be tempted to think they became overnight successes. Realistically, it took patience, time, perseverance and courage to make the companies what they are today.
As mentioned earlier, Rodgers and I started Cardplanet Solutions Ltd back in 2012. Rodgers created the vision to develop state-of-the art solutions using card, mobile and web technology, and soon after, he decided to quit his job to pursue his goal. That same year, I had just graduated and decided to join him because of our shared passion. We complemented each other well because we were both tech-preneurs armed with little skills but had a dream. We were determined to bleed and sweat to achieve it.
In a nutshell, below are some of the key lessons I’ve learned when starting up a company:
Create your own rules
As Pete Seeger puts it, “Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don’t.” Theory is advisable when you want to learn something new, but nothing replaces actual experience. You don’t learn to walk by following the rules, but by facing a challenge, creating your own rules and working on them practically. You learn by falling over until you get it right. When we started Cardplanet Solutions, we were equipped with only basic programming techniques; even hosting a simple website seemed to be a major setback. Rodgers and I gave ourselves tasks and deliverables and through them, we have been able to acquire vast knowledge and skills. We usually joke about the first version of our product, because it is clear how far we’ve come since then.
Learn to learn
Usually, a startup is still in the process of figuring out what its product is, how to make money and how to identify its customers. Every possibility seems like a big catch for a startup and at times, such startups face challenges such as how much they would charge their customers. If a startup is not clear on who their customer is, then it is a total waste of time. Why create an awesome product that nobody uses because you have not met the need in the market? What has worked for us is to identify one’s target market, build a good product and your company’s image and reputation. Another thing to consider is that as leaders of a startup, you have to chase your company’s vision and not just money.
Perfect what you are good in
It is entirely possible to be a jack of all trades, but there is a difference between having a skill and being a master of it. It is advisable to acquire as many skills as possible in relevant fields and perfect what you are good at. This could be sales, designing, programming, marketing, etc.
Mark Zuckerberg once said, “If you just work on stuff that you like and you’re passionate about, you don’t have to have a master plan with how things will play out.” I was not a developer back in school; in fact I hated programming. I tried design but am naturally poor with colours. I tried networking and even went further to pursue a certificate course, but that wasn’t where my strengths were. I later came to realize I am better as a developer than anything else. I built my first website in Joomla and acquired webhosting and design skills; later both Rodgers and I created our first custom-made web app. Being new to web apps, we decided on Codeigniter for a framework which made our learning process even harder, prompting us to try another framework (CakePHP). We tried out to other languages before settling on object-oriented PHP and accounted for its faults by hiring a designer to do the graphics. Rodgers had skills in building the USSD and SMS solutions and I worked on the web front and backend.
Complement each other
You don’t need to have a 100-person company to develop an idea. All you have to do is to plan yourselves, share roles and complement each other. Always choose your co-founder based on who you want to work with, can be friends with, and who can complement your strengths. Never choose your co-founders based on valuation. Rodgers and I complement each other in so many ways. He is an engineer by profession but naturally good with his words, so his main role is business development and sales. I focus on tackling code related issues.
Do not be afraid of making mistakes. As much as they are terrifying, they should not be viewed as setbacks but instead as ways of showing you what needs improvement. Without making mistakes, we cannot know what needs to be worked on and the amount of energy needed. Actually you ought to see mistakes as stepping stones! Since the genesis of Cardplanet solutions, we’ve faced a lot of disappointments both internally and externally, but we didn’t quit. Instead, we rise back up and learn from our mistakes. We have written proposals, signed NDAs and agreements, have had doors shut on our faces and even had among the worst decks ever, but we NEVER gave up. When you get to learn from your mistakes, you become a better, more creative and interesting person.
Last but not least, a good entrepreneur should also be a good sales person. If you can’t sell your product nobody else can. In fact everyone on the team should be able to sell your product. When we started Cardplanet Solutions, we were all techies, and today, we are finally all good sales people. It is time you turn that dream into a reality. A true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer. So get out of the bed dreaming and start chasing your goals!