Tumelo Mapila is a force to be reckoned with in the growing data driven economy of Botswana. Young, vibrant and very energetic, the founder of Focus Survey clocks in on the impact of international exposure and his take on what it takes.
What stage was Focus Surveys in before the pitching competition for Slush in 2017 and where is it going now?
Focus Surveys was still at start-up stage and very much struggling to get the necessary traction in Botswana. Since the pitching competition in September 2017 we have had quite a bit of traction with client engagements from across the border and some global recognition. The Slush pitching competition coupled with access to a bigger platform through the SAIS network has been immeasurable as support for Focus Surveys. We now have access to mentors, business advisers and possible funding opportunities.
That sounds great, what do you believe are challenges that early stage entrepreneurs face, which you have also experienced?
Well in terms of challenges that early stage entrepreneurs face, which I myself have also experienced, are the complex elements of running a business. From the daily administration, business finance and getting to a product market fit. One of the biggest issues is that most often, early stage entrepreneurs only seek to leap-frog their development cycles of product market fit; compromising on user feedback, product iterations, exploring different pricing models and more. Sadly this approach only leads to a host of side effects such as stunted business growth, frustration due to limited or no traction, and failure to on-board new clients. These are the primary issues all early stage entrepreneurs should spend a significant time ironing out. I relate to this as I was guilty of these earlier on, but now we are gaining the traction and a lot more client on-boarding.
So, how has the exposure of Slush changed your approach to entrepreneurship?
Taking part in Slush 2017 was mind-blowing. Basically my entire mind, body and soul were operating in overdrive. Slush has a positively intoxicating energy that initially was overwhelming but also worked in energizing me for years to come. Since attending Slush I have had the ability to represent Focus Surveys at various platforms where I was able to positively contribute to other entrepreneurs on a similar trajectory.
What opportunities do you believe are available for African entrepreneurs? How would you advice them to take their company to the next level?
I don’t want to sound cliché, but honestly the opportunities are endless. All you have to do is to address a need. A wise professor from Stanford Graduate School of Business told me to think deep about what I am offering my clients; a vitamin or a painkiller. The moral of this statement is that people can do without vitamins for some time, there comes a time where painkillers are a non-negotiable and this is the space that you need to play in. With this mindset you can and will develop businesses, products and services that are non-negotiable. Also be careful not to narrow your whole existence to the need for capital, it does not come easy and if it does, it may not be on your terms; so keep calm and entrepreneur.