Building a technology business can go any of two ways, success or failure. For the most part, the bootstrapped start that is often glamourised post any semblance of success is hardest.
Hard, not because the idea that the founders are pursing is insanely difficult to pull off, but more towards assembling a team to bring it to life.
Good talent, despite its relatively adequate supply, is hard to onboard for startups due to challenges in capitalisation which have a direct bearing on what can go towards the payroll.
At this early stage, the team is more important than the product itself as the ability to pivot should the startup fail to get product market fit rests entirely on the team — their agility, adaptability and competence.
It is during this season of existence that everyone is in everyone else’s business, which is great while it lasts and makes for the foundations of company culture.
So the startup finds product market fit and begins to grow rapidly, there are new faces every other month and there is now a fully-fledged human resource department.
Perchance the business has even closed on a round of funding to supercharge growth. Focus then seems to shift outward from the team to the customer and the market.
Suddenly things start to unravel from all corners, founders get cocky or entitled, daily operations even under a competent chief operating officer skip a beat, personality clashes, governance takes a hit and the full mixed pot of issues emerge.
Talent eventually takes flight for different less toxic and pressured pastures even if it means taking a pay cut.
This plays out in many startups within the African tech ecosystem and it takes a keen eye to see beyond the glossy articles of perceived or actual market success.
Company culture, its creation, distillation, assimilation and preservation is not receiving adequate attention from company founders, posing a great challenge for follow-on C-suite or middle management that may be ill-placed to define or reshape as they come when the startup is in a phase of rapid evolution.
Companies that are a joy to work for, even if they are high-stress environments, will attract great talent.
This base is the key to future proofed growth and returns.
Regardless of your stage, be deliberate about creating a worthwhile culture that will keep on giving.