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Interview: Sandras Phiri gives insights on developing startups

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Startup Grind CEO and founder of Africa Trust Academy
Sandras Phiri, CEO and founder of Africa Trust Academy

Africa is becoming a huge platform for entrepreneurship and start-ups in any industry. As the market for startups builds momentum, it is vital that there is mentorship and leadership in place to guide entrepreneurs and their small businesses.

A leader who has been doing exactly that is Sandras Phiri. The CEO and founder of Africa Trust Academy, a Cape Town-based entrepreneur, businessman, life strategist, leadership expert and international speaker. He is also the director for Startup Grind South Africa a platform which aims to educate, inspire and connect entrepreneurs with a focus to connect small business owners and share skills.

IT News Africa had the opportunity to speak to Sandra, who gave insights on the developing start-up industry in Africa.

How do you think SA entrepreneurs can connect better as entrepreneurs?

Entrepreneurs can connect better by joining entrepreneurship communities and events such as Startup Grind. Whatever one entrepreneurs is struggling with, another entrepreneur already found a solution. The challenges are not unique so by connecting with one another, entrepreneurs can accelerate their learning and grow together as they say “A rising tide lifts up all ships”.

What is the importance of small businesses and do how they contribute to our economy?

Small business are very important in that when nurtured they become big businesses that employ thousands of people. Small businesses make up 98.5% of the country’s economy. Small business are more innovative and generally use local suppliers.

What are some of the challenges of being an entrepreneur and how do we combat them in the SA and global climate?

Entrepreneurship is generally hard as there is a lot of uncertainty in the beginning and the failure rate is very high. To increase entrepreneurship success, we need to give support in terms of educating entrepreneurs on essential skills like sales and investor readiness. There are a lot of funders and investors and yet entrepreneurs struggle to get funds. I believe this is because the two sides are not speaking the same language.

How are you planning to grow within the African continent?

We’re looking for provide content that is easy to consume over the available internet infrastructure. Data is very expensive in most African countries and there is very little Wifi penetration. So our solutions will focus on providing offline content as well as online content that is not bandwidth intensive.

Having worked within the IT sector, is there anything you would change and what advice could you give to aspiring entrepreneurs within the IT industry?

I think the IT sector provides the most opportunities because IT can be applied to almost anything. It is now very easy to set up an IT company now more than ever with very little capital as you can use leveraged assets with cloud service providers who give lots of free credits when you are starting to utilize their specialized services. The advice I would give aspiring entrepreneurs in IT is that they should look to solve real life problems and not just try to copy Silicon Valley. In other words, Africa is not excited about just another photo sharing app.

What tips can you give on becoming a successful entrepreneur?

To be a successful entrepreneur you need to love what you do and believe in it. You need to strive to serve more and more people. You need to balance determination with being teachable as there is a thin line between being visionary and being crazy. This is important so that you don’t burn through your personal and investors’ money without generating any returns. You need to always update your goals and adjust your business to move with the times.

By Neo Sesinye
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