On Thursday, 13th of December, the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PHN) held its first Virtual Community of Practice (vCoP) on the topic “What is Entrepreneurship? How do you know you have a successful business? The guest speaker for this webinar was South-African native, Charlotte Luzuka, co-founder of Oya Ventures and Dazzle Angels. Below is a summary of Charlotte’s discussion as well as her answers to the questions asked by the participants during the webinar.
What is entrepreneurship? The answer to this question tends to vary and is dependent on one’s perspective or goal. Entrepreneurship according to Merriam Webster is ‘one who organizes, manages and assumes a risk of a business or enterprise’ while dictionary.com defines it as ‘a person who organises and manages any enterprise especially a business. Usually with considerable initiative and risk’. Both definitions are similar, but the difference is dictionary.com says ‘any enterprise’. One may be tempted to ask; can an author be an entrepreneur? Can a pastor be an entrepreneur? A Freelancer? What about CEO or COO who did not found the business? They all manage and organize an enterprise, with considerable initiative and risks.
Some experts have taken the definition of an entrepreneur further to be ‘anyone who creates more than one business’ – a serial entrepreneur. Comparing this definition with the two definitions before, we find that the former never said an entrepreneur is someone who owns ‘the’ business or enterprise, but rather manages it and assumes the risks. This brings up some more questions: if you are somebody that works in start-ups and you can help that start-up to grow, does that make you an entrepreneur? If you are somebody who takes an existing product and then you add a mark-up to it, does that make you an entrepreneur? Does that mean that hawkers or street vendors, are also entrepreneurs? Because they are taking a product, they are putting a mark-up on it and they are a generating revenue, and they can be self-employed. If we go back to the definition, they are organizing, managing, and assuming the risk of an enterprise in some shape or form.
It is important for every entrepreneur especially those in the healthcare space to ask themselves what entrepreneurship means to them. How do you define yourself? Do you see yourself as an employee there for a 9 to 5 or do you see yourself as an entrepreneur who is going to help grow that business and help it scale and impact as many people as you can? Are you someone who wants to start one business and sell it off to somebody else or do you want to start one business and then create a whole bunch of other businesses building a value chain? It is important to know the answers to these questions, because entrepreneurship is hard. And when the chips are down, your reasons for starting or working on this enterprise can be the difference between success and failure; pushing forward or letting go. Resilience or languishing in the trough of sorrow.
Success on the other hand, tends to be defined by who you are, the field you are in, or how far along you are in the journey of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs can define success in a myriad of ways, be it:
- by the valuation of your company after a funding round,
- by owning a large percentage of market share,
- by the amount of revenue you are generating,
- by the freedom you have to determine your work hours / to choose your clients / to work remotely,
- by solving a problem that has an impact (be it social or a consumer need), and/ or
- by having a business model that has a subscription or premium aspect to it, that generates revenue in perpetuity.
All these are good ways to vet the success of your business but in the healthcare space, sustainable social impact probably takes precedence.
I’m currently building a healthcare startup. What do I need to do to connect more to health resources that can help me build my business?
To connect with health resources is to engage with stakeholders in the healthcare space. This is important as you need to ensure your solution is context specific and it is addressing current needs. Some of these stakeholders could be public sector, private sector, other innovators and business owners within the health ecosystem. Engaging with corporate private sector is a good step. Aside from funding there is room for mentorship with these corporates.
What is more crucial for the success of a business: the idea or the execution?
Executions. You can have ideas but if you don’t do anything about them, they just that, an idea. It’s all about execution because that’s how you generate the revenue, that’s how you get the business going, and that’s how you effect the impact.
What drives you to keep going when it gets tough?
When you don’t have another source of income, that can drive you. Having a mentor or business coach is also an invaluable resource, be it someone to bounce ideas off, or to assess challenges from a less emotional stance with. Or having someone to provide guidance. I also keep in touch with friends who are entrepreneurs, to talk about the not so pretty side of entrepreneurship.
Most sound software developers prefer working on fintech products to healthtech products, how do we attract developers to health start-ups knowing fully well health is a social business?
It depends on what exactly your health-tech product is going to do. Is there an element of a challenge for them? The core work for engineers or tech experts is solving a problem. You can then add an additional motivator with the fact that your initiative is going to save people’s lives. A common means of attracting software developers in the initial stages of a business is through equity, especially if your business model and purpose is clearly defined i.e. that they equity will deliver future returns to them, that is worth their while.