A culture that shies away from risk-taking is one of the biggest impediments to developing a bigger technology start-up ecosystem in South Africa.
Michael Jordaan, CEO of venture capital firm Montegray Capital and former CEO of First National Bank, said in a podcast interview with TechCentral on Monday that start-up entrepreneurs are unlikely to be successful if they aren’t prepared to take calculated bets.
South Africans shy away from risk, he said.
“We still have a stigma about failure. I’m not saying you must fail stupidly — that’s wrong — but many start-ups and founders who have become very successful will tell you that if you don’t take big risks, things won’t work out. You need to be able to adapt or pivot, change your business strategy and take the learnings from failing and move on.”
He said his message, when he speaks to youngsters or people wanting to start their own businesses, is that risk correlates “extremely well” with the rewards they will get out. “You can cut down on risk all the time and lead a boring life, or you can cleverly increase your risk and your life will be better,” he said.
He said South Africans ought to celebrate business success, but don’t. When founders have good financial exits, “I wish we’d cover that more in the press, instead of just the bad news, because our youth are looking for role models — and they can’t just be disc jockeys or celebrities,” Jordaan said.
“A TV show like Dragon’s Den is very positive because it shows a completely new world to people,” he added.
The number of South African technology start-up companies has grown considerably in recent years, however, Jordaan said. Montegray Capital received on average 10 pitches a day.
“I’m positive you have a whole new generation of youngsters who are considering being an entrepreneur. When I was young, there was no question about it: you studied hard and found yourself a good job. The world has changed.”
- Listen to the podcast interview with Michael Jordaan