Investors must focus on saying “no” quickly – Ackerman


Investors must learn to focus on saying a quick “no” to startups looking for funding when they are not interested, according to Gareth Ackerman, chairman and director of South African supermarket chain Pick n Pay.

Speaking at the U-Start Africa conference in Cape Town, South Africa, Ackerman said investors too often hesitate over investment decisions, even when they know they are not interested in a startup seeking funding.

“The “no” must come quickly.  If you’re not interested say no, because otherwise you’re wasting their time and money,” Ackerman said.

Conversely, investors can afford to take longer over a “yes” decision, Ackerman said, adding that positive responses inevitably take longer due to the need to go through processes such as due diligence procedures.

“But focus on the “no”.”

Decision-making power is also key to operating within a business, Ackerman said.

“The worst decision you can make in business is to not make a decision.”

Indeed, according to Ackerman, decision making by individual members of the team should be encouraged, as this promotes a desirable “entrepreneurial attitude” towards business.

“You must allow people to make decisions,” he said.

Turning to what is key for startups in order to succeed, Ackerman says the most important skill is the ability to focus.

“If you run a startup or small business and you cannot absolutely focus, you will fail without a doubt,” he said.

Companies should also ensure their ideas combine both global and local elements, according to Ackerman; entrepreneurs should look for an idea that has a global significance, but can be made to succeed on a local level.

“The absolute focus of [Pick n Pay] is think globally, act locally.”


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Inspired and excited by the African tech entrepreneurial scene, Gabriella spends her time travelling around the continent to report on the most innovative tech startups, the most active investors, and the latest trends emerging in the ecosystem.

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