Peter Scott is co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of BURN Manufacturing, which has built East Africa’s largest cooking stove manufacturing facility. BURN raised US$7 million to launch, has partnered with Equity Bank to allow people to buy stoves on credit, and aims to sell over three million stoves in the next 10 years.
Giving the keynote speech at last week’s Green Pioneer Venture Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, Scott outlined five tips for success all startup founders should follow.
Find something that truly is your passion
Scott’s primary piece of advice? Make sure you’re doing something you love and are passionate about, it will make long days feel shorter and keep you focused on your goals.
“I’m not an entrepreneur, I’m not a business person. I just want to save forests, and I’ve found a way of doing that that is sustainable for me,” he said.
Make sure there is a need
Sounds simple, but make sure you’re providing something that people want. This takes a bit more research than simply reading about what people think other people will want to purchase.
“Don’t listen to the “experts”, listen to what the market says,” he said.
Building a startup is hard work, and, unfortunately, quite expensive in the beginning. To make it work, you’re going to need commitment. Don’t give up easily.
“We had committed founders and we had people willing to go right to the edge. I took my life savings to start BURN,” Scott said.
“There is only one reason why startups fail. Because the founders quit.”
Sometimes time is a good thing
Many African startups rush to obtain funding immediately, but Scott said there is no harm in waiting and getting cash further down the line.
“It enables you to build your team and your product. And too much money too fast can be a bad thing,” he said.
“Sometimes slow money coming to you can be a good thing.”
Become vertically integrated
Forming a variety of partnerships within your sector can be crucial to your success. Scott said not to be too reliant on yourself or just a small selection of partners. This is particularly important when you are in a new market or country, or have a new product. BURN has 180 different distributors.
“We always look for opportunities and partnerships within the supply chain where we can become integrated,” he said.
“We make sure we have multiple channels so we’re not beholden to one distributor. If you have the product, don’t just sit there and wait for someone to come move it to the end user.”