4 ingredients to scaling your startup


Clive Butkow is non-executive director of Grovest, which is currently raising ZAR200 million (US$12.8 million) to invest in highly scalable, post-revenue South African tech startups, with the strategy to “buy, build and flip”.

Here, Butkow gives Disrupt Africa his four key ingredients for successfully scaling a startup, with or without funding.

Good people – get the best team on the planet

“The dream team and nothing less will do. Do not try and take the journey alone: one is not a team. 100 per cent of nothing is nothing.”

No single person can do everything, says Butkow, who says he has not met anyone who can do absolutely everything, from product vision to executing on a plan.

“There are just too many mission-critical tasks in getting a successful company launched. You will be much happier if you have a partner to back you up,” he said.

“No one person has all the skills required to build a business. Second, it’s not a good sign if you can’t get others to get excited about your plan.”

He advises entrepreneur to bring in the right team by giving away equity and getting the right resources to build a sustainable asset of value to create real wealth.

Keep confirming product market fit

“One of the most important pieces of advice I give to entrepreneurs is to remind them that building a market is far more difficult than building a product,” Butkow says.

“Most businesses do not fail because of the lack of product development, but rather because of a lack of customer development. Startups don’t win just because of better technology or features; they win because they solve real problems that demand clear and simple solutions.”

Sell, sell, sell

“Being able to sell, and making getting and keeping customers a number one priority by adding more value to their lives than anyone else is crucial,” he says.

“Many small businesses don’t scale because they fail at one or more of these ingredients. Focus on these key ingredients and the rest of the business will look after itself.”

Being able to sell is the number one skill required of an entrepreneur, Butkow says.

“Nothing happens until the cash register rings.”


Most successful businesses do one thing, and do it better than anyone else.

“What problem are you trying to solve? What is the one thing your new business is known for? Don’t create unnecessary pressure for you and your team by trying to develop or build products outside your comfort zone, target market or resources,” Butkow says.

“Successful businesses focus on their strength and they do better at delivering just that. They only expand based on intense research, among other factors. When you try to be all things to all people, it typically means you are not very great at any one thing.”

He says people buy or use services they can comfortably trust, and if a startup is good at something consumers or prospective users notice and are more likely to recommend its product or service.

“Stay focused and get one thing right, and that can propel you to greater success. Sniper gun approach, one bullet, one kill. Not a machine gun, scattered spray and pray approach,” he said.


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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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