Startup founders must work at another startup first – Essien


Startup founders need to have previously worked at other startups for a significant length of time to achieve success with their own venture, according to Mark Essien, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of

According to Essien, the model of providing startup founders with funding and mentoring through incubators, competitions and grants has already been proven to be broken; the model does not work, he writes in a blog post.

Rather, the secret behind successful startups is that their founders have worked for long stints of time at other startups, prior to launching their own company, Essien says.

“To me, that’s the secret – startups will be founded by the management level of other startups,” Essien says.

As such, Essien advises those interested in supporting the startup ecosystem in Africa to focus on upskilling the management levels of existing startups, rather than launching or supporting a competition or incubator programme.

He believes that by growing the skills and experience of the management of an existing startup, those individuals can then go on to create new successful ventures, and hire more people – creating a self-sustaining ecosystem.

“When they create their own startup, they actually know what they are doing. They have worked in the environment, they know how to manage, they are highly skilled, and they are experienced. So their startups will be far better, and far more likely to succeed,” Essien says.

Essien concludes this is the only way to build a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in Africa.


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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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