Discussion around entrepreneurial talent in the tech space in Africa focuses too much on tech skills, while there is a gap in experienced business people leading startups active in the space, according to Ido Sum, partner at TLcom.
Speaking at the inaugural Africa Startup Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, last week, Sum said fast growing startups in Africa tend to fall back on generally intelligent, talented people to take on leading roles, given that there is a shortage on the continent of business people experienced at scaling tech companies.
“Talent is mentioned many times at such conferences, and there’s a tendency to focus on tech talent, which I think yes, is a problem like everywhere else. But as far as the whole talent issue goes, I think there is a real gap in experienced people in scaling companies,” he said.
“As we are the first generation of the tech ecosystem in Africa, and we didn’t yet go through a full cycle of 10 to 12 years, there aren’t many people around who know how to build a sales force, there aren’t many people who know how to scale a product or manage a product. There aren’t many people around who know how to act as COOs or CFOs of very fast growing companies. And I think there’s a tendency to rely on just talented people or intelligent people, which there are many of, but I think we’re starting to see the need to bring in experience of other industries and at times of other geographies,” Sum said.
This is something that needs to be addressed, he said. One way of addressing this lack of experience is mentorship, which Sum believes has a heightened importance in Africa given the relatively early nature of the ecosystem.
“On the mentorship point, I think that really sharing between and within the ecosystem, and between those who are a bit further ahead and those who are just starting will make a very big difference.”