Our African Ambassador Mashudu Molefe picks up one statement Swish Goswami made in our podcast: “I don’t think you can teach entrepreneurship”. But Mashudu thinks this is not right, taking a broader view at different kinds of entrepreneurs. He also talked to the entrepreneurs Odwa Zamane and Adrian Taylor about the topic. 

Episode 3 – Swish Goswami – How to lead as a young founder through uncertain times

Swish Goswami’s statement from epsiode 3 of The Dialogue:

“I think that a lot of what you learn within entrepreneurship is only done by doing; it’s only done by actually getting started with an idea; getting customer feedback; building out your prototype; hiring one or two people; getting an investor on board; going through a 100, 150, 200 no’s before you get to a yes. These are the things that you can only truly learn when you do them; so I don’t think you can teach entrepreneurship.” 

Mashudus answer:

Entrepreneurs are leaders in their own right and it is important that they act responsibly at all times because the decisions they make affect their stakeholders and influence their followers. There are very few leaders we are taught to follow in the realm of entrepreneurship and that upsets me.

 We’ve  become accustomed to fantasizing about one kind of entrepreneur. ‘Rags to riches‘, ‘College Dropout‘ and ‘Overnight Success‘ have become the popular opinion and overarching narrative. It almost seems like there’s a roadmap you need to follow to get the entrepreneurial endorsement. The purpose of my blog is not to paint the popular entrepreneur as a facade but to highlight a different side to entrepreneurship by engaging with a different breed of entrepreneurs. A cozy brother Odwa Zamane (co-creative director of Front Row Media) and Adrian Taylor (co-founder of Jamii Cities) who I got to know as a result of being part of the AlphaCode ecosystem. 

I engaged with them with the intention of understanding what their thoughts are on what Swish had to say given that they are entrepreneurs with a formal educational background. Odwa believes that doing an Honours in Fashion has given him exposure to industry and he also views it as a process of transitioning from being in the industry to becoming the industry. Adrian views a business as a network built around relationships (mainly customers) and doing his MBA gave him an opportunity to tap into relationships that assist him in figuring out the best way to deliver value to customers. Entrepreneurship is characterised by challenges and according to Adrian having a network prevents you from approaching the challenges with a tunnel vision. Both entrepreneurs agreed with parts of Goswami’s take; especially the need to shift the focus more towards practicality than ideation. Odwa however stressed the importance of deviating from fetishizing entrepreneurship because that makes it seem very exclusive; when the actual truth has more to do with how far you are willing to go for your idea.

I think it‘s impossible to define what entrepreneurship is from a single context given the complexity of the world we live in and the difference in the kind of problems we are confronted with as a developing or a developed nation.

So here it goes; do I think:

  • Entrepreneurship is about doing (actually getting started with an idea)? YES
  •  You need to hire one, two or more people to be considered an entrepreneur? NO
  •  You need to get an investor on board to run a successful business? NO
  •  You need to become immune to the “yes“ and “no’s“ and more obsessed with creating value for your customer? YES

The only way you can truly learn as an entrepreneur is by doing. I believe you can teach someone how to do; so contrary to popular belief, I believe you can teach entrepreneurship. I was fortunate enough to be selected for the first cohort of the prestigious AlphaCode Explore Program. A lot of what is done at AlphaCode is practical; I’ve become better at identifying and working on FinTech ideas as well as creating and delivering a compelling pitch. Prior to AlphaCode I didn’t even know certain problems existed within the South African and African financial landscape.

Odwa shares the same sentiment citing the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation as a platform that identified him as a high-impact responsible entrepreneur when he was young and has assisted him in his growth as an entrepreneur thus far. He also mentioned meeting individuals in the program who didn’t necessarily identify as being creatives, innovators or entrepreneurs but were taught and provided the necessary resources to help them thrive as entrepreneurs. We need to draw inspiration and pay homage to all kinds of entrepreneurs. All the big platforms with the popular CEOs (leaders) are actually a representation of a bunch of mergers and acquisitions; so you can’t overlook the micro-innovators.

Swish Goswami’s take is correct but only speaks to one kind of entrepreneur. The definition of entrepreneurship cannot be generalised because entrepreneurs are multifaceted in their nature.