Tunde Kehinde is co-founder of Nigerian SME-financing company Lidya. He was also a co-founder of e-commerce platform Jumia Nigeria.
1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.
During the first few years of your business, it seems you are going from one disaster to another every week. It could be a large customer – who represents the bulk of your revenue – that decides not to renew, or a rock star employee that leaves, or that investor you were counting on does not invest. I have learnt that life goes on. You need to spend as much time as you can thinking and reading deeply about your business so that you have clarity and can plan in advance. Then you execute as thoughtfully and as fast as you can to deliver on your customer promise. When the mistakes happen, don’t dwell in sorrow – understand what went wrong and don’t make them again. The key is to keep moving forward.
2. Which entrepreneurial achievement are you most proud of?
I am really proud of all the young men and women we have created job opportunities for. The companies I have been involved in have directly created over 1,500 jobs on the continent, bringing new skills to the market: from digital marketing to world-class logistics, and now small-business lending. It’s been great to see these young men and women take on responsibility, be able to manage large budgets, build teams and deliver amazing experiences to customers. I am excited to see this group of managers keep taking their businesses to new heights and delivering great customer experiences across Africa and beyond.
3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.
I believe strongly in surrounding yourself with the best people possible. My business partner, Ercin, and I have worked together for four years and we have complementary skill sets. Ercin brings deep understanding of operational process design and implementation, and product development. I bring experience on the commercial side of the business – dealing with our customers, partners and investors. This clear division of labour along with our long tenure working together has helped us move faster and build strong foundations in our business. I believe in doubling down on your strengths and surrounding yourself with people who bring skills where you lack. This has worked very well for Ercin and I so far.
4. What popular entrepreneurial advice or conventional business wisdom do you disagree with?
I believe you need to move fast but always build for the long term. The most radical thing you can do in business is really to understand how to filter information so you can make decisions you think are in the best interest of your customers, team and shareholders. People will question and disagree with you constantly and it won’t always be communicated to you in a nice way. It is a very lonely journey and you will constantly have people questioning you so you need deep strength in your convictions and a strong co-founder to support you on your journey.
5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you started?
How hard it was! On a more serious note, I did not appreciate the importance of constantly building your team and getting the very best partners possible to help you deliver on your mission and vision. I believe every entrepreneur should spend as much time as possible getting the very best people into and involved with your business, and then staying out of their way. Your role should then focus on getting the resources and capital needed for them to thrive.
On a practical side, try and get your product market fit as quickly as possible. Make sure you have deep insights into the business / industry you are committing your life too. I advise that everyone looking to enter a new space to work for someone else and learn there, before you dive in. There is a reason why there is a gap in the market. The earlier you can learn on someone else’s dime before committing your life, taking money from investors and bringing people into your company, the better.