The journey so far: Abraham Cambridge, CEO, Sun Exchange (South Africa)

Abraham Cambridge

Abraham Cambridge is the CEO of Sun Exchange, an online platform that enables investors anywhere in the world to buy remotely-located solar cells that power schools, businesses and other organisations in South Africa. Solar cells can be purchased for as little as $5 per cell and the owner then earns a rental income stream from the clean electricity the cells generate. In turn, the off-taker organisations gain access to affordable and reliable solar power.

1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.

A major challenge business leaders often face is keeping calm in a crisis. Things are not always plain sailing and, when growing a business, one is bound to encounter volatile periods. For example, building software and raising money often takes longer than expected, making cash flow a challenge and causing tensions to build. This can be overcome by keeping focussed on the mission, remaining calm and maintaining a positive attitude. Meditation and exercise help a lot!

2. What business achievement are you most proud of?

Sun Exchange has received extensive coverage and validation from major mainstream media including CNN, CNBC Africa, Forbes, Reuters and RT, among others. This confirms to me that our story is one worth telling and the mission we are on is of interest to a massive global audience. Another proud achievement is the fundraising round we recently closed and the $3 million investment we secured from ARCH. The investment validates our model and business structure, especially after many months of extremely rigorous due diligence.

3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.

I tend to focus on the big picture and long-term vision rather than the micro-level details of how to actually implement my plans or the legal or technical complexities of my ideas. Fortunately, I have a pragmatic, creative and detail-oriented team, including our managing director and chief financial officer, who I work very closely with and rely on to lay foundations for and implement ideas. Having a team whose strengths complement your own and who are able to see and point to your blind spots is crucial. It’s easy to run into trouble or failure if one doesn’t create the necessary foundations, architecture and structure to implement plans.

4. What popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?

Perfectionism! From a tech industry perspective, the best advice I can offer, which I was taught in the Techstars programme, is that if you are not embarrassed about your first software release, you released too late. Get your product in its most minimal form out to the market and test it as soon as possible. Do not attempt to raise money until you at least have your first customers. Focus on building, building, building. Be creative about how to fund the business, and only start speaking to VCs when you really need the money to scale on your proven successes. Otherwise, you are wasting their time and your own.

5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you started?

Sun Exchange is not my first rodeo. I set up my first company straight out of university, so entrepreneurialism is very familiar to me. I quickly discovered that paid jobs just aren’t for me – entrepreneurship is too exciting! One thing I wish I’d known when I started is that dealing with fundraising and investments is more complex than it seems. Attention to detail and legal counsel is absolutely essential to ensure that any deals and partnerships you form truly benefit your business in the long-run.

Further reading

[June 2020] The journey so far: Faiz Bashir, CEO, FlexiSAF (Nigeria)
[May 2020] The journey so far: Nosakhare Oyegun, co-founder, Festival Coins (Nigeria)
[May 2020] Sailing uncharted waters in Nigeria: The journey of VerifyMe’s Esigie Aguele
[May 2020] Nigerian health-tech entrepreneur believes the sector’s untapped potential is ‘incredible’
[April 2020] The journey so far: Joanna Bichsel, CEO, Kasha (Rwanda and Kenya)