The journey so far: Edwin Bruno, CEO, Smart Codes
Edwin Bruno is the founder and CEO of Smart Codes, a Tanzanian digital agency founded in 2010. One of its products is M-Paper, a mobile app that gives users access to local newspapers and magazines
1. Tell us about the toughest situation you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.
The toughest situations were in the beginning when I had to figure out how to raise capital to operate and sustain the company. I realised early enough that it was going to be next to impossible to get financing, so I set out to look for money the only way I knew would work: through pitching for business and selling our products and services.
Starting a company is the easy part; building the technology and infrastructure, getting the right team, finding customers and growing your business are the hard parts. But it is usually impossible “until it is done”, which, by the way, is our company motto.
2. What business achievement are you most proud of?
It would be M-Paper, our flagship product, which is a digital newspaper platform meant for everyone who has access to a smartphone. I am proud that today a businessman on the move, the diaspora community who want to be updated on local news and current events in their home countries, companies looking out for tenders or just anyone wanting to access all local newspapers, can do so with M-Paper.
Also, Smart Lab, our innovation platform that links learning institutions with corporate partners. I am delighted each time we make steps towards preparing young leaders, startups and innovators in the ecosystem.
3. What is your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.
Like most entrepreneurs, I am continuously thinking of new ways to offer solutions to our clients and drive growth for the business. This is a good thing but it can also be a weakness because it requires constant levels of perfectionism and a hands-on approach towards the business.
Sometimes perfectionism and always being hands-on can deter growth for the people, and consequently the business, because people grow from mistakes and businesses grow from trials.
The good thing is I have put in place a great team that knows when I have my perfectionism … hat on, and act as an equilibrium to draw the line between people and the business, ultimately preventing a negative impact on the company.
4. What conventional business wisdom do you disagree with?
The “client/customer is always right” phrase, which … should be practiced with caution.
Clients come to consultants for business advice because consultants understand the industry. And yes, this too has to be approached collaboratively. Some of the best businesses that have gone ahead to thrive, gave their consultants the green light to take their business, offer strategic advice and implement.
So, we need to see more and more brave clients trusting their consultants to do the unusual; and equally, we need to see consultants taking advantage of such privileges or opportunities by driving tangible business growth ideas for their clients.
5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you started?
That all great ideas are scary because they always threaten what we know. However, the trick is to be persistent and implement your idea even when no one likes or understands it, putting into consideration agility and measuring both positive and negative feedback.