The journey so far: Katlego Maphai, co-founder and CEO, Yoco

Katlego Maphai

Katlego Maphai is the co-founder and CEO of Yoco, a South Africa-based fintech company that builds tools and services, such as the company’s mobile point-of-sale platform and card reader, to help small businesses accept card payments.

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

It took us some time to find the right institutional investors as we were trying to transition out of the seed stage. We wanted to get this right and had to start looking abroad for the type of fintech venture capitalists we wished to work with long term.

In the lead-up to that, we needed to manage our runway carefully while continuing to grow. Prioritising customer acquisition, payroll and suppliers, we managed growth through laser focus and, eventually, securing the quality capital we wanted.

It has paid off – and set us on our way.

2. Which business achievement are you most proud of?

Getting started took us some time – from getting a licence (one year) to building the product and getting certified (one year), and through to running a beta (one year). It took extreme patience, belief and orientation around the long term.

We persisted – and eventually – we were able to unlock great growth, despite what seemed like a crowded market.

3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.

I try not to think in the context of weaknesses, but rather augmenting strengths with strengths. Focus has been on building a robust complementary team across the organisation. Allowing for the sum of the parts to be more significant than the whole.

We are four founders of the company, and have shared values, different strengths and skills. This has played a crucial role in where we are today.

All that being said, focus will always be the big challenge. As we grow, new opportunities will appear. It’s crucial that we maintain the disciplined pursuit of less, over the undisciplined pursuit of more. I see this as my core as a business leader, and this is where “weakness” can show up.

4. Which popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?

In general, I think there is a romanticising of entrepreneurship in the mainstream. What’s great is that it is showcased as something attractive/enticing, which I believe is better for society if more of it is pursued.

However, there are not enough open conversations and dialogue about the hard things happening in the background. I think more sharing and discussion about the challenges beyond things like fundraising, but the human ones, would be great.

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

A deeper understanding of the sacrifices beyond the material. There’s a great deal of personal sacrifice as you’re building something up. It takes all of you. Over time, you develop the mechanism and tools you need to keep healthy and energetic. Looking back, some early visibility and guidance on this as one of the top priorities going forward would’ve been valuable.

It’s something I will be sharing with folks who are just starting out.

On the other side, it’s the deepening of relationships in unexpected areas and the forming of the new. This is truly special. Between the support structures, new partnerships, new members of the team and folks just out there to mentor and support. You can truly never know the depths of this until you get started.

The journey so far’ series is edited by Wilhelmina Maboja, with copy editing by Xolisa Phillip, and content production by Justin Probyn and Nelly Murungi.