Precious Lunga is the co-founder and CEO of Baobab Circle, a health tech company that uses mobile and artificial intelligence to deliver healthcare solutions across Africa by, for instance, providing users with personalised tools to manage diabetes and hypertension.
1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.
For our first partnership we were told at the last minute to launch a week ahead of schedule. However, the product integration with our partner was still underway. The testing needed the participation of multiple units across our much larger partner organisation. We had to pull together all the key players and galvanise them into action.
Our mantra was [that] there is no parachute, [and] we have to do what it takes to launch on that date. The team hardly slept that week – we cajoled, we sweated, we smoothed over ruffled feathers. It was a nail-biting finish – but, yes, we launched on time. Phew; it was a success, too.
2. Which business achievement are you most proud of?
Establishing Baobab Circle and building a stellar team that has delivered an award-winning product that directly improves the lives of our customers. It is hard work building a business, and having a fun, super-intelligent and committed team that I enjoy spending time with makes me feel really proud.
3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.
I have too many ideas which I then want to implement immediately – I am also impatient. Having a diverse team and creating an inclusive space for them means that when I am running off on an idea my team members feel free enough to flash the amber lights! I set my team the goal to challenge me at least once during team meetings.
4. Which popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?
One bit of popular advice I received was to earn while you build your business and gradually transition. That did not work for me: building a business requires a lot of mental energy and focus. Dividing yourself could mean you are stuck between dissatisfied employment and a sluggish startup. I am one of those people who put 100% into whatever I am doing, so side hustles would never work for me. It has to be all in!
5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you got started?
Yes. If I had known how much effort and time [was] involved I would have started my business sooner. Actually, doing the entrepreneurship thing is the best learning you can get.
6. Name a business opportunity you would still like to pursue.
Africa is a continent of young people. Those young people need the best education to be competitive. Across the continent, the teacher shortage remains a chronic challenge – imagine if we could have a holographic teacher beamed across to inaccessible areas?
Quality education is truly key to Africa’s long-term sustainable development and technology can certainly help in this regard. However, it’s important to bear in mind that technology is not a panacea for Africa’s challenges, nor is it a one-size-fits-all solution.
‘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.