Trevor Gosling is the co-founder and CEO of Cape Town-based Lulalend, an online lending platform for small businesses.
1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.
When I left investment banking to pursue entrepreneurship I made sure I had a six-month runway in terms of personal cash flow to keep me going. Little did I know that it would be 18 months before I would see my first pay cheque from my startup. Those were some dark days but taught me to live lean, which I encourage every entrepreneur to do.
Don’t be afraid to eat dirt and get uncomfortable for a couple years because the pain will all be worth it.
2. Which business achievement are you most proud of?
On paper, I would say my biggest achievement was selling my first startup to Naspers, as that gave me some validation as an entrepreneur. But with my latest venture, Lulalend, I’m proud of what we’re doing every day in terms of the technology we’re building and the small businesses we’re helping grow.
I believe the long-term benefits that we’re creating now will have a significant impact on the financial services industry in Africa together with large-scale access to finance for entrepreneurs. The knock-on effect is the ability to create jobs and develop the economy, which is sorely needed.
3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.
Although I love technology and building tech businesses, I am not a techie. Because of this I knew I needed to co-found Lulalend with a CTO I could fully trust and share a common vision with. Thankfully my business partner, Neil Welman, ticks all the boxes – which gives us the ability to build technology that makes business sense, benefits our customers and is quickly changing the industry.
4. Which popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?
Sometimes you need to let go of a customer.
You will need to deal with the ramifications of this but there might come a time when trying to satisfy a customer consistently is not worth the pain.
Time is better directed into acquiring or retaining a customer that can add far greater value to your business.
5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you got started?
I wish I knew that there is no silver bullet for marketing.
In the early days of my first venture I assumed marketing was just a dial that when turned up, would increase customers.
But that’s definitely not the case.
You can waste a lot of money on the wrong acquisition channels and by not clearly understanding the integrated relationship between your product, customer experience and marketing approach. Also, what works today, might not work tomorrow, so your marketing plan needs to be ever-evolving.
6. Name a business opportunity you would still like to pursue.
Wherever technology and automation can be implemented into a process, there are huge opportunities to scale towards profitability. This is a complete shift in mindset though – like comparing building a car versus just making a faster horse.
I’m already seeing a lot of work being done in these areas but I believe education is the most crucial to develop Africa.