The foundation for anything serves as an inspiration for what kind of structure is envisioned. You wouldn’t expect a skyscraper to sit on a foundation made for a duplex building. It is therefore apt to build this piece on entrepreneurship which draws its root from the noun ‘entrepreneur’ — a French word that implies one who ‘undertakes’ or ‘manages’ something.

Today, entrepreneurship has become fashionable, especially in developing countries where in some regard, it is a necessity for survival and a means to escape being merely a number within the unemployment statistics. While there is nothing wrong with the intention to start a socio-economic adventure, it is important to know that intentions in themselves are not strong enough to guarantee success. As a matter of fact, there are people who have been sincerely hurt, sincerely fired, sincerely jailed, and sincerely broke. In the factors of production from basic economics, you would recall that there is nothing like “intentions or sincerity”, what we do have is land, labor, capital, and enterprise.

It is interesting to note that despite the global pandemic caused by COVID-19, about 128 African startups have raised at least $1M of funding in 2020 as of today. This already equates to 36% more than what was raised in 2019. With all of these funding and engagements in the ecosystem, there are still myriads of young entrepreneurs wondering how to plug into the financial pipeline either from local or foreign investors.

Traction justifies the business case

There is hardly a week where I do not engage with a couple of startups in Africa and Europe with respect to business development and fundraising. My interactions with these ‘young entrepreneurs’ give me a first-hand experience into where most of them may have missed it. They missed it from the basis which centers around growing Traction. Many ‘young entrepreneurs’ today are too bothered about “succeeding as an entrepreneur” than actually undertaking a task i.e. ‘solving a problem’. Perhaps many are just in the game for the ‘brand element’ or ‘public perception’ that goes with being ‘an entrepreneur’ — a boss of oneself.

Traction suggest doing the work of not just solving a problem but justifying that there is a business case for the solution. It may interest you to know that not everything that is good sells. In other words, there are good inventions or innovations, but they don’t necessarily command any market value. I’m sure you may have witnessed many inventions by some folks around you or on social media that only commanded a “not bad” as a comment from people and that’s where it ends. When it comes to traction, the goal is to see if the idea, product or service goes further to command the segmented market to part away with cash in exchange for it. One example that comes to mind is the Apple Power Mac G4 Cube that only survived for one year in the market.

Tractors are as good as what they are — tools

If only most entrepreneurs channel the same energy and spend as much time on their acclaimed product or service solving existing problems, as they spend preparing to attend pitch events, fundraising teasers ; they would have saved themselves from herculean marketing and fundraising heartaches. These other activities though essential could become distractions if not checked. Let’s call all of these distractions — Tractors.

Tractors are tools in themselves to help farming activities in a mechanized way. But come to think of it, no matter how beautiful, strong and big a tractor is, it won’t make a difference if the seed is planted on the wrong soil. The tractor is only useful to amplify efforts. Now whether that effort is productive or fruitful is a question of what is being planted and if other natural elements support that crop or produce. More importantly, is what is being planted a need? See, the true worth or justification for a business case is traction no matter its scale. Social media is another ‘tractor’ to promote a useful product or service. Smart investors see beyond a presentation and pitch. As a matter of fact, your traction can make up for presentation lapses before a real investor who has options and good alternatives in his or her portfolio. In other words, Traction will trump Tractor anytime in the face of fundraising and marketing. In closing, lets draw inspiration from what is known in the Christian Faith as ‘The Great Commission’. The great commission is action oriented, suffice to say it is ‘Traction oriented’. It says “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” which in a business sense translates to mean “Go now and sell to anyone anywhere”. Once you fulfill this, other essentials will follow.

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