Your customer is the light at the end of your startup’s tunnel

Catherine Young

Published | 14 August 2021

We recently asked fifteen high-profile African tech startups to complete a home-grown life stage assessment, and the results were interesting. Let me describe the average tech startup if we just took a simple average across the companies per business pillar, in terms of maturity of the business self-assessed against each pillar.


Product & Technology trumps the top of the list:

By far the highest-scoring of all nine categories, these tech startups were almost 70% comfortable with their product. This fact almost confirms the age-old adage that tech startups love their product so much and wonder how they can get their customers to love it, too, as the numbers that follow indicate a big gap between the Product & Technology category and the rest.

And then the rest followed with almost a 25% difference to the second-highest score:

Marketing came in with the second-highest score at only 46% in terms of maturity of the business pillar, followed by strategy at 44%, Finance at 40%, Legal & IP at 37%, Sales at 36%, Operations and People at 34% and Funding and Valuation at 33%.

So, if this is a snapshot of the ‘average’ startup, perceived to be high profile and destined for growth, it goes without saying that extensive work is required once the tech is up to get the customers to come and buy. It simply isn’t a case of building it, and they will come, but as we know, a case of building it because you know why they want it and then working really hard to get them to buy what you built. A business is nothing without revenue, and the sooner startups click that, they should place just as much focus on strategy, marketing and sales as they do on the actual tech; failure rates of tech startups may well reduce, and robust businesses built for the long haul will emerge. Nothing trumps sales. Paying customers is better than promising potential funding rounds—every time.

We will work with this group over the next twelve months, especially in the areas of Sales, Marketing, Operations and Strategy, and test our hypothesis of what more customers, sooner, can do for a tech startup earlier on, and report back here in a year.

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