It was an honour to sit with York Zucchi, a former Goldman Sachs banker who, after sixteen years in the corporate world, returned to South Africa from his native Switzerland and founded a number of businesses. His most recent start-up is Join the Equation, a business opportunity marketplace with over 600 members from over 41 countries, which he initially conceptualised as the Tinder for Business. Key take-aways included:
- Starting your journey as a Founder: York, after a long corporate career, decided he wanted to follow his passion for making a difference in the lives of people, particularly in Africa, rather than continue in the corporate world as was expected of him. He states that despite the challenges of being a founder, he does not regret his decision. The lesson here is that it is important to follow one’s passion, after all ‘in the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take’ (Lewis Carroll).
- Key Challenge: Choosing what business idea to follow was York’s biggest challenge, he solved this challenge by trying it all, he launched six businesses within the first few months of coming to South Africa, five of which promptly failed. The lesson here is the importance of being strategic in order to conserve one’s resources, particularly time and money.
- A Failure: Closely linked to his expenditure on failed projects and also to doing work for free, York faced a cash crunch at several points in his career, he has learnt from this to adopt the Lean Start-up methodology where he would validate his assumptions with customer feedback before building his next product, as he and his co-founder Anke Schaffrenek have done with Join the Equation. The lesson here is that you will make mistakes, try to make small mistakes that won’t ‘sink the ship’, learn from them and put in place procedures that will prevent or minimise their re-occurrence in future.
- Key quote: “Build a supportive eco-system of people around you that is not only supportive by wishing you well, but also slaps you with a bit of reality”