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Stay true to entrepreneurial DNA

How can a fintech firm remain relevant for 20 years in a rapidly-changing landscape? An entrepreneurial mindset is a must.
Andy Jury
By Andy Jury, Group CEO, Mukuru.
Johannesburg, 03 Jun 2024
Andy Jury, CEO of Mukuru.
Andy Jury, CEO of Mukuru.

The first thing people ask when they learn Mukuru is celebrating 20 years in business is: How do you do it, and what can we learn from your longevity?

There is no “how-to” guide for running a growing business for two decades. If there was, every business would celebrate the milestone. Instead, as we know, most start-ups fail within a few years and a big percentage fall off between 10 and 20 years.

However, there are certain traits that not only enable a business to withstand a rapidly-changing fintech landscape and display the resilience required to survive during prolonged headwinds, they also provide the blueprint to remaining relevant. If the company is relevant and competitive, chances are it will be in business and good shape.

The first essential trait is to adopt, and genuinely embrace, an entrepreneurial mindset. Think about traditional banks for a moment. While there are many entrepreneurial banks out there, there are many more that are ensconced in installed infrastructure.

The essence of our DNA as an agile fintech firm is an entrepreneurial mindset. It has enabled us to disrupt and have an impact. We are not afraid to fail and we welcome the idea of creative destruction. Of course, this is exponentially easier to say when you are a smaller fintech firm that doesn’t have massive installed assets with promises to shareholders over a longer-term cycle of return.

The first essential trait is to adopt, and genuinely embrace, an entrepreneurial mindset.

What does an entrepreneurial mindset look like? In the setting of developing markets there are constantly fresh obstacles – often unforeseen – to overcome. You can't sit back and settle into a holding pattern when you get something right.

On the contrary, a business that wishes to remain relevant should pay less attention to achievements of the past and rather (while continuing to deliver successfully) keep a sharp focus on what lies ahead.

None of us are oracles and the best forecasters don’t know for certain what’s lurking over the horizon. In our two decades’ experience, trying to see the future and betting on the market shifting in a certain way is a dangerous slippery slope.

Of course, just like other fintech firms, we want to continue to be at the forefront of pioneering unchartered territory, enabling the shift from informal over the counter cash-to-cash towards formal financial inclusion and digitisation. Our plan to get there is to stay true to our entrepreneurial DNA.

However, sustained success requires more than this. It requires a genuine customer-centric approach and figuring out a way to develop a core suite of products that work, which can then form the base for developing new products for different use cases.

We always go back to first principles when budgeting and planning for a new year. We try not to start with what we have, asking how we can leverage that to deliver a return for ourselves. That’s usually the wrong way around. We start by asking what our customers are telling us, what the market is telling us, and then we ensure we listen and react so that our solutions remain relevant.

The moment a company starts thinking about trying to extract value from an asset as opposed to solving the needs of the market is when it starts taking its eyes off the ball.

I often repeat this image: Either you can develop a shiny new product and force it onto customers and wait for them to show up, or you can deeply understand exactly what customers need and then provide relevant solutions for them.

Once the start-up has developed solutions that customers want, need and use, it can start developing solutions for client bases that are comparable but somewhat different, and then grow that network in terms of geographic reach and related accessible markets.

This approach enabled our ability to shift from a remittance company in the early days, towards becoming a financial services platform, and this will continue to be the guiding compass for how the business evolves into the future.

Understanding these traits, and applying them in their daily operations, fintech firms can have the confidence to prioritise. They should focus on what they’re good at, and most importantly, keep a finger on the pulse of the opportunity they are addressing by never forgetting the customer.

To stay relevant over the longer term, they should focus on something that has a deep addressable market that is going to allow repeat touch points.

Finally, staying true to the spirit of an entrepreneur along every step of the journey will go a long way towards remaining relevant for 20 years.