We want to take a look back at the year that was 2019 and reflect on our community and ecosystem. This is a time to celebrate and learn from the successes and failures that were, and bank the learnings to continue to build in 2020.
The South African economy overall remains slow, which is putting more pressure on the SMME and startup world to create jobs. It also creates more opportunities for job creation as the pool of talent continues to increase.
Looking at general statistics for 2019:
- We had 28 businesses join the LaunchLab Community
- LaunchLab companies currently being incubated created 51 jobs
- LaunchLab companies had more than R100m in revenue come in, while raising just over R40m in risk capital
- We had 54 companies leave the LaunchLab community
- Vollar won the SAB Foundation Development Award
- Revolute won the prize for Best Agritech Business in Southern Africa
- We had 7 companies expand their businesses beyond their home province in South Africa
- We had 2 companies open offices in Europe and the US
From a qualitative perspective, we spent 30 hours of our programme time on sales. Revenue trumps investment. It is always preferred to grow revenue rather than raise more investment to grow. What are you growing if it’s not sales? Hiring more people? For what purpose? To build more products/features? For who? Focusing on sales also helps you fine-tune your product to the most important group of people in your business, your customers. Too often we talk to aspiring entrepreneurs who come with a plan and want investment, but there is no sales traction. Investors always look for revenue growth. Comparatively, we only spent 2 hours on funding.
We had 13 hours of our founder community engaging with each other, discussing relevant topics that they are experiencing, and solving them collectively. This is a critical part of our community and something that we protect.
The most exciting thing for us as a LaunchLab team is that we were able to spend more than 250 hours in 1 on 1 coaching and advisory conversations with our startup community. Not all of the time is spread equally, as some businesses require more time than others in certain seasons. Nonetheless, this is the primary purpose of an incubator. While our team does not have every skill that is needed by our community of startups, we have a vast network that we can leverage for our community. This is a statistic that we look forward to improving upon in 2020 as our focus goes even more strongly towards our startups.
Looking back at the year that was 2019, there is one clear piece of advice from our learnings as a community that we want to share with the SA startup ecosystem: when you need help and are out of your depth, ask for it. Don’t wait until you have exhausted every possibility that you can think of. Don’t exhaust every resource that you have, you’re going to need that in the future! Don’t brave-face it to save face. If you are in an incubator or accelerator, speak to your peers/community/cohort. If you have investors, speak to them and make them earn their returns on your eventual success. If you’re not part of an incubator or some other community, find one to join. The startup journey is hard enough, and there are thousands of us. There is no need to go it alone.