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3 crucial business tips from vinny lingham

The Dragons’ Den SA judge reveals what it takes to succeed in business

By the age of 36, Vinny Lingham has gone from East London business owner to international entrepreneur making waves in Silicon Valley. Aside from his role as a judge on the business-pitching TV show, Dragons' Den SA, Lingham is the man behind several tech companies. This includes mobile gift card company, Gyft, website building service, Yola, as well as global search marketing firm incuBeta and its subsidiary Clicks2Customers.


Although not as well known as some other SA tech high flyers, Lingham has become an international force in just ten years, and is enthusiastic about helping other South Africans climb that ladder. Among Lingham's many endeavors is a bid to help local start-ups get off the ground, which led to his co-founding Silicon Cape, a Cape Town-based catalyst for tech entrepreneurs. He has also recently co-authored a book on entrepreneurial lessons with the other Dragons, and is looking forward to it "inspiring thousands of budding entrepreneurs".


Vinny briefly shares what he did in order to succeed below:



"When you're young, you need to sacrifice a lot to be successful; but it's worth it." Lingham's first tech business opened in 2003 and was funded through the sale of his townhouse for a R125 000 profit. He then accumulated R75 000 in debt on his credit cards to provide additional cash flow to the fast growing technology business.


"When you're operating in your comfort zone, you're not learning or growing fast enough. In order to be successful in a new company, you need to go from 0 to something a lot larger than that – it's not easy," says the businessman.


The entrepreneur remarks that in order to make it big, people need to follow their passion, and "be the best you can be at that passion". He worked seven days a week for many years.

The rest becomes easy, he says. "There are no shortcuts when learning a new business or industry – you need to work harder and longer hours than anyone else to get ahead. Get used to 18 hour days, 6 to 7 days a week; that's what it takes. And hard work is not enough, you need to be smart, savvy and have tons of perseverance. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it."

Pick the Right Partners

"Part-time effort yields part time results. You should find technical or business co-founders that are willing to quit their jobs, sell their cars, live frugally and work around the clock to build a company. Selling is the best way to build a business – find people who want to buy your product/service."

Lingham's advice to fellow South Africans who want to make a go of it is to start companies with other people who are going to go 100% all in.

He also offers words of caution for those who are willing to step out of their comfort zones. "Avoid business partners who don't want to share the risk with you. Business is risky, and shared risk comes with shared success."

He adds that people should be tight with their equity, but reward those who add value. "I always advocate at least 10% of the equity of the company going to the employees – it's as high as 20% in Silicon Valley."

Enjoyed these tips? Read more on the MTN Business Insights page.

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