Born British, from London, highly initially unsure of his career path, Mark Davies moved to the United States of America and studied anthropology. There he found a free and exciting environment of the way things were done, as he worked tables and more odd jobs.
He lived in New York City (the Big Apple), taking a bite of it and discovering America’s “just do it” attitude, which is the opposite of how the British and Zambians are towards life, taking a more humble approach generally.
Mark was later asked to join a company that specialized in direct-mail catalogs and involved the use of computers around clients but referring to himself as a digital immigrant rather than a digital native, he admitted he wasn’t so familiar with technology and learnt how to, mostly by himself. That’s for everyone out there who thinks everything they need to know they have to learn from schools. Not true.
The day the light bulb went off for Mark Davies was when he decided to create a city guide called Metrobeat, similar to what he was doing already but he realised he could get more money by doing it on his own, rather than for a company. He had saved up and started his company with $50, 000 as start-up, capital which he burnt through in 6 months. Broke and on the verge of desperation he applied for 8 Credit cards worth $80,000 worth of credit in total, which he got and put his business back on track.
He then wrote his business plan and sent it to tonnes of people. Every connection he made would give feedback on what wouldn’t work and what would with his business plan and after 5 months he had a brilliant business plan. Mark urges every entrepreneur to write a business plan, share it and let people give you feedback, to make a more appealing one.
As luck may have it, Microsoft and other companies got interested in local city guides in New York and Mark sold his for $1.2m a year after he started it. He wanted half the amount in cash and half in shares but they denied so Mark chose shares worth $1.2m. More shareholders got on board and value of the business tripled. He still worked for company but left after 2 years to go back to UK due to project strategy differences, and moved back to London.
There he started a networking group called FirstTuesday in London that brought together investors and entrepreneurs with ideas. 2 years later that networking group sold for $20 million dollars!
Mark then proceeded to Africa and started a technology incubator in Ghana called BusyInternet, initially a factory, that he furbished with a 100 computers and internet connectivity. He believed that’s all people needed to create ideas. It was the perfect environment seeing how desperate people were for information. He opened another called Esoko Networks (@Esoko) which is a platform that helps create a value chain among people in the agriculture sector in Ghana to allow agriculturalists and even the government connect with each other and share information on. He sees so many innovation opportunities in agriculture that people can jump on. They just need to be open minded.
After his background story, Mark then had an interactive chat with the highly entrepreneurial audience at the #BHInsaka, discussing the following;
1. What’s the first thing an investor will look for in a start-up?
Who the team is, how well they work together, and if they can they execute the idea being put forward. So what do you do to make team look good? Get an established known person in the same industry you want to break in to be on your ‘board of advisors’ and refer to them if questioned about your level of know-how by your potential investors. Offer your advisor some shares in your business, never a percentage, as compensation for their advice.
2. What do you need to pitch your business?
You need to be able to say what your idea is in a sentence when asked. Rehearse it all the time. You should also have an elevator pitch that allows you to sell yourself in 20-30 words. Have a powerpoint presentation that is image driven and compelling, and lastly a business proposal. Make it sexy, use less words, more pictures, quotes, stories, make it more interesting than typical boring Microsoft Word formats.
4. How much money should you ask an investor for?
Investors know you can’t have your financials right in the first place. Behind every single figure you include in your plan, back it up with logical reasoning. Sometimes you can fake research to give numbers although not advised. Promote yourself in the business world and get through the door. Investors look for logic. Never use the words ‘guess’ or ‘I think’ in your pitch, ever! Investors lose faith.
You’ve got to ask people who’ve done this before about how much you should ask for based on your business plan. It may give you a rough estimate.
Always ask an investor the question “What else they you bring to the business apart from just money?” This can include additional networks or important connections and and most importantly customers. Find out.
4. When do you give up on your business idea?
As long as you’re getting validated by one person about your product as something they want, keep going and don’t stop running. If one person thinks it’s a great product, do what you have to to keep that person coming back for more.
Mark Davies concluded with the statement ‘Don’t always chase finance. You might kill your idea with the wrong drive.’
If you’re an entrepreneur/start-up, I hope this helped you define what you need to do to become the next big thing. It takes time, passion, and a couple fails before you get there, but the point is, YOU WILL GET THERE.