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.
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
"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.
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
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
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."
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