The very nature of a high-growth startup means that the company is always growing and hiring at a rapid rate. And for African startups, in particular, the talent question is even more acute, given the general challenges of sourcing for select roles, as well as the difficulty in competing for talent with other startups, multinationals, and companies elsewhere in the world. In this episode, we unpack the talent and recruiting situation for venture-backed startups and growth-stage companies – how do we source for newer types of roles, like product and growth? Do we hire for aptitude and train up? Do we go to where there is more talent? How does remote work – particularly during COVID-19 – play a role here?
[02:50] – We discuss the current recruiting landscape with Toun Tunde-Anjous, Founder of The People Practice.
[04:38] – Charles Sekwalor, CEO of Movemeback, shares his views on the talent question, and the opportunities with startups and growth-stage companies on the continent.
[08:17] – We explore startup recruitment strategy with Ijeoma Oyeyinka, Helium Health’s Head of HR.
[10:26] – Many startups, including Helium Health, use outside recruiters, as well. Toun’s The People Practice is one such firm.
[11:20] – We har from Ijeoma & Mansi Babyloni, Flutterwave’s Global Head of People Strategy on the hiring competition, and the pitches they make to mission-driven talent.
[15:12] – Mansi & Toun on compensation and their experiences with African startups offering equity packages.
[17:59] – On remote working dynamics and the opportunity to tap into a wider talent pool, particularly due to COVID-19.
[20:46] – A discussion on training & development of talent, and in particular less experienced talent, on the continent.
[24:23] – We hear from Aaron Fu, on the Venture for Africa fellowship program, and their endeavor to de-risk an exploration into the African tech and startup ecosystem.
[28:13] – As always, a reflective conversation between Justin Norman and Sayo Folawiyo on this episode’s topic.
This episode features:
Toun Tunde-Anjous – Founder & CEO, The People Practice
Charles Sekwalor – Founder & CEO, Movemeback
Ijeoma Oyeyinka – Head, Human Resources, Helium Health
Mansi Babyloni – Global Head of People Strategy, Flutterwave
Aaron Fu – Co-founder, Venture for Africa
Sayo Folawiyo – Co-founder & CEO, Kandua
Justin Norman – Founder & Host, The Flip
Audio Production by ZVUK Studio
Episode Artwork by Chileshe Tembo – The Zig
Justin [00:13]: Last season, we heard from Tayo Bamiduro and Chinedu Azodoh, the co-founders of Nigerian mobility company MAX.NG. One topic we talked about was hiring, the importance of which these founders learned the hard way. Here’s what Tayo had to say.
Tayo [00:26]: Beyond the products, beyond the mission, beyond everything else, if you don’t have the right team, everything else isn’t going to work. We saw recruitment and hiring as a necessary evil. Okay, yeah, we have to go look for people, bring them on board and then let’s just get the work done. If I could do everything all over again, we will spend a lot more time on trying to really, really build the right team first. It’s not a necessary evil, it’s the job.
Justin [00:51]: And here’s Chinedu.
Chinedu [00:52]: If we had the chance to do this again, the first thing we would focus on is hire people. Hire people, hire the best people, and be willing to pay what is required to pay.
Justin [01:00]: Talent and recruitment is an important topic to explore, and for several reasons – first, any high growth startup is inevitably going to be hiring at a rapid rate. But on the continent, we do hear at times that finding the right talent – either those with certain experience or certain skills or certain expertise – can be especially challenging in these markets, and in particular where startups are competing for the best talent with multinationals or on a global scale with other startups. So in this episode of The Flip – the final episode of Season Two – we explore and unpack the talent and recruitment questions for venture-backed startups and growth-stage companies on the continent.
VO [01:34]: You’re listening to The Flip, the podcast exploring more contextually relevant stories from entrepreneurs around Africa.
Justin [01:44]: Welcome back to The Flip, I’m your host Justin Norman. Last week, we heard from Paystack’s Head of Growth Emmanuel Quartey, who spoke of Paystack’s work in identifying and building tools and content to overcome their merchants’ biggest impediments to growth. Here’s what he had to say,
Emmanuel [01:57]: We find that one of the single biggest impediments to our merchants scaling and operating at the scale that they want is talent. I don’t think collectively as a community and as an ecosystem, we realize the extent to which that talent question holds us back collectively.
Justin [02:12]: Whether it’s online merchants or venture-backed startups or growth-stage companies, this talent question cannot be overemphasized, and is something that we hear about time and again from those in the ecosystem. And companies are operating amidst a backdrop of many complex, intertwined elements that further impact the talent situation on the continent, including education, macroeconomic considerations, market-specific considerations, immigration and regulatory considerations, and much more. So against this backdrop, how do startups source talent? How do we source for newer types of roles, like product and growth? Do we hire for aptitude and train up? Do we go to where there is more talent? How does remote work – particularly during COVID-19 – play a role here? Let’s start by further unpacking the causes of this talent challenge.
Toun [02:50]: So as you would imagine, technical roles are harder to find at the moment. And for two reasons, the quality of talent is really not great. And the quantity of great people that you have is very limited.
Justin [03:04]: That’s Toun Tunde-Anjous, formerly Head of People at Co-creation Hub, and currently the Founder & CEO of her own firm, The People Practice, which recruits for many tech companies in Nigeria and in East Africa. Toun attributes the talent challenges in part to the amount of new skills that are constantly required in tech, and the inability of formal education and institutions to keep up.
Toun [03:23]: We’re finding that people that are having to train themselves how to code or just update the different languages that they know.
Justin [03:30]: The same challenge applies for select newer roles we see startups on the hunt to fill.
Toun [03:34]: We may struggle a bit with the newer roles like product, like growth as well. And why is that? Because that’s still very new. And what we’re finding is that people are having to train themselves. People are having to develop themselves and then they start to work, but there are very few of them.
Justin [03:49]: Another challenge is competition for top talent between startups, corporates, and increasingly other companies globally.
Toun [03:54]: And what we’re also finding is that after people have developed themselves and have worked in companies for years, we’re seeing international companies start to make a play for technical talent. So we’re experiencing brain drain from people moving into Europe and to countries like Canada. And we’re also finding people here. Working remotely for international companies., and so that’s what startups are starting to struggle with because they can’t always pay as much as the international companies. And so we’re losing talent from different angles.
Justin [04:27]: And as the ecosystem competes head-on for talent, particularly of a certain caliber or with a certain type of experience, if there’s a scarcity of that talent, it means perhaps having think and work outside of the box to solve these talent needs.
Charles [04:38]: There is a misconception that there’s a lack of talent on the African continent.
Justin [04:42]: That’s Charles Sekwalor, the CEO of Movemeback.
Charles [04:45]: I would say there is an oversupply of raw talent.
Justin [04:49]: Movemeback is a platform connecting African opportunities to the world – not just those in the diaspora looking to move back, as the name suggests, but increasingly those on the continent looking for opportunities within the continent and for opportunities that are perhaps more impactful and fulfilling. The idea behind recruiting is that, to some degree, it’s matchmaking – it’s connecting supply and demand. So if there is an oversupply of raw talent – apart from developing talent over the long term – the work becomes identifying and soliciting currently available talent with the requisite skills to get the job done.
Charles [05:15]: When operating on the African continent, talent doesn’t necessarily come packaged in a way that we’re used to outside, with a perfect two-page CV, with all the labels, and some references at the bottom. That doesn’t mean that there’s not hugely capable and hugely valuable talent that exists on the continent. So our first job is to make sure that, how is it that we can ensure that those who have the capabilities, those who do have relevant experience can be found and can present themselves in a way that allows them to be found? And how can we educate or provide tools for organizations to be able to access that talent?
Justin [05:53]: This perhaps manifests itself around job titles, around an understanding of applicable experience and skillsets, and so on.
Charles [05:58]: I think that two, three years ago, you wouldn’t really hear UX/UI, design researcher, data scientist. You wouldn’t hear those terms. But people were doing them, so there is a translation piece.
Justin [06:10]: Here’s an example.
Charles [06:11]: When we look at people who are in the West and they’re looking at doing something in Africa, a key insight is you don’t get up as an investment banker at Goldman and say, I want to move to the continent and do investment banking. And so there’s a translation of skillset also happening. Now, some people understand it and some people are able to navigate it, and they will get up and say, well, you know, I want to do something on the continent, I’m an investment banker at Goldman, and I’m going to apply my skills to something else and it can work. And others won’t even go anywhere near it because they’re like, I’m an investment banker in Goldman, I really want to do something on the continent, but there isn’t something continent that fits, so I’ll wait five years until that comes along. Unbeknown to them that actually where we’re seeing the greatest success is people who are transferring their skills, which they’ve built up in one particular career, and applying it to the continent in a way that fills a very needed gap.
Justin [07:01]: This example applies not only to those in the diaspora but also those within the continent – if we’re optimizing for select experience – who are moving from a corporate to a more informal or ambiguous structure that is a startup, particularly in African markets.
Charles [07:13]: That gap ultimately comes back to this problem-solving piece which is, if you’re in any market which is developing and growing at a fast pace and traditionally isn’t in a mature space where there is a way of doing things, what it means are the most influential and the most valuable people you can have in your market are those who are very comfortable with dealing with levels of ambiguity but can take that ambiguity, iterate on it, and create structure very, very quickly, codify things, and then feed that back into a loop that creates scale. It’s a whole different set of skills, a whole different set of methodologies. If you took a sales executive from outside of Africa and you brought them to the continent, they may not be particularly good at that, but you bring someone who thinks in a certain way with a problem-solving kind of skillset, and actually, they build a whole new concept, a whole new theory for how you do sales on the African continent.
Justin [08:17]: So with that prelude, the first step in the process is determining what type of talent your company needs.
Ijeoma [08:21]: My name is Ijeoma Oyeyinka. I work at Helium Health as the Head, HR.
Justin [08:26]: Ijeoma is tasked with leading the hiring process for Helium Health, a high-growth, venture-backed company in Nigeria which is now expanding across the continent and beyond. Before we even get to sourcing talent, we need to first identify what talent is needed to grow the business.
Ijeoma [08:38]: Everything first starts with your strategy. A lot of what you see happening at Helium Health are not really reactive things. Those are things that we had decided from last year when we’re looking at this year’s strategy, and you go from your strategy. When you look at your strategy, you begin to think of your structure, and then the workforce you need to fit that structure.
Justin [08:59]: In Helium’s case, beyond traditional tech roles, they sell into both the private and public healthcare sectors and they are expanding to countries outside of Nigeria. All of which informs the type of talent they are looking for.
Ijeoma [09:09]: Once you’ve defined what you want to do, then you now begin to look at it critically and take it apart, ask you so, what do we need to do to make this happen? Your people is one of the most important executions of how you want your strategy to roll out.
Justin [09:21]: Ijeoma then relies heavily on Helium’s network and the ecosystem to start identifying talent.
Ijeoma [09:26]: Coming to Helium, finding the type of talent we need, really one of the beautiful things that we’ve been able to do is to have this wide network of people who are doing amazing stuff. Because there are a lot of people that are doing a lot of amazing things, you keep getting access, you keep getting exposed to things like that, and from the people and things you see you now start going for the brains behind it, the talent behind all of those things.
Justin [09:51]: This includes leaning on the company’s employees for internal referrals, as well.
Ijeoma [09:54]: Especially if it’s coming as internal referrals, people in your organization already know the type of organization you are, so they can already help you in sifting through the people they know in their network who would be the best fit. I already know this person, I worked with this person at some point, I have seen this person perform on the job.
Justin [10:15]: Though at the same time, many companies, including Helium, use outside recruiters to do this work as well, like Toun’s firm The People Practice, who know where to go hunting, particularly for newer and more scarce roles like product and growth.
Toun [10:26]: A few of the roles that we’re recruiting for a lot of them operate in communities. So I’m having to engage communities and be on specific platforms where I can then push out these roles and see who’s the right fit or the right match for different companies. We believe in those communities of practice. Those communities are not just open for nothing. People are there to learn, people are there to join events and do any form of learning.
Justin [10:50]: Toun also relies heavily on scouts and referrals, as well.
Toun [10:52]: And another thing that I’ve done, is that I have sources, as I call them sources. What we do is then I let them know this role is similar to your field, who do you think would be a great match? How do we get connected to those people?
Justin [11:05]: The important thing – especially given the nascence of many of the roles in question – is finding those who are committed to learning and developing and who show an aptitude for these kinds of jobs.
Toun [11:14]: So those are the sorts of people we’re looking to find people who are constantly learning, people who are constantly trying to improve themselves, and people who other people can vouch for.
Justin [11:22]: Now, once talent has been identified, how do startups win the recruitment competition? Especially when their competitors may be able to pay more. Here’s Ijeoma again.
Ijeoma [11:30]: Especially in Nigeria, I keep telling people that part of the competition I’m fighting against, is Canada, is Germany, is a lot of European countries, are all vying for the same talent I’m trying to get. And I know that I won’t be able to win the numbers game. So what do you now do in that case?
Justin [11:46]: To be sure, in spite of these challenges, Helium isn’t settling for hiring those who are less than qualified.
Ijeoma [11:51]: Because of the rate at which we are moving and developing and the things we need to do, we might not have the time to start by recruiting let’s say junior product managers and then grooming because these things would take a couple of years, a lot of development.
Justin [12:07]: For Ijeoma, after searching in-market for top talent, she goes and sells the mission of Helium Health to a select caliber of talent that is looking for meaningful work.
Ijeoma [12:15]: There are other things you now begin to sell to the person. What we’ve been able to do is to sell them more than the money, because you also need to understand how human beings think. People want challenging work. People want work that will make them think. That’s one. Secondly, people want meaningful work. Things that they know that because I’m a part of this, I can actually see results that I will be happy to be associated with. We now see that has really helped us to get the kind of people we’re looking for.
Justin [12:45]: This pitch is echoed by others in the ecosystem.
Mansi [12:47]: When I moved from Ernst & Young to Flutterwave, I knew that I will have the ability to now make decisions on the fly. It’s something that’s going to have a long and lasting impact on several aspects of the business, which is what is very, very exciting.
Justin [13:07]: That’s Mansi Babyloni, the Head of People Strategy at Flutterwave.
Mansi [13:10]: So I think the speed is what really, really excites people. Also ownership and autonomy. There’s obviously risk associated with a startup but we’re also reaching that stage where people want to take that chance. I also feel from the perspective of personal development, in a set, established organization, I’m not saying that you’re not solving real problems, but there are a lot of guard rails already set out for you. Almost always, there’s going to be enough support with you, you’re going to run it by your supervisor, the supervisor is going to run the solution by somebody, you will make changes, it’s going to take time. I think the speed puts people off sometimes, and also not having the autonomy or the free hand of driving a change yourself. I think that’s what a startup or scale-up offers.
Justin [14:01]: And in this cultural advantage of meaningful work and high impact, and perhaps most importantly flexibility, another opportunity and part of the sales pitch is applying that flexibility to whatever it is that gets the job done.
Ijeoma [14:12]: When you’re looking for talent to solve your business resource issues, they don’t always necessarily have to be full-time employees that will work on a full-time basis. Another beautiful thing about the workforce of today is the rise of the gig economy. We use all of these methods. You have people who of course are working with us on a full-time basis. You have people who are working a few days a week, part-time basis. We have people who are consulting internally for us, we have people who do gigs, just do one or two things and move on. And that’s something that we’re always open to do is to say, hey, you want these things done on your team, does it have to be a full-time person? Can I get somebody to work with you for three months, in three months this person will do all of this, hand it over, teach you what the person is doing it, and then move out? So that’s another thing you can really do that when you are considering how to really solve all of your talent-related needs.
Justin [15:11]: Now before we go any further, let’s explicitly talk about compensation.
Mansi [15:15]: We are not naive and we know that it’s not only the blue sky vision that we can sell to you. Everybody has bills to pay and we’re always very mindful of it. The overall package is an important component of how the discussion rolls. In terms of salary, we continue to do benchmarking against all of our open roles, all of our existing roles, to make sure that we are always in sync with the market base.
Justin [15:45]: But for startups, in particular, one lever that is often pulled to great effect in environments like Silicon Valley is equity.
Mansi [15:51]: In terms of equity, it is highly driven by the level that somebody is going to come into the organization at.
Justin [16:01]: Though it’s still quite new and not always something that’s either available or asked about on the continent.
Mansi [16:05]: I think maturity of a particular geography in terms of equity is also a big needle mover. So whenever I will have a conversation with somebody in the United States, for example, especially if you’re sitting in the Bay Area or you worked with a startup or a scale-up in the past, equity becomes part of that conversation. However, all of the 70-plus resources that we have, for example, recruited for on the continent in the last three, four months, equity is not part of the conversation, primarily because maybe people are not very aware of it, also because of the roles, the type of roles and the levels that we have hired.
Justin [16:54]: Though for now, perhaps equity is not talked about as much because we haven’t seen the exits or liquidity events that would compel people to defer compensation in that way.
Mansi [17:01]: I’m guessing that, at least on the continent, a fixed salary that’s hitting your bank account on a monthly basis is more preferred to maybe the upside, if I may.
Justin [17:15]: That being said, equity and employee stock options are happening with increased frequency. Here’s Toun again.
Toun [17:20]: In the last six months I’ve had to draw up two ESOP policies for two companies in the tech space. And what they’re doing is just working with people at certain levels, so not everyone’s entitled to the ESOP scheme, but just people at different levels. But as you said, because there hasn’t been that much, you know, liquidity movement, so obviously it’s still at the very early stage. But I’m just excited that companies are starting to think about that and think about allowing employees to own a certain tiny portion of the company.
Justin [17:59]: Now beyond equity and compensation, another important element to talk about is remote working – as something that is not only looked at in a more positive light due to COVID-19 but that also then creates opportunities to perhaps tap into a wider talent pool than was possible previously.
Toun [18:12]: Because people are starting to advocate for more remote work in Nigeria, that has obviously been moved or buttressed by COVID, so we’re finding that a lot of startups that are open to that and widening that pool, widening that pool of talent and not just limiting it to Nigeria themselves.
Justin [18:29]: And in Toun’s recent experience, more startups in Nigeria, for example, are starting to look outside of the country for talent.
Toun [18:35]: What the finding is that a few of the startups that are more mature are starting to look outside of Nigeria. A few are starting to get people who were from neighboring countries, so Ghana, and also East Africa, as well. There’s a lot of people from Kenya and Rwanda and Uganda who are working in startups in Nigeria.
Justin [18:54]: For Mansi and Flutterwave, they are increasingly starting to look not only outside of Nigeria but outside of the continent, as well.
Mansi [18:59]: Our focus always is to find the right skill set that is going to help us achieve our overall growth ambitions, right, so, we are at a stage where location does not matter in most of our roles.
Justin [19:16]: Now this depends on the role. Many roles do require boots on the ground and people with select market expertise.
Mansi [19:21]: However, when we think about an expansion strategy, moving from Nigeria to a Malawi, we would want some local expertise which will help you figure out what your messaging should be to your customers, or whether the product markets fit even exists.
Justin [19:41]: Though while Flutterwave is going outside the continent for other roles, it still requires a unique pitch and requisite context to compel talent – some of whom may not have the familiarity with the African payments situation – to want to solve this problem and work for this company.
Mansi [19:54]: A lot of times candidates that we have spoken with may not have heard about Flutterwave. So say somebody in the United States may not know Flutterwave, but would know what Stripe does or for somebody based in India you would know what a PayTM is. So drawing that parallel, I think becomes pretty easy in the initial conversation, or even when we put the job posting out there. I think I’m always looking for people who would resonate with what we are trying to do. That vision and mission should be integral to what you’re looking for in your next role.
Justin [20:46]: So startups on the continent are pulling many levers to identify and attract talent, and are increasingly looking outside of the continent for talent, as well. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of work to be done on the training and development side for local talent too – startups are playing a role here, as well. As Ijeoma talked about earlier, Helium Health might not be able to afford, in the immediate term, to hire a junior product manager for a senior role, but that’s not to say that they’re not training and developing their employees.
Ijeoma [21:08]: There has to be that deliberate effort for talent development of everybody in your organization. And it’s beyond the training really. It’s really about how you manage knowledge, how you manage passing on knowledge, how you manage the collaboration, and things like that. So we inject people at various levels for product management and then going forward, one of the things they are tasked with doing is developing people at the lower levels that we’ll be bringing in. When we see talent that we think have the potential, we’ll bring them in at a younger level and have who they’re reporting to now begin to coach and train them to get to the level that we need them.
Justin [21:47]: Mansi shared a similar sentiment for how things work at Flutterwave.
Mansi [21:50]: So it goes without saying you will come across a lot of exceptionally bright candidates who may not have any experience or maybe relatively thin in terms of the experience that we are looking for in a particular role, for example. I think in the last three months alone, we have hired, I want to say over 20 to 25 absolutely green interns. So these were individuals who applied for the role that we had posted, they’ve been through the entire formal interview process, we absolutely loved these candidates, saw the spark in them and through the conversations, they were very honest in admitting that they may not have the right skill set, but they were smart and sharp enough to be able to draw parallels that this is the skillset that I have, which is directly transferable to the role that you may be potentially considering me for. So again, we brought all of these resources on and it is our responsibility, once somebody is in the system that we set them up for success. So role shadowing is a big thing that we do here at Flutterwave.
Justin [23:00]: And then beyond internships and job shadowing, Flutterwave also looks to continually develop internal talent for senior roles within the organization.
Mansi [23:06]: Also we take promoting internally very, very seriously. Just to give an example, our current lead of design within the organization is somebody who has been with Flutterwave, I think for about three, three and a half years. A very young dynamic individual who came in with very little experience, came into the organization, was coached, was trained, started to absolutely kick-ass, and we saw no reason why we should get somebody externally when this person is going above and beyond. And was promoted through the ranks and now leads our entire design organization.
Justin [23:45]: The dividends of this kind of investment in training and development is then paid out not only for the company itself, but as time goes on, ultimately for the entire ecosystem, as well. Here’s Toun again.
Toun [23:55]: I was looking for someone to go into the tech space and the person has worked in specific companies, I’ll be more excited about putting them up. Why? Because I can trust that that company there’s been a lot of training, there’s been a lot of evaluation, that they have done well if they’re still there, and it would be great to poach from that company, as well, to another company.
Justin [24:23]: Now, let’s take this recruitment conversation even one step further – much like Movemeback is focused on providing resources to help talent find opportunities on the continent, another program is providing perhaps even more handholding for those interested in African tech.
Aaron [24:36]: My name is Aaron Fu and one of the Co-founders of Venture for Africa.
Justin [24:39]: A lot of what Aaron and team are building with Venture for Africa addresses many of the challenges described thus far in this episode, and come from Aaron’s experience working with tens of startups in his professional experience first with MEST and now with Catalyst Fund, where he is Head of Growth, and in his personal experience as an investor on the continent.
Aaron [24:54]: It really got started by us getting so many people from across the world reaching out to the team going, how can they make the transition into working in startups in Africa. Whether or not you are already in Kenya looking to transition into a startup in the market, how do you even get started? It’s usually like a really opaque thing to start doing. Or if you’re sitting in San Francisco, and you’d like to transition to working in something maybe a little more meaningful and impactful with a whole new fascinating problem sets, we really wanted to build a platform to really help this transition, to de-risk this transition for them, to really make it as easy as possible.
Justin [25:34]: This endeavor has manifested itself in Venture for Africa’s fellowship program.
Aaron [25:37]: We’ve structured a three-month fellowship program, which has them working hands-on directly with the kind of startups that are actually actively hiring right now. Getting real-life experience, getting to really build something in the context of Africa, and the context of startups, and really being able to stand up at the end of the three months to show off what they built.
Justin [25:58]: And the program is not only for those overseas but crucially, those locally as well, who may currently work in more traditional corporate roles.
Aaron [26:04]: I find it really interesting that while that talent exists on the continent, a lot of startups have had to head out to New York or head out to London to pull in marketing talent for Lagos. And so hopefully with the fellowship program, we’re able to bring some of that local talent across as well into the startup world. I think there are really not enough programs out there that target Nigerians that want their transition from working in a large manufacturer to working in operations for a logistics startup. And I think there are a lot of programs focused on getting Ivy league talent across, but one of the key audiences that we want to work with and definitely utilizing is local talent that is already on the ground, that has that lifetime on the ground knowledge.
Justin [26:47]: Key to the fellowship program are the de-risking mechanisms for those interested in getting further involved in African tech.
Aaron [26:53]: So we de-risk it in a number of ways, and I think the stipend is a very small part of that. So I think we de-risk it by really vetting the kind of companies that you got to work with. Companies that have raised significant amounts of money and have large teams. So, we are there ensuring the kind of experience you would have. The second thing we’re doing is really working with you on more definitive timeframes. So I really feel that for a lot of people that are a little bit more used to structure we really want to be sure that if you’ve made that decision to give this a try, you know, we will deliver a strong experience for you between the months of, for example, June and August, and this is what you will get out of it coming at the end of it. Every single fellow position that’s currently listed, they all have very specific deliverables at the end of the three months.
Justin [27:41]: The goal ultimately is to get more smart people to explore careers in entrepreneurship and with startups.
Aaron [27:45]: So hopefully, with our soft landing, we get more and more people that maybe are a little bit more risk-averse to take the plunge.
Justin [27:57]: That’s the goal, is to get the smartest people to work on the hardest problems on the continent. Though as we’ve shared, it’s easier said than done, especially given the environmental challenges in the African ecosystem. And so that’s what my Executive Producer Sayo Folawiyo and I sat down to talk about in reflection of this episode.
Justin [28:13]: Do you want to talk about how you struggled to recruit?
Sayo [28:15]: I don’t think I’ve struggled anymore than everyone else, you know? It’s one of those kinds of problems, where it’s a normal problem, everyone has this problem. It’s not even just tech companies. Everybody has this problem so I think everyone in their own way is facing these kinds of challenges. And then the solutions are also broadly the same, and it’s like an execution problem versus a conceptual problem.
Justin [28:36]: Yeah, it’s like, raise more money and try to pay people what they’re worth or try to pay them as much as possible, and then sell the mission and hope that people fall in love with the problem, and are willing to sacrifice a little bit of cash for that.
Sayo [28:52]: Yeah. I don’t know, man. I don’t even feel comfortable painting that picture anymore. I think that’s like a real old-world picture.
Justin [28:58]: What do you mean?
Sayo [28:59]: Like most, high performing, startupy companies that I know of paying people what they’re worth.
Justin [29:05]: So having to make a choice is not necessarily even something that people have to do? So maybe that’s just a misconception that ought to be dispelled is like, people are getting paid at startups as well. It’s not a thing. And Flutterwave, Mansi talks about how they do benchmarking and they’re right on target with everybody, so I think a lot of it is actually just self-evident, you know?
Sayo [29:24]: Yeah, I agree.
Justin [29:25]: It’s like spend more time, everyone should be recruiting, pay people.
Sayo [29:29]: Yeah, exactly. Spend the time doing it. Actively find the right channels to find people, whether it’d be abroad or at home or whatever. Understand those trade-offs, make your calls, develop a good employer brand, pay people.
Justin [29:44]: Treat them nicely.
Sayo [29:46]: Treat them nicely, try and hire diverse people. It’s just like making it work for your context, stage in life cycle, all that stuff. That’s where the magic really happens and I don’t think there’s much we can say about that from a general point of view.
Justin [30:01]: Maybe the most interesting part, as well, is like talent may look and feel and come from places that are not typical either. And that’s also, you know, a function of the nature of the environments in which we’re dealing. The informality of the markets and things like that also have an impact on the types of roles that need to be filled, right? And so in many cases, the types of talent that you need is also not necessarily – to the conversation that we’ve had previously about product-led teams or product-centric teams – there’s also a lot of operations-centric stuff and on-the-ground stuff, skillsets that are required in these tech companies that aren’t necessarily required in other tech companies. And so again, like everything else, it’s just sort of context-specific.
Sayo [30:41]: Yeah.
Justin [30:42]: And that’s it.
VO [30:49]: That’s it for this episode, and this season, of The Flip. But don’t worry – between season two and season three we have much more to come and new concepts we plan to roll out. So be sure to join our newsletter on our website theflip.africa and follow us on social media @theflipafrica for some exciting announcements coming soon. Thanks so much for listening this season, and we look forward to seeing you for season three.