Startups and Venture Capital

November 17, 2022

Tips For Startup Founders on How to Build a High Growth Team

Tips for startup founders







Jennifer: All right. Hello! I see a lot of people are joining us already. It's awesome. You're welcome, thanks for being here. Oh, we have like 15, 16 people. Okay, cool. Wait, just double checking; you guys can see my screen right?

Kennedy: Yeah, we can.

Jennifer: Okay, perfect and then, I believe people should be able to message in the chat now. Perfect, so let's get this started; we're gonna do like a quick intro, so don't worry—people are coming in late—because you won't miss anything super important. Alright, so as you probably already know, this event is about building a high growth team and we have some amazing founders and CEOs here—I will introduce them in a bit—we're so excited to hear everyone's stories but just some housekeeping rules before we start: So basically, entry level helps you learn and get experience so that you can get hired. We're hosting this event in collaboration with Proximity Ventures—Caleb do you want to give like a one sentence pitch on Proximity?

Caleb: Yeah for sure. So, we back Founders at the earlier stages building in big markets across Africa. So really, about like, education, community and capital for Founders on the continent. 

Jennifer: Yes, perfect and that got me thinking like, where is everyone calling in from? I know I am in Canada, I believe Caleb, Jenny and Kennedy, y’all in Nigeria right now? Right? Okay,  I'm curious to know if everybody else is in Nigeria or Canada, U.S—feel free to put it in the chat, you should be able to access it and just put where you're calling in from. Okay looks like a lot of people are from Nigeria, we have one from India—isn't it like 12a.m in India? Thanks for being here, silly. Alright, most people from Nigeria as well….

Caleb: Texas, US…

Jennifer: Texas! 

Caleb: Yeah

Jennifer: Me and Texas are like still kind of far but closer than Nigeria(laughs). Thanks for being here everyone. Every time I do this activity, I learned so much about geography and like, the different time zones. Perfect, feel free to keep putting in the chat but in the meantime, I'm just gonna go ahead with the introduction. So yeah, like I said, entry level, we have a few programs to help you learn and get experience including the Venture Capital program and the product management program—-these two are very popular with Founders and then the digital/growth marketing one as well—so I actually have a poll from Olive for all of you;I want to know your level or your role in text, so there's going to be options let me just launch it—so are you a founder? Do you want to be a Founder? Do you work in Tech? or are you just interested and you want to kind of, break in? Okay, so it looks like a lot of people are founders, it's like so close, I don't know who's winning right now. Alright,  I assume panellists—you can always see the poll results—it's very interesting. Awesome. So it looks like 41% of the people here are founders,  21% want to be a Founder,  21% also work in Tech or in a startup, and 18% are just interested, so I'm going to end the poll now, in case you're curious, those are the results. Thanks for voting, awesome. So moving on, this is the agenda for today; we are—I'm trying—gonna do a panellist intro soon and then we'll jump right into Q ‘n’ A and after that, we can just end the event and that. All resources will be uploaded, so don't worry the event recording will be shared via email and on Entry level’s website. Okay, so housekeeping rules: please be respectful, don't ask inappropriate questions, but I'm sure like, you have common sense so won't be super inappropriate to ask questions, you we recommend you use the Q ‘n’ A box; you should be able to see it at the bottom of your screen, there's an option for a chat and Q ‘n’ A, so if you have a question, use Q ‘n’ A  but if you have very specific questions about entry level’s programs you can use the chat and I'll reply to you. There, the Q ‘n’ a box is for our lovely panellists to answer. Please note that we can't see or hear you, so the Q ‘n’ a box in the chat box is how you can ask questions and interact with us and then just a quick announcement, that we do have some other events; if you're interested in topics like UX design, and data, and product management. Okay now, what we've been waiting for so these are our panellists today—Zach is actually running a bit late so he's not here right now but—we also have Kennedy and Jennie here, so I'm going to ask Kennedy:  do you want to introduce yourself? 

Kennedy: Sure! Very happy to…. Hi everyone, thanks for joining us from very many parts of the world. it's always exciting when you know, we get to do things like this and hopefully we can have a very con fun conversation right. I think panels can tend to be very, especially when over Zoom, so hopefully we have a very real fun conversation. My name is Kennedy Okezie, I lead the team at Kippa—we are a financial management solution for small businesses—we are also regulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria as a payment service provider, providing tools and infrastructure for merchants to accept payments, manage their finances, and offer financial products to their end customers, and you know, where we're based out of Lagos. 

Jennifer: That's awesome. Fintech is always exciting, I'm more, I'm so excited to hear more about your story and your advice, and next I'll pass it to Jenny. Jenny, do you want to introduce yourself? 

Jennie: Yeah. Hi everyone, good evening and thank you so much for your time. I am Jennie and I am the founder of Clafiya. Clafiya is a digital Health primary platform—-Primary Healthcare platform that connects individuals, families, businesses to licensed Health practitioners to provide on-demand, in-person Primary Care Services. We're currently based in Nigeria, operating in both Lagos and Enugu, Nigeria.

Jennifer: Oh that's awesome! I'm so excited to hear about your journey as well. So actually Caleb, I know that you have cool things going on with Proximity Ventures, do you want to do an introduction of yourself as well? 

Caleb: Yeah for sure. so I'm Caleb, I helped start entry level which is this startup that's basically doing edtech and teaching people how to reskill into roles really quickly, and so yeah like our biggest audiences in Nigeria, in Africa ,which is probably how most of you ended up on this call with us today, which is awesome. And I guess like, from building and scaling, entry level really just like, ended up being kind of a plug for new founders on the continent with like, hiring, thinking about talents, thinking about like, like upskilling as well. Yeah, and just ended up like, having the opportunity to raise a small fund to invest in startups across the continent, so since the start of the year, we've been investing small cheques Into early stage companies like at the earlier stage, the seed, pre-seed, ideally pre-seed, and have just learned heaps, and have been like really helping founders with yeah, like going from zero to one, and also just like on the sort of storytelling side of things. I think when you think about like, the narrative of founders on the continent or like the narrative of tech in Africa, it's still not mainstream in the way that like, it could be to the rest of the world, and so really trying to fix that through content. Yeah, and as part of that I've managed to meet some really great Founders like Zach—we invested in Payhippo—Kennedy, wish we invested in Kippa but I think we missed the vote, and I have just met Jenny from Clafiya too which has been awesome. So really excited to be hosting this one. 

Jennifer: Awesome thanks for the intro Caleb. I believe now we have a few questions prepared and some that are going to be sent in as the event progresses so without further ado, do you want to ask the questions?

Caleb: Yes, and I think Zach is here but he's in the crowd, so let me make him a panellist real quick. Okay all right,  Zach's just been promoted to panellist. Perfect, sorry.

Zach: Hey, what's up everyone? 

Jennifer: Hey, how are you?

Zach: I'm good, I'm good. How are you guys doing?

Jennifer: Great. Where are you calling me from? 

Zach: If you can see, the power’s out, you get, everyone can guess where I am. 

Jennifer: The power could go, and  my power just went out recently because it was snowing here in Canada..

Zach: Oh man, well[Jennie laughs].that's because Nigerians are moving to Canada, they're bringing their wahala with them.[Jennifer laughs]

Jennifer: Okay, okay, so it does seem like everybody's in the same time zone on this panellist except for me, so you're in Nigeria?

Zach: Yeah, yeah exactly. I was enjoying being in the crowd but I guess I had to come up on this, this panel at some point. 

Jennifer: Thanks for being here. We were just doing introductions, if you want to introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about Payhippo? 

Zach: Yeah, totally. Thanks so much. So I'm Zach, co-founder and CEO of Payhippo, we're building small business banking for Africa. We've started in Nigeria, where we've given over 26 000 small business loans, and we've had a monthly collections rate of 97%, and we've recently started expanding into other financial services, so we just acquired a microfinance bank, and of course subject to CBN approval, but that's a part of our journey then, to offer other services we've been around for three years, did Y-combinator last year, raised preseed, seed round, and fortunately have had the chance to have Caleb come on as an investor in the company, and so happy to be here, so thanks everyone. Awesome thanks for that awesome intro, I think we were just getting into Q ‘n’ A, so don't worry you didn't miss much. So Caleb, take it away.

Caleb: Awesome, thanks so much guys, so excited for this and thanks for everyone who's joining—we have 73 people here so far, super, super exciting. So we have a lot of Founders here, so I feel like some founders here can resonate but maybe the draw cut is like you guys are at a point where you raise some cash, you have money in the bank, you're growing the team, and you're trying to do that pretty quickly, and so what I think we'd all love to know is like what's it like as a CEO of your company, and what does your day-to-day look like? what does the what, does the typical, typical day look like for you guys? and maybe we can start with Jenny, like what does your day-to-day look like?

Jennie: Yeah, so thank you for that. My day-to-day like, it's not, it's never the same like, I wear so many different hats, but I would say like at a high level, you know, I'm doing a lot of strategy, some operational work, I do have a background in systems engineering so sometimes I'm doing product development as well, not too much, the not too much though, but like I said it's more so like strategy, operations, some product, killing fires all the time like I said, like no day is ever the same although as of recent, my days have been kind of quieter, or kind of quiet but still  I'm doing a lot every day, I'm doing a lot, I'll just say that. 

Caleb: Yeah so cool, Kennedy how about you what does your day-to-day look like?

Kennedy: Yeah, honestly Caleb that has that's changed significantly over the past six months right and I feel like, you know, when you start to build a startup, your idea of productivity really is, you know, if you're a software engineer writing code ,you know, if like me like, you do product designer in figma, you know, but over time that changes and there's a part of me that was still stuck on “God, I still need to be doing that like, am I still being productive?’ but today there are three people at Kippa who report directly to me and I spend most of my day talking to them right, almost obsessively, so that's how I truly get a pause on what everyone, even down to the last person, in the organisation is working on. I also spend a lot of, I find that more recently, I spend a lot of my time reading during the day like, I have buckets of time where I, I spend time reading books ,articles, etc because I've seen the comments and like, so funny and, and finally I, of course, just spend a lot of time in stakeholder relations, so we're a regulated entity by the central bank, we have tens of partners that we work with, so almost every day, I do spend time on the phone talking to them and more personally yeah, I spend a lot of time working out and, and you know, trying to to also build a life outside of building a startup which I think is very important and you know, it's very easy to forget for most people.

Caleb: That's dark. Okay, so, Kennedy, sounds like, for you, it like, you're in figma, you're building stuff, you're like, getting done and it's very like, go, go it feels like it's still that, but you said you spent a lot of time talking to three people which was really interesting,

Kennedy: Yeah….

Caleb: …to that a bit more like, who are those three people, and and like, why has your time shifted from building to like, like you know, strategy and that side of things?

Kennedy: Yeah I think the first thing is just realising that I'm not the best person to do the things I was doing anymore on the, in the organisation right? There are people around, who can be way better than I, can I was the only product manager in the organisation for like the first 11 months of our existence right, and now we have two great product managers who are way better than me at that, and I spent time talking to three people our: my co-founder who is also president at the org—-Duke who is also my brother,  our director of strategy and operations who leads our operations team, and, and has very many functions reporting to her. You know, the fun fact is that she was my former boss at my first job so I had her, she joined the team and leads our strategy and Ops Team, and the third person is our product leader who reports directly to me so I think I spend the most time talking to on a daily basis. 

Caleb: That's awesome, yeah super interesting like the shift from like, be doing everything she needs to, to like now being not as talented as say the other PM, or the other ux designer and the team, it's an interesting one to take in and Zach, men, like tell us like what, what does your day-to-day look like and where do you spend most of your time in and out.

Zach:  I've heard a couple good frameworks for how this works, but first of, Kennedy I love the moustache man, it's fine. 

Kennedy: Thank you sir!

Zach:  Yeah, there we go. So anyway, day in the life of CEO, CEO right now. This is totally dependent on your stage right, so for for us right now or post C pre-series at company, CEOs are set to spend all their time fundraising and recruiting, and I think both those things are important. I think during a time where fundraising isn't happening and a lot of folks are being conservative when it comes to hiring, you'll see that change. It was still definitely spend a lot of time on high-level things. I think the a different framework I find more helpful is saying like, “hey, what are the outcomes? what are our objectives? and and do we have the team to do it ?” Right and that means yes hiring but also training the team, supporting them etc. So I'll give you an example right, so as a credit-led fintech we have to do—oh wow, let there be light—as a, as a credit-led fintech we have to balance, you know, customer acquisition, loan collections, etc. Right now, we're revamping all of our loan collections and actually it's like, totally being proactive, thinking about elections—-I see someone, we have some politicians in the in the chat here but let's not get into that here—--but you know, we had, you have to be mindful of the market you're in right so you have turbulence when it comes to elections in Nigeria, some areas have a…. instability and so we're revamping all that,  so the reason I'm doing that with our collections lead is not because, not because I necessarily wanted to although I'm enjoying it, but it's because like no one else was there to do it right and so I needed to go in and support my collections team lead right, because you know, he was swamped—-my other two co-founders are supporting other teams—-someone needed to do it. I think, I think the other panellists can kind of, also say “look, there's some times when you just do random sh*t right, and this is a good example of that, so the answer to the question is a lot of random sh*t..

Caleb: Nice I like that, I like that summary that's really cool. Good packaging and I think it makes sense right, like at the start again, like you're sort of doing everything and then you find people who are better than you at stuff but then it sounds like even same with Jennie, it could be like a lot of it's putting out fires. it's like okay that's not working, let me like dig into this spot and just make sure everything's okay or bring it, bring it back to life of it. That's really cool I guess, like I wanted to move on, to ask a bit about like how you think about team and culture, and like culture within each of your organisations. So I wanted to ask, how would you describe someone who works at— maybe starting with Jenny again—-how would you describe someone who works at Clafiya Health, like would they have like similar attributes or values or is it kind of a mixed bag, like are there things that are the same within your like within your team or within the people in your organisation? Oh you're on mute, sorry.

Jennie: Okay, so I would say like at its core, I focus on three things: one who is curious because for us, like we are very passionate about our patients experience as they're seeking health care and we always want to refine it and iterate on that process, so we need someone, we need people who have like that sense of curiosity and always wanting to refine that process and what that experience can look like for our patients, our clients. One, a second thing I would say is empathy as well because Healthcare is very personable, so we want to make sure that as we are building, we're taking, like our patients, like you know, their lifestyle into consideration, what are their pain points and how can we empathise with them to build a great experience for them. And then the third thing I would say is just you know, having fun and I say that I don't take that lightly because you know, building a a startup or just working at a startup can be very very hard and so we want people who are going to bring some fun to what we do every day, so for example, like we're a strictly virtual team like we don't have an office yet but we try to like plan activities throughout the day just to bring some joy and excitement across the team and build that culture for us. Outside of that like people have different backgrounds, so I'm pretty introverted but there are people on our team that are extroverted and I find that it has bringing that balance to the team just makes everyone well-rounded. You have people from different like, backgrounds like our product manager she teaches French so she's a French teacher on the side and I love that because I like French and so sometimes she would have like sessions with us. We have a couple of, of employees that are into music and so sometimes you do, like you know, outside activities with around on music as well, we have a great artist on our team so like, bringing that variety I find also helps to create like, a not only a great product but great experience when I, when I'm just an engineer, I can, I can lean on someone's like other background that's in like the Arts or liberal arts or whatever, whatever it is and help like round out my blind spots and make sure that there's anything I'm not seeing, they're seeing it and then we can still build a product and so have a great company, great culture so that's how I I would describe like our team and culture at Clafiya.

Caleb:  That sounds so fun, I'd love to work that, that's it sounds like a lot, like a really good time and just like yeah like, like a great like, work environment and, and I think what I noticed just from that is like the, the values that you just said are like very kind of, close to the sort of product you're building and I wonder if that's gonna like, that's a common theme right like, the values are a part of the products in a sense like you need empathy to to really build Healthcare products or like you need curiosity to go in like, in deep about the customer experience, that's really cool. How did, yeah I have like, a bunch of follow-up questions but maybe I'll just ask everyone else some questions first before I come back but Kennedy, how, how do you think about like the, the team that joins Kippa and the sort of values or attributes that your team members will have.

Kennedy: Yeah, I was thinking about it while, while Jenny was speaking and it's, it's two broad things for, for different people, so when we're hiring Junior Talent on the team, you know the most significant thing I look for is potential and learning velocity. One of the smartest people I've had at Kippa app was, he joined us as an intern—-he's still a medical student at Unilag—-and he sent me a cold email on LinkedIn last year and I didn't see it or ignored it, whatever and he kept following up, okay who is this kid?, like I'll talk to him right and he initially joined as like, an executive assistant intern on the team, nothing serious. For me, it was just like I see a hustler in him and I just want to give someone an opportunity right, for three months and he, he exceeded every single expectation I put, I possibly could have had on him and that's not just him, we have a bunch of interns on the team who are students and these are some of the smartest crop of people on this, like every single intern on the team is incredibly smart and I think the single thing we look out for is learning velocity and, and just potential and I think it's almost very easy to see, I don't know if this is intuitive or if there's a formulaic answer for that but I think when you meet people who are hungry and have something to prove to themselves and to other people, it's almost a very good way you know, early on to to to finance and bet on someone but when when I'm hiring for senior leaders, executives, Etc the most important thing I look for like, it's not credentials, it's not. it's the ability to have opinion, informed independent opinion about the market we're in, about you know, the,  the trends that are popular—I'm currently interviewing a few product managers and over the past six months, I've spoken to, you know, more than 50 of them and yeah I, I, I try as much as possible to ask questions around to, to really get a sense of what their opinions are, you know. One question I always ask is “what is something every team in this space is doing wrongly that you know for sure but you just don't have proof of what you know everyone is doing wrongly, and it gives me an opportunity to kind of get a sense for you know, how they think and what they think and where they get the information from and when I hear their answers, I can almost tell you this is what you read because I've read exactly the same thing but that's not your opinion right, it's the opinion of someone else masked as your opinion and I've realised that that leaders who at the stage, the interview stages, demonstrate that ability to be distinctively opinionated, almost end up doing really well so, yeah I think that's, that's the silver bullet if there's any anything of that stuff when it comes to hiring people. 

Caleb: That's amazing. Okay so it looks like you look at how quickly do they learn, and then like how much of an opinion do they have, and how much they stand up for that?

Kennedy: Yeah, yeah.

Caleb: Okay, how would that like I mean, do you think that ties into what you're building at Kippa or is that just like these are just the features of great leaders that you think you can take anywhere and sort of export—-you can export that secret here or at  Payhippo or like you know…..

Kennedy: Sure

Caleb: Yeah….

Kennedy: Yeah, I think it's directly export like, at this point in most startups right, we're also a seed stage Company, you know, you you can hire any smart person, you know, to come onboard the team and actually build with you right, and even when we we talk to product managers, I do not necessarily look for people who have product manager on their CVs right, I see those every time and it always doesn't translate into what you want, and it's just, can you think—like again to use it very cliche term—from first principles?, break questions down and potentially work with the rest of the team to try to answer those questions right? I don't really care for right answers; when I interview people, I do not look for correct answers, I just look for process and, and maybe that's how I, I'm used to being judged too, I look for a process and usually when there's you know, very clear logic and a process to how they think, it's almost an indicator that they would survive and they would do anything to find answers. I think honestly early stage startups need people like that, you need people who are generalists, industry experts can slow you down and—-they are important when you need them but I think they are not critical to the success of your company especially this early in in the company's Journey—-So I think it's very transferable.

Caleb: That's awesome. That, that's really, really cool insight, thanks man. And Zach like, what, what does a, you know, what does  a fellow hippo have in common like, with the rest of the team, so like what attributes or values would you say like, consistent across the team?

Zach: Hmmm….I think it's two things, one is—-I'll just connect it to the first part—-is learning. The second part is just grit, so the learning piece is…. I think kind of, hit the nail on the head, with learning I think it's basically a startup is so freaking hard that you are going to fail, you will not be comfortable, and so at Payhippo, our team members fail all the time, that that's not a bad thing that means they're trying sh*t, and setting goals, and like putting themselves out there, and we have a really difficult mission—it's a small business banking in Africa—-it's so, so difficult it requires you to fail right, in order to make any progress but a lot of people can't fail, like we've hired people who are not a good fit because you know, when you're in a large company, when you're in a larger bureaucracy, no one may notice any, any failure and it's, it's easy to be comfortable, and the second part is grit and hippos are the toughest animal around, there's their skin is two inches thick, and they kill more humans than any other animal except for mosquitoes but I don't think those are animals, so we, we look at toughness right?, like this, is like someone, well I guess when we're interviewing, we look for you know; hey can you learn?, can you be humble? but in order to stick around, you not only have to have that, like you gotta be tough man like Jesus, this sh*t is hard, pardon my French; everyone's job is difficult, every, even our office manager, like everyone's job is so hard, so I, now in interviews and just looking people in the eye, telling them how difficult it is going to be. I had someone send me multiple paragraphs after the interview, telling us “no” because they weren't ready for the responsibility and they wanted to work at a larger company. It were, now when you're interviewing, you don't like hearing no if you want to finally give an offer to someone but this is the best possible scenario ,if we're not even on the job yet and you're already intimidated, like you're already thinking “hey, I don't want that responsibility” and you want a large corporation, you should not be at Payhippo because that is not hippo status, that is like ,oh man what is that? I don't know. that's like a gazelle[laughs]. It's different, so we look at learning and then grit, grit, toughness yeah.

Caleb: That's awesome and like, how do you assess grit? How do you, how do you like assess that like, there's one thing with just telling someone like, you're like, it's gonna be hard, it's gonna be tough, here's all the stuff you're gonna do like, is that the best way to assess it? Or are there other ways you look at how much grit someone has?

Zach: Well, that's why I was saying learning is more in the interview process. Grit is like, once you're on, right? Like, we've had people join who just were not happy and like, you can have the perfect culture and still people not be happy. It's, it's not like it's not a 100% happiness for everyone and that's okay. Like I tell people as well, like I have friends and family who would be, who would not enjoy being at Payhippo right? but I still love them right? but it's like, look they would, that's not what they want, they don't want to be just everyday grinding their ass off like working, right? because what we're doing requires that the level of work, that's cool but yeah Caleb, that's kind of a thing that you can try to interview for but like yeah it kind of, It kind of takes, it takes a little bit of time, takes a couple months to really see because that's when all the glow of a new role like can wear off right and you're in the day-to-day, that's when grit really comes out.

Caleb: Yeah, interesting. Okay cool so I guess like yeah, I'd love to think about like maybe holistically as a team or like running a team, what do you guys define as good culture? What's does good team culture look like to you? and then maybe like, if it helps, you can define what bad team culture looks like too and yeah maybe, we can go back the other way, so Zach you can start with that one.

Zach: I was shaking things up….

Caleb:  Yeah he's fishing it up.

Zach: Yeah, I don't have, I don't have a perfect answer for this like, I don't have a perfect definition but I have a pretty close one which is: look your objective should be clear at the company and then you know, you can think like, okay ours, your objectives and the key results should be clear whatever they are for you or if you're not using okr system you can, whatever your goal setting system is; your culture is healthy if everyone is working productively toward those goals. If you are not working productively toward those goals, there's something breaking down. Culture is how people communicate, that's why music is culture because you're communicating through music, that's why dance is culture you can communicating with your body, that's why art you're communicating visually, culture in a work setup is how people are communicating with each other—is it a toxic work environment?, is when people are treating each other but their words like poison with how they communicate each other right? A very strict work environment means like “hey you gotta like be careful what you say and watch your tongue”, right? so it's all about how we, how we communicate with each other to get those outcomes done. So I don't know what's necessarily good or bad other than is your culture allowing you to make progress toward those outcomes? So that's like the academic definition but I would say let's look at, let's make it specific—-- let me give a world exam…. a real world example from Payhippo. For our, our culture is heavily based on prioritising and like it's, it's too, it's to a fault, right? like so if on the engineering team for example, everyone has tons of ideas and, and all this and everyone's really creative but there, once the priorities are set for the week and you know, for the, for that sprint or then in a larger project you, you don't, you don't break away from that right, like in the way we communicate that is like “hey this is a priority, the other things are not a priority right?” so that if you fit into that culture, you're, you're also thinking in terms of prioritisation is important absolutely, we're speaking the same language but we've had people rub the wrong way by that, where it's like “Wait, what I'm thinking about isn't a priority” and you could get offended by that right? Like “but I'm, I'm bringing something up now we're not, we're not like focusing on it right now” and I understand that but it doesn't fit how we do things right? so that's not a good culture fit for us. Ours is about intense prioritisation, we change our priorities frequently, if you……. you'll die but that's one example of how we communicate to hit our outcomes.

Caleb: Yeah, yeah that's really cool, that's really cool. So culture at PayHippo, it's like around, well I mean for you like, you define it as communication, and Clarity of communication, and alignment with goals but also just like within Payhippo, it's also, it's also prioritisation which is a really interesting one. it's like….

Zach: Yeah It’s like when we work together…. yeah, yeah, go ahead.

Caleb: Yeah, awesome. Do you want to add to that or was that, was that the Roundup?

Zach: No, no, like it's, it's basically in some, it's not just the words you say but that's just one part of like, hey, how do people work together to hit those outcomes?

Caleb: Yeah, awesome, so cool. Kennedy, how about you? How do you define culture and then how does it exist at at Kippa?

Kennedy: So I think the definition of cultures, culture at startups is not different from how we define culture right—--in societies and countries etc right. I, the way I think about it when we, when we interweave one another's got that knowledge strings into a mutually recognizable social pattern then like, a culture emerges right? and within a startup, those knowledge strings, the sources for those knowledge strings are, are different right? One of them is the markets, another  important one is your users—-what they want, how they use your product or the services that you offer—-you know, others is of course opinion pieces, and mostly knowledge strings from each other, and where we've come from before and I would say the most important thing—-from a cultural perspective—-that we've we've done at Kippa so first things first I think culture usually is an extension of the founders and what they prioritise that every startup it tends to be that, right? and at Kippa, we, we unknowingly have set up a mechanism for identifying and absorbing those who belong and almost purging those who do not, right? And I think that like, realising that a lot of me know that; okay when the culture has formed, where there are people who have a particular style of working and prefer to walk that way, and when people come into the organisation you know, and they find that that's not them, they almost self-select themselves out of that and I think that's incredible, and I want us to be able to take that and now start to scale it right? A few things that you know, that, that I can see from the team because of course while culture and emanates for the team from the founder, it's up to the team to truly name those things. So for us, I wouldn't, you know, have an issue when we started and we were, you know, writing our pitch documents and everything, it's like what is our culture? You know the typical things—-you know, empathy, and you know like we're like, “okay that's let's, let's put all of that aside, what's real here?” There are a few things that I've noticed; at least three things that I really like about; one of them is biassed towards action, right? I think we are, we are a team that moves quickly and the way we think about it is “let's just keep momentum”, right? If we're moving in the wrong direction, let's move quickly, realise how wrong we are, and redirect ourselves. We're also not afraid to go back to the drawing board, right? Where we're not, I do, what I used while describing this to someone recently, it's like… right? that are free to realise “look, we may have made decisions that were not correct but we are very happy to learn from them and go back to the drawing board to fix things”. I think that's another attribute and the people who do well within Kippa are people who are willing to be like I did, you know, that was a bad decision or we made mistakes, so assumptions were wrong, and we're going back to the drawing board. And it's not about the answers again, it's about the quality of the questions that are being asked and once we are asking the right questions ,then we trust ourselves to figure out the right answer. So most times, it’s that the question we're asking is wrong, I think that's usually the problem, not just at Kippa but with startups, with starting anything new and as much as possible, our culture is focused on asking the right questions always and ensuring that everyone has the ability, has the resources, and the support that they need to be asking the right questions, and can think on on, on that level, you know. A final cherry on, on, on, on the cake, if that's what that idiom is, is we, we were, we're obsessed with execution quality, I think this is still something that, where we're still yet to get to every single person in the organisation right? But at the level of the managers, at the individual leaders when hiring for them, there's of course like a certain sixth sense, an obsession with execution quality that I look out for, and that we look out for and you know, that's very fast becoming a, a part of of the culture here on the team. I still think there's a lot we'll figure out as the team grows, as the team changes, as the organisation evolves, our culture is only going to continue to evolve but very important to me is that it remains team driven like, we are not shouting from the Eiffel Tower; these are the cultures, these are the values that matter to us but no, like we hire great people, we let the culture form, and you know almost organically, and you know, see where that goes.

Caleb: That's awesome, that's awesome. I mean you pick out a bunch of really, really cool things that which come from your culture which is cool, so I guess I'm trying to recall them; one is like quality of questions which is a really interesting one and that's actually one that like I think that yeah, quality of question is one that I actually don't hear too many founders talk about, I think like there's, there's this sort of like notion that like, you just, just run in a direction and you find something, where you stumble on something but it's a really interesting one, when you have founders who really think deep about like what questions they're asking. It's cool and then the other one was like, what was the first one? so really moving quickly but it's actually yeah, super, super cool. Yeah, that's awesome, I have yeah, I'll ask people a question for all of you at the end of this but moving on to Jennie, what, how would you define like culture within Clafiya and yeah, like what's, what are a few examples of that?

Jennie: Yeah, so I think like the other two panellists  have already talked about culture so I will like, talk about culture at a high level but for Clafiya, I remember when I first started and I was recruiting a few people and they would always ask me like, so what is Clafiya's culture and I'd always tell them like, well it's evolving, I don't know. I mean I don't, I don't, I didn't really put too much thought into like, what our culture was and then I realised I kept getting that question and how important it was to, to have that question answered and have that like, be like, fed throughout the team. I actually started to like think to myself or just ask those questions for myself like, what is Clafiya’s culture? And it kind of ties back to what I was saying before, like what are the values, right? but at its core, what our culture is, is like just being obsessed about the problem that we're solving. I say, like, I used to work at Amazon, right? and so their first leadership principle is “customer obsession” and for us like, I say “Patient Obsession”, right? because we have to be obsessed about the experience that we're providing for our patients and I need everyone who joins Clafiya to to basically embody that. It also ties back to being curious like, what, what new challenge do we have? Are we experiencing in the field,  are we experiencing in operations, how can we improve that process, right? You have to be curious enough to want to do that, and also being intentional because we don't want us, we don't just do things, and, and just for the sake of doing, I always tell my team members like, there's no reason why you will spend all day working on something, and you won't give it your best shot, and you have to be intentional to in order to do that, and so those are the things I would say like are part of our culture. I can't really, I mean to be honest like, I'm still trying to define like, what our culture is because we are growing, we're bringing on new people, new people are going to come to different perspectives, right? and that's going to force me you know as a founder to, to like, think of, like how can we continue to shape our culture in a way that is accommodating to everyone? I'll say most people who we want to, to bring at Clafiya and actually want them to stay but that's how I will describe our culture, just you know, being obsessed about the patient experience, and being curious enough, and intentional about what you're doing all day, being a hard worker right? Like I mean, we all work very hard. Health Tech ,Healthcare is a very, very difficult and complex challenge to solve, right? So we all need to be like, problem solvers otherwise like, why are you here? You know, because we're solving a big problem, and it's hard, and we have to, we all have to understand that, that also requires us doing things that isn't part of our our job description but to ensure that at the end of the day, that our patients can say that they got the best experience while they were accessing health care from us, that's really what we're driving at. And we will go to lengths to ensure that our patients, our clients can say that about us. So yeah, I hope that answers your question.

Caleb: Yeah, that's awesome. Super cool. So your, your culture is really focused around like, yeah again, like obsession with the patients and working hard to get things done, and like really focusing on like, what you want to achieve and, and being intentional about where you work which is really cool. We have, okay so we've been talking for a while, and I I really want to get to us users, like sorry, audience questions and we have some really good ones, so I'm gonna start shooting some of these out to you guys. Now, we can start with Kennedy; So how did you put together your A-team, and how did you decide on your co-founders, investors and the whole nine yards? Maybe let's take that as like, your, your initial crew like your initial team that you started with, and then maybe also your first couple of investors, how did you find those people and put them together?

Kennedy: I really appreciate whoever asked that question for the implicit assumption that you know we have an A-Team but which is true by the way. We, so with my co-founders, right? I have, you know, two co-founders one of whom is my brother and the third a long time friend of ours. I've heard this before, that when you just start building and you're, you're trying to solve an important problem as I'm sure the other two Founders on this call would allude to, investors will find, find you right? I think it is the job of investors to find you and I know this because we we worked on something else before we started building Kippa and it was just a little different right of course, we started building tech in a hype cycle—markets were a little different—-but I think there was also something that resonated—-it was a relatively easy story to tell to investors—-and a lot of the storytelling, you'll find your early investors even do that for you on your behalf and they co-create the vision for what it could be with you. And so how did we find our first Investors? Like our very first investor really reached out to us founders via LinkedIn and, and sent us a message and you know put, put the first cheque in us. I guess the person asking that question is probably thinking of doing something or trying to build something—honestly, my very candid advice for you will be: do not worry about chasing investors or building something they would like all right? The more you chase them, the more they run away from you. So it's honestly not very useful, use of it honestly, like just don't do it right? Focus on trying to find a problem you're excited about. You know, the first dollar that we spent building, you know, a mentor of mine, you know, gave, gave me eighty thousand dollars to try, to be it's like, you know, I don't really understand what it is you're trying to do but I trust you, and go figure it out right? and I understand of course, that's an insane privilege and not everyone has those connections with deep pockets who are willing to extend their own personal capital but focus especially now, right none of the like, just focus on building something you're excited about right? Focus on building something that you're deeply excited about and whether or not investors come on the journey with you, you know, you, you're, you're going to continue to solve because trust me when it gets hard, you know, when the, when, when you start to build and you're building, like you know in, in a hype cycle and that dies down, it's a very different conversation—- it now boils down to the conviction you have in what you're building and of course, when your team sees that, a lot of people have told me “look,” you know, the, the, we're building something before and every single engineer who works with us on that project are, still joined Kippa with us and are still with the organisation today, right? And when, when people see “okay, you know, what you're doing yeah” because I think a lot of people are waiting to be told what to do with their lives, with their careers, and when they find you, you know, who has an insane amount of conviction and you're working on a problem that's so important, they are willing to follow you, right? and that's just so true because historically we are conditioned to like, we want once, we want this superstructure to tell us what to do, and I think that's incredibly important, and of course you know, no team would follow you, no smart people will come around the table with you, if you're really not that right. So yeah I think that's it, I don't know if I answered the question but there goes my….

Caleb: That's really good. Yeah, so understand like, I feel like from that I got to know like, who you kicked it off with but also just like what to prioritise at the very beginning. It's not funding and it's not finding investors, just building something, having high conviction, and doubling down on yourself, and what you're building which is awesome Kennedy. Jenny, how about you? How did you put together your A-team and how did you find your first set of Believers in, in what you're building?

Jennie: Yeah, so I would say like the very first people who joined Clafiya, I found them through like, networks, either by like, I, I would, before I actually started building out Clafiya, I would tell stories about the problem. And I, through that way, I was able to, I guess, gain a following. I built a small community and so either like people reach out to me via LinkedIn, I'll be out they'd recognize my face, recognize me from Twitter, Instagram, say “hey, like I really like what you're doing” and then I would just strike a chat with them, ask them a bit like probing questions, and then I realised okay like, you know, I can, I can, I can work with you, like you can, you can join Clafiya and that's how like I, I got like, you know, the first few people to join Clafiya. Yeah as far as investors honestly, when our first investor microtraction, we weren't looking for investment, right?TechCabal about wrote an article about us, and it got a lot of traction, and no pun intended but anyways it got a lot of traction, and that's how like we got like a lot of investors reaching out to u,s and one of them was microtraction, and they said “hey, like, we read about you. We'd like to learn more about what you're doing” and we, we had our first meeting with them and then they decided to invest, and we were super, super early at that time but what I really liked about them is that like they were very like personable, they were founder friendly, I didn't really see them as you know, someone that's going to be breathing down my neck like, when I actually, when things are going to get tough or whatever, and also I would say like when I'm looking for investors, I'm looking for investors like you know, Kennedy said that are going to be with you through the tough times or just to help you get things done, help you tap into their networks to either find expert advice, to even find new investors right ? So we just over subscribed our pre seed round and Microtraction was very, when I tell you like very, very instrumental to helping us fundraise—- they did all our intros—-when I talk to other people and hear about their fundraising story, I'm like “wow like, I didn't even talk to that many investors, Microtraction did that work for us. They did the intros, and then it was really from us from there, and I started from that like we did get investment from like, you know, Angels so that came from my network,  like Google recently like invested in us too, there was Norskin but just finding those investors that are, is equally passionate about the problem that you're solving, passionate about you and want to see you win, it was like really really key for us. And then of course, like we have those investors that like really just wanted to invest and are hands off, and that's that's okay too but I find that the investors I have today like I can easily reach out to them, ask them questions they will stay on the phone with me like till midnight, brainstorming. I can go to them, I can have a breakdown, you know, it's, it's okay, it happens right but they're really with me, you know, in, in the trenches and ultimately just sharing the same goal like, I'm not just someone who put a cheque into your company, I'm also here as a mentor, as a friend, as advisor and I, I and I want to see you, when I want to see Clafiya win. So those are the investors that we, we look out for when we are fundraising and I would say like. you know. like Kennedy said don't chase after the funding like, if you're building something great, like people will find you however they do and, and that's all I have to say about that.

Caleb: Yeah that's amazing, so cool like, circle that, you know, both of you guys really just started, started building and would just focus on the story, and like, and what you were building, and I think also like there's a really strong thing that that you touched on Jenny which is like the power of narrative and just storytelling to, to really bring on the first couple of people, and the first Believers, and what you're doing so really cool that, that that's how it played out for you too. And Zach, how did you assemble the A-Team? How did you meet the crew ,the OG hippos and, and then your first set of investors?  

Zach: Well, we've hired plenty of people, and we've been around for three years I think, we've definitely hired people who are not 18,. and we learned a lot from that. 

Caleb: Sorry Zach,  it seems, I mean, like your very first couple, so like you co-founders maybe your first like people to join the team at the very start. 

Zach: That's what A-Team means? I thought a team means like what Kennedy was saying, like “hey, we have an A Team”?

Caleb: No, okay so like I guess, yeah that's right it does. More like, how do you start? Like who, how do you find the first couple of people who join you? it's your co-founders and then maybe early too, and then like your first investors as well. Yeah, sorry yeah, A-team, my guess also means like your high performance team. Let's just do co-founders and investors. Okay, yeah kind of like a lot of perseverance with both because I was working in fintech lending and a lot of people were trying to, I mean now I'd say a handful of people were trying to start companies with me and you have to start a company with people you trust, or like can see yourself working with, and my gut just said no for these people, and so I just did it but my eyes were open because I had such a clear idea on hey what was going wrong with fintech credit for small businesses. So when I when I met my now co-founder Uche and he's our CTO, and I saw him I saw him in action, I just thought he was a really great guy like I, it was like the opposite of the impression I had with the other people which is like I don't know if I trust like this, I don't know if this is like gonna be a good relationship. So I pitched him I, I would say I indirectly pitched him; I kind of like sat down and I was telling you with this, Caleb like, we sat down at a coffee shop and I like sketched out the idea for Payhippo once and I was like “so, what do you think?” and he, he, we weren't talking about starting it, I was just like you know, here's the idea sketching out, like back to the napkin moment and he's like, yeah he was getting into, he's like “yeah you could do this’ you could do that, you could do this”, and we're just like penning around with shit, and then after this long discussion he looks up at me and he goes “so do you want me to do this with you?’ and he asked me that and I, I was like secretly wanting that but I was, I was a bit shy so I said like “do you want to do it with me?” and then like, you know, that's that's I guess we asked each other out like, I don't know. Like a few days later, I called up Chioma who is our other co-founder, and just kind of lucked out there because she recently left her job, she was a perfect compliment to Uche, myself, had just worked across Nigeria, had run operations for a company, was first employee there yeah, so it's like asking someone if they'd like to date you. Yeah, so don't don't ask someone out unless you actually like them, that's, that's the story here because people were asking me out and I was like, I don't want to go on a date with these people until Uche came and I was like he's the one. What is it, what's the next, the investors. Yeah we actually like, I actually really struggled with fundraising at first because when you start an idea that you really believe in, because you've seen the problem, you've seen issues and you know firsthand how to do it better, for me it's just obvious like this is it, this is this, and so I would talk to investors who just didn't get it. They're like “yeah, you want to do lending in Nigeria like, I think other people are doing that” and I was like “No, they're not” but I couldn't explain it well there's like, an art to presenting your business in a way that other people especially investors get and I swear to you it took so many failed, freaking pitches, I think it's the opposite of Jenny, Jenny like yeah I think we had opposite experiences, even micro traction gave me stress in the beginning, I mean I'm glad they were cool with you even they gave me stress, so like yeah now like, they were like “how is this different from everything els?” I was like “I just told you that”. No one was really listening. Anyway, they're great, microtraction’s really good.

Jennie: Who did you speak to?

Zach: Oh please, please let's not name names but all of them, all of them. 

Jennie: Wow

Zach: Yeah, wow no, no, no, it's, let's see like, but it wasn't their fault, it was mine. I just couldn't explain it well but it was so clear, I think Kennedy was getting at this before with like, people like, following someone with conviction right? So if you are crazy enough to do something and your conviction, no one can deter you, people like, just kind of follow that. Everyone's looking around like “all right, I guess this is the guy who knows where to go” and they're all pointing at you, and you're like “Yeah” but you can't do that if you can't articulate where you're going right? So that this whole like, this was a very big lesson learned for me; by struggling through fundraising so much in the early days, I got really good at explaining things, and then that helped us like, recruit and lead the team really well. So if anyone is struggling to talk to investors, definitely listen to the advice that was just said about not being too desperate for them. Dude do that, that was good. I was laughing when that advice was said because that is spot on, 

Caleb: Yeah. I think the quote was like “the more you chase the money, the like, the less it wants you” or something like what was it. Kennedy had a great quote; Yeah the more you chase it like, the less investors want to give. 

Zach: Oh speaking of which, I have to go talk to an investor right now: Caleb, can I bail out real quick?

Caleb: Yeah, yeah this is the wrap up, so I guess like yeah, if you need a bounce right now… something 

Zach: Yeah, so I'm getting a WhatsApp call because I'm in trouble, because I've stayed too long.

Caleb: We're going to round up here, thanks everyone for joining, I hope that was valuable. I guess like, just as we wrap up, I'd like to do two things: one is I'd love for people in the cold to just share one thing that they learned or like one takeaway that like, you know, really had an impact or was really new to you from the session, if you could just type it in the chat would be great.

Jennifer: Or, you can also tweet your learnings at us @ 

Caleb: Nice. Let me link that, awesome. So we got one: don’t chase investors, that's good. Keen to see the other learnings and yeah as we waitfor the other others to come yeah, Jennie, Kennedy, thanks so much for your time and for hopping on this call. Such a privilege to have such amazing founders with great advice and great energy on this course so, thank you guys.

Kennedy: Yeah it was fun thanks for it…..

Jennie: Thanks, great thank you. Yea, Kennedy I'm gonna like, find you and link up with you somehow. 

Kennedy: Yeah, I'll connect with you on LinkedIn Jennie.

Jennie: Okay, cool. Thank you everyone.

Caleb: Thanks team, we'll catch you later, thanks guys. See you.

Jennifer: Okay wait, I want to run a poll for everybody's feedback so I still see chats coming in. If you have to leave that's okay because I know we're over time but if you can take a moment to vote in the poll how this event was for you, that would be really helpful. There will be an email sent out to you, I think it's already sent out with feedback, so if you have more specific feedback or if you have suggestions for future events we can do,and more value we can bring for you, feel free to fill like that feedback forms, but thank you so much for being here everyone!

Caleb: Awesome. Thanks team, we'll catch you at the next one and super keen to, yeah super keen to do more of these

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Founders - we are hosting a live, virtual panel discussion with founders on how to build a high-growth team.

This event is limited to the first 100 founders who sign up. It's for founders who are at the team building stage, or who are getting ready to build their teams. If you want to attend, RSVP to save your spot.

In our panel discussion, we will be featuring three prolific founders on how they have built and scaled their teams, while keeping a strong team culture.


Zach Bijesse: Founder, Payhippo.
Payhippo is a credit-led fintech startup that has disbursed 25,000 loans to SMEs in Nigeria. Payhippo has raised $4 million since launching, and scaled a team across Nigeria and the United Kingdom.

Kennedy Ekezie: Founder, Kippa
Kippa is financial management and payments platform for Nigerian small businesses. Since launching they have signed up 500,000 businesses in Africa, and raised $11 million in the last two years.

Jennie Nwokoye: Founder, Clafiya.
Clafiya connects patients to community health workers to provide home based primary healthcare in Africa. Clafiya has a team of 16 strong, and is actively building out their team while maintaining awesome work culture.

About EntryLevel: EntryLevel is a startup reskilling the next 1 billion tech workers, and teaches tech skills to students in 30 days. Want to level up into a new career? Learn more about EntryLevel here.

About Proximity Ventures: Proximity Ventures is an African-focused fund supporting founders with capital, community and content. If you're a founder building in Africa, Proximity wants to hear from you.


Key insights from the event

Refocusing is key for founders👏

CEO responsibilities vary depending on stage (pre-Series A is fundraising, recruiting). Sometimes it’s just doing random things - you’re kind of doing everything near the beginning.

For hiring, founders focus on:

  • Someone who is curious
  • Empathy (especially when working in healthcare)
  • Potential and learning velocity

Example: Someone sent a cold email on LinkedIn, and kept following up. That person joined as intern and exceeded every expectation.

  • Ability to have informed, independent opinion (trends, market)

Example: An interview question that Kennedy from Kippa always asks: “What is something every team in this space is doing wrongly, that you know or sure but don’t have any proof for.”

In interviews, Kennedy doesn't look for correct answers - he looks for process. Early-stage startups need generalists like that

  • Need to be tough and resilient

Focus on building a solution you’re excited about

  • Investors will reach out to you if you build something great

People follow someone with conviction

  • Don’t be too desperate for investors/funding - focus on building
  • The more you chase the money/funding/investors, the more out of reach it is

In the beginning, focus on building your product

Finding good investors

  • Investors should help you get things done - network, advice, mentorship
  • You’ll have a long-term relationship with your investor
  • Microtraction helped with getting intros
  • Passion was key - investors should want to see you win

Use storytelling to bring in the first few people

Finding team members is like dating

If you prefer watching the Zoom recording instead of the YouTube one (since the Zoom one allows you to view the hilariousness in the chat), here is the link.


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Zach Bijesse

Founder and CEO at Payhippo

Zach is the co-founder of Payhippo. Payhippo is a credit-led fintech startup that has disbursed 25,000 loans to SMEs in Nigeria. Payhippo has raised $4 million since launching, and scaled a team across Nigeria and the United Kingdom.

Jennie Nwokoye

Founder and CEO at Clafiya

Jennie is the founder and CEO of Clafiya. Clafiya connects patients to community health workers to provide home based primary healthcare in Africa. Clafiya has a team of 16 strong, and is actively building out their team while maintaining awesome work culture.

Kennedy Ekezie

Founder and CEO at Kippa

Kennedy is the founder and CEO of Kippa. Kippa is financial management and payments platform for Nigerian small businesses. Since launching they have signed up 500,000 businesses in Africa, and raised $11 million in the last two years.

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