Lessons Learned From Building A Tech Startup In Africa

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Written by Ann Brown
startup
Anita Woods, VP of Product at WeFarm, recently discussed vital lessons learned from building a tech startup in the African region. South African tech startups continue to feature prominently in the African tech scene. Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash

Anita Woods, VP of Product at Wefarm discusses vital lessons learned from building a tech startup in the African region.

After studying economics at University, and spending two years at Bain & Company in San Francisco, I went on to do marketing at a fast-moving consumer goods company, before realizing that “fast-moving” was not fast enough for me. So, I focused my career more on digital, where you could see changes in lives in a matter of days, not months. 

After moving to the UK, I did stints at Amazon and Google in product and marketing and then started moving to smaller companies, where I felt increasingly at home. I found myself working at a fintech start-up, then healthtech, and then I became VP of Product at Wefarm – a company that’s enabling smallholder farmers to connect with the people and resources they need to achieve their full economic potential. 

As we’ve built out the business to be the largest digital farmer to farmer network, here are the top startup lessons I’ve found useful along the way:

I love metrics and data-driven decisions, but while focusing on optimizing KPIs, it’s crucial to remember who you are building for, and what’s valuable to them. 

Story From Business Chief. Story by Anita Woods.

Often product teams are building products they also use themselves, and so it can be easy to fall into the trap of building what you want and losing sight of the end-user. Even when clear KPIs are in place, a lack of understanding of the end-user can lead to chasing goals in the wrong way. In one previous start-up I worked at, I was surprised to hear that we didn’t tell some users that a signature upon delivery was required. When I asked the reason for this, I was told it was because the conversion rate was higher if we didn’t mention the signature. While this may have been true in the short-run, it wasn’t in the long-run because of a dissatisfying post-purchase experience could have on repeat purchases. 

At Wefarm startup, we have a lot of data on what farmers are asking and doing, that could be valuable to a multitude of businesses, governments, and non-profits. For each potential revenue opportunity we have, we think about whether our farmers would be the ones to benefit from this, and if we are doing things that earn their trust. 

This really helps us to prioritize, and ultimately things that could increase revenue but without clear value to the farmer simply don’t make the cut. So, while it seems simple, the best lesson I have is spending time with the people you are building products for. Data without the underlying context of the people who sit behind it is not that helpful. We have teams across the UK and East Africa, but we invest heavily in making sure everyone in the UK also has space and time to be in Africa meeting with the farmers they are building value for. 

Read more at Business Chief.

Ann Brown
Image Attribution: Anita Woods, VP of Product at WeFarm, recently discussed vital lessons learned from building a tech startup in the African region. South African tech startups continue to feature prominently in the African tech scene. Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash,