MeetOurMentors: Top tips from financial services technology professional, Tapiwa Manjengwa

A financial services technology professional with over 17 years’ experience, Tapiwa Manjengwa has worked with major institutional investors, investment banks and insurance firms. In addition, he has also worked directly for software companies ranging from larger global and listed firms to small start-up companies. We sat down with him following his mentoring session with our members to get his perspective on fintech and entrepreneurship.

After your mentoring session today. What is your advice for entrepreneurs just starting out?

There are many myths about entrepreneurship, you don’t need to compete with the likes of Elon Musk. Often, it is simply about having an idea, and applying one’s skills and resources to bring it to life, just light the candle and then grow the flame. An important skill that entrepreneurs should have is practical optimism – to be enthusiastic but at the same time make sure you can achieve what you set out to do. You may want to conquer the world in the next 10 years but start with at least conquering the UK within the next year. It is important remember that until you have customers paying for your product/service, you have a thesis not a business. Customers validate your business idea, so it is important  to go to market as soon as possible.

Will fintechs replace the banks?

I don’t think fintech firms will replace banks. There are evolutionary forces that are bringing fintech and banks ever closer in definition. Adapting to new technologies and new business models is a survival imperative for banks (they’ll use acquisitions, incubators, hackathons, partnerships etc.), while increased services and capabilities for fintech firms will invariably be met with increased regulatory oversight.

In the long run, fintech firms and banks will become more and more indistinguishable in the overlap of services/capabilities and regulations.

 What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?

There is that saying from the movie The Big Short, “It isn’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that just isn’t so.” For startup businesses, it is the “implicit assumptions” in our strategy that we have not validated enough, or, are  simply wrong. I have learnt the importance of testing/validating one’s assumptions (continually). Some are so implicit, we take them as given and yet can be life threatening to a business if they prove to be wrong.

A major difference between start-ups and more established businesses is the level of “knowns”. Established firms have a history of performance and experience to draw upon to make decisions about the future. New firms don’t always have that luxury, so assumptions have to be made but should be tested. I recommend “Discovery Driven Planning” which is a technique that anyone can use when developing and launching a new venture to both identify and better manage assumptions.

Can you recommend any books/sources to help a fintech start up?

Website is a great source, where one can get access to the latest thinking on topics as varied and as important as Sales, Operational excellence, people management all the way to strategy, cybersecurity and data related topics.

Podcasts (listen on the Tube or in the Gym):

  • “Masters of Scale” a podcast hosted by Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn
  • “HBR Idea cast” – the Harvard Business school idea cast.

Books I also recommend, the books

  • “Platform revolution” by Parker, Van Alstyne and Choudary. I think this is ESSENTIAL reading for anyone in technology. It looks at why FB, Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, Apple, PayPal and many others achieved exponential growth as platforms and more importantly how to create and manage a platform business.
  • “Crossing the chasm” by Geoffrey Moore is about how to market, sell and improve your innovative new products. I think this is an essential guide to understanding how your product is adopted by various customers. Defining the customers by their common needs, wants and behavior to see how best to target them.
  • “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. A book about why some companies make the leap

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