Startup Istanbul
Startup Istanbul Podcast
Failing to Win - Lessons from a Purpose-Driven African Startup
Failing to Win - Lessons from a Purpose-Driven African Startup
How perseverance and iterations lead to success

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I had the pleasure of talking with Mike Quinn, founder of Boost, a B2B commerce platform for retailers and distributors in Africa. We discussed his entrepreneurial journey, lessons learned from building and scaling his past startup Zoona, and advice for startup founders based on his experience leading a purpose-driven fintech in Africa for over 10 years.

Persevering Through the Emotional Rollercoaster

Mike Quinn's journey from Canada to leading a startup in Africa has been defined by constantly learning from failures. In this interview, he shares the hard lessons he learned while building and scaling his first startup Zoona in Zambia.

Despite rapid growth serving millions of customers, Zoona struggled to raise later stage capital and ultimately had to reset the business. Mike reflects on the challenges of fundraising, managing growth, and the importance of designing your startup for scale from the beginning.

After 10 intense years building Zoona, Mike stepped down as CEO ready for his next challenge. He wrote a book titled "Failing to Win" to process his experience and inspire other entrepreneurs to embrace failure as part of the iterative process of building a business.

Mike then launched his second startup Boost, applying the lessons learned from Zoona. Boost provides digital infrastructure for informal retailers and distributors in Africa - essentially Shopify for the supply chain. He designed Boost from the outset for multi-country scale, with a capital efficient model and small remote team.

In this interview, Mike provides an inside look at the emotional rollercoaster of startup life and finding the motivation to keep persevering through difficulties. His story offers inspiration and wisdom for entrepreneurs everywhere.

Seeing the Potential: My Motivations for Investing in Boost

As an early stage investor with a global focus, I look for outlier talented entrepreneurs building disruptive companies. Each year, I evaluate thousands of ventures across verticals and geographies. After extensive due diligence, I selectively invest in those demonstrating the most promising team, product, market potential and ability to execute. (Here is my framework) My goal is to back visionaries solving big problems where my capital, network and experience can empower them to achieve accelerated growth. I get excited about bold ideas that can drive innovation and have a positive impact.

The founder and CEO of Boost Technology, Mike Quinn, is an experienced and resilient entrepreneur who has spent significant time living and working in Africa. Through this experience, he has gained a deep understanding of the challenges in the African supply chain and has assembled a strong founding team with complementary skills in technology and operations. Since launching in mid-2020, the company has achieved promising early traction, with gross merchandise volume growing steadily month-over-month.

Boost’s products address a major gap in supply chain financing and management that presents a vast market opportunity across Africa and beyond. Execution challenges remain, including intense competition, but I am confident that this experienced team can navigate obstacles and establish a leadership position. Within five years, if successful, I believe Boost could reach $250 million in annual GMV across untapped African markets and beyond.

If you believe your startup may be a fit for my investment criteria, I invite you to submit a short application. Completing the form will allow me to review your venture's key details and determine if it aligns with my current investment thesis and portfolio goals. Qualifying startups will be contacted to schedule a pitch meeting. I appreciate your interest and look forward to learning more about how your company is driving impact.

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Startup Istanbul Podcast

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