5 Traits of Successful Tech Entrepreneurs

Discover the 5 essential traits of successful tech entrepreneurs in Africa. By harnessing these traits and the power of software, entrepreneurial excellence can be achieved on the continent.

Brad Pieter
May 19, 2023
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What makes an entrepreneur and what makes them successful?

The Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi once said that “Leaders aren’t born, they are made”. He believed that leadership, like everything else is earned, not given. Entrepreneurship, much like leadership is learned through experiences, hard work, and dedication to the cause. It's why you find most successful people admit that they didn’t want to be an entrepreneur but that it came about as a result of wanting to solve a problem. 

Their commitment and doers mindset got them to where they are not because of any external factors that come with being successful but because of the reason they started. Understanding the dynamic African tech landscape can better point to how entrepreneurs are able to leverage technology to navigate the rollercoaster that is business. We dissect what differentiates them from entrepreneurial hopefuls and the common theme of software and web development in the products and services they offer. This brings us to the first trait of successful entrepreneurs. 

Problem-Solving Skills

At their core, entrepreneurs are looking for ways to solve problems they identified early on. It's the reason they started out and are therefore always looking for innovative ways to tackle them. Critically thinking through complex issues and seeking practical solutions is what inspired Olugbenga Agboola’s pursuit of making cross-border payments on the African continent a reality. Through partnering with his co-founders Adeleke Adekoya and then Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, he was able to start Flutterwave in 2016. A payments technology company that offers secure online and offline payments for businesses and individuals alike, making it seamless to send and receive cross-border payments via one API (Application Programming Interface). The use of custom software and analytics tools developed by software developers gives tech entrepreneurs the insights to solve complex problems. Today, the company has unicorn status with a valuation of over $3 billion. 


Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. It is a rollercoaster ride full of setbacks, failures, and difficulties. In order to succeed in the tech industry, one has to adopt an unreasonable positive mindset, be able to bounce back, and learn from their mistakes. Tope Awotona is a prime example of such a trait. After having failed at three previous ventures, he founded and started Calendly in 2013. The software company provides a business communication platform that simplifies scheduling for high-performing teams. The platform has now grown to over 10 million monthly users. 

Visionary Thinking

When starting out, entrepreneurs have a clear vision of what they want to accomplish and the impact they want to make. They’re able to spot opportunities and trends as well as anticipate market needs to develop innovative solutions. Additionally, building innovative web and mobile apps with experienced app developers is key to executing a tech vision “Our vision today is the same as when we started. When we launched Paystack, our vision was to make it easy for businesses to accept online payments in Nigeria. That was the mission we originally set out to achieve, and it’s still our mission today. Despite already surpassing our goal in so many ways, the core problem we’re solving is still the same.” This quote is from Ezra Olubi, one of the two co-founders of the Nigerian tech payments company Paystack. Founded in Lagos, Nigeria along with Shola Akinlade, the two set out to disrupt the payments processing industry in the country. 5 years on from when it was founded, Stripe acquired the company for over $200 million. 


Innovation has always been at the forefront with regulations lagging behind. Purely because you cannot regulate what isn’t yet there. That’s why tech companies move at such a rapid pace as the sector is always evolving. Successful entrepreneurs need to be able to adapt and make quick decisions or pivot when necessary. In the case of OPay, that pivot came when they had already established themselves as one of the biggest tech companies on the continent. Founded in Nigeria in 2018, the company provided consumers with a POS (Point Of Sale) machine and the accompanying software to act as banks and ATMs. As of May 2020, through their 300 000 agents, they were able to process over $3 billion in transactions every month. The company had planned to turn the platform into a super-app offering a plethora of services. The ban on motorcycles in Lagos in 2020 along with the pandemic forced the company to pivot towards payment services. Today the company is valued at over $2 billion.

Customer-Centric Approach

All successful entrepreneurs know that their customer's pain points are what drives them to solve them. Without their difficulties, you don’t have an offering or a business. They try to understand their customers by listening to their feedback, analysing their behaviour, and continuously iterating their offerings based on the customers' needs. This is exactly what Katlego Maphai did when he wanted to create a payment system for small businesses within South Africa. Through rigorous customer feedback and constant iteration of his POS system would allow SMEs to accept card payments. Founded in 2015 along with 3 other co-founders, they’ve gone on to provide their service to over 50 000 merchants.

In Conclusion

No success is the same as another’s. Entrepreneurship is complex and the path it takes one to become a successful entrepreneur in Africa won’t be the path for someone else. The 5 traits mentioned above are not conclusive as there are many other variables that play a role. Be that as it may, more aspiring tech entrepreneurs on the continent must take the plunge if they want to change their own lives and make a difference in others.

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