What Wile E. Coyote can teach you about starting a business

Net Prophet Sparkup! 2014

The 1948 children’s cartoon character provides sage advice for innovative start-ups of today.

By Sarah Meder

When the entrepreneurial bug bites, a startup business is the only remedy. You know your Road Runner is out there and you will stop at (almost) nothing to catch him. When we think of Warner Bros’ Wile E Coyote we think of an innovator with a never-say-die attitude when it comes to reaching his goals. Although episode after episode shows him as unsuccessful in capturing his quarry, the spirit in which he continually picks himself up and dusts himself off only to head back to the drawing board to devise yet another elaborate scheme is something which many involved in the business of start-up should take careful note of.

It is often from the smoldering ashes of defeat that opportunities arise for a new start and, therefore, a chance for finding success. In the words of Sir Richard Branson “If you’re going to fail, fail hard, fail well” and hopefully, like Sir Richard, you can even give that failure a positive spin. Rising like a phoenix from the ashes may seem impossible to most, but for the serial entrepreneur a failure, even a big one, will ignite their passion and drive to succeed.

One of the keys for success of any start-up is passion for what you are creating. It is this passion which will give you the persistence needed to face the many challenges, and even failures, that are part of the journey. The passion for what you are doing also needs to extend beyond the founders of the company, but to all members who are helping your dream become reality.

A local source of inspiration for start-up companies in South Africa is the Net Prophet Conference held annually in Cape Town. Anyone who has attended this conference will tell you that the high energy is almost palpable. In fact, even if you’d never thought of starting up a company before, the sheer buzz from having so many passionate entrepreneurs in one space is infectious and you may very well leave with the startup bug!

Sparkup! Rocket-fuel for startups

Taking place just prior to the conference is Sparkup! Weekend Programme and Live Investment, sponsored by Saratoga in association with Silicon Cape, Microsoft BizSpark and the Cape Times. Much like Wile E. Coyote with a rocket pack strapped to his back – the workshop touts itself as “Rocket fuel for start-ups” with the hopes of giving them the launching pad they need to reach success.

For some startups who have taken part in the programme (happening annually since 2011), it gave them the encouragement to go back to the drawing board only to return better and stronger than before. Other startups have found that it was the important “next step” leading them to success.
“What was great was getting out the cobwebs around things you often know or have applied in the past, yet forget as you get into the daily grind. Taking that time out to assess your business as a whole.”
Craig Simpson, CREDA Solutions, 2013

“Thanks to his workshop and teachings with regards to dealing with investors we have refined our pitch and revised our business plan, then went to London to meet the crème of Europe’s VCs. It was a huge opportunity for us to meet Permjot – someone with a foot in the global investment networks. Attending the Acceleration workshop gave us a much needed fresh perspective on running and financing an online business.”
Max Guedy and Chris Human, Myows, 2011

Sparkup! is an intensive, three-day, entrepreneurial bootcamp with a variety of modules offered by the industry’s elite – and that’s only after each startup has already gone through a very thorough screening process to make sure they make the cut. They then get to meet a variety of inspiring and talented people, including international mentor and Angel investor, Permjot Valia.

The holy grail at the end of the Weekend Programme is getting to pitch their business in the first live investment event in South Africa, Sparkup!Live.

As for Wile E. Coyote, the Road Runner eluded him for 40 years until one fateful day in 1980. When Wile E. Coyote finally catches his prize, he holds up a sign proclaiming “Okay, wise guys! You always wanted me to catch him. Now what do I do?” How to handle success is a lesson for another day.

Follow the Sparkup! teams’ progress on Twitter or the official Web site, Coyote catches Road Runner

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