When I grow up I am going to be a teacher.
Well, an educationalist (is that a real word?). A professional educator.
I think it is very important for an entrepreneur to have strong interests outside of your primary venture. Your start-up can be so all consuming, so emotionally draining, so hard that sometimes it overwhelms you. When the pressure becomes crushing and you wake up with tears just behind your eyes at the thought of yet another VC pitch, yet another high pressure interview, yet another technical knife edge challenge, you will need another reason beyond your venture to get you out of bed that morning. You will get up because you know that you can only play your BIG GAME if your venture succeeds.
However big the vision for your company, and for me I really want Garlik to become a global success story, it needs to sit inside an even bigger vision of what you are going to be when you "grow up".
Well when I grow up, I am going to build schools in Africa. And when life as an entrepreneur gets tough for me, I remember that if I am successful I get to play the BIG GAME and that brings me bouncing right back.
But I'm not going to build just any old schools. I want to make my contribution in a way that has the potential to cause a transformation in Africa in years to come. Africa is an amazing continent with amazing people and it's prospects will be transformed through the talents of its own people. And from my experience there are some exceptionally talented people, some real genuises. But a huge amount of that talent never sees the light of day due to the harsh realities of African life for many. I sometimes wonder how much true genius has been wasted over the years, never seeing the light of day. So, I want to build schools for geniuses in Africa.
It's a big challenge. There are something like 800m people in Africa and it is the youngest continent with 44% of its population being under 15 i.e. a continent with over 350 million young people!
Now identifying "gifted" children varies a lot but in the UK, for example, the National Academy of Gifted & Talented Youth aimed to identify the top 5% of the population as the "gifted & talented" pool. If this cut off is applied to Africa then there is a pool of over 17m gifted and talented young people in Africa.
17m gifted and talented children! That is staggering but if only these young people could be identified, inspired, supported and unleashed, imagine what could happen on the continent of Africa. So, that it what I and a few others are setting out to do. We are going to build a network of Gifted and Talented Academies across Africa from North to South, East to West, in partnership with a continent wide network of governments, charities and companies.
I am right at the start of this journey and at the moment it seems like a completely impossible challenge but, boy, does it feel worth doing. This is the most exciting stage of a new venture and I have found that there is no difference between this stage of starting up a commercial venture or a charitable venture. You are staring nervously at a blank sheet of paper, holding the pen, dreaming up schemes, pitching vision and possibility, inspiring people and partners who can help and gradually, step by step it starts to take shape, starts to become real.
The scale of the challenge and the problems we will face are breath-taking, but you know, for me, taking on huge, impossible challenges makes life worth living and when life as an entrepreneur gets really, really tough then I can think if 17 million good reasons to keep driving forwards.