Paystack Co-founder Shola Akinlade shares his Top 5 rules for achieving startup success


Today, over 60,000 businesses of all sizes – from startups to government agencies – use Paystack’s robust suite of payments APIs to collect and transfer online and offline payments securely. Paystack processes over 50% of all online payments in Nigeria (Africa’s largest economy), and accelerates growth for Africa’s best companies, helping them launch new business models, and deepen customer relationships.

Here are the five main tips Shola Akinlde, the CEO and co-founder of Paystack thinks would help African startup founders become successful.

1. Focus on what matters

The best way to grow your business is to focus on what really matters. According to Akinlade, when you’re growing a business or starting a company, there are so many things that feel necessary to achieve when, in fact, they are distracting. “So the first thing we learned at Y Combinator is that two things matter to you as a business owner: focus on your product and talk to your customers. If you can follow these two principles, everything will fall in place.”

2. Be ambitious

Another business philosophy the fintech mogul developed after joining Y Combinator is the ambition to solve big problems. He explained that, “Just coming from this part of the world, there are fewer opportunities to succeed and more opportunities to fail. But joining an accelerator programme like YCombinator allows you to thrive in an environment where you see more young people like you doing great things, and this really helps build the confidence to solve big problems.”

3. Be a problem solver

Akinlade says he owes his problem-solving success to technology. “Growing up, I always believed in technology as an enabler. I always believed that you could solve great problems in Africa with technology. This was why I left my first job at the beginning of my career. I figured that if I have the capacity to build, then I should be building something. So with this perspective in mind, young Africans that understand technology need to start building products that can solve problems on the continent because if we don’t, no one else will.”

4. Think Big

As the CEO of Paystack, Akinlade Bezos knows what it takes to be successful. According to him, the key mindset is thinking long-term, which requires patience. He says he’s initially failed to use this approach, but he has since learned his lesson growing Paystack.

“At the beginning of our journey, I didn’t think Paystack would be huge. I thought it would just be a small company with a maximum of 2o staff, so having that mindset affected my decision-making process on many things, including equity. As we got bigger, I realised that what we were building would be big, and by then, I could not undo some of the decisions I had made earlier. So in retrospect, I recommend startup founders take a very long-term view of their company, believe in themselves and try to think big in terms of growth.”

5. Perfect your investor pitch

Imagine crossing paths with Michael Seibel from Y Combinator during a network gathering of global startups. What would you say to him to catch his attention? According to Akinlade, here’s how you can make your two-minute intro a compelling one.

“As a founder trying to raise capital, you must be able to articulate the most impressive points about your business. There are many businesses globally, and many of them are like Paystack. However, when interacting with investors, you must be very clear about the most impressive points about your business and not try to bore them with your startup stories, as it can be too much talk. So what has worked for me in the past is simply knowing the most impressive points about our business and articulating them to investors.”