‘Entrepreneurs have to push past inevitable failure and learn from mistakes’

24 Mar 2022

Image: China Soribe

From finding the right mentor to remaining resilient, China Soribe discusses what she has learned about entrepreneurship from her time at Wayflyer and starting her own business.

China Soribe is an operations manager at Wayflyer, Ireland’s latest tech unicorn that gives e-commerce companies the insights and funds they need for growth. She is also an e-commerce entrepreneur herself as co-founder and CEO of Umoja Linn, an online marketplace for Afrocentric fashion brands.

Soribe will be a mentor at the Techstars Startup Weekend Women Dublin, an online event taking place this weekend to help women turn start-up ideas into a reality. Over three days, participants will work together and hear from mentors, investors and sponsors including Wayflyer.

‘My advice for entrepreneurs is to find a committed mentor who will guide and challenge you’

What experience do you have with start-ups or entrepreneurship?

I’ve been very fortunate to not only gain hands-on experience in founding and building a business with Umoja Linn but to also work with a second start-up, Wayflyer.

My role at Umoja Linn is quite extensive. My responsibilities include monitoring of the market landscape and developments, strategic planning and implementation to meet both short- and long-term goals, and ensuring the business stays true to its vision and mission as we grow.

I initially joined Wayflyer as an investment risk analyst and progressed to my current role as an operations manager. As a risk analyst, I investigated e-commerce businesses seeking funding and decided whether or not to provide them with funding based on the level of risk. This entailed assessment of the businesses’ online presence, their management accounts and speaking to the founders and chief officers.

In my current role as operations manager, I am part of an amazing team that owns the process and operational strategy around Wayflyer’s core product.

In your opinion, which areas of science and technology hold the greatest scope for opportunities?

Top on my list has to be the life sciences industry in Ireland. As a biomedical engineering student in Galway, I became very aware of the strong and ever-growing presence of big corporations such as Pfizer, Allergan, Medtronic and many more. With sectors such as pharmaceutical, medical devices and diagnostics growing, Ireland is fast becoming a key player in this space and is already one of the largest exporters of pharmaceuticals globally.

It would be a crime not to also mention the remarkable opportunities in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

What are the qualities of a good founder? Are good entrepreneurs born or can they be made?

Ambition, confidence, positivity and resilience are essential qualities for a good founder.

To dream big and continuously work towards new goals and scale, one needs ambition and drive. Self-confidence and belief in your vision are also must-haves. A founder has to be confident and contagiously positive to sell her or his vision to potential teammates and stakeholders. Most important is the resilience to push past inevitable failure and learn from mistakes.

I believe good entrepreneurs can be made as they can develop the aforementioned qualities through certain life experiences.

What does a successful entrepreneur need to do every day? What tools and resources are a must?

A successful entrepreneur needs to have a checklist to help with organisation and maintaining focus. As you become more successful, you find that more distractions crop up. I find that writing out to-do lists help with prioritisation and making sure you are focused on the main goal – and not distracted by tasks that could be avoided or reassigned to other teammates.

You also need to maintain a strong network of support and mentors that you listen to, receive reliable feedback and learn from.

What is the critical ingredient to start-up success?

I believe a clear vision, a strong, multifaceted team, a quality product or service that solves a problem, and timing are critical ingredients to start-up success.

How can founders assemble a good team?

Assembling a great team is critical to start-up success and should never be compromised. The best way to build a team of aligned members is by actively expanding your network, talking passionately about your goals and winning the right people over with your love and believe in the vision.

What advice do you have for founders who are starting to look for investment?

Talk to your network, seek advice and attend events. Also make sure to explore your options, weighing out the pros and cons for each type of investment. Be it equity funding from angel investors or revenue-based financing from Wayflyer.

The head of funding at Wayflyer, Mark Corballis, gives invaluable advice in this article on equity funding dos and don’ts.

What are the biggest mistakes that founders make?

Trying to achieve too much at the same time and ending up achieving nothing due to split focus.

What are your views on mentorship and the qualities one should look for in a mentor?

The right mentor is an invaluable asset and accelerator of one’s success. This is why I absolutely adore the mentorship opportunity being provided in the Techstars Startup Weekend Women Dublin being organised by YourY Network.

When looking for a mentor, you should look for someone who will hold you accountable, has the time to commit to your mentorship, and has relevant experience you can learn from.

What’s the number-one piece of advice you have for entrepreneurs?

My advice for entrepreneurs is to find a committed mentor who will guide and challenge you, and also to maintain focus on the vision and remain resilient when faced with failure.

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