Teamwork Is Critical to Startup Success

Jolyda is a co-founder of Project Inspire. She is also a specialist in financial management and investment at an international institution. Photo provided.

To succeed in a startup, you need good teamwork, says Sou Jolyda, a financial management and investment specialist at an international financial institution. Jolyda, who is also a co-founder of Project Inspire, says the greatest business plan is likely to fail without a good and capable team. She spoke to Sou Sokunthea about the path to business success.

Sou Sokunthea: What is entrepreneurship? And how is an enterprise different from a startup?

Sou Jolyda: A person with entrepreneurship has the ability to do business by creating and adding value in the market. Such activities face higher risks but have the potential to make profits. Startups are generally new business initiatives which are conducted in new ways, driven by technology in business operations and in their products and services for the market. The new initiatives, new ways of doing things, and technology are the factors that make startups different from normal enterprises.

Sou Sokunthea: What factors do investors consider in a startup before their investment?

Sou Jolyda: Investors tend to look at specific criteria which can determine if a startup has a greater chance of success. The first and most important criterion that investors generally look at is the quality of the team, such as the founder, co-founders, senior management team members, whether they have the ability and complementary skills in managing the business, and whether their personalities allow for a good working relationship with the team, partners, customers, and investors.

The team factor is critical because a business model, no matter how perfect, cannot be implemented successfully without a capable team. Other factors are also considered, such as business sustainability, future profitability, market opportunity and other risk factors. If a startup finds its strength in these factors, such as having a good and complete team, sustainable business model, promising profit, mass open market opportunity, operations in a low-risk context, the startup has a higher chance of success.

Sou Sokunthea: What makes a startup become a global success?

Sou Jolyda: My analysis is that international success of a startup is largely based on the novel tech-driven idea that is in demand in a global market, not just a local one, because some business ideas that are new in Cambodia may already be conducted elsewhere and can face high competition abroad. In addition, some business ideas which have been successful in Cambodia can fail in other countries due to different local contexts or market needs.

We can look at examples of tech companies that achieved global success such as Microsoft, Zoom, Cisco, Google and Facebook, which all initiated products and services which ultimately serve a large consumer base around the world. However, this success element should also be fostered by a capable team.

Sou Sokunthea: In doing business, what are the top obstacles and the solutions to those obstacles?

Sou Jolyda: One is the lack of capital. For new startups, financial issues are common, but they have opportunities to receive grants or financial rewards which can sometimes be enough for a business pilot. I have seen many startups lose focus on building traction and spend too much on trying many new ideas. Startups should have a clear financial plan and management, coupled with creativity, to ensure that capital is maximized for the most result to continue to operate or attract investment. The result includes fully developed tech solutions, larger consumer base or established partnerships.

The second obstacle is human resource recruitment and retention. Finding human resources is not just about hiring staff. It is about creating a team that can work harmoniously and at full capacity towards common goals. The market in Cambodia, as well as in other countries, still lacks technology experts. Therefore, retention is critical. Staff management skills and staff motivation, combined with a good work environment, can help businesses retain the human resources in the long run.

Sou Sokunthea: What are your ideas about women’s involvement in startups? What can we do to empower women’s involvement in business and economic contributions?

Sou Jolyda: Businesses with women in leadership are more profitable because of women's creativity, skills and decision-making ability, according to a global study by World Economic Forum. In Cambodia, women’s involvement in leadership in startups is still limited. Currently, Cambodia has approximately 300 startups, of which 20% are led by women. I think this low number is due to a few obstacles women face. A major obstacle is the social/family factor that women lack in decision-making power in the family, such as shifting capital or spending time on activities that support their business ideas. Women’s abilities are also limited because women do not receive much training or opportunities to enter the business scene.

Today, the situation of women has improved. We have seen that some women have more authority and seize the opportunity to create and expand more businesses. We also see financial assistance and training programs to help with short-term financial solutions and capacity-building of women entrepreneurs in Cambodia. I think this is a good step to help increase women’s participation in business and the economy. However, I think that to fully address the issues that women are facing, we should focus more on the pressures that women are under and on building a wider network that enables women to seek advice, seize new opportunities and solve problems in the market.

Therefore, I think that increasing women’s participation takes time, meaning the time when society in general will change attitudes and expectations for the role of women in the family and society, and the time that women need to be empowered in terms of experience and mentality leading to a more responsible leadership. I still have high hopes that there will be more women’s involvement in the near future.



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