CFOs support startups


These top CFOs have gone above and beyond to help small businesses grow during tough times.

Keeping a new business open is a challenge, but these finance leaders have supported startup business owners to ace it!

Armed with more than 17 years’ experience in external audit, finance management, entrepreneurship development and funding, Zizipho Nyanga (featured), managing executive of SME and platform banking at Grindrod Bank, was previously CEO of Old Mutual Masisizane Fund, where she drove SMME development and access to funding.

While Covid-19 was devastating, Zizipho said seeing the way entrepreneurs reinvented themselves through technology and innovation was exciting. “This ability of entrepreneurs to survive, despite the challenges that they’re facing, is something that gives me hope.”

For Zizipho, the key to adapting and coping has been surrounding herself with the right people, and getting tools and support. “No one has it all together, even if they are executives”, she stressed.

SME development is just one way Zizipho gives back:

“I’ve also learned the importance of having a support structure at home and in the workplace.”

Read more: Zizipho Nyanga discusses the importance of creating rather than consuming

Passion for startups
Like many SME enthusiasts, Thabiso Foto, the CFO at Founders Factory Africa (FFA), has a passion for socio-economic development initiatives, and has first-hand experience with how technology can be leveraged to improve quality of life.

She mentioned that she enjoys working directly with startups and witnessing innovative ideas being turned into scalable businesses. Thabiso added that FFA’s target is to build more than 80 startups over a five-year period, and they are halfway through that target already.

She not only leads finance and operations for FFA, but also works with founders to help them with their own finance and operations strategies. She currently serves as a director for two of their portfolio businesses, a fintech/logistics tech startup and a healthtech startup.

Read more: Thabiso Foto powering the startup engine

Leading a period of major growth
For Derick Truscott, the first taste of the startup environment was when he was in university, and he has never looked back.

Through Stellenbosch University’s accelerator, The LaunchLab, he teamed up with a pair of developers and won a handful of accelerator contests with their prototypes. He mentions that this experience lit a fire inside him to want to build a career in the startup world.

At the end of his chartered accountant articles, SnapScan had a financial manager position open and snagging the job was the stepping stone Derick needed.

In the early days the company was running very much like its own little entity with a headcount of around 20 people, but since the acquisition, growth and adoption, its operations have grown and become more complex.

In 2016, Standard Bank acquired the company, kicking off an aggressive growth phase, which Derick later became part of when he joined the company in 2019.

Derick said the growth phase had various challenges, “I didn’t have many years of experience to fall back on and a lot of the themes were new and it takes time to navigate them. If your head’s not in the right space, it can be extremely daunting,” he explained.

Read more: Lessons from a CFO on successfully scaling a startup

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