We are excited to welcome you to Season Two of the African Pre-seed Podcast!

We launched African Pre-seed in June 2022 with the goal of telling the stories of African entrepreneurs and ecosystem stakeholders who are changing the tech landscape on the continent. We wanted to showcase the innovation and creativity that is happening across Africa and are proud of the work we have done to bring these stories to life.

In Season One, we engaged in conversations with over 30 entrepreneurs and ecosystem stakeholders, covering a wide range of tech-specific, insight rich topics!

In Season Two, we will continue to feature interviews with African entrepreneurs and ecosystem actors, exploring topics of bearing in the African tech ecosystem, such as:

  • Passionate dissent and its importance to running a startup
  • The ecosystem landscape in Francophone Africa
  • The relationship between the tech ecosystem and creating meaningful impact

P.S. If you have any feedback or suggestions for Season Two, please don't hesitate to reach out to us. The ideas and insights you share with us shape what we do at African Pre-seed. Your feedback means the world to us.

Thank you again for your support. We couldn't do any of this without you!


The African Pre-seed Team.

The Silicon Valley Mindset

In this first episode of Second Two of the African Pre-seed Podcast, Maria Pienaar, Operating Partner at Unicorn Growth Capital, offers her perspective on how to think about failure, innovation, and getting out of the trap of thinking small. Originally from South Africa before moving to Silicon Valley, Maria is familiar with societal differences and the practical steps founders can take to change their thinking.

“Failure is not seen as a disaster but something to build upon.” - Maria Pienaar

When you cover Africa’s tech ecosystem, you quickly become familiar with everyone’s visceral fear of bad news. Every time you publish an unflattering story about a startup, you steel yourself for pushback from the company’s managers and other leaders in the ecosystem. The prevailing belief is that these kinds of stories shape the narrative for the tech ecosystem and are damaging. There’s a fear of any type of failure.

At the six-minute mark, Maria says, “if you’re in a fear based culture, you’ll always stifle innovation and the innovative disruptors in the market.”

She contrasts the societal fear of failure in the African ecosystem to Silicon Valley’s perspective where failure is a learning curve. “Failure is not deemed as a challenge; it is deemed as 'What have you learned from it and how do you improve things?' In a way, it’s seen as a necessary step to get to the next successful step.”

It’s critical for a company’s leadership to get comfortable with failing fast and to create a safe environment that encourages innovation. “If leadership keeps on dominating with that culture of fear, you’ll never see anything happen. If you make a mistake that’s fine, you need to figure out how to fix it.” Maria also speaks about the importance of having diverse opinions in a company and building all of this into a structure where everyone is pulling towards the same direction.

💡 Get out of the trap of thinking small

Maria also talks about something that’s familiar: getting out of the trap of playing small. “The first thing we do is that we think too small. We don’t tie enough zeroes behind the numbers we’re talking about.” She also gives some personal anecdotes from her time as part of Vodacom's early team, with Vodacom now among the largest telecommunications providers in South Africa.

That’s enough spoilers, enjoy the conversation.

What to look forward to in this episode:

  • Critical gaps that emerging founders should look to address [2:57]
  • The "Silicon Valley Mindset," and it's relevance within the African tech ecosystem context [4:11]
  • Embedding a change in mindset for the African entrepreneur [7:03]
  • The role of regulation in innovation [9:40]
  • Conducting market research to find product-market fit [13:57]
  • The best and worst pieces of advice received by Maria Pienaar [16:42]
  • What African founders should know about telecom companies [20:43]
  • The importance of network effects and network marketing [23:07]


Tell us...

  • What was your favourite quote or lesson from this episode?
  • What topic would you like for us to feature on a future podcast?

Let us know via the hashtag: #AfricanPreseedPodcast