As part of the Young Minds Programme, Joshua Fillmore is hosting a series of conversations with some of South Africa’s most successful young entrepreneurs.
Higgo van Biljon is a man of many talents. Higgo is the founder and CEO of FinMeUp, and is both a tech entrepreneur and a musician. He founded the app while studying at the University of Stellenbosch. After having to put a pause to their sign-ups, due to the massive demand for their services, they have just relaunched a new app – which is currently being used in seven countries.
Can you give us a short overview of what the FinMeUp app does?
FinMeUp stands for “Finance Me Up.” We aim to clear the way to financial freedom for Africa by bridging the gap between financial education and execution. On the FinMeUp app, you’ll find information about all things finances, insurance, investing, credit, and tax – all on one platform. It's the curated Instagram for finances. We connect various, vetted industry experts that are creating educational content with you, and we are continuously developing new features to build us towards our mission.
Anyone that meets you will immediately see you are extremely passionate about FinTech and the way that it can increase financial education and inclusion. Where do you believe this passion came from? How important do you feel it is to be passionate about the problem that you're solving?
Starting a business is very challenging. In the tough times, in the big decisions, it all boils down to the why. And the why comes from your passion. I've always hated poverty and seeing people in poverty, and I've also had a passion for growing wealth.
When I was in grade seven, I asked my dad, “How can I buy a gold token? Because I want to put my savings where they will be worth more in 10 years' time.” He told me to rather look at investing in the stock market. And since then I became a stock market fanatic. In school, I used to put my phone in my pencil case and hide it from the teachers, so I could read about investing. In grade nine, my parents trusted me enough to take over their pension fund. I also tried various hustles – selling droëwors and biltong in the halls. I tried a few tech hustles as well, and most of them failed. But it was the learning and development for me that became continuous, both with regards to accumulating money and then growing that money.
Building wealth has always just been this interesting thing for me, and it’s developed into a passion to educate others and see them grow their finances. In that process, I learned so much from other people. When I took over my parents’ pension fund in grade nine, I joined an investment group that met once a month with investing experts, buying stocks collectively, and continuously learning. In that entire process, I wished that I didn’t have to learn things the hard way. That became the basis on which FinMeUp was built.
How would you recommend building a community/network of like-minded individuals for someone who doesn't necessarily have access to large or wealthy networks?
Building that network comes by doing things well. You need to be executing. When I started out, I was just this ambitious kid that wanted to network and get mentored. I wanted a mentor to teach me the business side of things, but those people that you want to be mentored by are often the busiest. It wasn't until FinMeUp actually launched and had some traction that they were willing to meet and mentor me. Their time is precious, and for them to notice you, you have to be doing something well.
Don’t be afraid to ask, and don’t be afraid to get rejected. Even now, I reach for the stars with some individuals. One reply will come from every twenty messages I send. I will get nineteen rejections, but one door will open. So it’s about constantly reaching out, speaking to people, and building relationships – not just doing things for yourself, but also adding something of value to them. Healthy relationships go two ways.
What are your thoughts on the concept of entrepreneurs keeping their ideas to themselves versus going out and actually talking to people about them? How have you approached this?
Ideas are the easy part. Execution is everything. And that's where 90% of people fail. I'm not afraid to share my ideas because everyone has ideas, but without actually talking to people, you're not going to get partnerships, investors, or feedback from potential users.
Obviously getting contracts in place is important, and sometimes you need a non-disclosure document when you are really sensitive about your information. But if I have a big idea, I'm willing to share it with our community. I'm willing to share it with potential partners, because if they can execute it before us, then great – we can see how we can partner up.
What are some of the most common mistakes aspiring entrepreneurs generally make when starting out?
I see people starting out alone, but I would start a business with someone else. While I could, I wouldn’t do it alone – but with no more than three people or it starts to become complicated. If one of you is struggling or has no motivation, you can help the other. You can also diversify your skills together. As an entrepreneur, you have to be good at so many things, products, marketing, legal, and technical stuff. There are too many things that you can face that lead to burnout. So having someone else on your side with different skills can help you. Obviously choosing a co-founder is not easy. You're basically getting into a business marriage with them – it's not something you can just shake off, so you have to be extremely careful with this decision.
To watch the full interview, click here.
The Young Minds Programme, certified by Stellenbosch University, is a 9-month career-focused gap year programme that helps school-leavers and young adults prepare for the next steps in their life and career. The programme focuses on, among other core themes, business management, entrepreneurial thinking and personal mastery – the key ingredients necessary to explore the real world of work and help participants discover who they are, as well as what they want to achieve in life. To find out more about the Young Minds Programme, click here.