Speaking over the phone with Ana-Maria Pruteanu it has been like listening to a piano album. She, the entrepreneur who has been working for years with the aim of creating self-sufficiency systems within the emerging markets worldwide reminded me of a Rumi’s statement, the one which goes like this:
Looking up gives light, although at first it makes you dizzy.
This dizziness is strictly linked to the flow of notes which shortly came out like dots, ideas, and the need for market disruption, while having impact.
She knows a thing or two about this due to her work and expertise in the emerging markets. For more than 15 years, she has been supporting the expansion of telecom coverage in rural areas and the increase of solar power install base in order to reduce the CO2 impact. Targeting Telco operators both these solutions are driven by low opex (operational expenditures) to make space for more fuel-less capex (capital expenditures).
Oliver* met up with her to discuss about crowdfunding, social impact and what it takes to become an entrepreneur.
Oliver*: Hi Ana-Maria and thank you for joining us. In a way, everything started off with a 1st round of debt –finance crowdfunding campaign…
Ana-Maria: Hi Oliver*. That’s correct. Crowdfund 2 Fund Africa is the culmination of a long story derived from my more than 12 years’ work in developing the Powerstorm brand across the B2B Telcos within the emerging markets.
This story can be summed-up by stating that I have been handing-over to the Chinese competition incredibly feasible small-mid-sized projects of high CO2 reduction and rural development sustenance impact due to the lack of western traditional banking and support towards my business which is so emerging market in purpose.
I contacted the CEO of a crowdfunding platform to offer my support for Africa’s market share more as a passion to help where I saw an opportunity than for anything else….But after we hung-up I thought to myself, why not to list my own debt-finance on a platform and crowd-fund along with contacting investors in direct ways?
O*: And then what did you do afterwards?
AM: In order to do this, I invited 5 of our staff to dedicate to this project. However, crowdfunding is not an easy task so we are learning as we go, as in fact it is more than a full time job and it makes our company feel like a social media company. So now, the company is split in two, with one side running our core business and the other the crowdfunding campaign.
O*: What have you learnt so far?
AM: Generally speaking, Crowdfunding is not for the weak or poor. More in particular, here you are my 8 lessons:
- Regardless of how strong or proven the business is, one must invest in the relatively expensive ‘look and feel’ and we are still improving in this respect.
- It is best not to tell “other investors” about crowdfunding, unless one is sure they have such targets.
- The imminent threat for an established company is that there is a thin line between pushing the public social agenda versus staying a bit private for the sake of the competition.
- In my case “friends and family” was not the audience, so the focus on offering to a “stranger” an opportunity that could be understood as beneficial from their side, creates a lot of pressure and need for lots of edits.
- Funds favour most technology glitter, so the competition for high ranking is constant.
- LinkedIn needs urgent improvements.
- Prepare different vehicles to ensure the right one can be chosen. In fact, what I was trying to achieve with crowdfunding was to create a big momentum for my company which was accomplished.
- Last but not least, being basically a marketing campaign, crowdfunding gave me the opportunity to customize my message for the different groups of stakeholders in order to get them on board and to start a conversation. My LinkedIn is still unmanageable as of today since we have several parties whom we are discussing with. My only question is “what took me so long?”
Crowdfunding is not for the weak or poor.
O*: Impact it seems to be a key word for you…
AM: Yes, that’s correct. It’s all about impact. In fact, while we are crowdfunding, I package the offerings into two opportunity “funds” which address specific needs and peculiar niche areas. For instance, the first fund is a $40 million at 47%-54% gross margin. We focus on telecom infrastructures with the aim of expanding, strengthening and maintaining coverage for rural and emerging areas. The second one is a $16 million at 28%-35% gross margin focused on solar infrastructures with the aim to lead to a fuel-less society, reduce CO2 emissions and opex (operational expenditures).
O*: What are your concerns looking at the current political turmoil? How is going to change your approach in doing business?
AM: I apply my running race approach to this, meaning, I continue with awareness but with business as usual, focused on solutions for my company purpose. I tend to not really focus on who my competitors are and on politics but on how I could better supply my customers in different parts of the world. Politics mostly cut the humanity out and as we transact across the globe what connects us with others is the humanity…. We all want to do well. Perception has to do with awareness.
O*: You are a Lady and an entrepreneur. How does diversity impact the way you do business?
AM: Every country has its own specificity in terms of culture and diversity is the richness and what inspires my career. I always thought of myself lucky as a woman to be part of the area I work in, and never at a disadvantage, quite the opposite.
Diversity is key to everything even though the common link is the business
and the focus is on satisfied clients, positively challenged employees, and investors and stakeholders who believe in you and who are interested in investing in you, in your idea, in your project, and beyond. Diversity is the opportunity to build a niche and a brand.
O*: So what are your biggest concerns about the future?
AM: My biggest question is how our grandchildren are going to feed themselves. So, in thinking this I am assuming I need to work to maintain a sustainable approach to business as everyone should do.
O*: What is your message to people eager to become entrepreneurs, like for instance students in entrepreneurship?
AM: I do not think somebody becomes and entrepreneur. I think somebody is an entrepreneur. Yet some discover it early and some later.
An entrepreneur is someone who is willing to take the risk for less security. This is what it is. An entrepreneur is not someone who is seeking a salary or a pension. An entrepreneur build this for his own and the rest. Being an entrepreneur means I need to do this because this is what makes me feel happy and there is no alternative that drives me.
The second point to consider is that not every single action or company will immediately result in what your dream is. You have to work hard to create the momentum. Try many things, one of those will eventually turn into something amazing but be aware to not define something amazing just by money. Stay inspired but not only look at your industry of interest, stay connected and open to what lives on the street and how others make things happen many times in areas non-related to your own scope.
Stay connected and open to what lives on the street.