People. Ideas are only as good as the team that turns them into reality.
Konstantin Makarov is the founding partner and managing director of StratLink Africa. With more than 12 years of experience in finance and emerging markets, Konstantin brings a holistic approach to addressing challenges in both emerging and developed economies.
Konstantin launched StratLink Africa and oversees client relationships, business development efforts, and research related to Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. Konstantin is also a lecturer at the Institute of Peace and Security Studies at Addis Ababa University. He holds a B.S. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and an M.S. from New York University Stern School of Business and Amsterdam Institute of Finance in risk management.
Where did the idea for StratLink Global come from?
Growing up in the former Soviet Union and spending my formative years in the U.S., I was always fascinated by the challenges and opportunities presented by emerging and developed markets. After a number of years on Wall Street, I took a leap of faith and followed my entrepreneurial calling to start StratLink.
Our initial goal was to bridge the information gap between capital in developed markets and opportunities in emerging markets. The company grew from the idea that a lack of understanding was preventing much-needed investment in developing markets and limiting returns for investors in developed markets who simply didn’t know about available opportunities.
What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?
It’s a bit cliché, but I wouldn’t describe any of my days as typical. I’m based in Kenya and focused on pan-African opportunities, so my days include everything from handling operational obstacles to traveling the region to connecting investors from developed regions with opportunities in emerging markets. My biggest daily challenge is trying to make the realities of a dynamic and nontraditional environment mesh with Western clients’ expectations.
How do you bring ideas to life?
People. Ideas are only as good as the team that turns them into reality. Because our work focuses on Africa, our team is comprised predominantly of African professionals. Our people are dedicated to the region and can transform an idea into an actionable road map for clients.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Horizontal organizational structures and the formalization of capital markets focused on small and medium enterprises.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Relentless delegation. Of course, this only works only if you have the right team and provide incentives that drive success.
What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?
In high school, I worked at a fish market in Brooklyn doing everything from scaling fish to cleaning the floors and made a whopping $4 an hour. The less-than-pleasant odor I carried with me made meeting friends after work a little uncomfortable, but I learned the value of a dollar.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
The only thing I would change would be to work even harder and focus on building the right team earlier.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I’m on a continual pursuit of education and self-improvement. Everyone should be a lifelong learner, whether that’s through formal executive programs or informal mentor networks. The day an entrepreneur thinks there’s nothing left to learn is the day he should sell his business. Without a perpetual student at its helm, any endeavor is doomed to fail.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I mentioned this earlier, but it warrants repeating. I grew my business by taking a holistic approach to investing in human capital. This means combining external motivators, such as financial incentives, with internal motivators, such as appeals to a person’s sense of accomplishment and pride.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
The first business I was involved in failed, and I lost all the startup capital I personally invested. I attempted to be involved while holding a full-time job at a bank. The failure was the best thing that could have happened because I realized I had to give 100 percent of my attention to a venture if I wanted it to succeed.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
In an age of technology and tech startups, I see a huge opportunity for a new wave of entrepreneurs in the old economies of businesses and manufacturing. We now have newer, better, and faster ways to do old processes, ranging from production to distribution. This presents tremendous opportunities globally.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
We use Dropbox for Business. I love its accessibility and the collaboration it enables between my team and our clients.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“We the Living” by Ayn Rand. It’s not her most popular book, but I’ve read it over a dozen times. It always motivates me to ask why I’m doing what I’m doing and whether it’s necessary.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
I can’t recommend just one person. There’s this awesome word in Kiswahili: “wananchi.” It means “the people.” The people I see and interact with influence me on a daily basis. Others may see chaos on the busy streets of Nairobi, but I see an opportunity to learn from wananchi.
StratLink Africa on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/stratlink—africa-ltd-
Konstantin on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/konstantin-makarov/15/56/265
Konstantin on Twitter: @KonstantinMaka2