Simon R Turner – McDan Entrepreneurship Challenge

Simon R Turner

Simon R Turner - McDan Entrepreneurship Challenge

As a military veteran, entrepreneur, mentor and since 2015 the Country Director in Ghana of The Challenges Group – a UK international development consultancy – Simon is passionate about nurturing, supporting and engaging with entrepreneurs on their journey, and providing an enabling environment for them.

TEN Ghana sat down with him and asked him about his experience on the show, and for some words of advice and encouragement for not just future contestants, but entrepreneurs in general.

Q & A

What attracted you to being a Judge on the show?

  • Apart from being able to contribute to growing something new, the great team and commitment behind it, I love that we’re more than just a show. We’re building an entire eco-system around the show.

What experience do you bring to the show?

  • As well as having founded a number of companies overseas, in Ghana I’ve worked with several hundred entrepreneurs and businesses. I’ve also watched thousands of pitches at Demo Days (particularly after being involved with MEC). Lastly, I’m genuinely passionate about helping entrepreneurs on their journey.

What did you most enjoy about being on the show?

  • Being able to pay it forward. This type of support and opportunity simply wasn’t around when I launched my first businesses.
  • The behind the scenes component as much as being on the show. We have a great team and crew, and great bond.
  • Of course, it’s also exciting to be able genuinely help so many entrepreneurs on their journey.

What does the audience not see that you’d like them to know?

  • The judges are genuinely helpful and constructive. After the editing, on screen the audience may only see about 5 min for each entrepreneur to pitch, but for many we’d spend close to an hour sometimes filming them.

What makes you different to the other judges?

  • Other than the fact I’m not Ghanaian (yet) but a white Australian? In terms of the show, I tend to be the most blunt, pull the strangest faces, and as I become more and more impatient it’s because I’m getting hungry. 12 hours on set does that to me.

What are you looking for in a pitch?

  • Entrepreneurs should always be able to back up what they’re stating with data or evidence. Research is key!
  • To be enthralled and excited by the entrepreneurs themselves as much as the product/service.
  • A clear solution to a clearly defined problem.
  • Innovation and creativity.

Having seen so many pitches, what’s a common trend that frustrates you?

  • Lack of preparedness.
  • Stating that $100,000 is required for the business which is conveniently the prize money.
  • When people “MSU” (Make s*it up!) or guess. If you don’t know the answer to something, it’s ok to say so.
  • When entrepreneurs have a fraction of the local market but say they’re going to go global (or “UK, USA” is a common phrase) within a couple of years. Build and solidify your position in Ghana first.
  • Solving one problem but creating another (eg. using single-use plastics in packaging!)
McDan Entrepreneurship Challenge - Simon R Turner - McDan Jury

What are you looking forward to with Season 2?

  • Entrepreneurs having learned from season 1, and being even better
  • Having even more exciting businesses, solving big problems
  • The behind-the-scenes filming we’ll be broadcasting
  • Getting to know the personalities on and behind the show more
  • Seeing the fruits of the Startup Club paying dividends 
  • Season 1 All Stars mentoring the contestants

What do you hope to see more of in Season 2?

  • More ladies taking part. We’ve been a bit male-centric
  • Diversity. I’ve been really proud that we had entrepreneurs taking part from every corner of Ghana.

What are 5 pieces of advice you’d give to budding entrepreneurs?

  • In terms of being an entrepreneur in general:
    • Always start with “why?”
    • Do your homework
    • Know when to listen to others and when to be bloody minded, ignore everyone and listen to your instinct.
    • Choose your Co-Founders wisely
    • Look after your mental health. It can be a lonely experience being an entrepreneur. It’s “tough at the top” as they say.

What’s McDan like?

  • As the only judge who hadn’t met him prior to the show, I was really pleased to be so welcomed into the McDan family. He’s very genuine and straightforward. He’s also very philanthropic and loves to give back. He has a very inspiring story and he’s doing the show to pay it forward, and open up opportunities for others. He also loves aviation and tennis…as do I!

What gives you hope for the next generation of Ghana’s entrepreneurs?

  • Ghana, and Accra as a hub, is increasingly becoming a highly credible location for startups and doing business in Africa.
  • Ghanaian’s are as creative and capable as anyone, anywhere.
  • Ghanaian’s are natural born hustlers…that’s essential for any entrepreneur.

Tell us something about behind-the-scenes

  • It’s hot! The A/C has to be turned off during film because it’s so noisy.

Closing comment…

  • I’m going to be much tougher on Season 2 contestants!

Connect with Simon

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