01.04.21

WANTED: The Most Innovative Companies in South Africa

BY Fast Company SA 2 MINUTE READ

Nominations for the 2021 Fast Company (SA) Most Innovative Companies Awards have officially opened.

Since 2008, Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies edition has been the definitive source for recognising the organisations that are transforming industries and shaping societies. 

In 2020, Fast Company South Africa recognised more than 30 organisations in South Africa with this prestigious honour.

This year, Fast Company has taken its Most Innovative Companies edition a giant leap forward, introducing a virtual and hybrid awards session to coincide with the publication of its Most Innovative Companies magazine.

The virtual session will bring together South African innovators and innovative companies under one virtual roof to map out how innovation can enable South Africa to build a new economy.

The conference will serve as a platform for companies to share how their innovative solutions can enable the new normal. The Fast Company community in South Africa will also get an opportunity to listen and watch some of the countries leading innovators sharing their thinking behind some of SA’s latest innovations.

The virtual awards session will celebrate the cream of the crop of companies innovating across a range of sectors. Twenty-five finalists will be chosen from the nominations and five companies will be awarded as the most innovative. 

Whether you’re a fintech institution that’s developed an easy, cashless way to pay, an app development company that’s introduced an innovative solution to a common challenge, or a start-up trying to make life a little easier for South Africans, all nominations are welcome.

You can nominate your company, or a company you feel deserves to be honoured at the inaugural conference and awards gala, by visiting Fast Company (SA) website here

The closing date for nominations is the 5th of February 2021. This is an opportunity for companies to be added to the list of companies that are truly making a difference through innovation.

How to declutter your Digital Life

BY Fast Company SA 7 MINUTE READ

“How do you simplify your digital life?” is quickly becoming the question of our generation. Between packed calendars, overflowing inboxes, and the constant pull of social media and news (and Netflix) it can feel like how you spend your time online isn’t really up to you.

But what if there was a way to use your technology without feeling used by it? The answer is Digital minimalism.

Coined by author and computer science professor Cal Newport in his book of the same name, digital minimalism is a philosophy of technology use based on the understanding that our relationship with our apps, tools, and phones is nuanced and deserves more intention than we give it.

The problem–as Cal sees it– is that email and chat can be both stressful and productive.

Facebook can be both distracting and empowering.

Our phones are equally annoying interruptions and powerful tools for navigating the world.

How you use your apps and tools can bring you value or be a frustrating distraction. And finding a balance between the negative and positive aspects of technology is a delicate balancing act that digital minimalism tries to solve.

THE BASICS OF DIGITAL MINIMALISM

The concept of “minimalism” has become more and more popular over the past few decades.

As many of us find ourselves sucked into a lifestyle of overconsumption and “more,” the idea of living happily with less becomes more alluring.

However, minimalism–in all its forms–isn’t just about reducing how much “stuff” you have but being intentional about why you have what you do and how you can use it in the best way possible.

As Cal explains:

“Minimalists tend to spend much less money and own many fewer things than their peers. They also tend to be much more intentional and often quite radical in shaping their lives around things that matter to them.”

Digital minimalism, in the same way, isn’t just about deleting Facebook or learning a better way to clear out your inbox. It’s about intentionally shaping your digital life around your values so you can feel good about the apps and tools you use on a daily basis.

However, this is harder than it sounds.

The problem isn’t just the sheer usage of technology. It’s in how digital technologies lump together the good with the bad like some omnibus bill.

Few of us are willing to give up the good technology does (getting around via Google Maps, seeing family photos on Instagram, etc . . .) in return for reducing the harm. Yet constantly policing your apps and your own behaviors can only lead to one thing: exhaustion.

According to our own research, we found that on average, you’re likely to:

  • Check email and chat every six minutes or less
  • Use 56+ apps and tools a day and switch between them more than 300 times
  • Spend up to 4.5 hours on your phone
  • Multitask for at least 40% of our day

It’s hard to imagine a worse situation for deep thinking, focus, and even mental health.

The more we accept a life full of attention-sucking apps, devices, and tools, the less time and energy we have for the kind of deep thinking that leads to big ideas, real creativity, and satisfaction.

Instead, digital minimalism presents a different view of technology–one where you focus your time on “a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.”

On the surface, the core elements of digital minimalism are simple:

First, there’s choice and intention. You’re still using technology, but only what you want and only in ways that connect to your values.

Then, there’s optimizing the tools you use. What you allow into your life needs to work for you. This means separating the good from the bad.

Finally, there’s accepting you won’t be everywhere all the time. Tech companies survive on FOMO–the fear of missing out. But digital minimalists are happy to miss out on the things they know don’t bring value to their lives.

However, this can be a strange process if you’ve never really thought about how you use technology. But as you’ll see, the results are worth it: less stress, more focus, and a better, more fulfilling life.

THE DIGITAL DECLUTTER: A 30- DAY PLAN FOR BUILDING PRACTICE OF DIGITAL MINIMALISM

Developing a digital minimalist mindset isn’t easy. However, in his book, Cal provides a powerful tool in a 30-day plan to kickstart your minimalist lifestyle.

Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Define your core values (and how technology helps and hurts them)

Digital minimalism relies on a deeper understanding of your values. This is what you’ll be judging the value of each digital tool against.

So ask yourself: What is it that’s important to you? What do you want to achieve from how you spend your time?

Values can be things like authenticity or creativity or even compassion and friendship. These are intentionally large and somewhat vague. However, they’re powerful lenses to look at your technology through.

What part of using Facebook connects with your sense of authenticity? Does being on Twitter or in numerous Slack channels make you feel compassionate?

When you clearly understand your values and how they influence your philosophy of technology use, you can make informed and confident decisions about what to use and when. You become able to prioritize long-term meaning over short-term satisfaction.

(If you need help, author James Clear has a great list of core values you can use as inspiration.)

Step 2: Drop all “optional” technologies for 30 days

Instead of immediately trying to judge whether the tools you use connect to your values, Cal suggests the opposite:

Set aside a 30-day period during which you will take a break from all optional technologies in your life.

“Optional,” in this case, means any tool or app where their “temporary removal would harm or significantly disrupt the daily operation of your profession or personal life.”

Make a list of apps, tools, and services (like Netflix, gaming, etc . . .) that are effectively ‘banned’ for the next 30 days. Work email is not optional. Twitter—most likely—is. Write these down and put them somewhere you’ll be able to see them every day.

The reason for such a drastic change is because the pull of the attention economy has simply become too strong. Trying to gradually change your habits won’t work. Instead, you need the experience of a full break before you can make unbiased decisions about what to let back into your life.

Step 3: Track your “technology triggers” and explore other activities

During the 30 days of your “declutter” you have two goals:

Pay special attention to when you feel the pull of technology. When do you find yourself reaching for your phone? Do you procrastinate on work tasks or sending emails by checking Twitter? Often our technology usage masks some other underlying issue.

Explore “higher quality” activities to fill the void of time. A major part of this declutter is actively trying out other activities in place of technology. Fill the space by reading books or going for walks with friends or working on a hobby you’ve neglected or just daydreaming.

As Cal explains, by the end of the declutter you want to discover “the type of activities that generate real satisfaction, enabling you to confidently craft a better life–one in which technology serves only a supporting role for more meaningful ends.”

Step 4: Create “operating procedures” for the tools you let back in

After your break is done, you’re allowed to reintroduce optional technologies back into your life under two conditions.

First, for each tool, app, or device, ask:

“Does this technology directly support something that I deeply value?”

It doesn’t matter if the tool or app provides some value. It must be intrinsically linked to one of your core values.

For example, you might decide that reading hot takes on Twitter is just a distraction, while chatting with old friends from your hometown over Instagram deeply connects to your value of friendship.

This brings us to the second point. Once an app or tool has made it through the first pass, ask:

“Is this technology set up in the best way to support this value?”

To pass this test, Cal suggests creating operating procedures–clear rules for when and how you use each of the optional technologies you let back in.

For example, you wouldn’t just say “I use Instagram because it helps me feel connected to my friends.” Instead, you would make a more detailed rule such as:

“I check Instagram once a day after working days and limit my usage to just 20 minutes. I’ve reduced my list of friends down to just the most meaningful ones I want to keep up with.”

Every new tool you bring in must also pass these tests.

Step 5: Actively ignore the rest

With your list of allowed tools and apps, clear operating procedures, and high-quality activities to fill your time, you shouldn’t be too stressed about keeping up with Facebook or checking the news every 30 minutes.

But being a digital minimalist is an ongoing process.

As Cal explains:

“The fact that [a piece of technology] offers some value is irrelevant–the digital minimalist deploys technology to serve the things they find most important in their life, and is happy missing out on everything else.”

5 BEST PRACTICES FOR MAINTAINING A DIGITAL MINIMALIST LIFESTYLE FOR THE LONG TERM

As we’ve written in the past, the hardest part of any productivity strategy is sticking with it for the long-term. The same goes for maintaining your new practice of digital minimalism.

The key to staying away from attention-sucking technologies is to fill that time with other, more meaningful activities. Yet this isn’t always easy if you’ve spent years scrolling, tapping, and swiping away.

To help you rebuild your curiosity in non-technologically driven pastimes, Cal outlines a number of ways to support your newfound digital autonomy:

  1. Spend time alone. Solitude—both physical and mental—is important for thinking clearly. Rather than feeling the FOMO of social media, try leaving your phone at home while you go for a walk.
  2. Don’t click like. Social media and digital communication have become digital versions of fast food–easy to consume yet with little nutritional value. To combat this, Cal suggests you specifically limit the performative aspect of these tools. Yes, you can stay in touch and connect with loved ones. But don’t click ‘like’ or allow yourself to be always available.
  3. Reclaim leisure. One of the reasons we lean so heavily on digital technologies is that we’ve lost our hobbies. It’s easier to scroll through your phone than read a book. Try reclaiming leisure time for analog tasks you enjoy.
  4. Join the Attention Resistance. You don’t have to use all the features on your phone or be constantly connected to social media. As Cal writes, digital minimalists give themselves less ‘entry points’ to distraction. Try deleting social media off your phone. Or treat it like a professional task—something you do as needed and not more.
  5. Imagine you have to pay for every click, swipe, or tap. If you can’t give your time and attention the value it deserves, then give it a monetary value. Ask how your behavior would change if every swipe on Instagram, click of a clickbait-y infographic, or scroll of your Twitter feed costs $1.

Digital minimalism is a way to not only clearly define what technologies you let into your life but how you use them.

Once you understand your true values you can build your technology use around them. Rather than feeling overwhelmed, you become more intentional, empowered, and productive.

SOURCE: FastCompany.com

11.17.17

Tech Forward: CONNECTED!

BY Fast Company SA 4 MINUTE READ

How powerful satellites and new antennas will soon connect cars to the Cloud.

Imagine being able to drive a car anywhere on the African continent, all the while with a consistent powerful broadband signal, strong enough for passengers to stream high-definition video while the driver gets updates on traffic and road conditions miles down the highway.

How about never again missing a day of work to take your car to the manufacturer because the software needs to be updated?

Such scenarios are not as fantastical as you might think because, within just a few years, a new generation of car antennas and high-throughput satellites will connect vehicles virtually anywhere on earth to the global communications network.

Connecting cars and trucks to the Internet is going to forever change the way we think about personal and commercial highway transportation. Intelligent transport systems and self- driving vehicles will more easily and efficiently move passengers and products to their destinations. At the same time, these connections will enhance both thedriver and the passenger experience with information and entertainment only available with high-speed satellite links.

In addition, by connecting cars to powerful satellites such as Intelsat’s EpicNG constellation, manufacturers will be able to update vehicle software via satellite instead of requiring owners to visit a dealership where technicians update vehicles one at a time.

The high-throughput satellites making this possible have been launched in just the past year or so and include Intelsat 35e, now undergoing testing following its July 5 release. The spacecraft will provide coverage of the African continent, with powerful spot beams that can be picked up by the kinds of small antennas being developed for cars and trucks.

The new generation of antennas are small, flat panels developed by Intelsat partner Kymeta. They have the same capability of the small dish antenna you might see atop a commercial building, but without the bulk and weight. The flat antennas will typically be installed between the headliner and the roof of a vehicle, invisible to the owner yet capable of sending and receiving information virtually anywhere outside of a closed garage if the car’s ignition switch is turned on.

The antennas will take advantage of the unique ability of a satellite to multi- cast information, rather than having signals sent individually to each user over terrestrial cellular or Wi-Fi networks that could be congested or unavailable in certainlocations.

Car manufacturers and their suppliers are just beginning to explore the range of content that might be streamed to the vehicles through these new antennas. The satellite antenna will enable the rapid two- way communications between the car and the cloud server maintained by the car’s manufacturer, allowing the driver to pick from a menu of services. Simplifying access to these solutions will be subscription-based, such as the KĀLOTM global service, being implemented by Intelsat and Kymeta, to provide high-throughput internet access to Kymeta-enabled vehicles.

One item on that menu might be allowing the owner to alter the performance characteristics of a car by modifying the software. For example, perhaps a motorist would order up a “track performance” setting while driving through a winding mountain road on a weekend, but change back to “fuel economy” mode when back home commuting to work. Or maybe a pickup truck owner would change the vehicle’s torque characteristics when towing a trailer.

Other menu items could be a range of “infotainment” options such as streaming music, video from providers such as Netflix, and high-speed broadband. Passengers would have numerous entertainment options either on screens inside the vehicle or on portable devices they brought along for the trip.

For car manufacturers, updating vehicle software via satellite will save millions of dollars in vehicle recalls because they won’t have to fix the cars one at a time at dealerships. Since the mid-1990s, computer-based electronic control units have replaced many of the mechanical and pneumatic control systems in cars and trucks, resulting in millions of lines of software code that need to be managed and sometimes updated. Companies estimate that between 60 and 70 percent of vehicle recalls are the result of software issues. Eliminating the need to make these updates individually at dealerships will also save time for the owners.

One of the issues being worked out among manufacturers and content providers is who will control the relationship with the car owner. For example, will Volkswagen or Mercedes Benz develop their own music streaming services or use a third-party option such as Google Play or Apple Music? The manufacturers are also working out what services might be provided for free as a courtesy to car owners, and which ones might be offered with a one-time payment or a monthly subscription fee.

An important consideration for car manufacturers will be the security of the networks able to access the cars and make software changes. A motorist receiving notice that the brake system on his or her car is about to be updated will want to know that the change has come from the right source and has not been tampered with. Rather than work with hundreds of cellular providers around the world to manage automotive software, manufacturers will be attracted to the security and reliability of a single satellite network.

“Connecting cars and trucks to the Internet is going to forever change the way we think about personal and commercial highway transportation.”

While the high-throughput satellites that can support these services have been launched, the antennas are just coming to market, so we won’t see some of these services until around the 2020 or 2021 model years. But then the technology will take off rapidly. Some manufacturers, such as Mercedes, BMW and Volvo, are already taking advantage of some of the software update capabilities using Wi-Fi and cellular networks. Satellite connections will likely work to complement these services for some applications, but satellite will be the best type of connectivity for manufacturers to make mass updates to vehicles spread across wide geographic areas.

The benefits a connected car can provide to consumers seem to know no bounds, from eliminating time wasted in the auto repair shop waiting for a software update to downloading movies on-demand for your children to watch during a long road trip. Connected cars have already proven to help make our lives easier, efficient and a little more entertaining, and the reliability of a satellite network will help ensure that connectivity is always available.

Author: Brian Jakins, Regional Vice President of Sales in Africa, Intelsat Africa

11.15.17

Crowd Funding Initiative For Students

BY Fast Company SA 3 MINUTE READ

South Africa’s University Student Dropout Rate has over the years been escalating at an alarming rate. To date it is at 60% according to SA’s Science Forum. The main cause of students dropping out of university is financial constraints.

The South African government has acknowledged that South African homes earning below R600 000 per annum need assistance in providing education for their children. This accounts to about 94% of households in South Africa. The fees available from government entities are insufficient, only covering 17% of students who are eligible for assistance.

Feenix is a crowdfunding initiative launched to fund underprivileged and deserving students, as access to education remains a major challenge for so many people who have the ability to further their studies, but lack funds. It is a platform that allows students to access fees to pay their tertiary institutions by getting donations from individuals and corporates.

The crowdfunding mechanism is aimed at tackling the state of education and its crisis in South Africa by building a trust for student fees. The initiative comes as part of a diverse strategy by Standard Bank to develop meaningful, practical and sustainable ways to help youth access quality education. The initiative removes some of their debt owed to universities and ultimately contributes to South Africa’s economic growth.

Head of Standard Bank Incubation and Feenix Interim CEO Jayshree Naidoo says the initiative is a call for everyone in society concerned about the state of education and willing to do something about it.

“Feenix is an opportunity to get involved, whether you’re a student who just wants to get through your degree, or a South African who believes that the future of the country depends on giving young people the tools they need to succeed; one of them being education.

“Feenix rose out of the shared belief that education is vital to breaking the cycle of poverty. The tertiary education funding crisis that resulted in the #Feesmustfall Movement highlighted the importance of education in the lives of South Africans and the barriers that prevent access to it. There was an enormous sense of wanting to help in whatever way possible and a frustration at the lack of channels available to provide that help.”

Feenix’s simple signup process allows students at any one of the 26 public universities in the country to register their financial needs for the current year. The platform then exposes each student profile to a variety of funding sources and links them with potential sponsors. Ordinary South Africans wishing to fund students can search for individual students on the platform and pay the whole, or a portion, of their fees.

Through Feenix it was clear that the support available to

students in need was insufficient and that ordinary South Africans and business owners wanted to play a part, but did not have an avenue to do so. Feenix distributes the responsibility of funding as widely as possible and makes the process as direct and easy as possible.

“The crowdfunding method is a practice of funding a project or venture by raising money from a large number of people. The power of crowdsourcing as a viable solution to boosting educational funding channels is taking off worldwide and we are excited to now be able to take part in this exciting journey in South Africa,” says Naidoo.

The programme has so far been a success raising over R120 000 and fully funding four students, with donations from Standard Bank’s internal staff in just two weeks of its inception, before its public launch.

The students are not chosen on merit, but on selection made by the donors and sponsors. For example, an individual would donate to a student of an institution where they have also studied at, or by looking at a student’s motivation on their profile.

“Individuals can donate an amount from R100 up to the full amount due for students’ fees. It is risk-free as the fees get paid directly to the student’s tertiary institution to make what is happening behind the scenes completely transparent,” adds Naidoo.

The programme plans to fund 3 000 students within the next three years with the support of Standard Bank through its commitment to making sure the target gets met. To date, over R1.4 million has been raised and 29 students have been fully funded. There are 759 students who have put their profiles on the platform, with funding and students increasing on a daily basis.

11.08.17

The winning idea that helps make South Africa safer

BY Fast Company SA 2 MINUTE READ

The difference that exposure, mentorship and investment can make to emerging entrepreneurs is invaluable. And it’s made all the more exciting when the young people are recognised for their brilliant idea that stands to make South Africa a better place. The Santam Safety Ideas Campaign seeks to reward exactly this kind of innovation, which is evident in the calibre of the inaugural campaign’s winners: Ntando Shezi and Ntsako Mgiba.

Awarded an incubation prize of R150 000, Shezi and Mgiba are the bright minds behind Jonga – a cost-effective security system for low income families.

Mgiba says, “This initiative is very close to our hearts because we have families in townships. We are thrilled and grateful to Santam and LaunchLab for believing in our idea and making it possible for us to start developing our product so that we can launch our pilot programme in various communities.”

Accessible and affordable, Jonga includes a sensor that gets mounted on the wall and detects intrusion, sending an alert to the homeowner via a linked smartphone app or an SMS notification. If no one is expected, the system alerts the neighbours, who can respond appropriately.

Judging Panel: Back row, from left to right: Nthabiseng Makgatho, Philip Marais, Asher Grevler, Nathan Van Rooyen, Ebrahim Asmal, Mokaedi Dilotsotlhe. Front row, far left: Ray-ann Sedres. Far right: Nontombi Marule. Winners in front center from left to right: Ntando Shezi, Ntsako Mgiba, Matthew Tait

Mgiba says he hopes the system will go the distance to empower communities to get connected and protected, “We don’t believe security should be a privilege of the few who can afford it. We just want all people to be safe and to make security accessible to everyone.”

This encapsulates what the Santam Safety Ideas Campaign is all about. Launched in July 2016, the initiative encourages people from all walks of life to submit smart, ingenious ideas that have the potential to keep South Africans safe. It’s run in collaboration with Launchlab: a network of university campus-based business incubators, and an initiative of Innovus, Stellenbosch University’s industry interaction and innovation company.

The campaign received over 150 entries, with the finalists all worthy contenders for the title. As the winners, Shezi and Mgiba had the opportunity to participate in an incubation process that saw their ideas developed into working prototypes and a potentially viable business venture.

Social entrepreneurship is just gaining ground in South Africa, especially for young people. It’s not always easy to get a foot in the door as a start-up, unless you have connections and capital. Team Jonga first pitched their idea at the University of Cape Town’s ‘idea auction’ called UCT Up-Starts. The initiative offers students the opportunity to become social entrepreneurs through a 20-week programme. Since receiving attention and investment at Up-Starts 2015, they have entered one competition after the other to raise funds for their product.

Winning the inaugural Santam Safety Ideas Campaign will hopefully see them develop an inspired idea into a sustainable business model that’ll play a pivotal role in making South Africa’s neighbourhoods safer.

For further information on Santam Safety Ideas, visit https://www.santam.co.za/safetyideas/.

How African early-stage investors play a critical role in moving the continent forward

BY Fast Company SA 3 MINUTE READ

CAPE TOWN, South Africa, November 7, 2017 The 4th annual African Angel Investor Summit – #AAIS2017 – is set to be the next meeting point for Africa’s early-stage investor community. The place to be on November 15-16 will be Workshop 17, right in the middle of Cape Town’s vibrant startup scene. Key debates will be held around the critical role investors play in supporting startup teams to launch, scale and exit.

In previous editions of the summit the importance of seed capital and strong collaboration within the ecosystem were discussed. This time the focus will be on the next steps of the investment cycle with the special theme: ‘Start-Scale-Exit, Funding great startup teams poised for global success’. 250 of the most relevant early-stage investors and key stakeholders will facilitate the exchange of best practices and plot the roadmap for the future of investing on the continent.

Program highlights

At #AAIS2017 there will be numerous key notes, panel discussions, roundtables and interactive workshops given by industry leaders. To set the scene the most experienced experts will unwrap the current investment climate on the African continent. All the ins and outs of the $40M investment secured by Andela will be released by the main players in the latest Series C round. And participants are invited to join roundtables on Angel Investing and Startup Research to share latest insights. Furthermore, this is your chance to learn from and get inspired by 10 distinguished panels on the following topics:

  • State of Play: Current Investment Climate
  • Seed stage: First investor in…..
  • Addressing the gaps in the market to enable innovators across Africa to find the investment
    they need
  • Unlocking Diaspora & International capital to drive local entrepreneurship
  • Expanding from Africa to the world
  • Accelerating Startups to Scale-ups: How accelerators drive growth
  • Scaling for growth
  • Catalyzing smart capital for scale-ups
  • Investing with exits in mind
  • Are Impact Investors even in it for the Exit?

 

Throughout the 2-day event the top 20 entrepreneurs from the XL Africa accelerator program will showcase their remarkable innovations and significant business traction. Also the World Bank will organize their policy workshop where recommendations for future programs for scale and impact in Africa will be discussed.

Headlining the Summit are renowned international and local investors – with leading African Angels representing over 20 local Angel networks and investors expected to attend from Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Morocco, Kenya, Liberia, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire and Somalia amongst many others. At the same time, corporate partners like Orange Telecom, Google, Microsoft, Thomson Reuters, Ringier and Github will join the event together with senior representatives from the World Bank, the IFC, the AfDB and the EU.

Additionally the ‘Cape Town Innovation Tour’ on November 17th aims to give participants an on the ground introduction to the ecosystem, access to the entrepreneurs and leaders building the sector. Book your ticket for the tour on AAIS2017.com or contact the organisers for further details: [email protected]

About the organizers

The summit is organized by Venture Capital for Africa (VC4A), African Business Angels Network (ABAN) and South African Business Angels Network (SABAN). #AAIS2017 is powered by the Work in Progress! Alliance.

Event sponsors

 

Event name: African Angel Investor Summit 2017

Event theme: ‘Start-Scale-Exit, Funding great startup teams poised for global success

Event website: www.AAIS2017.com

Event hashtag: #AAIS2017

For more information, contact Thomas van Halen via [email protected] and David van Dijk via [email protected]

 

About Venture Capital for Africa (VC4A):
The mission of VC4A is to support the African startup community. VC4A is a network-building organization that started in 2007 and has grown organically over the years. The VC4A community has over 65,000 members in 159 countries, including 2.000+ investors. More than 10.000 entrepreneurs in Africa present their companies on the platform: early stage ventures that require investments of above USD 10K, but less than USD 2 million.
About African Business Angel Network (ABAN):
The African Business Angel Network (ABAN) is a pan African non-profit association founded early 2015 to support the development of early stage investor networks across the continent and to get many more (early stage) investors excited about the opportunities in Africa.
About South African Business Angel Network (SABAN):
The South African Business Angel Network (SABAN) is the non-profit, professional association for the South African early stage investor community. Established in 2016, SABAN represents a sector that plays a vital role in South Africa’s future, notably in the funding of Start-Ups. SABAN members fuel SA’s growth through the creation of wealth and jobs.
11.02.17

Tech trends taking over in 2018

BY Fast Company SA 2 MINUTE READ

Every publication focused on technology will provide extensive details about the latest electric car, the rise of artificial intelligence and the ever- imminent promise of the Internet of Things as an everyday part of our lives. While we wait for our self- driving vehicles and robotic assistants, there are tools and methods within reach which could have a great impact on the growth of small businesses.

With new disruptive trends coming up faster than we can refresh our news feeds, it’s easy for entrepreneurs to fall behind. Make sure you don’t miss a trend that could elevate the success of your business. If, by 2018, your business makes use of any of the below trends, you’re on the right track towards reaching a global standard.

1. SMART WAYS TO PAY

As South Africans have become more comfortable with online shopping, the use of payment gateways have become a normal part of retail and trading industries. If you aren’t on PayPal or accepting bitcoins, you might be limiting opportunities to trade globally. The idea of managing finances completely online and beyond basic EFT might be overwhelming at first, so start with something as simple as SnapScan. Your customers are carrying less cash now than ever before, and will soon expect to be able to make payments online wherever they are, including shopping at a market or placing large orders from their boardrooms.

2. DIGITAL MARKETING

By now, your business should have a strong online presence. Your website doesn’t have to be perfect and your social media needn’t be award-winning, but it has to be up and running. If you can’t afford to allocate a big budget to digital agencies to market your business, there are many affordable ways to do it yourself. Click here for insights on 8 digital tools to manage your business on a dime. In 2018, Influencer Marketing is set to grow.

Word-of-mouth becomes word-online as customers share their experiences with brands and businesses on every social media platform available. Get to know the bloggers, journalists and other influencers who will enjoy your product or service, and give them an experience they want to talk about. Everyone is doing it, and you can too. When Facebook launches a new service, they give tech-centric celebrities first access before releasing it to the public. If you’re in the fashion business, send your latest designs to fashion bloggers. If you’ve created a new app, send links to the technology journalists so they can review it. Your own customers can market your business on your behalf if you give them the opportunity to do so.

“Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough.” Mark Zuckerberg

3. AUTOMATED MANAGEMENT

This trend is well underway among the tech-savvy startups and big businesses of South Africa, and SMEs can benefit from digital management tools too. The standard office working hours are long gone, as companies realise the importance of flexibility if they want to keep their staff happy.

Technology allows team members to work remotely and still be productive, as long as those involved are disciplined. Gartner states: “By 2018, more than 3 million workers globally will be supervised by a ‘roboboss’.” While South Africans might not be ready for a ‘roboboss’, the use of time management systems like Trello and Chase keep everyone up to date and accountable for their tasks. Entrepreneurs can spend the day meeting clients and pitching their products with the certainty that they can track their staff ’s tasks and productivity at
any time.

11.01.17

The Great AI War of 2018

BY Fast Company SA < 1 MINUTE READ

On a recent Monday morning, Elon Musk busied himself on Twitter by predicting how World War III would start.

Inspired by news that Vladimir Putin had told Russian students the country that leads in artificial intelligence will rule the world, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO declared the global race to dominate AI might turn into real war—and that the first strike could well be launched by an algorithm rather than a flesh- and-blood leader. Chastised by one of his followers for the gloomy prognostication, he apologised and then confessed, “I was depressing myself too. 🙁 ”.

Musk is a techno-provocateur with few equals. However, plenty of people share his take on AI. Even sunnier forecasts about the future of AI, detailing how self-driving cars might radically reduce highway carnage, are typically too long-range to offer much of a sense of comfort.

Meanwhile, as everyone muses about where AI might take us, the technology has arrived. First given its name by scientists at a seminal conference held at Dartmouth College in 1956 (they had predicted that programmers would be able to simulate the workings of the human brain in just a few years), AI now has a pervasive and obvious impact, particularly when it comes to the branch known as machine learning and, in especially advanced form, as deep learning. AI is how Google Photos knows that two snapshots taken 50 years apart are both of your great-uncle. It’s how Facebook weeds spam out of your feed. It’s even how the iPhone ekes as much life as possible out of a battery charge.

… Read more in our latest edition IN STORES NOW

07.24.17

Dream as big as you can

BY Fast Company SA 6 MINUTE READ

It’s an old business truism that the best time to start a business
is during a downturn—and Anina Malherbe-Lan would agree. As founder and CEO of luxury brands marketing firm VIVIDLUXURY, she had some humbling experiences when the recession struck during her first year of business.

But in the time since, by staying true to her passion for luxury goods, the fine-arts graduate has forged a marketing tour de force—securing top names like Gucci, Bentley and Jimmy Choo as a matter of course. Ten years on, during a period when competitors have collapsed, VIVIDLUXURY has cemented its reputation as a leader in luxury brand marketing communications in Africa. In addition to winning the most coveted PRISM Award for its Belvedere campaign, VIVIDLUXURY held the first-ever event at the exclusive R100-million penthouse of the One&Only in Cape Town; achievements Malherbe-Lan professes she is “incredibly proud” of.

To add to an already impressive dossier, she also spearheads VDELUXE: a joint polo venture with Simone de Wet, MD for Val de Vie Events. The prize-winning pair and their team of experts have presented a number of world-renowned polo events including the Veuve Clicquot Masters Polo Cape Town which, on March 4, celebrated its seventh year. It’s a festival of equestrian sport and bubbly which has become a must-attend fixture on the Cape Town events calendar.

What has been the biggest achievement of your career to date? 
My biggest achievement was capturing and owning a niche in the market which, 10 years ago, no other communications agency really focused on as a speciality. Many luxury brands were only then starting to enter the South African market, and we decided to offer a niche service focusing
on localising their brand positioning. Another proud moment was when, after a seven-year joint venture, we decided to launch a new luxury polo brand platform called VDELUXE, which is co-owned by VIVIDLUXURY and Val de Vie Events, and spearheaded by myself and Simone de Wet. Together, our dynamic team of experts have conceptualised and executed more than 18 world-renowned polo events over the last seven years, including the Veuve Clicquot Masters Polo Cape Town, the Cintron Pink Polo, the Sentebale Royal Salute Polo Cup for HRH Prince Harry, the Coburg Polo Classic and many more.
 
It’s clear you have had tremendous success with your company, but have there been any challenges along the way?
I think the biggest challenge is to sustain the business. It’s easy to have one or two success stories, but to have ongoing success and an impeccable track record for 10 years is not that simple. It’s been a lot of hard work, sleepless nights and a relentless pursuit of excellence. Making the business viable, sustainable, and breaking through the glass ceiling is the most difficult part, but also the part that provides you with the best learning you can imagine.


How do you intend taking this year’s Veuve Clicquot Masters Polo to the next level?

We continue to reinvent and innovate every year, as this is what has made the event successful and one of the top polo and social events in Africa. This year we’re taking our PR and media campaign to the next level, particularly strengthening our media partnerships. We have an increasingly close partnership with our broadcast media partner, E! Entertainment, and this year we’re not only increasing our visibility across the E!, Universal and Studio Universal channels but we’re also for the first time (a first for Africa!) bringing out an E! News reporter from LA, Zuri Hall. E! will broadcast the event globally, and have an extensive E! Africa post-event campaign. In addition, we’re strengthening our digital and social media visibility, and aligning closely with our MC Nomzamo Mbatha, who has a significant following. We’re also excited about a new theme this year called “Clicquot Journey”. In line with Veuve Clicquot’s current global campaign, we’ll be showcasing various iconic cities in which the brand is enjoyed, such as Paris, New York, London and Tokyo to name a few. So, expect some interesting offerings by these cities, nd more, in terms of food, bars, décor and experiences around the polo. There are some exciting new sponsors on board this year— including Jaeger-LeCoultre, Vodacom, Guerlain, GHD and the new Ritz Hotel as hospitality partner—alongside long-standing event sponsors such as Ferrari, ISPS Handa and Shimmy Beach Club.
 
What is your role in all this? Are you very hands-on?
Yes, I’m very hands-on, as is my polo partner Simone de Wet. I’m a little OCD, so I like to see every little detail, but I’m essentially very involved in the conceptualisation process, sponsorship management and the marketing strategy.
 
Why Val de Vie Estate? Did you have any other locations in mind?
Our partner Val de Vie Events is based there, and the estate is the number-one polo and lifestyle estate in South Africa—the most beautiful location with all the luxury amenities one could ever hope for. We will never move the Veuve Clicquot Masters Polo away from there. For any Cape-based event, we will use Val de Vie Estate; for any other region, we’ll simply choose the best polo venue we can find in that particular city.
 
 
Sunshine and Champagne is a magical combination. How many bottles of Veuve Clicquot do you expect to go through?
We go through record numbers at the Veuve Clicquot Masters Polo every year. You’ll be surprised how much Champagne people can drink when there’s sunshine, exquisitely beautiful people and action-packed polo involved during a five-hour afternoon!
 
 
Watching world-class polo sounds like a superb way to spend a day, but how else will visitors be entertained?
We have a full programme of activities. Firstly, the Fashion Show is normally a big highlight, being centre-field, as is the Best Dressed Competition (judged by Elle magazine). The half-time divot stomping and Ferrari showcase, plus the After Party experience by Shimmy Beach Club are other big highlights. There’s not a dull moment during this action-packed day. We’ll also have food inspired by some of Veuve Clicquot’s most iconic cities such as New York, Tokyo, London and Paris, and games on the grass such as table tennis and pétanque.
 
Why are events like these important?
It’s a natural transition from the luxury communications business we created. With the current global trend for luxury brands to offer more ‘experience-based’ value to their customers, and the need for these brands to engage with high-net- worth individuals (it’s historically difficult to get face time with these kinds of customers and to find a platform to build relationships), it was an opportunity for us to take luxury brand marketing to the next level and to get to interact directly with these consumers. Our polo events offer all the right ingredients: a luxury lifestyle environment where the right people gather (for many, even the super-rich, this is also a networking opportunity) with just the perfect drink, food, décor and entertainment. You have a captive audience for at least five hours.
 
What attracted you to the game of polo in the first place? 
Getting involved in polo was a major vision for us; a new industry which, I thought, had a lot of potential for growth in South Africa. In the beginning, the industry was typically (as with many sports and industries in the country) dominated by an older white male fraternity—we were looking to change that as well. We furthermore felt that the polo events here weren’t up to standard, and certainly not in line with other top international polo events. If we wanted to change the perception of the industry, we had to make radical changes throughout: firstly, to the general event lifestyle that it offered and the quality of polo events in South Africa; secondly, to the target market that polo was attracting; and thirdly, in the way polo was marketed. Over the last seven years, we’ve generated close to R100 million in PR (media value) and created events that are every bit
on par with some of the best international polo affairs, particularly those in New York, LA and Dubai. Polo is the ultimate deal- making event. Gone are the days
of deals being made in conference rooms. Golf has been a favourite due to the serene atmosphere and the possibility of uninterrupted conversation. But we’re seeing that best of all is attending a polo match. Not only is the setting tranquil
but the premier lounges offer opportunity for conversation, and the sport attracts a wealthy mix of dealmakers.
 
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be? 
Don’t limit yourself. A lot of people think too small; dream as big as you can, and find a way to make
it happen. Put together a solid business plan, make sure it’s sustainable, and go for it. There
will be many naysayers along the way, but just keep focusing on the target, and you’ll eventually achieve success.
 
05.12.17

Is there a Doctor Tech Billionaire in the house?

BY Fast Company SA 14 MINUTE READ

Serial entrepreneur, founder of the Sekunjalo Group, and arguably Africa’s most successful and largest investor in technology and innovation—Dr Iqbal Survé shows us how diversification in one’s business investments can reap rewards

When most investors in Africa were focusing on hard-core resources, Survé—who had exited the oil business in September 2013 after about 12 years—started focusing on technology and media technology.

“We have partnered with multinationals across the continent, and hence are present in about 50 of the 54 African countries between these partners. As such, together we have been able to change the way we engage and do business on the continent.”

In the world of investing, three words come to mind: Overwhelming. Intimidating. Scary. For us ‘average Joes’, the questions and challenges seem never-ending, but there are a few select people in the world who seem to have that Midas power—turning whatever they touch into gold.

Sir Richard Branson and Warren Buffet spring to mind, and right here in our own backyard, Dr Iqbal Survé most certainly fits the same bill. A few readers may only know him from some of the controversial mud-slinging matches he has had with other media powerhouses since taking over South Africa’s largest print media group, Independent Media. (This is not surprising, really, considering that media houses generally use their own mediums in print and digital formats to spin their versions of stories/agendas and hope they stick. It is and always will be the nature of that beast.) Wherever those media wars may end up is neither here nor there, as there’s no doubt this Doctor has ticked some incredible boxes with very clever investing in all the right places, especially in technology and innovation—and is busy creating Africa’s own Silicon Valley in Cape Town.

As this is Fast Company SA’s special edition for the 2017 World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa taking place in May in Durban, and the fact Survé was honoured by the WEF on many occasions—including being the first chair of its “New Champions”, the Global Growth Companies Board (according to WEF chairman Professor Klaus Schwab, the GGC are leaders in innovation and technology), as well as being vice-chairman of the Global Agenda Council on Emerging Multinationals—we thought it would be an apt time to look into some of his incredibly diverse and successful business interests. (At the time of press, Survé was also appointed to the highly prestigious position of chairman of the BRICS Business Council.)

2012-11-01 13.53.57

Our interview takes place in Survé’s plush executive ‘man cave’ of an office in Claremont, which is clearly the mothership for all his varied interests and investments. He says he has always had his private investment office/family office separate from his investments/corporate office. Three personal assistants scurry around him taking notes, making calls and frantically trying to keep up with his brain and requests that seem to be moving at freight-train speed. They look driven to succeed in an environment where the Doctor apparently is always on the go from the early hours of the morning to late into the night. I battle to imagine how any of his worker bees have much of a social life, but they don’t seem too concerned about it.

 Where it all began

Dr Survé is a physician, entrepreneur and an ardent philanthropist, born and educated in Cape Town. He was known as the “Struggle Doctor”, because of his provision of medical care to victims of apartheid brutality, including some of those imprisoned on the infamous Robben Island. He had a personal and/or professional relationship with many former prisoners such as Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni and Govan Mbeki upon their release from the Island.

In 1997, President Mandela made an impassioned plea for black professionals to enter the mainstream economy of South Africa in order to bring about meaningful transformation of the socio-economic landscape, with the aim of redressing the legacy of apartheid. This resulted in Survé leaving his first love, medicine, and founding the Sekunjalo Group—which is today wholly owned by the Survé family. He serves as executive chairman of the group, with its headquarters in Cape Town. Sekunjalo has more than 200 investments across Africa, with an intrinsic market value exceeding $4 billion (R53.9 billion)—an amazing feat considering Surve, who came from humble beginnings, founded the group a mere 19 years ago with an investment of only $20 000. The group is the shareholding/equity partner to a number of multinationals on the continent, including Siemens, Nokia, Saab, BT, Solidago and Coriant, among others; Survé serves as chairman or deputy chair of many of these companies’ boards.

Doc with Madiba

The group is recognised by the WEF as one of the world’s fastest growing companies and a New Champion/Forum Advisory member; Survé is a regular contributor and participant in the Davos and Summer Davos meetings. Its investment portfolio includes Oil & Gas, Food, Fishing, Aquaculture, Power, Resources, Transport & Mobility, Telecoms, Civil Security & Defence, Media, Technology, Biotechnology, Healthcare & Pharmaceuticals, and Asset Management. The group also pioneers many social impact investment initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa.

Survé Philanthropies, the philanthropic foundation of the Survé family, has seven separate foundations supporting children’s, women’s and human rights; education; music, arts and culture; entrepreneurship; social impact investing; climate change; and healthcare. The Sekunjalo Group distributes 90% of its annual dividends received from its investments to these foundations, with the aim of impacting positively on the future of the people of Africa. Sekunjalo also recently launched a R500-million social impact fund.

Africa’s time is now

The story of Africa’s rising (Afro-positivism and Afro-capitalism) is an important narrative to which the Survé family and Sekunjalo have committed themselves by investing in businesses across the continent. “The group is really a large entity with more than 115 000 people employed directly and through its affiliated companies,” says Survé proudly. “So when we talk about affiliated companies: Say we have a shareholding in Siemens or Saab or Nokia or Pioneer Foods—these are all some of the companies in which the group has invested. The group is the biggest and most successful technology investor on the African continent.”

This is indeed quite a statement, so I delve a little further and ask the Doctor to give us some more information on his business interests in technology. The question is, how did a South African entrepreneur and technology investor based at the southernmost tip of African achieve dollar-billionaire status? And what is it that he has invested in, and what are the sectors—and why?

When most investors in Africa were focusing on hard-core resources, Survé—who had exited the oil business in September 2013 (good timing and good luck at the peak of the oil price) after about 12 years—started focusing on technology and media technology. “Our approach, in fact, was a dual strategy. Firstly, we wanted to partner with multinationals and become shareholders with them on the African continent, including our first multinational partner 19 years ago, the Siemens business unit in sub-Saharan Africa. This led to the second strategy, which was to use the dividends from these multinational investments to fund entrepreneurs and businesses in new technologies,” he explains.

I’m reminded of an article in The Economist of December 2016, which boldly listed Siemens and General Electric as the two companies in the world to watch, as they were the ones leading the way in terms of integration of engineering technology and the Internet of Things digitalisation. I mention this article to Survé, and he knows exactly which one I’m referring to. “Yes, most definitely!” he agrees. “I was one of the founding members of the Siemens Global Advisory Board on Sustainability, and as part of its plan, it pooled some of the top guys in the world on sustainability and technology to serve on the board to work on the direct links between sustainability and technology. The whole issue was looking at the latest innovation and technologies, and the application thereof globally.” He adds that the Siemens Global Advisory Board was completed 18 months ago, but that the insights into the areas of potential growth in the technology space—and how it could be applied in areas such as power generation, locomotives, healthcare, security and many more—have set the massive foundations for Siemens to grow from strength to strength.

 Communicating across the continent

The second investment was in Nokia Solutions, a technology communications business. “We own 30% of Nokia Solutions investments in sub-Saharan Africa, and we’re talking about the latest businesses like 3G, 4G, 5G, its applications and fibre-optics, to name but a few,” Survé reveals. “This is Nokia Solutions—not to be confused with Nokia mobile handsets—and the expansion into Africa on the back of mobile operators has been very successful.”

His third investment in this arena was acquiring 30% of British Telecoms Global Services Africa, which is the network solutions business of BT that’s looking at providing complex solutions for companies on e-commerce platforms involving card computing, data flows, telecommunications, voice activation and a host of other technological breakthroughs. “This has been a really successful investment land, and we are dealing with the latest technology applications on encryption, and cutting-edge innovation,” Survé says with a boyish grin.

Then we move swiftly on to the next few companies he has on his books, and my head starts spinning at the sheer size and scale of these businesses across Africa, and indeed the globe, in the technology and communications sectors. “The next company is Saab [Saab Grintek Defence], of which we own 25%. Here we are involved in civil security, airborne defence systems, border-control technologies, missile defence and radar systems. We are even looking at UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] and drone technology in a separate investment.”

He goes on to explain that his group is also invested in other technology companies such as Coriant, another African telco. Coriant develops innovative and dynamic networking solutions for a fast-changing and cloud-enabled business world. The Coriant portfolio of transport solutions enables network operators to create new revenue-generating services optimised for the evolving demands of business and consumer applications including video, mobile and cloud.

“We have partnered with multinationals across the continent, and hence are present in about 50 of the 54 African countries between these partners,” says Survé, who’s clearly very proud of this achievement. “As such, together we have been able to change the way we engage and do business on the continent. These are what I call our foundation investments, in other words, investments that have allowed us to be able to make a lot of investments with other technology pioneers by using the dividend flows from these multinational investments.”

Power to the people

The energy sector was next on his wish list. “The renewable energy investments run into billions of dollars, and we have approached it differently to others. We did not want to be the entity that contracted directly with the governments, so we rather became an OEM—we became the supplier to many of the companies that had successfully tendered for the contracts, so we were not involved in any of the contracts directly. We took a strategic decision that we did not want to be the owner of the projects; we simply wanted to be the original equipment manufacturing supplier,” Survé explains.

With this aim in mind, and the Siemens global technology behind him, Sekunjalo got involved in Siemens-built wind farms and other renewable energy-projects, including solar, in South Africa. “Siemens has been very successful in the energy, power-generation sector, and specifically also in the area of wind. We are also the first to use some renewable-energy technology, specifically solar power, in our aquaculture farm in Gansbaai. I think we are probably the first in the world in that area, keeping to our philosophy of using technology for sustainability, and doing good and doing well at the same time.”

Tackling world health issues

The next sector is close to Survé’s heart due to his background as a physician, but now he gets to use innovative technology in the companies in which he has invested in the biotechnology and health information systems sector. “What is not known to many people is that we own the largest biotechnology research and development company on the African continent. The company is called Genius Biotherapeutics (formerly Bioclones), and its main subsidiary is Ribotech. This we are looking at listing in 2018, on either the London Stock Exchange main board or the Nasdaq. We are just waiting for the clinical trials to finish,” he reveals. “We have 24 global patented technologies principally in two areas. The first is what is called personalised medicine for cancer therapeutics. Here we have worked with some of the top scientists in the world in terms of cancer therapeutics, where we are able to look at vaccines to overcome breast cancer, prostatic cancer, melanomas etc.” He tells me they are already in phase-one clinical trials for breast cancer, and this specific technology has a global patent.

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This seems like a potentially incredible breakthrough on the medical front, and I’m amazed by what Survé tells me: “If you have cancer, we take your body’s dendritic cells [which initiate the immune response] from your body, we stimulate these with our patented biotech stimulant, and then inject it back into your body—that’s why it is personalised; it is not like a drug for everybody. Those cells become intelligent cells. It’s unlike chemotherapy or radiotherapy where they hit every cell, healthy and cancerous—that is why you lose your hair, you lose your skin, you vomit and all those things. This is targeted, personalised medicine. We take your own cells and we send them to the cancer directly, and we direct them to destroy the cancer.” He excitedly adds that they are about a few years away from this going to the market in terms of therapeutics.

Survé explains that at Ribotech biotech company, there’s a manufacturing facility for granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (GCSF), which makes the bone marrow produce white blood cells to reduce the risk of infection after some types of chemotherapy. “We have a world-class, state-of-the-art facility based in Cape Town, which is equivalent to the best in the world, where we are able to manufacture GCSF. Hence it is called biotechnology, because basically you are using a mammalian cell and using technology, and you are getting it to be like the human body to produce the hormone.” This medical terminology is now going way over my head, but I’m riveted.

He continues, “In Centurion in Pretoria, we have a facility where we produce a hormone called EPO [erythropoietin]. Now, EPO you would use for kidney failure or you would use it to stimulate your performance—which is obviously illegal, by the way. [Cyclist Lance Armstrong was banned for using EPO.] But when you take a chemical drug for cancer, it kills your red blood cells and white blood cells. By taking EPO, you once again stimulate the red blood cells. You have to use GCSF to stimulate the white blood cells. It’s a great process to actually go and see—it’s fascinating to see how mammalian cells from hamsters are stimulated to produce hormones like EPO. We know that there’s a competitor in the US also working on DDCV technologies and retro-inverso peptide technology, although we have global patents on these. It’s very unique for an African company to have 24 global patents—very, very unique.

“When I bought this company 10 years ago, it was owned, believe it or not, by SA Breweries [today part of the beer giant, Anheuser-Busch]. And the reason is because all biotechnology companies started out of brewery companies. Do you know why?”

“Yeast?” I proffer a wild guess.

“Exactly, because they used microbes to ferment or change the beer, and from that developed research and biotechnology by manipulating the microbes. They were able to then go into new fields, and that’s how most early biotech companies started,” Survé enlightens me with a grin. This subject is clearly of much interest to him. “Together with SA Breweries, we have spent hundreds of millions of rand, not skimping on this breakthrough research. We hope to realise our investments many times over with a listing on an international stock exchange in the near future.”

In addition, Sekunjalo’s Health System Technologies provides state-of-the-art hospital information systems to many medical facilities in sub-Saharan Africa, and Survé is proud that through this investment his group is able to assist with getting quality healthcare delivered to the populations who need it most.

Packing cash with perlemoen

Sekunjalo has also invested heavily in abalone aquaculture, and has one of the largest aquafarms on the continent, in Gansbaai in the Cape Overberg. Abalone, or perlemoen, is extremely popular overseas—particularly in Asia (which is why, sadly, our own oceans are almost depleted of these delicacies).

“It is one of the most modern technologically driven aquaculture farms, with infiltration systems and a hatchery using the latest genetic science,” says Survé. “But, more importantly, as I mentioned earlier, it is the first aquaculture farm to use solar power. The biggest costs in aquaculture in the world today, outside the feeds for your animals, is the energy costs, because you have to filter the water and pump it continuously to be able to get it flowing and the nutrients going into the system. This farm is going to generate as much profit as the whole of Premier Fishing [a large-scale lobster exporter, and another of Survé’s many companies in his vast empire] within two years, because we have now just bought more than six hectares of land and we are investing another few hundred million rand to grow the farm. It’s all export earnings and currency-driven, so it’s a great business. We did that from scratch, using technology.”

At this stage, I explain to the good Doctor that we are running out of time—and magazine space—so we cannot go into all the other companies, but should stick to the technology side of his investments. So he briefly explains what is happening at Premier Fishing in terms of technology: “We are exploring using the shell of lobster, which contains a compound called chitin. Chitin is very well-known, used in plasters/Band-Aids. On the factory ships on the sea, they would usually just discard all the lobster into the ocean when they cut off the rest of the body, as the tails alone would be imported to America. So now we are thinking of utilising the shell and the chitin to create things like plasters and wound therapeutic products, seeing as it is a very good binder.”

Survé adds, “We are also producing one of the first organic fishmeal products called Seagro. We take fishmeal and use a bit of technology and innovation to convert it into high-growth fertiliser for plants. It’s a premium fertiliser product, part of a global market, that we export now.”

 Taking over the media

Sekunjalo has recently invested significantly in the African tech media sector, and Survé is the chairman of one of Africa’s largest print and online media groups, Independent Media, which has 24 major newspaper titles and a daily readership of 10 million—including the only pan-African newspaper, The African Independent. In 2015, Sekunjalo founded the continent’s first global news, text, picture and video content-syndication service and social media platform, the African News Agency (ANA), which currently distributes African content across the world and reaches more than a billion viewers/readers each day through its platforms. Two years after launching, ANA successfully placed 15% of its shares with global partners at a valuation of $1.6 billion (R21.4 billion).

Says Survé, “We are now going full steam ahead with ANA Pics and ANA Video, which will be a syndication service for pictures, video and texts and also a social media platform, for example like Facebook, allowing for user-generated content. By 2020, we will definitely become the pre-eminent content provider for the African continent for a global media audience. We have now in excess of 40 media partnerships across Africa, and we are about to roll out offices in London, Boston, Chicago, Paris, Shanghai, Mumbai and New York.

Also in the tech media space, Survé has invested in e-commerce with a 75% stake in Loot.co.za, one of the top three e-commerce businesses in South Africa. Loot is on target to quadruple its revenues since this investment, and is buying into data analysis software to be able to expand rapidly into the rest of Africa.

“We are invested in a number of technology companies that focus on IT software systems and software development,” he adds. “These include Saratoga, Afrozaar, Technology Solutions Limited [now known as Ayo Technology], ATMH [African Technology and Media Holdings], Emergent Energy, and recently Puleng Technologies.”

Survé starts explaining how Sekunjalo is also about to invest in voice-encryption technology and satellite systems, but I have to cut him off there, although I’d love to continue hearing about more of the incredible investments he has on the cards. “I have also set up the $50-million [R670.3-million] Impact Fund, which is going to focus a lot on technologies that make an impact for social good. It is very important that I say these are just our technology investments; these are apart from our core investments in power, telecoms, fishing, healthcare, mobility, resources, in food, in music or jazz, or travel or entertainment. If you take just our tech investments—whether they are tech media, tech aquaculture, tech healthcare, tech information systems, tech energy systems, tech pharmaceuticals—you’re probably looking at about a $3-billion [around R40-billion] valuation of our investments. That is really significant for an African company. And great for the continent.”

I thank the Doctor for his time, and he offers me some sushi which we eat while he gets back to the business of his day. His staff run around and get cracking on further instructions. It doesn’t seem like the man ever sleeps. And after hearing about only a handful of his savvy investments, I can certainly see why.

30 seconds with Iqbal Survé

Title

Founder and executive chairman, Sekunjalo Group

Hometown

Cape Town

Favourite quote?

“Do good and do well.”—Nobel laureate Amartya Sen

Favourite book?

“Many favourites, but the one I have most recommended to friends when facing a life crisis is Tuesdays with Morrie [by Mitch Albom].”

Favourite destination?

“Cape Town, for its sheer natural beauty.”

Favourite tech gadget?

“My Android smartphone and its many applications. I’m a tech junkie and love exploring the use of technology for social good.”

How do you unwind and relax?

“Reading a great book, watching a good movie or series, eating out at great restaurants; walking in the forest and meditating on top of Table Mountain at least three times a year; yoga (when time permits); and occasionally talking to my four dogs.”

 Biggest inspiration?

“Ordinary people who do amazing things and have succeeded in overcoming adversity.”

The meaning of life?

“To live simply with purpose, and to treat everyone equally with respect and dignity, no matter their status in life.”