Innovation Agent Salim Ismail on Eskom’s Latest Fiasco

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ

Ahead of his keynote address at Africa Tech Week, happening 4-5 March 2019, Fast Company South Africa sat down with Salim Ismail, founding executive director and global ambassador for Singularity University, and asked his opinion on a pressing issue.

South Africa’s energy provider, Eskom, is currently undergoing another load shedding fiasco. What do you think Eskom could have done to prevent this, and what should they do to remedy their mistakes?

To answer this, you first have to consider whether energy is destined to be a ‘scarce’ or ‘abundant’ resource.

If you believe it’ll remain scarce, then the management team can probably transform Eskom’s fortunes by successfully implementing the proposals that have been widely reported.

If, as I do, you think energy is quickly becoming an ‘abundant’ resource, because of the plummeting price of solar, wind and battery technologies, then Eskom will need to redefine its purpose, if it wants to remain relevant.

By this I mean they can’t continue trying to be a monopolistic ‘supplier’ of all energy demand across South Africa. They instead should look at ways to enable South Africans to make the switch from relying on a centralised network, powered predominantly by coal, to distributed networks, powered by the sun and wind.

I don’t envy Eskom’s situation, because as customers switch to photovoltaic and lithium-ion storage solutions, over time they are going to lose a significant percentage of their revenue streams.

The consequences could become dire as they struggle to repair, maintain and invest in an infrastructure where the marginal cost of supply starts to increase substantially.

In a worst case scenario, they’d have to increase prices, which of course will hasten the movement of large numbers of customers to find their own energy solutions, further eroding income streams and so the spiral continues.

If they do decide to repurpose, there are opportunities for Eskom.  

They could look at retraining their labour force, leveraging their existing networks and importing intellectual property to become a significant player in the import, manufacture, installation, maintenance and management of any number of new off-grid energy solutions.


MyGate by Wirecard launches secureEFT to boosts online sales for merchants

BY Fast Company 1 MINUTE READ
Merchants who receive payments from consumers via electronic funds transfer (EFT) can now get instant notification of successful settlement, significantly speeding up transactions.

secureEFT, an instant EFT payment service that allows customers to make secure online payments directly into a bank account and get notified in real-time, has recently been launched by MyGate by Wirecard, the leading specialist for digital financial technology. 

According to Statista, online orders in South Africa will grow strongly. Revenue is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2018-2022) of 13.2 percent resulting in a market volume of US$5,431m in 2022.

Despite this, many consumers still do not have or use credit cards for payment and MyGate by Wirecard is now able to accelerate the completion of the purchase process when goods or services are purchased online and paid for by secure EFT.

“Instant notification of a successful payment means goods and services can be released or delivered immediately by the merchant – they know instantly that they have been paid. As a result we have seen a 30 percent higher conversion rate with some merchants using our EFT solution,” says Hannalie Marsh, General Manager of Wirecard South Africa.

Typically between 15 to 25 percent of merchants’ online transactions are done via EFT, the remainder via card payments.
“It offers a simple three-step payment process, which includes faster check-out speeds – about eight seconds versus around 20 seconds previously regarded as the industry norm.”

Integration is seamless – using MyGate by Wirecard’s payment option page allows for direct application program interface (API) integration with no additional coding necessary. Another advantage is the ability to refund via the product.

“Wirecard is one of the biggest players in payments in South Africa and people trust our brand and its products. Convenience for both parties is another noteworthy motivator,” concludes Marsh.

Entrepreneurship is not a lucky draw

BY Fast Company 6 MINUTE READ
From selling sweets at school and on the streets of Joburg CBD, to creating an award-winning, ground-breaking advertising agency, M&N Brands 34-year-old Group CEO Zibusiso Mkhwanazi tells of a life spent searching for a reason to live differently and creating an Africa-wide advertising, media and publishing conglomerate that promotes African excellence.
Mkhwanazi’s story is a quintessential 
African tale – a search for new challenges and never settling for the ordinary. It is a story of 
a man who never set an end point to his 
journey in business and in life, but who never forgot to experience life and the lives of those around him.
It began, as most things do, at school. Mkhwanazi found his groove at the Bramley Primary School, but the groove was outside of the classroom. 
“I come from a family of entrepreneurs and hustlers,” said Mkhwanazi. “I started my first sweet business at Bramley Primary School. It got so successful that the school banned my friends and I from selling sweets. So, I started selling ice creams at the corner of President and Small Streets in the Joburg CBD to make extra money.” 
However, school can be a sticking point, when the pressures of teenage years can crush dreams. Mkhwanazi struggled in his early years at Bedfordview High School, but at the age of 15 found the internet and the new worlds it opened up for him. 
“I was fascinated by the world of technology and the impact it had on our lives. I went to the library almost every day to equip myself with knowledge so I could know more about this world.”
In high school, he walked into the kitchen at home one night. His mother told him she did not have enough money to put him through university. He took the leap into the unknown.
“I had a choice to be helpless or do something to help myself, I chose helping myself. That one conversation made a business that I intended to start one day, become a reality overnight and I have never looked back since. 
“I started my first business, Csonke, a web design company, with just R2 000 given to me by my mother at the age of 17 (in 2000). That influenced me to study a National Diploma in Information Technology and a Diploma in Corporate Law at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). I guess entrepreneurialism was always in my blood and that is what drove my passion from secondary to tertiary level onwards. I finally completed leadership programs at Harvard and Yale in the US.”
He underwent a metamorphosis from the cocoon of school education to revelling in the freedom that higher education offers. 
“What amazed me was how different things are when you are doing what you love. I went from an average 40% mark in matric to an average 85% mark in my first year at UJ. I realised my performance at school was not a reflection of my true potential. I decided that I would not waste a second in pursuing my dreams and ran my business successfully on the side while studying.”
Mkhwanazi describes himself as an introvert who found his place in the world through the wonders of the digital age. He drew inspiration from his uncle, former Transnet Chairperson Mafika Mkhwanazi, whose Bryanston house he would often visit during the school holidays. He noticed his uncle was constantly on his laptop.
“I wanted to be part of that world. I assumed that you had to be in technology to stay in Bryanston. One day he threw down the gauntlet to me without meaning to. He was talking to his wife about an acquaintance’s son who had made a million at 21-years-old. I thought to myself, ‘I can do that, too’. 
“From the world of coding and creating, I transitioned to the world of stock markets and investments. I bought the newspaper every day and only read the business section to see how news and announcements correlated to share movements. I created my first share portfolio using a spreadsheet and tracking stocks as if I had invested in those companies.
“I grew to love how business functions and grows, which led me to found
Csonke. The first thing I did was invest the R2 000 my mom gave me into the stock market and made a five-fold return. That enabled me to buy my first suit and company laptop. 
“Csonke then merged with one of our biggest competitors at the time Krazyboyz and I created an environment that drove 40% year-on-year growth there, and later 100% year-on-year growth at Avatar for five consecutive years.”
He fought for others, and in that fight helped himself. At high school, he found the old computers there were inadequate. He convinced Ernst & Young to donate new ones. The school board and principal were aghast at the chutzpa, and delighted with the opportunities the new equipment afforded them, allowing them to offer new subjects to the rest of the learners. Making an impact beyond himself was an addiction Mkhwanazi has never lost.
He learnt that entrepreneurship takes work, lots of work. There were long, hard, painful hours, catching taxis to meetings and times when rainy days caused havoc with scheduling. 
Now he is the majority holder in M&N Brands Group with partner Veli Ngubane, a group of companies turning over $14 million in majority-owned subsidiaries and 
more than $21m in associated agencies. 
“We measure our performance in international currency because we never want to forget what we set out to achieve; to be world class. We have to bring world-class creativity and innovation to the table. Accountability. Results. 
“Veli and I had a smile at a recent re-pitch. Three years ago, it was he and I alone (strategy, research, and design, creative); this time around, we had some of the best brains in the business putting together something really special and ground-breaking for us. 
“Now the hustle is different: it’s about attracting and retaining talent that will help us grow; it’s about maintaining cash flow as clients push for lengthier and lengthier payment terms; it’s about creating multiple solid homes for new business and ensuring intercompany collaboration as we grow the M&N Brands network.
“M&N Brands is becoming a diversified advertising, publishing and media holding company. Our vision is to be respected internationally, then we will be preferred in the local markets that we operate in on the continent. We only invest in leading companies in particular segments because the chain is only as strong as what binds it. When a client deals with M&N it means that the best diversified minds on the continent will be working towards a shared vision in their work.”
M&N has a three-phased, four-year growth strategy. Phase one is to build a strong network in South Africa of a kaleidoscope of agencies, with the best talent collaborating together and producing world class work in the advertising network. 
Their business model is to participate in ownership in the marketing and communication value chain, so that is why they are talking about acquisition in industries not only in advertising but in others like broadcasting, publishing and more. 
Phase 2 is an Africa expansion, growing with South African corporates as well as global businesses that have their Africa base in South Africa into the rest of the continent. They will start making acquisitions in key markets where their clients are, to build a South African owned advertising network for Africans by Africans.
“I want as many people as possible to participate in the story and vision of M&N and hence the final phase of M&N is a public listing.”
But none of this happens without a base. In January, Mkhwanazi tweeted, “My challenge in 2018 is not new business. It’s great homes to house new business.” He wants to add value to the 15 businesses they have an interest in. They want Avatar to be known for their work in 2018, not just their success. 
“The difference is that M&N is a network of entrepreneurs collaborating together to produce great work and shared growth for all my fellow entrepreneurs and people in the network. 
“I am not interested in control, or imposing ridiculous final ratios that destroy culture, that is not what we are about. We are about sharing knowledge, mutual respect, collaboration and resource sharing throughout the different companies in the network.”
Mkhwanazi has a passion for transformation, both of the person 
and South African business. He believes the world of advertising and business needed a counter balance and last year opened a R4m campus in the township of Tsakane dedicated to holistically developing and empowering people in body, mind and spirit. The 
next phase of the 18 000sqm campus is to build more auditoriums for a marketing school, an EDC centre focused on shaping leaders from an early stage, and a community gym. 
“I have learnt the art of patience, especially around transformation. It’s about bringing new and fresh voices to the table. In its 27th year of existence, the Financial Mail AdFocus Awards finally added a transformation award, sponsored by M&N Brands. The new BBBEE Mac Charter is a significant intervention – requiring agencies to increase black ownership to a minimum of 45% from 
the current 25%. 
“However, that should not be the reason for transformation. It should simply be because you recognise the need for diversity, to operate and impact meaningfully. There are too many hospital passes being made with dying agencies and deals that do not truly bring new voices to the table. 
“If clients and agency owners only realised that transformation is about diversity and embracing new and different perspectives, then there would be a better embracing of a new industry.
“Our company has been formed to enable Africans to start telling their own stories instead of their stories being told for them by American and European agencies as is the case currently. M&N Brands was created to bring the marketing industry back to South Africa and has already invested in 15 marketing businesses, and now employs over 400 people in the various wholly owned and associated agencies.”
The story of Mkhwanazi and M&N Brands is one of discovery. It has much distance left to run. He is still selling sweets at heart, still finding new adventures and still remembering to reach out a helping hand to those who need one. 
His is an African tale of a young man who looks at the horizon and wonders what is waiting him when he gets there.

YouTube Shoots For The Stars

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ

Outside the Jacob Javits Convention Center on New York’s far West Side—where YouTube is hosting the Brandcast, its annual presentation to advertisers—fans crush together behind barriers. Young and mostly female, they hover giddily on this chilly May evening, angling for a glimpse of the YouTube stars who are making their way down a red carpet toward the entrance. One fan clutches a sign that reads i’m cold, but it’s worth it.

Inside, the cavernous hall is filling with 2 800 ad-industry insiders, video creators and members of the press who will soon sip wine and nibble popcorn as the streaming-video giant debuts a slate of original series. They will be entertained by indefatigable Late Late Show host James Corden, who will perform a splashy number (“YouTube: The Musical”) alongside dancing T. rexes and a Pikachu. Katy Perry—her hair in a new blond buzz cut—will tout her upcoming live-streamed special and return to end the event with a concert.

But even the surprise appearance of the world’s most successful comedian, Kevin Hart—the star of an upcoming funny tness show on YouTube—isn’t the evening’s most memorable moment. That comes when YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki stands alone onstage in a purple dress, issuing something
you normally wouldn’t expect to hear at a bash like this: an apology.

For the previous two months, YouTube had been beset by controversy in the wake of newspaper investigations that discovered brand advertising being paired with videos featuring terrorist and white-supremacist rhetoric (and thereby funding their creators). AT&T, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oréal and reportedly as many as 250 other advertisers suspended campaigns. YouTube was able to quiet the unrest by installing new machine-learning technology to better identify questionable content—it said it was able to realise a 500% improvement within weeks—and offering marketers more finely grained controls for specifying where their messages will appear.

Read more in our latest edition in stores now! 

Scrumming down to business

BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

Scrumming down to business

Bob Skinstad is the Glenfiddich Fast Company SA Maverick for July

 Every month, Glenfiddich and Fast Company SA identify and honour a visionary thought leader in South Africa: a pioneering man who has shown relentless determination in his path to success.

 “Being nice to people is more important than just making money, or winning.”

Every South African rugby fan knows the Bob Skinstad who enjoyed a Springbok career of 42 Tests, 11 tries and the appointment as the youngest captain of the national team. But he also has a killer business instinct that has reaped rewards in many different facets: from sports broadcasting, executive directorships and ambassadorship, along with adventurous pursuits of diverse ingenuity.

Skinstad is also the founder and chairperson of the Old School Group, a multi-brand organisation specialising in festivals, live events, travel, sportswear, sponsorship, brand creation and all-round sport commercialisation; as well as co-founder and venture partner at Knowledge Networks Funding—a structured venture capital firm.

Fast Company: Would you class yourself as a maverick?

Bob Skinstad: “A maverick is someone who refuses to play by the rules, someone who is not scared to cross the line of conformity, and whose unorthodox tactics reap the results.” I’m probably not a traditional maverick, but I love the concept and feel honoured to be in the company of mavericks; in business leadership, their qualities are a complex blend of individual and team leadership, true grit, team culture appreciation, and an ability to see a vision through.

What experiences have contributed to your success in life?

I’ve had the privilege of working with great quality individuals, people who have been larger than life and have allowed me to come along for the ride—starting with a great set of parents in a loving home environment, to rugby allowing me a toe in the door of some of South Africa’s great business leaders.

What have been the biggest challenges you have encountered so far, career-wise?

Lack of focus; building a business portfolio while playing sport is tough, and the previously amateur environment in South Africa meant that people had to do just that.

How have you contributed to making a difference in South Africa?

I have started charities and businesses, and have represented my country. It’s been a great privilege to learn how all of that works and what it means for our Rainbow Nation.

What does your current role in Old School Group/Seartec entail?

I was the marketing director at Seartec, and I have set up a small business to do the role of the marketing team. It means we can be more agile and smarter about what we lead the business into, without having the unwieldy structures that usually come with corporate systems.

How do you plan to move forward as an entrepreneur?

I have some incredible opportunities to contribute with a unique skill set. Luckily KNF understands that, in the South African context, network is important, and I’m able to marry that with other investment teams in a global context too.

In your opinion, what are the essential traits for an entrepreneur to possess?

It’s all about grit, curiosity and a positive attitude.

What do you think shapes a person to become successful?

All those things in their character, and some family support—and little bit of luck.

What contributed to your effective transition from a successful sportsman to a successful businessman?

It’s still in its infancy! I still get people asking if I play! Lots of things will make it work or not, and I’m trying to concentrate on the simple things that make the biggest difference. Being nice to people is more important than just making money, or winning; I’m lucky that, during my career, I was nice to people… So I have been divesting and concentrating on the things I can effect, often in partnership with quality people.