A true inventor at heart, Stafford Masie loves new things: New ideas, new markets, new challenges.
As an entrepreneur he believes that success is 80% luck and 20% pushing boundaries, never giving up, and managing to be in the right place at the right time.
He also creates things that haven’t been seen, touched or thought of before.
“Invention is tough. It’s disruptive,” he says. “It requires you to create an industry and change mindsets, without any data, analytics or best practices to base your decisions on.”
But ask Masie what he lives for, and he’ll tell you that invention is also fun.
“My biggest challenge hasn’t been spotting the gaps and visualising a new way of doing things, but running with the day to day operations of a business,” he admits.
“That’s not my strength. I can’t do KPIs and admin. It’s why business partners and MDs who balance me out are so important. I like flat structures, where everyone does their bit.
“I’m not a manager, but because I know that, we create a structure that works around that. I’m the conductor, I own the building, and I create a space where the most amazing music can be made — hoping there are enough folk out there who will pay to hear it, so we can keep making it.”
Known as South Africa’s ‘open source guy’ and, ‘the Google guy’ (he is the ex-CEO of Google Africa), Masie’s current start-up, Thumbzup.com, is focusing on the problems many small business owners face getting timeous payment from clients.
“We try not to focus on the product — although of course that’s what we sell. Instead, we look at the problem. What do our customers really want?
“Amazon revolutionised online shopping because while everyone else was making prettier shopping carts, they made actually paying for a product almost redundant. You loaded your details once and could shop for ever more with the click of a button. They took the pain of actually paying away. Consequently, by licensing Amazon’s 1-Click, so did Apple iTunes.”
The result of these musings? A small, über-secure device that plugs into any smartphone and instantly turns it into a card machine. Imagine, any small business owner, anywhere, can attach the device to his phone, and swipe a credit card there and then, payment complete.
The Pebble is Thumbzup.com’s first product, but the company’s team of alpha geeks, as Masie has coined them, are busy designing a number of other products that will revolutionise the industries they are targeting.
Your team is everything. Hire for a collective knowledge base and the passion to get things done. Don’t assume that people need to stay in their fields — real creativity comes when you tap skills in unique ways.
And always have a ‘silverback’ with some real experience on board.