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Interview With Hangman Backer Bonang Mohale

Mohale will be one of four ‘Backers’ in Cell C’s new online reality show, Hangman, and will be helping to decide who will walk away with R1 million and a chance to let their innovation fly.

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Aspiration, responsibility and a restless energy are some of the traits that Bonang Mohale, former Chairman of Shell South Africa Energy Ltd and newly appointed CEO of Business Leadership South Africa, wants to see in innovators. Mohale will be one of four ‘Backers’ in Cell C’s new online reality show, Hangman, and will be helping to decide who will walk away with R1 million and a chance to let their innovation fly.

Mohale is widely viewed as one of the most respected leaders in corporate South Africa and his story is one of self-determination, hard work and ambition.

Mohale grew up in Katlehong on the East Rand during the apartheid years. Despite his humble beginnings, Mohale says he owes a good start in life to “probably the best township school under Apartheid at that time” where the teachers had a real passion to educate their learners.

Related: R1 Million On Offer In New Cell C Original Reality Show ‘Hangman’ Hosted By Maps Maponyane

“We had a sense of self responsibility, of fervour, of aspiration to inspire for better; the restlessness to be better tomorrow than today, a sense of responsibility,” says Mohale. And this is what he bases his Hangman criteria on.

Mohale initially wanted to become a medical doctor and applied at Wits University so – as he puts it – “I could compete with white students.” But his heart was in the upliftment of the thousands of underprivileged and disadvantaged young South Africans, and moved to a career in management.

“So I went and worked for a pharmaceutical company and became a professional sales representative. That was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life – to leave medicine,” says Mohale.

He progressed through various positions and in 1996, he secured a spot at OTIS – the world’s largest and oldest elevator company.

“So here I am a boy from Katlehong managing the world’s biggest and oldest elevator company present in 223 countries and employing 210 000 people. We employed black lift mechanics at the time that they didn’t exist and we gave them a four-year apprenticeship. There was initial resistance. There was one client who originally did not like black people to service his lifts and so I sent him eight black women who were excellent and ever since then he’s become one of my greatest friends. He experienced firsthand that when people are well trained they apply themselves and they are ambitious and conscious of the opportunity that they have; they aren’t lazy, they are hard working.”

He then moved to Sanlam before being appointed at Shell.

Mohale admits that he has always been an activist and even today he looks at the system and wants to take it on to improve the qualities of lives of most South Africans and to be the champion of the change that he wants to see. Poverty, racism, gender equality, LGBTI discrimination – these are all issues that he wants to change for the better.

Related: The One Question You Must Be Prepared To Answer When Pitching Investors

“Transformation is more than just breaking with the past; it’s about creating a future that bares no resemblance to that which replaces it. I’ve always found transformation to be profound, uprooting something and replacing it with something that is better and that is for the benefit of the majority of the population.”

Mohale has a strong passion for innovation and entrepreneurship. “I take this notion of entrepreneurship seriously. Small and medium enterprises create jobs. In South Africa, we have a problem because we have more people on social grants than those that are unemployed so the math doesn’t add up. Five percent of our people are responsible for our tax revenue. It’s an unsustainable system and it needs to be helped.

“A show like Hangman allows us to focus on people who are passionate about starting their own businesses and help them transform themselves from being employees to being employers. And that helps create jobs. That’s why I wanted to get involved to see that we can plant the seed through a pebble in the pond and start a chain reaction. Let’s think, lets innovate, let’s take risks.”

So how does he want to be remembered?

“I want to be remembered as a professional and effective businessman who produced good results. I also want to be remembered as a person who took time for his community because we want to lift as we rise and lastly as someone who was at peace with his own skin and not trying to be anything that he’s not.”

Hangman – a unique fast-paced online reality show which aims to uncover South Africa’s greatest innovator – starts streaming online from October 9 to December 11. The stakes are high in this revolutionary new programme with R1 million in prize money.


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Bakani Ngulani Scoops The National Young Entrepreneur Champion Award – 2017

BN Business Solutions founder and CEO is recognised as South Africa’s top entrepreneur under 25 years in 2017 at the recent National Small Business Chamber awards.

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Founder and CEO of BN Business Solutions, Bakani Ngulani, has been recognised as South Africa’s top entrepreneur under the age of 25 at this year’s National Small Business Chamber awards in Johannesburg.  He walked away with the prestigious ‘National Young Entrepreneur Champion’ award.

The 24 year-old entrepreneur founded his accounting firm in 2016 and is clearly on his way to success having finished off as a finalist at the 702 Sage One National Business awards in 2016 and this year being crowned the National Young Entrepreneur Champion at the National Small Business Chamber awards.

Related: 10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets

“A young and vibrant culture is what keeps us going at BN Business Solutions”, said Ngulani.  It’s very clear Ngulani lives up to his company’s tagline ‘purely millennial’.

“My vision is to run the business on a 70% / 30% age policy – 70% being youth (under 35) and 30% adults.  I really believe in the youth, not because I’m one of them, but because everything in today’s times is moving so fast and we need to ensure our human resources will be able to move with the times and not be rigid to change.

Ngulani’s passion to change the perception that accounting is hard, complicated and a rigid industry is evident in his day to day running of the business.

“By empowering youth in the company we are able to execute on deadline and provide a much better service simply because we are innovative, we don’t hesitate to accept new practices and ideas and most importantly change is a challenge for us.”

The awards adjudication panel was impressed by the company’s culture with Ngulani at the helm, much that they described him as a ‘brand disruptor’.

“I really try hard to find interesting ways of getting our name out there.  I’m a strong believer that if people see you taking your brand seriously at all times they will gravitate towards it and you.  That is why during my downtime you will see me in my white Nike basketball sneakers, cap worn backwards while wearing our very trendy company golf shirts.”

Related: 9 Top Tips For Young Entrepreneurs

Young as the business is, the company already has branches in Johannesburg (HO), Cape Town and Durban.  Ngulani would like to increase that number to see more in South Africa and also in Namibia due to their similar taxation structures.  He has a vision to curb unemployment, continue supporting SMMEs in their growth and most importantly, to make accounting and compliance fun.

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The Number Of Black Tech Start-ups Is On The Rise According To Ventureburn’s Start-up Survey 2017

Surge in black entrepreneurs, Gauteng challenges Silicon Cape as the country’s start-up capital, according to Ventureburn’s start-up survey 2017.

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The Western Cape might still be the most popular region in South Africa in which to run a tech startup, but the province is losing ground to the country’s richest province – Gauteng, reveals a new survey. In addition, the number of black tech startups is on the rise.

In the 2017 Ventureburn Tech Start-up Survey powered by Telkom Futuremakers – which was released yesterday – 44% of the 260 founders surveyed said they operated in Gauteng (see below graph), behind the Western Cape’s 47%.

Among its other key findings the survey uncovered that:

  • The percentage of black start-ups has risen from 26% in 2015, to 50% this year.
  • Just three percent of black tech start-ups turn a profit, versus 16% of their white counterparts.
  • Over a quarter of start-ups plan to raise angel or VC funding, but only eight percent receive such funding.
  • Almost a third say they pay market-related salaries, but pay is the top reason for employees leaving.
  • Successful start-up founders are most likely to be white males from the Western Cape.

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The percentage is up from 29% in a 2015 Ventureburn survey of 197 founders (see below graph) and is just behind the 47% who reported in the latest survey that they operate in the Western Cape (59% in 2015).

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Related: 4 Things Your Start-Up Needs When It Opens An Office

The rise in Gauteng tech start-ups appears to be driven by the increasing number of tech entrepreneurs who are black (black African, coloured, Indian or Chinese South African) – and who now make up half (50%) of the country’s tech start-up founders, up from 26% in the 2015 survey.

In addition, the majority of black start-ups (53%) list Gauteng as their base, with 42% saying Western Cape is their home.

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Of the 260 founders quizzed in the latest survey, 46% list themselves as white, down from 66% in 2015 (see above and below graphs). Four percent chose not to reveal their race (eight percent in 2015).

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The survey also reveals that while South Africa may have seen an explosion in venture capital (VC) deals of recent – with the value of such deals having increased by 134% in 2016 over 2015 (see this story) – just 10% of tech startups are turning a profit. This is down from 17% in in 2015.

Black startups struggling

Black tech start-ups in particular are struggling. While 16% of start-ups founded by white entrepreneurs are turning a profit, a mere four percent of black-owned tech start-ups are doing the same.

Most worrying is that 61% of black start-ups have yet to generate an income – because they are still working on their concept or are still in the seed stage – compared to 30% of white start-ups.

Furthermore, just nine percent of black-owned startups (and four percent of black African start-ups) generate a revenue of above R1-million – compared to 29% of their white counterparts. Three quarters (75%) of black start-ups generate under R100 000 (and 78% of black African start-ups).

In all, white start-ups accounted for 59% of all those startups that reported having tapped angel funding, while 24% of white start-ups reported having raised R1-million or more to fund their businesses, compared to just eight percent of black start-ups (and 2.5% of black African founders).

It suggests better resourced white start-up founders who often have access to more capital, skills and experience and better networks are able to out perform black start-ups.

The survey also reveals that white start-up founders are significantly older than black founders. Over a quarter (26%) of white founders are 40 years or older, compared to just 13% of black founders. Almost three quarters of black founders are aged 35 and younger, compared to 62% of white founders located in this age band.

This raises various questions as to what is driving more middle-aged white founders to start-up their own business and whether employment equity is behind this or not.

In addition, it might also explain why so few black start-ups are making a profit compared to white start-ups. Older founders are usually more experienced, better networked and have more capital than younger entrepreneurs.

Related: 3 Dangerous Entrepreneurial Myths You Need To Ignore

Out of touch in getting angel, VC funding

But back to angel and VC funding, where it seems start-up founders are out of touch with reality.

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Over a quarter (27%) of all SA tech start-up founders believe they will grow their business by securing VC or funding from angel investors – yet only about eight percent report ever having been able to secure such funding, a new survey reveals (see the below graphs).

In a further hint that start-up founders need a reality check, just nine percent of those looking for angel investing and just 20% seeking VC funding have firms that are growing or turning a profit.

The majority of SA tech start-ups use their own cash to fund the business (40%), followed by loans and grants from friends and family (23%).

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Findings from the survey also put into question whether South African tech start-up founders really pay employees as well as they claim to. Close to one third (31%) that took part in the survey claim they pay their employees market-related salaries.

Yet the same founders list remuneration as the top reason for employees leaving their employ – 21% of founders list remuneration as the top reason employees leave.

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This raises the question of whether start-ups are really in touch with market-related salaries or whether a good number of fibbing – particularly as 63% of founders surveyed said their start-up generated less than R100 000 a year.

White founders in the Western Cape most successful

While just 10% of start-ups report making a profit, in all, 27% of start-ups can be termed “successful”, in that they are generating a profit or are growing.

So, who then runs the most successful start-ups (defined as those that make a profit and are growing)? Well, most are run by men. While 27% of start-ups run by men say they are successful, just 18% of start-ups run by women can say the same.

More white founders report being successful, with about two thirds of start-ups who say they are successful being white-owned firms. Taken by race group, 36% of white founders report being successful, compared to just 13% of black start-ups (and just 10% of black-African founders).

About 32% of start-up founders in the Western Cape say they are successful – compared to 22% who are in Gauteng who list themselves as successful.

Most are over the age of 40 or between 30 and 35 years old (36% of startup founders in these ages groups say they are successful) and run a fintech or insurtech or a startup in the advertising and media business.

Those with a business partner and who have a start-up that is already over two years old employing more than 10 people are also more likely to report being successful. B2B start-ups – those that serves other businesses (rather than consumers) and that tap the North American or European market.

Related: How To Raise Working Capital Finance

Finally, are you more likely to be successful if you’ve run other start-ups before? In short, not necessarily.

Data from the survey reveals that 33% of founders who have run one or more start-ups previously report being successful with their current business – not overly different from the 30% who have never run a business before and say they are successful.

However there appears to be some correlation with the number of start-ups a founder has run as a predictor of success.

Though start-up founders were not quizzed on whether their past firms had been a success, 50% of those who have run five or more startups report that they are successful with their current firm – compared to 29% of those that have run one to four start-ups before.

It may suggest that as the country’s tech start-up ecosystem matures, the level of those reporting success is likely to increase. More critical however, will be to close the gap between less successful black tech start-ups and their white counterparts – this will not be easy.

*Note on the methodology the survey used: In all there were 298 respondents to the survey which was conducted using an online questionnaire, by data analytics firm Qurio. Of this number, 38 respondents were found to be employees of startups (rather than founders) and were excluded. The survey therefore sampled 260 start-up founders. 

Have a look through the infographic for more.

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Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Scoops Prestigious International Award

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation has been named African Leaders in Secondary Education Funding for 2017 by the African Leaders 4 Change Awards.

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The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation has been named African Leaders in Secondary Education Funding for 2017 by the African Leaders 4 Change Awards.

The prestigious international awards identify, recognise and reward organisations doing exceptional work in all areas of philanthropy. The awards have been judged by a respected panel of voluntary sector heavyweights and leaders in their specific fields.

Related: How To Raise Working Capital Finance

“We are humbled and incredibly proud to be named this year’s African Leaders in the Higher Education category, and to be in the company of remarkable organisations doing such important work on the continent. This award demonstrates the Foundation’s commitment to nurturing the entrepreneurial potential in the youth in our country because a culture of entrepreneurship is critical to moving South Africa forward,” says Allan Gray Orbis Foundation CEO, Yogavelli Nambiar.

Nambiar says the Foundation, a vision of Mr. Allan Gray and supported by Allan Gray (Pty) Ltd., aims to foster an ethos of high-impact and responsible young entrepreneurs who possess the tenacity and potential to help change the country and the world with their energy, curiosity and fresh, creative ideas. The Foundation identifies entrepreneurially-minded students on the cusp of entering high school, but in need of financial assistance, and provides them with scholarships to study at leading institutions. In addition to funding, she says Scholarship recipients receive access to customised initiatives to further their entrepreneurial talents.

“Our High School Scholarships help learners to cultivate and develop their entrepreneurial mindset, enabling them to think innovatively; and builds their personal mastery and leadership skills, which in turn enables academic excellence,” she says.

Related: 6 Money Management Tips For First-Time Entrepreneurs

Further to this, the Foundation runs a Fellowship Programme which offers entrepreneurially minded Grade 12 learners, 1st and 2ndyear university students access to funding of their studies while receiving entrepreneurial learning and support.

“Entrepreneurship has the potential to create significant socio-economic impact, through its contribution to economic growth, job creation and social development. It is through the cultivation of that mindset in young people that we are going to make a meaningful change to the future” Nambiar says.

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