Connect with us

Lessons Learnt

When One Door Closes, Another Opens: TodPod’s Jared Pillai

It’s a long road from cash strapped to cash flush, with many speed bumps along the way. The secret to finding funding? Never give up.

Nadine Todd




At 24, Jared Pillai has learnt about the pitfalls of finding funding the hard way. He’s bootstrapped his business (the manufacturer of toddler products), endured countless ‘nos’ from investors and learnt a few hard lessons to boot, but in true entrepreneurial style he didn’t give up, and is seeing his vision come to life as a result.

How did you get the TodPod idea off the ground?

I didn’t have the half a million in capital I needed for tooling, so I knew I needed a prototype to attract investors and distributors. I left my job at Bumbo for a more flexible working environment.

The salary was better, which meant I could save more, and the company knew I was launching a business on the side. It took me a year to develop the business plan and fine tune the product idea, and I used my savings to pay Lambert & Lambert to evaluate the product. They said it had market potential, but needed more R&D.

What was your next step?

We needed a prototype — you need to see the product in real life to find all the problems and improvement points. I found a designer who creates baby products, and paid him an R8 000 deposit to start on the prototype. Meanwhile, I approached the IDC for funding.

This was a long process of documentation, processes and getting my tax clearance in order, but they eventually gave us R300 000 in funding for the prototype.

Was this enough to get your business off the ground?

It wasn’t, because we haven’t actually received the funding yet. It’s been the biggest lesson I’ve had to learn to date. The designer we are working with doesn’t have his tax clearance certificate, and the IDC won’t release the funds until he does. We never thought to check.

My brother, Joshua Pillai, and I have had to self-fund everything, dipping into savings, taking out loans, leveraging loans we already have and maxing out credit cards to make this work.

How much have you spent to date?

We’ve already spent well over R300 000.  Prototype costs have been compounded by making the right connections: I’ve travelled to Germany twice to exhibit at fairs and discuss the product with distributors, Hong Kong once to cement a deal with a manufacturer in China, we’ve created a prototype — these costs add up.

And I was always very aware that I could only bootstrap the business so far; we needed an investor.

Have you found an investor?

I have, and he has invested substantially in the business, but it didn’t happen overnight. I approached AngelHub, SeedEngine and the IDC’s venture capital division, and they all said the same thing: They liked the idea and saw the potential, but weren’t willing to take the risk.

Never say never

One of Jared Pillai’s talents is focusing on a goal and then finding a way to see it through. From getting his prototype manufactured to finding an investor, hearing ‘no’ just means a lesson has been learnt. Pillai also set his sights on becoming a Big Break Legacy contestant — and is one of this year’s 12 finalists.

The show launches on SABC 2 on 17 August 2013. Visit  big break legacy for more information.

Read Next: Why Paul Veltman Thinks Bigger is Better

Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Lessons Learnt

#Wealthiest List: 8 Self-Made Millionaires On How They Built Their Wealth

These inspirational self-made millionaires built businesses with nothing less than hard work and sheer determination.

Catherine Bristow



Prev1 of 8

1. Nick D’Aloisio Wrote a Million Dollar App At Age 15


At the age of 15, Nick D’Aloisio wrote an app while sitting in his parent’s bedroom in the UK. At the age of 17, D’Aloisio sold his app Summly – a mobile news summarisation app to Yahoo for a staggering USD 30 million.

As one of the youngest millionaires, D’Aloisio is also the world’s youngest entrepreneur to be backed by venture capitalists – having secured seed funding from Sir Li Ka-Shing, Hong Kong’s billionaire, as well as raising USD 1.23 million from celebrity investors, including Yoko Ono and Ashton Kutcher.

“The number one thing I did that I think was wise was to get, through some of my advisers, was a Chairman; basically someone who was a very experienced business person, an industry veteran — Bart Swanson, who had been at Amazon and then Badoo. Then, myself and Bart really started finding people and growing the team.”

Prev1 of 8

Continue Reading

Lessons Learnt

7 Cannabis Industry Millionaires Making It Big In The Marijuana Business

These entrepreneurs have capitalised on a new market set to continue to grow rapidly as more countries legalise marijuana across the world.

Catherine Bristow



Prev1 of 7

1. Brendan Kennedy


Brendan Kennedy worked on job sites as a carpenter to pay his way through university, with his eyes set firmly on becoming an architect, until the allure of Silicon Valley changed the course of his direction. While working at technology start-ups Kennedy began thinking about the possibilities that medical marijuana provided.

“I was really sceptical of medical cannabis,” he says. “It took a year of having conversations with patients and physicians and hearing the same story, repackaged but essentially the same, over and over and over again, where my scepticism eroded and I became a believer.”

In 2013, Kennedy and his partners applied for a licence from Health Canada and launched Lafitte Ventures, which was later renamed Tilray. Today, the company is a global leader in medical cannabis research, cultivation, processing and distribution.

Prev1 of 7

Continue Reading

Lessons Learnt

Scaleup Learnings From Our Top Clients – What The Most Successful Entrepreneurs Do Right

So, how do our successful clients move through these constraints to scaling up? We see four key drivers of success, and they are: people, strategy, flawless execution and finance.

Louw Barnardt




You’re out of your start-up boots, staff is increasing, your client base is growing, revenue is up and you’ve proven your case to the market. Now it’s time to scale up. The challenges of this vital growth phase are different and it’s a time that demands different mindsets and different actions. In a world littered with small business failures, it helps to be well-prepared for scaling up using a proven methodology. At Outsourced CFO, we get an inside look at the success factors of our clients who are mastering the transition.

On the one hand, scaling up is a really exciting phase; this is what moves you into real job creation and making an impactful contribution to economic growth. On the other hand, it is really hard to scale up successfully. We see three major constraints that limit companies’ transition from start-up to scale-up:


The business has to have the leadership that can take it to the next level. When you start scaling up, especially rapidly, the founders can no longer do everything themselves. The team must grow and include new leadership talent that can take charge and execute so that the founders are working on the business instead of in the business.


The processes, procedures, networks, systems and workflows of the business all need to be scalable. This is imperative when it comes to your infrastructure for the financial management of your business. You’re only ready for growth when your infrastructure can seamlessly keep pace.

Market access

Scaling up demands more innovative marketing and storytelling so that you can more easily connect and engage with the new employees, clients, network partners, investors and mentors that need to come along with you on your scale-up journey.

Businesses that build a market conversation and a compelling brand narrative during their start-up phase are better positioned to have this kind of market access when they need to scale up.


It is critical to have the right people on your team. Our successful entrepreneurs have what it takes to attract, inspire and retain top talent. A strong team of smart, ambitious and purpose-driven people who love the company and want to see it succeed contribute greatly to a world class company culture. They are adept at communicating a compelling vision and establishing core values that people can take on. These entrepreneurs are tuned into the aspirations of their people and focus on developing leaders in their teams who can in turn develop more leaders.


It is planning that ensures that the right things are happening at the right times. At successful scale-ups strategies and action plans are devised to ensure that the most important thing always remains the most important thing.

Strategy includes input from all team members and setting of good priorities for the short, medium and long term. Goals are clear and everyone always knows what they are working towards. The needle is continuously moved because 90-day action plans are implemented each quarter to achieve targets and goals that are over and above people doing their daily jobs.

Flawless execution

Top entrepreneurs are not just focused on what operations need to achieve, but how the business operates. They have the right procedures, processes and tools in place so that everyone can deliver along the line on the company’s brand promise. Frequent, quick successive meetings ensure the rapid flow of effective communication. Problems are solved without drama. There is no chaos in the office environment. Everyone is empowered to execute flawlessly to an array of consistently happy clients.


Everyone knows that growth burns cash. A rapidly scaling business faces the challenge of needing a scalable financial infrastructure to keep the company healthy. Our successful entrepreneurs pay close attention to finance as the heartbeat of the business, ensuring that everything else functions. They look at the tech they are using for financial management and for the ways that their financial systems can be automated so that they can be brought rapidly to scale. The capital to grow is another vital finance issue.

The best way to finance a business is through paying clients on the shortest possible cash flow cycle. However, when you are scaling up and making heavier investments in the resources you need for growth, it is likely that you will need a workable plan for raising capital. Our scale-up clients know the value of accessing innovative financial management that provides high level services to drive their business growth.

Navigating the scale-up journey of a growing private company is one of the hardest but most rewarding of careers to pursue. Having people in your corner who have been through this journey before helps take a lot of pain out of the process. No growth journey looks the same, but there are tried and tested methods that will – if applied diligently – lead to definite success. Happy scaling!

Continue Reading



Recent Posts

Follow Us

We respect your privacy. 
* indicates required.