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ACG Architects and Development Planners: Hassan Asmal

Cape Town company delivers Creative architecture, responsible social development.

Juliet Pitman



Hassan Asmal of ACG Architects and Development Planners

Hassan Asmal, a founder member of ACG Architects andDevelopment Planners, believes that his company’s approach to problem-solvingis what differentiates it from the competition. Asmal says he and his teamalways strive for the best and seek out ways to add value to whatever they do.It’s an attitude that has paid off for the practice. ACG was awarded the SouthAfrican Institute of Architects (SAIA) Award for Excellence for the HartleyvaleSports Stadium in 1998. In 2002 Asmal received the South African BlackTechnical and Allied Careers Organisation (SABTACO) Joint Initiative Awardfirst prize for leadership in the Unicity Council Chamber Project for the Cityof Cape Town,and the SAIA Award of Merit was conferred on the practice for the Unicityproject in 2003. His practice was also part of an association of firms thatreceived an Award of Merit for the Cape Town International Conference Centre.

ACG has earned several merit and regional awards for anumber of other projects too, and has expertise in low-cost housing andcommunity development projects which engage the people whose lives are impactedby the developments. The participation of stakeholders results in the deliveryof briefs that are both creative and unique, addressing organisationaldevelopment and strategic planning needs in a way that is truly holistic. “We are proud of thesteady growth of the practice in sometimes difficult circumstances,” saysAsmal. “In the time since its launch, ACG has trained and empowered a number ofcolleagues who have become practitioners in their own right.”ACG was started in 1994 by Asmal, who had headed up his ownpractice until then, Malcolm Campbell, head of the Peninsula School of Architectureat the time, and a third partner who has since left the business. The threedecided to pool their resources and create a larger entity so that they couldattract bigger projects.

ACG received some initial funding from a bank, but growthwas financed with the income the business made. Asmal says he and his partnersadopted a very conservative approach to financing and did not expose the newbusiness to any major risks. “It is unwise to take unnecessary risks that could result inpressure that you do not need and that compromise your efforts when you mostneed to succeed,” Asmal says. ACG began operating from the premises of Asmal’s previouspractice which rented office space in Woodstock. “Private clients contracted us for houses, alterations and additions.Because of our empowerment credentials, we were also awarded a number of largerprojects by the state and parastatals.”

Ironically, these credentials were to pose one of thebiggest early challenges for ACG. “We were appointed as the architects on ahigh profile project, the Hartleyvale Hockey Stadium for the Cape Town Olympicbid, in a joint venture shortly after we had joined forces. We needed to showour capabilities while we were still establishing ourselves. We also had torise above the perception that we were chosen because of our empowermentprofile and we had to demonstrate right away that we were capable of producingquality work.” Hassan and Campbell have built the business on a foundationof honesty and integrity, and they believe in being transparent and upfront inwhatever they do.Taking care of their team is a priority. “Look after yourstaff and colleagues, obviously within the constraints of your budget andabilities, show respect and do not underestimate anyone,” says Asmal. “We havefound that great ideas and suggestions can come from the most unexpectedquarters.”With a R9 million turnover in 2007, Asmal says the futurelooks exciting. The practice is in the process of setting up offices in otherparts of the country and is also investigating the feasibility of aninternational alliance.

“We are committed to making a contribution to thedevelopment of our country. Given our background and our history, we willcontinue to honour our community responsibilities, especially where developmentin previously disadvantaged areas is concerned.”

Contact: +27 21 448 6615;

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.


25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton



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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.






Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect




Vital Stats

It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.


“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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