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Changing the World One Person at a Time: Shai Reshef

The founder of the University of the People believes that education can change the world.

Nadine Todd




I spent 20 years building a for-profit education model.

When we launched the first online university outside of the US, we were able to provide students from around the world with access to a European-grade education. It was a great success.

When I sold the business however, I realised I needed to really evaluate what I wanted to still achieve in my life. We had created something great, but for so many students around the world, access to an excellent tertiary education is just wishful thinking. I wanted to change that.

Related: How Social Entrepreneur Richard Mabaso is Keeping Girls in School

Once I realised I wanted to give back instead of just retiring,

I started thinking about what we could do. How could we achieve a real impact on the world? I believe that if you educate a person, you change a life. But if you educate many, you can change the world. This needed to be our aim.

How could we make tertiary education available and free?

The answer lay in open source technology, open resources, and the entrenchment of a culture of sharing. This would work if everyone – from our professors to our students – believed in sharing their knowledge, skills and time.

The University of the People was born…

based on this dedication to opening the gates to higher learning, particularly for individuals from disadvantaged communities.

We focus on business development and computer sciences, as we believe these degrees are the most likely to assist our students in their careers, and our professors are all retired or still working but able to donate their time and skills to our cause.

Only our admin staff earns a salary. We’ve kept the model as cost-effective as possible, but we do still rely on corporate funding to make it work. For example, we’ve just signed a deal with Microsoft in South Africa to support our programme.

The ultimate goal is to create world peace.

That might sound far-fetched, but I truly believe that if people are given the chance to converse with each other, and to see that we are all essentially the same, tomorrow’s leaders might have a very different agenda from today’s leaders.

Our students must have a high school diploma and be proficient in English. And they must be willing to work hard and learn from each other.

In order for this to work, we do need to attract the right people however.

We have stringent criteria for getting in. Students must be focused on their own social responsibility, and they must be willing to work hard. We want future leaders, and that doesn’t come easily.

Yes, we’re providing an opportunity, but you need to really want it. This is why although the tuition is free, exams are not. Each student pays $100 per exam. If you really can’t afford it, we do have corporate scholarships, so no-one is left behind, but this isn’t simply a hand-out.

Our students leave the programme highly sought-after with excellent resumés, and we attract corporate sponsorships as a result as well, but we support those who believe in our mission. That’s how you change the world.


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


27 Of The Richest People In South Africa

Here are 27 of South Africa’s richest people, but how did they achieve this level of wealth? Find out here.

Nicole Crampton



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Learn the secrets of SA’s most successful business people, here is the list of the 27 richest people in South Africa:

In a world with growing entrepreneurship success stories, victory is often measured in terms of money. The feat of achieving a place on this list is, however, years of hard work, determination and persistence. “One has to set high standards… I can never be happy with mediocre performance,” advises Patrice Motsepe.

From the individuals that made the 27 of the richest people in South Africa list, actual entrepreneurs and self-made business people dominate the list; while those who inherited their fortunes have gone on to do even bigger and better things with their wealth. Over the years, some have slipped off the list, while others continue to climb higher and higher each year.

  1. Elisabeth Bradley
  2. Sharon Wapnick
  3. Bridgette Radebe
  4. Irene Charnley
  5. Wendy Ackerman
  6. Paul Harris
  7. Wendy Appelbaum
  8. Mark Shuttleworth
  9. Desmond Sacco
  10. Giovanni Ravazzotti
  11. Markus Jooste
  12. Gus Attridge
  13. Gerrit Thomas Ferreira
  14. Cyril Ramaphosa
  15. Adrian Gore
  16. Raymond Ackerman
  17. Michiel Le Roux
  18. Lauritz Dippenaar
  19. Jannie Mouton
  20. Stephen Saad
  21. Patrice Motsepe
  22. Allan Gray
  23. Koos Bekker
  24. Ivan Glasenberg
  25. Christoffel Wiese
  26. Johann Rupert
  27. Nicky Oppenheimer
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Watch List: 50 Top SA Black Entrepreneurs To Watch

South Africa needs more entrepreneurs to build businesses that can make a positive impact on the economy. These up-and-coming black entrepreneurs are showing how it can be done.

Nicole Crampton



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Early-stage South African entrepreneurial activity is at an all-time high of 11%, according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, and entrepreneurial intentions have also increased to 11.7%. With both activity and intentions growing significantly year-on-year, there are more businesses opening up around South Africa than ever before.

The increase in entrepreneurship has seen the rise of more black entrepreneurs across numerous sectors. From beauty brands to legal services and even tech start-ups, these are 50 top black entrepreneurs to watch:

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Watch List: 50 Top SA Small Businesses To Watch

Keep your finger on the pulse of the start-up space by using our comprehensive list of SA small business to watch.

Nicole Crampton



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Entrepreneurship in South Africa is at an all-time high. According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), total early-stage entrepreneurial activity has increased by 4.1% to 11% in 2017/2018. This means numerous new, exciting and promising small businesses are launching and growing.

To ensure you know who the innovative trailblazers are in the start-up and small business space, here are 50 of South Africa’s top establishing companies to watch, in no particular order:

  1. Livestock Wealth
  2. The Lazy Makoti
  3. Aerobuddies
  4. Mimi Women
  5. i-Pay
  6. AfriTorch Digital
  7. Akili Labs
  8. Native Décor
  9. Aerobotics
  10. Quality Solutions
  11. EM Guidance
  12. Kahvé Road
  13. HSE Matters
  14. VA Virtual Assistant
  15. Famram Solutions and Famram Foundation
  16. BioTech Africa
  17. Brand LAIKI
  18. Plus Fab
  19. LifeQ
  20. Organico
  21. 10dot
  22. Lenoma Legal
  23. Nkukhu-Box
  24. Benji + Moon
  25. Beonics
  26. Brett Naicker Wines
  27. Khalala
  28. Legal Legends
  29. The Power Woman Project
  30. Aviro Health
  31. AnaStellar Brands
  32. Data Innovator
  33. Fo-Sho
  34. Oolala Collection Club
  35. Recomed
  36. VoiceMap
  37. ClockWork
  38. Empty Trips
  39. Vula Mobile
  40. SwiitchBeauty
  41. Pineapple
  42. The Katy Valentine Collection
  43. OfferZen
  44. KHULA
  45. Incitech
  46. Pimp my Book
  47. ART Technologies and ART Call Management
  48. Prosperiprop
  49. WAXIT
  50. The Sun Exchange
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