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Databuild: Morag Evans

How a liquidated business was turned into SA’s top construction industry database.

Monique Verduyn



Morag Evans of Databuild

When Morag Evans took up the position of PA to the owner of Databuild in 1992, little did she know that a decade later she would become an owner of the company. “I was quite amazed when I walked in,” she says. “I had never heard of any organisation offering this type of service.”

Now in its third decade, the company supplies information to the construction and related industries. Clients have access to a thorough, precise and up-to-date database of projects available in South Africa. Its research teams track projects from the planning stage,through tender, award and tenant installation phases, enabling clients to source new business based on the information.

Evans has seen the business through some tough times. In 1998, Databuild was sold to a holding company that had little interest in its business; by 2001 it was liquidated after having stagnated. Evans, GM at the time, was approached by one of the directors of the holding company, Malcolm Moodie, who suggested they buy the business together.

“It was December and he opened up the possibility of saving 50 jobs,” Evans recalls. “It was an irresistible offer.We spent that whole holiday liaising with the liquidators and setting up an interim trading agreement. It was imperative that we keep the business going.” When the staff returned to work, 32 were retained and Databuild continued to operate off the back of a number of existing contracts.

“Finances were tight,” Evans says.“Nonetheless, we spent everything we had on enhancing outdated systems and building the corporate culture which had taken a hard knock. Our people were insecure, and many were resentful of the fact that the previous owners had put the brakes on any new product development.”

Evans set about creating a culture of performance which has been complemented by a firm belief in the fact that people must have fun at work if they are to offer great customer service. “If you want people to put the client at the centre of everything they do, you have to make them believe that they are making a difference.

Keeping a team happy is a never-ending job.” Evans believes that competitive advantage,differentiation and value creation is achieved by repositioning a business to create and deliver a great customer experience consistently. Referring to customer experience guru Colin Shaw, she says it is important to be an “outside– in” business and to be obsessive about detail.

Databuild has few real competitors today. This can be attributed to the quality of its information and the way it is delivered. “We collect everything there is to know about building projects throughout the country, whether civil, industrial, commercial, educational or residential, and it’s all available from one source.

Another differentiator is the fact that the information is trustworthy.” Technology has played a major role in Databuild’s success and Evans is quick to acknowledge IT project manager GrahamWest who developed Webleads, the company’s online project database.

Webleads allows clients to find, sort and manage project information, and to track their sales processes and measure their success rates in the shortest possible time. As a mobile platform, it can also be accessed in the field via PDA.

“Webleads has enabled us to leapfrog our competitors,” Evans says. “Aside from pushing information to clients and being really easy to navigate, it also allows them to measure their success rates.” Databuild’s client base has shrunk over the years, a factor that Evans attributes to its improved quality.

The company has 600 subscription-based clients and around 1 500 users, all at the top end ofthe market. “We refuse to compete on price and this has enabled us to secure tier one customers.” Contact: +27 11 259 4500;

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.


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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