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EdgeRMS: Carel Herbst

Recently established, this information technology company is already making its mark

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Karel Herbst

A key member of Blue IQ’s Innovation Hub,EdgeRMS is also the South African partner of Canadian IT giant, LeipacTechnology Inc. Amazingly, this highly successful company was started with justR10 000, and its founder, Carel Herbst, admits to having no prior training.What Herbst did have, however, was the needto succeed – a drive stronger than the will to succeed. It was this need thatpropelled Herbst’s rapid progress through the IT industry. Having started atthe bottom of the ladder as a cable technician, he worked his way up to becomea services engineer for Microsoft, overseeing multimillion-dollar implementationsin 12 different countries.

In spite of his successes, Herbst neverrelinquished his dream of becoming an entrepreneur. “I was simply waiting forthe right time. I knew I would eventually feel the need to leave my comfortzone,” he says. He was also waiting for the right opportunity – important,because he believes that entrepreneurial failures are often the result offoisting a product on an unprepared market, rather than responding to theirneeds.It was while working on a project in Bahrain thatHerbst realised his opportunity.  “ThePrince of Bahrain requested a device facilitating asset and risk management,”Herbst recalls, and that provided the grist for him to investigate personalsafety and asset risk management solutions.

Herbst developed the software for EdgeRMS’sflagship products – EdgeLogic, Asset and Risk Management Solution.In 2004, he returned to South Africa,bringing EdgeRMS with him. “In our search for reliable hardware we startedusing the S-911, a portable personal locator with a GPS tracking and GSMcommunications device, and the Starfinder Automatic Vehicle Location System,”he says, describing the company’s growth.“The return to South Africa wasn’t easy,” Herbstadds. His absence from the country meant that many of his business contacts hadmoved on, making it difficult to find an entry into the industry. What’s more,he had to work hard at building the company’s credibility, proving to scepticalpotential clients that EdgeRMS had the ability to deliver on its promises.

Finance was also a problem, and Herbstfound himself working double shifts to fund the company’s residency at TheInnovation Hub.

However, Herbst took these challenges inhis stride. “I concentrated on overcoming one problem at a time, rather thangetting overwhelmed by the enormity of the bigger picture. I also learnt thatpersistence is a very valuable tool.”Herbst drew inspiration from his mentors,optometrist Claude Matromatteo and businessman Esmond Erasmus. “I believe every entrepreneur should have a mentor – they provide excellent,objective advice.”Nevertheless, there comes a time when everybusinessman needs to follow his own heart. That’s precisely what Herbst didwhen he agreed to travel to Canadafor a half-hour meeting with Leipac. “We first made contact with the companywhen investigating potential component manufacturers. We were also eager toestablish international representation – and Leipac provided the answer.”

Herbst’s daring paid dividends – Leipacnamed EdgeRMS its international distributor in 2005, granting the company a 40%partnership just one year later.Herbst is proud of EdgeRMS’s internationallink, particularly as such relationships are strongly encouraged by TheInnovation Hub. The relationship has also enjoyed handsome financial rewards.Today, the company that was sparked by anidea on an island on the other side of the world employs eight people, withproducts focused on the GPS, location-based services, telematics and wirelesscommunication technologies areas. “Our new alliance with Leipac assures we havegreat scope for growth. We expect rapid expansion within the next months,”Herbst says.Not that he’s about to start counting hispennies just yet. “I believe that wealth creation is the result of success, notsuccess itself. What I want more than anything is to improve people’s lives.”

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