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Hot Platinum: Ali Brey & Irshad Khan

Two engineers revolutionise the platinum industry with a world-first innovation

Juliet Pitman

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Ali Brey & Irshad Khan of Hot Platinum

In 2003 parliament commissioned a new mace to be made to celebrate the country’s ten years of democracy. Forged from indigenous wood, precious metals and stones, the mace is a symbol of power and authority. Without it Parliament is not considered properly constituted.

But while it may represent freedom and democracy to most people, to two Cape Town based entrepreneurs, the mace is a physical manifestation of their years of research, technological innovation and hard-won business success.

Ali Brey and Irshad Khan are partners in Hot Platinum, a start-up that has developed unique and highly efficient technology to melt and cast platinum. “The technology allows you to utilise normal single phase power and use as much energy as you would to boil an urn, to melt and cast one kilogram of platinum at 2000°C in under four minutes,” explains Khan.

But that’s not all. The induction casting machine Hot Platinum has developed is compact, easy-to-use, provides a fully integrated system that can be used on gold, silver and stainless steel. It also removes much of the danger usually associated with melting and casting platinum.

It has been marketed to small and medium jewellers but can be used in any application that requires the melting and casting of small to medium-sized pieces of metal. The business started out as an academic research project as Khan, a former academic at UCT and an engineer by training, explains:

“We were researching two different types of technology – the induction casting machine, which is the commercialised product we are currently manufacturing, and alloy technology for harder platinum alloys.” Realising that both projects had commercial legs, they applied to the Department of Science and Technology’s Innovation Fund, which finances early-stage research projects with commercial potential, and received R5,6 million to get the machine to prototype phase.

Ali Brey, an engineer with an MBA, joined the team when the research project received its funding grant and the Hot Platinum commercial entity was created. “We went overseas to research the technology that was available and realised that the real opportunity for commercialisation lay in the small to medium jewellers market because all other technology, for melting and casting platinum, was aimed at the bigger manufacturers.

We could fill a gap if the product we offered was small, efficient, safe and easy to use,” explains Brey. But their market research also indicated that the three years they had budgeted to develop the product and get it to market was too long.

“We realised we’d miss the opportunity if we stuck to that timeline so we shortened it by a year,” he says. Time wasn’t the only challenge the team had to deal with. Once the prototype was developed, it needed to be tested. “This required a lot of platinum that we simply hadn’t budgeted for,” says Khan.

Fortunately their luck was in. “We’d heard about the contract to develop the new parliamentary mace but we couldn’t find out who it had been awarded to. Then one day a guy walked into Irshad’s brother’s take-away shop and started talking about the difficulty his company was having finding someone who could cast the platinum rings needed for the mace.

He happened to work for OroAfrica and they had the contract for the mace,” explains Brey of the serendipitous turn of events.

Needless to say, securing the contract to cast the mace’s platinum pieces was a huge windfall for Hot Platinum. “The fantastic thing about it was that it not only gave us the chance we’d been looking for to test the prototype using platinum, but it also afforded us the opportunity to create a lasting reference and showcase of the highest standard for what our technology could do,” says Khan.

Khan and Brey accessed further finance from the Brimstone Investment Corporation in 2006. “Our investors have played a crucial role in getting us to where we are today. Not only did they give us funding that allowed us to set up operations and expand into international markets, but they also provided us with access to their business expertise and network, which has opened more doors,” says Khan.

But in spite of their success, he and Brey are not content to rest on their laurels. Ever hungry to innovate, they’ve already enhanced the technology and developed a new machine. As they now turn their eyes to additional applications and export markets, the future of the company certainly looks bright. Contact: +27 21 552 2049; www.hotplatinum.co.za

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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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.

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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

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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.

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“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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