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iLAYO Software Solutions: Inana Nkanza

It start-up achieves double digit growth annually in its first five years

Monique Verduyn



Inana Nkanza of Ilayo Software Solutions

Inana Nkanza, MD of iLAYO Software Solutions, found a career in IT by mistake. He did a diploma in programming to bide his time while making plans to go to university.

When he was approached by then IT giant Q Data to work on its helpdesk for a few months, he thought that would give him something to do while he waited for the academic year to begin.

Three months turned into a three-year contract, exposing Nkanza to almost every aspect of the IT world. Along the way, he discovered that he was a natural born salesperson. He was subsequently employed by the sales division of Computer Associates’ South African distributor, which was later acquired by CA when the company returned to South Africa.

“I was the only black salesperson on the team at the time,” say Nkanza. “I thrived in the sales environment and became CA’s best performing salesperson.” After three years he moved to Software Futures. “From an American multinational, I joined a small but very energetic business that had started operating out of a backroom.

My experience with Software Futures showed me that it was possible to create and grow a company.” In 1998, Software Futures was acquired by CCH, which was itself acquired by MGX, one of the biggest IT companies in the country, in 2000.

“I was aware of the fact that I was one of the few black people in the technology business, and I decided that I wanted to build a company that could focus on developing black talent in IT.”

He used his savings to launch iLAYO Software Solutions in 2002, focusing on infrastructure management. Nkanza bemoans the lack of funding for start-ups in this country. “Funding bodies finance infrastructure, but not intellectual property, and that was all I had.

Because the business was self-funded, we had a short window of opportunity, but I was fortunate that I had built relationships with many large corporates while I was employed. Our first deal came through Telkom.” iLAYO has experienced double digit growth every year during its first five years, with 25% growth in years one and two, followed by a period of stabilisation in years three and four.

The company is anticipating double digit growth again in 2007. “There were only four of us in the company to begin with,” he says, “but we forged a partnership with MGX, so we were able to walk into large organisations with confidence, unlike typical start-ups.”

iLAYO encountered certain pitfalls along the way. “The demise of MGX resulted in a number of new competitors entering the market,” says Nkanza. “We countered the competition by leveraging our solid relationships with international suppliers.”

Among the challenges he has faced, Nkanza names the ability to fund growth as the biggest. “A small business tends to live from hand to mouth in the beginning. That is why partnerships are so important. Another key element is brand management – if you can get the market to trust your brand, you will have succeeded in fast-forwarding your business growth.

Our business is skills intensive, and it’s sometimes difficult for a small company to hold onto experienced staff, but our people are drawn to the fact that we have such a strong brand.” Nkanza is quick to point out his belief in the power of public relations.

“Many companies claim they cannot afford to do PR; my belief is that we cannot afford not to. Our growth has been about relationships and our core customers have always stood by us.” He stresses that it is important for business owners to identify where they want to go early on and drive towards that goal.

“Everyone wants to grow their company, but growth must not happen at the expense of quality. It’s one of the things you have to bear in mind when you are chasing deals. In a highly competitive market, relationships, reference sites and a solid track record are what pave the way for sustainable growth.”

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+.

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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.






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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Company Posts

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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