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Innovent: DJ Kumbula and Zakhe Khuzwayo

Two CAs do it differently when they start an innovative asset management and rental business.

Juliet Pitman

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Entrepreneurial innovation is often not so much about inventing a mousetrap as it is about improving the existing one. ‘Seeing a gap’ doesn’t need to be about coming up with an entirely new idea. Indeed, it is often those businesses that see an opportunity to ‘do it better’ that are really the game-changers, paving the way for others to follow. Just ask Zakhe Khuzwayo and DJ Kumbula, co-founders of InnoVent Rental and Asset Management Solutions.

Seeing the gap

While working together in an IT asset rental company the pair realised there was space in the market for a business that offered something better. As Khuzwayo explains, “At the time many players in the asset leasing market were offering an instalment model, whereby the client ‘leases’ the asset over time, with interest, and essentially owns it at the end of the period – much as people do today when they purchase a car.”

But that wasn’t really leasing at all. “The whole point of leasing is that clients don’t want to own the asset – particularly in the IT market when the rapid changes in technology make products redundant very quickly,” says Khuzwayo. Even those companies that were offering true leasing services were falling short of the mark, and the entire leasing market developed a poor reputation as a result.
Onerous terms and conditions deliberately made it difficult for clients to return leased assets at the end of the contract period, while large ‘damages bills’ hidden in the fine print obviated any potential saving a company might have made by leasing instead of buying the asset. As Kumbula points out, “It was unsurprising that many clients never wanted to renew their contracts after their first experience with a leasing company.”

Rewriting the rules

InnoVent was established to address all of these issues. “Our vision was to provide customers with a better business model, better terms and conditions and a totally transparent and ethical service,” he adds. So began a business journey that started in a single rented room with two desks and a shared telephone. Today InnoVent has a staff complement of 35, owns its own corporate premises, lists the likes of Discovery Health, PwC and Woolworths among its blue-chip customers and has enjoyed a 100% client retention rate in the six-and-a-half years since inception.

It’s this last achievement that gives Khuzwayo and Kumbula the greatest sense of pride. “We needed to work hard to change the market’s perceptions about asset leasing and management in general, and we believe our client retention rate is testament to how well we’ve achieved our initial goal of providing customers with something better,” Kumbula says. The business model offers true off-balance sheet finance for leased assets, along with the security of warranties, replacements and upgrades, and upfront guaranteed buy-back of old assets. The company has placed particular emphasis on making its terms and conditions attractive and client friendly, something that Khuzwayo believes has been a key differentiator. “We’ve built the business on an ethical foundation and because of this, we’ve been able to win clients’ confidence in spite of their initial scepticism,” he says.

Overcoming challenges

That’s not to say that there haven’t been hurdles to overcome. Khuzwayo explains that the sales cycle is a long one – it can take anything from six months to two years to land a significant client. Landing their first client took seven months, a long time for any start-up.

But Khuzwayo and Kumbula aren’t chartered accountants for nothing. What they describe as a “clear, comprehensive and laser-focused business plan with solid numbers” landed them a 34% equity financing deal from Sasfin Bank. “We targeted Sasfin because it’s an entrepreneurial bank, involved in office automation rental, so it understood the value of the business we were proposing,” Kumbula says.  

More recently the credit crisis made it tougher to get financing for assets, but the fact that InnoVent has large blue-chip clients softened this blow to some extent. And the company has diversified. IT hardware accounts for the bulk of its assets, but it also leases motor vehicles as well as yellow metal, telecoms and medical equipment to spread its market footprint. Khuzwayo and Kumbula established Qrent, a fully fledged division of InnoVent, to refurbish previously-rented ICT equipment and sell or rent it on a short-term basis to a secondary market. “This side of the business picked up during the recession as clients sought to save money on equipment,” says Khuzwayo. Looking ahead to the future, he and Kumbula have their sights set on further diversity and growth. “Our goal is to make this a global business – we’re looking at expansion into Africa and beyond.”

InnoVent
Players: DJ Kumbula and
Zakhe Khuzwayo
Est: 2003
Contact: +27 11 884 8274
www.innovent.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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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.

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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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