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Intelleca: Michael Renzon

Voice and contact centre company takes the lead by staying ahead of the technology curve.

Monique Verduyn

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Michael Renzon of Intelleca

The burst of the dot.com bubble in the early years of thenew millennium wiped out many technology companies. It was a brave time tokick-off a new venture, but that’s what the founders of Intelleca did in 2000,launching the self-funded start-up and defining it as a diversified businessdevelopment company. The business subsequently changed direction and was acquiredin 2008 by Bytes Communication Systems for R120 million.

Intelleca MD Michael Renzon was a founder member of InternetSolutions’ e-commerce business and had much experience in taking South Africa’sbanks and blue chip companies online during the Internet boom. In 1997, Renzonwas appointed to the board of I-Net Bridge when IS bought a stake in thecompany. Two and a half years later he hooked up with three people who had twodecades of experience on him, as well as a combination of in-depth financial,business and IT skills.“We went into the Internet business and started takingadvantage of the convergence that was happening in the market,” says Renzon.“Voice over Internet protocol was taking off and a standard called Voice XMLhad appeared. People were beginning to use Web services technology to drivevoice interaction.”

Renzon’s plan was really to extend the web presence ofcompanies which had gone onto the Net by voice-enabling their services. Thatmarket literally dried up before him as cash-strapped companies closed the dooron the Web.“I learnt then that entrepreneurs have to be both flexibleand sensible in responding to the environment,” Renzon says. “Ask yourselfwhether you are targeting your services at the right market. Is your technologythe right one for the moment? Are you taking it to market properly?” He attributes Intelleca’s success to “expeditionarymarketing”, or building and dominating fundamentally new markets. It’s apractice that business thinker Gary Hamel calls “escaping the tyranny of servedmarkets”, and which focuses on leading customers rather than simply followingthem. Expeditionary marketers think about needs and functionalities instead ofmarketing’s more conventional customer-product grid and they challengetraditional price/performance assumptions.

Creating new markets is a risky business. To counter that,low-cost, fast-paced market incursions can bring the target quickly into view,which is what Intelleca did. “It took us two years to perfect the recipe,”Renzon says. “It was an iterative process that had us focused on finding theright technology.” Renzon took another risk. “Technology businesses tend to gofor products which are in the analysts’ magic quadrant when they should ratherhome in on rising stars with strong vision low execution costs. We havesuccessfully developed the company on our gamble with a range of relativelyunknown but excellent products.” The advantage of this approach is that smaller technologyproviders are more flexible and open to the needs of their partners than thelikes of a Microsoft or an HP would be. One of Intelleca’s overseas partnerswas even prepared to rewrite its solution on an alternative operating system.Other advantages included pricing flexibility, speed of movement, and an attitudethat in many ways shares risk.

“To survive and grow, a business has to differentiate itselfstrongly and not be afraid of failure. Without strategic advantage, you willeventually lose. We have always aimed to be at least three years ahead of thecurve and we spend on innovation for that reason.” Renzon recalls that Intelleca’s early competition in thevoice recognition sector was one of South Africa’s IT giants. “The organisationput a huge amount of money into speech recognition, but rand for rand and personfor person, we put in more. It’s vital to invest heavily in your core area.” For its network-based speech systems to work, Intelleca hadto develop its own South African language. The company now owns the IP forlocal language packs which it distributes to competitors too.

The deal with Bytes was the result of a solid partnershipbetween the two companies. “Bytes wanted a contact centre specialist and wewere ready to take the business to the next level. As part of the Altron group,the company is built on entrepreneurial behaviour and its federated model meansthat you have a group of entrepreneurial executives running the business. Thedeal gives us the space and the capital to grow Intelleca while keepingbureaucracy to a minimum.” The deal signifies the start of a new chapter for Intelleca.“Our core business remains the same, but our potential in the contact centreindustry is limitless.” Contact: +27 11 442 4242; www.intelleca.co.za

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.

CEOwise

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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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