“The most important thing I think we’velearned since we started the business is that sometimes the ideas you have arebetter than you think and if you just try something, your success may justsurprise you,” says Richard Parry and co-founder of iTrack, a Cape Town-basedcompany that develops tracking technology. The idea he’s referring to was for acost-effective, easy-to-use tracking device that he conceived together withco-founders, Jean-Claude Malengret and Tristan Phillips, when the three werestill engineering students at UCT.
Launching the iTrack Live product, as itwas eventually named, into a market dominated by the likes of Netstar andTracker was a bold move, but the partners knew a gap when they saw one. “Ourcompetitive edge is on price and ease of use. We don’t force customers into acontract but rather charge a flat fee for the equipment and installation andthen charge them on a month-to-month basis thereafter, so its very flexible.Also, the system is far more sophisticated than other cheaper, entry levelsolutions in the market. The web interface we’ve developed means customers canaccess satellite and road maps to get a full history of everywhere theirvehicles have been and when they were there and they can generate reports and afull three month history on their fleet. The system can also provide live SMSsand emails,” explains Parry. The product proved to be ideal for SMBs lookingfor sophisticated fleet management at an affordable price and on flexibleterms.
The trio started out as a research anddevelopment outfit specialising in bespoke remote control and monitoringsolutions for a range of industry players. “We kept our overheads low and ranon a contract basis so it sustained us but we got tired of developing productsfor other people and decided to launch our own products onto the market,” hesays. Doing so meant taking a risk but Parry explains how the company keptcosts low in order to make it work. “We develop all the hardware and software,and we handle all the technical support and maintenance, but we outsourcemanufacture and assembly, so we keep staff costs low – the business is stillonly made up of the three of us,” he says. They market the product through theinternet on Google ads, and as Parry comments, “It’s extremely cost effectiveand still our primary source of leads generation. Our monthly budget for it isa fraction of the return we get from it.”While they might be experts in engineeringand technology, Parry and his partners have had to be fast learners when itcame to business skills. “We had to learn about things like marketing andfinance along the way, but we’ve asked lots of questions and been very keen tolearn from others. We were also accepted to participate in the VeloCITIbusiness acceleration programme (part of the Cape Information TechnologyInitiative) and have formed partnerships with various organisations,” saysParry.
The success of the iTrack Live product hasopened doors for the company, as Parry comments, “Clients and other interestedparties started to approach us asking if we could develop a personnel trackingdevice. We’d originally conceived many applications for our tracking equipmentand this happened to be one of them.” Further research revealed that the marketwas ripe for a personnel tracking solution and the team set to work developingiTrack U, a portable hand-held version of the iTrack product range thatprovides real-time tracking and security for individuals. “Initially it’s beingmarketed to the security industry – it has a web interface that allowscompanies to see where their guards are, and a panic button allows guards to callfor help in emergency situations via two-way communication through a cellularnetwork,” says Parry. But the potential markets extend far beyond securityfirms – iTrack U is unique in the country and will give Parry, Malengret andPhillips the edge they need to achieve their ambitions “to become the firstchoice in South Africa for fleet management, personnel security and assettracking solutions, and to expand our business into the continent.”
Contact: +27 21 683 3310, www.itracklive.co.za
Watch List: 50 Top SA Small Businesses To Watch
Keep your finger on the pulse of the start-up space by using our comprehensive list of SA small business to watch.
Entrepreneurship in South Africa is at an all-time high. According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), total early-stage entrepreneurial activity has increased by 4.1% to 11% in 2017/2018. This means numerous new, exciting and promising small businesses are launching and growing.
To ensure you know who the innovative trailblazers are in the start-up and small business space, here are 50 of South Africa’s top establishing companies to watch, in no particular order:
- Livestock Wealth
- The Lazy Makoti
- Mimi Women
- AfriTorch Digital
- Akili Labs
- Native Décor
- Quality Solutions
- EM Guidance
- Kahvé Road
- HSE Matters
- VA Virtual Assistant
- Famram Solutions and Famram Foundation
- BioTech Africa
- Brand LAIKI
- Plus Fab
- Lenoma Legal
- Benji + Moon
- Brett Naicker Wines
- Legal Legends
- The Power Woman Project
- Aviro Health
- AnaStellar Brands
- Data Innovator
- Oolala Collection Club
- Empty Trips
- Vula Mobile
- The Katy Valentine Collection
- Pimp my Book
- ART Technologies and ART Call Management
- The Sun Exchange
How 28-Year Old Entrepreneur Adam Fine Is Leveraging The Global Phenomenon Of Five-A-Side Football
Adam Fine of Fives Futbol discusses how he leverage a global phenomenon and the value of strategic partnerships in business.
- Player: Adam Fine
- Company: Fives Futbol
- Est: 2011
- Visit: www.fivesfutbol.co.za
Nothing about Adam Fine is by-the-book. The 28-year-old entrepreneur describes himself as a slightly big child. He’s the CEO of one of the most exciting start-ups in South Africa, having leveraged the global phenomenon of five-a-side football to start a business that has grown almost as fast as the game itself. Not bad for a venture that was launched with the princely sum of R85 000 — Fine’s life savings at the time.
He started it in 2011, with a strong focus on corporate social investment and making a positive social impact. It was by forming strategic partnerships that Adam really managed to grow Fives Futbol. He’s opened pitches in prime locations that serve both the school and corporate markets, while still being accessible for social impact interventions in local communities.
Pivoting at the right time is key to growth
In the last 18 months, Fives Futbol has trebled in size, and achieved some amazing milestones — it now employs 50 full-time staff, and 80 part-timers. It’s one of the factors that drives Adam, as many of his employees support up to eight family members. It’s now also represented in four provinces and 15 locations around the country. By September, there will be 18.
Quick growth means you have to be able to pivot quickly when things do not go according to plan, and mostly they don’t, Adam says. “If things are not working you should be able to ‘pivot’, to shift your focus. And do it fast. It’s not a sign that things have gone wrong by any means, on the contrary, it means you have the insight to recognise that there is a problem with the assumptions on which you have built your business model. The decision to pivot is a big one, and not something to be taken lightly. It requires you to take a hard look at your reallocation of resources, and to do it with an open mind.”
In Adam’s case, construction delays, councils taking their time to approve, or having to put money into rolling out sites as opposed to marketing, means the promotion of a new site will slow down, for example, because the business does not yet have a large marketing budget.
“When we run behind on the construction of a new site, R40 000 can suddenly become R100 000 — but here’s the thing: If a deal comes along that will probably harm your business in the short-term but enable significant long-term growth, sometimes you have to juggle what you have so you can make it work.”
The Lesson: Choose your investors carefully
Fine says he’s lucky to have a solid group of investors that he has cultivated over six years. “Their input is invaluable. They’ll say, ‘slow down’ or ‘have you thought of this?’, ‘have you factored in that?’ The ability to develop a good relationship with our investors has had a significant impact on the success of the company. Over and above money, they provide wisdom, guidance and connections.”
His relationship with his investors is key. While many entrepreneurs make it just about the money, Adam understood something else — he has a pretty cool brand with a great cause behind it. So, while investors are asked for money all the time, he was able to offer something more than just a business idea — alignment. He generated enthusiasm for the ‘why,’ behind the business. Like most of us, it makes investors happy to know that they are helping to make a positive difference.
And while it’s easy to bandy about the word ‘partnership’, Adam has worked hard to make that a reality. He set out to find like-minded people who are passionate about the business and the cause, which is why they are able to serve as great resources for advice and insight.
Related: Richard Branson’s ABCs Of Business
“The best way to ensure that you and your investors have a valuable and lengthy partnership is to make sure that everyone is aligned on the vision.”
This includes Adam’s team. The internal culture of an organisation is vital to its strength and growth. “Without our team we don’t have a business for investors to support — our people are critical to our success. They’re the executors of the vision at the end of the day.”
The Lesson: The value of strategic partnerships
Much of the growth of Fives Futbol has been fuelled by finding the right sponsorship partners in key industries. To overcome the challenge of a limited marketing budget, Adam has secured sponsorships with big brands like Adidas, Total Sports, Debonairs, and Klipdrift, allowing Fives Futbol to use their access to communities as a marketing platform to derive income as well as scale. And it works both ways.
“Because we have a national footprint and a team of people, we run activations for our partners, which also provides us with an ancillary revenue stream,” he says. “Knowing how to join forces with other businesses has been a key factor in making the business successful. Our strategic partners have enabled the business to leverage their brand to give us more exposure. When it works well, a strategic partnership can be just what you need to speed up the growth of your business.”
Watch List: 15 SA eCommerce Entrepreneurs Who Have Built Successful Online Businesses
The advent and advancement of the online marketplace has led these entrepreneurs to successfully build and grow their ecommerce empires.
South Africa’s ecommerce market is worth R10 billion per year. By 2021, the number of online shoppers is expected to have reached 24.79 million.
“Our recent research on SA shows people are browsing three hours or more on their mobile phones and 25% shop online. They trust local brands,” says Geraldine Mitchley, Visa senior director for digital solutions in sub-Sahara Africa.
These entrepreneurs have cashed in on ecommerce and launched successful online stores that have either established their dominance in the market, or are taking the e-tailing world by storm.
Here’s how these 15 ecommerce capitalists are making money using the Internet:
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