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Liquid Thought: Zulfiq Isaacs

A young IT dreamer shows the value of spoting new opportunities in changing markets.

Juliet Pitman

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Zulfiq Isaacs of Liquid Thoughts

Inspired by Mark Shuttleworth and theenormous dot.com success that took the world by storm, Zulfiq Isaacs was not toknow in 2001 that he was entering the IT market at the tail-end of the boom,just prior to the now-legendary dot.bomb crash. “I was so starry-eyed at thetime, thinking about the overnight success I might attain, but it was justbefore the markets collapsed,” he recalls. The 22-year-old left his job atDimension Data and opened Liquid Thought with a vision of providing a top-endportfolio of IT services to the SMB market.

In spite of the difficult market conditionsinto which he entered, Liquid Thought was one of the few companies thatwithstood the crash, “It was tough early on but I was fortunate enough to beone of the first companies in the Bandwidth Barn incubator and this made amassive difference, insulating us to a certain extent from the dot.bomb,” hesays. In addition, a mentor introduced the company to some important contactswho lead it to its first clients. But, Isaacs says, the first real catalystfor success was becoming a Microsoft partner. “In the beginning we were allover the place. We were a web-company but we were also looking at open-sourcetechnologies. Slowly and surely we realised that to achieve commercial success,we needed to align ourselves with a company like Microsoft,” he says. The movewas important and lent a more structured approach to the business.

Another success milestone came in 2004 withthe establishment of a Business Solutions division, the core focus of which isMicrosoft’s CRM offering. The division is headed up by Isaac’s partner, RogerStrain, an ex-Microsoft Corporate Account Manager with a wealth of experiencein the implementation, sales and marketing of business solutions tomedium-sized enterprises and corporates. “This allowed us to penetrate marketsin the professional and financial services industries. KPMG, Stanlib,Metropolitan and Alexander Forbes are just some of the clients we provide CRMsolutions for.” Over time the business grew to employ 40people (although it has since sold off a non-core division to a listed companyand reduced its staff complement to around 25). Its services include designsolutions, business CRM and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), informationworker solutions, the development of mobile Pocket PC solutions, softwareservices and products and consulting.

“I think where we’ve innovated the most isalways being early adopters of web-based technologies, even before theMicrosoft technologies started to evolve into the new platforms that everyonecurrently uses. The company’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of cuttingedge technology continues to give it a competitive edge, and Isaacs and histeam have long-identified the opportunities inherent in what is a rapidlyconverging IT environment. “We’ve been quite pioneering in the area of digitaltelevision and are gearing up to become a key player in this space in the nearfuture. We have positioned ourselves as a service provider to enable the IPTVenvironment in South Africa,” he says.“When asked what it takes to make it in IT,I always tell people: ‘Have a plan and stick to it but if things don’t work outas you anticipated, be ready to embrace change and be highly adaptable,’ Isaacsconcludes. It’s a formula that he’s proved can work. Contact: +27 861 386 583;www.liquidthought.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.

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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