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Neo Africa: Vivien Natasan

In five short years an ex-consultant builds a company that transforms almost every sector it enters.

Juliet Pitman

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Vivien Natasen

Vivien Natasan marches to the beat of his own drum. He takes opportunities where he sees them and has become an expert not only at identifying and filling market gaps, but at being a leader in whatever sector he turns his hand to. At a time when “best practice” dictates that companies focus on core business and unbundle, he appears to have gone in the opposite direction.

Originally started as a platform for people with a flair for innovative business solutions, today Neo Africa includes a consulting and IT division, and a lifestyle segment complete with aviation, concierge and events divisions. But while consulting might sound like a world away from aviation pilots, acting as a concierge or taking care of VIPs, all these developments have taken place naturally and organically.

“When we started to service national projects and needed to be in four different cities on one day, we bought a jet. Then we saw there was a gap in the aviation market so we carved out a niche for ourselves with a pilot training school and aviation charter business. Similarly, we were running projects with government and they’d outsource the launch to an external company. We realised we could do it better so we launched an events management operation. That’s how the business grew – we saw gaps where we could improve and we took them,” says Natasan.

Proof of success

What’s most surprising is not that a business can expand so rapidly in so many sectors in five short years, but that it has been so successful in each one of its growth areas. It has managed to develop the specialist expertise of niche players and is recognised as a thought leader and transformer of the sectors in which it operates.

Well known and respected for its consulting work and ability to put together powerful public-private partnerships, Neo Africa’s successes include designing a corruption-proof learners’ and drivers’ license testing system, rolling out mobile offices for the Department of Home Affairs and heading up a consortium to handle the scrapping of taxis as part of the Taxi Recapita-lisation Plan. On the strength of its lifestyle division’s track record, Neo Africa was recently chosen as one of five official National Supporters of the FIFA World Cup – one of the youngest companies ever to be awarded this position in the history of the tournament.

All eyes on Africa

“Neo Africa will be providing VIP logistics and lifestyle services for the World Cup. In return, we’ll be getting our logo on every ticket, ad campaigns, the FIFA website, posters and LED displays. Our logo will be seen by 22 billion people worldwide for three minutes during each game,” says Natasan proudly. Apart from lending the company powerful credentials (many large listed companies didn’t come through the FIFA audit successfully), it’s an enormous branding opportunity for a company that’s only five years old, and one that Natasan plans to leverage in order to roll out his plan of revolutionising Africa. “Our Africa expansion is underway and this platform, being chosen as a young up-and-coming African company for the World Cup, will help us tremendously in achieving our vision for growth,” he says.

Staying focused

And although the company’s diverse service offering may appear haphazard and disconnected from the outside, Natasan says all acquisitions and growth have been part of the broader plan for the Neo Africa brand. “There is a common thread that underpins all our divisions and ties together everything that we do,” he adds. And where others might lose focus leading such a diverse and rapidly growing company, Natasan remains cool-headed. Softly-spoken and composed, he’s able to clearly articulate the reasons behind his decisions, and outline an unambiguous vision for the way forward. Just like Neo from the movie The Matrix (who provided partial inspiration for the company name), Natasan has a knack for seeing things not only for what they are, but for what they could be. “We try to epitomise the change we are striving to achieve, not just for the continent, but globally,” he says.

Neo Africa
Player: Vivien Natasan
Est. 2004
Contact: +27 11 484 2833
www.neoafrica.com

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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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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