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optim8 Business and IT Services: Claire King & Marionelle Perold

Two IT entrepreneurs develop a training product that opens a new world of opportunities.

Juliet Pitman

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Claire King & Marionelle Perold of Optim8

“From the day we started the company we always knew wewanted to develop a product that we could call our own, and that we could growand resell,” says Claire King, director and co-founder of optim8 Business andIT Services. What they couldn’t know is that the product they were toultimately develop would be perfectly positioned to meet a critical need in themarket.

King started optim8 with partner Marionelle Perold after thepair had worked together at a previous employer. While her particularcompetency was as a Microsoft programmer, Perold was an experienced Dominoprogrammer and their complementary skills made for a perfect fit. “It allowedus to cover both sides of the market,” explains King. The pair started off developing bespoke software solutionsfor businesses across a range of sectors and this remains their core competencetoday. “We primarily service small and medium enterprises which find the ‘ready’solutions too large, too expensive and too generic for their needs. We’re alsoinvolved in consulting and IT environment auditing, but the development oftailor-made solutions for business still generates the biggest portion of thebusiness’s income,” says King. Even as the business was finding its feet, however, she andPerold had their sights set on their own product. They started developinggradu8 in 2005, the year that the business was formed. King explains thetraining management system’s key features: “gradu8 is a learner managementsystem aimed at training companies or educational institutions, and businessesof any size that handle staff training and career development internally. Itmanages the logistics of the entire training function over multiple courses,classes and locations, from planning, scheduling, assignments and testing, toreporting.” Among many other functionalities, the system will registerlearners, build the structure of different courses, track and recordexamination dates and classes, send out reminders about overdue assignments,and coordinate lecturer timetables.

A good deal of research went into the system’s development.“We looked at a range of different industries and then hit on the trainingmanagement space. The more we looked at it, the more we realised that therewasn’t anything on the market other than the really big expensive productswhich didn’t suit our target market,” says King. The programme is ideallyplaced in a South African market troubled by a shortage of skills. More andmore companies are finding themselves in a position where they need to investin the internal training of staff in order to meet critical skills gaps andgradu8 is designed to help them manage this non-core function. Moreover, as King explains, it’s flexible: “We licence theprogramme on a per-learner basis and this makes it affordable enough forsmaller companies that want to invest in it as a means of managing the trainingand career development of their staff.” But it’s also suited to largercompanies. “Large corporations that have multiple separate-entity companies caninstall the programme but it will have a custom-branded user interface for eachdifferent entity, so to the learner it looks like an internally brandedapplication rather than an external product. On the training company side, thesystem has the ability to register individual learners or entire clientcompanies, and it records and retains all records of past interactions whichallows for ease-of-use when someone comes back to the company for moretraining.” While the programme is not designed to manage the actualdelivery of training module content to learners, King indicates that optim8 isconsidering the potential of integrating the system with a partner company’sonline learning system. “This will give us a totally holistic product that canhelp to administer training on all levels, and deliver courses online tolearners. It’s a very exciting space to be in right now,” she concludes. Giventhe market’s current need for effective training solutions, it looks likethey’re right on the money.

Contact: +27 11 465 1999; www.optim8IT.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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