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Prefix Technologies: Josh Adler & Sam Hutchinson

Two entrepreneurs build a product that is set to revolutionise the magazine publishing industry.

Juliet Pitman

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Josh Adler & Sam Hutchinson of Prefix Technologies

When asked recently to highlight keyfactors in the ongoing success of Facebook, co-founder Chris Hughes, replied,“I think the basic idea of providing something that didn’t exist was a good onebut it’s more than that. I believe that the reason Facebook is where it istoday is due to a resolute focus on the product. We focused on buildingsomething that people would like using, would want to use, would find relevantand would keep them coming back every day.”

In other words, build it and they willcome. A simple, yet effective approach that Josh Adler and Sam Hutchinson ofPrefix Technologies have employed in developing Preditor, their unique contentmanagement platform for the magazine publishing industry. “It took us a whileto refine our focus but once we got going we kept our eye on developingsomething that would truly enable publishers to manage and monetise theircontent through a totally seamless publishing experience,” says Adler, chiefexecutive. “We wanted to build a software offering that would allow journalistsand editors to get back to doing what they do best, which is creating greatcontent,” adds Hutchinson, who acts as the company’s chief architect.

Pioneeringchange

The result is a revolutionary frameworkthat not only manages content for multiple publications, but also for print,mobile and web formats, affording publishers more opportunities to create manyrevenue streams off a single article. Adler explains: “An article gets writtenonce and then can appear instantly on multiple web and mobile sites as well asgo into print editions.  So publisherscan sell more advertising around the same piece of content to distinctaudiences. “We benchmark ourselves against our customers’ ability to increaseadvertising revenues and reduce production time.” With simple interfaces, Preditor putscontent control back in the hands of editors while inviting the participationof readers. “Editors can collect and arrange content to create an immersive,media-rich reader experience online or on a phone. To produce the customer’sprint magazines, Preditor speaks intelligently to design programmes like AdobeInDesign,” he continues.

Drawingon experience

The fact that Preditor has been takenup by the largest publishing houses in the country is testament to how well thePrefix team has anticipated and responded to the needs of the industry. This nodoubt has much to do with the fact that Adler and Hutchinson have first-handpublishing experience. While still at university they started PC Music which,now known as Music Industry Online (MIO), is South Africa’s busiest local musicindustry site. “Along the way we realised that we werebetter at creating content management tools than we were at publishing, so wecombined this with a love of the publishing industry and Preditor was born,”says Hutchinson.

Refiningtheir focus

But while he and Adler today head up ateam 17 strong and boast a product that’s unique in South Africa and has few rivalsworldwide, the road hasn’t always been smooth. “We started the company freshout of university and for a long time we were good at a lot of things, butexperts at nothing. We became lost, doing a whole host of things for clientsthat we frankly, didn’t really enjoy,” says Hutchinson. It was while applying to becomeEndeavor entrepreneurs in 2005 that the partners realised how important it wasto refine their focus. “One of the panelists who interviewed us for Endeavortold us we were nothing more than smart opportunists. We knew at the time thatwe were all over the place, but we really needed that feedback to force us toact on that knowledge,” says Hutchinson.

The company culled products that didn’tfit into its publishing focus, a tough task according to Adler. “We had to letclients go and we felt like we were letting people down. As a result of thosedecisions we had a year of no growth, whereas before we’d grown substantiallyevery year,” he relates. In the end, though, the move paid off.The company’s growth doubled in 2008 and is set to do the same in 2009. PrefixTechnologies reapplied and were chosen to be Endeavor entrepreneurs by aninternational selection panel earlier this year. “A more refined focus has alsohad a positive impact on our team – we’re all much happier because we’re doingwhat we love,” Adler concludes.Contact:www.prefix.co.za

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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Watch List: 50 Top SA Black Entrepreneurs To Watch

South Africa needs more entrepreneurs to build businesses that can make a positive impact on the economy. These up-and-coming black entrepreneurs are showing how it can be done.

Nicole Crampton

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Early-stage South African entrepreneurial activity is at an all-time high of 11%, according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, and entrepreneurial intentions have also increased to 11.7%. With both activity and intentions growing significantly year-on-year, there are more businesses opening up around South Africa than ever before.

The increase in entrepreneurship has seen the rise of more black entrepreneurs across numerous sectors. From beauty brands to legal services and even tech start-ups, these are 50 top black entrepreneurs to watch:

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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.

Nicole Crampton

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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:

  1. Livestock Wealth
  2. The Lazy Makoti
  3. Aerobuddies
  4. Mimi Women
  5. i-Pay
  6. AfriTorch Digital
  7. Akili Labs
  8. Native Décor
  9. Aerobotics
  10. Quality Solutions
  11. EM Guidance
  12. Kahvé Road
  13. HSE Matters
  14. VA Virtual Assistant
  15. Famram Solutions and Famram Foundation
  16. BioTech Africa
  17. Brand LAIKI
  18. Plus Fab
  19. LifeQ
  20. Organico
  21. 10dot
  22. Lenoma Legal
  23. Nkukhu-Box
  24. Benji + Moon
  25. Beonics
  26. Brett Naicker Wines
  27. Khalala
  28. Legal Legends
  29. The Power Woman Project
  30. Aviro Health
  31. AnaStellar Brands
  32. Data Innovator
  33. Fo-Sho
  34. Oolala Collection Club
  35. Recomed
  36. VoiceMap
  37. ClockWork
  38. Empty Trips
  39. Vula Mobile
  40. SwiitchBeauty
  41. Pineapple
  42. The Katy Valentine Collection
  43. OfferZen
  44. KHULA
  45. Incitech
  46. Pimp my Book
  47. ART Technologies and ART Call Management
  48. Prosperiprop
  49. WAXIT
  50. The Sun Exchange
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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.

Monique Verduyn

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Vital Stats

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.

Related: 3 Local Entrepreneurs Share Their Business Challenges And How They Overcame Them

Pivoting at the right time is key to growth

The challenge:

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.”

The solution:

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.”

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