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Social Innovations: Kimon Phitidis

A CSI consultancy sets itself apart by targeting a niche sector and aligning its programmes with its clients.

Juliet Pitman



Kimon Phitidis

Kimon Phitidis knows better than anyone how important education is to South Africa’s future. “Without educated learners moving through the school system and into tertiary, we cannot come close to meeting our employment or growth targets. And without educated and employed people, companies have no future market and no future pool of skills to draw on. This is everyone’s problem,” he says. Phitidis has built his business, Social Innovations, by helping companies to channel their corporate social investment funds to effective and impactful education projects.

“In 2010, around 33% of CSI spend was allocated to education and about 90% of companies with CSI funds support education in some way,” he indicates. The exclusive focus of Social Innovations on education projects has given it a differentiating edge among other CSI consultancies.

CSI is a constantly evolving field and Phitidis has had to ensure that he’s at the forefront of trends in both social investment and education. “Increasingly, there is a focus on the impact of CSI programmes. It’s no longer enough for a company to say they have spent money. My clients therefore want the comfort of knowing that their programmes are addressing a real need, and in order to ensure continued relevance, I need to keep my finger on the pulse of the latest research in this space,” he says.

Corporates are also seeking greater alignment between their core business and their CSI spend and Phitidis designs education programmes with this in mind. “We consider both the social and commercial benefits when putting a programme together, and we’re more than just consultants – we implement programmes on the client’s behalf.”

Being a specialist has also enabled Social Innovations to build up a wealth of learning and expertise, which further serves to enhance its offering. “This learning is shared across regions and programmes. We now employ 58 teachers on a contract basis, and use many of them to run training sessions and workshops so we can share and spread best practice in programme implementation,” says Phitidis. His biggest challenge remains the long lead time to bring on a new client. Social Innovations might have established itself as the go-to company for education-related CSI projects, but there is still a lack of urgency in getting a programme off the ground.

Highlighting the commercial and brand benefit, together with ensuring compelling alignment to the client’s core business, has been key to overcoming this challenge, as Phitidis outlines: “As an example, we know that PEP is the biggest retailer of school uniforms in the country and very engaged in the school space. We put together a school-based programme for them with deep educational benefits but that also generated an enormous amount of goodwill for the brand and promotional activity.”

In a sector in which ‘sustainability’ is the key buzzword, the ability to link social investment to triple bottom-line benefit will go a long way to securing the future of the company.


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.






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




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.


“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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