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Spectrum Visual Networks: Manny Teixeira, Frank van den Berg & Ronald Henry

Technological innovation and practical application means a world-first in digital media solutions

Juliet Pitman

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Manny Teixeira, Frank van den Berg & Ronald Henry of Spectrum Visial Networks

Manny Teixeira, Frank van den Berg and Ronald Henry are self-confessed techno-geeks and proud of it. With good reason.

Their passion for new technology, coupled with the desire to identify its practical applications in the local business market, meant that the three old school friends pioneered new territories in digital cinema technology.

Their company, Spectrum Visual Networks, was responsible for establishing the world’s first digital cinema advertising network on behalf of CineMark.

The overwhelming success of the pilot project led to the rollout of 61 digital cinemas countrywide and a host of awards, including first place in the Top Technology 100 in 2004.

With such a success, it’s perhaps not surprising that the company recorded a turnover of R15, 8 million at the close of the last financial year. This was achieved in just five short years, the first of which recorded a total loss. Teixeira, now MD of the company, remembers how it all began.

When tobacco advertising was banned in cinemas, few advertisers had enough money to produce the very expensive 35mm advertising material, leaving a big gap in the cinema income stream. The industry needed an alternative solution and Spectrum’s digital cinema advertising network provided it.

Though the pilot project was a resounding success, the company ran at a loss in its first year. However, the investment paid off with the awarding of a contract to roll out a further 30 screens nationwide. This presented its own challenges. “The biggest difficulty was how to finance the project,” says Teixeira.

With only a six-month track record of loss, banks refused to finance them. Undeterred, they drew on the relationship they had built with their primary supplier, who agreed to bankroll the project and give them the hardware they needed, against nine post-dated cheques.

“If it wasn’t for that supplier and that relationship, the entire thing would have fallen flat,” says Teixeira. That was five years ago and the rest is history. Some might argue that achieving once-off success in the right market conditions is easy, but that continuing to run a successful company is a different matter altogether, and they would be correct.

So what has Spectrum done right? The company is now made up of 25 people and Teixeira is quick to point out that its success today is owing to the creativity, passion and hard work of this group of people.

The company deliberately employs young graduates with no previous work experience and he believes this is one way to keep ideas fresh and relevant. “These are the people who are excited about technology and are using it,” he says.

The company’s key differentiator is also its ability to make that technology deliver real business value to clients. Teixeira explains that Spectrum has had to educate its clients about this aspect of technology, forcing them to look at the business reasons for having it.

Apart from mobilising digital media across a broad platform of applications, Spectrum’s services have been extended to include helping clients to plan and ultimately manage the content on the digital network they have invested in.

“This is why we think of our business as having two elements – we’re a service provider to clients, but we also develop our own technology to enable us to provide that service in the most cost-effective and efficient way,” he explains.

Changes in technology take place at lightning-fast speed but the Spectrum team remains at the cutting edge. With digital cinema still its primary area of focus, the company is capitalising on huge growth in the industry, as well as the increased demand for plasma screen technology solutions.

In addition, it is tapping the potential in video on demand (VOD) solutions, identifying a huge market in the hotel industry ahead of the 2010 Soccer World Cup. Spectrum’s solution will not only provide VOD systems for every room but internet access as well.

What really excites the trio at this point, however, is the enormous potential in IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) technology. “In the future consumers are going to have far greater choice over when, where and how they consume different types of media,” Teixeira says. “Spectrum Visual Networks wants to be at the forefront of that future.”

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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27 Of The Richest People In South Africa

Here are 27 of South Africa’s richest people, but how did they achieve this level of wealth? Find out here.

Nicole Crampton

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Learn the secrets of SA’s most successful business people, here is the list of the 27 richest people in South Africa:

In a world with growing entrepreneurship success stories, victory is often measured in terms of money. The feat of achieving a place on this list is, however, years of hard work, determination and persistence. “One has to set high standards… I can never be happy with mediocre performance,” advises Patrice Motsepe.

From the individuals that made the 27 of the richest people in South Africa list, actual entrepreneurs and self-made business people dominate the list; while those who inherited their fortunes have gone on to do even bigger and better things with their wealth. Over the years, some have slipped off the list, while others continue to climb higher and higher each year.

  1. Elisabeth Bradley
  2. Sharon Wapnick
  3. Bridgette Radebe
  4. Irene Charnley
  5. Wendy Ackerman
  6. Paul Harris
  7. Wendy Appelbaum
  8. Mark Shuttleworth
  9. Desmond Sacco
  10. Giovanni Ravazzotti
  11. Markus Jooste
  12. Gus Attridge
  13. Gerrit Thomas Ferreira
  14. Cyril Ramaphosa
  15. Adrian Gore
  16. Raymond Ackerman
  17. Michiel Le Roux
  18. Lauritz Dippenaar
  19. Jannie Mouton
  20. Stephen Saad
  21. Patrice Motsepe
  22. Allan Gray
  23. Koos Bekker
  24. Ivan Glasenberg
  25. Christoffel Wiese
  26. Johann Rupert
  27. Nicky Oppenheimer
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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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