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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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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.

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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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