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Technovated: Gareth Knight

Technology entrepreneur brings inspiring, ground-breaking thinking to the continent.

Monique Verduyn

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Gareth Knight

One of Gareth Knight’s earliest memories is of his uncle asking him what he wanted to be when he grew up. “A game ranger,” he replied. Years later, reality bit the young zoology student. “Past students who had been a couple of years ahead of me at varsity were working on game farms and earning very little money. I was disillusioned.” At the time though, Knight had already developed his talent for IT and had been building websites for people at the university, using HTML and FrontPage. That’s where it all started.

Ups and downs

By 2003 he and some friends were in London together when the company they worked for was folded by the MD. They joined forces and started working out of the spare room in his flat. “It was all about new media. We did everything from e-newsletters to websites. At first it went well, but we were very inexperienced when it came to running a company. About six months into it, I became frustrated. It was clear that we did not have the same vision so we shut down the business and I lost two friends in the process.”

The experience left him feeling a little tender, so he went to work for a Cape Town-based company which had an office in London. While he was there, he realised he had learnt a few valuable lessons. “I knew by that stage how important it was to have a clear vision, and to work with people who share that vision and who have the same work ethic as you. I also learnt that time does not equal value. It’s not true that the more you work the more you are worth. Today it’s possible to create something of value in five minutes.”

In late 2005 he set out on his own again, starting a new business focused on Web 2.0. Once again, he started it in his spare room and managed to grow it to 12 people in 18 months. “Again, I made lots of mistakes. This time I was growing the business too fast. I should have held back on the growth and looked more carefully at the people I brought on board. Ultimately though, the company was brought down by a typical services business problem — we were not charging enough, yet we were still being squeezed to charge less.
By 2007, I knew it was time to move on.”

The big time

That was when he hit pay dirt. Through a combination of the right technology experience, and being in the right place at the right time, he raised seed funding from some big investors in London to build a family social network called Kindo. Within six months, thanks in part to an aggressive search engine campaign, Kindo had 400 000 users and localised versions were available in 17 languages in 220 countries. The growth rate was phenomenal, and Kindo was voted one of the top three most promising Internet companies in the UK in 2008. In August that year, it was acquired for a tidy sum by global family-oriented social network service and genealogy website, MyHeritage.

“We did it,” Knight says. “The opportunity was there, we grabbed it and we got an excellent return on investment.”

Next, he worked for MyHeritage for a year, travelling between Tel Aviv and London, and learning what it was like to manage people and build a company.

A new e-commerce model

By now a serial entrepreneur, Knight turned his attention to what was happening in e-commerce. With the Kindo deal behind him, he raised money from investors in London and South Africa and launched Technovated, an e-commerce company that rolls out online stores and is run by a team of people who have lots of experience in building and scaling web apps from inception to acquisition. What’s different about Technovate is that it’s not built on the affiliate model, in which an online merchant pays an affiliate in exchange for providing an ad and link to the merchant’s site, with each click through resulting in a small commission for the affiliate. Instead, Technovate owns the customer, the transaction and the cash. “We have rolled out several e-commerce stores in different categories and we own every conversion, which is where the business becomes profitable,” Knight adds.

Enabling innovative thinking

But enough about his day job. Knight is also the founder of Tech4Africa, a mobile, web and emerging technology conference now in its second year. In 2006, he went to the South by South West (SXSW) Interactive conference in Austin, Texas. Much lauded by South Africa’s own tech community, it has a strong following among web creators and entrepreneurs, and its focus on emerging technology has earned the festival a reputation as a breeding ground for new ideas and creative technologies.

“I got to know some really cool people there and I wanted to find a way to give South Africans exposure to their ideas. Last year, Tech4Africa brought in around 15 international speakers, not something that other conference organisers do in Africa. They were all well known pioneers in their fields. It’s critical to give South Africans the opportunity to hear what new thinking is happening out there. Without that type of input, the same thinking is perpetuated over and over again and innovation cannot happen.”

It cost Knight R2,5 million to host last year’s conference, but the response from delegates made it all worthwhile as far as he’s concerned. “Without a doubt, we set the bar very high. This is not your usual type of conference, all stiff and formal. At Tech4Africa you don’t have to wear a suit and you can sit on the floor if you like. You can also chat to the speakers. And there are no officious chairmen and plenary sessions in which people nod off from boredom.”

But why does a London-based entrepreneur want to host an annual tech conference in Johannesburg? “Ultimately I want to live in South Africa and invest in local businesses,” he says. “To do that, I have to help create an enabling environment with people who have the latest skills. Tech4Africa promotes the right kind of thinking and approach to foster entrepreneurship in the technology space. South Africans, and Africans in general, are far too traditional and conservative when it comes to starting their own ventures. There’s too much fear of failure. The fact is that most people have to take a few knocks to develop exciting new ideas and new businesses. It’s the only way you learn.”

Accolades

In 2009 Gareth Knight was named one of “35 Men of Influence – 35 South Africans Under 35” by GQ magazine. In 2010 he was named one of South Africa’s “200 Young South Africans you have to take to lunch” by the Mail & Guardian newspaper.

Promoting ideas

True to his word, Knight is actively driving creative thinking at Tech4Africa through two initiatives.

Innovation award

The Tech4Africa Innovation Award, presented to a single winner, encourages innovation aimed at solving uniquely African problems, while also encouraging global thinking. The award recognises that innovation can be entrepreneurial, as well as intrapreneurial, and so is open to individuals and companies. The prize is for outstanding innovation, in any field of mobile, web or emerging technology. The company or person behind the innovation must be based in Africa and the innovation may already be in production.

Start-up award

Tech4Africa Ignite is aimed at giving start-ups great exposure in a once-a-year environment of investors, mentors, thought leaders, buyers, decision-makers, journalists, influencers and potential recruits. Start-up owners can present their product or demo to a technology community in Africa, with the aim of encouraging awareness and traction. The challenge is to craft a pitch compelling enough to get introductions to investors, users, customers, and for journalists to write about the product.

Vital stats

Player: Gareth Knight

Company: Technovated

Launched: 2009

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

Franchisors

Meet Jan Grobler: Serial entrepreneur, Advocate, And Job Creator

It is the authors’ sincere hope that young South-African entrepreneurs will learn from wiser business men such as Jan Grobler and co-create a vibrant and legacy driven entrepreneurial environment in our country.

Dirk Coetsee

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Jan Grobler has either directly or indirectly created 10 000 jobs and he is not done with forming a lasting legacy. The author can call on various titles in an attempt to describe this serial entrepreneur: Advocate, Founder, Franchisor and Project manager, yet no label can fully embody his unique skill set, experience, and entrepreneurial spirit.

As a highly enthusiastic observer of business leadership traits in others, I noticed Jan’s’ strong willed and passionate intent to create more businesses, ignite exponential growth within them, and ultimately deliver numerous job opportunities to South-Africans, from the onset of the interview.

As an advocate and MBA graduate Jan had a solid academic foundation that served him well on his entrepreneurial journey. “Working back” the bursary he had from Sanlam he values the learning he received from older and wiser entrepreneurs that he had established trusts for. He learnt to be a good listener and increase his emotional intelligence by making mental notes when the older entrepreneurs imparted some of their wisdom and experience and then taking action on the accumulated learnings.

Related: The Anatomy Of Peak Performance

The value of being a “Global Citizen”

coffee2go

Jan is a global citizen and has “back packed in 46 countries” accumulating cultural and business learnings as he travelled. He shared an example of waitresses in a South-American country “doubling up” as secretaries offering additional services such as fax and the recording of minutes of meetings thereby adding more dimensions, services, and income streams to a coffee shop operation.

The words rolled of his tongue with enthusiasm as he described how modern times has provided multi-dimensional opportunities for an entrepreneur such as being in your office in Centurion, South-Africa, purchasing products online from China , and then selling online to purchasers in Italy. Jan sees the future of franchising in South Africa as moving more and more towards “mobile outlets”. He has extensively researched the international “mobile franchising market” and is very excited about the possibilities for growth in South-Africa with regards to this market segment.

He is one of the founders of Fit chef and is currently developing the franchise system “Cafe2go”(Mainly a mobile concept) of which there are currently twenty five outlets. On his entrepreneurial journey Jan has developed eighteen brands of which he was a cofounder and as a contracted project manager he has assisted in facilitating the exponential growth of hundreds more companies.

Channels and revenue streams

coffee-to-go-pictures

As the aroma and taste of another Cafe2go Cappuccino held my attention Jan elaborated on four more revolutionary franchising concepts that he is co-developing. He said that success in business is highly dependant upon doing things better than others and offering a unique service and product.

Related: Business Leadership: Leading A Culturally Diverse Business Team

Jan pointed out that he sees himself as a “channel creator” and it was clear to the author that through his vast experience and entrepreneurial acumen he has a high vantage point from which to see opportunities for the creation various funding models, sales channels and revenue streams, that combined causes exponential business growth.

This entrepreneur is very proud of his first start-up company of which he is still the CEO called Curator. Curator was started to, and still does assist entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, whether it be through growth interventions or for example raising capital or franchising the business.

Jan has never stopped learning whether it be from learnings accumulated from engaging other entrepreneurs or knowledge obtained from books. More importantly he continues to apply this learning in helping businesses to grow and create more and more jobs. Jan is building a legacy that any entrepreneur can be proud of. It is the authors’ sincere hope that young South-African entrepreneurs will learn from wiser business men such as Jan and co-create a vibrant and legacy driven entrepreneurial environment in our country.

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Bob Skinstad On Making An Impact With The 80/20 Principle

The 8020 principle is one of the most powerful success secrets in the world — provided you implement it. Most people have heard of it, few put it into action. Bob Skinstad is re-energising an age-old principle by sharing a collection of real-life examples from highly successful people of 8020 in action. Here’s how you can start embracing an 8020 mindset today — and see phenomenal results in return.

Nadine Todd

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Vital Stats

  • Player: Bob Skinstad
  • What he does: Bob is an ex-Springbok rugby captain, businessman, entrepreneur, a director at venture capital firm Knife Capital and has recently developed an online course for millennials, 8020 Mindset.
  • Visit: www.knifecapital.co.za and 8020Mindset.com

When Gary Kirsten arrived in India in 2008 as the new coach of the Indian cricket team, he recognised he had a key problem. Many of the players on the team were not only more famous than he was, but more skilled as well. How do you coach Sachin Tendulkar, one of the greatest batsmen of all time, on his stroke? You tell him to keep doing what he’s doing, and get out of his way.

But Gary did need to find a way to build trust between himself and his new team. There were many superstars in Indian cricket, and yet the national team’s results weren’t good, mainly because they didn’t operate as a cohesive unit.

Implementing the 80/20 principle

To really make an impact, he turned to the 8020 principle. What small but significant area could he turn all of his attention towards, to achieve 80% of the results he was looking for?

Related: 8 Lessons Rugby Can Teach Us On Achieving Peak Performance In Business And Life

He realised that the one thing he had that most of the other players on his team did not, was time. Cricket is extremely popular in India, and the members of the national cricket team had a lot of endorsement deals, which meant they were very busy. Whatever happened, Gary knew he could outwork them. For the first 200 days of his contract, he spent every day at the batting nets, from 6am to 6pm. Each time a player came to the nets, he was there, ready to assist them, or simply to show he wasn’t going anywhere. He also spent those 200 days really studying his team members and listening to them.

By leveraging this one key area, Gary built the trust he was looking for, and learnt an enormous amount of information about his players. He found the one place that would make the biggest impact. Three years later, that team went on to win the World Cup.

Game-changing principles

“What’s incredible about the 8020 principle is that it’s relevant in every single facet of life,” says Bob Skinstad, an ex-Springbok rugby captain, businessman and now venture capitalist.

“Gary is just one successful person in his industry who has shared his 8020 experiences with me; there are so many real-world examples. I first discovered it while I was playing rugby in my early 20s, and I read Richard Koch’s book, The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More With Less, but I use it in my business development capacity at Knife Capital today, and have applied it in various ways throughout my life and career. It’s an absolute game changer if you understand how to apply the principles, and the success that putting pressure on the right levers can achieve in your life.”

To say Bob is passionate about fostering an 8020 mindset is an understatement. In fact, he believes so strongly in the principle that he approached Richard Koch himself to discuss how he could help millennials to embrace 8020 to lay the right foundations for their own futures and careers.

Sharing and teaching lessons learnt

“Richard has a house in Cape Town. I managed to get his contact details and sent him a long email explaining how we had used his principles in the Springbok rugby team. We were a young team, and we used 8020 to figure out who needed to get their hands on the ball at which times of the game to make the biggest impact. Our game improved markedly once we started applying Richard’s principles, and that led me to implement it in everything I did. Richard loved the fact that we had applied it in such different ways to how he’d laid the principles out in his business management books.

“I really wanted to share all the lessons I’d learnt, and also the experiences of so many other sportsmen, business leaders and entrepreneurs whom I know have used 8020 to achieve success. I didn’t want to write a book though — I thought a course would be more immediate and practical, particularly for millennials, who I believe can really benefit from fostering an 8020 mindset early in their careers. Richard and I collaborated on the course. I wrote the content, recruited a number of my contacts to share their own success stories, and Richard reviewed all the material before it went live. It’s been a great experience, and one I hope will spread the word of how significant a shift to the 8020 mindset can be. Once you understand the principles in action, it becomes the lens you use to make all of your decisions, which has an exponential impact on your life, business and career.”

80/20 in Action

8020-mindset

In all business and personal development theories, there is a vast gap between understanding the theory and actually putting it into practice. Using the 8020 principle on itself, only 20% of the people who are exposed to 8020 will actually implement it, but they will reap 80% of the rewards as a result.

The problem is that reading about a theory is easy. Putting it into practice is hard. It takes discipline, and a real understanding of how the principles work.

If you’ve been exposed to 8020 (also known as the Pareto Principle) before, you know that 20% of a sales team is responsible for 80% of a company’s revenue, 20% of clients bring in 80% of business, and 20% of your actions each day impact 80% of your life. Imagine if you knew which 20%, and could put all of your attention into those key areas. Imagine how you would supercharge your own growth and success, opening hours each day to concentrate on high priority tasks instead of getting sucked into the quagmire of ‘busyness’ we all fall victim to without even realising.

80/20 principle in action

“A few years ago, I was involved in a restaurant in Cape Town. We realised that 80% of the food customers ordered came from 20% of the menu. Through this simple insight, we were able to take a 36-page menu down to two pages. We saved costs on wastage, streamlined kitchen processes, and increased our efficiencies and customer service levels through this one simple change.

“The hardest part is getting started. Once you see success in one area though, you naturally start looking for the 8020 in other areas of your life, and before you know it that’s how you look at everything,” explains Bob.

Related: 5 Things Businesses Can Learn From Rugby

“I see examples of 8020 everywhere, but I also see a lot of what I call ‘2080’ thinking. Take the ‘latte factor’ as an example. A few years ago, the idea took hold in the US (and South Africa) that if you just stopped drinking a latte once a day, you’d save $250 in 100 days. I disagree completely. If you really want to impact your savings, renegotiate your bond with your bank once a year. That will give you a far greater saving than cutting out lattes, and you haven’t deprived yourself of something that makes life pleasant. One key negotiation at the right time will have a much bigger impact on your life — speak to your bank, negotiate a raise — but look at the key area that will have an 80% impact, instead of an almost insignificant impact. That’s where you should be putting your willpower, energy and self-discipline.

“Gym is another great example. We’re told to spend 20 minutes a day at gym. That’s great for your health, and you should do it, but in terms of weight loss and body shaping, it’s negligible if you compare it to changing your eating habits. Gym is 20% of your body. Eating is 80%. Where should you be putting your focus? Instead, we see people gyming and then eating two packets of chips, and wondering why they aren’t losing weight. It’s all about what levers you pull, and where you put your focus.”

Small changes, big results

In 2017, Bob brokered local VC firm Knife Capital’s expansion into the UK. Based in the UK, Bob’s role as a director at Knife Capital is business development — how can Knife Capital assist its investments to build high-impact businesses from a small base?

“Once again, 8020 hits the target every time,” he says. “We’ve recently invested in a Swedish-based business called MOST, which develops environmental monitoring solutions for the transport and shipping industry. An early investor in MOST is King Digital Entertainment, the creator of Candy Crush. We love MOST. It’s tracking really nice numbers, the management team is excellent, the product is next level, the business model allows for recurring revenues — but our aim as an investor is to grow the business. We needed to analyse which areas to concentrate on that will have the biggest impact on growth. Through applying 8020 we realised that 12% of MOST’s current customers are responsible for 82% of the business’s revenues.

“How much energy, time and resources are put into the other 88% of clients who are only responsible for 18% of the company’s revenue? And what can be done to bring more customers on board who are like the 12%, and not the 88% of MOST’s customer base? Focus on the right areas, and you’ll exponentially grow your revenues without increasing overheads or expending more energy — in fact, you could actually do more in less time, with fewer people, if you know where to concentrate your efforts.”

How to apply the 80/20 principle

Bob believes that at its core, 8020 is common sense — you just need to apply your mind to the principles, and ask the right questions: What’s your 8020? Who are your biggest customers, where are you spending most of your time, which actions have the biggest impact, and where are your waste areas? And in each case, can you 8020 the results you’re looking for? What’s the 20% that will generate 80% of your returns, or impact 80% of your success? What’s the 20% that will affect the world and your customers’ lives and businesses?

Local entrepreneur Keith Rose-Innes shares how he increased Seychelles’ fly-fishing tourism industry by 600%:

Keith Rose-Innes built his profile and expertise to become the go-to-guy for building fly-fishing trips around the world. Based on this expertise, Seychelles tourism hired him to increase visitor numbers to their islands.

The Seychelles is isolated and expensive. Keith did his research, and discovered that only 20% of fly-fishing agents were responsible for most of the fly-fishing trips booked around the world. Instead of spreading his efforts, he concentrated exclusively on those top agents, pitching the reasons why they should promote the Seychelles to their clients. Within six months he’s increased year-on-year sales on the islands by 100%. This grew to 600% over the course of four years — simply because Keith focused his efforts where he would have the greatest impact.

Related: Joel Stransky Shares His Insights On What Makes A Great Leader


Take the course

8020 Mindset is a five-hour online course endorsed by Richard Koch and presented by Bob Skinstad. It’s designed to help participants think like results-orientated super-performers.

Visit: 8020mindset.com or email info@mindset.com for more information on the course and corporate talks.

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Lesego Maphanga of Standard Bank

Lesego Maphanga is young (he only graduated in 2014 with an Industrial & Systems Engineering degree), yet he has already made a name for himself in multiple industries. His secret to success? Always doing more than is asked of him.

GG van Rooyen

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Vital stats

  • Player: Lesego Maphanga
  • Company: Standard Bank
  • Position: Manager: Card & Emerging Payments; Africa Regions
  • About: At only 27, the maths & science whizz works at Standard Bank as an Emerging Payments manager responsible for implementing remittances products across multiple African Regions. He also has his own radio show on CliffCentral called the Urban Culture Drive, and is founder of social entrepreneurship movement called Unplugged and in Charge.

I studied engineering knowing right from the start that I would never work as an engineer. I just couldn’t see myself working at a mine, or something like that, but I knew that engineering would give me a solid foundation and allow me to keep my options open. A STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) degree is a great base, as it shows that you have a mind for numbers and the analytic mindset needed to get things done. I don’t think you can go wrong with a degree in one of these fields, even if entrepreneurship is your ultimate aim.

Related: 20 Quotes On Coping With Change From Successful Entrepreneurs And Leaders

How can I set myself apart?

You have to ask yourself this question. There’s a lot of competition out there. You might have a great academic history or work experience, but so do a lot of people, so you need to have a differentiator — something that makes you stand out. I entered Mr South Africa, for example, because I knew that it would increase my profile and add something interesting to my CV. I didn’t win, but I was a top-five finalist, which was good enough for me.

Find interesting things to add to your CV as well, since it’ll make it stand out in a massive pile of similar submissions.

Always go the extra mile

I had a lecturer who always said: “There are two kinds of bad engineers. There are those who don’t do what they’re told to do, and there are those who only do exactly what they’re told to do.” You need to add value and show that you are a crucial part of a team, so don’t just do what you’re told. Instead, look for ways in which you can go beyond the brief. Work hard and spend time coming up with your own ideas and projects. At the end of my studies, I interned at Standard Bank. I knew that I only had five weeks to make an impression, so I gave it my all. When you’re young, you don’t have many responsibilities apart from work, so that’s the time to put everything into your work.

Be audacious and make things happen

Seizing an opportunity that comes to you is great, but creating your own opportunities is even better. Don’t take no for an answer, and don’t wait for someone to give you a chance. A friend and I had an idea for a radio show and decided to put a proposal together. We had no experience and no contacts in the field, but we emailed our proposal to everyone we could think of. We spammed them, sending it out every single day. Eventually, CliffCentral got in contact 
with us.

Related: Design The Life Of Your Dreams Using These Simple Tips

I don’t want a ‘normal’ life

I want an extraordinary life, so I demand a lot of myself. I think Elon Musk is a great example of this. He’s doing things no one thought possible. Of course, it requires extreme levels of dedication and hard work. If you’re aiming for the top, I don’t think work/life balance is possible. You need work/life integration. You need to be pursuing your passion all the time. If you’re on a path you’re truly interested in, work doesn’t feel like sacrifice.

Exercise is important to me

I go to gym twice a day. It’s significant to me, as it allows me to relax and clear my mind. It also provides structure to my life. When I get up early and go to gym, I find that the rest of my day falls into place. It sets the tone. As long as I maintain focus in this part of my life, I find that things overall stay under control. Sometimes, though, I need to take a day off and just sit in front of the TV. Generally speaking, however, I find that routine helps maintain focus and momentum.

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