Avi Lasarow is riding the crest of a wave. In the past year, his UK-based biotech company, Trimega Laboratories, has opened a world-class R12 million hair substance abuse testing lab, begun a research project to formulate a hair test for anti-retroviral compliance, and been recognised at the inaugural SA Business Awards in London where Lasarow was named the 2010 Business Leader of the Year.
The last year, however, is just one in a series of high points for Trimega since its inception six short years ago. With facilities in the UK, South Africa, the United States and Germany, the company has developed a range of innovative techniques for testing substances of abuse.
It’s core business is hair testing that detects drug and alcohol abuse, and is recognised internationally as a gold standard in the industry. “Urine and blood tests can only provide you with so much information, whereas hair testing reveals a pattern of abuse over a period of time,” explains Lasarow. The Hair Alcohol Testing product provides an accurate historical record of an individual’s alcohol dependency over a one to 12-month period, while urine, blood and liver function tests only relate to recent consumption.
Understanding the market
The science behind the products is complex and yet Lasarow has no formal training in biotechnology. But quite apart from finding this a hindrance, it’s something he believes has given him an edge. “The science is one thing but making a successful business out of it is another. Because I’m not a biotechnologist I could translate the science into what the market needs and understands, and then commercialise it. As an entrepreneur you need to become a subject matter expert in your area, but you don’t necessarily need to have a qualification,” he says.
He might add that you need to understand your market, and this has undoubtedly been one of Trimega’s key success factors. In most cases, the information obtained from hair testing is used by family law specialists, social services and the courts in child custody cases where decisions need to be made about the future of vulnerable children whose parents are substance abusers. In the UK alone, for example, around 20 000 hair and alcohol drug tests are requested in child custody cases each year.
But Trimega’s products are commercially viable across a wide range of other applications and in a growing number of countries. The company receives requests from doctors who need to test a patient’s suitability for transplant surgery, and lawyers involved in employment tribunals, or for routine testing in safety-critical jobs such as aviation and for steroid testing among athletes. In Germany, its products are used to assess the eligibility of banned drink-drivers to get their licenses back, while in North America they are used to confirm suspected cases of foetal alcohol syndrome, where mothers have drunk excessively during pregnancy.
Bringing it home
Lasarow has actively grown each of these markets, familiarising himself with the opportunities for Trimega’s products in each of the countries in which it operates. Describing himself as a ‘global South African’, he’s particularly passionate about ‘bringing it home’ to South Africa, and two of the company’s latest innovative developments focus on the key needs of the South African market.
In 2008, in a joint venture with Real World Diagnostics, Trimega launched its DrugAlyser product in South Africa, which allows traffic officials to test drivers for drug use via a sample of sweat or saliva. “I knew that road fatalities were also the result of drugs, not just alcohol and I knew if I could get the data to prove this, it would be extremely valuable,” says Lasarow.
Thanks to excellent stakeholder relationship communication, Trimega Labs was afforded the opportunity to work in partnership with the Department of Community Safety and Traffic Law Enforcement to test over 500 motorists at roadblocks for various drugs, including cocaine, opiates, ecstasy, dagga and Tik. The survey not only has the potential to impact South Africa’s traffic laws – it provided Trimega with the data it needed and established it as the brand of authority when it came to roadside drug testing. This has opened up new opportunities for the company, which has since been involved in drug abuse trials among industry heavyweights such as DeBeers, Transnet and BHP Billiton.
Most recently, Lasarow has turned his attention to South Africa’s challenge of HIV/Aids. “One of the exciting things about our new lab is that we’re busy formulating a test to measure ARV compliance, which will help to highlight patients who are not taking their medication and are therefore at risk of developing viral resistance,” he explains. The research project is part of a bilateral biotechnology skills transfer that Lasarow hopes will benefit South Africa in the long-run. “The South African Government has sent expatriate entrepreneurs a strong and welcoming message to ‘bring it home’ and that is precisely what I hope to do,” he concludes.
Seeing a gap for reduced rental
Lasarow has an entrepreneur’s knack for spotting an opportunity. When the company was looking for space to set up its new laboratory he approached other tenants who were locked into a four-year lease, negotiating with them to take over their lease for 70% of its value, thereby saving Trimega a considerable sum.
Lasarow knows from first-hand experience just how important it is from a legal point of view to keep certain things documented. “Early on, I did a lot of things on trust with a former business partner in South Africa and was unfortunately let down.
But because I had certain legal documents in place I could go to court and be assured of having clean hands. These things are never pleasant, but my advice to other entrepreneurs would be to document agreements, decisions and meeting minutes for later reference. Hopefully they won‘t be needed in future, but if you ever have to go to court, they are invaluable.” Entrepreneurs often go into business with someone they trust and not expecting that they might run into a dispute later on, which is why they don’t formally document things like partnership agreements. Having things written down and agreed upon helps to make expectations and deliverables clear. It pays to invest in a lawyer to get these documents drawn up.
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.
“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:
- I Am Emerge Provides An App For Township Spaza Bulk Purchasing
- Tuluntulu Offers High Quality Video Streaming On Low Data Speeds
- SSG Consulting Developed KEY360: A Cloud-Based And Web-Enabled Platform For Managing Large-Scale Construction Projects
- Pargo Solving Last-Mile Distribution Challenges
- HouseME Is A Digital Real Estate Platform
- Olympic Paints Has Developed A Built-In Paint Tray Causing An Unexpected Industry Shift
- Passion4Performance Developed A Recognition of Prior Learning Assessment Concept
- NewSpace Systems Delivers High Quality Components At Lower Costs
- My Online Presence Creates End-To-End Solutions For Online Brand Presence
- Skynamo Offering Insights To Sales Teams In The Field
- RecruitMyMom Creating A Platform For Job-Seeking Moms
- GAAP Provides A Hardware And Software Point-Of Sale And Enterprise Solution For The Hospitality Industry
- HeroTel Bringing Wi-Fi To Low Income Communities
- Saryx Engineering Offers Digitised Compliance and Safety For Companies
- BrightBlack Is An Energy Providing Innovative Solar Energy Solutions
- Howler Is An Event Technology Platform
- execMobile’s PocketWifi Keeps Business Travellers Connected
- Rhino Africa Provides Online Touring Assistance
- Snapplify Is Offering Students Access To Textbooks
- GoMetro A Commuter-Driven Mobile App
- Domestly Connecting Cleaning Professionals and Homeowners
- NMRQL Using AI To Deliver Consistent Returns
- Colony Live Connecting Users Across Multiple Platforms
- codeX Is Growing The Work Experience Of Coders In Africa
- This Is Me – Disrupting By Offering A Unique Business Model
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.
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.
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mergeconnect/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mergeconnect/
- Website: http://www.mergeconnect.co/
- Email: Hello@mergeconnect.co
- Number: 072 458 2182
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.
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.
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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