Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Final lessons from 2012

This is my last blog for the year and what a year it has been. It has been a year full of action and drama like none I have ever had before. I have succeeded and I have failed but most of all I have learnt and adapted. An entrepreneur can never stop learning and these are my lessons from 2012. In fact I can honestly say I may have had a mid life crisis in between!
The first lesson is to keep focusing and fine tuning my vision for who I am, what I am, and what my life work should be. Its so easy to lose focus. I understand more than ever that when you focus things do fall into place. I have focused on my core vision and mission in life that is innovation and creativity. This is translated into the people I meet, the projects and business I start or get involved in. My keeping the focus I am able to build opportunities and start amazing new things.
The question I ask you all is what is your focus? If you know then follow it through and if you don’t then find it! I have helped quite a people in 2012 find their focus and maybe it because I am so clear on mine.
The second big lesson for 2012 is about implementation. I have always been a good implementor but I have also tended not to follow through 100%.  In implementing the rock roads my most challenging project to date implementation was key and I cant say I did the best job. A lesson well learnt. I have committed to 1 innovative new business at a time for 1 full day a week in 2013. I will implement until the end and then with success or failure I will move on to another venture.
The Third big lesson for 2012 was about essential business principles like taxes and cash flow. Wow we live in a country so full of bureaucracy for the small guy running a business BUT it needs to be done. The invoices, chasing the cash, getting paid enough, getting a tax clearance certificate for a government contract. As an entrepreneur just suck it up and deal with it
The fourth big lesson this year has been about stakeholder management. I have made friends and I have made enemies. Its better to make friends and apologise to enemies.
The Fifth big lesson for 2012 has been about not having an opinion, that has been a growing experience for me as a guy famous for his big mouth. If you have an opinion keep it to yourself or become a politician! Otherwise stick to your vision and focus.
The sixth big lesson is about growing something slowly but surely like the vegetables in my garden. It take a vegetables a few months to grow properly. If you don’t have patience you wont eat and you will go hungry. In business grow slow and sure and before you know it you will be rich.
The last lesson for 2012 has been about balance and how important it is. For me it was about surfing…. and how I have enjoyed and challenged myself doing it.  And I made time to surf when I could have been working. It was good for my body and soul and all entrepreneurs need to find something to help find that balance. Something you can do by yourself or with a friend, but most importantly something that makes you really really happy and inspired that is yours alone.
2013? Keeping focused, growing slow, making things happen, maybe surf somewhere exotic. Travel to Ethiopia to see the Coptic churches (Its on my bucket list). Sounds good.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Freakonomics and shack fires

Have you heard of freakonomics? (You can read the book)Its a fantastic mechanism for analysing data and then coming up with new ideas that are often not thought about. Often the ideas are based on real data and the ideas are often quite controversial. Like reducing crime through increasing abortion in low income areas. very controversial! So the City of cape town asked me to do a presentation on new ideas for shack fires. Ok so i thought let me do a freakonomics exercise. I decided that the only data that is consistent and makes sense is time and date. What time did the fire take place and on which date ( season). So I phoned the fire and rescue guys Theo Layne and he passed me onto Richard Bosman " Your request will have to be authorised by the office of the Executive director of Safety and Security as it is not a standard request for info". Ok so i got nothing....typical government and city department after a really competent request. Not to be deterred by usual government and city bureacracy and this is an important lesson for entrepreneurs ( not to be deterred by these crappy bureaucrats) and bureacracy you will need to navigate endlessly as an entrepreneur in this country ( which is a serious problem for new entrepreneurs) ...oh i could rant and rave about this all day....but back to shack fires. So I went back to my trusty newspapers and looked at data they wrote about in terms of shack fires. and lo i found a pattern! Shack fires are most prevalent between 9pm and 2 am and most in winter. Immediately the freakonomics kicked in. Warmth and Heat. When i looked at most of the theories on shack fires they showed light (like candles) and cooking as the main problem rather than warmth and heat. But loads of people die in shack fires which assumes that many are asleep when the fires break out....assumption being warmth and heat.  Prevention should thius include heating options and ways to stay warm and keep heat in. These include blankets, layering of clothes, beanies and socks, insulation of shacks, New generation fire places specifically designed for shacks, public driers for clothing in winter, battery driven heaters, Floor solutions and so on. As an entrepreneur using this kind of thinking one can come up with a myriad of new solutions some of which can be socially driven but many that are business opportunities. I will feedback once i have presented to the city on the 19th November. Wonder what the bureaucrats will say to some innovation!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Whats the best way to take the feathers off a chicken? ( when its dead of course!) You use paraffin know like women do when they shave their legs. At a recent innovation workshop ( which i still run) i had a guy from Rainbow chickens and he had some great ideas of his own. So I mentioned that another young entrepreneur who wanted to work with women who slaughter chickens in the township and then defeather them came up with this concept ( which is quite commonly used in Europe by the way) and wanted to make a defeathering kit ( as millions of chickens are slaughtered this way in South Africa). Otherwise the women basically use hot water which is quite a difficult process. Here the wax just takes the feathers off quite easily. Awesome. On another note in the same workshop one of the guys saw a bowl of baked beans in a very nice ceramic plate. We looked at the picture and after a bit of discussion agreed that in South Africa there are 2 markets. The mass market and the "what i want to call the artisan" market. This is very evident with coffee. From crappy instant coffee the whole market seems to be moving to artisan coffee and willing to pay for it. So I said to him why not artisan baked beans. Lightbulb! I definitely think it would work in the making and packaging of baked beans. South Africa seems to follow the trend of the rich. So if the rich start using a certain product then everyone wants it as well as a trend and a "i wanna be like them". I have mentioned this before re: brands. So if the mass market sees the rich eating artisan baked beans then they will start to eat them too and pay a higher price. Thinking aloud a great example of that is purity baby foods and nappies which make no sense at all in the mass market as they are very pricey. Yet the rich have it so the mass market aspires to it. Image and advertising which is slighly different from other countries like India...or is it? What i have been saying for quite some time is that we live in an aspirational country. So to launch new products they should sell to rich first and get assimilated into the mass market as a brand you need to get. A great example is that of coffins. If the rich are seen to be buried in sideways coffins which are made with plastics then the mass market will follow! or will they? Damn i just thought of another great idea. Building private pools in the townships for householders. They charge people a fee to use them for leisure as well as charge for swimming lessons. Not bad! In the workshop mentioned above one of the participants saw a guy in cowboy gear. Now imagine a store that imports all the cowboy and cowgirl stuff and started a small retail store. I love this idea as i can see the trend growing in Tshwane with dudes walking around in their stetsons.

Monday, October 15, 2012

why mentorship is so important

I wanted to talk about mentorship and my own life experience. To truly have a mentor must be one of the most rewarding experiences of life and to be a mentor must be an even greater experience. I have been mentored by Israeli fighter pilots and by teachers.  I feel that I will always search for a mentor when the time arises which could even be when I am 90 years old. Perhaps our children become our mentors over time as well. I have mentored really badly  and I have mentored really well. I have realized that you cant change the person to be like you but you need to allow the person to become who they need to be. I have realized that humour is really important as well as frivolity. I have also realized that to build trust the most important element of true mentorship is being available when someone needs you for it is that time that is important, not any other time.  I suppose mentorship is not about success or failure but about life long learning with one person. It has taken me a long time to learn these lessons that seem so simple but I interact with so many people these days and realize they need a mentor. Someone positive and honest and when needs be a little tough. I have been working with Sarah on taking all the new ideas we have to a new level with a crowdsourcing model that means that we showcase all the new ideas that come our way and we sell shares in them. Quite exciting to be working with her as she has the type of energy I like. I am also working with Marcelle from Lavender in lavender Hill. And Tim. And Matt from Stellenbosch and all his mates. And lets not forget Vuyisa, and Luvuyo. Then there are the 18 gangster museum guys and  Brandon from Speakers Corner. So it seems like I am busy mentoring plenty of youthful talent mostly around 25-28 years of age. It’s a great honour and a great experience as it energises me and its creative and it works.  Some new ideas that have come my way recently are and will be showcased with new brands soon and sold with Sarah under the crowdsoucing model ar (that means you can purchase shares at under R10 in perhaps the next big thing):
1.     Mobile hardware vehicles
2.     Penis Cutlery ( never laugh at an idea)
3.     Cement steps in flooded areas
4.     45 ( do a new years resolution and stick to it)
5.     A recycled can grater
6.     Read a book in jail and write a report for a reduced sentence
7.     Be what you wanted to be ( a business that allows you to experience your childhood dream….)
8.     Developing the mighty spinach into a range of new products and brand
Hopefully many new business opportunities and new opportunities  to mentor bright new talent.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Have you ever heard of the brand Native Yard?

Have you ever heard of the brand Native Yard? Not yet, just wait! A small business sent me their profile and they wanted to do a new radio station and information service for Guguletu, one of the oldest townships in South Africa. I didn't like their business idea but OMG what a brand. In Guguletu all the streets are name Native Yard or NY, and this is what people know. Now there is a shift towards changing the NY system to "real" names. The reason for changing the name is a political issue rather than a business or marketing issue. But not necessarily a good business or marketing decision. What the people who are changing the names don't realise is how business and clever marleting works and how South Africa is a very brand oriented culture. Most of us still buy the old products our mom's bought because of brand loyalty and then south africans get very excited by new brands such as loxion culture. We love brands. So in South Africa what is really important for a new business is a great brand that resonates with all south africans and specifically the mass market. So let me come back to Native Yard and these new business entrepreneurs. I love the brand, i mean i really love it! It also becomes so much more desirable as the weenies want to get rid of the name altogether. This opens the door for someone like them to trademark the brand and add it to, restaurants, clothing, anything. What is important as a lesson is that sometimes creating an innovative business may be difficult but creating a unique brand may be easier and much more profitable as well as creating the profile and history all in one shot. Native Yard! Watch this space. if you think you have a great brand send it to me. I would love to see it.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

How to pitch your idea for success

I have been watching the dragons den on TV an old program from the UK actually but just arrived on our shores....Basically the dragons ( very rich business people) hear 3 minute pitches of new business ideas most of which are inventions ( no services actually)....
The prospectives make their pitch and then the dragons decide to invest and mostly take equity.
The biggest lesson in the program is how to pitch and how shockingly bad most of the pitches are.
Most of the people stutter around and are really bad at answering the questions of the dragons.
To be an entrepreneur the pitch is sometimes the most important thing you may do and doing it well requires skill and preparation. Most of all preparation. The people in the UK TV program defintely dont look prepared. I have been asked to help the Cape Talk 567 Small business awards in the art of pitching so here are the tips that I will be giving them in their preparation to win. When you pitch it is a winners take all approach. Tip 1: Preparation of the pitch. The pitch needs to be 5 minutes max.
Outline of a pitch:Start with a great story and if its funny then even betterOutline 4 main points:
  1. Who you are. Your credentials
  2. What makes your business or business concept unique and special
  3. What is your market and how you will get that market or if you are an existing business how do you keep your customers
  4. How much turnover and profit you are making or expect to make
Each point should be short and sweet and tell as many stories as possible.
Conclude with an ask for a normal pitch: what it is you need to make the business even more succesfull.Once the pitch is done the people evaluating it will ask some questions and they are usually quite standard and you can prepare for them.These are some of the prep questions:
How much or how many of the product or service will you sell and over what time period
What is your profit margin?
Why should we invest in you?
Will you spend every waking hour on this business?
What are the risks in this business and how will you deal with them?
How many customers do you have already?
How many have you sold?
Most importantly dont argue with the panel, when they are critical say, “i accept that, and will address the problem by....”
If you cant answer a question, say, “I'm not sure but I can find that out”If an investor asks you what you need, you are almost there....Give away equity.....10% of a business is better than 90% of nothing!

Monday, August 27, 2012

The ANC youth league are marching again and generally causing havoc and insecurity. Being a man of chaos theory or entropy theory as they call it, I have no problem with protestors or people voicing their opinion. The problem I have is that the so called march is just so old! I mean it must be the most archaic forms of protest left to man. What has been shown is that mass protests happen and then they end. Some take longer than others and some are more chaotic and violent. Some cause government shifts and some achieve nothing. What I do know is that they all start and they all end and then they are mostly forgotten unless a few people get killed. What irritates me the most is the archaic nature of the protest by so called young people when protests could be so much more and so much more creative, even to the point where protests become business opportunities. I am going to start a new company called My friend Yanga from the RAA academy designed a Toi ( squared) board for people to write messages on when they strike. I think we need a rubber brick that people can throw without damaging property or people. I saw in India an amazing colour festival where people throw all colours of paint and turn an area red and blue which then turns people. I will provide strikers with all the paint which can be washed off later. Instead of sticks and pangas and guns I will provide strikers with guns and items that look like sweets which they can brandish during the march and then eat afterwards. Enjoyment! I want to organise a specialised competition for the most creative new songs and dances as well as interesting uniforms of protestors. A sort of once a year festival for the groups that protest the most creatively. For R20,000 prize this should be interesting and a lot more fun than the kaapse klopse even. I mean when you look at protestors in the newspapers they usually look like they are having a ball....a great time....sometimes such fun with huge smiled on their faces. I also think we need a bit of youtube and other IT products that will hear what people have to say, follow marches on the internet when they happen etc. and what happened to the average boycott? If people have a problem boycott stuff! So when you all see the products and services think about what you can do to make protesting fun again. Its a great business opportunity!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

How do you clean a braaigrid? With an onion! Yes its true and onion. Now most people know this but why is their no product in the market that has taken a holding contraption where an onion can fit to clean a braai grid. This is a seeing the leaves concept because it stares us in the face but no one has taken the product to its logical conclusion. The product will be made and millions will be sold to all those avid braai guys. It will be patented and the brand will be sensei onion. Even my 9 year old son Noah could answer the question, How do you clean a braaigrid? Seeing the Leaves which is my technique to find the ideas that kick ass always come from the newspaper as this idea did. We looked at an ad for braai brickets and came up with the onion. Practice reading the newspapers and this will happen for you as well.
Talking about ideas i have been trying to encourage entrepreneurs to have more fun with products rather than being so serious. The fun stuff is important as it allows us to play and come up with crazy stuff. But the fun stuff is important because it allows us to practice us our ideas. Here are a few crazy ideas that you could play around with.
Cutlery made out of penises. Sounds crazy but reading in the papers this weekend the rise of sex toys has always grown. Imagine a spoon made out of a black penis eaten by a white woman. Race issues? Will it sell? Who cares!, it will create media attention and it will put the entrepreneurs name in lights. A little fame never hurts.
What about service delivery strikes? Are there crazy opportunties here? Why not design a special rubber brick for people to throw? Crazy, who cares!
What about the issue of free speech? A huge issue in South Africa? I have decided to launch a speakers corner like that in Hyde Park. Where people can have their say and stand on their soap box. Fun indeed but watch this space it will make media attention and it will create money, especially if it grows as a phenomenon across the country.
My wife went to Vereeniging where her dad is buried but all the graves had been damaged. This is common to many gravesites. Why not have a scary tokoloshi type company that scares people izinyoka style so they dont desecrate graves. Fun and serious at the same time.
So get out there and try some fun ideas. You never know, they may make you (in)famous!

So keep reading the newspapers

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Hi Everyone, it seems like innovation and entrepreneurship are on the up and up in SA....actually it seems like its going through the roof! I do think that innovation is only just catching up in this country and that people are slowly seeing that to be successfull globally innovation into the future is the key. I have linked up with the DA (that is the political party) to help manage the youth entrepreneusrhip competition on the 31 Aug. I am really excited about this because i hate competitions as there are winners and losers. However the format we will be using is that anyone can pitch an idea between the ages of 16-28, and everyone will receive feedback, and anyone can win the pitching for new ideas and innovations there will be no losers! and thats the way it should be, as the more people who start innovative businesses the more people will be inspired and the more this country will be awesome. Talking about new awesome ideas the open public pitch sessions which we have been running for a while now have unearthed some real raw talent. A young school kid has come up with a kit that like costs R5 bucks and can test wether young kids will get injured in sport. The same R5 buck kit is used to develop the childrens strength so they dont get injured. Awesome! A muslim lady is starting a company that will produce Samoosas from everything and anything....imagine a pineapple and chilli samoosa....its been done, i've tasted it and its awesome. The next big food franchise? I hope so. Another youngster wants to develop a web and cell phone application that tells people when a SALE is on at a retailer. This will be awesome for all you shoppers out there. And my man Brandon and I are starting a new social art project called "speakers corner SA" where we will be developing the Hyde Park speakers corner concept with some amazing new formats in aid of FREE SPEECH in SA. Watch this project its going to be awesome. I am a speaker at the Innovation Summit on the 29th Aug in Joburg and am very excited to hear the other speakers as well. See my article in the Mail and guardian on Innovation on the 16th Aug as well. Remember to read the newspapers, be inspired and find that great new idea. On a final note some people at the open pitch sessions are asking about trademarks and some are worried that someone will steal their idea. I have this to say to all of you that think this way. Your idea is worthless until implemented. I have seen many people hold on secretly to their ideas ( and only tell their momma's ) and these ideas never see the light of day. You should be telling everyone about your idea and get it into the media. We live in that kind of age now. If you dont tell people about your ideas how will you find an investor. The banks dont really care! So if anyone asks me to sign an NDA ( non disclosure agreement) they probably need to go and find another investor not me, beacuse i will show them the door! I'm off to Joburg this weekend to convince people that like King Solomon ( the wisest dude who ever lived) perhaps their is a solution we cant see to solve the wars in Israel. I will tell you how that went next time!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I did an interview on John Maytham's 567 Cape Talk on my open pitch sessions on a Friday afternoon and wow the response was brilliant. There were ideas like a plastic (PET) wine bottle ( i like it as a beer bottle as well), that when marketed every wine bottle can be a different shape making it very distinct on the shelf. Another guy wants to start a collecting business for 1c/2c/5c coins charging a commission to count and or weighing the coins in exchange for larger currencies and then taking a commission. Very similar to Mama's coin factory. He has done it and it works and he takes 15% which people seem happy with. A brilliant young women makes special boxes for dad's with babies, or a tooth fairy box for kids who lose teeth etc. Another idea was to develop a pedestrian test center together with a kids play area riding small cars etc. and where people and school kids do a pedestrian test as part of their driving test. The list goes on and on. The time for innovation and entrepreneurship in South Africa is defintely now. I would like to mention 2 ideas that have been tested and excite me tremendously.The First is ZLEEP, which is the brand for the arm alarm. Charles Tswane has made the prototype and has tested in the market. All within a few weeks. Wow! Love the brand, love the idea. The second is Vocal Exams which beleives that young students will do better if given an exam on paper as well as vocally. She has designed a system where kids get the english exam paper and a vocal element that includes headphones in their mother tongue of all the questions. The results were phenomenol! 65% did better with the vocal element added in. She has tested and it works. She has built her units and she is now needs to build her business plan. Wow! again! all in a few weeks. I could go on and on as there are so many great ideas and testing of new innovations. What excites me is that the current system really does work for innovation entrepreneurs. Teach people how to find new innovations + Open pitch sessions ( regular) + SUP FUND ( angel investors willing to invest in testing the viability of new ideas) + test results + larger Business Plans and investment capital.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Coming back with a new challenge!

Hi fellow entrepreneurs. I am back. Over the last few months since the 12businesses in 12 month challenge was completed some really interesting stuff has happened. While i lecture on innovation at the UCT Raymond Ackerman Academy (RAA) every year Elli (the person who runs the show) and I discussed focusing on the students new ideas as well as testing of these ideas in the hope of inspiring investors to invest in them, other young people to find ideas and pitch them, and for the students themselves to start a new business. So the students have looked for great new ideas and they have found some really interesting and innovative business concepts. Each month we will highlight one new business and one new entrepreneur. Here are the ideas and the entrepreneurs in no particular order.

1. Raquel and her FUNKY SEAT BELT


3. Charles and his VIBRATING ARM ALARM

4. Yanga and his TOI (SQUARED) brand ( I bet you are really wondering what this is about!)

5. Lauren and her NO SLIP PAVING BRICK

6. Meli and his Graffiti Boards

7. Adrienne and her device for TV/Movies for deaf people

8. Mponsi and her idea called the HANDSHAKING COMPANY

9. Chantal and her idea for ADS ON HORSE RACING



What will happen over the next 12 months is to showcase these entrepreneurs and their concepts as well as their brands and generate the buzz around being an entrepreneur, being exciting, being awesome.

I have attached some funky new brands in general as well. If anyone and i mean anyone wants to pitch a new idea then they should come to the UCT graduate school of business every Friday at 12 in Cape Town and the idea will be looked at i promise and perhaps even funded. Because we have now added a fund called SUP that will pay for the testing of a new idea....even more mindblowing and its open to everyone who pitches at the public open sessions.