28 years in business and what have I learned? A peek at my 1st of March 2021 diary entry
1st March 2021
Back in 2007 while I was working in London for Goldman Sachs my father died of cancer. For over 16 years I had been working and studying around the world, seeing my parents once a year. I decided I didn't wish to also alose my mother without spending more time with her (she was the last member of my family... With her being an orphan from world war 2). I landed in South Africa in Oct 2007 and used the opportunity to start my entrepreneurial career...
I started multiple businesses in the first years, most of which failed for all the reasons which are obvious now but which at the time I dismissed under the assumption that 'it will be different with me'.
The businesses that did make it? I didn't know it at the time, but my entrepreneurial life has always ended up attracting me towards impact projects. Once I realised that I have a knack for making creating impact projects that have a good sustainability model, there was no stopping me.
My first project - together with the primary healthcare legend that is Mark Rundle - became a case study used at Harvard, MIT, Stanford and even featured at NASA. It was about democratization of primary healthcare services. I even did the world’s first TEDx talk on this topic. My mother passed away one month after the end of this project.
My second business, with my phenomenal business partner and one of my closest friends, Anke Schaffranek, was about democratization of access to markets, specifically creating an enabling environment which would benefit every small business irrespective of their location or track record. This became a solution used in over 83 countries. The reason for this business was because Anke and I both realised that without clients a small business had no hope and we wanted to make it easier for SMEs to access opportunities.
My third venture started during a covid-related lockdown in September 2020 - together with a few crazy fellow adventures - and is around the democratization of access to knowledge for startups and small businesses. More specifically it was the realisation that most of the online learning content out there is created with too much focus on aspirational entrepreneurship in mind and not enough on the foundations of business development knowledge that someone starting out requires. We created a few online courses at home, packaged them an innovative delivery platform and released them via an unconventional method. Today - 6 months after launching - we welcomed our 420.000th student to our knowledge family. Our target? 10 million students within 36 months.
In all these ad-ventures we never knew exactly how we would start or grow or even what exactly we were doing. We just knew we wanted to solve a problem we saw first hand. In all of them we used hardly any capital to start them, opting for a ridiculously agile development approach (tiny step, measure traction, listen to feedback, adjust direction, take another tiny step)... Who knows what other future holds. Just never stop moving, even when your progress may not seem impressive.
Entrepreneurs are neither born nor made. Entrepreneurs are panel beaten. Happy 2021 everyone!