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Entrepreneurship

  • What Steve Jobs can teach us about hacking charisma

    Olivia Fox Cabane makes her living by teaching people the skills needed to be charismatic, influential and persuasive. During her career, she’s been invited to speak at Harvard, MIT, Google and the United Nations. And through her new book, The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism, Cabane wants to change the way you think about charisma. While most people think charisma is so something you’re either born with it or you’re not, Cabane believes that charisma is nothing more than a set of attitudes, skills and behaviours that can not only be practiced...

  • Alan Knott-Craig Jr on birthing World of Avatar, sealing the Mxit deal

    In the third and final extract from his book "Mobinomics", South African entrepreneur Alan Knott-Craig Jr details how he took World of Avatar from concept to company. As was the case with some of his previous ventures, there were speedbumps along the way. At one point Knott-Craig had less than R2 000 to his name and kept the business afloat with emergency loans. Slowly though, things began to turn around, until he was ready to make another play for Mxit: Africa's largest social network. Things began to move at the speed of lightning. Pete’s development team moved to Stellenbosch, bringing...

  • What does running a startup feel like?

    Someone recently asked what it felt like to run a startup. It's an interesting question, because you constantly get peppered with advice on how to choose your partners, what sins to avoid committing, and what events to go to but never get told how you'll feel. It's not an easy subject to tackle with any brevity -- emotions are, after all, complex -- but I've given it my best shot. First off, it's very tough to sleep most nights of the week. Weekends don't mean anything to you anymore. Closing a round of financing is not a relief. It...

  • Alan Knott-Craig Jr on missing his first shot at Mxit, founding World of Avatar

    In the second in a series of extracts from his book "Mobinomics", South African entrepreneur Alan Knott-Craig Jr reflects on the first encounter he had with Mxit founder Herman Heunis. At that stage the company was worth a lot less than Knott-Craig would eventually end up paying for it. He also describes the bits of luck, opportunities, cups of coffee, and marital difficulties that put him on the path to leaving wireless broadband company iBurst and starting World of Avatar -- the group of startups that would come to include Mxit in its list of properties. ...

  • Crowdfunding: It’s more than just having an idea and collecting the money

    Thousands of great ideas flounder at the point where they need to become reality; when great thinkers and idea generators turn to the age-old problem of raising funds to kickstart their new ventures….too often they fail and give up. Getting investment is a whole different ball game to developing products and services. So when the idea of crowdfunding first emerged, (crowdsourced fund-raising) it was embraced by entrepreneurs like sweet words of love from Juliet to her Romeo. Surely this was it, the easy answer to getting enough capital to fund your idea from like-minded individuals, without having to do...

  • Run a startup, travel the world, defy convention: Q&A with Chris Guillebeau

    Building a startup on-the-go while you travel the world may seem unlikely. The status quo would have us believe it borders on the impossible. Thing is, Chris Guillebeau has done just that. Oh and he also writes books and evangelically spreads his unconventional ideas on entrepreneurship and startup communities. The word "unconventional" is actually a pretty accurate description of Guillebeau. The American entrepreneur reckons you can build a startup for less than US$100 and even wrote a book explaining how. His popular blog, The Art of Non-Conformity, focuses on travel and personal development topics and meshes with his personal mission...

  • South African entrepreneurs are punk rock

    Like most people who grew up in America, I really had no idea what to expect when I first travelled to South Africa (besides gazelles and lions). My first trip was to Johannesburg two years ago to open a new office, and I have been back several times since, most recently Cape Town. Of all the places I travel for our company, South Africa is one of my favorites. After I overcame the shock of there not being any gazelles or lions, but instead razor wire and "taxis" crammed with people, the first thing that struck me was how...

  • What tech businesses need to survive in a time of flux

    The theme of the 2012 Skoll World Forum is "Flux: seizing momentum, driving change", which I think is a fantastic one. We’ve never had such upheaval in the way businesses work, in how citizens interact with government, or in how information flows in the world. It’s about change, and survival in a time of flux is best done through agility and creativity. "As an operating paradigm, it expresses the fluid nature of relationships, policies, institutions and human beings which are ever-changing in non-linear ways." Thriving on acceleration The world we live in today is accelerating, in just about everything we’re seeing disruptive...

  • 4 Factors shaping social impact investment in Africa’s tech scene

    I recently took part in a panel discussion focused on “investing in tech in Africa”. It was a good session, as it was very much a discussion between the audience and ourselves. There were a number of points that came up illustrating both the current difficulties and future opportunities when it comes to investing in the African tech space. Using what's there There are a number of tech hubs and labs coming up across the continent, and each have a different focus as we all try to experiment in our space to see what works. The Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of...

  • 9 Events every tech startup should add to its diary

    South Africa's tech scene is on the rise and tech entrepreneurs from the country are finding their way to Silicon Valley with products worthy of the world's attention. Some of these entrepreneurs are now mentors and have a wealth of knowledge that they're willing to share with their fellow countrymen. Two of the most common themes among startup mentors, coaches and founders whose companies got acquired, are to learn continually and to increase the quality of your network. You can do both at industry relevant events, so I took a moment to find out which South African tech events...

  • Y Combinator: Investors should back the jockey not the horse

    Y Combinator, a leading seed investment incubator, recently announced that it would be accepting startup applications for this years fund from startup founders WITHOUT an idea. Here's how the incubator describes itself on its website: Y Combinator does seed funding for startups. Seed funding is the earliest stage of venture funding. It pays your expenses while you're getting started. Some companies may need no more than seed funding. Others will go through several rounds. There is no right answer. How much funding you need depends on the kind of company you start. It appears that the technology investment market arrived...

  • Attention entrepreneurs, diarise this: LaunchCapeTown

    If you’re an entrepreneur looking to network, polish your elevator pitch, hone your product or simply learn from big names in the tech industry, diarise LaunchCapeTown, the five day event that starts on 23 March in Cape Town, South Africa and brings together startups, entrepreneurs, and digital tastemakers. The event includes the Cape Town Entrepreneurial Competition (CTEC), as well as startup-related speakers, get-togethers, mentoring sessions and keynotes from big name speakers such as Nimeshh Patel, COO of AOL Europe. Attendees will be able to mix with "trailblazers", media representatives, as well as digital creatives from the interactive industry. The competition...

  • Emerging market fund launched for digital media innovation

    A well-known New York-based fund that focuses on emerging market media has launched an early-stage fund for entrepreneurs developing digital news and information businesses. The fund, called Digital News Ventures, has been launched by the Media Development Loan Fund (MDLF). The MDLF, which operates out of Prague, has invested more than $113-million in 79 independent news companies in 27 countries, mainly emerging markets, since 1995. It backs up all of its debt and equity investments with strategic advice and business assistance. Digital News Ventures will provide early-stage equity finance from $30 000 to $300 000 to entrepreneurs whose ideas...

  • The hows and the whats — 5 tough questions VCs ask

    Over the past six months I have spoken with a wide variety of people who have shown, in varying degrees, interest in investing in my company. Many of these VCs have specific ways that they conduct a call, interview or meeting. Many of them have lead me down long and wasteful due diligence processes, many have been kind, some have been blunt and harsh but all have been pedantic and specific about the types of questions they ask. I have found that, on the whole, the questions are standard and the steps straight-forward but there are always the tough questions...

  • 5 Tips for taking your tech startup from big idea to business success

    Throughout the world, and particularly in emerging market countries, the entrepreneurial landscape remains notoriously difficult to navigate, with an estimated 80% of small businesses failing to sustain themselves for a period of longer than five years. However, with an increasing percentage of jobs now being directly attributable to small business ventures, financial backers in both private and public sectors are slowly starting to acknowledge the substantial impact of entrepreneurial activity on a nation’s economy. Yet, in spite the rising global trend towards venture capitalist backing of tech startups, there remain very few such initiatives present in emerging markets. Can this...