I Present my Tenacious Master Plan of Rainbows and Moonshots
To save the planet
I started my first business at eight years old selling soap at a flea market. I was never going to work for a boss (Thanks Mom).
I’m not going to write as if someone is looking over my shoulder, I’m not about that, if anything, I’m going to be as direct and honest as I can be, so no one is ever confused.
Why? Because I love the challenge for one, but for more, I’ve always found that business is the most effective way of doing anything I wanted to do.
What do I want to do?
When I was younger (I’m still young), I would have chuckled and roared out: “THE WORLD! I WANT THE WORLD!”. Though, now, although the planet is still within my ambition, it’s less about conquering it as some comic book villain, and more about saving it, or at least, creating a better world, than the one I entered into.
Once I realised why I do what I do, and what I wanted to do, the rest became very easy. Create the greatest business in the world, to make the most money, to make the most difference to making a better world.
I then sat down in the middle of a monsoon on Thailand’s Phi Phi Island, and began writing down my plan. Unopposed and without fear of side eyes or opinions of sheep, I wrote what will be mine and my company’s focus for the next five and ten years.
What follows are some highlights of the past year, some industry lessons to those who need them, and what we’d like to achieve going forward.
Why tell all of you? Well, let’s just say is part ego, part expression, but more for me to remind myself what I have promised to myself.
Let’s start with the outline of these companies, each is based in a sector that is currently or will undergo a massive boom in growth in the next five years, while still being in a space that I feel has room for a degree of evolution or “disruption”.
These business, that I’ve come to code word: the Startup Engine, are based around growing an internet based economy in Africa. Each company or brand will allow my partners and myself to activate that theatre of business and develop from within it, think of it like a hydra.
I’d like to discuss the slow burner first; Joburgbrew.com, my first step into the industry of online commerce.
Our eCommerce position:
Over the past year, my company Joburgbrew.com has focused it’s energy around providing a retail service to it’s customers, in essence, selling craft beer online.
Though, 90% of the time and workload has revolved around work within the industry and the back end of our online platform. Like most new businesses a large part of our effort revolved around just: “making it work dude!”
Simply integrating logistics companies into a simple wordpress/woocommerce online sales system proved to be one of the more time consuming aspects of the business.
Another was updating and maintain our site, site crashes, storage space and load speeds were/are a constant challenge to keep up-to-date with and “fix”.
Then there’s the red tape struggle of supply, promotion of products, pricing and storage concerns, all the while still developing the content and promoting our brand to convert retail sales.
With most of our stake holders’ technology finally catching up to integrating eCommerce into their logistical and supply and stock offerings, we’ve finally reached a point of something we’re calling Integrated eCommerce; simply, it means using different forms of eCommerce sales methods, and therefore income channels, to grow our online company, a combination of drop-shipping, lean logistics and traditional stock shipping play their role here too.
What we’ve learnt this past year has been tremendous. Even to the point of us learning the pain points of the entire online commerce industry.
Simply, the industry isn’t ready for most startups:
Between the idea an entrepreneur may have, to actually executing on that idea, the barriers can be insurmountable by the direct problems of an industry’s maturity:
Logistics companies don’t have the systems for small eCommerce start-ups. Yes, projects like Wumdrop or UberEats are slowly being introduced, but are no where near the level of scale needed to make their use as effective as they would be in larger online markets we find in Europe and the US. (Yet)
Stock taking and management are also a challenge, specifically for business like ours starting with a drop-shipping model. Companies that provide digital stocking and tracking solutions work, though their prices are usually out the reach of most startups. Again, slowing the development of the industry.
Actual online buying works though, South Africa is good at that. With companies like Snapscan, Zapper, PayFast and now even WeChat, purchasing and selling online has never been easier and remains one of the lowest barriers to a eCommerce company.
Looking forward, we find an internet economy:
Where do we stand then? As a company, Joburgbrew.com will continue to learn and thrive despite it’s many many shortfalls and hick-ups.
I guess that’s the first lesson any business owner learns is that they really do know nothing when starting out in something new.
Having said that, the goal is to shift Joburgbrew.com from a purely retail model to a subscription based model. We’ve seen good growth in the cultural acceptance of this kind of eCommerce model with other companies in the industry and feel that we will evolve to have 80% of our business within the next five years through this model.
Then, it’s a matter of developing and owning the industry that we are a part of, creating the digital systems and property that will support the fledgling online economy and further, build the real world means to carry the goods and services such an economy will sprout.
Joburgbrew.com yes, is a online store that retails craft beer, but it is also but the first step, a single stone, into the path to building Africa’s internet economy.
There is no information for Africa:
When working within the eCommerce industry, I quickly realised that there was no real or reliable African information on the eCommerce industry or it’s online markets as it stood.
But, when it comes to hard facts, actual demographics, locations, purchasing power, product preferences, buying model or payment preferences, current data comes a bit short.
Similarly, when it comes to telling African stories or creating African content, we’ve made strides as a society, we’ve worked to build our own African identity and tell the world our stories. Online publications and media houses like iAfrikan.com for one, have pushed for this form of publishing and conversation and all of the above continue to do so.
We need more than just African stories though:
We need knowledge, more, we need African knowledge to apply to African challenges to build African economies.
That’s why businesses like milled.co.za are capable of establishing themselves as the media powerhouses of the future, for the voice of a generation, in our case, the Millennials and Gen-Z.
Creating, curating and empowering our local growing online community with ideas, data and information that is relevant specifically to our continent is essential to creating better economies and decisions.
This isn’t about providing News, it’s about a unique perspective:
For news, this is nothing new, we all watched as #FeesMustFall was coordinated through Twitter, we all became experts over night regarding everything from politics to law during any public trial, but when it comes to business information and data regarding our markets or products or even locations, we’ve not had the access.
This is no ones fault, as an economy, we’re driven by the traditional economic sectors in resources. We have not yet reached the point of critical “service” sector mass like our neighbours in the United Kingdom for one example.
Having access to that information means that businesses and people, will be better prepared for their market, more so, their market will be more prepared for them.
milled.co.za is the corner stone for an online media publication network for the next generation of readers in Africa. A publication that will not only tell stories, but provide value to it’s users in most aspects of Millennial/GenZ life in Africa.
Right now, we’re small, numbering less than ten, and our topics, focused on things we know: music, technology, movies, but our ambition is to build milled.co.za into a online Millennial perspective publication for the next five years.
We believe, that milled.co.za is much more than a blog or publication, it will be a voice for those that need it.
If Joburgbrew.com is the first step in developing our internet economy, milled.co.za will be the machine that screams the world; we are here!
Coming out of no-mans land, into a role of disruptor:
I left my “career” in the communications industry about two years ago. I became despondent with the internal politics of the industry and the weakness of a large share of it’s leadership to think of anything further than to simply renew their yearly retainers.
There are obvious exceptions to my above statement, but I still believe that a large share of the digital communications industry in South Africa is broken. Ripped between global entities, trying to go digital, and new startups trying to break the traditional ad agency mould.
For me, it came down to a simple evening in Thailand, contemplating the universe as one does, when I realised that I love what I do, more so, I’m good at it.
That’s why whence I arrived back in South Africa I officially, although softly, launched Third Planet Media, a “digital” communications company.
Though this time, I won’t be bogged down by politics or global KPI’s. Rather, stimulated by the challenges my client’s present, finding creative and potentially insane solutions to those challenges and more so, draw a line in the industry that the standard starts here.
As a company, we have a focus on paid media and data analysis, or online reputation management for lack of a better buzzword. Though, like most companies in a digital sphere, we’ve been able to work within our other, although less unique strengths; community management and content development.
It’s more than the challenge, it’s about making a difference:
While Third Planet is a tried and tested model, and agencies sprout like weeds on almost a daily basis, there is only so much food to go around.
Today, everyone and a laptop could potentially start their own agency.
That’s a problem for some, an opportunity for others, a challenge that yes, we’ll have to over come, like any business, we’ll need to stand out. Of course our goal is to build a sustainable business, but deeper, our goal at Third Planet is two fold:
One, take one hundred brands and business and make them the best they can possibly be online. Two, working with those brands and businesses, to create the best business in their respective industries.
We believe, by doing this we will not only distinguish ourselves, but also build a legacy and revise the industry standard that is sorely needed across the globe.
Five years, then what?
Each brand in essence supports the other, all contributing to one united goal at the end of the first five years, the goal being: capital.
The united goal I’ve come to call “Ventures”, will in essence act as venture capital and investment arm of the entire company, funded in part by the money raised by the startup engine: Third Planet, Joburgbrew.com and Milled.co.za, Ventures will focus on three primary sectors that we believe will help us move closer to achieving our vision.
These sectors, simply: Renewable Energy, Agriculture technology and Consumer Technology, with supporting investments in each sub-industry to further strengthen the entire entity.
Ventures’ primary goal is to act as capital creator and distributor for the next phase of our company after the end of year ten.
For now though, this is our ten year master plan, with Startup Engine taking centre for the next five years for me, and Ventures taking the next five years.
Why am I doing this?
Ladies, gentlemen, friends, colleagues, it’s simple. I plan to save the world. This is how I plan to start to do it.
The only question now is who will help me achieve this vision, and who will wish they had in ten years. My plan in a nutshell is as follows:
Build three self sustaining businesses in the eCommerce, Media and Communications sectors.
With money made from those businesses, create a venture capital fund to invest into renewable energy, agricultural technology and consumer technology.
While growing the fund, also reinvest into the original three companies to create new standards in each respective industry invested in.
Build an Internet Economy
Save the world