Many Allan Gray Fellows view the Foundation as an individuality shaper, a paradigm shifter and a training ground for walking on water. They often speak of being trained to see solutions and are unlikely to ever make peace with problems or inefficiencies. A quintessential example of how this kind of thinking has lead to the start of a business and its pursuit in the face of wide open seas is Maurice Madiba and his venture, Cloud Atlas Investments.
Maurice hails from Randburg and joined the Foundation as a Candidate Allan Gray Fellow in 2005. He graduated in 2009 with an accounting degree from the University of the Witwatersrand and later on completed his Honours through UNISA. “I chose accounting because it was listed as one of the careers needed to be a stock broker and also be a board member,” explains Maurice. This long-cherished vision to deal with financial markets led him to trade on his own account and experience the thrill of stock trading.
When he realised that his ability to access the stock market and the products offered was not something that was available to everyone he started developing and executing trading models for the JSE. After some time, he started looking at the African markets, which offered a seemingly distant and sharply criticised investment opportunity. Maurice saw these criticisms as stemming from uninformed bias and dared to pursue the opportunity. There were still barriers to invest, without having large capital sums, but he seized his chance to allow Africans’ participation in Africa’s growth and so began the African Market Index series.
Cloud Atlas Investments creates and structures Index and Exchange-Traded Funds; products that they list on stock exchanges to provide investors with exposure to African markets. The ETFs allow an investor to get the performance of the emerging African market, while the diversification of the indices across 15 countries means one can invest in Africa’s combined investment potential, while reducing a lot of the country-specific risks. The business is still in its pre-product launch phase, but, explains Maurice, “We are driving the main objective of the business through the proper channels so that the investment product is not complicated but rather easier to understand.” Once there is solid distribution in the market place, he’ll know that the business is running well.
At the time of starting this venture Maurice was reminded of a scripture in the Bible where Jesus calls Peter to him and he, being in the middle of the ocean, chooses to step out of the boat and walk on water. “It was this verse that made me take such a bold move to leave corporate and start my business.” He was able to do this in six months but then needed to draw on that same courage or blind faith again to sustain him through what he calls “the dark days.” During those dark days, which ended in 2015, he experienced funding disappointments, made hard decisions, wondered how the business would survive and watched his dream team fall apart, leaving him to start as if from the beginning. On the 11th of July 2016 Maurice became the first Allan Gray Fellow business invested in by E2. E2 is a B-BBEE partner of Allan Gray (Pty) Ltd. Through provision of capital and non-financial support, E2 empower Allan Gray Fellows to become responsible and impactful entrepreneurs.
In the face of all these hardships, however, he remains hopeful: “the sky is blue and that is worth celebrating.” With hopes for his business “to be the biggest Pan Africa ex-SA investment product anywhere on God’s green earth,” it makes sense that this young man draws hope from blue, limitless skies.
A similar belief in the limitlessness of his potential and what the world has to offer fueled him from a young age. He describes himself as an adventurous boy who made the best of his surroundings. “We didn’t grow up with much … my friends and I used to build makeshift carts to race down the sloped road; we did music, took big walks and always went out to meet people.” He was also known for being a book worm. “Once my friend said my head would pop with all the books I read.” Fortunately, that jibe did not stop Maurice. He was a bursary recipient at school and at the time of learning about the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s Fellowship Opportunity, he was already the recipient of an Ernst & Young bursary. “At first I was reluctant to apply, but upon reading the pillars of the Foundation, I said to myself this describes me very well … It’s one decision I have never regretted.”
When asked if he would ever recommend the Fellowship Opportunity to others, Maurice describes how the Foundation zooms in on personal development. If one joins the Foundation, whatever talent one has is sure to be developed. “The Foundation gives you the tools to master your talent and use it to the best of your ability.” Beyond that, it helps you to explore your depths – you get to know yourself and how deep your courage runs. But be warned, an experience in the Fellowship might render you more likely to get out of the boat and walk on water.