November, 2012 | Allan Gray Orbis Foundation
The Entrepreneurial Method

The Entrepreneurial Method

Entrepreneurship is mostly seen as the domain of the gifted, outside the reach of the ordinary man. If we reverse to the 16th century, this so called ‘great man’ explanation was exactly the situation in which science found itself. Bacon then initiated the process of codifying the actions of scientists, leading to the understanding of empirical evidence and experimentation that became the building blocks of the ‘scientific method’. Today, the scientific method is taught as an essential skill; it forms part of the core of all education (not only for science graduates).

What if the key to unlocking the full potential of entrepreneurship’s impact on society is to similarly see entrepreneurship not as a mysterious gift but as a method that can be understood? By being replicable, entrepreneurship would then be released from the confines of a sub-category of economics and elevated to the level of a social force¹.

This idea is still at an early stage of exploration, but already the implications are significant. Beyond simply replicating entrepreneurial endeavor, everyone could benefit from the reasoning and problem-solving skills emerging as part of this method. It has potential as a tool to unpack large problems at the centre of progressing humanity.

Even in its current early stages, the ‘entrepreneurship method’ is providing the Foundation with a powerful paradigm against which to evaluate and refine the activities undertaken within the Allan Gray Fellowship and Scholarship. One example is the introduction of “ignitions” including one which requires Fellows to look at every area of life more critically, with a view to practicing how to identify inefficiencies and think of solutions. It aligns with the entrepreneurship method by focusing on their existing context as the starting point before moving forward.

By Anthony Farr

¹Entrepreneurship as Method: Open Questions for an Entrepreneurial Future’, Professor Saras D. Sarasvathy and SankaranVentakaram.


Association Leadership & Startership Seminars

Association Leadership & Startership Seminars

“Be the change you want to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi

South Africans need to leave behind their sense of entitlement and take ownership for the development of our country. The Association of Allan Gray Fellows is an active community of graduated Fellows which strive to be the entrepreneurial leaders our country needs.
Two portfolios were created by the Association for this purpose: Leadership and Startership. Leadership assists in accelerating Fellows’ trajectory in their current environments, whilst Startership seeks to support Fellows as they move into entrepreneurship.

The Leadership Portfolio of the Association of Allan Gray Fellows hosted its inaugural Leadership Seminar on Saturday 23rd June 2012 in Johannesburg, with the theme being: “A New Paradigm in Leadership”. The purpose of the seminar was to share the Fellows’ journeys with one another, whilst challenging traditional and previous definitions of leadership. The innovative nature of the seminar was expressed through the choice of unconventional venues for the event, including Sci Bono, the Maboneng District and South Point’s rooftop. Jonathan Liebmann, the man behind the Maboneng Precinct who is acknowledged as a World Economic Forum Global Shaper for his success in regenerating the inner city and driving development, gave the Fellows a historical tour of the area whilst sharing advice for budding young entrepreneurial leaders. Zayne Imam (Class of 2010), Sivu Mzamo (Class of 2009), Allan Craig Knott Jr. and Philippa Wheaton were the headline speakers on the day of the seminar, sharing their honest accounts of their own personal journeys into leadership.

On the 6th of October 2012, the first Startership Seminar was held. Following three master-classes on entrepreneurial attitude, ideation and skills, teams of Fellows participated in the Startership Challenge. The challenge was to develop a financially sustainable social business that would address a real issue within the education system.

Two teams were selected to pitch their concepts on the 27th of October 2012 at the E2 Seminar- a venture capital fund established by Allan Gray to invest in businesses led by Allan Gray Fellows. Both teams pitched at the E2 event with the intention of establishing a relationship with potential future financiers of their ideas.

Eduvator was awarded a prize of R25 000 which would be used to establish a social enterprise that makes use of emotive multi-media and crowd sourcing techniques to fund improvements to the basic requirements in the education system. The team shared their first target project, which is to provide chairs and desks to schools in the Eastern Cape where children currently make use of mielie-meal sacks, bricks and beer crates as furniture.

These steps undertaken by the Leadership and Startership portfolios mark the start of what we believe will become a powerful community of high-impact entrepreneurs at the forefront of our continent’s development.

Circle of Excellence Conference 2012

Circle of Excellence Conference 2012

The Foundation hosted its third Circle of Excellence conference at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy from 17th – 19th August 2012. The Circle of Excellence is an informal grouping of schools from which the Foundation mostly finds its candidate Fellows for its university Fellowship. The purpose of this collective is for leaders in education to come together and learn about strategies which promote excellence in education for South Africa. This year the theme of the conference was “From Excellence to Influence: The Leadership Journey to Significance”. The objective was to understand the role of entrepreneurial leadership in moving from excellence to influence within the regional educational environment.


The aim was to stimulate debate and action so that these schools could individually and collectively leverage educational excellence to broader influence, through raising awareness of the significance of entrepreneurial leadership. The conference this year was attended by 61 principals (or their deputies) and a further nine principals from schools where the Foundation places its young Scholars. Unique to this year’s event was the opportunity for principals to invite their partner community schools that they had been engaging with throughout the course of the year, which added a stimulating and diverse dimension to the event. The take-away challenge for principals was: “If your school did not exist…what difference would it make?”

Following on from the inspiration of Jonathan Jansen and Nick Binedell in 2011, Vincent Maphai, Anne van Zyl and Walter Baets all continued the challenges from their unique perspectives. Dr. Maphai shared his leadership journey of significance as he unfolded his personal and professional life highlights whilst focusing on the strong educational foundation that underpinned his significant career. Professor Baets challenged the participants on the need for values-based leadership and the fact that more than transformational leadership is required, adding that activating citizenship at the level of significance should be the bedrock for leadership. Anne van Zyl shared the vision of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy which was followed by an inspiring pupil-led school tour and entertainment.

One of the principals which attended summed up the event in a few words: “During the past few years I have had the privilege of attending a number of international educational conferences and with all due respect to the organisers and speakers concerned, I have found the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation events in many aspects of greater value than these international conferences. The inspiring educational impact that your Foundation is making on the South African landscape is phenomenal and being able to interact with the Fellows was inspiring.”

National Fellowship Jamboree

National Fellowship Jamboree

There is probably only one thing better than bringing 227 of the region’s future entrepreneurial leaders together under one roof, and that is to be privy to their inspirational ideas and experience their collective energy and dynamism. In the coming years, their ripples of proposed change will ultimately bear fruit thanks largely to their visionary thinking.

From 21st to 22nd September, the entire Allan Gray Fellowship attended the Programme’s National Jamboree at Spier Wine Estate in Stellenbosch. The Jamboree is an inspirational meeting of ideas and actions that lies at the heart of the Foundation’s vision.

Kicking off this flagship event was Tshepo Phakathi, whose humble ekhasi upbringing saw him actively seeking out opportunities which culminated in a highly successful entrepreneurship trajectory. Recently recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans, Tshepo now oversees several companies employing over 2000 staff in total.

This set the scene for moving into Open Space– a facilitation technique that creates an organic and Fellow-driven conference agenda. It was an opportunity for the Fellows to exercise their conceptual and problem-solving abilities by addressing everyday issues.

The Fellow Entrepreneurial Leadership Programme formed the basis of these discussions. Over the past few months, the Fellows have actively engaged with their Entrepreneurial Leadership Coaches by submitting inefficiencies that they had noted in their environment.

The value of this mindset development support shone through in the quality and diversity of the ideas presented by the Fellows. After three rounds of pitching ideas and solutions to their peers, the Fellows then voted on the inefficiencies that they felt had the most real world potential. Eight Fellows were shortlisted to pitch their entrepreneurial ideas to a panel of venture capitalists, industry captains and investors on the final day.

Paul Smith, who has extensive experience in entrepreneurial research, kicked off the last day. According to his research, Fellows could significantly increase their chances of entrepreneurial success by finding a business partner, starting off with over R250 000 in cash, gaining industry experience and studying for as long as possible!

The quality and depth of the ideas pitched to the panel was clearly apparent. Harald Oswin, who is in the process of completing his studies at Harvard, was eventually recognised for the potential of his highly innovative entrepreneurial idea.

By many regards, the Jamboree is the ultimate Fellowship experience. Its value lies not just in the two day event, but also in the Fellowship’s Entrepreneurial Leadership curriculum that supports it. Given that this was only the second Jamboree iteration, it is clearly an amazing platform to showcase the possibilities arising from bringing entrepreneurially-magnetized Fellows together within an intentional space.

Given that most Fellows will have up to four of these Jamboree engagements over their Fellowship journey, it is the most powerful insight yet into the emerging talent being catalysed by Allan Gray’s long-term vision.

Fellowship 2014: Applications for Grade 12 students closed 31st May 2012 and applications for first year university students closed 31st August 2012, with over 1700 applications received in total from all over Southern Africa. Candidates will undergo a rigorous selection process from September to December 2012, with less than 100 Fellows ultimately selected to join the Fellowship in 2014.

The Scholarship

The Scholarship

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation exists to promote social and economic progress in an integrated South Africa, through fostering high impact entrepreneurial leaders. One of the avenues for developing these high impact leaders is the Scholarship pipeline which funnels promising young individuals through the Scholars programme. The Foundation’s Grade 9 and Grade 11 National Development Camps were recently held with the aim of promoting, supporting and sustaining this mindset development.

The Grade 9 National Development Camp was themed “Kids go Wild”, whilst the theme for the Grade 11 Development Camp was “Dancing with Change”. The camp aims to create self-awareness in learners, activate an entrepreneurial mindset, stimulate academic excellence, promote opportunity engagement and inspire the learners in being visionary. The Foundation’s Pillars of Excellence; Wisdom, Knowledge, Vision, Leadership and Courage are thus connected to all activities and tasks presented to the learners to assist with this process.

The camp created reflective space for the Scholars to consider their identities, their various environments, influences and dreams. Building onto these explorations, the Scholars were challenged to conceptualise and visualise their future careers as an outworking of who they are, and realise the possibility that their environments may function completely differently in the future. The Foundation aims to assist in this journey by providing them with the tools necessary to enable them to make decisions that will determine their futures. The activities that the Scholars engage in will empower them to make appropriate, authentic and informed choices, which could be a springboard into various tertiary paths and career mapping.
This year, the first cohort of twelve Grade 12 Scholars will graduate from the Scholarship and it will be celebrated with a formal event in January 2013.

Scholarship 2014: Applications for the 2014 Scholarship closed on 28th September 2012 with over 4000 applications received from all across Southern Africa. The Foundation’s selection team is currently processing all applications and accessing who is eligible to undergo testing and interviews. Based on the outcome of this process, approximately 100 students will be chosen to attend a Selection Camp in February 2013, which aims to identify the candidates best suited for a full high school Scholarship in 2014.


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