Go Big AND Go Home! This was one of the many nuggets I took away from the Net Prophet 2014 event which Anthony Farr and I attended recently. This annual tech/entrepreneurship event is the brainchild of the Ramp Foundation. Having never had the good fortune of attending SXSW (yet) I would imagine that Net Prophet could easily be one of the events which would form part of the line-up at SXSW except, of course, this is a proudly South African platform committed to local growth with global reach. The organisers sum up the event best on the website: “Take the most innovative/ successful/ creative/ ambitious thinkers and entrepreneurs in the Internet space, and ask them to share their stories, ideas and predictions for the future in a format that is fresh, relevant and engaging. The result: Net Prophet” This year’s line-up of Prophets included the likes of Jody Ford, (VP for Marketing at eBay), Andrew Valentine (Founder of Streetcar), Nicole Yershon (Director of Innovation at Ogilvy), Simon Dingle (entrepreneur and host of Tech5 on 5fm) amongst others. The keynote speaker was none other than the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange who was beamed in via video chat. All the Prophets shared some interesting insights and thoughts on the future of business, the tech space and doing business in Africa but I will focus on the takeouts that stood out for me. Aaron Marshall, founder of Over, shared his insights and the importance of a supportive partner when pursuing your start-up efforts. Aaron left the USA (with access to already established start-up communities like Silicon Valley) and opted to establish his base in Cape Town (he refers to our beautiful city as the #nofiltercity in reference to its natural beauty which doesn’t require a filter to make it look prettier). Aaron shared the following:
- To be a great creator, be a great consumer. This is true of most things, if you wish to be a great writer; you need to be a great consumer of words! In order to make or create products or services, you need to be a consumer of products and services.
- Embrace complexity to find simplicity.
- Go Big AND Go Home! No amount of success at work can make up for failure at home.
- Passion/Market Fit – do something meaningful that matters – find that intersection between what you are passionate about and what has a market.
Rob Stokes, no stranger to the Foundation community*, Founder of Quirk and just off the back of WPP purchasing Quirk, had the following to share:
- The most adaptable to change survive.
- Businesses struggle to innovate internally. Rob explained that innovation must take place, but that it should not affect your ability to deliver on your core business. Quirk innovated with businesses such as Brandseye and IdeaBounty but they were launched as separate entities to the main business.
- Make yourself saleable, even if you’re not for sale. This speaks to making sure that you have all your ducks in a row as you never know when an opportunity might arise. Especially around ensuring you have the right corporate governance structures in place.
- You need luck, it happens through perseverance. Enough said, even Thomas Jefferson said, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it”.
- Be generous with your knowledge. I remember getting my free copy of the Quirk marketing textbook like it was yesterday!
- If you’re going to do something, commit fully.
- Always play to people’s strengths. Ensure you surround yourself with the right people and then let them do what they do best. This leads into the next nugget.
- Surround yourself with people better than yourself.
- Timing does matter (just hard to predict).
The Quirk team are also behind the awesome Legocy Project, an initiative to get the makers of Lego to manufacture the Madiba: Freedom Fighter set so that future generations will always be aware of Nelson Mandela’s legacy. Sign it! Events such as these provide great fuel for the work we do at the Foundation. Both in terms of looking at the various components of the entrepreneurial ecosystems that exist for our Allan Gray Fellows to join as well as ensuring that those of us who work here keep our own entrepreneurial fires stoked. Thanks to all @Netprophet for an awesome event! The last nugget came from Andrew Valentine, founder of Streetcar, who simply said, “Africa is an entrepreneurs dream.” I, for one, am looking forward to seeing all your entrepreneurial dreams become a reality in the coming years…*Rob Stokes appears in the Foundation’s Fellowship opportunity video (starting at 0:32)