It’s a wrap for 2014 – what were the top 5 posts of the year?

It’s a wrap for 2014 – what were the top 5 posts of the year?

 

Kholofelo Moyaba
Top post for 2014 features Allan Gray Fellow, Kholofelo Moyaba

At the beginning of this year the Foundation embarked into the world of blogging as we looked to share more of our thinking and stories as part of our contribution to building more entrepreneurial culture and understanding as well as to better communicate the opportunities, learnings and challenges related to the Foundation’s mission.

So for the last 44 weekswe have consistently sent out our weekly blog (and a few more) making this the 50thand last post of the year. During this time we have gathered around 30,000 views and a committed group of nearly 500 followers.  As we come to the end of the first year of this journey we wanted to share some of the highlights and learnings.

The blog provided an opportunity for the Foundation to share information in a number of areas related to the mission of the Foundation. We categorised them as follows:

AREA DESCRIPTION RANKING
Comment Giving context and comment to external developments such as the release of the annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2
Entrepreneurial Mindset Pillars Unpacking the attitudes and mindset that underpin the Foundation’s five pillars, which in our view form the core requirements for entrepreneurial effectiveness 6
Event Providing commentary on important entrepreneurship related events in which the Foundation participates such as the Global Entrepreneurship Congress 5
Foundation:  Giving insight into some specific areas of the Foundation’s mission such as selection 4
Story Sharing the progress of individual Scholars, Candidate Fellows and Fellows 1
Thought Leadership Articulating the Foundation’s learnings and thoughts around areas of knowledge related to our work such as Entrepreneurial mindset. 3
Arushka Bugwandeen
2nd highest ranked post features Allan Gray Fellow, Arushka Bugwandeen

Unsurprisingly the power of human interest prevailed and the most popular type of blog posts were those telling the stories of our Fellows and Scholars.  Interestingly there wasrelatively limited engagement with the attitudes and mindset that make up the Foundation pillars. While the Foundation remains passionate about continuing to learn more about unlocking the entrepreneurial code, we need to do a better job of sharing this excitement with others!

Thesewere the five most popular posts of 2014 in order of popularity:

RANK BLOG TITLE AREA
1 KholofeloMoyaba, developing a Spirit of Significance  Story
2 Arushka Bugwandeen – long term significance  Story
3 African Schools for Excellence – recovering a lost word in our education Comment
4 How many entrepreneurs are there in South Africa? – Reflections on the launch of the South African 2013 GEM Report  Comment
5 Imagining against the odds  Story

Three of the top five were stories and the remaining two were comment. Further confirmation of the interest in these two areas.

So what were the most important leanings from this first year?

1.       Add value.

There is an overwhelming amount of quality information out there at the moment and unless you are adding real value there will be limited interest.  While we may think there is little more important than the attitudes and mindsets making up the Foundation pillars, unless we are able to communicate them in a way that adds genuine value there will be marginal take up.

2.       Give before you get

One of the most popular blogs of the year was a post describing the great work being done by African Schools for Excellence.  We had no compelling reason to write this blog except to create more awareness of this positive development in education and yet it turned out to be one of the more important pieces of the year.

3.       Find your Tribe

Perhaps the biggest learning of the year was the lack of engagement on the blog. We hoped to start a conversation and spark debate around areas important to entrepreneurship. Yet, as reflected by the sparse number of comments, this did not happen. We need to work harder to find that connection and this will be our focus in 2015.

That brings us to an end of 2014.  Thank you for being part of the journey and for your valued support. After taking on board the lessons of 2014, we are excited at what lies ahead for an even better blogging 2015.

We hope you have a restful festive season and we will be back in action in the week of the 12th January.

Shape the Future Series Final Summary

Shape the Future Series Final Summary

Since the beginning of March this year, our Shape the Future Series has been traversing the world of the Foundation’s five pillars. The Foundation’s core beliefs are centred on our five pillars, namely, Intellectual Imagination, the Spirit of Significance, Achievement Excellence, Personal Initiative and Courageous Commitment.  These five pillars are at the very heart of everything we do.

In 2012 we found a way to activate the Foundation’s pillars online, through the iShift platform.   The iShift platform showcases the five pillars in action.  Each pillar is disaggregated into 4 mindsets, making a total of 20 mindsets and then each of these mindsets is broken down into 6 attitudes, making a total of 120 attitudes.  The platform provides Allan Gray Fellows and Candidate Fellows with an opportunity to learn through a set of reflective questions which culminates with putting that learning into action.  It allows Candidate Fellows and Fellows to “meet” the 120 extraordinary individuals who displayed one of the attitudes, within the mindsets and pillars.

Our Shape the Future series has provided an opportunity to showcase some of the personalities who were chosen as examples of the attitudes which we hope our Fellows and Candidates Fellows will develop in the coming years.   As a reminder, the graphic below outlines the core of the iShift platform.

image

During our journey this year we have met the following individuals and learnt about how they embodied the various attributes of the five pillars:

Pillar/Mindset/Attitude

Personality

Intellectual Imagination/synthesising/conceptual ability Charlie Munger
Intellectual Imagination/creating/innovating Walt Disney
Personal Initiative/proactive/initiating George Washington Carver
Personal Initiative/persuading/persisting Robert Kearns
Personal Initiative/researching/trend-spotting Marian Salzman
Spirit of Significance/adapting/alternative spotting Archimedes
Spirit of Significance/grounded/internally controlled Herman Mashaba
Courageous Commitment/resourceful/focused Nikola Tesla
Achievement Excellence/learning/being knowledgeable Leonardo Da Vinci
Achievement Excellence/learning/market investigating Arthur Charles Nielsen

 

The most popular of these individuals, by way of blog viewership metrics, was Charlie Munger followed by Herman Mashaba and then Nikola Tesla.

As we conclude the Shape the Future series of cogs we would like to invite you to explore your own activation of these various pillars, mindsets and attitudes.  We recently challenged the broader entrepreneurial community to take up the #MakeAR100 Challenge.  Through this challenge, we hope that many more South Africans and global citizens will expand their own mindsets to embrace and harness the opportunities that entrepreneurship holds to Shape the Future.  We hope you’ll join us.

 

Dr. Marks Ensuring Impact

Dr. Marks Ensuring Impact

3P14-34_AGOF102My role at the Foundation is Head of Impact Assurance (IA).  In my early engagement before taking on this role, I compared the role and function of IA to creating a well of knowledge, experience and intellectual rigour upon which the Foundation could draw in conducting its day-to-day work.  My specific role is to act as the originator and curator of this ‘well’ and to help grow the capacity internally in the Foundation to keep the well full and useful.  Doing this work was part of what motivated me to join the Foundation; it felt like a naturally extension of my work as both an entrepreneur and an entrepreneurship scholar and academic.  The work at the Foundation is by no means a culmination of any well thought through life plan; my life has taken many twists and turns (from selling real estate to being a theatre usher), what is common through most of my life activities has been a focus on being entrepreneurial. It’s only in the latter part of my life since completing my PhD that I have begun to focus on the philosophy of entrepreneurship. South Africa is a country absolutely pregnant with possibility, but it is also a deeply wounded country and one that daily enacts a fragile balance between this possibility and opportunity and the woundedness and challenges.  I don’t have hopes and dreams for the country, but I have hopes and dreams for my role in the country.  These are largely around using my talents and skills to the broader betterment of others; not in an evangelical way, but in a quiet, intelligent and useful way. Education and in specific entrepreneurship education is a slow, at times painful, but also rewarding process.  It needs to be undertaken with great care, enthusiasm and most importantly a sense of fun and passion.  I hope that my work at the Foundation and my continued work as an entrepreneurship educator reflects this belief.

Graeme de Bruyn visits Babson University

Graeme de Bruyn visits Babson University

IMG_0025Graeme de Bruyn, Head of Programmes at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, recently visited the renowned Babson College in Massachusetts, USA, to attend an entrepreneurship course entitled ‘Driving Economic Growth Through Entrepreneurship Ecosystems’. Babson College is ranked the number one entrepreneurship educator in the world and has held that title for two decades. Graeme’s course and weeklong trip to the States was as a result of receiving the Foundation’s CEO Award for Significant Impact.

The course stems from an article published in the Harvard Business Review by Daniel Isenberg, professor of Entrepreneurship Practice at Babson Executive and Enterprise Education. In the article he discusses the need for and characteristics of an environment in which entrepreneurs flourish, asserting that they are most successful when they have access to human, financial and professional resources and can operate under favourable and safeguarding policies. All these facets of support make up what is called an entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Isenberg’s thinking around an entrepreneurship ecosystem is based on the various projects he has conducted in numerous countries to help with the creation of policies, structures, programmes and climates that foster entrepreneurship. The prevailing question asked by the public leaders is why throwing money at the problem is not working. A case in point is the Saudi Arabian government whose investment of 100 million US dollars over one year resulted in the emergence of less than 40 entrepreneurs.

In its most basic form the idea of an entrepreneurship ecosystem is very similar to what we find in nature. Just like there is no one factor that makes plants flourish, so also there is no one intervention that can bring about a surge of new entrepreneurs. In both cases there is a fine balance between nourishment, exposure and adversity. And, albeit counterintuitive, this notion of adversity is key here. Just think about the South African protea and how fire actually has a rejuvenating and propagating effect on them. In the same way entrepreneurs can benefit from not having rain and sunshine all the time. Or put differently, it is possible that providing entrepreneurs with too much support can turn out to be a hindrance to their entrepreneurial development.

Besides encouraging the idea of an entrepreneurship ecosystem, the course highlighted the need for adjusting expectation and, more importantly, the need to reconsider the definition of ‘entrepreneurship’. By Isenberg’s definition, a business endeavour should be growth-oriented before it can be considered entrepreneurship. This definition disqualifies the bulk of what is considered entrepreneurship nowadays. As Graeme puts it, “if one digs deeper, you’ll find that what is often touted as ‘entrepreneurship’ is in fact self-employment.”

These are valuable points to consider in any kind of entrepreneurship development programme. In order to measure success, there should be clarity regarding the expected outcomes – men and women who become self-employed or men and women who establish businesses in a constant state of growth.

Graeme was able to identify many similarities between Isenberg’s approach and the Foundation’s operations. For the last ten years the Foundation has been running on an ecosystemic basis, offering Candidate Fellows a range of training and capacity building opportunities before and after starting business ventures. They include a mindset programme called iShift, mentorship, post-Fellowship support in the form of the Association of Allan Gray Fellows and E2, a Foundation partner set to provide venture capital to Fellows’ qualifying business ideas.

The experience – having all that exposure to thought leaders, evidence from actual cases and supporting as well as contradicting literature – has left Graeme with a lot of questions. While intensely preoccupying, these questions are in no way disconcerting. Instead they have allowed him to think about pertinent issues in the Foundation and in our country in an altogether different way. Or as he puts it, “what this course has done for me is really flip the script.”

Kega Mukwevho, Top 10 Finalist in She Leads Africa

Kega Mukwevho, Top 10 Finalist in She Leads Africa

Kega_3It’s common wisdom that one should not count your chickens before they hatch, but in Kega Mukwhevo’s case you might want to. Not only does she work in tandem with South African chicken brand, Galito’s, she is also a co-founder of MKP Fast Foods and a recent finalist in the She Leads Africa business pitch competition.

Kega’s drive to succeed has become especially clear since her election as one of She Leads Africa’s top ten finalists. She happened upon the website of this Nigerian-based social enterprise after having her first taste of a business pitch competition at the annual Jamboree, an event organised by the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation. After this experience all she wanted to do was practice her business pitching skills. So she googled the words ‘pitch competitions’.

She wasn’t exactly looking for a women-centred competition, but Google or Fate led her to one anyway. This was particularly significant as Kega cringingly noticed that she was one of only three woman to have a top-ten position at the Jamboree. “I knew right there and then that I needed to rise up as a woman and empower myself in any way that I possibly can.” Entering this competition was certainly a step in the right direction.

The ten finalists of She Leads SA had six weeks to prepare for the concluding event where they would pitch their idea. This included training and business plan development with an assigned mentor. In Kega’s Case it was Juliana Taylor, CEO of Start Smart. They spoke to each other weekly, for about two to three hours at a time, discussing Kega’s business ideas regarding MKP Fast Foods. Derived from the initials of the founding members, Malatja Manthata, Kega and Phumlani Nkontwana, MKP Fast Foods creates youth employment in South Africa by operating a low-cost, scalable mobile kitchen for the chicken brand, Galito’s. Many of her peers and family members would agree that gravitating toward the food industry was inevitable for Kega; she was always selling cupcakes at school or doing the catering at family functions.

Even though Kega’s attention was divided between her studies (in B.Com Accounting) and prepping for the competition in this time, she never lost focus. Understanding the importance of attending classes – she is an audial and visual learner – she made going to class and tutorials non-negotiable. This rigid refusal to give in to the temptation of focusing on the more exciting business part of her day cost her a lot of sleep. “I was surviving on 2 or 3 hours of sleep per night preparing for the event. Sometimes no sleep.”

In addition to the six-week long preparation time, the finalists attended workshops in Lagos on various business topics, including branding, marketing and leadership. “I absorbed the entrepreneurship spirit in Lagos … the entrepreneurial bug bit me harder and it was there where I felt at home,” she says. In fact, she explains how everyone she met either had their own business or was starting a business on the side, balancing it with full-time jobs. “There is a yearning for success in business that lingers in the Lagos atmosphere … All I want to be is an entrepreneur and [this] energy [has just] fuelled my craving for business development.”

Being in Nigeria also allowed Kega to rub shoulders with the who’s who in the world of entrepreneurship. The finalists were invited to the home of Africa’s 40th richest man, Hakeem Belo-Osagie, and to the same event as Aliko Dangote – Africa’s richest man (as of November 2014). Many interactions like these left her with a strong network of contacts and various offers from venture capitalists and angel networks looking to invest in her endeavours or provide free marketing and life-long mentorships.

While the title of She Leads Africa went to the founder of Rare Customs, Cherae Robinson, there is no doubt that the other nine finalists walked away with invaluable business and life experience. This is clearly true of Kega who says the following of her future endeavours: “I have learned to see other opportunities and there are way too many!” She is well on her way to qualifying as a CA, having successfully completed her degree after the competition. Next up will be an Honours in Accounting. And this will happen alongside her plans to expand MKP Fast Foods and the business she has with her brother, K & I Cuisine Pty (Ltd).

It is already clear that, for Kega at least, 2015 will be both very busy and very full of her first love – good food!

Shape the Future Series: Innovating – Walt Disney

Shape the Future Series: Innovating – Walt Disney

disney-walt-09-gWe have reached the final post for our Shape the Future series.

In our previous post we outlined the attitude of market investigating and profiled Arthur Charles Nielsen.  This week, we look at the attitude of innovating which forms part of the creating mindset under the pillar of Intellectual Imagination.

The creating mindset centres on dreaming up, thinking up and bringing into being an idea, concept or process that is innovative, fresh or new.   We define the attitude of innovating as coming up with something new or fresh particularly when present approaches are failing or inadequate. 

Dropping out of high school at the age of 16 and getting fired from the Kansas City Star newspaper for lack of creativity could easily have set him up for failure, but Walt Disney’s passion for animation and innovation is a tale as magical as those he brought to the silver screen.

Walt Disney was an entertainment innovator, introducing groundbreaking cartoons, feature films, theme parks and more.  His signature creation, Mickey Mouse, is one of the most recognised icons in the world.  Less well known is that Disney developed a systematic innovation process at his studio, which has survived and evolved into a whole culture for fostering innovation.  Through training and experimentation, new techniques were developed to fulfil Disney’s extremely high expectations of quality.

Not only did he encourage innovation at Walt Disney Studios, he also continually reinvented himself according to the changing demands of his ever expanding empire.

walt-disney-fun-facts-460578038-jul-17-2012-600x499From cartoonist, to animator, then voice actor, screenwriter, director and film producer, Walt Disney became a business owner and the process of reinvention began all over again.  He became an entrepreneur, theme park designer and music publisher.  Right up until his death in 1966, Walt Disney continued to dream, inspire and innovate.

Today, The Walt Disney Company is an iconic stable of innovative and creative companies.  It is the world’s 2nd largest listed broadcasting and cable company. From Pixar to Silly Symphonies and the Disney channel, to characters such as Mickey Mouse and Maleficent, one man has left a legacy of innovation which is today, over 90 years old and continues to endure.

That one man accomplished so much is simply extraordinary and teaches us the importance of dreaming big and to keep pursuing those dreams!

Reflections on the 5th Global Entrepreneurship Summit by Zimkhitha Peter

Reflections on the 5th Global Entrepreneurship Summit by Zimkhitha Peter

GES_1The 5th Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) 2014, which coincided with Global Entrepreneurship Week 2014, was hosted by the Kingdom of Morocco. The event was held under the theme, “Harnessing the Power of Technology for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.” The event site was set up to reflect an entrepreneurship village and welcomed many players in the entrepreneurship eco-system. The Village was buzzing with various themed areas including a wide variety of workshops, plenary sessions and meetings that were dedicated to students and women.  The Village also included a marketplace, where individuals with the same interests could gather, learn, share and trade with each other. I was amazed at how language was a barrier for me since French was the common language used.   More so since I come from a country where language is a classifier or qualifier of some sort. Needless to say, I was grateful to the event organisers for providing earphones with translation at each and every session.  I was able to learn, reflect and receive immense value from the happenings of the event and would like to share the following with you:

1. Entrepreneurship for the African landscape is critical and not a luxury. We face an education, electricity, quality healthcare and high youth unemployment crisis. Within this landscape, entrepreneurship is the business of hope. As a continent, we need to find innovative solutions to solve problems that our societies face. We need to have more Africans finding a way to solve Africa’s problems. I was particularly inspired by Akon, a successful international African musician, who spoke at GES about a project he started with partners to light up Africa. Originally, they planned to start by lighting up 500 homes and now, they are operating in 14 countries.

2. Entrepreneurs need support, but the right kind of support. The feeders (individuals, investors, entrepreneurial agencies and development organisations and programmes) need to continually look at their interventions and assess with vigour, whether they are having impact and /or achieving the right kind of impact. Our entrepreneurial eco-systems lack good mentorship and hence the problem of knowledge to successfully access funding that our entrepreneurs face. Furthermore, there is a missing middle tier in accessing funding. Entrepreneurs find that the most problematic funding bracket is between R25K – R1million which is too big for small funders and too small for big funders.

3. Investing in quality education is key! Quality education determines the activity and level of entrepreneurship and our nation needs a skilled workforce to move companies forward. We have examples of countries like Rwanda that built itself up and one of the things that contributed to its success was the country’s determination of placing entrepreneurship within their education system. South Africa needs to follow suit as the quality of education will also determine the level and activity of entrepreneurship that will help move this country forward.

4. A successful entrepreneurial eco-system requires the right partnerships. Everyone needs to be involved and play their role. South Africa should host events that bring entrepreneurs, feeders, corporate organisations, banks and government together. This platform will be used to remove assumptions that one party may understand the needs of the other party without consultation. It will help shift traditional cultures of “business as usual” to a place of collaboration, where all players can collectively learn and listen to each other and intentionally address the issues of strengthening the eco-system. Feeders and funders need to understand that the business of entrepreneurship takes time and cannot expect quick results and turnaround times – it does take time. Furthermore, feeders need to use their power to facilitate access for others into the eco-system.

I was most struck by an address given by the Dubai government which demonstrated the strength of making entrepreneurship part of the mandate to achieve goals that increase the welfare of a nation. They shared that their objectives as a government which were the following:

  • To make people happy
  • To give people hope
  • To focus on human development

5. Entrepreneurship is the profession of doing. Prove your concept as soon as possible. Build your credibility very fast. Get your first customers as soon as possible. As feeders we need a renewed focus on results and to do justice to that mandate. We should balance using our resources to build home-grown models whilst taking some lessons from the likes of Silicon Valley that are suitable and can be applied to our own societies.

Throughout the event, the echoes that reverberated throughout is that “It is time for Africa” and that “Africa is open for business.” To conclude, Africa can either be ahead of the game and be a trailblazer or be behind and play catch-up.  Either way, Africa is moving forward, the pace depends on all of us.