March, 2015 | Allan Gray Orbis Foundation
The real bottom line – purpose driven business

The real bottom line – purpose driven business

IMG_7477The Foundation’s mission has been summarised as creating responsible entrepreneurs for the common good. Often people express surprise that the promotion of entrepreneurship can be linked to the common good.  But we have become convinced that having noble intentions is not just a nice to have but essential for significant and sustainable success.

As Mr Gray says: ‘Acting in society’s interests can be and is good business. Over 40 years ago Allan Gray was founded with this conviction and ethos, yet has managed to prosper in South Africa’s intensely competitive field of asset management.’ As he further explains in a recent interview, “Making a profit has never been an end in itself, but a consequence of pursuing a sense of purpose; to really want to make a difference, not only for clients but all other stakeholders, from employees to the community, the taxman and society at large. It is only if the client is satisfied that the firm is enabled to help more and more clients. Maximising shareholder value is a crazy philosophy because it’s short term; it’s not sustainable.”

In fact such is the strength of this belief, that the Allan Gray Centre for Values Based Leadership has been established to provide further intellectual momentum and broader understanding of this conviction that a business cannot only exist for profit. There needs to be a larger purpose.  Talking about these two, making money and making a difference, Lisa McLeod points out: “Creating a culture of purpose is how you do both!”

Recently venture capitalist, Anthony Tjan made the following observation: “It turns out there are many ways to make a billion dollars: real estate, investing, gaming and entertainment, retail, technology, and good old-fashioned inheritance. But the most interesting (and most respected) businesses and personalities are also the ones with the strongest and most authentic purposes behind them.” This should not come as a surprise because creating an exceptional business is hard work and in order to put in that amount of effort one needs to be answering the “why” question for a business (why are we doing this?) Only answering the “what” question (what does our business do?) is not sufficient to sustain the level of commitment required to build a great business.  As business author Gray Hamel states in his book, “What Matters Now” says: “A noble purpose inspires sacrifice, stimulates innovation and encourages resilience.”

Yet it is not only resilience that purpose inspires to support the emergence of exceptional enterprise, there is a further dynamic that makes purpose essential to the process. If your intention is to build great things, it helps to be driven by a spirit of significance. As Paul Graham states “The startup founders who end up richest are not the ones driven by money. The ones driven by money take the big acquisition offer that nearly every successful startup gets en route. The ones who keep going are driven by something else. They may not say so explicitly, but they’re usually trying to improve the world. Which means people with a desire to improve the world have a natural advantage.”

Finally we have moved into an era where we now have the tools and technology to pursue purpose in previously impossible ways.  We are able to move out of the “red ocean” of competition and controlling of scarce resources to the “blue ocean” of new ideas and building new things.  These possibilities enable purpose to drive new innovation and shape the future.  In fact Aaron Hurst in the Purpose Economy, suggests that after the agrarian, industrial and most recent information economy we are now moving into the purpose economy, embracing community and creative endeavour.

These shifts remind me of the words of Vivek Wadhwa from Singularity University at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress last year: “This is the most innovative time in human history – when entrepreneurs can do what only governments could before – solve humanity’s grand challenges.”

Now there is a purpose worth making the bottom line.


Foundation Fellows-in-Residence determined to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams

Foundation Fellows-in-Residence determined to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams

Muzi MthombeniMuziwomusa “Muzi” Mthombeni thought he didn’t stand a chance of being awarded a Fellowship in 2009, when he applied as a first-year Accounting Science student at Wits University. “The application process was really demanding and the selection camp was hectic. I really didn’t think I’d make it,” he muses. As if getting the Fellowship wasn’t challenging enough, the 23-year old was exited from the Fellowship in 2010 when he changed his major to Marketing.

However, in the spirit of Courageous Commitment, Mthombeni persevered with his studies and was overjoyed when an opportunity to reapply resulted in a continuation of the Fellowship a year later. Upon graduation from Wits in 2012, he joined a leading HR recruitment company but within six months, the entrepreneurial bug bit. He established MaverickMavenMuse – a personal branding company which now boasts E2, as its latest client. “I just wasn’t cut out for the corporate world. So I called Zimkhitha Peter (the Foundation’s Association Director) to find out about the Fellows-in-Residence programme. I joined the Foundation in September 2013 working on various Association programmes aimed at strengthening the Fellows’ network.”

One of the Fellows who remained engaged in the Association’s programmes was 23-year old Mashokane “Mash” Mahlo who joined Mthombeni as a Fellow-in-Residence in 2014.  Mahlo was recognised for epitomising Personal Initiative in a blog last year but experiencing the operational-side of the Foundation, through the Fellow-in-Residence programme, crystallised the extent of the support and investment that is availed to each beneficiary. “It reinstated my passion for the Foundation and I was very excited not only to prove my business offerings but to pay-it forward too, “she says.

Mashokane MahloMahlo’s undergraduate degree in Economics from UCT, Honours in Economic Science from Wits and business savvy have been indispensable tools in her founding YEPMedia. The company has positioned itself as the media content provider of choice in entrepreneurship, business lifestyle and professional development for young South Africans aged 18 – 30. YEPMedia is proud of its Afrocentric stance and Mahlo maintains: “It’s quite gloomy that media content is so American. We want to be like American youth because of the content we consume yet we have so much more to offer.”

Mahlo and Mthombeni soon joined forces to create 100-Venture, a programme that accelerates the creation of sustainable, micro-ventures using minimal seed capital. With as little as R100, and through an intense four-week entrepreneurial development programme, individuals are equipped to turn bold ideas into growing ventures. So far, through simple bootstrapping, four 100-Venture entrepreneurs sustain innovative businesses like maternal health education provision and internet café’s in technologically-marginalised communities. “We’ve gained a lot from the Foundation so we want to make entrepreneurship a possibility for others by passing on what we’ve learnt to people who may not be as fortunate as we have been,” says Mthombeni.

Their efforts are in the context of the 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor which found that only 10% of South Africans had entrepreneurial intentions. This level of entrepreneurial intention in South Africa is substantially below the average for sub-Saharan Africa (45%).

As they conclude their Fellows-in-Residence programme in March 2015, Mahlo and Mthombeni advise other Fellows to make the most of their entrepreneurial journeys by taking more risks and not selling themselves short. “As Fellows, we belong to a great Association that we can tap into for every aspect of any business one can think of.”

We thank, congratulate and wish Muzi and Mash the best of luck!

South Africa wins bid as first African country to host 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Congress

South Africa wins bid as first African country to host 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Congress

gec2012-550x200At this week’s Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) 2015 in Milan, the Global Entrepreneurship Network announced that Johannesburg, South Africa has won the bid to host the GEC in 2017.

Accepting the award on behalf of Johannesburg, Lindiwe Zulu, South Africa’s Minister of Small Business Development said, “This is a great opportunity for South Africa and Africa as a continent to showcase its entrepreneurial prowess to the world. The GEC is a platform that would open doors for our youth, ignite entrepreneurship and put our youth in the global arena”

The GEC is an inter-disciplinary gathering of start-up champions from more than 150 countries and attracts over 4000 delegates. These delegates represent distinct components of their entrepreneurial ecosystems and are focused on how best to help entrepreneurs start and scale new companies.

“The Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) continues to expand its involvement in Africa in support of helping the next generation of entrepreneurs there to rebrand the continent and permanently shift perceptions,” said Jonathan Ortmans, president of the Global Entrepreneurship Network. “Johannesburg will provide an important backdrop for startup champions everywhere to come together in building one global entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

The Congress has previously been held in the United States, UAE, China, UK, Brazil, Russia and Italy. South Africa is now proud to be the first African country to host the event.

Allan Gray Orbis Foundation CEO, Anthony Farr, in Milan for the GEN’s Global Entrepreneurship Research Network annual general meeting, which takes place in conjunction with the GEC, commented,” This is a once in a generation opportunity to take a leap forward in the African entrepreneurial revolution while the eyes of the world are focussed on South Africa in 2017”

Finding Entrepreneurial Answers in Milan – Global Entrepreneurship Congress 2015

Finding Entrepreneurial Answers in Milan – Global Entrepreneurship Congress 2015

GEC Milan logo_2Monday was the start of the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) hosted in 2015 in Milan, Italy.  This is the annual gathering of thousands of entrepreneurship champions from roughly 175 countries.  It is the one time in the year when the world’s entrepreneurship community comes together to take the global entrepreneurial movement forward.  Only at this time in Milan, can one find oneself in a taxi with Bob Dorf author of “The Startup Owner’s Manual” or chatting with the founder of the Global Entrepreneurship Index over coffee.

At the GEC, the Foundation participated in the second annual general meeting of the Global Entrepreneurship Research Network (GERN) which examined fundamental questions about fostering entrepreneurship, shared research findings, and looked to develop new joint research initiatives. GERN was founded in October 2013 to address the need for better entrepreneurship research.

During the course of this meeting there was a fascinating range of input from organisations ranging from the World Bank, OECD and USAID to think tanks in Romania and Germany. A number of interesting research resources were referenced including:

These were the five most interesting take-aways from the GERN annual meeting:

  1. There is now increasing research showing how entrepreneurship (and the resulting formation of new firms) plays a vital role in the reduction of inequality.  Results from Brazil indicate that the growing number of firms there were fundamental to the significant drop in inequality (gini co-efficient) since 1990.
  2. The demand for clear evidence of what works and doesn’t work with entrepreneurship programmes demands a more scientific approach. Randomised Control Trials have worked well in other sectors such as health and they represent an opportunity to bring the same level of rigour to the field of entrepreneurship.
  3. Accelerators Programmes have grown exponentially in the last few years. As recently as 2011 there were nearly no accelerators supporting start-ups and now in Europe and the US there are around a 1000 in each. Interestingly evidence showing the impact that accelerators have on entrepreneurs is still largely lacking.
  4. There are some very interesting models out there. In Indonesia the entrepreneurial role model, Dr Ir Ciptura, has a dream for millions of entrepreneurs in his country and is supporting this by creating an entire university focussed on entrepreneurship. The Universitas Ciptura slogan is “creating world-class entrepreneurs” and has 5000 students.
  5. Progress in the entrepreneurial field is going to require better data and we now have unique opportunities to obtain this much needed information.  One example is an initiative led by Endeavor which plans to map the entrepreneurial ecosystem of 100 cities across the world. At the moment the only African city involved is Cairo.

In summary, there is much still to learn. In the spirit of learning, if you are interested in keeping up with developments at the GEC follow the action on #GEC2015


Opportunities for young African entrepreneurs pursuing innovative solutions

Opportunities for young African entrepreneurs pursuing innovative solutions

A recent research paper on entrepreneurship development as a mechanism to curb youth unemployment, found that more than half of Africa’s population is under the age of 21 and two-thirds is under 30 years. In all African countries, the median age of the population is 20 years and up to one fifth is between the ages of 15 and 24. Youth will therefore be central to the future of Africa. It is thus vital that youth development and empowerment opportunities are created for young people to create innovative solutions, avoid poverty and lead better and more fulfilling lives.

The Anzisha Prize (@anzishaprize) is one such opportunity. Now in its fifth year, the Anzisha Prize is the premier award for young African entrepreneurs aged 15-22 whose passion for Africa drives them to design and develop projects that transform their communities and the continent. The Prize is the result of a partnership between the African Leadership Academy and The Mastercard Foundation. This year, 12 finalists will be selected to share a grand prize of $75,000.

Early bird applications will be reviewed from 15 March 2015 and the deadline for entries is 15 April 2015. Semi-finalists will be chosen on a rolling admissions basis so the earlier you submit your application, the better. The prize is named for the Swahili word for initiative, which is what the judges will undoubtedly look for as they screen applications according to the following criteria:

  • Impact
  • Ingenuity
  • Scalability
  • Leadership Potential

ludwichAllan Gray Fellow, Ludwick Marishane, (@TheHeadboy) demonstrated all of the above and earned a place as one of eight finalists in the inaugural Anzisha Prize competition in 2011. Reflecting on his journey, the accomplished Founder and Inventor of DryBath® believes that no idea is too small. Marishane advises entrants to see the prize not just in terms of its financial reward but for the media-profiling, networking and business support opportunities that it presents. “I have made a life-long friendship with a fellow finalist. It’s wonderful getting peer advice and having him to bounce my ideas off,” he says.

These are the stories that make the #AnzishaEffect come alive – the power to encourage others to follow in the footsteps of the Anzisha Fellows. Africa needs strong, innovative, entrepreneurial young leaders to create jobs, solve problems and drive our economies. Peer mentors, youth business networks and inspirational young role models fuel the creation of successive generations of young entrepreneurs.

A second opportunity is the UN Habitat Urban Youth Fund which empowers urban youth in developing countries by providing grants and capacity building to selected youth-led organisations. The Youth Fund aims to advance the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals by piloting innovative approaches to employment, good urban governance, shelter and secure tenure. On average, more than 8,000 youth-led organisations apply each year and approximately 30 organisations are selected to receive a grant up to $25,000 each as well as capacity-building support. Like Anzisha, applications for the UN Habitat Urban Youth Fund also close on 15 April 2015.


For more information visit:

Good luck young entrepreneurs! Don’t delay, apply today!


When an irresistible force meets an immovable object – the challenge of sustainability

When an irresistible force meets an immovable object – the challenge of sustainability

Blog_imageAnswers to tough questions are found in interesting places. The Foundation has just completed its first tour of the country with the Orientations of the 2015 Candidate Allan Gray Fellows in Gauteng, Western Cape and the Eastern Cape. Fresh from the long university holiday, the some 260 Candidate Fellows were full of ideas and enthusiasm – energy that was much needed to answer the first question of the year.

In partnership with the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership  (CISL) the Fellowship was challenged to answer the question: “What will your world look like in 2040?” Initially the answers were very positive and upbeat. Then CISL went through the nature of the challenges inherent in answering that seemingly simple question. It soon became clear that any realistic answer has to resolve the tension implicit in the question: “What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?” And this is not merely a comic science fiction extract from the interchange between Batman and the Joker in the Dark Night, but the reality of the challenge facing our planet.  Specifically, what happens when the irresistible force of growth meets the immoveable object of finite resources?

Growth has been unprecedented at all levels:

  • Population growth – population around 2.5bn in 1950, currently 7.3bn and growing by nearly 2 million people per week!
  • Urbanisation – 2/3 of world population will live in cities by 2050, amounting to 6.3bn people

This level of growth has been captured in CISL’s powerful phrase “The Great Acceleration.” Almost anything one thinks of has shown hockey-stick growth since the second half of the 20th Century: GDP, motor vehicles, water use, temperature, fisheries exploited and species extinction.

This level of growth has been made possible through a number of factors, including increased primary energy use, declining resource prices and worryingly increased debt (world debt has grown 2.5 times in 10 years).

In addition, for a number of reasons, growth is exceptionally important:

  • It alleviates poverty – the 1.75bn people currently living in multi-dimensional poverty
  • It addresses energy poverty – 587 million without access to electricity in Sub Saharan Africa.

“In a flat world, the gap between those who have electricity and those who don’t grows exponentially, not arithmetically because it cuts them off from the basic tools that other people use to compete, connect and collaborate.” Thomas Friedman 

  • It solves unemployment – global unemployment is now sitting at 19%
  • It deals with an ageing population – Proportion of the population over 65 will grow from 7% in 2000 to 15% in 2050.

So there has been incredible growth and this growth has been important for the reasons above, yet there is now the increasing reality that growth faces the immoveable object of finite resources.

This is evident in a number of different ways:

  • Hitting limits of resources – end of easy oil, resource reserves now more expensive, food prices increasing.
  • Overexploiting natural capital – 80% of our world fish stocks are either fully exploited, over exploited or depleted; Water stress: In South Africa, by 2005 we had allocated 98% of available water resources. It is likely that we will hit serious water shortages in the next five years.

Perhaps the easiest ways of understanding the finite nature of our resources is in terms of our global ecological footprint.  Our current footprint uses 1.5 planets. And on current trends the CISL expects we will exceed two planets around 2040.

Armed with these insights, the Candidate Fellows then looked to explore the inefficiencies reflected in this global reality and to identify the questions that would lead to possible solutions. A strong theme that came through in the responses was the importance of leadership. Without courageous leadership these matters cannot be addressed. Secondly there was the acknowledgement that there needed to be shifts in two key aspects: time horizon and mindset. There simply had to be longer term thinking to solve these problems and, at a societal level, mindset had to shift in order to answer the question why knowledge of destruction was not currently sufficient to change behaviour. Finally there was the suggestion of interesting tactical approaches such as the increased adoption of biomimicry  (an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies.) and the redefinition of technology efficiencies to incorporate environmental efficiency.

Despite the magnitude of the challenge, and realising that these were first steps of a much longer journey, one was left with a hopefulness that this next generation will find a way to balance the paradox of an irresistible force meeting an immoveable object.

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