Inside the mind of an entrepreneur

Inside the mind of an entrepreneur

What are the dimensions that drive entrepreneurship? And how many of these traits are present in the general population?

The ongoing search for answers to these questions raises a new one: Is it possible to develop a single set of measures that can evaluate the multiple drivers of entrepreneurship, from mindset to behaviour and belief, and apply these not only to South Africa, but to the entire world?

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation (Foundation), in conjunction with the Global Entrepreneurship Research Network (GERN) and Mindcette, an international organisation providing guidance and support for entrepreneurs, set out to find out if this can, indeed, be done. To this end, the Foundation commissioned African Response to undertake a survey, conducted amongst 3 661 randomly selected individuals representative of South African society, with questions crafted to uncover the DNA of successful entrepreneurs.

Of course, this is not the first time that the concept of entrepreneurship has been probed. Given the important position that start-ups hold in our economy, it’s not surprising that several organisations have tried to distil the essence of entrepreneurship. By delving into theory, it is able to provide more practical, workable programmes – and, in so doing, amplifies its credibility as an organisation dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship in South Africa.

But back to the questions surrounding the concept of entrepreneurship and the arguments that have been put forward to explain it so far. Some theorists have focused on the fact that entrepreneurs who thrive seem to relish taking ownership and accountability for their own successes; they also have a greater degree of self-confidence and aren’t threatened by the thought of taking risks. On the other hand, some researchers have concentrated on motivational factors like the role played by the drive for achievement, entrepreneurial passion, or even the practical factors that might make an individual consider self-employment.

The reality is that any – and all – of these might be significant, and in varying degrees – and that’s why the use of a single set of scales is so important. The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation therefore appointed a researcher to review all current literature, using this to extract the 11 most commonly occurring themes that appear to characterise entrepreneurship. Each of these themes can be further unpacked, to create 76 separate descriptors of characteristics – but, since many of these differ slightly, the researchers found that it was more appropriate to focus their questions around 37 critical descriptors. These ranged from the individual’s creativity and conscientiousness to whether they found it easy to be coached; from their resistance to conformity to their persistence and personal goals; their passion, resourcefulness, ability to accept risk, leadership ability, innovativeness, curiosity, emotional intelligence, financial goals, self-reliance and self-confidence.

Put them altogether, and a picture emerges of a person who believes in themselves strongly – so strongly that they feel it’s not possible to fail. But, even if they do, they won’t be deterred. They’ll simply keep trying – either because they feel their product or service truly can make a difference in their customers’ lives, or because they want to prove to themselves that they can succeed. Of course, no single individual can possess all of these qualities; even if they did, the traits themselves would fluctuate according to circumstances. It’s possible to be brimming with self-confidence one day, and fearful the next.

With this in mind, African Response created four categories of respondents: the omnibus survey, which was a nationally representative sample and a booster sample, where locations were chosen depending on how many business owners were present. Additionally, a separate sample comprising female business owners was included  allowing research into gender differences, while the remaining survey respondents were made up of fellows of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation.

The content of the survey and the questions put to these participants were significant, because this is the first time that existing entrepreneurship literature was drawn upon in a nationally representative sample.

So, what exactly did the survey find? Will it be possible to create a survey instrument that adequately describes the mindset of an entrepreneur?

Signs are hopeful: according to the findings, there are 11 dimensions which may be used to commonly describe female entrepreneurs, and 10 that appear to characterise male entrepreneurs. Only two of these dimensions (Entrepreneurial Desire and Focus) are identical in male and female sample participants (with Allan Gray Fellows scoring higher in these dimensions), although seven additional dimensions are common to both, varying only in terms of the extent to which they characterised the sample members. These dimensions included Confidence, Diligence, Innovation, Leadership, Motives, Resilience and Self-Control. Among the male respondents, five of the ten dimensions distinguished those who reported being self-employed full time from those who did not. That is, Focus, Confidence, Leadership, Resilience, and Self-Control.   This contrasted the findings for female respondents, for whom only Desire and Focus showed differences between the self-employed and other respondents.

The survey also found that the nine core dimensions were statistically reliable, while several showed significant differences when the respondents were self-employed on a full-time basis, or if they were not self-employed.  What does this all mean for would-be entrepreneurs? Obviously, the ultimate goal is to identify the traits shared by entrepreneurs, thus providing a basis for describing the entrepreneurial mindset, and to create a single instrument that can be used to identify and measure the presence of these traits would be an enormous help in this regard.  Furthermore, some of the differences obtained between women and men could inform modifications in entrepreneurship programme structure, in order to tailor entrepreneurial training more closely to the individual strengths of both sexes. This survey brings stakeholders one step closer to achieving this goal – but there is a caveat: according to Mindcette, the results of the survey will be most useful if the study is repeated in the future, as this will determine whether the national mindset is changing. Added to this, it would be beneficial if the survey was adopted by other countries, so that an international benchmark can be established. It is also recommended that participants in the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s entrepreneurial development programmes are assessed when they exit the programme, to gain further insight into their mindsets.

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation will further use the information gathered from these assessments to determine whether there are differences in the beliefs and drives of male and female entrepreneurs and will structure future programmes accordingly. Of course, the information contained therein will prove useful for other organisations operating in the entrepreneurial space, too.

Entrepreneurship is a dynamic and exciting field, but the risks associated with self-employment are very real. Every tool available to entrepreneurs as they pursue success brings them one step closer to achieving their dreams – and that’s what makes this survey such a vital undertaking.

Download report here

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A study of entrepreneurial mindset: its origins and how best to measure it

A study of entrepreneurial mindset: its origins and how best to measure it

A key feature of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s entrepreneurial development programmes is the cultivation of an entrepreneurial mindset. They have this in common with many other leading entrepreneurial programmes whose focus has turned from content knowledge about entrepreneurship to developing an entrepreneurial mindset. However, what is lacking across the board is a rigorous theorisation and empirical evidence of the term ‘entrepreneurial mindset’.

In response to this need for rigour the Foundation launched an academic investigation into the meaning and measurement of entrepreneurial mindset. The findings of this investigation, which is available in its entirety here , revealed that an understanding of the mindset of entrepreneurs was initially rooted in the behavioural sciences and is based on decades of research within the fields of personality, cognitive and social psychology. It also became clear that multiple definitions for ‘entrepreneurial mindset’ exist, for which reason a combined or synthesised definition was proposed. The literature on which the investigation was based also revealed that there are general themes that characterise an entrepreneurial mindset. Another finding of the investigation was that the instruments and methods for measuring entrepreneurial mindset were limited and unable to account for all its characterising themes. As a result, the investigation concluded by proposing the development of a revised measuring tool. Several aspects of the investigation are discussed in a little more detail below.

This investigation is part of a larger project the Foundation started in collaboration with the Global Entrepreneurship Research Network (GERN) in 2016. The outcomes they hope to achieve are:

  1. The development of a shared understanding of entrepreneurial mindset.
  2. The development of a universal methodology for measuring entrepreneurial mindset.
  3. The development of an evidence-based approach for enhancing entrepreneurial mindset education theory and practice.

Psychology and Mindset

Attempts to describe, predict and explain recurrent behaviours that set people apart from one another originated in the discipline of personality psychology. Familiar names in this field are Jung and Freud, but Allport made a particularly significant contribution to the field with his conceptualisation of personality traits in the late 1930s. Allport’s 4500 personality traits were eventually whittled down to five by researchers Costa and Macrae in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The broad traits of Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness became known as the ‘Big Five’ personality traits or Five Factor Model (FFM).

The Big Five has since been used as a knowledge base to better understand mindset as well as many other sub-disciplines including everyday behaviour, physical health and psychopathology, to name a few.

Defining Mindset and Entrepreneurial Mindset

Researchers’ focus on personality traits eventually turned to the interpretation of traits and the habituating behaviour resulting from such traits. This research focus was broadly referred to as implicit theories, and it was proposed in 1995 that people’s implicit theories about human attributes influence the way they understand and respond to their world. In 2005 Carol Dweck redefined people’s implicit theories as their ‘mindsets’.

Since then many definitions of mindset have come to light and they have all influenced the multiple definitions of entrepreneurial mindset. Based on all these definitions the following synthesised definition of entrepreneurial mindset was proposed by the Foundation:

Entrepreneurial mindset relates to how a person thinks, their state of mind or the lens through which they see the world, and how this influences their propensity for entrepreneurial activities and outcomes. This state of mind or lens is influenced by multiple factors that include what people know or do not know (related to their knowledge), what people have done or have not done (related to their experience), what people can do or believe they can do (related to their level of competency and self-belief), and who they are (related to their personality, values, attitudes and beliefs ).

Characterising Entrepreneurial Mindset

A review of the relevant academic literature on entrepreneurial mindset revealed 11 themes that are characteristic of an entrepreneurial mindset. They are: (1) lifelong learning and openness to change; (2) engagement in a complex and uncertain world; (3) creative and innovative approaches to problem solving; (4) belief and confidence in one’s own capacity and competency to be entrepreneurial; (5) desire, motivation and intention to practice entrepreneurship and behave entrepreneurially; (6) taking initiative and personal responsibility for actions; (7) a pursuit of goal-attainment through personal mastery and value-creation; (8) recognising opportunities; (9) grit and perseverance in the face of challenges; (10) taking risks that lead to learning, growth and value; and (11) a belief in one’s ability to influence.

From these 11 themes several underlying entrepreneurial mindset dimensions were also deduced. Both these dimensions and the themes they emanate from are discussed in greater detail here .

Measuring Entrepreneurial Mindset

The earliest attempts at measuring a propensity for entrepreneurship occurred around the early 70s and 80s with the adaptation of an instrument used to measure locus of control in psychiatric patients. Since then several studies relating to entrepreneurial mindset have used scales based on the 10-point Likert Scale survey (ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree) or other validated scales to measure specific dimensions of entrepreneurial mindset. However, none of the existing instruments are individually able to measure all or even a significant percentage of the entrepreneurial mindset dimensions that have been identified. In addition, there is a need for developing quantitative items to measure these dimensions as the existing instruments have all made use of qualitative or mixed-method approaches.

For these reasons the Foundation endeavours to develop, pilot, test and refine a revised instrument for measuring entrepreneurial mindset. The instrument will be based on the definition of entrepreneurial mindset outlined above, and it will take the form of a quantitative survey, using Likert Scale questions and possibly Semantic Differential questions.

Further research and expertise will be required to refine the pilot survey and ensure that it is sufficiently valid and reliable for replication in other contexts beyond South Africa. The development of the entrepreneurial mindset survey can lead to significant opportunities for future research, both for the Foundation as well as other organisations and stakeholders.

Entrepreneurial Mindset Research

Entrepreneurial Mindset Research

We are pleased to share news of the exciting entrepreneurial mindset research work the Foundation has been involved in over the past 12 months and encourage readers to look out for upcoming thought provoking posts around our findings.

The Foundation has been collaborating with international thought leaders around understanding, defining and measuring the concept of an entrepreneurial mindset. As the curriculum and core essence of the Foundation is centered around cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset, it is vital for our understanding to be based on best practice literature and pioneering data within our local context.

In this regard, we have partnered with the Global Entrepreneurial Research Network, received the academic guidance of Professor Kelly Shaver from Mindcette, and contracted with African Response for our data collection, to develop, pilot and roll out the most comprehensive entrepreneurial mindset survey of its kind.

The Foundation has developed a five-phased approach to understanding, defining and measuring entrepreneurial mindset.


Through the Entrepreneurial Mindset Research study, the Foundation and its partners aim to create value globally through:

  • Building a shared understanding of entrepreneurial mindset
  • Introducing a data-based system for assessing entrepreneurial mindset development
  • Revealing new insight about entrepreneurial mindset
  • Creating an objective, quantifiable methodology for measuring progress over time
  • Providing an evidence-based framework for developing recommendations for developing new policies and programs
  • Increasing entrepreneurial action around the world.

Moreover, the Foundation aims to strengthen our internal curriculum and programmatic learning through:

  • Developing a rigorous definition and understanding of entrepreneurial mindset based on existing literature and best practice
  • Measuring entrepreneurial mindset within our beneficiaries
  • Improving entrepreneurial development curriculum
  • Improving the measurement of entrepreneurial development curriculum outcomes



We would like to thank our partners and collaborators for their continued support and thought partnership throughout the entrepreneurial mindset project.

We will be sharing findings and results from our project over the coming months and invite you to keep an eye out for and share your thoughts about our findings in entrepreneurial mindset.

Fellowship opportunity for the curious

Fellowship opportunity for the curious

Do you go against, behind and in front of the grain? Are you streetwise running anti-clockwise? Do you see the unseen? Do you dream the undreamed? Are you what the world needs? This is a call to you, future entrepreneurs.

Our 2017 Fellowship applications for 1st and 2nd-year students will be coming to an end on the 18 August 2017. Under the theme, “A call to the curious” we will be selecting individuals who show the potential to become high impact entrepreneurs in the future.

At the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, we believe that entrepreneurially minded individuals with ethical values and strong leadership skills hold the promise of change. We stand behind entrepreneurs improving the socio-economic landscape of Southern Africa.

Our mission is to foster such impact by providing youth, demonstrating potential, with access to education and cultivating within them an entrepreneurial mindset.

Watch this video to learn more about the Fellowship experience and download an application form from our website right now to start your journey of curiosity.


An entrepreneurial awakening

An entrepreneurial awakening

Dominic Koenig_RoosterMore often than not entrepreneurship is something you can feel in your bones. It’s something that is modelled to you by parents or other family members or it’s often a desire, present from a young age, to be independent, to be a pioneer. In Dominic Koenig’s case, however, entrepreneurship is something he learned much later in life – a way of thinking, of questioning the status quo and recognising inefficiencies. Dominic’s entrepreneurial awakening was thanks to the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s Fellowship, and an irritating necessity – a morning alarm.

When embarking on his Fellowship journey with the Foundation in 2013, Dominic thought of himself as more of a humanitarian. In fact, his desire to help people and see South Africa transformed and flourishing is what initially drew him to the Foundation. He recalls: ”I had this burning desire to be a part of a community that sought to improve the socio-economic status of the country I love so much.” But the idea of becoming an entrepreneur was still far from his mind.

Then one morning in 2015 he woke up, for the umpteenth time, to his smart phone alarm. “I hated that sound; just dreaded it,” Dominic explains. That’s when he started questioning why the first sound you hear every day was something terrible and what life would be like if what woke you up “was actually something that’s awesome and amazing and something that you could look forward to.” He immediately arranged with his sister to perform some of her ridiculous accents and recorded them. For the next few days he played her funny recordings, starting his day with a smile instead of a groan. When Dominic eventually grew tired of these same recordings he started questioning again: What if his sister could send him new recordings without him knowing about them?

roosterThat was the genesis of Rooster – a mobile app, available on Android and IOS, that wakes you up with your choice of content, for example inspirational quotes, comedy, news or voice notes from friends. “It’s such a cool experience getting roosters from friends and family,” says Dominic. And the bonus is you wake up easier! “Because you’re comprehending something that’s being said, your brain has to switch on and listen.”

Rooster has the potential of being a game changer in advertising. Given the fact that almost everyone who owns a smartphone uses it as an alarm, the potential user base is colossal. Big brands could use Rooster to connect with these millions of users on a very intimate way – not with advertisements, of course, but with specially crafted content. Imagine waking to an inspiring message from a world-renowned athlete because you selected the content of a sports brand as your Rooster. The possibilities are endless, and imagining them all is what gets Dominic working long hours to make Rooster a success.

This understanding of hard work and determination is something he learned from his father, who, at the age of 40, started studying to be a radiologist. Dominic, his mom and three siblings all have “many memories of him studying for 12 hours a day, setting the best example of what sacrifice, determination and discipline entails.” Seeing how his father’s risk had paid off is perhaps why Dominic thought it worthwhile to give up an opportunity to do his articles at Deloitte in London. Another reason he was willing to dive right into an entrepreneurial venture right after university (he studied Business Science with Accounting at UCT) was the opportunity to work with his co-founder and school friend, Josh Perry. “He’s just the most positive, inspirational person.” Dominic explains that after surviving cancer Josh understood what it meant to live life to the full, which is why Josh quit his job at a very reputable medical tech company after Dominic shared the idea of Rooster with him.

Dominic’s version of entrepreneurial awakening – not experienced at a young age or as a deep-seated knowing – should offer inspiration to many. He and Rooster is proof that your entrepreneurial awakening can happen at any time. All that’s really needed is a new way of thinking, of questioning and solving inefficiencies, and some people to inspire and encourage you to take risks and work hard.


Going beyond a profession

Going beyond a profession

With his love of math and science at school, Bradley Wattrus had the makings of a successful actuary right from the start. Yet, the promise of corporate success paled in comparison to the potential impact he could have as an entrepreneur. This is why he applied to the Allan Gray Fellowship – the notion of high-impact entrepreneurship resonated with him. “I remember feeling that this was a vision for the future of RSA that I wanted to be a part of.”

It has been a mere four years since Bradley co-founded Yoco Technologies, where he is now Chief Financial Officer, and a few more since he started his journey as an Allan Gray Fellow, yet there’s already evidence that he’s impacting the financial technology industry in a significant way. The firm is focused on helping SMEs grow by providing integrated payments, point-of-sale software and access to financial services. They now have 5 000 merchants using Yoco, with 300 000 traditional card terminals in the market and 70% of their merchants accepting card payments for the first time.

SMEs are underserved on many levels as traditional organisations tend to focus on larger corporate clients. This means that less than 5% of SMEs and sole-proprietors in the country have access to card acceptance services, while over 70% of the population has at least a debit card. Yoco provides small merchants with a convenient point-of-sale experience, and they’re able to do this under a profitable business model without imposing any fixed fees on the merchant.

It may only have been a few years since Bradley co-founded Yoco, but he’s been flexing his business muscles since primary school. He made his first foray into entrepreneurship as his school’s Coca-Cola vendor and won an award for entrepreneurship. Later on, he was appointed to the school’s newspaper committee and, armed with advice from his dad, generated more money through the newspaper than the school’s fundraising committee. Bradley’s father made a point of teaching his children to think in terms of capital and not pocket money. It is no wonder then that Bradley and his brother “were regularly exploring different side projects.”

At the end of his school career, Bradley applied to the Allan Gray Fellowship and found the challenges it posed enlivening. Though he excelled at school, he seldom felt challenged enough. After school, however, the combination of his BSc (Hons) in Actuarial Science at the University of the Witwatersrand and the Foundation’s entrepreneurship programme more than made up for that lack. When Bradley was a Candidate Fellow (2007–2011) the Foundation required them to run two small businesses over a six-week period each. Bradley’s first business was a coffee stall at Rosebank Market, which ran on Saturdays, while the second was a service involving crying infants and clowning manoeuvres, i.e. preschool photography.

When asked how he managed to juggle both his degree course and his Foundation commitments, he concedes that it was indeed tough, but the experience trained him in the mechanics of starting a business. And it’s an experience he’d greatly encourage others to explore. Though the Foundation’s focus has shifted away from the intensive six-week-small-business approach, it still challenges Candidate Fellows to cultivate the kind of thinking associated with such an approach. As Bradly puts it: “If you are interested in going beyond a profession and making a significant impact on the region I would encourage you to apply [to the Fellowship]. The value is really in the opportunity to expand your mindset and leave university with a much broader perspective than you may otherwise have had.”


The Heart of Tech

The Heart of Tech

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 7.35.17 PMWhat is the essence of innovative technology? Is it about creating the next desirable tech accessory or finding the simplest, fastest way to get something done – usually involving fewer if any people? Or perhaps it’s just about making a name for yourself in Silicon Valley. For Naeem Ganey, the heart of tech, in fact, the heart of business, is and will always be people.

As Founder and Co-founder of two tech startups, Naeem certainly knows what he’s talking about. In 2015 Naeem started EduTree with a friend while finishing his Honours degree in Computer Science. EduTree is a mobile-friendly platform that focuses on revision aid in high school. Students can login to EduTree and practice Mathematics and Science. The system then analyses the student’s answering patterns, identifying strengths and providing teachers with deep analytics about a student’s learning. It being an educational business, the company’s business model and choice of tech is completely guided by the principle of providing access as widely as possible – no sign-up fee is required, basic smart phones can navigate the platform easily and, best of all, it’s data-efficient.

This kind of thinking – about what people need and what they have to work with – lies at the heart of Naeem’s business initiatives. In fact, he has a vision of “a digital Africa that is inclusive and revolutionary.”

A year after co-founding EduTree, he founded Media Measure, a media monitoring business that checks broadcasters’ compliance in the interest of clients who buy airtime for their ads. This was a pioneering venture in more than one way. It operates in Rwanda, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola and Malawi, empowering advertisers with alerts and evidence that can hold broadcasters to account for the first time ever. Being based in Johannesburg meant that Naeem had to provide these services remotely, which in turn meant setting up data centres in each of these countries – one more thing that hadn’t been done before, except by banks or other huge companies. “We’re the first small startup to actually do what we’ve been doing in some of these countries.”

When Naeem talks about tech, he can’t help talking about Africa and vice versa. Explaining that in Zambia, for example, there are two cell phones per person or that it’s a common occurrence in most of these countries to find someone selling their shoes in order to pay for a smart phone, immediately puts to rest any fears that Africa is a dark continent. It is in fact brimming with opportunities for technological innovation, but, warns Naeem, it comes with its challenges. For one, the way most Africans still do business is face to face. If telephone calls, emails or messages are what you rely on, clinching a deal might take months, if it is ever clinched. Innovators are also limited to providing services that solve an immediate need, and tech that works on not-so-smart devices. Yet, in spite of these challenges, Naeem believes that “we – the African people are the most equipped to solve these challenges … we have the ability to connect with people, different types of people, the ability of understanding people.”

His understanding of the importance of the human element stems from both his upbringing and his participation in the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s Fellowship Programme. Thanks to his parents, he has received business training all throughout his youth. From counting stock and tending to customers at Bingo Cash and Carry in the small town of Vryburg to managing the start of a new fish and chips take away restaurant in Mahikeng, and coming up with ways to attract more customers – Naeem has seen it all. He attributes the meticulousness with which he approaches writing code to having had to carefully count viennas and pieces of fish as a youngster. He also noticed that customers kept coming back to his family’s business because his parents knew their customers, their families, who was sick and who baked the best cookies. So, in effect, customers returned not just to make a purchase but to visit their friends.

At the Foundation this sense of connecting with people was echoed. Referring to the blend of unique characters in the Fellowship programme, he used to call it a “fruit salad”, especially when comparing it to other scholarships where everyone either looks the same or operates in the same way. “The Foundation appreciates the unique abilities in each person … and they taught us how to appreciate the unique abilities in each person.”

Naeem’s view of both technology and our potential as Africans in Africa is a breath of fresh air in an industry enamoured by Silicon Valley and the drive to automate.


The link between entrepreneurial intention and becoming an entrepreneur | By: Teri Richter

The link between entrepreneurial intention and becoming an entrepreneur | By: Teri Richter

AGO_Scholar Selec Camp014Entrepreneurial intention is the internal motivation and positive perception of starting a business. Theoretically, it is understood that high individual entrepreneurial intention leads to higher probability of starting a new venture. Azjen’s (2002) Theory of Planned Behaviour suggests that intention for a certain behaviour is directly related to the probability of exhibiting the actual behaviour. For entrepreneurship, this implies that the more an individual wants to become an entrepreneur and sees this behaviour or career path as attractive, the more likely the that the individual will become an entrepreneur and start their own venture.

This means that the ability to measure the presence of entrepreneurial intention enables organisations such as the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation to identify which individuals exhibit high levels of intention and how this changes throughout their entrepreneurial journey. However, more importantly than measuring current entrepreneurial intention is understanding how one is able to influence and improve entrepreneurial intention. As per the Theory of Planned Behaviour, intention is determined by various factors as shown in Figure 1 and described below:

  • Subjective norms – including what the people who are close to you including friends and family think of the behaviour
  • Personal attitudes or attractions – referring to whether one personally thinks the behaviour is positive or negative and the potential consequences of the behaviour
  • Perceived behaviour control – referring to one’s personal capabilities in relation to the behaviour.

Additional research has built on these antecedents to include:

  • Personality – including aspects of optimism, innovativeness, appetite for risk taking, self efficacy, need for achievement, proactiveness and an internal locus of control
  • Family background – including familial remodelling of entrepreneurship
  • Social environment factors – including the influence of different cultural practices on an individuals’ desire to become an entrepreneur
  • Economic and political conditions – including the laws and practices of a country as well as existing economic opportunities within the country.
  • Entrepreneurial education and training – although studies have showed mixed results in terms of shifting entrepreneurial intention and Ozaralli et all emphasise the need to educate individuals for entrepreneurship rather than about entrepreneurship.

It must of course be noted that these are not an exclusive list of contributing factors to entrepreneurial intention, nor that these factors cannot be overcome – but that they can create barriers or bridges for individuals in their entrepreneurial journeys.

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 9.47.10 AM

Figure 1: Suggested Theory of Planned Behaviour model for Entrepreneurial Intention

As noted, although measurement presents the opportunity to gauge intention among individuals, Theory of Planned Behaviour suggests ways of developing entrepreneurial intention – which becomes invaluable to entrepreneurial development initiatives. Research suggests that key ways of influencing and developing entrepreneurial intention lie in:

  • Exposing individuals to entrepreneurial education and training to enhance their perceptions of their ability and behaviour control,
  • Exposing individuals to other cultures to enhance innovative thinking and introduce a variety cultural values that encourage entrepreneurship,
  • Exposing individuals to new experiences to enhance cognitive diversity and creativity,
  • Minimising perceived barriers to entry through advocacy and education around economic and political conditions.

Entrepreneurial intention at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation
The Foundation recognises the importance of entrepreneurial intention within the Scholars, Candidate Fellows and Fellows community. Entrepreneurial intention and the value thereof is measured and developed differently throughout the programme.

At Scholarship level the focus is on emphasising the importance of an entrepreneurial mindset and giving Scholars an understanding of what entrepreneurship can look like outside of expected conventions. The Foundation understands that during the Scholarship phase, individuals are learning about their own passions and future career paths rather than already committing to one. Despite this, the Scholarship’s 2016 Grade 10, 11 and 12 cohorts showed an 87% favourable response to their intentions to become entrepreneurs within the next 10 to 15 years.

At Fellowship level the presence of entrepreneurial intention is more important for selection into the programme. It is highly desirable, if not necessary, for Candidate Fellows and ultimately Fellows to show high levels of entrepreneurial intention. The programme develops entrepreneurial intention actively through the Fellowship’s entrepreneurial development programme.

At Association level, encouraging entrepreneurial actualisation in individuals who self report low levels of entrepreneurial intention could become challenging, where motivating and developing intention becomes more and more difficult.

AGO_Scholar Selec Camp178It can be argued that some success stories have become entrepreneurs without consciously choosing their path. However, the concept of entrepreneurial intention and theory of planned behaviour suggests that planned behaviour, such as career choices, are based on deliberate and conscious decisions and informed by our personal circumstances and history, our perceived attractiveness of the possibility and our estimated ability to achieve. This suggests that ultimately, a minimum benchmark for entrepreneurial intention must be present at entry into the Fellowship programme, which can in turn be nurtured and cultivated during the four years in the programme. Conversely, an absence of entrepreneurial intention will lead to overwhelming barriers at the Association phase. The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation is committed to further research to formalise internal targets for benchmarks as well as enhance measurement tools of entrepreneurial intention.

Ajzen, I. (2002). Perceived behavioral control, self-efficacy, locus of control, and the theory of planned behavior. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 32, 1–20.
Ozaralli N., & Nancy K. Rivenburgh, N.K., 2016. Entrepreneurial intention: antecedents to entrepreneurial behavior in the U.S.A. and Turkey. Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research (6:3). Accessed at
Peng, Z., Lu, G., & Kang, H., 2012. Entrepreneurial intentions and its influencing factors: A survey of university students in Xi’an China. Scientific Research (Vol 3: p. 95 – 100). Accessed at
Remeikiene, R., Startiene, G., & Dumciuviene, D., 2013. Explaining entrepreneurial intention of university students: The role of entrepreneurial education. Management, Knowledge and Learning International Conference 2013. Accessed at

A burning desire to make an impact

A burning desire to make an impact

Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 9.19.03 AMLethabo Motswaledi always had a burning desire to live a life that made an impact. She might not have been able to name an exact career, but she knew it would involve doing her own thing and she knew it would have to big. She recalls: “As a child who was fortunate enough to be from a family of accomplished individuals, I felt that I had big shoes to fill and that I had to make something of myself.”

With a business on the go in the cutting-edge industry of 3D printing, she’s well on her way to filling those shoes. 3DPower, which she started with classmate Matthew Westaway, has been running for two years and already they are celebrating the launch of two products. Hello Baby 3D Prints allows expectant parents to see their baby before its birth! Theirs is the first company in Africa to successfully convert 3D ultrasounds into 3D prints. Their second product, The Hourglass Project, forms part of a nation building project that enjoys support from both the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the World Design Organisation. A 3D sculpture of Nelson Mandela over an hourglass gets activated on July 18th to trigger 67 minutes of activism. Very soon they will also be launching an accredited skills programme aimed at training people in modern craft production using 3D technology.

Lethabo and Matthew’s paths crossed at UCT where they both studied Geomatics Engineering, which, in a nutshell, is all about spatial design. Having studied a degree that “allowed for the visualisation of the real world in 3D software,” Lethabo explains that 3D printing was a natural avenue to explore. What started out as a hobby quickly turned into products that could be commercialised. The technology underpinning 3D Power’s services allows clients to travel from idea to tangible product in a straight line. In other words, there are no pit stops or detours involving moulds and testing numerous iterations of that mould until it’s just right. Theirs is a business that not only saves you hours but rands and material as well.

Even though Lethabo couldn’t articulate an intended career when she was young, this state of not knowing only lasted until she turned 16. That’s when she decided to become an entrepreneur. She recalls eagerly filling in the application for the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Fellowship, feeling like she was born to answer some of the questions and taking it far more seriously than her university application. “I felt that regardless of what I studied, I would always ultimately pursue a life in entrepreneurship, which is something that isn’t easily taught.” This mindset and the hands-on experience the Foundation afforded her explains why she turned down every job offer she received and chose instead to dive right into the world of startups.

Of her experience in the Fellowship Lethabo says: “I would encourage anyone with a burning desire to make an impact to apply for the Fellowship. This is because the Fellowship not only provides immense opportunities, but because it surrounds one with like-minded individuals who are just as passionate about making an impact.” This burning desire of Lethabo’s led her to apply not only for the Fellowship but for the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship as well. “All my life I remember feeling like I needed to do something special enough to meet Mr Mandela.” She couldn’t quite manage to extend Tata Madiba’s years on this earth, but by being awarded the scholarship she finds comfort in knowing that she is part of the legacy he created. “This is extremely significant to me.”

The other significant achievement of hers is making the brave decision to pursue a life of entrepreneurship right after her degree studies. “I eat, live and breathe my startup.” Such expressions of job satisfaction are rare but always a sign that someone is doing what they were born to do.

On Lethabo’s five-to-ten-year to-do list is growing the 3D Power team (so that her and Matthew’s have-to-do-today lists can be spread out a little more), taking part in constructive dialogue as often as possible (so she can continue learning how to make an impact) and ensuring that her brand (both her company’s and her own) becomes well known locally and abroad.

Selecting for Entrepreneurial Potential | By Carl Herman

Selecting for Entrepreneurial Potential | By Carl Herman


Could these applicants become our region’s next high-impact entrepreneurs? Do they have the potential for developing the Foundation’s Five Pillars: a Spirit of Significance, Courageous Commitment, Achievement Excellence, Intellectual Imagination and Personal Initiative? These are the questions that drive the Foundation’s Scholarship and Fellowship Selection processes. We’re not just trying to identify those applicants who perform excellently, but those with a high degree of developability. The princinple of potential is what undergirds our search.

Traditionally, organisations focus on competencies, experience and technical skills when selecting for specific roles. The more inconspicuous aspects: values, interests, personality and emotional maturity are not considered. In order to gain a holistic perspective on possible candidates – the best means of predicting future performance – the Foundation reengineered its selection process in 2012. The Success Profile Methodology, developed by Development Dimensions International, was customised for the Foundation by Deloitte’s management consulting team. It deliberately considers psychological factors, skills sets and understanding to asses both entrepreneurial potential and performance. The Foundation’s Success Profiles encompass five key areas: (1) Knowledge, (2) Experience, (3) Competencies, (4) Personal Attributes and (5) Potential.

These key areas are tested in a multidisciplinary way that includes written assessments, psychometric tests, simulation activities, targeted selection interviews and careful observations of the beneficiaries. Applying the Success Profiles during the selection process enables the Foundation to gauge beneficiaries’ potential. As of 2016 the measurement framework for the Success Profile has been expanded to allow for measuring performance. In other words, it is now possible to map beneficiaries’ performance at the end of their programme (be it the Scholarship or Fellowship Programme) against their initial scores for potential as an applicant. Graduating Candidate Fellows, for example, are now being tested against the Success Profiles before gaining entrance into the Association as well as every five years after joining the Association.

Figure 1: Foundation’s Potential to Performance Model

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Table 1: Assessment points at the Foundation

Point in time Scholars Candidate fellows Fellows
Selection Y1 Y1 n/a
Graduation Gr12 Y4 n/a
Ongoing n/a n/a Every 5 years

Selecting applicants with a high degree of developability

Formula for Foundation Selection: Degree of Developability = Inherent Potential + Performance

In order to determine an applicant’s degree of developability the balance between the following are considered:

  1. their ability to demonstrate mastery in the Foundation’s Five Pillars (see Table 2), with relative ease, at increasing levels of complexity as they transition through the various stages of the programme (Grade 8 to Grade 12 for Scholarship or first year at university to graduation for Fellowship); and
  2. their current level of performance in relation to the Foundation’s Five Pillars.

Table 2: The Foundation’s Five Pillars

Achievement Excellence The ongoing pursuit of excellence with tangible and specific focus on setting goals; a motivation to make a difference and leave a mark.
Intellectual Imagination Demonstrated by an established record of intellectual achievement; an ability to see the unseen, challenge the status quo and suggest that things could be done differently.
Courageous Commitment The courage and dedication to continue, realising that applying consistent commitment has a way of overcoming.
Spirit of Significance A weight of personality that comes from living a life personified by passion and integrity.
Personal Initiative A person who makes things happen, celebrates the satisfaction of bringing new things into being and is independent, proactive and self-starting.

Figure 2: Foundation’s Model for Selecting for a High Degree of Developability


As can be seen from Figure 2, performance  in relation to the Foundation’s Five Pillars is only one aspect of what is considered when determining the degree of developability (see objective 3 and 4 below). To get a fuller picture of the applicant’s performance, their academic and extra-curricular achievements are also taken into account (see objective 1 below). The other half, the applicant’s potential, is determined by looking at the applicant’s enablers and de-railers (also known as their personal attributes), their motivational fit, cognitive potential and potential for strategising (see objective 2 below).

Selection Objective 1: Predict the applicant’s ability to achieve and maintain academic performance

Depending on the programme, the applicant’s most recent academic results are studied as well as their Foundation Exam results (in the case of Scholarship applicants).

Measurement Construct Scholarship Fellowship
Academics Grade 6 and 7 Academic Results Grade 11 and 12 Academic Results
Extra Academic Assessments Foundation Exam (Standardised Maths and English Tests for Grade 6)

Selection Objective 2: Establish the applicant’s inherent potential

This objective is achieved during various phases of the selection process: on paper, when applying; in person, as part of an interview; and through observation, during the Selection Camp. The applicant’s cognitive potential (or short-term academic performance) is measured through one of two standardised tests (depending on the programme), while the potential for strategising is only measured in the case of Fellowship applicants. According to Stratified Systems Theory, the demands placed on Fellowship applicants fall within the theme of Strategic Weaving and are measured using the Learning Orientation Index.

Measurement Construct Scholarship Fellowship
Personal Attributes Emotional Intelligence – EQi – Youth Version GIOTTO – Integrity Test
Motivational Fit Assessed during Application form, Interviews and Selection Camp Assessed during Application form, Interviews and Selection Camp
Cognitive Potential for Academic Performance Differential Aptitude Test (DAT-S) National Benchmark Test (NBT)
Potential for Complexity at Strategic Weaving Learning Orientation Index (LOI)

Selection Objective 3: Establish the applicant’s current level of performance

In the case of Scholarship applicants, performance in relation to the Foundation’s Five Pillars is measured through gaming simulations, interviews and group simulation activities as part of a 3-day Selection Camp. For Fellowship applicants this is measured through competency based questions on an application form, a structured interview process and a series of simulation exercises as part of a 3-day Selection Camp. The Foundation’s Five Pillars, as mentioned previously, undergirds the entire selection processes because they are what ultimately leads to high-impact entrepreneurship.

Selection Objective 4: Establish the applicant’s overall degree of developability

In determining the applicant’s degree of developability, the balance between the individual’s inherent potential is considered in relation to their current demonstrated competence in each of the Foundation’s Five Pillars.

Figure 3: Candidate Decision Matrix

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The final selection decision is thereafter considered as follows:

Talent pool A = High Potential + High Performance

Talent pool B = High Potential + Medium Performance

According to Figure 3, the Foundation selects from two groups within the Candidate Decision Matrix, namely Talent Pool A (High Potential + High Performance) and Talent Pool B (High Potential + Medium Performance). Both groups have high levels of potential but accommodation is made for Pool B individuals who perform moderately or at an average level. Their potential level suggests that with the proper support, development and structure, they too can perform at a high level in future.

The current Success Profile Methodology which incorporates the Foundation’s Five Pillars underpins our robust selection process. This approach gives practical expression to our goal of selecting for entrepreneurial potential. Not only is it evidence based and grounded in scientific rigour; it also has a track record of being an effective tool when selecting for future potential.