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.


Entrepreneurship: The key to financial stability for youth | By: Lethabo Tloubata

Entrepreneurship: The key to financial stability for youth | By: Lethabo Tloubata

IMG_0565 2In 2017, unemployment rates in South Africa are reported at an all-time high, which, coupled with the start of a recession, makes the prospects for young people making a successful living seem impossible. Although corporate South Africa is doing its best to retain its talent at this stage, we need to consider a sustainable way to further develop the economy of the country. The best way thought possible is through the participation of more young people in entrepreneurial activities, however, one may not know what opportunities are there for them in the entrepreneurship space.

With the findings in the GEDI report earlier this year, South Africa was placed second in the continent in Entrepreneurship activity. What this alludes to is that the future is not so bleak.

Let’s take a closer look some of the opportunities that are available for the entrepreneurial at heart.

  1. Skills training for youth in entrepreneurship

Having a natural knack for business is one thing, however, running a successful business requires one to have some knowledge of their customer base, how to recruit and retain the best Talent as well as how to manage financial resources that they may have, amongst other skills. South Africa (and the continent) has seen an increase in programmes that offer basic skills that one may need to run a successful business. These skills-based programmes all have a strong focus on mentorship while running structured programmes that help entrepreneurs take their ideas from one phase to the next.

  1. Funding sources

Banks, angel investors & venture capitalists have been, for a long time, the natural source of funding for ventures. Though these sources are widely and readily available to people who wish to push their ideas to the next stage, it is not easy to get access to them as they often either have hectic requirements to qualify for funding or they may have a specific focus on who they fund, such as tech-based businesses.

Although the above-mentioned are still a great source of funding for entrepreneurs, we have, in the last couple of years seen a growth in crowdfunding sources which enable the entrepreneur to not only get funding from a bigger pool of sources, but to also promote their businesses and share a bit of their story and what influenced their decision to begin their venture. Crowdfunding allows one to request funding from friends, family and anonymous individuals who would identify with the inefficiency that the entrepreneur is hoping to find a solution for.

  1. Further Education & Training

Following the successes that have been seen since the inception of a National Diploma in Small Business Management at some Universities of Technology, more and more universities have included entrepreneurship studies in some form or another in their faculty offerings. These offerings range from either a National Diploma in Entrepreneurship, (which not only gives one the theoretical knowledge behind entrepreneurship but also includes a practical component which enables the student to experience the everyday life of entrepreneurship), to postgraduate diplomas in Entrepreneurship with a similar focus to the National Diploma.

While these are some resources one could use to run a successful entrepreneurial venture, it is important to know that this is not all that is out there. Innovation labs, hubs & other communities are also great resources to help grow your business.

As an entrepreneur, it is very important to explore your environment and see what and who else is there to support the growth of your business. Social network platforms, like Instagram, are being widely used to run online shops. While this does not take away from the traditional eCommerce platforms, it is there to enhance your business.

Here are some links for you to look at when exploring these opportunities that are available to you. You are also encouraged to explore further than this and make the most of the opportunities available to you.





The role of education in the Entrepreneurial Journey | By Teri Richter

The role of education in the Entrepreneurial Journey | By Teri Richter

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 10.55.04 AMEducation and the pursuit of academic excellence are at the core of the Foundations entrepreneurial journey. The Foundation believes that a strong founding and exemplary performance in academics and secondary and tertiary education form the building blocks of the journey for the high impact entrepreneur. The current write up aims to contextualise the empirical argument for this relationship and then define academic excellence in the words of the Allan Gray Beneficiaries.


In the words of academics:

The proposition of formal education contributing positively towards entrepreneurship is well supported by the academic literature. As suggested by the 5 key findings of the 2008 meta-analysis by Van der Sluis, Van Praag and Vijverberg (p795):


  1. Education does not influence the likelihood of an individual self-selecting entrepreneurship as a career,
  2. The effect of education on entrepreneurship performance is positive and significant
  3. The return to a marginal year of schooling is 6.1% for an entrepreneur
  4. The effect of education on earnings is smaller for entrepreneurs than for employees in Europe, but larger in the USA
  5. The returns to schooling in entrepreneurship are higher in the USA than in Europe, higher for females than for males, and lower for non-whites or immigrants

Further studies in a developing country context support the notion that an added year of education can raise entrepreneurial profits by on average 5.5% (Kolstad and Wiig, 2015). The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) study conducted by Herrington and Kew in 2010 suggests that specifically in the South African context there is a positive correlation between opportunity-driven entrepreneurship and levels of education. Lastly, the link between secondary and tertiary education and formal entrepreneurship is suggested by Jiminez et al (2015), as being an enabler for entrepreneurship through increasing self-confidence, lowering the perceived risk of starting a business and developing human capital.

In this regard, the Foundation has been collecting outcome level data from our beneficiaries over the past three years to build a comprehensive definition of academic excellence according to our own beneficiaries.

In the words of Allan Gray Scholars and Candidate Fellows:

Defining academic excellence:

This work has resulted in the following definition developed through Scholar and Candidate Fellow feedback. The Allan Gray Scholars and Candidate Fellows describe academic excellence as

  1. Doing your best,
  2. Understanding your work and applying your knowledge
  3. Continually improving
  4. Setting targets and achieving them for themselves.

“Doing well is performing to the best of your ability and not comparing yourself.” Grade 8 Scholar, Gauteng

“I just think that doing well means that you’re improving in what you did last time, even if it’s by 1%, 2% you’re still like … you’re nearly there and you’re nearly reaching your goals, so it’s one step closer.” Grade 10 Scholar, Western Cape

“I would really say it’s making knowledge your own and understanding things. Einstein said that if you can explain something to a child then you truly understand it. So I try that – can I really explain this to someone in a way that they can understand. So I thinking of learning as you should really understand it, it’s not just about cramming.” Year Engage, Gauteng, University of Pretoria

Most of the responses highlighted that academic excellence and achievement is about performing to the best of your ability continuously. Beneficiaries noted it is important not to compare yourself to others.

Barriers and enablers

During the pursuit of academic excellence, there are many barriers that beneficiaries must conquer, the most important barriers noted by Allan Gray beneficiaries in the pursuit of academic excellence include:

  • Time management
  • Prioritisation of tasks, activities and deliverables
  • Dealing with pressure to perform
  • Learning to overcome a fear of failure
  • Optimal access to resources

Identifying these barriers is essential for programme development and ensuring beneficiaries receive the optimal support to learn appropriate coping mechanisms and tools to address these barriers. In addition to barriers, beneficiaries also noted the key enablers to their academic performance and mentioned the following:

  • Receiving support from parents, teachers and the funding partner – the Foundation
  • Approaching each task with a positive attitude
  • Being motivated to succeed
  • An optimal amount of competition between peers – but mostly themselves.
  • Being passionate about what you are doing

“Love what you do. You cannot possibly try to be amazing at something that you hate. It’s going to be an upward battle and you’re not enjoying any of it” . Year Explore, Western Cape, University of Western Cape

Academics and entrepreneurship

From the definitions of our own beneficiaries, it suggests that through the outcome of pursuing and achieving academic excellence, individuals learn how to overcome failure, deal with pressure, set goals and meet them, continually improve and do their best. The literature further suggests that secondary and tertiary education further develop an individual’s self-confidence, lower their perception of the risk of entrepreneurship and enhance their ability to develop human capital. These abilities and traits link to those we see in successful entrepreneurs and support the notion that the academic journey can positively contribute to the preparation and equipping of individuals in their entrepreneurial process.


Jiménez, A., Palmero-Cámara, C., González-Santos, M.J., González-Bernal, J., Jiménez-Eguizábal, J.A.,            2015. The impact of educational levels on formal and informal entrepreneurship. Business         Research Quarterly Vol 18:3, pg 204-2012.

Kolstad, I., and Wiig, A., 2015. Education and entrepreneurial success. Small Business Economics, Vol        44:4, pg 783-796.

Van der Sluis, J., Van Praag, M., and Vijverberg, W., 2008. Education and entrepreneurship selection and performance: A review of the empirical literature. Journal of Economic Surveys, Vol 22:5, pg 795     – 841.




10 Entrepreneurial readings recommended by our Fellows

10 Entrepreneurial readings recommended by our Fellows

What websites should entrepreneurs read for inspiration? We asked our Allan Gray Fellows what their daily entrepreneurial reading consisted of for inspiration, knowledge and growth. The top 10 entrepreneurial readings in no particular order are as follows:

  1. Standford e-Corners: A free resource started by Standford University where they share videos, podcasts and articles to support you on your entrepreneurial journey. Standford believes that entrepreneurship is about more than just starting a business.
  2. Medium: An app you can download and receive daily publications on topics that interest you.
  3. Tech Central: A news and information resource aimed at South Africans who are involved in the information and communication technology industry.
  4. For A website started by David Skok, a serial entrepreneur who became a venture capitalist. The website is a tool used by David where he writes articles to help entrepreneurs who are starting businesses.
  5. Harvard Business Review: Articles written by academics and experts from different disciplines, where they share their ideas.
  6. TED: A nonprofit dedicated to sharing ideas through video talks which are about 18 minutes or less. TED talks are inspiring and a must see.
  7. Under 30 CEO: A website aimed at young entrepreneurs and professionals. Articles include interviews, start-up advice and finance.
  8. Mixergy: A platform where you can learn from experienced entrepreneurs.
  9. Blake Masters: Peter Thiel, author of Zero to one, start-up course.
  10. This week in startups: Hosts weekly interviews with startups who operate in the interweb space. Tune in weekly to listen to entrepreneurs’ stories, as they share what’s happening in the market and the challenges they face.
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.”


Loans need a rethink to ensure inclusion | By Kevin Rodrigues and Co-Pierre Georg

Loans need a rethink to ensure inclusion | By Kevin Rodrigues and Co-Pierre Georg

Borrowing sorrow: SA has a poor savings culture, with only 33% of adults having any form of money stashed away. Statistics show that hire-purchase, credit-card and store-card debt are the biggest culprits when it comes to lower-income earners becoming debt-stressed. Picture: DAILY DISPATCH
Borrowing sorrow: SA has a poor savings culture, with only 33% of adults having any form of money stashed away. Statistics show that hire-purchase, credit-card and store-card debt are the biggest culprits when it comes to lower-income earners becoming debt-stressed. Picture: DAILY DISPATCH

High-profile development organisations around the world such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are recognising the transformative power financial inclusion can have on the lives of people at the base of the pyramid.

These organisations are investing heavily in developing insights through organisations that promote effective policy, such as the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor. Regulation that promotes financial inclusion can benefit greatly from the latest findings and other case studies globally.

According to the latest Finscope survey on financial inclusion, only 33% of South African adults have any form of savings, either at home or with formal or informal institutions. This is far below the next lowest Southern African Development Community member state, Malawi, which has a consumer savings rate of 43%. There is much work to be done to promote saving in SA, especially for those at the base of the pyramid.

For those in this band, the ideal savings product should be easily and affordably accessible, transparent, easily understood and incorporate commitment devices, such as peer pressure. It should also not require restrictive documentation.

SA’s Financial Intelligence Centre Act (Fica), especially its documentation requirements, limits the ability of formal providers to serve these people through market viable products.

Fica’s exemption 17 contains a provision for banking institutions to require only an identity document to open accounts with a balance limit of R25,000, among other limitations.

This exemption should be expanded to include investment institutions, for example unit trust managers, to open the investment market to people who cannot produce a proof of residence and for whom it would be too expensive to procure a proof of residence.

This would make this market more attractive to investment service providers who could then begin to optimise their products for the poor.

The savings culture has adverse, long-term implications for the population. National Treasury estimates that only 6% of South Africans will be able to maintain their standard of living at retirement.

This is likely to exacerbate the savings predicament as younger generations will need to support older generations as they reach retirement age.

Access to retirement funds in SA tips above 10% only in the upper-income quartile. This is largely due to the scale challenges small, medium and micro enterprise (SMME) employers face with providing access to such benefits for employees.

The government should attempt to replicate the success of the UK’s mandatory auto-enrolment retirement fund, the National Employment Savings Trust. It provides an affordable national retirement fund option to which all SMMEs must subscribe their employees if they do not already have an alternative.

This retirement plan would have an option for employees to opt out of the service. Default provisions like this have been shown by Richard H Thaler, professor of behavioural science and economics at the University of Chicago, to promote positive savings behaviour.

This system provides latitude to employees to refuse the benefit should they be unable to afford the contribution.

A compulsory state pension fund has been a priority for SA’s Treasury for several years and is under discussion with key stakeholders, having been tabled at the National Economic and Development Labour Council in November 2016.

Despite the slow improvement in the South African savings landscape, access to consumer credit has grown rapidly, driven by microfinance institutions, salary-based lenders and alternative banks.

These lenders provide credit to consumers at exorbitant premiums and are highly successful. In contrast, and despite notable successes and progress, government development finance initiatives such as the Industrial Development Corporation struggle to reach scale and have high surplus balances.

The government could consider the example set by the Thailand Village Funds initiative, which deployed R400,000 per community to settlements across the country. This was used for loan funds administered by community leaders who have flexibility to set interest rates and repayment terms. This initiative has proven effective in Thailand, with 70% of participants reporting improved quality of life and 92.6% of participants repaying in full and on time in 2010.

The Centre for Financial Regulation and Inclusion’s research has found that community-run finance initiatives prove more effective than external initiatives as there is less information asymmetry between community members and better tailoring of loan terms.

Much can be done to alter the microfinance landscape in SA to promote responsible lending.

Aside from the progress of the National Credit Act and interest regulations, South African regulators should consider the example of Bharat Financial Inclusion, an Indian microfinance corporation, when regulating the way these institutions incentivise employees.

Dedicated to responsible lending, Bharat tries to ensure the incentives of the poor and their loan officers are aligned by not basing their loan officers’ salaries on their loan portfolios.

Mashonisas — or credit providers — tend to get a lot of negative attention for their lending practices and interest charges. However, when performing a quantitative analysis using data from the National Income Dynamic Study, we find evidence that mashonisas may not be the worst source of debt for poor South Africans.

We ran a statistical model to investigate what predicts whether people with a median income below R3,897 per month and some debt become debt-stressed.

We found that having hire-purchase debt, store-card debt or credit-card debt makes people at least twice as likely to be overindebted than having a loan from a mashonisa.

Given that these more adverse sources are formal and thus easier to regulate, the regulatory focus should be on promoting more responsible lending in these areas.

Aside from these regulatory measures, the value of enhancing consumer financial education cannot be discounted. The underprivileged should be able to fully understand the implications of their financial position and decisions and how best to manage their financial lives. Despite significant progress having been made through regulation requiring financial institutions to put in place consumer education programmes, challenges remain.

The most notable challenge is the language barrier and skills concentrated with English speakers. To counter this, the government should consider making it a graduation requirement for finance students to engage in community financial education and provide these students with translation resources where required.

The regulatory landscape can benefit greatly from implementing many of the recent insights developed through extensive investment in financial inclusion research.

Much research still needs to be done on how these insights can be implemented in a South African context, especially with new data available on platforms such as Insights2Impact.

We look forward to the significant improvements in South African financial inclusion and on the lives of the poor that will come from these findings and the implementation of pro-active regulation.

• Georg is a senior lecturer at the African Institute of Financial Markets and Risk Management and Rodrigues is a management consultant and has a masters of commerce in risk management of the financial markets

Source: Business Day


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.


Are grittier individuals more successful? | By Teri Richter

Are grittier individuals more successful? | By Teri Richter

Origins and definition of Grit

The concept of grit was popularised recently by Angela Lee Duckworth and is defined as the perseverance and passion for long-term goals.  Duckworth and Peterson (2007: p. 1087 – 1088[1]) is characterised by:

  • “Strenuously working towards challenges
  • Maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity and plateaus in progress.”

Duckworth’s study of grit was borne out of an interest to answer the fundamental question: “Why do some individuals accomplish more than others of equal intelligence?” Duckworth and Yeager (2015[2]) discuss the importance of differentiating between intelligence or general mental ability and factors attributed to social and emotional learning [SEL] competencies, a phrase that highlights the relevance of emotions and social relationships to any complete view of child development (Durlak, Domitrovich, Weissberg, & Gullotta, 2015; Elias, 1997; Weissberg & Cascarino, 2013) or personality traits. Measurement and research on the latter being much less reliably and precisely tested than intelligence.


Duckworth and Peterson’s (2007) research suggests that grit is one of the personal qualities that is shared by most prominent leaders. The concept of grit is based on prior research of Galton (1892: p. 32) which proposed that ability alone was not the enough to bring about success, however that “ability combined with zeal and with capacity for hard labour”. Similarly, Cox’s (1926: p. 218) research concluded that evidence of “persistence of motive and effort, confidence in their abilities and great strength or force of character” early on influenced subsequent achievement.

Application of Grit at the Foundation

The following table is a representation of Duckworth’s synthesis of the key components of Grit and how we could incorporate certain aspects from the Grit literature into the Foundation’s work[3]:

Core component of Grit Definition Linking to the Foundation
1. Interest and passion which motivates that you are more likely to keep going and ‘stick-with-it’ if you love what you do This in turn would encourage us to aid beneficiaries in career guidance and finding their passion
2. Deliberate practice Which refers to practice that focuses on tasks beyond your current level of competence and comfort This approach could be incorporated into our curriculum in developing this skill in beneficiaries to pursue their passions and deal with challenges in academics.
3. Purpose which is about connecting your work or hobby to people beyond yourself and the value your work has This links with some of our ideas around responsible entrepreneurship. It could in turn be addressed through our programme curriculum
4. Hope which refers to optimism and the belief that there is something you can do to persevere, (which could also connect to locus of control??) There are links made between hope and optimism – this in turn could be measured through psychometrics and developed through personal development

Critiques of Grit

When considering the implementation of Grit measurement with Foundation beneficiaries, it is interesting to consider the findings of the King’s College Twin study published by Rimfeld, Kovas, Dale and Plomin in 2016[4]. The study used the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) sample, which is a longitudinal study which began by recruiting 16 000 twin pairs across England and Wales between 1994 and 1996 and posited as a gold standard research design. The study has retained over 10 000 twin pairs. The King’s College study included 4 642 TEDS participants, 2 321 twin pairs. It collected and considered data on Grit score, Big Five personality factors and General Certificate of Secondary Education scores were obtained from participants. The study used phenotypic and twin analysis to compared means and variance for boys and girls and for MZ and DZ twins as well as to estimate the relative contribution of additive genetic (A), shared environmental (C) and non-shared environmental (E) components of variance.
The study’s findings showed that:

  • Personality factors explain around 6% of the variance in academic achievement at the end of compulsory education at age 16.
  • At this stage of education Grit adds only 0.5% to the prediction of GCSE variance after accounting for the association between achievement and Big Five personality factors.
  • Big Five personality traits have been well studied and research has consistently shown that these traits explain a small but significant proportion of the variance in educational achievement (Chamorro-Premuzic & Furnham, 2003; Krapohl et al., 2014; Laidra et al., 2007; Luciano et al., 2006; Noftle & Robins, 2007; Poropat, 2009).
  • Grit consistency of interest does not significantly predict school achievement. One possibility is that consistency of interest has both positive and negative effects on scholastic achievement.

Alternative personality factors that influence success

The King’s College study suggests that Grit adds little to the prediction of academic achievement when other personality factors are controlled. This does not exclude the possibility that other cognitive or non-cognitive predictors are important correlates of academic success.

  • The following non-cognitive factors have shown to influence academic success:
    • Self-efficacy has consistently been shown to be associated with school achievement
    • Curiosity, specifically intellectual engagement, has also been shown to be a significant predictor of school achievement—a hungry mind could be the driving force for effort and perseverance (von Stumm, Hell, & Chamorro-Premuzic, 2011).
    • Self-control—the capacity to regulate behaviour and focus in the presence of temptation (Duckworth & Gross, 2014; Duckworth, Quinn, & Tsukayama, 2012; Duckworth, Tsukayama, & Kirby, 2013; Moffitt et al., 2011; Tangney, Baumeister, & Boone, 2004).

The King’s College study suggests that Grit does not significantly predict academic success. Moreover, it suggests the concept of Grit is not as powerful as other non-cognitive personality traits. The findings do not suggest that teaching children to be grittier cannot be done or indeed that it is not beneficial. Trying to increase Grit or perseverance could have long-term benefits for children but more research is warranted into intervention and training programmes before concluding that such training increases educational achievement and life outcomes.


Dubner, S.J., 2016. How to get more grit in your life. Accessed at

Duckworth, A.L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M.D., and Kelly, D.R., 2007. Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Accessed at

Duckworth, A.L., and Yeager, D.S., 2015. Measurement matters: Assessing personal qualities other than cognitive ability for educational purposes. Accessed at

Rimfeld, K., Kovas, Y., Dale, P., and Plomin, R., 2016. True grit and genetics: Predicting academic achievement from personality. Accessed at

Benefits of an Engaged Community | By: Teri Richter

Benefits of an Engaged Community | By: Teri Richter

A key outcome in the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation is the importance of creating a valued community for Allan Gray Beneficiaries. This is applicable to all three streams of the Foundation and is experienced slightly differently in the Scholarship, Fellowship and Association.

The value of communityAGO(16.04.24) 31

The Foundation understands that to achieve greatness individuals must work together and learn from one another. It is with this purpose that the Foundation spends much time and emphasis on the need to create a strong and supportive community in which Allan Gray Beneficiaries can seek guidance, learning, collaboration and inspiration.

Beginning a business venture can be an isolating task. The Foundation aims to encourage collaboration and thought partnership within our beneficiary community through meaningful engagement.

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Community

At its core, the Foundation community aims to create a support system to beneficiaries to encourage their success academically, personally and entrepreneurially. The Foundation’s approach to community is facilitated differently in each programme.

Intended benefits

At Scholarship level the Foundation community aims to create a strong support network to ensure that Scholars can flourish in their new school environments and are able to begin challenging their own as well as fellow Scholars thinking. The Foundation ensures that Scholars have personal relationships with Foundation Programme Officers, fellow Scholars and Candidate Fellows as well as teachers from Allan Gray Placement Schools.

Within the Fellowship, the Foundation community aims to remain a space that fosters beneficiary support, yet also begins to extend the network of beneficiaries through linking Fellows from the Alumni programme as well as business mentors. At this level, the community begins to centre around network development and thought partnership. Candidate Fellows are encouraged to challenge each other’s thinking and thereby learn from each other.

At Association level, the Foundation community aims to provide a thinking space for Fellows to test their business ideas, learn from each other’s mistakes and seek opportunities for collaboration.

The image below depicts key outcomes from community engagement for beneficiaries at different stages and demonstrates how the Foundation builds and develop the value beneficiaries extract and contribute over the three programme phases. The initial phases of community building are centred on providing resources, support systems and access to like-minded individuals who inspire each other. This foundation is built on by developing a strong focus on network building and thought partnerships, which culminates in collaboration and business development at Association level.

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Actual benefits

Beneficiaries describe the benefits they experience from their engagement with the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Community including support, engagement and thought partnership with peers as well as the encouragement and inspiration they get from each other:

“The best thing about the Fellowship was the people and the support. I felt that I had someone who constantly believed in me, and through the Candidate Fellows I was able to get assistance and support that I needed at times.” Year Engage Candidate Fellows, Western Cape, University of Cape Town

“These are the people you can take an idea to and they will give you constructive feedback” 2011 Fellows

AGO(16.04.24) 11You are amongst a pack of really ambitious and emerging entrepreneurs but at the same time finding people in the pack who are at a similar place to you where it’s fine to go into corporate and sharpen your blade and understand how the world works so that you can emerge at the end of it with some understanding of how your impact can be felt in the world.” 2011 Fellows

“What the Foundation has done this year, or something I haven’t realised is that they are providing a network and I never like grasped that until I went to the Jamboree and Candidate Fellows were all talking about how they collaborated with each other”. Grade 11 Scholar, Western Cape

Recommendations for building communities from the Allan Gray Beneficiaries

Over the years, the Allan Gray Scholars, Candidate Fellows and Fellows have contributed valuable suggestions on improving community engagement and enhancing the experience within the community. These suggestions include:

  1. Ensuring diverse engagement across beneficiaries: Beneficiaries note that engagement across year groups and programmes, ensuring that new and more seasoned beneficiaries, as well as younger and older beneficiaries can get to know each other and share experiences and learning, increases the value gained from the community.
  2. Facilitating peer mentorship: Introducing systems where Candidate Fellows can mentor Scholars, Fellows can mentor Candidate Fellows and the like ensures that beneficiaries can learn from each other and form deep and meaningful relationships.
  3. Developing diverse engagement platforms: As physical engagement becomes increasingly challenging particularly among our working beneficiaries, Fellows suggested the introduction of live streamed networking events which connect beneficiaries across cities, provinces and countries.
  4. Building lasting connections through genuine relationships: Fellows suggest that the individuals they have had the strongest connections with are those that they have met in less formal contexts and where relationships have could develop naturally. This leads to the suggestion to facilitate networking through casual social events where the pressure to connect for entrepreneurial gain is not the focus of the event.
  5. Attracting beneficiary attendance through interesting and relevant content: Fellows have noted that they are most likely to attend community events when the topic of the event is applicable to their entrepreneurial ventures.

In the spirit of collaborative achievement, we feel the greatest stride towards successfully reaching the Foundation goal of creating high impact entrepreneurial ventures is as a community. In this pursuit of entrepreneurship, our experience suggests that participating in a community that provides resources, support, knowledge, inspiration and collaborative partners makes the journey not only less isolating but more impactful.

Circle Of Excellence Conference: Game On! | By Zimkhitha Peter

Circle Of Excellence Conference: Game On! | By Zimkhitha Peter

In March this year, as the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation we hosted our Circle of Excellence (COE) conference.

It’s worth mentioning that this year’s conference was held just before South Africa hosted the Global Entrepreneurship Congress www.gec2017  which was hosted for the first time in the African Continent.

In this post, I will share one of this year’s conference takeaways and an exciting initiative that the Foundation is launching this year,  aimed at cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset in youth through game-based learning and gamification.

Hopefully by now we all agree that, firstly, entrepreneurship is not just about starting business but about releasing human potential and in that sense, everyone can be entrepreneurial. Entrepreneurialism is needed in all walks of life, in education, politics, sciences and the private sector.

Secondly, entrepreneurship can be taught, but how it is taught is key. You can’t teach someone to be an entrepreneur from a textbook or a lecture. Entrepreneurship requires practice. In the world of entrepreneurship education, game-based learning and gamification are an effective way of teaching entrepreneurship. Play has always been an effective way of learning. The practice of play is about developing a free and imaginative mind, allowing one to see a wealth of possibilities, a wealth of opportunities and a pathway to more innovative ways of being entrepreneurial (Neck et al).

Identifying opportunities and developing and implementing ideas are key competencies for successfully meeting the challenges of today’s world. “Learning from challenges” offers students an opportunity to experience the effectiveness of their actions. Today’s students are tomorrow’s employees and entrepreneurs. Through their education we can foster their skills and abilities and strengthen their values (

There are two specific entrepreneurship games that I would like to share with you

  1. Youthstart Entrepreneurial Challenge

One of the COE conference speakers, Johannes Lindner, the founder and lead expert of the “YouthStart Entrepreneurial Challenges” Programme (, developed the “Youth Start Entrepreneurial Challenges based on the reference framework for Entrepreneurship Competencies and the TRIO Model for Entrepreneurship Education.

Lindner_Entrepreneurship Excellence

The Trio Model for entrepreneurship

The Trio Model is a holistic teaching system that encompasses three segments: “Core Entrepreneurial Education” comprises basic qualifications for entrepreneurial thinking and acting, more precisely the competence to develop and implement ideas. “Entrepreneurial Culture” refers to the promotion of personal competences in a social context. We speak of a culture of open-mindedness, empathy, teamwork and creativity as well as risk-taking and awareness of risks. “Entrepreneurial Civic Education” aims at enhancing social competencies and empowering students in their role as citizens. After all, democratic thinking and self-reflection help young people express their opinions and assume responsibility for themselves, others and the environment.

Youth entrepreneurship challenge is available online

Lindner_Entrepreneurship Excellence

  1. Our new initiative: Foundation’s entrepreneurship Olympiad

In September, the Foundation in partnership with the Cape Town chapter of Singularity University will host the first ever entrepreneurship Olympiad (Schools Impact Challenge). Blue Helix, the Foundation’s entrepreneurship game, exposes learners to a set of entrepreneurial challenges that are aimed at cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset.

How it works 

Students log onto the platform via any smart device (phone/tablet/laptop/…) and access a series of action-oriented challenges. These challenges introduce the mindsets and then task students with applying them in a variety of real-world scenarios.

The challenge submissions (text and/or pictures) are peer-reviewed (with moderation) and points are earned, based on the rating received. Points earned place students on a student leader board and count towards the class points for the class leader board.

Why it works

  • Students enjoy competing on the leader boards.
  • Students enjoy the real-world application of what they’re learning.
  • Available on-demand on mobile, in bite-sized increments, with near instant gratification.
  • The peer review spreads good ideas and provides different perspectives on the same challenges students have tackled themselves.
  • The challenges are designed to target the most critical element of any behaviour change – the core underlying beliefs/world-views/self-concept!

Low demand on teacher time

  • Requires a minimum of just 10 minutes of class time per week. (For a quick check in)
  • Minimum of just 20 minutes of moderation per week. (Accessible on-demand on any smart device)


Watch this space for the 2017 entrepreneurship Olympiad!!!