Monday, October 26, 2015

Mauritius, Oh Mauritius!

The last time Mandisa and I were in Mauritius was in 2009 after celebrating our 5-year anniversary. Our son Andisa was 2 years old and our daughter Wandi was not born yet. We had such a great time on the island that we vowed to return, this time with the whole family. A few weeks ago we visited the Club Med La' Plantation D'Albion. What an experience! 

This was to be the first time we travel abroad as a family, since the Department of Home Affairs' law requiring children to travel with their unabridged certificates. So my very organized wife had started applying very early for all the travel documents. Thanks to Mandisa for doing this in time as it revealed all sorts of issues Wandi & I had at Home Affairs including the need for me to apply for a new ID and a new Passport after being a victim of identity theft. Thanks to the swift work of the Department, we were able to sort all this out in time for our travels. 

On travel day, I learned a few lessons: 

Number 1: When traveling with the kids never order Uber Black to the airport - Always call Uber Van - the poor Mercedes Benz C-Class had to squeeze in luggage to last 6 nights for 4 people, including 2 golf bags, because I had called the normal Uber Black to collect us for the trip to the airport. But we survived.

Number 2: Always arrive at the airport at least 3 hours before departure. As we were checking in at the Air Mauritius counter, Mandisa's eyes suddenly widened as the check-in agent was perusing our travel documents - she sensed we had forgotten something important - at that point we realized that we had left behind the very same unabridged birth certificates we had worked so hard to get. For some reason after we received them we put them in the safe, but not in the same bag as the passports.
"I can't find the unabridged certificates!"
We immediately switched from 'holiday mode' to 'problem-solving' mode. I called an Uber. Jumped in. Gave him instructions to do whatever was necessary to ensure I was back in time for check in. It was time to abuse another Uber driver. 

He did great. We were back in time to check in, and board. We landed in Mauritius at around 19:30. At the brand new airport, Club Med has its own counter where you are directed to your transfer to the resort. I was worried about whether we would catch dinner in time, and was assured that the resort is expecting us and have made arrangements for us to have dinner before bedtime. 

The drive to D'Albion was very interesting. Our driver was very knowledgeable about history of the island, the resort, things we should try out during our stay. 

We were warmly received by our Club Med D'Albion hostess who took us through all the activities and facilities of the resort. All the resort activities were included in the resort rate and wouldn't cost anything extra. These included snorkeling, boat cruise, sailing, catamaran tour, trapeze, golf, soccer, beach volleyball, and many others. All food and drinks were included in the resort package also. Yes, even the drinks. 

When the hostess mentioned Mini Club, our eyes brightened. We had heard about Mini Club Med. I think we were more excited about it than the kids. The Mini Club is a kids’ section of the resort that has activities all day everyday specifically designed for children to enjoy the resort their way. There are child minders on duty all day, who often take children from all over the world around the resort to the beach, pool, games area, etc.   

"See you later, parents!"
"Here I come!"

I was really excited to find out that the resort had a second restaurant that was specifically set up for people like us: people who are always late for breakfast cut-off time. Let me explain: At the main restaurant breakfast kicks off at 07:00 and ends at 10:00. At the second restaurant, breakfast starts at 10:30. This was heaven sent. We tend to sleep in a lot when on holiday and breakfast cut off times are the enemy. Apparently not at the Club Med D'Albion.

"I believe I can Fly"
The resort also has an ‘adults only’ pool that caters for those who want to take a dip in silence and without the noise or children playing. But if you really want to soak up a week of chilling at the pool and taking the odd walk on the beach, with the bar in full sight, the main pool is for you. Mandisa and I spent most of our time here reading, swimming, and enjoying cocktails. Even the noise of children playing in the background can be very relaxing. 

Dinners are themed every night and the restaurant offers 5 serving stations including Italian, Mauritian, and Japanese. The variety of food is a little overwhelming as you can find yourself walking round with a plate in hand, very confused what to have, as everything looks soooo good. I visited the Italian and Mauritian stands often and was never disappointed. My staple drinks diet was the leading Mauritian beer, Phoenix – which was on tap every night at dinner. The wine list is also extensive though you have to pay for most of the selection. Mandisa often had her favourite of vodka, lime & lemonade and that seem to go down well also.

"Peace to the Creative Director!"
Another highlight of our stay at the Club Med D'Albion are the theatre shows every night - all with different themes from the Cabaret show to Infinity Circus Show. 

The best was the musical that featured pop music from Lady Gaga, Madonna to Rihanna. Mandisa loved these shows so much it was a welcomed suprise when she got an opportunity to meet one of the leading actor on our last night there. 

The sports activities were brilliant also. Andisa and I played some golf at the resort after turning down an offer to pay R4,200 for a 9-hole game at a nearby golf course. Err... how about "NO"! We had a great time in the sun, and it gave Andisa a great opportunity to make a case for a new set of golf clubs. I’m happy to report that I have made good on my promise and in fact today he tried out his new set with me over a 9-hole game. He seems very satisfied with his choice.
"Second shot. Birdie!"
"That's how we roll!"

The kids also tried the trapeze – something they’ve never done before but were quite intrigued by it. I suspect next time they do it, they would be better prepared. 

The final day of our stay was a day of snorkeling and sailing for Mandisa and I. Swimming in the middle of the ocean is such a surreal and peaceful experience. Watching sea life go through its version of normality is fascinating. I could watch it all day. I did however hope to see more fish than I did. Our sailor did warn that the time of the year isn’t great for seeing a wide variety of fish and sea life. It was a great experience nonetheless.

"Fun in the Sun"
The date of departure was a tough one. We had to leave the resort at 06h00 and the flight was delayed by 2 hours after the pilot found a fault in one of the engines. The airline, understandably didn’t let anyone out of the plane during this time, and that resulted in a number of passengers being uneasy. The Khumalos slept most of that time, as we had had an early morning. I got some work done, as the brain was now switching back into work mode.

We eventually landed safely in Johannesburg. 

We were happy to be back home. But we were sad the holiday had come to an end. This one will stay with us for a long time to come.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

My Talk at The G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance Summit, Istanbul, Turkey

The G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance Summit (G20YEA) was held on 7 – 9 September 2015 in Istanbul, Turkey under the theme “Building a Culture of Entrepreneurship”.

I was part of the South African delegation and addressed the Summit on the “Africa Rising” opportunity, the challenges and solutions required to improve entrepreneurship culture in Africa.

Hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Right to Self-Government

This article first appeared on on 22 September 2014.

So after quitting your job (and your boss) a few years ago, you started a business and after much blood, sweat and tears it is now stable. You are able to draw a modest salary. You live in a modest home. You drive a modest car and your kids go to a modest school. The only problem is you that didn’t work this hard to have a modest lifestyle.

The business is ready for that giant leap, and more importantly, you are tired of the ‘modest’ life and want to sit at the big boys’ table. Of course, your business would need a fresh injection of capital to fund any growth. This means getting an investor. The only problem is that you would need to give up a share of your business to someone else.

After all those long nights and near-bankruptcy moments you are now expected to give up a sizeable part of your ‘little baby’ to some stranger. To make matters worse, you probably have to sell down at a price lower than your version of fair value (because we all think our businesses are worth much more!).

Worst of all, though, you are now getting yourself a new boss. Well, at least that’s what it feels like. Someone else, other than yourself, you now need to consult with and account to.

You start thinking: “Perhaps this is not such a good idea after all. Perhaps I should just stay with my small business. At least it’s all mine. At least I retain my autonomy. At least I remain my own boss.” If this sounds familiar, do not despair. You are not alone.

The Oxford Dictionary defines autonomy as “the right or condition of self-government” and or “the ability of a person to make his or her own decisions”. For nearly every entrepreneur, the thought of bringing in an investor means giving up the ability to make their own decisions. To many this essentially means they now have a boss, which goes against every grain of their entire plan – namely to be their own boss.

The consequence of this outlook is that the entrepreneur then stumps the growth prospects of their business, driven by this fear of losing autonomy. They resist an injection of fresh capital and fresh ideas that have the potential to transform their small business into a sizeable operation.

Most times, entrepreneurs are scared of losing ‘control’. They are scared of losing the ability to decide when, how and with whom they do business. Ask most entrepreneurs if they would want a funder who takes equity in their business or a funder who lends them debt, and they will tell you: “Lend me your money. I pay you back. You get out of my life!”

Of course, many entrepreneurs don’t meet the basic requirements of most lenders of debt. First, most don’t have adequate security. Second, most cannot display healthy and reliable future cash flows to service and eventually settle the debt. Very often then, the only people willing to take the leap of faith in the aspirations of the entrepreneur are investors who bring with them good old expensive, but patient, equity.

But is there any reason to be fearful? Does getting an investor really decrease your autonomy?

As far as I can see, the JSE’s largest businesses founded by entrepreneurs are still controlled by their founders. This is notwithstanding the fact that many of these founders now own minority equity stakes and have boards and shareholders to consult with and account to.

I am told that Brian Joffe (and Mervyn Chipkin) founded Bidvest in 1988 with an R8m cash shell. Today it is worth R85bn. According to my calculations, Joffe owns approximately 2.3% of the business. He has been CEO since inception and is likely to retire as the firm’s CEO. Other than transactions of a certain size and nature that require shareholder approval, Joffe essentially runs the business in consultation with his board.

What autonomy has Joffe lost by listing his business and selling shares to institutional investors? Compare that to what investor capital has allowed him to build over the years – it’s chalk and cheese.

The same can be said of Discovery’s Adrian Gore, Aspen’s Stephen Saad and many others.

So, dear entrepreneur, in the real world, at some stage, you probably have to give up some equity to investors. It’s the basics of risk and return. You are probably a very risky investment right now and anyone who comes in and puts their money at high risk will seek high returns.

So stop being “penny wise, and pound foolish” and work on attracting value enhancing investors into your business. Be realistic about what to expect and what you are willing to give up as a return. To sober your own expectations, approach a boutique advisory firm to do a valuation of your business, on the basis of selling a minority stake. This will help give you a sense of the value a potential investor may place on it.

Selling equity to an investor who will add real value to your business does not necessarily spell the loss of autonomy. It may very well result in astonishing success!

Don’t Write The Business Plan, Do It!

This article first appeared in the 11 June 2015 edition of Finweek.

For the right reasons, many funders require entrepreneurs to write a detailed, congruent and bankable business plan. The plan ought to articulate the product, its market and how the entrepreneur will go to market and generate consistent positive cash flows to repay the borrowed funds and create value. This logic works well, except for one problem: a business plan is exactly that: a plan.

Nobody, not even the most passionate entrepreneur, can guarantee that what the plan says will in fact be. It would be useful if both the entrepreneur and the funder had more certainty that the idea in the business plan stood a greater-than-normal chance to gain traction with customers and succeed. If only there was a way the plan could be proven before the entrepreneur invests the countless sleepless nights and the funder commits millions of rands.

Most people start by writing a business plan, or even worse, get a consultant to write it for them. They then take the business plan to a funder, who lends funds on the strength of the plan. Eventually, armed with a plan and some funds, they go out and start the business.
Seems logical? I don’t think so. Why risk all that time, effort and money on something that may turn out to be a bad business idea and a waste of lenders’ funds?

Why not follow the same process, but in reverse.

Instead of starting by writing the business plan, why not start by doing the business plan and write it later?

In his book The Google Way author and management consultant Bernard Girard, who had been analysing the company since its founding in 1998, writes, “had the leaders of Google followed the rules and undergone the typical venture capital rite of passage, they would have written a business plan that laid out a detailed financial model showing how they would make money and how long to would take to make a profit for their initial investors. They did nothing of the sort. Instead, they started by creating user demand and only then did consider how to generate income”.

In doing the business plan, you will learn, very early in the game, the key challenges in sourcing raw materials for your product, your key suppliers, what affects their pricing, the external factors, including foreign exchange rates, interest rates, and commodity prices as well as ways and means to manage their volatility.

On the demand side, once you start selling, you will know and experience first-hand whether customers are prepared to pay for your product.

After a few iterations of manufacturing, promoting and selling your product, you will be in a much better position to pen down a plan for your business. You will be more enlightened to the risks, the competition, customer preferences and also the right price point. You will know intimately what customers value in your product, why they will choose your product over your competitors. Essentially, you will write your SWOT analysis from first-hand experience not from googling your competitors like many do.

Most importantly, you will have the confidence that your business idea actually works and you can prove it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Day 7: Masada, The Dead Sea & Goodbye

Day 7 was our last day in Israel and we decided we would reserve it for all the tourist stuff we need to do in this part of the country.

First stop was Masada, the palace fortress of King Herod and as the Masada legend goes, was also the place of the last stand of the Jews against the Romans in 73 B.C.E.

Words cannot describe what we saw. The remains of Masada are still there and or have been partly refurbished to give you a sense of what life was like in the palace of the King of the Israelites. From the technology they had to keep rooms cool in the scorching sun of the desert to the ways they stored water during flash floods.

But the story that would capture us would be the legend of Masada. Josephus was the only man who recorded this story with incredible precision. The story is not in the Bible or any other recognised literature but it is a firm belief amongst Jews that it took place. Click here for the fully account of the Siege of Masada.

We were told that until the 1980’s the Israeli army would shout out “Masada Shall Never Fall Again” in Hebrew when they were sworn in for military service. Interesting stuff.

At Masada we bumped into another group of South Africans who were also on a discovery of Israel. It was a wonderful chance encounter, and yes we were very noisy when we all starting speaking Sepedi, isiZulu and Setshwana.

 But the highlight of the day had to be our next stop. Swimming in the Dead Sea. The chemical mix of the Dead Sea ensures that you are able to float and not sink. The ground is made up of mud, that if smeared on your body, removes the dead tissue and makes for a very smooth finish. We did it all.

When we were done being silly, we made our way back to the hotel to freshen up, then one more reflection session to share our key take outs, and close of the day with a lovey dinner at a local restaurant before heading out to the airport.

It was great to hear that we all had something to take away from the trip, and we all felt it was a valuable experience. Many of us talked about the inspiration we received from each other and how we looked forward to taking some of the relationships established on the trip forward when we get back home. One of the guys, an e-commerce entrepreneur Paul Galatis shared one of his inventions for the benefit of the group, an app called Names & Faces which is a very user-friendly directory that stores everyone’s contact details and pictures for ease of reference when you need to reconnect. A simple yet impactful idea that will ensure we stay in touch. Thanks Paul.

I would like to take this opportunity in this last blog of the trip to extend my gratitude to all the people that put together #YoungTreps2015.

Dan Brotman, the Executive Director of SAIF, Setlogane Manchidi the Head of CSI at Investec, our guides Emily and Muki for taking care of us, scheduling business meetings, and even negotiating taxi rides for us. Of course this trip would’ve been impossible without all the entrepreneurs who were part of the trip, so I would like to thank each one personally.

Akhona Maqwazima: You are one the funniest and smartest guys I met on this trip. You have presence, coupled with a sense of awareness of your world and some of the problems that need solutions. Work hard on that IT business. See you in East London, when we launch the radio station.

Ayala Raichlin: I learned so much from you on this trip. In your youthful exhuberance you shared with me your perspective on Israel which was very insightful. Thanks also for taking us to the West Bank and staying with us, sitting through what could not have been an easy experience for you. You have earned my respect.

Caroline Mutsharini. First of all Caroline, lets agree that number two doesn’t count! J On a more serious note, you are a wonderful soul and very, very caring. Even in business is a valuable quality. Hang onto it. All the best with the contruction business, and yes, we are gate crashing the wedding!

Eddie Majozi: The main man. The deal maker. Thank you for a great outing you took us on the streets of Tel Aviv and treating the whole group. It was a very kind gesture that is truly appreciated. In fact, your kindness came out throughout the week with your support of Neftaly’s community project and potentially investing in some of the entrepreneurs who were with us on the trip. Thanks big guy, and sorry for the bruised elbow, but that’s what you get for now painting your body in mud and floating on the Dead Sea.

Elaine Jacob: My homegirl from Chatsworth. You are such a blessing, I tell you. I am very happy you grabbed an opportunity to get mentored by Jonathan Beare – now that’s how real entrepreneurs do it, they grab opportunities. All the best with the retail and fashion business. I hope you have not forgotten the favour you owe me and I owe you when we get back home. Deal?

Fazlur Pandor: Mr Cool himself. A POWER Man. Thank you very much for your kind words of encouragement for the station. I will ensure we keep making you proud. You have a rare trait,I noticed by the way. You have the ability to listen to everyone, respectfully and decide what you will take on and whats not for you – all the while not making anyone feel out of place or judged. I hope to stay in tough.

Karabo Songo: The Commander in Chief! You are my pedi brother I have never had wena. And yes I have learned that I must shut up and let you finish your trail of thought, because when you hit the punchline it is often worth the wait. Thanks for making the week special my man, and yes we are going to Zurich and Manhattan. But first lets work together in our space back home. Oh, and I think its time you pop that question chap.

Krystyna Blonski: I met you almost a year ago and what I remember was your passion for your business, and you even brought us boxes of pizza with vouchers to redeem to taste your product. That left an impression on me about you. Little did I know we would reconnect. You strike me as someone who know exactly what they want, and if I’m right that is a very good thing! Stay awesome. Oh and you still owe me pizza for my wifi.

Lumka Sibiya: SME!!! And it does not stand for Small Medium Enterprises! I’m not sure you are going to outlive this one with me. An absolute pleasure to meet you on this trip. Your calm approach to things made an impression on me. Your comments about having seen the Holocaust Museum and thinking that back home you would want your children to also know, intimately, their past was an impact on me also. Oh and remember: You didn’t really win the trip.

Marike Groenewald: You were so refreshing Marike. Always cheerful and always truthful. I experienced the latter in a short conversation with you when we were discussing Israel vs. South Africa. Your perspective surprised me, pleasantly so. We need more of you at home. Thanks also for making me okay about not being okay. Like you I struggle to be comfortable in discomfort. I feel the need to solve it NOW. Now I know I’m weird. All the best with the Thinking Environment and let me know how your services could assist our business back home.

Mpodumo Doubaba: The Revolutionary Leader! Lots of fire in your belly, my brother and that is a very good thing. Thanks for the debates that always left me seeing things differently. You are clearly a very intelligent young man. You have built something to be proud of in your business at a very tender age. Now that you told me what you want, and its out in the universe, go out and do the things that will get you there, but make sure it’s the things you are passionate about. And I wont call you ‘Mpo’ ever again.

Neftaly Malatjie: The man I call ‘24’ and which in turn calls me ‘37’. You are a brave son of gun I tell you. St your age, to have done the things you have and built the institution that Southern African Youth is the stuff of champions. Well done young man, and think about that unique proposition we spoke about. Never hesitate to call on us, the old people, if you need some help or just to talk. Oh, and stop sleeping in front of billionaires!

Ntuthuko Shezi. Mr Scratch Mobile. It was awesome to reconnect my brother, and hear the story of your business once again. I am excited for you as you enter other ventures, this time with love and support of your own young family. I thoroughly enjoyed all your quirky questions and comments that led to many people we met having to give us angles and perspectives they would otherwise not. I am reminded of your question to the poor guy in the Kibbutz. Owakithi wena. Never change bro!

Paul Galatis: The President!!! You are a weird dude. Weird in many interesting, intelligent, quirky and funny ways. It was awesome meeting you champ, and making connections with people around us. What you and your partners have done and continue to do with Yuppie Chef is brilliant. Your talk at the dinner was very inspiring and genuine. Thanks for Names & Faces. You didn’t have to do that, but you did. It says a lot about who you are. Thank you. I have a strange feeling we won’t do too well avoiding each other. On that note see you Thursday night.

Pfadzani Mphanama: The fighter!!! Its to late to argue with me now, it’s the benefits of the written word. J Absolute pleasure to meet you my sister. You are making a success in a very tough industry of fashion, and to make it thus far says a lot about your resilience. I think you are very resilient and have learned to take the bad along with the good and move on. That is a very good quality to have. All the best.

Ryan Peimer: The Magician!!! Hitch!!!! The Voice!!!! I give up… way too many titles. It was awesome to meet you champ. You are clearly multi-talented and I suspect that in itself can be a challenge, as you passions are wider but there are only 24 hours in a day and only one of you. I am however, very confident, that you have the intellectual capacity and spiritual capacity to make the right decisions for yourself and your future. I wish you all the best my brother. Don’t hesitate to contact me about some of the ideas we discussed, especially on the radio/ hitch stuff and production.

Shawn Theunissen: The insightful man. Thanks for making the trip interesting my brother. I learned much from your insights and piercing questions. I look forward to working with you to support entrepreneurs back in SA.

Sibongile Shikwambana: The lady who hates selfies! Thank you for making the trip interesting. The back of the bus laughs certainly added spice to the trip. All the best with the business as you change the face of an industry that has been historically dominated by men. I see a future Dr. Thandi Ndlovu in you. Go forth and be great.

Tania Mulligan: My sister from another! You are just too awesome. All the best with Kushesh – I call it, a normal business idea operating in a unique space of medical consumables. I am reminded of your elevator pitch at the dinner with Jonathan Beare, where he kept throwing tough questions at you and you returned each one with an answer packed with even more energy and vigour. All the best my sister, pass my regards to your husband that you talk about all the time!

Thato Mokhothu: The lady I call ‘Mangaung’. If anyone on the trip didn’t know that Bloem gets down, they now know that for sure. The life of our trip (except for the time we lost you at Masada), thank you for wonderful spirit and all the best with your plans to support the young people of your province.

Tlhokomelo Mogale: The Fixer! You, my sister are an awesome lady and professional. I truly wish you all the best with your banking career (what’s left of it, at least . Sorry, I couldn’t resist). On a serous note, continue to kick some butt at Investec and thank you for taking the time to hang with these crazy entrepreneurs.

Willem Janse van Rensburg: The silent intellectual. Please never stop being a dreamer my brother and all the best with the small, medium and big plans you have for the business including the very big plan you have,

Day 6: Jerusalem, Jerusalem

It was such a pity that we couldn’t stay another night in Netanya. What a lovely, cosy, coastal town with great hotels that just make you want stay in bed. Very different to life in the Kibbutz!

We kicked off with a drive to a very special company: Yvel. This is a Jewellery manufacturer that was started by an immigrant couple who are now multi-millionaires. They came from Argentina and built a company that would seek to create jobs for all Jews that were immigrants into their homeland of Israel. The company is now a place of work for many Ethiopian Jews who have immigrated from Africa back to Israel who initially struggled to find job opportunities. The company has grown tremendously and created a Jewellery line called Megemeria, meaning 'genesis', or the beginning which is a reminder of the journey travelled by these Ethiopian Jews leaving their homeland into Africa and then later returning. We took a tour of the facility and also the jewellery store, where a number of us left some hard earned cash behind.

The group made its way to the holocaust museum in Jerusalem while I had to honour a radio interview request with a start-up radio station, Voice of Israel in downtown Jerusalem, Old City.

The talk radio station is an online station with a target audience of the international community with an interest in Israeli affairs. A very specific niche that is multi-cultural with a multitude of differing views on Israel. Entrepreneur Glen Ladau, an American Jew who decided to relocate to Israel, started the company 8 months ago. The radio station is building a strong international brand as an authority on issues in Israel and the Middle East. 

My radio host was Eve Harrow. A talented broadcaster who I’m told is also one of the best tour guides in Israel. What was supposed to be a 25-minute conversation took up the whole show. We had a great time exchanging ideas about South Africa and Israel, and the story of my entrepreneurial journey. I thoroughly enjoyed the interview, and immediately saw opportunities of collaboration with this innovative radio station.

After the interview I spent some time talking to Glen about opportunities I thought his station had with a very vibrant South African Jewish community. I left feeling really good about my connection with Eve and Glen.

I rejoined the group for a tour of the Old City of Jerusalem and we got to see all sorts of sites that are constantly referred to in the Bible.

The night wrapped up quietly with dinner at the hotel, as Fridays are Shabbat for Jews and the city of Jerusalem essentially shuts down on the night. This was to be our last night spent in Israel and perhaps a quite wind down was fitting.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Day 5: Exploring The Start-Up Nation


We kicked off Day 5 with a visit to the manufacturing plant of start-up Woosh, a provider of turnkey solutions for drinking water in public spaces. Israel is a country that is mostly desert, and with a growing need for better water security. Woosh set out to make drinking water available to more people at a lower cost and used Tel Aviv as a pilot. Their innovation is built around a well-designed water filling station that can be placed in public spaces for users to refill their water bottles by swiping their credit cards. The cost of refilling your own water bottle is a fraction of buying bottled water anywhere in the world. The co-founder of Woosh, tells a fascinating story about his personal inspiration for this innovation – proof that inspiration can come from anywhere, what matters is what you do with it.

The company had also extended its services to water purification and desalination (which Akhona Maqwazima taught me is converting seawater to drinking water. Smart guy that!). Furthermore, the need for better access to drinking water cannot be fully served by the retail of bottled drinking water. Lately, many big cities have started to frown upon plastic water bottles.


The website posted this article on 26 February 2015:

"San Francisco has become the first city in America to ban the sale of plastic water bottles on city-owned property. “A move that is building on a global movement to reduce the huge amount of waste from the billion-dollar plastic bottle industry,” according to The Daily Catch. Over the next four years, the ban will phase out the sales of plastic water bottles that hold 21 ounces or less in public places. Waivers are permissible if an adequate alternative water source is not available. One of the largest supporters of the proposal was the Think Outside the Bottle campaign, a national effort that encourages restrictions of the “eco-unfriendly product.” Americans use 50 billion plastic water bottles a year, according to an anti-plastic bottle campaign Ban the Bottle, and just 23 percent of those are recycled. Should Venice be next?"

A number of entrepreneurs in our group were intrigued by the technology especially since we have our own problems with water supply in South Africa, and we ought to be embracing technologies that help conserve this key life source and protect the environment. We certainly don’t want a repeat of the electricity issue, where we didn’t adequately plan for a future that we knew was coming. So don’t be surprised to find yourself re-filling your glass or steel water bottle from a Woosh in downtown Johannesburg, Durban or Cape Town.

After Woosh, our group made a trip to the University of Tel Aviv to hear about Space IL, an Israeli non-profit founded by 3 young engineers in 2010, answering the Google Lunar X Prize challenge. They are aiming to make history and land the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon. The group also visited The Therapeutic Riding Centre of Israel, which is another non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of disabled people through a unique therapeutic and recreational method of Animal Assisted Therapies.

I missed both these visits as the rest of my day was scheduled with 3 back-to-back meetings before a party at Morris Kahn’s home. The prospect of partying with billionaires later in the day had me looking forward to these meetings.

My first meeting was with a company called Connesta. Eli Doron, the CEO, had made the trip across town to meet with me over a delicious pizza in an eatery not far from the University of Tel Aviv.

Eli is a warm, fascinating guy. Unlike all the tech entrepreneurs I had met to this point, he is also not young. He is grey-haired and I would place at circa +50 years old. In 1992 Eli was part of the team that wrote the protocol for VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol). He wrote the actual protocol for the technology that the likes of Skype and others are built on. I should’ve taken a selfie with this guy!

Anyway, his company Connesta has found a way to broadcast LIVE events online, with all the bells and whistles, and all you need is a camera and an internet connection, all at a fraction of the cost of his competitors. I loved his presentation and attention to detail. We promised to stay in touch.

I then had to make my way across town (with a very unhappy cab driver who only spoke Hebrew) to visit the offices of a very impressive tech start up that is seeking the change way we interact with data when teaching, or making presentations.

The company is called MUV Interactive and they have created ‘bird’ a human-machine interactive tool that clips on your index finger and gives you ‘powers’. Gartner named this technology 2014 Cool Vendor in Human-Machine Interface.

The best way to explain ‘bird’? Think Minority Report starring Tom Cruise, meets boardroom presentations and watch this video.

Of course, one would have to use a projector to reflect the images onto a surface, however from then on you will be able to control everything using your finger.

The company is planning mass production for 2016 where they plan to raise $10 million to take the innovation to market. In 2015 however, they plan to have a certain number of units in the market in different geographies to test appetite and traction.

The future is here, ladies and gentlemen!

My last meeting was with a South African entrepreneur, Jason Glick, who had moved to Tel Aviv almost 10 years ago, who has now built a sizeable media business in outdoor advertising and digital media. We had a lovely cup of coffee in Hertzliya and struck up a good rapport.

I then needed to make my way back to Netanya, which is 24km from Hertzliya, to check into our hotel for the night and prepare for a party at dollar-billionaire Morriss Kahn’s home. He is now 85 year-old and he decided to invite the South African delegation to a have a party at his home. I had also been asked to speak at the dinner, so I was a little nervous about that.

I eventually reunited with the crew at the party, which was well attended by Morris’s friends, half of whom had left South Africa +-40 years ago and returned to their homeland of Israel. It was a great night. I made my way through the speech and everyone’s positive feedback, especially from my host Morris Khan and our other new BFF, Jonathan Beare, was a overwhelming

And then the dancing started. We took over the party (as South Africans typically do) and made some of the older folk feel very young with their moves on the dance floor. I can safely say that Israelis know how to get down. Even the host, at 85, was mostly found on the dance floor.

getting down

A good time was had by all!

Unfortunately we had to leave the hotel by 07h30 the next morning for our trip to the holy city of Jerusalem, so we have to cut the night short.