Durban Archives - Lumec

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July 29, 2020

We are regularly approached by start-ups requesting to undertake feasibility studies. This is largely due to the fact that, where start-ups don’t have a proven track record or offtake agreements, funders require evidence of economic and financial viability. In our last blog post, we focussed on understanding what it means to develop a ‘business case’. In this blog, we unpack the different types of economic market research that can be completed to determine economic and financial viability. We have recently developed a package of market research offerings which can be found here – this forms the basis of our discussion below. Essentially, we distinguish economic market research into two types, namely, (a) market demand assessments and (b) feasibility studies, with market demand assessments being one component of a full feasibility study.

What is a market demand assessment?

Market demand assessments are done to provide a detailed understanding of the economic viability of a business idea (i.e. product or service offering). This can be done more simply via a desktop assessment or in slightly more detail through including primary research such as surveys. In a generic market demand assessment, we usually start by undertaking a lean canvas analysis to further define the business model and provide a solid starting point for the market research. Thereafter, the research will define the target market, undertake a demographic and socio-economic profile of the target market, assess current market and industry trends, and do a competitor analysis. Once the market is well understood, these key findings are used to develop a demand model which will quantify current and projected demand for your business idea, such as the potential number of customers or units that could be absorbed by the market. 

For example, if you want to start a local manufacturing business, we’d first need to understand what it is exactly that you want to do, then understand the market which you could potentially penetrate, and then quantify the market (i.e. population as an indication of potential customers, income as an indication of spending power, etc). Once this has been done, we’d look at the specific sector and industry in which you intend to operate and assess trends and patterns which will have an impact on your businesses success, and then analyse your competitors, their products, and pricing. Using all this information, we’d then develop a model which utilises assumptions based on the market and industry analysis, and provides projections to say, for example, “in 2022, should you be able to penetrate 5% of the market, there is potential for you to sell 100,000 units per annum”.

What is a feasibility study?

A feasibility study builds on the steps undertaken in a market demand assessment but also includes an institutional and operational assessment and analysis of financial viability. The institutional and operational assessment essentially represents the structure of the entity (legal, shareholding, etc), the HR structure, and business operations, while the financial analysis ties together projected revenue streams with capital and operational expenditure to show profit & loss and break-even. The results of the feasibility study can then be pulled through into a business plan, which will provide funders with strong evidence that the proposed project or business has the potential to succeed. Including off-take agreements can help to build an even stronger case. 

What do funders want to see?

A market demand assessment is a great starting point in understanding market potential. However, most funders want to see how this translates into financial viability. We have been told by numerous development financing institutions that the most critical element of any feasibility study is ensuring financial projections are informed by and developed off anticipated demand calculations. So in the example above, showing that you have the potential to sell 100,000 units per annum might not be enough. However, if you can show that this can generate R25,000,000 in sales per annum at a competitive market rate of R25 per unit, and after developing your financial model you can show a reasonable profit margin, you’re likely to catch the attention of funders. 

So, why do market research?

In summary, undertaking market research is an important tool in gaining a better understanding of a potential business product, service or even a concept or idea. In the case where you can prove viability through offtake agreements and a solid business plan, you most likely can raise funding without doing any market research. However, in many cases, offtake agreements are difficult or impossible to secure (i.e. when your product is service is targeting customers directly), so market research is important in building a case for funders. A market demand assessment will provide you with solid evidence as to whether or not your business venture has the potential to succeed, giving you an indication of potential customers or sales. However, taking this further into a feasibility study by including the institutional and operational structure and detailed financial analysis (tied to the market demand assessment) can go a long way in securing funding. 


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May 25, 2020

Over the past year and a half, we have been regularly engaging with start-up businesses and entrepreneurs from a wide variety of sectors, as well as organisations providing both funding and development support to start-ups. A common challenge faced by most start-ups is access to funding. This is often due to the fact that they do not have a proven track record and are unable to demonstrate that their business idea is viable, and are therefore viewed as ‘high risk’ by funders. This essentially creates a mismatch between funders and start-ups at the critical ‘seed stage’ of development. Understanding this, we specifically engaged with funders to gain some insight into how start-ups can access the funding that is available. What it essentially comes down to is both (a) having a solid business case and (b) being able to prove economic and financial viability. 

In this blog we’ll address part a, essentially, understanding the term ‘business case’ and suggestions on how you can build a solid business case. In our next blog post, we’ll focus on part b, which unpacks how to determine market viability and how to leverage this to guide financial projections. 

So what is a business case?

Simply put, do you have evidence to back up your idea? We all have ideas, but not all of us know how to step back and objectively assess our ideas to determine whether these will survive in a very competitive start-up environment. A business case is the first step at truly understanding whether an idea is worth pursuing or not, which is critical because it is going to require a lot of time and effort to take your idea through to implementation. A business case can be as simple as a one-page document that presents a clear and concise overview of your project idea and backs this up with some factual data and information. This will provide you with some evidence to start to test initial interest for your project idea. 

The difference between a business case, feasibility study and business plan

A business case must not be confused with a feasibility study or a business plan. A feasibility study is usually undertaken after there is enough evidence, through some initial research, to support an idea or project and you can show you have a business case. It digs deeper to understand and assess the market and industry, analyse competitors, and measure potential market demand (i.e. economic viability), which then assists to determine financial viability. A business plan then draws from these critical findings and includes more administrative, institutional and operational requirements, and more accurate financial calculations. We are often contracted to just undertake the economic viability component of a feasibility study (i.e to determine potential market demand) for clients who have an idea and want to both be able to test their business case and have some additional evidence to support launching into a full-scale, and often multi-disciplinary feasibility study. Such specialist studies can be very costly (upwards of R50,000 for a market demand assessment and R100,000 for an economic feasibility study) and as such, start-ups often end up hitting a wall at this point. However, before spending a cent on such studies, you can do some basic research to first determine if you have an idea worth investing in by building a business case. 

How to develop a business case

So, what can you do to show that you have a business case? We are huge fans of the lean canvas model and the first thing we do when approached with an idea is put it to the lean canvas test. The approach is to unpack your idea into a one-page template by providing information on the problem, customers, value proposition, solution, channels to customers, revenues and costs, key metrics and the unfair advantage, in that order. The lean canvas will quickly show you if what you have is just an idea or a good idea that has the potential to succeed. Once completed, the outputs can easily be translated into concept/proposal documents and/or a simple pitch deck.

It’s just the start!

Unfortunately, most public sector development finance institutions such as NEF and SEFA will require more detailed market research, and a business case document most likely won’t suffice in leveraging funds. It can, however, be used to leverage initial interest and develop support in undertaking specialist studies. Essentially, it will generate some level of confidence and buy-in and funders might be more likely to recommend you to other small enterprise support agencies, such as SEDA, who will assist you to undertake market research. However, the business case could go a long way to securing private sector investors.

So in summary, if you have a new idea, we would suggest that you take some time to unpack and test your idea and prepare a solid business case before approaching potential partners, investors or funding agencies. This will save you time and money, allow you to stand out above other start-ups, and put you in a better position to leverage support for additional market research.


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January 10, 2020

As a startup, it is hard to know how to prioritise your limited time and funds. Furthermore, while you know your core business inside-out, you are often tripped up by all the other things that come along with business ownership. Lumec is coming up to 4 years in business so we did some reflecting, and came up with 4 things we wish we had known when we started. We thought we would share them here, so those taking the plunge into small business ownership can make good decisions from the start.

1. Take time to develop your brand

One of the first things every startup needs is a name, which is integral to your brand. We came up with a name after a few days of bouncing ideas around with friends – ‘Resource Research and Strategy Consultants’. It was a mouthful, no one could remember it, there was a competing business in our space that had almost the same name, and the ‘resource’ was confusing us with human resources and environmental resources businesses. Bad, bad, bad.

Our advice: if you don’t come from a marketing background (like us) we strongly recommend budgeting for a professional to assist with brand development. Take time when choosing a company name and ask everyone you see what they think of your potential name. You are going to be saying your company name A LOT – you need to feel confident and proud of it. But developing a brand is much more than just a name and a logo. Our brand consultants took us through the essentials of who we are as a business, what makes us different and what drives us. It was a highly beneficial process. If you want to read more about our brand and journey check out our about section on our website.

Don’t forget to check that your name has an available URL for your website and to reserve the name on the CIPC (Companies and Intellectual Property Commission) website/portal. 

2. Outsource support services

Similar to branding, we wish we had outsourced support services sooner, particularly, website development and accounting. We spent a lot of time learning WordPress and doing creative accounting and payroll in Excel in year one. This is a tricky one for a startup because whatever money is in the business is needed to keep the founders housed and fed for as long as possible while work becomes consistent. Furthermore, blindly handing over all bookkeeping in the beginning is not recommended – learning the basics is critical. 

However, website development can be outsourced fairly cheaply and even one accounting consult can get you up to speed quickly on what accounting programme is recommended and what the basic legislated requirements are for a registered business (hint: they are significant and can have hefty fines attached). It is also worth meeting with an accountant even before registering the startup to figure out what type of entity to register and what this may mean for taxes down the line. Several accounting and web development firms specialise in small businesses, are understanding and have good rates. SARS also have some good resources that are free. As you grow, you should meet more regularly with the accountant and hand over more responsibilities to avoid stress meltdowns (of which we had many). 

Note on points 1 and 2 above: Although registering your business is a hard-to-resist psychological step to small business ownership, it may be worth holding off until you actually have revenue. Part of us rushing the naming exercise was so that we could register the business and part of the accounting headache we experienced was because of registering the business too early. We see many startups falling into this trap. Registering a business does not mean you have a business, paying customers means you have a business. You can develop your brand and website, advertise yourself and get paying customers often all without being registered, especially as a consultant. As soon as you have income you can register and open a bank account within days. 

3. Set up sound internal processes from the start

Only 2.5 years into Lumec did we start to collect meaningful data on how we were spending our time. We now use this data, amongst other things, to see exactly: 

  • When we have exceeded our billable hours on a project and why, 
  • If we are working enough billable hours to cover our monthly expenses, 
  • If we are doing enough business development and staff development, and 
  • If we are spending too much time on admin. 

We use Clockify to measure our time, but there are other equally useful tools such as Toggl. There are several other monitoring tools that we have put in place from client queries to social media – the point is to determine your key metrics early and start tracking them from the start.

Another useful process was implementing Monday morning meetings where we discuss, divide and prioritise our tasks for the week, as well as provide feedback from the week before. Some businesses use Trello or Asana to manage tasks, but as a small business of just three, we find old fashioned to-do-lists work just fine for us. 

4. Be smart about your recruitment

In our first couple of years we required ad hoc work to be done. We reached out to our own networks and to the local university for recommendations and we temporarily employed several people but no one had the particular skills we were after. This cost us time and money. Based on this experience, when we decided to recruit a full time staff member, we knew we needed to conduct a rigorous recruitment process.

Our processes included a job advert on employment sites leading to a google form which was used to shortlist candidates. We then asked for CVs from the shortlist which were used to further refine the list. We did personality tests, interviews and writing tests for the top 10 candidates and our final choice we interviewed a second time. This process took at least 2 months but it is one of the best ways we have spent our time in our four years. We wish we had used a more rigorous process for hiring even temporary staff right from year 1.

This blog is the first of a series of posts we will be sharing to assist the startup business. Look out for future posts on funding, business planning and others here and follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn (@lumecsa) to get other related updates and information.


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December 2, 2019

Lumec recently undertook research for Innovate Durban in order to develop an Innovation Publication for the Province, a first in KZN. The publication included a profile of 5 successful innovators, which provides a very useful resource for innovators and potential innovators. Parallels among the 5 innovators who were profiled were most evident in the following areas:

1. The toughest challenges to overcome;

2. Lessons learnt; and

3. Valuable insights on what they wish they knew at the start of their innovation journey

 

 

Challenges

Regardless of the innovators’ stage of development, each faced the same challenge when it came to accessing funding. The argument here is that funding is difficult to access, which increases the amount of time required for your project to move through the innovation pipeline. Therefore, whether you require seed funding, capital to develop your prototype or have a new product ready for commercialisation, having the skills to source funding is crucial. Furthermore, most of the innovators cited the same institutions as a critical source of funding for their innovations, namely Invotech and the Technology Innovation Agency. The majority of innovators profiled used competitions as a means to generate capital. Limited access to funding and limited funding in general suggests that it is important for innovators to diversify their funding options. 

Lessons

All the innovators noted that the innovation journey is a long one, as evidenced in the fact that they began the process several years ago. This is why most identified consistency as the key to achieving results. In other words, it is crucial to be consistent in the pursuit of your innovation because it is a journey that comes with many hurdles, detours and slow progress. One innovator mentioned that he was able to achieve what seemed to be impossible by breaking down big tasks into smaller achievable actions. Furthermore, commitment to the journey may also involve going months and even years without a stable source of income.

What innovators wish they knew when they started

The innovators we spoke to are now all business owners. A few of them emphasised that they had to learn new skill sets in order to succeed in business. These were hard skills that improve business acumen and soft skills including knowing how to manage people (within and outside of your immediate team) and their different personalities. Many innovators seek commercialisation as the ultimate goal for innovations, therefore, an important consideration outlined by one of the innovators was to ensure that commercial aspects are incorporated from early on in your product design such as certification and industry standards. Other innovators pointed out that pursuing your innovation is not a task taken in isolation; the process requires collaboration, partnerships and the right team in your business.

You can see the full interviews here.

To read more about the Innovation Publication project, follow the link here.



February 13, 2019

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s August 2018 address at the National Assembly suggested that future South African (SA) cities will aim to alleviate the burden of apartheid’s spatial design from the poor. This relates to the cost associated with travel to and from work, as well as the time spent in the commute between work and home.[1] Additionally, future SA cities need to be places of wealth generation and productivity. A productive city is one that can offer most of its citizens with the opportunities necessary to have decent livelihoods.

Urbanisation is defined as an “increase in the proportion of a population living in urban areas” and a “process by which a large number of people becomes permanently concentrated in relatively small areas, forming cities”.[2] The World Cities Report 2016[3] suggests that rapid urban growth is a global trend. However, this growth brings greater complexities to problems that already exist in cities; problems such as urban services, housing, rising inequality and exclusion, as well as issues of safety and security. Presently, 55% of the world’s population is living in urban areas.[4]  Northern America has the largest share of persons living in urban areas (82%), followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (81%), Europe (74%), Oceania (68%) and Asia which has an urban population of roughly 50%[5].  Africa on the other hand, still remains largely rural with an urban population of 43%.[6]  Future trends suggest that since 90% of the world’s population is found in Africa and Asia, the growth in the global urban population will be mostly driven by Africa and Asia. However, delayed urbanisation, coupled with at a lower income rates than other developing countries has put African cities and policy makers under more pressure. While urbanisation in Africa has been delayed, it gives African countries the opportunity to learn from the mistakes and successes of other regions such as that of developing Asia and take full advantage of urbanisation as an engine for growth and development[7]. In addition to urbanisation acting as a catalyst for development, United Nations Habitat urges governments to use urbanisation as a tool to achieve transformation and sustainability[8]. This is of particular importance in the South African context due to distorted economic power and activity.

It is important to note that according to the State of Cities Report 2016[9], urbanisation does not only refer to metropolitans such as the City of Johannesburg, eThekwini and Cape Town, but also refers to places with urban characteristics. For instance, secondary cities such as Rustenburg, George and Polokwane, as well as small towns like Alice and Harrismith. The productivity of a city is heavily reliant on its spatial make up which also includes small towns and their linkages to bigger cities.

What then is the current state of our cities? SA cities account for almost two-thirds of the country’s economy and are responsible for more than half of its employment. The legacy of apartheid’s spatial division based on race, displacement of black people from urban areas and their controlled access into urban areas based on labour demands, and dispossession of ownership to land are fundamental issues that persist in cities[10].  While there has been significant investment made towards transforming cities, the result has been reinforced inequality, exclusion, and poor integration.

Ultimately, the nation’s goal to have ‘compact, coordinated and connected cities’ is both a social and an economic imperative. That is, to increase spatial efficiencies, to bring people closer to employment opportunities, to rebuild families, and to restore dignity by enabling people to have and build homes[11].

[1] The South African. (2018). President Ramaphosa addressed parliament on Wednesday: Five talking points. From: https://www.thesouthafrican.com/president-ramaphosa-parliament-22-august-2018/

[2] OECD. (2003). Glossary of Statistical Terms. From: https://stats.oecd.org/glossary/detail.asp?ID=2819

[3] UN Habitat. (2016). Urbanization and Development: Emerging Futures. World Cities Report. From: http://wcr.unhabitat.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/WCR-2016-Full-Report.pdf

[4] United Nations. (2018). World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision. From: https://population.un.org/wup/Publications/Files/WUP2018-KeyFacts.pdf

[5] United Nations. (2018). World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision. From: https://population.un.org/wup/Publications/Files/WUP2018-KeyFacts.pdf

[6] United Nations. (2018). World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision. From: https://population.un.org/wup/Publications/Files/WUP2018-KeyFacts.pdf

[7] Jones, P. (2015). Done right, urbanisation can boost living standards in Africa. From: http://theconversation.com/done-right-urbanisation-can-boost-living-standards-in-africa-41191

[8] UN Habitat. (2016). Urbanization and Development: Emerging Futures. World Cities Report. From: http://wcr.unhabitat.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/WCR-2016-Full-Report.pdf

[9] South African Cities Network. (2016). State of South African Cities Report. From: http://www.sacities.net/state-of-cities-reporting/socr-2016

[10] South African Cities Network. (2016). State of South African Cities Report. From: http://www.sacities.net/state-of-cities-reporting/socr-2016

[11] South African Government (2018). President Cyril Ramaphosa: Reply to questions in National Assembly. From: https://www.gov.za/speeches/president-ramaphosa-says-land-reform-key-stability-22-aug-2018-0000


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June 19, 2018

Calling artists, performers, creatives, makers, journalists, scientists, researchers, programmers and anyone interested in telling data stories through art. dARTa is a data and art design workshop that brings data geeks and creatives together with the goal of portraying important data in a way that appeals to the public – to touch, hear and feel data that matters.

Date: Tuesday 1 September 2020

Venue: Virtual: Register here: www.sacsc2020.com/

Time: 11:30am

Vibe:

  • Data geeks are teamed up with creatives
  • Data on topics related to cities is made available
  • Teams use the data to inspire a creative output such as art, performing art, film, etc.
  • Teams present/perform their output at the end of the week.

See the data that is available here.

INSPIRATION

At the last dARTa event we created a beat using sexual offence crime data from 3 police stations in Durban. You can find this output here.

For more inspiration see the video below and click here, here and here.

 

OBJECTIVES

dARTa hopes to… 

  • Unleash new, innovative ways for researchers to present data;
  • Provide creatives with content to generate evidence based art;
  • Develop long-lasting partnerships between researchers and creatives;
  • Generate outputs that could be reproduced and tested with audiences;
  • Produce learnings on how best to disseminate research.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Logo credit: @paulfigdesign



November 14, 2016

‘Resource’s Director, Joanne, spoke at the latest Ten Minutes Club on being an economist and startup life. The Ten Minutes Club aims to share insights on different jobs and career paths. This is what Joanne had to say about being a Development Economist and starting Resource Consultants.

Economist??

In preparation for this evening, I asked a few of my friends what they thought economists do. One of my friends said they thought economists were men, in suits, who sit behind desks crunching numbers all day. Another said it sounds like something a rich person does, something to do with money. While I believe there are rich, male economists out there, I am not one. While I do spend a fair amount of my time behind my computer looking at data, I actually studied an arts degree, not a B.com. My majors were philosophy and economics, and my honours degree is in philosophy. This is important because economics is about numbers, money and business, but economics is also about ideas, ideals and the fundamentals of society.

Do you know where most economists in the USA work? In government, not on Wall Street. Economics is about understanding how things are and then planning how things will be and how things should be. It’s about people, it’s about healthcare, it’s about education, it’s about infrastructure planning.  This type of economics, that deals with the upliftment of people, especially in developing economies, is called development economics. That is what I am, a development economist.

Being a Development Economist

As a consultant, I answer questions for clients that they either don’t have the data, skills or time to solve. The questions I am currently answering are:

  • What will the demand for property look like in the future in Durban?
  • What is the best way to promote innovation in Durban and what is the business plan to achieve this?
  • Finally, how feasible is it is to set up an institute within UKZN focusing on aviation related skills development?

I have answered a LOT of questions, on a LOT of different topics, for a LOT of different clients over the last 6 years.  I love understanding how things work, exploring completely new areas of study, learning, problem solving and growing. In short, I love answering questions. If I had 10 hours I could stand here and tell you each one of those questions over six years, why they were interesting, what the answers showed and the people I worked with along the way. I remember them all. Lucky for you I only have ten minutes so I am going to tell you about just one my company did recently free of charge because we loved the concept. It was for the Durban X Fest.

Durban X Fest

X Fest is a surf, skate and bike festival held on the beachfront in July. It also brings in music and lifestyle elements. I love the alternative culture it represents and I love that it showcases our beachfront in such a positive way. My company volunteered to do an economic impact assessment for the three-day festival. Economic impact assessments are very standard things in my line of work. They weigh up the positive and negative economic impacts of an event or a development that has already occurred or will occur in the future.

To do this, we had to spend three days on the beach with surveys on our phones asking spectators questions like what drew them to the event and how much money they spent. We also did regular counts of how many people were at the festival. We then collated the data from the surveys into spreadsheets, which, when paired with the cost breakdown of the event, started to tell a story. This story sponsors can use to justify spending money on the festival in future years, hopefully ensuring that this event becomes a fixed event on Durban’s calendar. It also tells event organisers what their spectators liked and what they didn’t. It is precious data.

Open Data

Note that I didn’t mention anything that sounded like rocket science there, although I am sure that when I said ‘economic impact assessment’ your mind clouded over. I don’t believe what economists do is hard – I think anyone can do it. And, in fact, many people are starting to do it.

Journalists are starting to use data more and more to add to their stories. An entire movement has started around Open Data where techies are joining forces with creatives and social scientists to create evidence based stories and solutions for their communities. It is wonderful. Even Google Sheets, Google’s online version of Microsoft Excel, now allows you to ask questions in a spreadsheet and it spits out the answers – no economist necessary! I encourage anyone to get involved more with data. The things I know about my city, its people and its plans is one of the best parts of my job and it is so accessible. Check out Open Data Durban for more on this.

Founding Resource Consultants

One of the first things you learn in economics is ‘the invisible hand’. This is the concept that the economy is made up of individuals making decisions, the sum of which is results in an economy that works, as if there is an invisible hand controlling it. This is all good and well until a very visible hand or hands start to tinker and do things like exclude an entire segment of the population from the economy based on the colour of their skin, or invade entire countries based on the resources they have.

In these situations, the traditional approach of development economics, which says grow the economy and quality of life will follow, simply does not work. And I believe it is not working. A new approach is required. One that faces our current challenges head on. One that questions, even the questions that our clients are asking us to answer. This is what led me to found my company Resource Consultants, together with my friend and economist colleague, Paul Jones, earlier this year.

At Resource, we aim to provide analyses that are data driven and realistic and solutions that are both implementable and sustainable. This is our mission, but it isn’t going to be an easy or a smooth transition. There are a whole host of challenges that I won’t get into now with selling our approach to clients. At the moment, we are doing our best to gently tug them with each project in this new direction but it will take time. In the meanwhile, we make sure we are surrounded by people who keep us fixed to our ideals. Luckily, in Durban, we have lots of these good people.

You are as good as the people around you

In her brief Jenna encouraged us to share ‘our message’. Please note: now starts my message. You are as good as the people around you. From the very beginning when I was still flailing in unemployment, I had the guidance of the team from Open Data Durban. Together with Three Consulting and Ulwazi Consulting – we have formed the Durban Knowledge Collective. We do team learning every Friday where we teach each other new skills and bounce ideas off each other. My friend and photographer Derryn Schmidt took my head-shots free of charge. Cait of CopyCait edited all our write ups. You have no idea how far things like that go. I’ve used those pictures and that copy on every tender submitted, even for the event tonight.

Steve Jones built our website and developed our brand. Please visit our website just to see our logo – we love it. My first client was even a friend from school. A youth advocacy group called the Durban Global Shapers have brought me so much support and advice over the year. To this day I check in with the collective or the shapers on issues ranging from work I should or shouldn’t take, to time management, to when to take the next steps in the business. Obviously, there is also Paul, who seems to never worry where our next pay check is coming from and sleeps with spreadsheets under his pillow every night.

Listen closely when I say this, I would have failed in my startup if it weren’t for these people. To close, I would like to share five tips from their collective knowledge.

Five start-up tips

  • Get a branding person in early. Budget them into whatever your startup costs are going to be. Let them help you with your name, your domain, your logo, your website and your social media presence. FYI, you can do all of this while still in your day job;
  • Do all of this knowing that it won’t matter one bit – your clients are going to come from networking. Go out to as many events as possible. Our biggest client we met at a free conference the City put together;
  • Don’t spend money on an office if you don’t need to. Use co-working spaces. My favourites are the Green Door and the Smart Space – they cost R100 per day. And get yourself a portable Neotel landline. Paul and I do drivebys where we throw the phone through the car window at each other;
  • Don’t be in a rush to register your business and certainly don’t register your business in February (just before the tax year ends). Understand the difference between a company and sole prop. Do a survey of business banking rates before signing up to one. Also, SARS are actually pretty helpful.
  • Finally, babysit your gorgeous nephew, go to yoga, spend time with your family when they need you and go to Barcelona to be with the love of your life on holiday if you need to. Make time for the things you love because that is the beauty of owning your own time and not working for anyone else.


August 4, 2016

Innovation is a buzz word at the moment. Various government agencies are forming to promote it (e.g. Innovate Durban) and provinces are developing strategies on it (e.g. the KZN Innovation Strategy). eThekwini Municipality’s recent Innovation Summit brought together experts on innovation in a series of panel discussions over two days. These are the four ideas around innovation that had the most impact on us.

Startup Theory

Did you know there was theory to the madness of starting a business? Well there is. A whole school of thought, actually.

  • The Lean Startup is a guide to reducing uncertainty throughout the startup phase of a business, coined by Eric Ries. The core principle is continuous testing of your business idea and creating a feedback loop, making the process more science and less chaos. The Lean Canvas sets these principles out on a user-friendly one-pager. Find out more at the: http://theleanstartup.com/
  • Design theory is the application of design thinking to the creation of a startup. Similar to the Lean Startup concept, design thinking encourages stepping into the shoes of the customer through interviews and user testing. See: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/inf536reflections/files/2015/08/dt-copy-xfcrbh.jpg

Crowd Fund your Validation

Theory tells you to user test your product but you aren’t sure where to start? Experts recognize crowd funding as one of the simplest, most effective forms of user testing. The key to securing finance from funders is reducing the risk associated with funding your product. The key to reducing risk is closing the validation gap. Going to funders with proven validation, therefore, reduces risk and interest on loans. Thundafund is South Africa’s main crowd funding website. They boast of a chocolate restaurant in Cape Town which offered the promise of chocolate in return for investment and was able to raise more than required to set up shop in just a month See: https://blog.thundafund.com/2014/10/15/crowdfunding-case-study-honest-chocolate/

Ideas are free, execution is key

The first concern of many startups is around patenting and funders stealing their ideas. The response from experts – ‘ideas are free, execution is key’. The current global population sits at 7 billion – multiply that by all the generations of the last century and you will find that it is highly improbable that your idea is a world first. The criteria for patenting is to be a world first and non-obvious. According to panelists at the Innovation Summit, the patenting ship has sailed. Furthermore, the benefit of sharing your ideas far outweighs the risk of sharing them.

The good news is that if you really love your idea or think you truly do have a world first, it costs R60 to file a patent yourself. No need to hold up your whole design process or break the bank. You can also file Trademark applications yourself. Often the brand is far more important than the product e.g. Starbucks can’t patent coffee but they can ensure that their brand is protected. In South Africa there is no formal application required for copyright – you automatically have it. For more information on copyright see https://creativecommons.org/

The future is made of nano-tech and the internet of things

Say what? I am thoroughly under-qualified to write on these topics but when a Fulbright scholar from MIT and several other smart people get together in a room and say that the future of innovation lies in these two areas, I’m inclined to believe them. Furthermore, from what I understand, the future is already here. But before the internet of things turn on you in horror movie fashion and the 4th industrial revolution sends you into an existential crisis, I leave you with this quote from Anice Hassim,

“When the whole world is an algorithm, what can humans add? We can be more human.”



June 13, 2016

The need for a resilience project in Durban has been further illuminated by the fires of protesters in recent weeks. It is with great credit to the eThekwini Metro that they have acknowledged the importance of this project and have not only commenced with research and a strategy but have created a ‘sustainability and resilience’ function within the metro.

Last week Resource attended a public stakeholder workshop where an update on the resilience programme was presented by Chief Resilience Officer, Debra Roberts. The 100 Resilient Cities Programme (100RC) was pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation in order to ‘help cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st Century’ (100 RC website). eThekwini is one of those 100 cities and has been conducting research towards a resilience strategy since 2014. This started with a preliminary resilience assessment, which resulted in six (rather broad) ‘focus areas‘. Dahlberg Consultants were then contracted to conduct further interviews, focus groups and desktop research to provide an objective view. They isolated the barriers to achieving the goals defined under the six focus areas and the root causes of these barriers. Through this, they were able to establish six ‘levers of change‘.

The resilience team felt that the levers of change were still too vague and not implementable and thus conducted further stakeholder engagement, which resulted in two ‘Resilience Building Options‘ for Durban. These are:

  • RBO 1: Integrated informal settlements planning: This includes upgrading information settlements with regard to education, environment, municipal services, social cohesion and economic opportunities and leveraging opportunities presented by the informal sector as a whole.
  • RBO2: Addressing environmental challenges in the governance of Ingonyama Trust land. Ingonyama Trust land is rich in biodiversity and is developing rapidly but there is little co-ordination between traditional leadership systems and eThekwini planning officials. This creates an opportunity to enhance communication and leverage both natural and human resources in these areas.

It is pleasing that the priorities that surfaced have brought the invisible and geographically secluded areas to the forefront of eThekwini’s resilience planning. These areas are largely unknown and excluded from planning, communication and policy but are filled with opportunity. The team are going to spend the rest of the year consulting and conducting research in order to develop a strategy and implementation plan around these two RBOs. It is recommended that all stakeholders who have an interest in the growth of eThekwini become involved in the process and throw their support behind it. This is one of the most important and forward-thinking projects to come out of the metro and the public has a responsibility to assist and to hold the city accountable to reaching these goals in an inclusive manner.

To get in touch with the team and find out more about the project see www.durban.gov.za/100RC