Entrepreneurs sweat it out in the lion’s den
Innovative entrepreneurs Gerrit de Villiers and Gerhard Landman, clinched the Lion’s share as the overall winners at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) Lion’s Den event on 20 November.
In a gruelling pitching process where seven short-listed USB entrepreneurs pitched their business idea to a panel of venture capitalists in the hope of securing investment finance, Gerrit and Gerhard’s RoomCheck business idea was a unanimous favourite amongst the impressive panel of investors.
Facilitated by Venturepreneur and USB alumnus, D’Neil Strauss and his wife, former Miss World and current USB student, Rolene Strauss, the Lion’s Den panel included Zolani Madikazi (Venture Capitalist at Knife Capital), Wayne Stocks (Director and co-founder at Stocks & Strauss), Kate Turner-Smith (Investment Manager at Savant Technology Incubator), Shukri Toefy (CEO and co-founder at Fort), Anita Nel (CEO at Innovus of the Stellenbosch University) and Johan Bosini (Partner at Quona Capital).
Serial entrepreneur and CEO of FinFind, Darlene Menzies, started the afternoon with a powerful message to all: “Don’t believe you can’t be an entrepreneur. Anyone who is answering to a need already has a market and that is why you will make it.”
The owner of many successful and not so successful businesses, Darlene said that “failure is the cornerstone of success. I don’t think you can have success without it
Don’t believe you can’t be an entrepreneur. Anyone who is answering to a need already has a market and that is why you will make it.
We want to inspire for innovation and growth. For aspiring entrepreneurs and growing companies it is essential to uncover new ideas and create meaningful connections to drive sustainable business growth” added Crijns.”
Apart from meetings with Cape-based entrepreneurs, and company visits, some of the USB lectures include Building resilient states in a transforming world: Economics in emerging countries – RSA as a case study, by Prof Andre Roux, head of Futures Studies programmes, Building sustainable societies in a complex world – dimensions of African futures, by Dr Morné Mostert, director of the Institute for Futures Research (IFR), and Digital innovation in Africa, by Martin Butler, head of MBA programmes.
“It is mainly the commitment of all the participants, organisers, hosts and speakers that makes this edition a memorable and successful venture,” said Crijns. “I thank all the people and organisations that will make this venture a success. The Belgian Embassy, headed by Ambassador Vanderhasselt, was very cooperative in organising opportunities for networking.
“In particular I thank the University of Stellenbosch Business School, represented by Prof Piet Naudé and the USB International Affairs team Nyambura Mwagiru, Sheena Maneveld, and Samantha Walbrugh-Parsadh, who are in fact the driving forces in organising this tour. Their aim is to make our professional, academic or personal endeavours memorable and actionable.
The owner of many successful and not so successful businesses, Darlene said that “failure is the cornerstone of success. I don’t think you can have success without it. Learn from your mistakes and talk about it. Failure is part of the recipe of success – not the opposite of success. The opposite of success is apathy, not trying or staying in corporate when you want to be an entrepreneur. My biggest lessons and failures actually became my biggest opportunities.”
The seven short listed entrepreneurs pitched their product or service and had to find innovative ways to convince the panel that their business idea was viable, potentially very profitable and unique in answering a need in society in return for funding and direction.
The scoring of each participant was done via a quantitative process verified by an independent registered chartered accountants and a qualitative process whereby the panel deliberated on each entrepreneur.
Learn from your mistakes and talk about it. Failure is part of the recipe of success – not the opposite of success. The opposite of success is apathy, not trying or staying in corporate when you want to be an entrepreneur. My biggest lessons and failures actually became my biggest opportunities.
The participants where:
- chat – Gerard Smith and Dr Tanya Wantenaar
- Imvomvo Powerhouse – Sisanda Mqwebedu
- Lexa – Ben Groot, Kornelis Miske, Albert van Zyl and Michelle Saaiman
- Linchpin – Nicolas Lamohr, Nicky Lamohr and Chezre Fredericks
- RoomCheck – Gerrit de Villiers and Gerhard Landman
- Servio – Sias Fouche, Metin Akgerman and Ropetra von Nelson
- Wood Flavour Innovations – Dirk van den Berg
Johan Bosini closed the afternoon off with some invaluable lessons that are not only take-home advice for those who pitched but for any entrepreneur:
- You won’t get it right the first time. With each new pitch you will improve
- Remember that the investor doesn’t know your business as well as you do nor sacrificed the many hours you have put in so far in getting to the point of pitching for finance
- Don’t ask for too little. It always takes longer and costs more than you think
- Be more specific of the type of money you need. Don’t just say R3 million rather that you for example, need capital from a venture investor with global experience that understands technology.
- Understand the kind of finance you need, the kind of investment available and what the investor’s capabilities as well as their expectations are. It’s a long-term investment – be careful who you let in.
- Not every business is a venture backed business. There are other ways of funding your business.
- Many will fail. If one looks at the venture echo system in SA it’s still young and there hasn’t been enough success yet if you compare it to more mature markets abroad. However, those who fail, return and feed the entrepreneurial mindset in South Africa.
USB started the Lion’s Den a year ago to encourage and support entrepreneurs and job creation in South Africa, supporting the thinking that business has an increasing role in changing society. And with this in mind the prizes did not only include investment in terms of money but also skills and mentorship. It is with enormous gratitude that USB thanks the partners involved in accelerating the vision of entrepreneurship with the following generous prizes to the participants:
- Overall winner, RoomCheck received a 3-month mentorship programme from Stocks& Strauss and R50 000 from USB
- O’Reilly Law offered Imvomvo Powerhouse a legal advisory programme to the value of R32 000, and has made X2 legal essentials packages available for which the recipients will be determined.
- Start-up service packages from House of Growth to the value of R42 000 went to Servio, Lexa, Do.Chat, Imvomvo and Wood Flavoured Innovations.
- House of Growth also offered a strategy and finance package to the value of R96 000 to Linchpin, Do.Chat and Imvomvo Powerhouse
- LaunchLab sponsored access to start-up resources to Imvomvo Powerhouse, Servio and Wood Flavoured Innovations
- PPS offered executive financial consultation to Do.Chat, Wood Flavoured Innovations and Lexa
- PPS also gave specialised coaching sessions to Wood Flavoured Innovations, Servio and Imvomvo Powerhouse