Local entrepreneur takes on ICT sector giants

Being a serial entrepreneur requires dedication and perseverance, as well as the ability to spot a good opportunity when one comes knocking. This is precisely what entrepreneur and 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition entrant, Damian Michael of Innovo Networks did.

Starting his career in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry in 2008, initially at MTN before moving to lead the roll out of Neotel in South Africa, Damian quickly developed an eye for identifying market gaps. While working with Neotel, he saw the opportunity to register an authorised installer business with the launch of TOP TV, a business which his wife led for two years until they sold it. When Neotel announced its acquisition by ICT giant Vodacom, Damian realised this was the push he needed to start his own venture.

In 2013, he launched Innovo Networks, a high-touch, business focussed voice, data and cloud provider aimed specifically at helping small and medium enterprises (SMEs) grow and expand their operations by providing the best technologies, at a better price than larger corporates in the industry. “I wanted to use my expertise in the ICT industry and provide guidance and best of breed products to SMEs in South Africa so that they could sustain themselves and contribute toward growing the local economy in terms of job creation,” he says.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Damian’s journey into full-time entrepreneurship though – during Innovo Networks’ second year of business, the company lost R500 000 on a fraudulent order and as a leader, Damian realised that his response to the situation was critical to the business’ future success: “I had to be strong, and show leadership to my team that business could and would bounce back from this setback.”

Another great lesson Damian has learnt along his journey is the importance of retaining top talent. “For a small business to compete with salaries offered by larger telecommunication corporates is very difficult, but it is crucial to hire top talent and reward them appropriately, or risk losing them to the giants in industry.”

Since inception, Innovo Networks has grown from strength to strength, racking up a number of awards and accolades along the way. Due to the business’ success and ability to main a positive cash flow, the business also recently purchased its own premises in Century City, Cape Town – a big milestone for the business.
Damian accredits his entrepreneurial success to his attention to detail and ability to spot gaps in the market. “My passion for helping others and being customer-centric in all my businesses has always been a big part of my journey too,” he says.

Looking to the future, Damian has big dreams for the business and plans to innovate across Innovo Networks’ entire product portfolio, and build its own cloud platform and security products. “We want to dominate and disrupt the cloud space, with the goal to gain attention for a multinational buyout,” he says.

Damian believes he’s got what it takes to take the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year® title home, he shares three key tips for his fellow entrepreneurs:

  1. Have a clear and concise vision for your business. It is also important you are able to articulate this vision clearly and regularly to your team.
  2. Hire top talent and pay well, or to the best of your ability – this will pay off.
  3. Make the effort. No one succeeds immediately, but the long hours of grafting and hard work will pay off in the end.