Why EOY is valuable to the entrepreneurial community

NickeyMannya-web2013 competition entrant, Nickey Mannya, Managing Director of Rural Brands, shares some information and insight about his entrepreneurial journey and discusses why he decided to enter the competition.

Briefly describe your business and the industry you operate in?

At Rural Brands we develop and produce technologically advanced online solutions to help businesses achieve “efficiency through technology”.

We operate in the information and communication technologies (ICT) sector. Rural Brands develop Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Systems, which organise and store a company’s documents and other content related to company processes. These systems are used on company websites and intranets.

We also develop an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tool named DDAY. This tool allows both internal and external audiences to share information, and is often used by finance and sales departments.

We pride ourselves in that our products are home-grown and developed in-house.

Where did your business concept originate from and when did you start your business?

After gaining a number of years experience within the ICT sector, I started Rural Brands in 2008. With the growth of the ICT sector and the proliferation of the Internet, I was consistently inspired to create ideas which would provide solutions to make my own job easier. This is what motivated me to actually build products as opposed to purchasing them.

I draw a lot of inspiration from the Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs and local pioneers such as Mark Shuttleworth, Vinny Lingham and Phuthuma Nhleko, who all have had great success in the ICT industry.

What advice can you give to aspiring to entrepreneurs?

Always be honest with yourself. There is a very fine line between being an Entrepreneur and a Dreamer. Most of us romanticise about the idea of being our own boss and the perks that come along with the title. This may result in overlooking the hard work, sacrifices and vast challenges that accompany the title. Not recognising these aspects from the beginning could result in failure.

Be sure you have what it takes, take your time, make sure you are in it for the long haul and have fun! As entrepreneurs, we should realise that money comes as a by-product.

Also, discipline, integrity and business ethics should take preference above reproach. Entrepreneurs should never lose those principals as they are priceless.

Where do you see your business in the next five years?

Rural Brands is in the process of developing our own Enterprise Resource Planning tool, which we plan to launch in 2014. This will be a great accomplishment for the company.

I also see the business growing steadily and offering employment opportunities to young South Africans within the technology sector who display talent.

I believe that we have what it takes, and with the right motivation, the courage and the tenacity we have displayed thus far, we are getting there. We have erected a strong foundation and learnt from our mistakes. As a business we know where we are heading and we are carefully forging ahead, making our mark within the industry.

What is your opinion on the reports of the Western Cape becoming the Silicon Valley of South Africa?

I think it is a great idea and a great moral booster to most ‘tech geeks’, including myself. It will put us on the global ICT map and should also foster further innovation and job creation in the sector.

Why did you decide to enter the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition?

I believe as an emerging entrepreneur I have much to offer. Apart from being a young and educated South African, I am also developing home-grown products and solutions that will hopefully highlight our country’s innovative talent. I believe that our country can compete internationally with places such Silicon Valley, which has become synonymous with technological innovation.

Why would you recommend that fellow entrepreneurs get involved with initiatives such as Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year®?

You will never know if you or your products are making it, or whether they are relevant in the market, unless you benchmark yourself against your peers. This will not only allow you to learn from other individuals’ experiences, but also alert you to any shortcomings in your business or improvements that can be made.

Western Cape on track to become the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Africa

Globally known for its serene natural beauty and cultural diversity, the Western Cape is on track to becoming more than just a tourist destination. The region, renowned for its robust entrepreneurial activity, is fast establishing itself as Africa’s ‘Silicon Valley’, a region in California which is home to some of the world’s largest technology companies, as well as many entrepreneurial ventures.

This is according to Stuart Forrest, owner of Triggerfish Animation and 2012 winner of the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, who says that the easy accessibility of technology and lower costs for business startups encourages more individuals within the space to undertake entrepreneurial ventures.

He says that the consistent growth of small tech-focused businesses in Cape Town and the accessibility of educational institutions continue to create fertile ground for entrepreneurial activity within the region.

Kobus Engelbrecht, spokesperson and co-sponsor of the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, is of the same opinion. “Due to the city’s entrepreneurial culture, Cape Town has seen an influx of IT and tech startups. By attracting the best entrepreneurs, technical brains and foreign direct investment, Cape Town is quickly becoming a local ‘Silicon Valley’.”

Forrest says that because of the industry growth the provincial government and the City of Cape Town have invested over R150m in Cape Town’s broadband infrastructure project. While delivering his provincial budget speech MEC Alan Winde said the project would also receive approximately R500m over the 2013 medium-term expenditure framework.

Engelbrecht says that other influential players such as Vinny Lingham and Justin Stanford – both local tech entrepreneurs – have recognised the Cape’s great potential for fostering entrepreneurship in the IT and technology space. In 2009, the two entrepreneurs launched Silicon Cape, a local high-tech innovation hub based on the international concept of Silicon Valley and aimed at attracting top technical talent and entrepreneurs to the Western Cape, ultimately creating an environment for local IT and tech companies to compete with similar hubs around the world.

“Initiatives such as this will generate seeds for a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem in Cape Town and positively contribute towards economic growth and development within South Africa.” says Forrest.

He adds that from a skills perspective, the formation of a local version of Silicon Valley will also succeed in keeping some of our brightest tech entrepreneurs in the country. “You only have to look at people such as Elon Musk who left the country for Silicon Valley and duly co-founded a globally influential service such as PayPal.”

Forrest confirms that growth companies in the IT and telecoms industries have proven to generate significant positive cash flow and profitable reinvestment opportunities for its retained earnings. “High growth companies are also responsible for innovation, which is necessary for the development of any country, but in order for the industry to truly be successful we require investment.

“One of the major obstacles hindering the growth of the IT and telecoms industry within the Western Cape is the absence of risk capital. Investors in South Africa are very risk averse. To date, we have been a resource driven country with a history of investing in fixed assets and manufacturing businesses.

“The success and growth of Silicon Valley in the United States has proven that investors need to sometimes take a calculated risk and step out of their comfort zone in order to create a globally-influential technology hub,” concludes Forrest.