Co-Founder: Coronet Blockchain⎮ Global Speaker ⎮ Africa Leader ⎮ AfCFTA & Blockchain
I grew up in the North West province (state) of South Africa, known as the platinum belt due it being the largest platinum producer in the world. Put differently, I woke up every day with more than 80% of the global platinum reserves in my backyard. One of the 5 bursaries I received, was from a platinum mining firm. My early experience with work was within a family business. My mother has always quite industrious, having to single to raise 6 boys, she knew that my dad’s income will not give us the better future she desired for us. So she started multiple businesses within retail, beauty, travel and lifestyle. Whenever need arose, within our village she always stepped up to the challenge, with a practical solution to meet that need. Around age 11, I was my mom’s outsource agent. She started businesses, then outsourced the management and expansion to me. To look after existing businesses and come up with ways to grow and expand the business. At 15 I asked mom that I want to go to the big city, Johannesburg, which most of the fathers and older brothers migrated to, to work in mines. However I wanted to pursue my dream of being a pilot. I was privilege to have been awarded 5 bursaries by multiple corporations to further my studies, in a different field, not aviation.
Beyond my varsity days I worked across the public and private sector. With my last corporate role being with with Deloitte after which I started a management consulting practice with specialty on business expansion helping retailers, hospitality companies, beauty and lifestyle companies to expand across Southern Africa. It was these strategic assignments that transitioned me into the blockchain technology space. When my ex colleague approached us: She had started a hair extension business with just $500 and it was now growing, she wanted us to put systems in place in order to formalize and scale the business. Fast-forward 36 months later we scaled her business into 4 branches, 40 full-time staff and $2 million a year revenue. We received an overwhelming request from brands across Africa wanting the same success story. Knowing that they all had similar pain-points, we soon realized that we needed to deliver the same transformation at scale and we needed a solution that can deliver industry wide transformation. During dinner with a with a family friend who is with IBM he told us that blockchain was a glove-fit solution. We discussed it with the IBM investment committee: who gave us seed capital to build the solution, two funding tranches during COVID.
What were the biggest initial hurdles and how did you overcome them?
A: Prior to founding Coronet we helped multiple businesses, via our management consulting firm to expand across select industries. When it became obvious to us, that to fulfil our vision to rethink Africa’s supply chains, we would need to start a technology company. To start: not just any tech company, but one that specializes in blockchain, an emerging technology tool. That is when the weight of the challenge became clear to us. Starting a tech firm, within the IT sector, is like entering a foreign territory, that is already occupied by a tribe with strange habits, speaking a language that is foreign to you. Adapting to this territory, fast, with a Continent eagerly awaiting our solutions, was key for us. Africa cannot afford to be left behind. Africa must leverage these emerging technologies, within the unfolding 4th industrial revolution, particularly the blockchain possibilities. So, yes, we had to hit the ground running. Learn the various moving parts of what it means to thrive in this space, for our continent’s sake. Here we are today, not only speaking that strange language, but we found ways, to make blockchain practical to the everyday person, by focusing our solution onto practical problems.
What books are you currently reading?
A: In today’s context being switched on 24/7 along with the persistent threat of experiencing screen fatigue, now more than ever, the world needs leaders who are sound, healthy and focused. We cannot allow Covid to push us beyond the edge, into a permanent survivalist mode. That approach is not sustainable. Among the tools helping me to remain focused, grounded and balanced currently, are these books: Deep Work by Cal Newport and Finding a way to win by André G Olivier.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started?
A: When I worked in corporate it was normal to be in a team that could move a project from a R0 balance sheet to R5 billion within 36 months. This created a false reality in my mind because when I left corporate I thought that would be my immediate reality and trajectory. Being ignorant that the corporate I worked for had a larger than life brand equity, having been in existence for over 165 years with intricate backend systems and an army staff with infinite resource at their disposal. I learnt fast that business is not a sprint, it’s more like a marathon, and definitely, business is not a get rich quick scheme, it requires the patience of a bamboo farmer, which can take half a decade to show results. You will not be your own boss, every client you have is your boss. Instead of no boss, you now have 30 to 100 bosses that expect you to deliver. No sick leave or fun weekend, at least at the beginning until you can build systems and delivery teams.
What advice would you give to an upcoming youth or talents locally and internationally?
A: Be intentional and keep close company with those who have gone ahead of you in your industry. Such an ecosystem will save you from the lots of mistakes you will make, in your early days. Mistakes will be there, but, an ecosystem of such a nature, will be your buffer, to lessen impact, the price you pay will be lessened, fast tracking your growth. Get books on successful leaders you look up to. This is like having a coffee with them at any time of the day, spend time learning and attending events where they’re speaking.
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