Before I joined the World of Avatar, I had a fairly clear image of Stellenbosch, and what it stood for. Oak trees, university students,a laid back atmosphere, coffee shops, good restaurants, and good wine, topped by a winning rugby team. Definitely Afrikaans in character, and almost a blast of a rather nostalgic past. Until I first visited the Mxit offices in their previous location at Technopark, on the outskirts of Stellenbosch. Nothing had prepared me for my first encounter. It was like stumbling onto a set for a Steven Spielberg movie set in Silicon Valley.
Office block after office block, all filled with techies, geeks, nerds, and above all, entrepeneurs. Companies I had never heard of, employing hundreds of people, all in the digital space. Even though Mxit has now moved to the centre of Stellenbosch, the same atmosphere exists in the new offices. High energy, with people everywhere sitting engrossed in front of their computers. Some walking around barefeet, some in sandals, some with tattoos, some with long hair, but all of them focused and energized. Meetings happening everywhere, with meeting space always at a premium. There is a buzz that is tangible.
In Stellenbosch, a revolution is underway that is going to be the next chapter in the South African history book of successful entrepeneurship. Already multimillionaires are emerging from the ranks of the Stellies crowd, as their business ventures succeed on the international stage. I have been blown away by the switched on intelligence of all those that I have encountered. Without exception well educated, Masters degrees and Ph.d’s are not unusual. And in topics that I didn’t even know existed. Everybody I meet is thinking globally, not just South Africa. Determined to succeed at innovating, and changing the world in a positive way.
Even more impressive is the work ethic. Even though most employees are still in their twenties and thirties, the culture is one of working 24/7. There is an urgency that is palpable.
It is fascinating, in this relatively new South Africa of ours, to see how Afrikaans speakers are taking the lead in the business arena. If your investment strategy over recent years was simply to back their ventures in terms of equity investment, you would now be laughing all the way to the bank. Think Capitec, PSG, Remgro, Christo Wiese, with all his business ventures, Distell, and so on. Quite frankly, they are blowing away the competition, including English speakers, who for years led the field in the business arena. The good old blue chips like Anglos are looking distinctly jaded in comparison to the Capitecs and Shoprites of this world.
So next time you are in Stellies, on your way to a wine tour or to a good restaurant, pop in for a visit of our offices. See if it has the same effect on you as it has had on me. An inspiring look at a very positive future for entrepeneurship in South Africa that is destined to have a global impact.
7 May 2012