MORGAN BARNARD: Welcome to the Moneyweb podcast, with me is MD and founder of ComUnity, another one of the entrepreneurs that Grindstone is supporting, David Prosser. Can you please tell us a bit about your company and how it all began?
DAVID PROSSER: Sure, Morgan, thank you very much for having me on the show. Our company really began with a dream and that dream or vision was that in the digital age every single person, no matter what socio or economic strata they come from should be able to connect with the services they need and trust whenever they need them and that has a lot of technology implications. So that’s really where we began, in order to be able to connect people with these services, as I was implying, there’s a whole lot of technology complexities that need to be addressed and we went about addressing those and monetising it and building a business to simplify the process.
MORGAN BARNARD: What are the biggest challenges facing entrepreneurs in South Africa do you think?
DAVID PROSSER: A lot of people would say funding and that is an issue but I think the major problem facing entrepreneurs in South Africa is the structure of our economy. Economy is dominated by large businesses and government accounts that want to do business with other large businesses and government accounts, so it takes a phenomenal amount of energy and focus to get a business to a point where these large entities want to do business with you.
MORGAN BARNARD: What are your plans for growing ComUnity?
DAVID PROSSER: How long do we have? [Laughing] So first and foremost we are working very hard to make it easy for third parties to be able to use our platform, to be able to build applications and service the market at scale. So we’re doing some technology innovations to make that easier, we’re very, very focused on building out a partner ecosystem. So companies that already have reach and scale into the market like telco operators, large systems integrated IT businesses, high-end consulting companies and technology vendors like Microsoft.
MORGAN BARNARD: So we’ve recently seen a iKubu, another one of Grindstone’s businesses that has been sold to Garmin, what role do you see Grindstone playing in your business?
DAVID PROSSER: The real value for us of the Grindstone programme is really four things, the first thing is because of the structure of the programme it forces you to focus on your business rather than working on your business, on building your business, so what are the things that are going to build your business as opposed to working every day in your business. It forces you to step out and look from the outside in as a business owner. The second thing is the network of entrepreneurs that we’re working with, so those select high growth tech companies, we’ve already identified synergies to work together where we can help each other grow our businesses. The third area is access to the Cape market, so we’re a Johannesburg-based business, we do some business in the Cape but we tend to fly in and out of there as counter seagulls and there’s a lot going on in the innovation space and in the commercial space in the Cape that we’re now able to plug into. Fourth, which I think most people would think is the most important thing to us, it is actually only fourth on our list is creating the right partnerships to raise appropriate investment to drive accelerated growth.
MORGAN BARNARD: Where do you see yourself and ComUnity in a year from now?
DAVID PROSSER: In a years’ time we would have grown our enterprise customer base and mid-market customer base very significantly through partnerships and some of the things that we believe are smart that we’re doing. The other thing which is going to be a big turning point for our business is the open access of our software development kits so that people can easily use our platform to build their own applications. That’s going to give us access to SMEs, innovators. Probably the third thing is we’re lined up this year for a regional play, a regional go-to-market with Microsoft and other strategic partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers.
MORGAN BARNARD: What is your number one tip for entrepreneurs?
DAVID PROSSER: Without doubt, perseverance. There are so many things as an entrepreneur that can trip you up and really, it’s only the strongest that survive, it’s not the best ideas or the smartest people or the people with the most money, it’s the people with the perseverance to keep on going.
MORGAN BARNARD: That was David Prosser, MD of ComUnity.