Johannesburg - Niel Schoeman, CEO of Vumatel, chats with IOL about why he decided to go into the fibre business.
Q: Is Vumatel your first startup?
A: No. I have been involved in many ventures over the years ever since I started running tuck-shops at University.
Q: What gave you the idea?
A: I have been involved in the fibre game for years. I was involved in connecting the cellular towers to fibre and with those learnings started a fibre to the business company called Conduct Telecommunications. The natural progression from there was to start a fibre to the home business when the timing was right and given the opportunity.
Q: How is it doing?
A: It is doing very well so far. We have only been around for a year and a half and have connected more than 20 000 homes to fibre in 18 suburbs. Vumatel now employs 350 people directly and 3 000 indirectly. We are aiming to connect 100 000 homes by the end of the year.
Q: Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
A: I went to university to study engineering; and even considered doing graphic design at one stage but I think I always had a natural inclination toward entrepreneurship.
Q: What made you choose this career path?
A: I like to create, and give life to interesting ideas. It is very fulfilling to see your business plan or idea become a reality and how your employees grow through the process.
Q: What's next on your list?
A: To turn Vumatel into a major telecommunications player and then potentially start similar disruptive businesses.
Q: What would you say to someone who wants to be an entrepreneur?
A: Focus on the idea rather than the end result. You need tenacity because it will be much harder but also far more rewarding than you can imagine. Choose your partners well. Get a good mentor - this is especially important during the pursuit of your first few ventures. You need to be strong at assessing risk. And finally, most of the time it is better to be decisive than to be right.
Q: Please explain what your start-up does
A: Vumatel provisions open access fibre optic infrastructure to the home with speeds of up to 1 Gbps.
Q: Would you say you need a degree to get started?
A: No, but try to learn some basic management and accounting skills before leaping into the entrepreneurial abyss.