Scaling up a startup
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Johannesburg - Louis Jardim is the commercial director and co-founder of Turrito Networks, now a MICROmega company. He speaks to IOL about getting started and scaling up the business.
Q: Is Turrito Networks your first startup?
A: Yes and no. My co-founder (Brian Timperley) and I originally started a company at the beginning of 2010, but our prior investors went through some financial difficulties and defaulted on their investment commitment. We pitched to and secured investment funding from MICROmega some months later and haven’t looked back since.
Q: What gave you the idea?
A: Service delivery in the telecoms industry is notoriously substandard, particularly for small and medium enterprises, and we saw a massive gap in the market specifically around this space. We knew we could deliver a better solution and service to SMEs. We started as a reseller of other networks’ connectivity services, using some strong tech hires and a network of high-level industry contacts to ensure that medium-sized clients got top-level service.
Q: How is it doing?
A: When we started in 2010, we were a company of four. Today, Turrito Networks have 30 permanent and 10 contract staff. We have also made two acquisitions: CloudWare in 2012 and Dial-A-Nerd in October 2015, totalling over 100 staff across Turrito’s various company brands. Based on this, I think we’re doing fairly well!
Q: Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
A: 100 percent, for us, one of the key drivers for any young pro-entrepreneur is the drive to create your own vision within an organisation and try and add value, so Brian and I spoke about starting a new business that would make a difference to customers and address their specific ICT needs.
Q: What made you choose this career path?
A: We’ve always been in IT and when we joined Internet Solutions, we initially looked after the big multinationals, who were accustomed to getting proactive management and instant responses. When we looked at other account management teams we saw inexperienced resources handling hundreds of customers each, and of course those customers were being neglected. This was no fault of the big provider, it’s just the nature of big business, and the only way they could scale to SME customers. We knew there was a better way.
Q: What's next on your list?
A: We want to be become the de facto solution partner for all SMEs, and through our majority stake acquisition in Dial- A- Nerd we’re committed to being the first ‘true’ desktop to datacentre solution provider for the SME market. We’re focused on growing our business - acquisitions that enable us to extend our service offering to the SMEs, growth in relation to our customer base and growing the momentum around our status as the preferred, go to partner.
Q: What would you say to someone who wants to be an entrepreneur?
A: I’d say think carefully. Being an entrepreneur is not for everyone, it requires a lot of hard work and dedication, 18-hour days are the norm. Entrepreneurs face different obstacles - limited funds and long hours. We’ve been privileged to find an investor like MICROmega.
If you’re serious about being an entrepreneur, you need to know it is not all glitz, a lot of hard work is required, you need to better yourself and never lose sight of the value of the company. At the end of the day, when you overcome the obstacles it becomes unbelievably rewarding. Knowing that you’ve made a difference, helped customers and delivered value really makes you believe in what you are doing
Q: Would you say you need a degree to get started?
A: The answer is no! I have an Honors Degree in Commerce, but that did not prepare me for the practical, on the job experience needed to manage a balance sheet or income statement, how to manage staff, or make decisions that will decide the outcome for your business. Being an entrepreneur requires drive to not only work on growing a business, but also your own personal development. It’s about believing in your own abilities and believing what your value proposition is in terms of the market.
A degree helps you but in reality making decisions quickly and moving with the market, requires a different skills set - and that’s something you won’t learn in a book.IOL