COINING IT WITH BITCOIN

CityPress - - Business - LESETJA MALOPE lesetja.malope@city­press.co.za

The Bitcoin crypto currency is prov­ing to be in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar, but there are a lot of peo­ple who re­main re­luc­tant to use it.

How­ever, Mpho Da­gada (23) is one of the few young­sters who has made a small for­tune through trad­ing the dig­i­tal currency and he has gone on to do well for him­self with the cap­i­tal raised from it.

While study­ing at the Univer­sity of Johannesburg (UJ), the en­trepreneur­ship bug bit and he hopped from one ven­ture to an­other until he found him­self dab­bling in stokvels. That was when an el­derly woman asked him to in­vest some cash for her in Bitcoin, the crypto currency.

“I heard about Bitcoin from the lady, who asked me to buy it for her and, af­ter I bought it, it jumped overnight from 200 US dol­lars to 1 000 US dol­lars a Bitcoin,” he said.

This week the value of a Bitcoin reached a record high of about $3 500.

He later found out that the rea­son for the major jump was be­cause of in­creased de­mand due to more peo­ple hav­ing found out about the al­ter­na­tive currency.

The woman who had asked him to in­vest her funds in Bitcoin gave him half of the profit made.

It was at that mo­ment that he was at­tracted to selling Bit­coins, he found him­self sucked into the busi­ness and it be­came a re­ward­ing ven­ture and one that soon turned over a mil­lion rand for him, he said.

Da­gada is still in­volved in Bitcoin, but is now in­vest­ing in­stead of trad­ing and is even look­ing at teach­ing oth­ers about the currency.

“I am now go­ing to be host­ing sem­i­nars and teach­ing oth­ers how to in­vest in crypto cur­ren­cies. I have made over $100 000. I’m go­ing to of­fer on­line and one-on-one classes.”

Da­gada is by no means from a poor fam­ily; in fact, his back­ground is far from the rags to riches nar­ra­tive of most of his peers.

Born and bred in Makhado in Lim­popo, he was priv­i­leged enough to go to very good schools, in­clud­ing one of the most ex­pen­sive in that prov­ince, be­fore head­ing south to en­rol for a cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tions de­gree at UJ.

Da­gada said that, while grow­ing up, he al­ways wanted to be a pro­fes­sor, but the idea soon be­came stale and his as­pi­ra­tions switched to busi­ness in­stead.

He has his own com­pany, NDA Lo­gis­tics, which has its own 15-ve­hi­cle fleet, as well as Foodz Hold­ings, a com­pany fo­cus­ing on restau­rants. Each en­ter­prise em­ploys 20 peo­ple. He also owns a fish and chips fran­chise.

“So it’s been a jour­ney of mis­takes, learn­ing and grow­ing; mis­takes, learn­ing and grow­ing.”

The busi­nesses grew so fast that he dropped out of univer­sity and, al­though he was only left with less than a year’s worth of cour­ses there, he doesn’t have plans of ever grad­u­at­ing.

“What I’ve re­alised is that even if I grad­u­ate, I won’t have any use for the de­gree be­cause I am not look­ing for any­body’s job,” he said.

An­other turn­ing point in his life was when he got an op­por­tu­nity to go to the US as a re­sult of a busi­ness in­no­va­tion com­pe­ti­tion, and through it he was ex­posed to the Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­nies.

He par­tic­i­pated in the TrepCamp pro­gramme, which took place at Stan­ford Univer­sity in Sil­i­con Val­ley in the US, and that was how he came to visit and learn from com­pa­nies like Google, Face­book, Sales­force and many oth­ers.

He was part of a group of peo­ple who pre­sented their ideas to Sil­i­con Val­ley in­vestors and was given an award for mak­ing it to the top five.

The group, in­clud­ing a par­tic­i­pant from Cape Town, an­other from Panama City and one from Mex­ico, may have to pi­lot their busi­ness idea, which is re­lated to the med­i­cal tech­nol­ogy sec­tor, in Mex­ico be­cause their case study was set in that country.

Though he wholly owns all his busi­nesses, Da­gada said that one of the most im­por­tant lessons he learnt was the im­por­tance of part­ner­ing.

“My long-term vi­sion is to grow the busi­ness. I crave to ex­pand into the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket,” he said, point­ing out that he aimed to start global en­ter­prises that cre­ate jobs.

Da­gada said one of the big­gest chal­lenges he faced was the lack of men­tor­ing, since he was ven­tur­ing into vir­tu­ally new ter­ri­tory and did not know any­one in the in­dus­tries in which he traded.

“I don’t quite be­lieve that funding is as im­por­tant as the idea. If you have an idea, funding will ar­rive,” he said, adding that his story is not of re­ceiv­ing money from his par­ent, but hav­ing a break­through in Bitcoin with noth­ing more than time and will­ing­ness to re­search the idea well.

One of the clos­est things to his heart is mo­ti­va­tional speak­ing, which he says is a call­ing rather than a busi­ness. “At the heart of what I do, that is what I love,” he said of his pas­sion for mo­ti­va­tion.

Mpho Da­gada

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