I belive i can fly
we put five business ideas to the test
WEIRD, WACKY and wonderful are words that spring to mind when you hear the ideas that entrepreneurs have come up with.
A search on the equally wonderful worldwide web uncovers descriptions of hundreds of business opportunities that people have spotted. Some are very unusual and others are almost annoyingly obvious – the kind of things that make you want to kick yourself for not having thought of them first.
Like the founder of the company Clear, who saw an opportunity in the increased security at airports. The Clear system helps you move more quickly through security checkpoints. Even if it means having your irises and fingerprints scanned to qualify as a registered Clear passenger – which proves you aren’t a terrorist – 35 000 people have, according to the trendhunter.com website, already opted for this invasion of their privacy rather than endure the frustration of endless queues.
Many entrepreneurs come up with ideas because they notice a trend – and then do something about it. Dr Behrokh Khoshneivis took the use of robots a step further. He and a team at the University of Southern California are about to unveil a robot that can build a house without any human assistance. The robot builder will cost about US$1,5m (R10m) and will have very few architectural restrictions. Gypsum and concrete will be sprayed in layers to form the walls, floor and roof. The first prototype, a double-storey house that can be erected in 24 hours, will be built in California in April. The invention could increase production 200-fold and reduce house-building costs – and presumably the frustration of involving a builder – by a fifth.
Locally, inventive entrepreneurs are constantly converting bright ideas into business opportunities. Many of them do so despite problems like coping with financial institutions that are generally very averse to financing new businesses, and other challenges, such as restrictive labour legislation and bureaucratic red tape.
Factors that hamper entrepreneurship i n SA a r e outlined year after year in the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), which is co-ordinated in SA by the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business. It’ll be interesting to see what the latest GEM report, which was issued at the end of last week after we had gone to print, shows and how SA compares with other countries in the field of entrepreneurship.
Even though – according to the Heritage Foundation’s index of economic freedom, which was issued at the end of January – it takes 35 days on average to establish a company in SA, compared with the world average of 48 days, the foundation says to promote entrepreneurship and job creation optimally, the process should be simplified.
Nevertheless, SA has produced world-class entrepreneurs, such as Imperial’s Bill Lynch, who knocked out rivals from all corners of the globe two years ago in Ernst & Young’s World Entrepreneur competition, which is run locally in conjunction with Rand Merchant Bank. The competition is one of many – Business Partners’ Entrepreneur of the Year is another – that rewards and encourages entrepreneurship.
The participants in competitions are only a few individual cases that land up in the spotlight. Hundreds of others create something from a mere idea, such as the five entrepreneurs who tell the story, on the following pages, of how their businesses, all still in
their infancy, became a reality.