Current Role: Managing Director aka “The Boss” at haveyouseen.com
Location: London, England.
After completing his Hons Bcomm degree in Financial Analysis from the University of Stellenbosch, Ben pursued a career in Finance in London. As a Prime Brokerage Salesman for BoA Merrill Lynch, he provided hedge funds and institutional asset managers with an array of product solutions for their investment and financing needs. Ben was able to generate sales within a difficult financial environment, while creating and nurturing long term relationships with sophisticated and demanding clients.
During his time in the banking industry, Ben became an active entrepreneur, investing in property as well as various other businesses. By the age of twenty-seven Ben had amassed a sizeable property portfolio, as well as running four businesses in his spare time.
After some early success from his professional and entrepreneurial activities, he decided to pursue a life-long dream of travelling around the world. It was on this journey in 2012 that Ben came across a revolutionary new eco-friendly raw material made from only cellulose and water. The product showed enormous potential, possibly surpassing and replacing current unsustainable and environmentally harmful alternatives on a global scale. There was an opportunity to bring this material to the world, starting in South Africa and Ben put a team together and worked on this business for most of 2013. Due to technical constraints with the material, their planned project became unviable and as such Ben decided not to pursue it any further.
Having learnt some valuable lessons from this endeavour, Ben decided to continue with his entrepreneurial activities and searched for the next big opportunity. A combination of serendipitous events led to finding haveyouseen and he gave up everything to pursue it, it’s that big. The merging of the Social and eCommerce landscape makes the haveyouseen proposition incredibly compelling and now is the time to unlock it’s potential.
1. What is the best business advice you have ever received?
That you only truly learn by doing – books are great for theory, however they don’t teach you the real nuts and bolts or prepare you for the reality of running a business. Additionally, being advised to get involved in the online space was equally important advice. Once you immerse yourself in this world the opportunities available are endless.
2. What is the greatest challenge facing your business today?
Keeping customers happy and grow the user base by doing so.
3. What is the worst business decision you have made and what did you learn from it?
Trusting other people and putting too much faith in human nature. Just because somebody is nice and seems legitimate, does not mean they are. This was a hard lesson to learn and has made me more vigilant going forward, however it is part of my ongoing education. The failure that was caused by this lead me straight into what I am doing now, so it was a necessary diversion in my life path.
4. What is the best business decision you have made and why?
To just do things – there was not one decision that was better than others – they were all good because they were done. Every one of my investments and ventures have come with risk and you need to calculate it to a point and then just go for it. Manage the risk and make an informed decision, however nothing is ever a slam dunk, ever.
5. Who is the Business Person you most respect and why?
Even though I don’t really have a specific idol, the two people that have had the most impact on my business life has been Donald Trump and Richard Branson. Even though they are polar opposites in terms of personality, they both inspire you to think big and just do it. Many people try and teach you the nuts and bolts about running a business but in the end it all comes down to your personality and personal ability to manage risk and mitigate pain. And these two people have encouraged me to bring forward that natural ability I have to manage risk and pursue delayed gratification.
6. Recommend your favourite business book
Anything by Branson and Trump are good reads, however if I could only ever read one book and refer to one book as the means to success, it would be Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.
7. Recommend one online productivity tool/web service you would never be without and why.
Probably the accounting software Xero – it allows me to keep an eye on all my businesses from a distance, while being able to drill down into the details when needed. That and my iPhone off course.
8. What future trend do you think is going to change the world?
The disintermediation of banks and any big “institution”. Due to the growth of data consumption and mobile technology, everything is becoming peer-to-peer. Whether it be borrowing money, to getting foreign exchange, to making a purchase decision on luxury or every day items – we are starting to rely on our social networks and peers for that. Soon that will be the only place to do these things. Marketing by the “institutions” will have to shift as people dont listen to them anymore. Any business involved in social commerce will become the “big businesses” of the future.