The Entrepreneurs Walk With Gil Oved
His story is an inspiring one – one that describes Gil Oved and his childhood friend Ran Neu-Ner starting a business with nothing but a telephone and the Yellow Pages. In 2001, they founded The Creative Counsel, and 14 years later their humble two-man operation grew into the largest communications and advertising group in Africa, with an annual turnover of over R700 Million, employing over 1000 full-time employees and creating tens of thousands of part-time jobs.
Recently, M-Net and series sponsor Telkom South Africa announced that the young multi-millionaire agreed to be a “Shark” on the local version of the two-time Emmy award winning show that will hit our screens in October 2016.
“Who would not want to swim with a Shark like Gil?” asks M-Net’s Head of Publicity, Lani Lombard. “He is a well-loved and energetic serial entrepreneur who has proven that he is passionate about supporting disruptive thinkers with well-thought-out visions. Gil is a smart hustler who knows how to boost businesses in just the right way. We’re honoured to have him as one of sharks!”
But what will Gil, the Shark, be looking for?
“On Shark Tank South Africa, I am keen on investing in companies with unique – and local - IP. I am interested in products, services, technology and brands that need channel marketing, branding, distribution, mentorship, guidance and access to capital,” says Gil. He also adds a word of caution: “I want to see hunger and passion and exciting entrepreneurs focused on innovating and making a difference. Respect the opportunity to present on the show, know your numbers, take the time to package your business case.”
In this interview, Oved tackles the topic of failure and the ins and outs of being a South African leader.
In an article for entrepreneur magazine, you commented on the establishment of The Creative Counsel as being more by “Mistake instead of by design.” Tell us more about this philosophy.
It’s not really a philosophy, it’s just the truth of how things happened. And speaking to many a successful entrepreneur it seems to be the norm rather than the exception.
Even Facebook wasn’t Facebook when it started. It was meant to be a way to find girls in varsities in the States. Now it has the single biggest database of humans in the world and is set to change the way the world connects.
Whatever the case, it starts off as something and absolutely always ends up being something else. When we started TCC, we were out of cash and out of time. We had failed in our previous tech start-up but knew we wanted to remain ‘masters of our destiny.’ We were trying to figure out what it was that we wanted to do with our lives, and thought that placing promoters in store would be a way of generating a little bit of easy cash whilst we were figuring it out.
Once we were in it, we realised that this ‘in store promoters’ business is part of a bigger business called activations, which was part of a big industry called advertising. And it was due for a disruption as technology made the efficiency of placing people on the ground more accurate and more return-on-investment centric.
I have always believed that if you want to score a goal you’ve got to be on the pitch. You don’t have to be the best player (and certainly not at the beginning), but even a goalie will once in a while score a goal – which is one more than any spectator sitting in the seats.
So once we were in the stadium, we got to see new opportunities and started pursuing those. It wasn’t by design, but there was some method in the madness.
As an entrepreneur you start something hoping to succeed, you believe you have identified a problem and want to solve it, or you have a passion for something and want to make money out of it.
Failure. It seems to be the most formidable word in the start-up world. What has your experience been with failure?
I always think that if faced with investing behind two entrepreneurs, both identical in every way bar that one has succeeded in three businesses and one has failed in three, I would always take the latter! In business, failure is a certainty, if you haven’t failed yet then it’s just a matter of time. I want to know that someone has failed, picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and started again. That’s the temerity I would invest in.
What is the most rewarding part of being someone who is considered to be a South African leader?
We live in a special country. Everyone thinks they live in a special country; the difference is that we really do! I meet people from all over the world, big business people, but none are as hungry as us. The entrepreneurial spirit is strong wherever you look.
Simple example: look at the guys at the intersections selling stuff. Isn’t it amazing that as soon as spring hits town, umbrellas are instantaneously available; and as soon as load shedding is announced, the guys are selling lanterns.
Technology provides a real opportunity to leap from other economies, learn from their mistakes, use their slipstream and then get ahead. As a leader I am cognisant of this opportunity. However, there are many challenges, mainly relating to a lack of access: lack of access to capital, to mentorship, to infrastructure, to guidance, to support.
Being a leader in SA is knowing that the opportunity to do something about it is in my hands, and when I do, the reward is seeing the positive outcome. TCC is one of the largest private first-time employers in the country. Now that we’ve been going for 15 years, I get to meet people all the time who are excelling in their careers – powerful people – who come up to me and tell me that their first work experience was at TCC and that those formative years had an impact on their lives and careers. What could be more rewarding than that?
What word best describes your journey as a businessman?