The FNB Business INNOVATION Awards were held in June this year. The winning company and team was BrandsEye, led by Founder Craig Raw and CEO Jean-Pierre Kloppers. The duo were accompanied by MD of Endeavor South Africa, Catherine Townshend, Portfolio Manager at Endeavor South Africa, Lauren du Toit, CEO of FNB Commercial Banking, Mike Vacy-Lyle, and Head of Sales at FNB, Marcel Klaassen, at the 74th Endeavor International Selection Panel (ISP), held in New York from 11 to 13 September.
As third-time attendees, and therefore GAP candidates (entrepreneurs already part of the Endeavor network returning to the ISP) , BrandsEye attended the ISP to seek advice on strategic business practices, discuss business issues and structures, and take advantage of the opportunity to be mentored by business luminaries and leaders.
Innovation is a theme that remains central to FNB’s business philosophy. They believe that innovation is a key driver of business growth and scaleability, and that it contributes to their philosophy of creating a better world through high-quality job creation. Because of this belief, they have developed a platform where innovative businesses in South Africa are recognised. The FNB Business INNOVATION Awards is supported by Endeavor and is a real opportunity for high-impact entrepreneurs to showcase their potential.
BrandsEye is the world’s only accurate opinion mining company. The company uses a proprietary mix of search algorithms, crowd-sourcing and machine learning to mine data from online conversation for sentiment and underlying topics.
Endeavor South Africa got the opportunity to meet with Founder Craig Raw after his third time attending an Endeavor ISP.
ESA: So you’ve attended three ISPs already! How was this one any different for you and did you have any expectations going in?
CR: It was certainly different not to have the pressure of selection, and as a result we were able to be more frank about the challenges we are facing. Our expectations were to meet and seek advice from the many smart and well connected panelists, and again the ISP did not disappoint.
ESA: What were you most looking forward to on your third trip to an Endeavor ISP?
CR: The food. No, seriously, it is the ability to seek fresh perspectives on your business challenges, and get specific help and introductions that can solve certain of them.
ESA: What were some of the similarities and differences between the New York ISP and the Singaporean one at which you were selected in 2015?
CR: Of course, being a GAP candidate in New York was a different experience - it was a new experience for both us and many of the panelists to be able to discuss issues frankly without trying to sell our business. The similarities lay in the advice, encouragement and feeling of a mutual mission of entrepreneurship which is unique to Endeavor. And of course, both cities present experiences which are fresh and interesting - seeing an MLB baseball game was a first for me!
ESA: Comment on your experience as an observer as opposed to a candidate…
CR: Our experience as an observer was limited to the deliberations, as we took part in the normal schedule of interviews as a GAP candidate. However, I found the process of deliberations interesting and useful - in the end all of the candidates in our group were selected, but the debate was stimulating!
ESA: Endeavor helps entrepreneurs to think bigger, make better decisions, and multiply their influence. Has this ISP enlarged your thinking, decision making skills, and if so, how?
CR: Absolutely - I think the key advantage wasn’t so much in new ideas but in summarization and validation of our thinking, which provides a platform to move forward. We also made some great new connections as usual, and renewed old acquaintances!
It was certainly a pleasure to spend time with Endeavor Chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr, and to chat again with Monica Mandelli who was one of our original panelists from Istanbul! We also found Jason Santiago’s thoughts and advice particularly compelling.
ESA: Do you believe your title as FNB Business INNOVATOR of the Year opened any additional doors or opportunities?
CR: I believe the award is not yet well known, but amongst our circle of local tech start-ups it has certainly given us credit!
ESA: Lastly… With a focus on our value proposition, is it possible to comment how Endeavor has helped you with Access to Market, Access to Talent, and Access to Capital?
CR: It is often said that the value of Endeavor lies in using the network, and that is very true. A week before the ISP we travelled to San Francisco where the Endeavor office there was instrumental in setting up a variety of ‘mentor’ meetings where we were able to start our next fundraising process. We were also able to seek good advice in other key areas. I believe the key advantage is in international exposure - every market, including your own, has its own quirks and oddities which are not always readily discernible and can limit your thinking. Endeavor gives entrepreneurs an ability to think ‘globally’ - to get past self-imposed ‘local’ limitations and understand how global businesses succeed.
Through their unique opinion mining of social media, they were able to accurately predict the Brexit vote and the Donald Trump American election victory. They are proving that meaningful, predictive insights can be gained from online conversation.
For more information on BrandsEye, visit https://www.brandseye.com/about-us/