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South Africa


From Homeless Refugee To Creating a $100 Million Investment Fund

Kanyi Maqubela is an entrepreneur and venture capitalist based in New York. He was born in Soweto, a township outside of Johannesburg, South Africa, during apartheid. To escape this life-threatening environment, his family moved to the United States as refugees in 1986.

 Kanyi Maqubela
Kanyi Maqubela, cofounder of Kindred Ventures | Credit: Techies

After arriving in the U.S., he and his parents lived in a homeless shelter and were on food stamps until his mother got a job as an ESL teacher at Fashion Institute of Technology, and his father got a job as a cashier and coat checker at the Museum of Natural History. (His parents are now accomplished educators.)

Temba Maqubela
Kanyi’s parents, Vuyelwa and Temba Maqubela

In 2014, Kanyi and co-founder Steve Jang, raised $56 million to create Kindred Ventures. The fund has invested in over 40 companies located in North America, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, Middle East, and Africa. Previous Kindred Ventures investments count companies like Uber, Coinbase, and Virgin Hyperloop One.

Kindred Ventures recently closed its second fund with $100 million in capital commitments from a mix of major university endowments, foundations, fund-of-funds, and strategic investors.

Kanyi is also the co-founder of Heartbeat Health — a platform that invites patients who are at risk of heart disease and other chronic ailments to talk remotely with experts for care management.


Tony O. Lawson

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This Mother Creates Swimming and Shower Caps For Big Black Hair

Nomvuyo Treffers is the founder of Swimma, a Cape Town, South Africa based company that produces swim caps and shower caps that fit all kinds of big Black hair from fros and locs, to braids and weaves.

We caught up with Nomvuy to find out more about how she is running a business that operates on multiple continents.

Nomvuyo Treffers

What inspired you to start your business?

Swimma came from a personal frustration of not being able to find a swim cap that fits my locs and my daughters’ big afros. My daughters love swimming and I found myself making excuses for not getting into the pool with them as I didn’t have a cap that fits.

Swimma caps

When you have hair like mine, a cap is not only used for keeping one’s hair out of their face but also to avoid my hair getting soaked. It takes hours to dry my thick locs. This is the reason it was important to have the caps made from silicone, a waterproof material.

My daughters were the motivation I needed as I did not want to miss out on the opportunities of splashing around with them. Moreover, as a mother and a proud Black woman, I also knew that many like us need swim caps that fit. It was important to cater to the previously ignored market.

My business is not just about swim caps. I am passionate about catering for everyone which is why we have many different sizes to choose from. It is vital that we do not let our children grow up feeling that their hair is a problem because a swim cap is too small. I want them to wear their hair with pride and not worry about not fitting in.

You’re based in SA and have distribution in Atlanta. What prompted this decision and how has it affected the business?

The decision was motivated by the love and support we were receiving from the USA and other parts of the world. Shipping from South Africa was challenging and often took longer than expected. Potential customers who read about us would need a swim cap for their upcoming vacation, but delivery times were too erratic to be able to commit to getting it to them on time.

We wanted our customers to receive the caps as soon as possible. By moving the distribution to Atlanta, we moved from delivery taking a couple of weeks, to a couple of days. We have since added distribution points via stockists in Canada, France, UK, Trinidad & Tobago, Nigeria, Kenya, Namibia, etc – largely for the same reasons.

Swimma caps

What challenges do you face as a Black-owned brand in South Africa? 

In South Africa, the economy is still to a large extent centered around European concepts. There is a lack of understanding to deal with – because businesses have traditionally focused on products from a western perspective they often simply dismiss “problems” as a figment of our imagination. In a country where 90% of the population is Black, the issue of hair not fitting into a swimming cap was simply never thought about.

swimma caps

Convincing people of the viability of something, therefore, is not easy. This relates to finance and finding distribution outlets. I have had to start from scratch with a product that didn’t exist really and was only armed with my instincts.

Then there are the general challenges of any new business – distributing around the world, the hard work without the ability to hire staff in the beginning, etc. I have had offers of “help” but have stayed true to what I stand for which is a Black-owned business that is more than just a business, but a mission in life.

swimma caps

Where do you see the business in the next 5 years?

Swimma intends to launch other products that will fill a similar void. We have since added shower caps and swimming goggles. Our shower caps also come in different sizes.

The goggles have a longer strap so that they actually fit over big hair. Further growing our presence worldwide in terms of distributorship but always with the initial values in mind.

This mission is not limited to swimming or showering – while Swimma is a business, we aim to find solutions for those who have been ignored until now both from a commercial point of view and because it simply is the right thing to do.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Identify the gaps, do your research to a point, but take risks as that’s part of being an entrepreneur. Work hard – and learn to live on bread and water for a while. Be creative and think out of the box – there are many ways to overcome challenges and obstacles.

But most importantly, be ethical in everything you do. Not only will you feel good, it builds a relationship with your customer that no amount of marketing can equal.

-Tony O. Lawson

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Billionaire Patrice Motsepe to form South Africa’s first Black Owned Bank

Billionaire Patrice Motsepe is one of South Africa’s richest men. He’s also the first Black African on the Forbes list. In 2016, he launched a private equity firm, African Rainbow Capital (ARC), focused on investing in Africa. Last week, it was announced that ARC is set to acquire TymeDigital, a South African bank with a strong Fintech focus.

Patrice Motsepe
Patrice Motsepe and wife, Precious Moloi-Motsepe

The acquisition would make him the owner of the first Black owned Bank in South Africa.

TymeDigital‚ which allows customers to access funds via their mobile phones. The bank aims to roll out transactional banking in the fourth quarter of 2018, intending to become a fully fledged digital bank for those who cannot easily access formal banking services.

Targeted client segments include unbanked and underserved clients as well as small and medium enterprises. Competitive technology allows the bank to on-board clients with greater ease relative to its competitors and keep bank charges more affordable than what SA banking clients pay in general.

The sale of TymeDigital is still subject to regulatory approval and potential sale price adjustments – and as a result, the financial effect of the sale currently cannot be reliably estimated – however it is not expected to have a material impact on the group’s results, it said.


Mother Creates Swimming Cap for Black Hairstyles

Nomvuyo Treffers is the creator of Swimma, a brand of swimming caps designed specifically for hairstyles like dreadlocks, braids, Afros as well as weaves.

The best business ideas solve a problem. Nomvuyo’s problem was that whenever she got in the pool with her two daughters that love to swim, it took forever for her dreadlocks to dry.

She couldn’t find any locally made products and the ones she did find were overseas and expensive.

She decided to create her own. “I started thinking how can it be that in a country like South Africa, with the demographics that we have, that we don’t have a product like this for Black people,” she says.

As with many businesses, finding the right manufacturer is not always easy. Nomvuyo went through ten manufacturers before finding the right one.

She now plans to expand into several other African countries, including Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya.

Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs? Do not be afraid of taking calculated risks.

“When you think of an idea, don’t wait and think – act on it,” she says.

“Whatever gap you see, you should take it and take a chance because that’s what entrepreneurship is about.  Sometimes you have to go with your gut, but obviously market research is critical.”


-Tony O. Lawson

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Top 12 Thought Provoking Steve Biko Quotes

Steve Biko, the South African anti-apartheid activist was the founding member of the South African Student Organization (SASO) which later evolved into the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM).

Biko stressed the need for Black South Africans to liberate themselves psychologically and to become self-reliant in order to fundamentally change South Africa.

1n 1977, he met an untimely death at the hands of the South African police at the young age of 30. Let’s celebrate his life and wisdom by reflecting on few of his most memorable and profound quotes.

Steve Biko Quotes

“It is better to die for an idea that will live, than to live for an idea that will die”

“Black is Beautiful.”

“Black Consciousness is an attitude of the mind and a way of life, the most positive call to emanate from the black world for a long time.”

“I’m going to be me as I am, and you can beat me or jail me or even kill me, but I’m not going to be what you want me to be.”

“The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”

“A people without a positive history is like a vehicle without an engine.”

“So as a prelude whites must be made to realise that they are only human, not superior. Same with Blacks. They must be made to realise that they are also human, not inferior. “

“Being black is not a matter of pigmentation – being black is a reflection of a mental attitude. ”

“A Black man should be more independent and depend on himself for his freedom and not to take it for granted that someone would lead him to it. The blacks are tired of standing at the touchlines to witness a game that they should be playing. They want to do things for themselves and all by themselves.”

“If you want to say something radical, you should dress conservative.”

“Merely by describing yourself as black you have started on a road towards emancipation, you have committed yourself to fight against all forces that seek to use your blackness as a stamp that marks you out as a subservient being. “

“In a bid for change, we have to take off our coats, be prepared to lose our comfort and security, our jobs and positions of prestige, and our families… A struggle without casualties is no struggle.”

“WOMEN must be at the forefront of nation-building to bring the South African citizenry together and, therefore, develop a whole new ethos of human co-existence.”



-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson