WAPA, myBB, and setting up a bakery


That thing I said about forgetting to breathe? Well, the altitude may suck and the business pace is crazy but Joburg will teach you to breathe. Case in point: round 4 of 5 of 30 seconds of overhead squats and I forgot to breathe for the first 8 reps or so (that’s about 15 seconds). I did not make that mistake again. Awareness of breathing (or lack thereof) is actually just as critical as maintaining proper form in your movements. I did do one metcon up that side, and hit the wall about six minutes in and was unable to do more than one hang power clean at a time.

Thin air. The rush is addictive.

What else is addictive? Laughter.

What else is addictive? Laughter.

Yet another crazy week, starting in Cape Town with a visit to Newlands Rugby Park where I got a tour of all sorts of fascinating things including the roof (!), followed by the 2014 kickoff meeting for the WAPA exco. This is an interesting volunteer position in which I find myself, and, as luck of the voting would have it, by the end of the day I had been elected to the role of Deputy Chair.

Should be an interesting cross-functional role, and I’m already starting to have visions of how WAPA can help the industry. Following the meeting I had visions of traffic as I somehow managed to get myself & Jens to the airport with 41 minutes to go before our flight left. This guy works for Internet Solutions, which is, on paper, a sworn enemy, but I quite like and respect this guy. He’s smart, reasonable, and understands spectrum quite well (far better than I!), so it was an interesting conversation, punctuated by an interesting industry rumour.

Speaking of the industry, the timing around my trip was to attend the mybroadband conference (this is the main news website for the telecoms industry). Now this conference was well-attended by industry players and I found it quite fascinating to observe the dynamics and personalities involved.

What stood out, of course, as always (other than the actually unbelievably arrogant guy I met, who I am now on a personal mission to take down a few notches), was Alan Knott-Craig, the CEO of Cell C (currently the #3 player), and former head of Vodacom (#1). Now this man got up and spoke all about unfair competition from the top two (Vodacom & MTN), and went on to say how, if he were in a different role, he would be making a different, but similarly convincing argument.

Heh. True. The best argument wins the sale, or the argument. And by best, I mean it in the way of Aristotle. You may not have the best facts, but the best-presented argument is the most persuasive. I’m learning this very well.

Related, as I love to say, any idiot can install a Wi-Fi network. It may not work well (kinda like the Wi-Fi at myBB!), but any genius can get the job to do the installation. It’s not the radio, it’s what you do with the radio. We plan to do some interesting things with the radios.

What you get when you tease your lawyer

What you get when you tease your lawyer

So Alan Knott-Craig was entertaining, as you would imagine. Less so some industry leaders who seem to have the personalities of a pile of bricks. My favourite was the CEO of MTN South Africa who actually called Europe an example of market failure. I was kind of speechless. And don’t even get me started on Telkom. Speechless until after the event when I was about to leave, and even got as far as my rental car, before getting sucked back in, until the open bar ran out of booze. Which was a good thing because these conferences don’t cater to paleo diets, but all was well when I wound up, yet again, at the Grill House in Atholl Square.

The day before the conference was, in a word, interesting. Had two separate meetings where you just kind of have to play along to get the ball where you want it, then you just do what you have to do. More interestingly, I set up a meeting which was, to put it mildly, one of the few meetings I’ve had in the last year where I got to listen more than talk. And wow. I have never in my life seen a board room played quite like that. Masterful.

Then, my final meeting of the day, with my new development partners, was quite interesting. That thing about knowing a good fit of skills & personalities when you see it? That. Now sadly the guy that hooked us up to begin with could not attend our dinner (but that was fine because we got to talk about him).

I also think one of the biggest compliments I’ve been given recently was when I was told that I was one of only two truly collaborative business leaders that this VERY smart person knew. It’s sad but probably true. Working in a resource-constrained manner teaches you that, but also, back to the bakery. This is a notion I’ve had since my social enterprise days: how much more we could accomplish if we all just worked together and the whole could be greater than the sum of the parts. Or, even more fundamentally … where the whole could at least be the sum of its parts, whereas each individual party only has one piece of the puzzle, and only in coming together can you unlock the key.

He who frames the argument controls the discussion. Doesn’t mean you win the argument. But you control the discussion. There’s a method to my madness. And when I start to take over the conversation, you’re probably going to want to think twice about getting on the wrong side of me.

In this week there was not one but TWO quotes using the phrase ‘no doubt in my mind.’ One is in the next post, though. And both with future-looking predictions (as is always the case I guess), and involving me. It’s an ad hominen, a total ad hominem. The person my friend respects I should therefore also respect, or, you talk a good talk so therefore you will succeed.

But what did I say above about convincing arguments?

Somewhat like leverage, you know when you’ve got one. I may or may not have made some references to unprecedented success, because what the heck, you don’t change the world by thinking small.

Also, what did I say about how to help your entrepreneur? I think there are three people whose faith in me or comments about my capabilities has already done more to put me where we are today than a large number of other combination of factors. And I seem to be picking up more fans all the time.

I’m also picking up more enemies, and plenty more where they came from. But hey, who doesn’t like a good battle now & again?

I don’t, really. But I’ll fight them if I have to.

Wow, well I guess I said a whole lot without saying anything about what I really did, who I did it with, or even where I was all week. Cape Town, Joburg, Cape Town. Including another airport arrival with 39 minutes to go. I do sometimes push my luck.

My boys have too much fun sometimes.

My boys have too much fun sometimes.

I’m also beginning to understand more deeply that I define team a bit differently than most people. It’s a horizontal world, not a vertical one. Or, maybe I should say – if you approach things differently from everybody else, you sometimes get very interesting results.

I’ve shifted a lot of things in the last 8 weeks… the dominoes are starting to tip.

Then again, you can set up everything but the kitchen sink. At the end of the day, you still also have to do the dishes.

  • “I’m an attorney who grew tired of law and decided that telecoms was more exciting.” – Rolf
  • “The hurdle is the law. You can’t adjust that.” – Eldred
  • “Hey! You’re not standing up!” – Christopher
  • “When I give you an instruction, do as I say.” – Rick
  • “Innovation comes with experience.” – Kevin
  • “The ecosystem is going to be shocked.” – someone who likes rocking the boat even more than I do
  • “No. You don’t owe me an email. You owe me a contract.” – someone in a hurry
  • “Someone’s gotta monetise it. It may as well be you.” “Yeah. We’re pretty good at that.” “So I hear.” – Ellie & Mark
  • “This isn’t a prop. I just happened to have this.” – Ellie
  • “All models are wrong. But this one seems to be quite useful.” – Tristan
  • “After what he said, there was no doubt in my mind that we would work together.” – Tristan
  • “What exactly is your relationship?” – Greg (file that under ‘wouldn’t you like to know?’)
  • “We can’t be competing with them because we’re so far ahead.” “Wait. Did you just say ‘We can’t be competing with them because we’re so far ahead?’” “Yes.” – no attribution possible but I will say that arrogance can be a problem
  • “We may not be laying cables but we sure know how to sell stuff.” – Gian
  • “I didn’t choose my portfolio by accident.” – Ellie
  • “I want to be invited to your next drinks night.” “You are!” – Ellie & Gian (careful what you wish for!)
  • “That sounds compelling!” “That’s the idea!” – Gian & Ellie
  • “I was like – ‘What, is he falling asleep over there?’” – Gian
  • “LOL.” – Cedric (I told him that a guy from MTN had used Europe as an example of market failure, and asked for his comment)
  • “Please don’t turn red.” – Cedric (fat chance)
  • “One ring to bind them all?” – Dominic
  • “Actually, they should all be talking to you.” – Dominic
  • “Small. Central. Fundamental concern.” – Dominic
  • “Your predecessor was called ‘Lunchbox.’ Does that make you feel any better?” – Sam
  • “Hey! What did I tell you all about pointing fingers? We do NOT point fingers at each other!” “I’m going to pull out a knife soon!” – Ellie & Rudolph (for the record, we were joking!)
  • “I want to tell someone but I can’t. All my WhatsApp friends are boys!” – Ellie
  • “You don’t shake trees. You kick them.” – Doug





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