Goliath Never Had a Chance


Or so my mother told me, anyway. Makes sense, actually.

Wearing a giant set of armour so you can barely move makes you unable to manoeuvre. Now little David could literally run circles around him and attack from far away. Who do you think is going to win in that sort of setup?

This is, of course, a metaphor. It is a perfect metaphor for big companies and disruptive technology.

On the other hand, big companies don’t know how to work with little companies any more than little companies know how to work with big companies. Mostly, big companies have the fatigue of being constantly under the barrage of people wanting to sell you things, and you don’t have an easy way in the organisation to separate the good from the bad.

I’m sure I’ve said it before but there is very little that you can’t do if you have access to the right people. You need to have a good idea, the credibility that people believe you can do what you say which means you must have done your homework, and the access to the right people to execute, which has two phases: funding of some sort, even if it’s bootstrapping, and then to deliver or sell.

Jozi pool

Jozi pool

The guys at Stanford launched an online version of their “How to Start a Startup” class. This is a great and very interesting resource, and it really points out a couple of things about how Silicon Valley is seeing the world. Which is as a B2C OTT kind of place.

Also Peter Thiel is highly amusing. I may hate the man’s politics but I think I’d like to talk business with him. One of the things he said is that competition is for losers. It can feel safe to play where others play, but you’re scrapping around in the sandpit and beating each other up.

If you’re alone by yourself building a castle, some of your peers are going to think you’re crazy. And maybe you are.

But back to getting things done – know where you’re going, how to get there, and then actually go. Nothing happens without a good team, with the right skills, aptitude, and attitude.

Baby enjoying her garden

Baby enjoying her garden

At this point I am absolutely convinced of two things:

  1. You can do almost anything you want in South Africa if you know and are trusted by the right people
  2. When you have something valuable, things come to you

So I guess I’m now covering October, which was so far back that I can’t recall all of what happened in detail.

Cape Town pool

Cape Town pool

It was a month in which I reached an important agreement in principle.

You’ve got to pick your bedfellows carefully, because these relationships are for the long term. But as with most relationships, if it feels right, it will be more likely to work out for the best than if it feels all wrong.

Plus: Stockholm Syndrome.

I started to spend more time with the fibre side of the industry, which is interesting because I see many of the battles and trends start in fibre and then move into wireless. The connections are important too, and also as the different parts of the industry start to consolidate and work more closely together, you have to know what’s going on and who is who.

Right when I felt all clever for learning about rain attenuation ... THIS!!

Right when I felt all clever for learning about rain attenuation … THIS!!

Telecoms is a game of money, power, and credibility, as, I guess, are most industries. But you can’t be respected in the industry if you don’t know how it works. No one would take you seriously in Wi-Fi if you don’t understand how the backhaul works. Part of the industry trades on ignorance and information asymmetries, so what you don’t know can absolutely kill you.

The ongoing drama called Days of our City continued.

It was also jacaranda season

It was also jacaranda season

We reached a few decisions on the technology side; a deal I thought was dead popped back to life again in a very strange way, and we had some heartbreak around another deal that we lost but should have won. Why we lost is another matter, but we learned from that too.

We did a Wi-Fi activation at Rocking the Daisies, which enabled me to go to that shindig. It was as much fun for the rugby victory over the All Blacks (I feel badly for the artists who had to perform during that!) as for the music. I feel like I had a better experience when I went a few years back. I suspect a lot of that had to do with my head space then and now.



I started to get annoyed at a certain section of the value chain, and the deeper I go the more the plot thickens and the more trouble I see.

Then, at the end of the month, we had the CrossFit team competition I’d been looking forward to for some time.

That was probably the highlight of the month in some ways because if there’s one thing I love it’s competition. At least when I’m not injured and can actually do all of the moves.

When you go in the zone it’s the most peaceful place in the world. Actually, there is no world when you’re in the zone. It’s strange; I learned a few years back how to will myself into the zone while doing distance running but it’s not the sort of thing you can easily apply to other activities, maybe because you have to think more about what rep you’re on or something. Who knows?

In the Zone

In the Zone

Plus, it feels really good to go out there and move and throw down with the best of them – the competition is indeed there to make you better. Knowing there is someone over your shoulder can have two possible effects – paralysis & fear or motivation.

Mostly, as Kim once said, you go to a competition for one of two reasons: to win, or to have fun. We weren’t going to win, but my little team from Kyalami did pretty well for ourselves. We didn’t finish in the top 20 but were in the top 30 and that’s not bad considering that 5 of the 6 were first-time competitors.

Also, I used to be a team athlete always and forever. Loved the camaraderie, loved the motivation that it gave to pick up where your teammates left off and to have them counting on you. It made me so happy for Dante to compliment me after the burpee/farmers carry workout, when Jerry was speechless that I started rocking the butterfly pullups, or for my whole team to spontaneously bust out cheering when I ran out and did a ton of 90kg deadlifts unbroken (it was probably the pre-workout the boys gave me, haha!). It made me proud to see Nicole rock out 25 pistols in a row, or Dante and Darren to do 50 bar muscle ups before even letting the girls have a chance.

Mid-thruster WOD

Mid-thruster WOD

Why I stopped being a team athlete was, I guess, environment when you get right down to it. When Carla asked me last year why she and I weren’t on the same team for UWS was the last straw.

Kind of like I never again want to have a shareholder that doesn’t buy in, support the strategy, and add value more than just money, I never again want to be in a position where the team selection and team goals are not aligned with my objectives. So it was great to be on a team of people who were funny, and chilled (except for Nicole if someone else was driving!), and we could all live together in an apartment without drama.

We even watched the Ninja Turtles movie on a Friday night. And we may have had a drink or two at dinner.

Yeah I got out of that competition what I wanted. I had fun, a great roadtrip, some bonding with the guys & girls in my gym, and was overall quite pleased with how I performed considering that two months before I wasn’t lifting anything overhead.

The Kyalami Cunning Runts. I did not choose the name.

The Kyalami Cunning Runts. I did not choose the name.

I think for the most part I got out of the month what I wanted, too. Because after October comes November and in November is Africacom.

  • “The Checkers app tried to sell me tampons one day.” – Jono
  • “Ellie, we’re staying in the Heartbreak Motel.” – Adam
  • “Neelay, I’m pretty sure your exact words were ‘not a chance in hell I want to go to that.’” – Adam
  • “I’m taking a picture for the Mayor.” – Leon
  • “It was funny when you asked him for a project plan.” – Donovan
  • “You just go to those meetings to see Ian, don’t you?” “Yes.” – Ellie & Enrico (Days of our City indeed ….)
  • “You’re the sort of person who really makes change in the world.” – Charles
  • “Goliath didn’t have a chance.” – Mom
  • “So we’re the reason you’re together?” – Allison
  • “Plus, we like you guys.” – Ellie
  • “Rick, I know how to handle my alcohol. I’m Afrikaans.” – Diana
  • “She doesn’t squat.” – Darren (CrossFit boy problems)
  • “I’m bloody impressed with how fast you’ve picked this up!” – Andrew
  • “WirelessCo. It sounds like a bloody MBA case study.” – Jalal
  • “Goliath never had a chance.” – Mom
  • “It looks like a flower in a water bowl.” – Keith
  • “I’m impressed that you drive to the stadium.” “No, we don’t. There’s a police escort.” – Neelay & Ronald
  • “Don’t let him negotiate.” – Marnus
  • “Don’t go hunting with IS. You might kill each other.” – Ellie
  • “How does it feel to be an employee of —, without the paycheck?” – my strategic soulmate
  • “To most Americans, Africa is one country. And it has no economy.” – Saul
  • “When you’re up, everyone wants a piece of you. And when you’re down, no one wants anything to do with you.” – Maredi
  • “When you hire a bunch of people from Telkom, you start to become like Telkom.” – Neelay
  • “There’s no other word for a Tweet than a Tweet.” – Ellie
  • “My CEO’s Irish and he’s crazy.” “Well I know now that he’s crazy.” – Duncan & Ellie
  • “In Saudi they won’t rent a bike because they know you probably won’t survive.” – Duncan
  • “If you want to win, you have to be competitive.” – Coach Andrew
  • “They have to bond.” “Suckers.” – Donovan & Ellie
  • “I was hoping my initial impression was biased and incorrect.” “Unfortunately, you were correct.” – Enrico & Ellie
  • “Special projects? Sounds like assassinations.” – Enrico
  • “Oh yes! Way worse! Some of those companies are the size of small countries.” – Ant
  • “When she started selling herself, I knew you were in.” – Riaan
  • “If you’re not competing with them, your aspirations aren’t high enough.” – Riaan
  • “But we’re the good guys, right?” – Ellie (that the response from my strategic soulmate was a wink was … heartwarming??)
  • “They’ve never seen a contact anything like this, I’m sure.” – Ellie
  • “She said it herself. The combination is lethal.” – Thami
  • “Common sense should prevail but it’s not a commodity in our industry at the moment.” – Niel
  • “You’re a chemical engineer?” “Yes.” “And now you’re in telecoms?” “It’s still chemical engineering.” – Ellie & Thami
  • “It’s the brain that fires the fibres.” – Coach Andrew
  • “But you can’t work all the time.” – Dante
  • “I’ve got nothing useful. Just my shoulders.” – Ellie
  • “Is that how you spell Kyalami?” – Diana
  • “But you mustn’t become too hard.” – Dante
  • “What happened to our nice, non-dramatic team?” “They started drinking, that’s what.” – Ellie & Jerry
  • “I hate deadlifts.” “Well, you’re pretty good at them.” – Ellie & Darren

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