My name is Neil Hinrichsen. I'm a change agent working towards a better world in South Africa.
I've done two successful startups and I'm now working to develop entrepreneurship in Africa through Koi. I'm also passionate about working with people. I've been doing youth ministry for many years including working with troubled families and mentoring township teenagers.
The startup in a warehouse
I began with my first startup while still studying Psychology and Computer Science at UCT. We pioneered online bureau services in SA and represented many leading technology companies in Southern Africa. We were the first company on the Internet in SA and the third company in the world to become a regional partner for Netscape. I learned a lot from participating in their global programmes. The company was acquired by Datatec in 1997.
The life-changing break
After selling the company I moved to Knysna, became a Christian, started working with families and teens, taught sports skills to small kids, and became involved in conservation. A friend and I started the process that ultimately led to the Garden Route being declared a Protected Area.
My friend Hannes van Rensburg, then CIO of Sanlam, invited me to cofound a new company with him doing mobile payments. We were funded by Sanlam, Venfin and later Mark Shuttleworth. After two intense years of crafting strategy I left to spend more time working with people. Fundamo was ultimately acquired by VISA for $110m
I now enjoy dividing my time between working with exciting new ventures, incubators and corporates across SA, and still working with people in my hometown of Knysna.
I currently mentor startups through the Bandwidth Barn in Cape Town and The Innovation Hub in Pretoria and I am a lead mentor for Microsoft South Africa. I'm also an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the CSIR, serve on the advisory board for Stellenbosch University's LaunchLab incubator, am an Accredited Specialist with the University of Pretoria, and serve on the SiMODiSA government-industry taskforce on entrepreneurship in South Africa. I've also been a mentor and judge for the Cape Town Entrepreneurship Competition, Startup Weekend, LaunchCapeTown, the eKasi Entrepreneurship Conference and IBM SmartCamp among others.
My Koi methodology for startups is taught in an intensive three-day Idea Workshop for entrepreneurs run all over South Africa by many organisations, my KoiTips newsletter with lessons for entrepreneurs is read by over a thousand people, and there is a thriving Koi Group for Entrepreneurs on Facebook.