My name is Neil Hinrichsen. I'm a change agent working towards a better world in South Africa.
I've cofounded two successful startups and I'm now working to develop entrepreneurship in Africa through Koi. I also serve as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the CSIR helping them to commercialise cutting-edge 4IR technologies
I'm passionate about working with people and have also 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. Realtime was acquired by Datatec in 1997.
The life-changing break
After selling my 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 across the developing world. 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 grew to 250 people operating in 26 countries and was ultimately acquired by VISA for $110m
New horizons with Koi
I then founded Koi to help develop the next generation of entrepreneurs across Africa. I now enjoy dividing my time between working with exciting new ventures, incubators and corporates across SA, and developing the Koi methodology. I’m also passionate about the arts and youth ministry.
My Koi methodology has now trained hundreds of entrepreneurs across South Africa for organisations like Microsoft, mLabs, SEDA, The Innovation Hub, the Bandwidth Barn, LaunchLab, UWC and the Sustainability Institute; my KoiTips newsletter with lessons for entrepreneurs is read by over a thousand people, and there is a thriving Koi Group for Entrepreneurs with over 3,000 members on Facebook.
I also mentor startups through various programmes, am an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the CSIR, advise TIA on their technology investments, served on the advisory board to establish Stellenbosch University's LaunchLab incubator, and am an Accredited Specialist with the University of Pretoria. 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, and spoken at conferences across Southern Africa.