Here on Whoot Africa, we not only showcase brands, but we also talk to the people behind those brands and have them share with us their back stories as well as give tips on how to successfully start and run a business.
Welcome to Whoot Africa’s – 15 Questions with the CEO.
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and Thebe as a brand you represent?
I am Colin van Mil, the eldest son of two entrepreneurs in Botswana. I am both Motswana and Dutch and I run a software company in The Netherlands.
Thebe is an online advertising platform which aims to bring together sellers and buyers. On Thebe.co.bw you can go ahead and sell anything at anytime as long as you keep the laws & regulations of Botswana in mind.
2. How did you get started in Business and what did it take you to get to where you are today?
This year, 10 years ago I started my own software company that I still run today. Every year we create a new project that we enjoy working on and try to make it successful. This year the project was the Thebe Advertiser
3. What were you doing before Thebe started and why did you decide to start Thebe?
For the last ten years I have been running my software company, I still work there. The idea for Thebe.co.bw was born after seeing hundreds of groups on social media sites where people advertised their goods and services for sale. There was a huge demand and Botswana needed a platform where people could gather to sell and buy their goods in an online marketplace. So the real seed was planted not by us, but by the people (our users) that needed Thebe the most.
4. Did you know you were going to be an Entrepreneur all along, or did it happen by chance? Also, tell us about your leadership style?
I guess I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur, I don’t play well with others, everything has to work my way and when it does it has to work well too! I am not really a leader, never was and I guess I never will be. I am not really a businessman, just a guy doing what he likes best and making a living doing it.
5. What do you love most about your business and your life as an Entrepreneur? What drives you?
It is different every day, when I wake up I have no idea what the day is going to bring me. Some days everything I write works like a charm, other days nothing seems to work at all. I guess every day I am learning something new and inventing something, I guess that is my main drive. I enjoy what I do and don’t see it as a “job” job.
6. You have successfully built Thebe as an online market for buyers and sellers to interact, what are some of the obstacles you have encountered since starting out with Thebe as an e-commerce platform in Botswana.
Promoting Thebe and getting people to switch from classic advertising has been hard, but people are willing to start going forward and embrace the new technology Thebe offers to advertise.
7. If you had to sell Botswana’s E-commerce sector to an investor in a few words, what would they be.
Botswana is a modern country with many possibilities, opportunities and as a bonus very beautiful too!
8. What do you think are the most important personal skills someone must have to be successful in business?
Anybody can be successful in what they do, all you have to do is believe in what you sell and love what you do; don’t see it as a job!
9. What keeps you and the Thebe team motivated? How do you envision Thebe in 5-10 years from now?
There is still so much to do on Thebe, I guess it is never a finished product and it is still growing every day. The Internet is a very dynamic medium and we want to set new standards for websites/platforms in Botswana. How do I envision it in 5 – 10 years? No idea what the future will bring us, but let’s just hope it will be a greater success than it already is.
We have no expectations whatsoever, but it would be great to see our platform grow into a mature website and being the first stop for people to buy and sell second hand goods in Botswana. Is there anything cooler than that?
10. Since Thebe started operations in Botswana, what are some of the Milestones in terms of numbers and buyer-seller interactions? How do you also ensure business interactions are protected?
Thebe is growing on a daily basis, when we started we had no idea what to expect, 2 months later we have about 5000 page views a day and every day that is becoming more. We are on top of our security and monitor everything constantly except for communication between our users. Our site has a section where you can read more about security and how we keep everybody safe!
11. If you had to choose repeatedly, would you decide for or against doing business in Africa? Would you encourage your colleagues to come down to Africa to invest, especially those in the Diaspora?
It depends on the business model, but why not. There are still a lot of opportunities in Africa waiting for somebody to come along and if you are not going to take advantage of the opportunity, somebody else will come along and do it..
12. Who was the most influential person or mentor in your life?
The most influential people in my life are probably my parents, they made me who I am today and inspired me to do what I do now.
13. What was the BIGGEST risk you’ve taken?
I guess that was starting my own company, not knowing if it would be successful in the long run. Then again it was the best risk I ever took and take every day.
14. What do you think about college education? Should kids go to college now or get into business if they feel it’s a better choice? Considering some of the world’s greatest never had college education, your thoughts?
College or university education is very important. Everybody needs it. That said, I myself never finished my university, would I do it over, I would have finished it. If you really think you have a great business opportunity and think you can manage, I would say go for it, everybody must follow their dreams.
15. What would be the most important piece of advice you could give to young entrepreneurs and why?
Just love what you do, don’t do it to get rich overnight and be patient! If it was easy everybody would do it, making it even harder!
If you missed the previous parts of the 15 Questions with the CEO series, please click here .