How billionaire Strive Masiyiwa built Kwesé Sports and signed a deal with ESPN
Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa has made another huge business move. His African sports television company, Kwesé Sports, has struck a deal with US sports broadcaster ESPN.
Kwesé said the partnership with ESPN means that the African company can add NCAA American football and basketball to its present broadcast rights for the NFL, NHL and the NBA, making it “the home of American sports in Africa.”
The ESPN deal is the latest in a series of canny business moves made by Masiyiwa. We take a look at how Zimbabwe’s richest man amassed his fortune.
- Born in Zimbabwe, Masiyiwa attended school in Zambia and Scotland before studying Electrical Engineering at the University of Wales.
- Masiyiwa returned to Zimbabwe in the early 80s to work for phone company ZPTC. He then took a bank loan from Barclays to create his own engineering firm, Retrofit Engineering.
- In the 90s, he propositioned ZPTC with a joint venture. ZPTC refused, adding that if Masiyiwa executed his idea alone, it would violate the phone company’s monopoly. ZPTC and Masiyiwa ended up having a five-year legal battle. Masiyiwa was eventually awarded the mobile telecoms license in 1998.
- Masiyiwa sold his engineering company and set up Econet, a telecommunications group, in 1998. Within six weeks of its launch, Econet was the market leader.
- Econet grew to become the largest mobile phone network in Zimbabwe, with 9 million subscribers. Econet expanded to Botswana, Lesotho and Burundi. The firm also has investments in telecom companies in New Zealand and the United States.
- Masiyiwa moved the company headquarters to South Africa in 2000, in order to create a more multinational African business.
- Masiyiwa became the largest shareholder in Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe in the early 2000s. However, the publisher was shut down by the government in 2003 as part of a crackdown on independent media.
- Earlier this year, Masiyiwa set up Kwesé Sports as a subsidiary of Econet Wireless. The company was rolled out across Africa on mobile, Internet and satellite-based free to air platforms.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.