Roberto CoelhoBy Roberto Coelho|February 16, 2022|8 Minutes|In Billionaire Tomorrow

Billionaire Tomorrow

"One giant leap from the American dream into the Nile."

If nothing else, lockdown has taught people to be resourceful. Just ask Louis de Kock, who saw a buzzing business of sweet reward through the smoke and flames of a campfire.

If you want to start a business developing markets are perfect, with many problems to solve

Louis de Kock

“Nile AG is a platform for the future where Africa’s fresh produce farmers can access markets to sell their products, easily and efficiently”

Louis de Kock and I met on a warm South African spring morning in Kempton Park,a humble town near the airport on the outskirts of Johannesburg. He shares his remarkable story: a farm boy turned big tech entrepreneur. His company Nile AG – just over a year old.

We travel back in time, tracing de Kock’s childhood to South Africa’s largest province, the Northern Cape on a barren desert farm. It is a tough life coaxing food from bone dry land. Billionaire Christo Wiese – who also grew up on a Northern Cape farm – believes this tough life made for shrewd entrepreneurs and de Kock is one of them.

“My goal, always, was to be an entrepreneur.”

During his childhood, de Kock learned how to work a farm, but his parents encouraged him to explore other interests.

Running a farm is no easy task; it requires immense skill as most influences that can make or break are out of the control of the farmer. The price of the produce is set by the market, the rainfall is decided in the skies.
A skilled farmer must cut costs, measure risks,secure long-term customers; just like a tech entrepreneur.

This frugality flows inde Kock’s veins as he leads Nile AG.

“If I have limited resources, the challenge is how can I be very creative in the way I use it,” says de Kock.

By adopting this view, Nile AG is completely self-funded by all co-founders, hence no shareholding is lost while still obtaining high levels of growth.

“This creates a ‘cool’ culture in the business, working for the best without wastage.”

Most search for excuses when money is tight, yet de Kock turns this into a positive, taking a leaf out of Jeff Bezos’s book.

It is all part of a story that began when he left the farm to study the University of Stellenbosch to become a chartered accountant. Soon after, de Kock emigrated to the United States where he would start a career at the largest e-commerce business in the world, Amazon.

Utilizing his MBA from the University of Oxford along with the lessons learned at Amazon, De Kock leads Nile AG with a set of powerful principles that resonate back on the farm.

Nile AG is a platform for the future where Africa’s fresh produce farmers can access markets to sell their products, easily and efficiently.

“The vision is to make fresh produce more accessible to more people across the African continent. Africa is urbanizing quickly; economies are starting to integrate rapidly,“ he says.

“In Kenya we saw the discrepancies in prices, using avocados as an example. They are very expensive in Kenya but very cheap in South Africa.”

The problem is Africa grows the food but does not have an efficient market through which to sell it.

With the intention of becoming this efficient market, Nile AG currently sells over 400 product items.

Although Africa has always been known to farm large amounts of produce, intercontinental sale has been impossible due to thousands of rural suburbs.

“We are intentional to not build a business focused on big cities but also rural areas. This is quite complex, but what we do well.”

The final challenge is the ability to deliver anywhere, to build this capacity Nile AG is currently focused on building scale. By only fulfilling large orders, for example 8000 tons of tomatoes, they are building the foundations for the future.

“First we need to build the scale, this is what we are doing now.”

My question is will conservative farmers be prepared to go on line to sell?

“Surprisingly, it was an easy pitch for farmers to get involved.”

Covid has encouraged farmers to diversify revenue streams and exposure to basic online services, such as e-commerce, showed farmers the potential of online sales.

“It was more difficult on the buyer side, they are more traditional, they want to touch the produce.”

Solving this problem came in the form of lengthy discussions, convincing major retail chains such as Food Lovers Market and Massmart to register on Nile AG.

However, one buyer is not enough, neither is one farmer; the key is a large ecosystem of farmers and buyers.

“Digitization is the easy part; the more complex part is creating a digital ecosystem.”

Creating a website with a professional coder happens overnight, but creating a trustworthy base takes time.

Here de Kock applies Amazon’s firstprinciple, placing the customer first, by following this and creating a market where all customers are part of a larger vision.

“We want to create a business that looks and feels distinctly different to any fresh produce business.”

Nile AG seems to be on track, but the question remains why did de Kock leave the world’s largest e-commerce business in picturesque Seattle to move back to risky third world business dealing with avocado growers in Africa?

With a grin de Kock offers a calculated answer: “If you want to start a business developing markets are perfect, with many problems to solve.”

He says in countries like Germany, there are few problems to solve. In nations like South Africa, India and Brazil, there are unique problems with profitable solutions.

Yet, behind all this de Kock is above all, purpose driven, from his roots in the Northern Cape he believes in a better future, this is what allowed him to take the risky step of leaving Amazon and co-founding Nile AG.

“We are very passionate about what we do and are very purpose driven.”

Why Nile AG?

“No other symbol personifies Africa like the Nile! The AG stands for agriculture.”

Let it flow. Let it grow.