Thuto SerapeloBy Thuto Serapelo|February 22, 2022|9 Minutes|In Risk and Glory

Risk and Glory

Want to know the way? Ask a billionaire

From the start of my entrepreneurial journey, I have always sought advice from those who had already accomplished what I was trying to

The best of the best in the world of business; self-made billionaires. Through reading books as well as watching talks and interviews online, I gathered as much  billionaire wisdom as I could.

I always had an interest in entrepreneurship, commercial enterprise, and economics. Growing up I remember, when forced to watch the news, what I looked forward to seeing was business news, not the sports segment like most other boys.

I still recall the South African rand, trading at around R7 to the US dollar and every weekday. I would wait to see how the ZAR performed and followed the currency markets like a sports fan follows a team.

My interest in entrepreneurship grew stronger after high school. Upon analysis of the prospects of securing a high paying job, after graduating from university in a country with one of the highest unemployment rates in the world – I resolved at once that I would help tackle that problem by founding a start-up. The idea was to take it public, or listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, to  create well-paying jobs for everyone else.

A common theme I observed from billionaires at the time was that a great majority of them became successful by solving a problem.

Billionaires like Jack Dorsey, who founded Twitter and Square (now Block), Elon Musk, the richest person on the planet, emphasise problem-solving when advising entrepreneurs.

Dorsey states that when he founded his payments company Square, he was trying to solve the problem that small businesses endured when accepting credit cards.

Elon Musk has said; your salary or income is in direct proportion to the difficulty of the problem that you are solving.

Kevin Systrom, with a net worth of $1.6 billion founded and sold Instagram to Facebook for a billion dollars, when it was just 18 months old with a mere 13 employees. He advised that you should focus on and ask yourself: “what problem are you are solving?” as an entrepreneur.

Billionaire investor and Warren Buffet’s right hand man, Charlie Munger has been quoted as saying: “In my whole life, I have known no wise people who didn’t read all the time — none, zero.”

When I made up my mind that I would be a start-up founder and solve problems, I began at once to buy and read every book or magazine I could find. I assumed, naively, that the road would be a straightforward one; start a company that solves a problem for millions of people and make millions of dollars. This was based largely on advice from technology entrepreneur and author Peter Diamandis who reasons that: “In order to make a billion dollars, you have to find a way to help a billion people”.

One of Amazons founder Jeff Bezoss favourite saying is everything big starts out small - Although the companies I am now running are small, it is my belief that one day we will be big enough to help or solve problems for millions of people as most billionaires advise founders to do.

Thuto Serapelo - Videographer for We Think Code

Driven by this desire to solve problems, while in my second year of studies, I founded my very first company; EX Digital (Exponential Digital Company) with a mission to help SMEs market themselves online by creating digital content for companies. I knew from reading stories of other entrepreneurs that most of them find success not in their first venture but after failing, making mistakes and pivoting. My goal for EX Digital then, was to learn as much as I can and make every possible mistake in the entrepreneurship book before finally pivoting to success.

Back in 2018, I attended a talk by Jack Ma the founder of Alibaba one of the largest e-commerce businesses in the world with a market cap north of $300 billion.

When Ma came to speak on our campus in Johannesburg at the University of the Witwatersrand, he said that if he were to ever write an autobiography it would be called a thousand mistakes.

I knew there were still some more mistakes I would make as a founder at the time, since I hadn’t made as nearly as 1000 in my first venture, so while doing a master’s degree full time, completing demanding research on Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, I simultaneously founded and ran together with a friend an e-commerce start-up trading as X-23.

With X-23 my cofounder and I made our share of mistakes. Mistakes I believe could have been avoided had I heeded the advice of one successful entrepreneur.

The year before founding X-23, I told former CEO of instant messaging app Mxit, a company he had acquired for hundreds of millions from Naspers, Allan Knott Craig Jnr about my idea. Standing outside the venue of start-up grind Pretoria ,where I had arrived early to get a chance to speak with Craig Jnr, he advised me not to go into ecommerce because there was no profit in the sector.

I argued, naively, with Craig Jnr about his assertion, referencing the Amazons and Alibabas of the world. Craig acknowledged the points I was making but reiterated that there is a lot of revenue or turnover in ecommerce, but not a lot of profit and even made suggestions to me of sectors he knew had a lot of profit: insurance, mining and telecommunications.

The industries Craig Jnr suggested I look into had a high barrier to entry and required lots of capital, so I carried forth and bootstrapped an ecommerce start-up. Pivoting several times from selling health and beauty products to electronics; making some revenue and no profit in our first year of operation and later increasing revenue but with little profit.

Company About:

An NPO and coding academy sourcing the sharpest minds from underserved communities in South Africa.


(What’s your story?)"

Billionaire Tomorrow launches a new section capturing the sacrifice, spirit and splendour of the African entrepreneur.

This is a section written by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. Each piece is a snapshot in the struggles and triumphs of those who swim against the tide to risk their own money for uncertain reward. The thoughts of an entrepreneur who fights his, or her, way past the naysayers, sceptics and reluctant lenders to stake their claim.

The way to reward and glory? All too often, this is a rocky road, fringed with thorns, with slithering snakes in the shady undergrowth.

You can earn from telling these stories too. If you write for Risk and Glory you get a chance to earn our new token – The Bil. The more people who read your story, the more tokens you earn. Send me 800 words of your story to me at

Check it out.

The Bil

Read, learn, think, discuss and change for the better. Reading Risk and Glory could change your story– enjoy!


Chris Bishop, Founding Editor, Billionaire Tomorrow.