ENTREPRENEUR: Brett Dawson’s life after Dimension Data
After winding up his tenure at the helm of Dimension Data two years ago, the tech sector veteran has shifted gear to incubate disruptive start-ups
With a track record as enviable as former Dimension Data CEO Brett Dawson’s, you’d think his investing in a gifting service would be an odd choice.
But tech start-ups that are looking ahead to the "fourth industrial revolution" to disrupt the way we have always done things are exactly where Dawson sees growth. He has launched a venture capital firm of his own called Campan, which will target start-ups specialising in technology solutions.
Dawson, who has spent a year quietly putting Campan together, has already made six investments.
He says Campan will provide mentoring and financial and other resources to the start-ups, all intended to improve their chances of success.
"Campan is a vehicle through which I can live out my passion for enabling new companies that use technology as an engine to make substantial positive differences," he says.
The companies in which he has invested are Gather Online, a website aimed at improving users’ experience of online content; BrandHubb, which wants to revolutionise how consumers interact with the brands they love; Fourex, which aims to make forex trading fast, easy and efficient; and UK-based Free2Cycle, which hopes to transform the cycling commuter business model. Its other investments are IT security firm Ubusha Technologies and Wrapistry, which claims to provide the "ultimate gifting experience".
Dawson says: "We are entering an age where technology, data and business are wholly intertwined, leading to huge changes in efficiency and customer service."
It is this gap that he hopes to capitalise on.
And Dawson has invested his own money into Campan.
"The initial investment is my own. I am taking the initial risk on this," he says.
In future, Campan will raise funds.
The start-ups that have partnered with Campan came through referrals and also personal contact with Dawson or his networks. Campan will take an equity stake of between 10% and 20% or more, depending on the structure of the agreement and the finances needed. Dawson will also sit on the boards of the start-ups.
All the start-ups that Campan has invested in are set to challenge existing business models, and will do that by applying technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence, data exchanges and cloud-based solutions.
Dawson’s shift to tech start-ups is quite a jump from the Dimension Data that he first took charge of in 2004.
"I was lucky to have had a good run at Didata and I was thinking about what was next as I was too young to retire. I wanted to do something that would have an impact," he says.
His tenure coincided with rapid change in the technology sector, but he was able to take maximum advantage of that. Didata quadrupled in size under Dawson’s watch, which lasted for a rather lengthy 12 years.
As for the name Campan, Dawson says his investment firm is named after a leopard at the Sabi Sands Game Reserve bordering the Kruger National Park, which Dawson and his family have visited frequently since the early 2000s.