BACKSTORY: Clickatell CEO Pieter de Villiers
We question Pieter de Villiers, founder and CEO of Clickatell
What’s your top tip for doing a deal?
Get the best advisers you can afford or have access to in your network. Having access to experienced advisers is a privilege.
What was your first job?
Delivering newspapers when I was still at school. My first "real job" was as an optometrist.
How much was your first pay cheque, and how did you spend it?
For delivering newspapers I earned R280 a month. As an optometrist, I earned R6,320 per month. A big part of my first pay cheque had to go into my car payment (interest rates were 22% back then). I also paid rent, utilities, my student loan, and a celebration dinner.
What is the one thing you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?
How to negotiate better and not be naive. Capital can be very transactional when it comes to people’s interests.
If you could fix one thing in SA, what would it be?
Our digital skills shortage in SA is larger than the jobs gap in this area. We are working on fixing this issue via Simodisa and its partners to create new jobs and pathways into technology for young people.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that people don’t know?
I was an officer in the military at age 19.
What is the one investment you wish you had made, or made earlier?
I wish I’d bought Tesla shares. I did not look at the full potential at the time.
What is the hardest life lesson you’ve learnt?
People will do what is in their best interest most of the time. To retain and have people grow with the business one needs to constantly check in and rely on shared values.
What is something you would go back and tell your younger self that would impress them?
Spend more time planning, because then the doing becomes much easier.
Was there ever a point at which you wanted to trade it all in for a different career? And if so, what would that career be?
I did. I left optometry to go into technology and am loving it.
If you were President Cyril Ramaphosa, what would you change, or do, tomorrow?
Make it easier for technology companies to deliver on broad-based BEE objectives that provide growth in this critical sector.
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