You don’t know what you don’t know

Every day I’m reminded of the stark reality of how much I don’t know. I make it my mission in life to try and understand how things work, why they do what they do, but keep coming up short. It’s fortunate that I enjoy learning, so my lack of knowledge is satiated when I learn.

There’s something called the illusion of explanatory depth, where people believe that they know more than they actually do. People mistake their ability to recognize the logical operation of something with their ability to understand and explain it. Then there’s the things we don’t know until we discover them, the unknown unknowns. Donald Rumsfeld said, “reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”


Running your own business has a lot of these two aspects, the belief in yourself that you know more than you actually do, and the stark reality of having to deal with unknown unknowns when they make themselves known. Through some very hard lessons, some of which I highlighted in my recent talk at Leaderex on failure, my reality is to focus my time and effort on the things I can influence. For those that I can’t, other people or services need to come into play.

A fitting example is King Price and the role that they play in business insurance. Last week we had the unfortunate incident of a staff member’s car being broken into, her laptop and other goods stolen, and for the days thereafter, lost all mental peace of mind and productivity while trying to get her life back in order. Having a professional business insurer on hand to assist in a scenario like this is well worth it. King Price is known best for its decreasing car insurance premiums and activity in the short term retail insurance space. It now plays a wider role in the business insurance arena.

Uncertainty Management theory was introduced by William B. Gudykunst to define how humans effectively communicate based on their balance of anxiety and uncertainty in social situations. The principle of a Black Swan event, a random and unexpected occurrence that deviated well beyond usual expectations, as things we should we aware might happen, but put the measures in place to ensure that if they do, the consequences are limited losses to us and our businesses.

As a friend once said when asked what advice he’d give to millenials today, “Experiment, learn and live, but make sure you suffer only small losses, and you’ll come out okay.”




Talking about failure at Leaderex

Murray Legg Leaderex

Danny MacAskill skills

Having been to Gran Canaria a few years ago, this is the last thing I’d imagine someone would do.. on their bike.



Hard Work has its Rewards

The last few weeks has provided an opportunity for me to spend time with young and aspirational people, more than I usually do. For the last few years, near the end of the year we’ve upped the number of interviews we do as some of the best of the South African youth come into the job market, having completed their courses or degrees and are looking at prospects.

hardworkimageThrough early experiences interviewing student tutors for Penguin Tutoring, to interviews at Rand Merchant Bank, to now employing people for Webfluential, there’s a little something special that shines through in some of the youth that I’ve met. Irrespective of the degree that they’ve completed or the awards and recognition on their CV’s, sometimes you get to meet someone with absolute fire in their belly.

Most often, the common traits are that youngsters from a financially challenging upbringing but are smart and desperate to succeed, show potential beyond normal bounds. I wrote about the risk/reward dilemmas for young entrepreneurs earlier this year, where if you have no money to lose, the dedication to achieve a goal can be quite remarkable.

The story of Prof Leeuw is one such story – a young man having started his story in the village of Taung, and going to on become a globally recognized astrophysicist. The grit and drive to pursue a dream, if you’re willing to not yield to an excuse, is probable for just about anyone.

There are brands like Profmed that are also happy to acknowledge these commitments to a cause and offer medical aid cover to a select group of professionals with a four year degree. Follow this link to find out more:


The Landscape Hunter – exhibition in Cape Town

If you’re in Cape Town, drive to Sea Point and check out Thomas Ferreira’s exhibition – a solo exhibition titled The Landscape Hunter. It’s a collection of some incredible images of landscape photography that he’s assembled from touring across the globe, including New Zealand, USA, Chile and South Africa.

The Landscape Hunter

The most appealing thing for me about the pictures is their expanse and with all the landscape they cover, give no clue that a human has ever been there to see it or spoil it. The 3m wide prints are wide enough to take up your entire field of vision, making you feel as though you’re actually in these places. I’ve bought a print of the Torres del Paine photo pictured above for my office.

Well done to Thomas! He tells me he’ll be coming to Johannesburg in late Jan/Feb too. In the meanwhile, check out his website here.

Landscape Hunter 2


Crowdsourcing innovation

When I worked as an investment banker, one of the insights that became clear to me very early on was that banks have transformed very quickly into technology businesses. What used to be an industry with relational managers and bank balance sheets offering very vanilla products has now become a very technology-centric industry with multiple touch points and very complex real time services served through technology.

The changes have happened, and continue to happen very quickly. With the business focusing on staying up to speed with the market and keeping it’s customers happy, it often doesn’t have the perspective or luxury to see the wood from the trees. Recently American Express has fallen on tough times for not maintaining it’s strategic relationship with Costco, for example. Add to the mix that banks often employ 10,000+ staff, which is great for momentum but severely limits their ability to be nimble and implement things quickly.

On the other side of the spectrum sits small business. Innovation and being fleet footed are almost synonymous. But scaling and operations are tough for small business. In April I wrote for Moneyweb on how the financial industry is throwing it’s hat in the innovation ring and seeing what comes of it. There is definitely a middle ground for the innovators and big business to work together if the incentives and engagement are well defined.

I was happy to see that Standard Bank has embraced this methodology in their Pathfinders Challenge that is currently underway. It’s an opportunity for techies, young professionals and entrepreneurs to pitch, demonstrate and commercialise an innovative banking solution and then get the support of Standard Bank to take it into the big leagues.

R500,000 of skin has been put in the game by Standard Bank in the form of cash, UX testing, rapid prototyping, technical support and mentorship for the winners of the Pathfinders Challenge. Winners will be flown out to the Standard Bank Incubator in Rosebank, where they will be accommodated for the duration of the execution. The competition launched on the 3rd of October and entries will close on the 6th of November at 23:59. It’s open to anybody with a solution that Standard Bank could benefit from. And likely the credibility and experience of going through a pitch process is just as valuable as the prize money.

You can read the Press Release here and follow the campaign socially on Facebook and Twitter.

The next commodity supercycle involves something we all already own

The commodity supercycle which started in the early 2000s, saw the prices of physical commodities such as food, metals, fuel and chemicals rise as demand from emerging markets outstripped demand. A slowing global economy has recently seen a rapid slide of commodity prices, having severe impacts on global economic markets, job security and emerging market currencies.

A commodity is defined by something of demand that is independent of differentiation, from the French word commodite – amenity or convenience. The next booming demand in the economy is going to be people’s attention.

Commodity-IndexesAs the workforce has evolved from the traditional “hands on” approach, more people today work with the management of information. If you’ve ever heard your boss say, “Why aren’t you at your computer?” that’s testament to the fact. Yet, information is abundant – about our lives, on social networks, other’s lives on news channels, and our professions, in all the Exabytes of data available through the internet.

But by harnessing the attention of an audience through engaging content, the flow of attention to something online will anticipate the subsequent flow of money. It’s a very important commodity for brands to understand and appreciate, both when they are receiving audience attention, and when they are not.

The online experience you have online is different to your colleagues. Your browsing history, behaviour on websites and the way you search for content creates a digital fingerprint, unique to you, that’s valuable to brands. If you’re not yet already aware of it, your attention is currently being sold. The banners you see, or rather, don’t see, are tailored just for you.

“Attention is the hard currency of cyberspace,” wrote Thomas Mandel and Gerard Van der Leun all those years back in their 1996 book Rules of the Net. We find ourselves in a time when engaging content fights for our attention, and where we choose to spend it, matters financially to the brands generating the content you enjoy and share.

Immediacy, personalisation and authenticity are three metrics that form the foundation of attracting attention and keeping it. Moving beyond the visual realm of display banners to rich content stimulating the senses and emotions is key to growing with the audiences maturing demands of the web.

It’s rather interesting how opportunity cost has now not just got a place in our careers and big decisions in life, but in the everyday minutes of time spent online. The gauntlet for brands has been set!

My love-hate relationship with entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship is the poster-child of the economy – consensus appears to be that running your own business is the ultimate pinnacle of a career – full of fun and the secret to untold riches. That might be the truth for a very few entrepreneurs, but there’s also a dark, lonely and extremely challenging side to it.

So what’s my current mission? I co-founded an influencer marketing business and am commercialising a novel heart valve replacement. Two businesses in two totally different fields, so the question I’m always asked, is how are they related? Conventional wisdom says that your career and your skill-set needs to specialise over time, which I agree with. I’m specialising in running efficient technology businesses that are differentiated by their intellectual property, ability to scale, and importantly, by the people working on them. So that’s my answer to those that are in fact interested. Through these businesses, as well as previous forays into a tutoring marketplace application and a digital content business, I’ve come to learn more about my love-hate relationship with my career choice.

My love for entrepreneurship

Being different

Without a prior understanding of an industry, you tend to ask fundamental questions about it and challenge the way things are done in their current form.  Less than two years ago, I asked Kirsty Sharman “What is media?” with reference to paid media behind digital content. At Webfluential, we now are arguably running the fastest growing media business in Africa because we took a different approach to solving a market need. Looking at a business from first principles allows you really consider the value proposition of the competitors and allows you to see that most businesses have a “me-too” approach to operating.


lego-man-murrayAs a kid, a new box of Lego wasn’t just an opportunity to stick to the construction guide given. I’d always turn to the back page with the other variations of what the pieces could be used to assemble. Imagination and experimentation. Two things that your own business affords you that often need more haggling to get right in a corporate. If what you’re selling or doing isn’t mainstream, you have to try and learn with your own skills and money. In reality this translates into 99% perspiration, but it’s still very enlightening!

Learning to work with people

Having a vision for a business or product has to be articulated through a lot of communication and charisma to the team. I’ve come to learn that most people don’t realise their own potential, so it’s often a stretch target to achieve what you’re wanting, but because you’re their boss and they don’t want to admit that they’ve failed at an objective – I find that it’s a pretty rewarding dynamic.

My hate for entrepreneurship


A few weeks ago I went to a breakfast alumni event with ex colleagues from my stint in investment banking. The conversation points to the ultimate unspoken, competitive question – “is the risk you took leaving a high paying career paying off more handsomely than our decision to stay in banking?” As an entrepreneur, you can’t say that you’re down, not winning, losing the fight, or one step away from packing it in. Your team, your staff, and your support structure all need you to be positive and declare that you’re winning. Most of the time, you’re not, and it’s lonely because you can’t share that fact with too many people. Thank goodness for my wife!

experiments-entrepreneurshipThe peanut gallery

There are a lot of bullshit quasi-entrepreneurs out there. Swaths of people spending their lives being entrepreneur incubators, coaches, even studying post graduate degrees on how to be great entrepreneurs. Start-up events, due diligence conferences, advisory firms and talks given by people that have never run their own business and been so successful that they’re qualified to actually talk, advise or guide on the subject. They’re quick to pass comment on the state of entrepreneurship, who’s good and who’s not. Their insecurity about their own value offering in the industry is confirmed to me every day that goes by without one of them calling to say they’d like to meet up and discuss funding or advising me.

Frictional cost of operating

The frustration and time wasted on frictional issues in a small business will one day soon become so important to entrepreneurs that they will seriously consider the country they wish to found in before considering incorporating. Crime (our staff’s laptops being stolen out of their cars), taxes (I’ve not received a single benefit for creating more than 30 full time and countless part time jobs from the SA government), and very average service delivery from the industries that supply to us, all slow us down. I miss the cotton wool cocoon of corporate, where you didn’t really have to ever phone the ISP yourself, fix the magnetic lock on the office door at 1 o’clock at night or worry about who checked the VAT return.

With these things that I love and hate being daily experiences in my career as an entrepreneur, I have to think so carefully about where I choose to spend my time and effort in creating value. Every minute is an opportunity cost. Thus, my mandate for business ventures I’ll consider working on:

  • Doing things that are breathtakingly new and ambitious
  • Work with other founders who radically want to change an industry, or better, the world
  • Have an audacious vision of a business seeking enormous markets

The challenge is that if you apply these constraints to a nebulous business concept, very few people really understand what you’re actually trying to do. They don’t understand the risks because of all the unknowables. Most of the time, you’re not always in full understanding of what you’re doing, either, adding to the confusion. And then you want people to join your crusade, or risk their money on you…? We’ll chat about that another time.


What is Google Deep Dream?

Google-Deep-Dream-DogI didnt know until a few months ago that you could put an image into Google search and it will tell you what’s in the picture and find similar pictures for you. Patson, the man that makes us coffee at the office, told me how he’s found a spider at his house and wanted to know if he should kill it, so he took a picture and Google told him it was a rain spider. So he didn’t kill it.

Google Deep Dream is an extension of this search software. Instead of it looking to tell you what’s in the photo, it references your picture against its entire library and where is sees something looking like a particular object, will amplify it more and more into that picture. Very much like when you’re dreaming, not everything appears to be the way it should. The algorithm only runs on a static image, but if it one day could take in a video feed, I image the playback would be very trippy indeed!

Here are two photos I fed into the dream maker. Notice the weird creatures, the castle on the hill and the chap on the unicycle.

dream_7b7a1b2679 920146

You can go do your own here. Follow on Instagram here. And look at some of the best pictures here.

Innovation – the intersection of science and the humanities


I recently gave a guest speaker address a leading media company, where I looked at the aspects of why a business should innovate, how to go about it and how best to lead it.

Best captured by Walter Isaacson, “The next phase of the digital revolution will bring a true fusion of technology with the creative industries, such as media, fashion, music, entertainment, education, and the arts. Until now, much of the innovation has involved pouring old wine – books, newspapers, opinion pieces, journals, songs, television shows, movies – into new digital bottles. But the interplay between technology and the creative arts will eventually result in completely new formats of media and forms of expression. Innovation will come from being able to link beauty to technology, human emotions to networks, and poetry to processors.”

This is the generic version of the presentation.