Buff Thokoa| tekSolve
Programme sponsor: Webber Wentzel
Buff Thokoa is the founder of tekSolve, an internet of things (IoT) consultancy which designs, implements and installs integrated IoT solutions, and also develops its own electronic products.
The business has developed waterIQ, a smart water management system that monitors the quality and quantity of bulk water systems and provides accurate and up-to-date readings through a mobile-friendly web interface. Its most recent product is gasIQ which measures gas levels in cylinders
Earlier in his career, Buff was involved in wireless technology development and had exposure to both the hardware and firmware aspects. Amid a growing movement towards the development of wireless devices, he noticed that most businesses in the industry were either involved in hardware development or software development and not in both simultaneously. He felt this was a gap that could be exploited and therefore founded tekSolve in 2012.
From a personal perspective, Buff found it a challenge to get used to the rhythmn of being self-employed. Unlike in his previous formal job, he had to carry out all sorts of tasks that had previously been done for him by others, for example, dealing with customers and customer payments, basically running business aspects rather than technical aspects. The adjustment was made somewhat easier because for the first six months of tekSolve’s existence, Buff was still formally employed.
“We were lucky in the beginning,” says Buff, “because we had a client right from the start. But we were also unlucky for the same reason because we became complacent.”
In 2020, Buff was sponsored by Webber Wentzel on a six-month enterprise-development programme powered by leading incubator, Raizcorp. According to Buff, the structured programme helped him with his thinking around the business. He found it beneficial to attend regular learning interventions and mentoring meetings which helped to keep what he was learning top of mind.
“I am from a very technical background and wasn’t very good at sales and marketing,” remarks Buff. “I used the programme to help me work out how to approach my new gasIQ product and how to sell it. It helped me consider things I hadn’t previously thought about like what would happen if a client only paid me three months after purchasing the product. It also helped me change the way I think about simple things like how to approach pricing in a structured way which helps protect myself while still going on and growing.”
Buff has used his programme learnings in business pitches, and has found it helpful to already have a strategy in place around future personnel requirements as the business grows.
“The programme helped me to think about what I am doing, take a step back instead of jumping around all over the place,” he continues.
When asked for his advice for other entrepreneurs, he emphasises the importance of having a network and a physical outlet, such as exercise, to combat the demands of running your own business. Also important is a way to step back and look at the bigger picture as it is very easy for entrepreneurs to get lost in the day-to-day details.
He is extremely grateful to Webber Wentzel who, while he was personally unknown to them, sponsored him on their programme. He goes on to say, “I was very lucky to have two guides whose approach fitted well with my psyche and who challenged me. My personal development sessions were quite uncomfortable at times but they made me explore myself in ways I haven’t always been comfortable doing. Thank you.”