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HomeTech NewsLucky number seven – celebrating seven years of Digital Solution Foundry success

Lucky number seven – celebrating seven years of Digital Solution Foundry success

In 2017, Ernst Marais started Digital Solution Foundry (DSF), driven by a desire to break free from the constraints of the corporate world. Frustrated by the slow pace and conservative approach to new technology adoption within large corporations, Marais sought to establish a platform where innovation could thrive without the limitations imposed by traditional corporate structures. He was keen to get back to his software development roots and build meaningful software and solutions.

“Software development is so appealing because it offers so much variety – one day you’re working on a project for a company in the retail industry and the next day you’re on a different thing,” he says. “I love that you get to learn about different sectors and different types of businesses without having to spend your life only working in the insurance or retail banking space,” he adds.

In 2020, Marais recognised the need for a strategic business partner to complement his technical expertise. He approached his former colleague, Paulinah Teffu, who was running her own software quality assurance firm, Matlhatse Consulting, at the time. Their discussions revealed a strong alignment in their business missions. They both aimed to deliver innovative solutions, create sustainable employment opportunities and expand their presence in Africa. This partnership, with Marais as Chief Technology Officer and Teffu as CEO, has significantly elevated DSF, expanding its offerings and driving remarkable growth. Teffu notes: “DSF’s growth is evident, starting with 11 employees in 2018, increasing to 15 post-merger in 2020, and now employing over 60 individuals in 2024.”

However, DSF’s growth extends beyond its employee numbers; the company has also diversified its services and product offering. Operating in three key areas – traditional consulting, project-specific work and its unique Venture Studio – DSF has positioned itself as a versatile player in the market. Marais describes the Venture Studio as a dynamic platform for experimentation, where the company identifies market gaps, pursues passion projects and develops innovative products to meet emerging needs. This strategic expansion underscores DSF’s commitment to staying at the forefront of industry trends and driving continuous innovation.

“We don’t always get it right,” he says. Despite building some initiatives that didn’t meet expectations over the years, Marais emphasises that this is inherent to the Venture Studio’s purpose. He explains that the studio serves as a creative space where the team can experiment freely, without the pressure of immediate success or failure. Teffu adds that even shelved concepts have value: “Engaging with customers, we can showcase tangible examples of our development work, and demonstrating potential partnership opportunities to transform these ideas into valuable offerings.”

Hiring the next tech leaders

As DSF has expanded and evolved, Marais and Teffu have made a conscious effort to prioritise the employment of young people, many of whom are new to the workforce. This commitment played a significant role in shaping their response to the pandemic. Marais elaborates: “DSF was initially a remote work organisation; however, the onset of Covid prompted a return to the office to ensure that young employees had access to the essential connectivity and technology required for their professional development.”

In fact, Teffu recalls that when DSF first moved into its current office space, it was the only business in the building. This move, she explains, further emphasises DSF’s drive to empower young people who are entering the tech space, but who might not have the necessary work experience needed to secure a job: “We’re definitely not a bootcamp or a training organisation, we don’t play in that space. But we do want to give young people opportunities by mentoring them and giving them responsibility. And because we know a lot about the insurance space, we also teach these young people about insurance so that they have an understanding of the industry.”

Marais emphasises the pivotal role of individuals in DSF’s success: “Success hinges not only on assembling the right team, but also on finding a partner whose passion and drive align with your business vision. Once you have such a partner, someone who shares your energy and entrepreneurial spirit, execution becomes key. As a small business, we don’t intend to compete directly with the industry giants, but if we can execute quickly and decisively, we can continue to carve out our own successful niche in the tech market.”

DSF’s seven-year journey stands as a testament to the power of innovation, strategic partnerships and a commitment to empowering the next generation of tech leaders. The company’s winning formula remains firmly focused on developing meaningful solutions and providing opportunities for young local talent. As DSF looks ahead, Marais and Teffu’s journey serves as an inspiration to aspiring entrepreneurs and a reminder of the importance of vision, resilience and dedication in achieving long-term success.

Source

itweb.co.za

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