Team Deep Blue – My Thoughts

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” — Steve jobs

DSC_0095There is an old saying that there are two people who are happier at someone else’s success than their own: a teacher and a father. I believe this is true because I don’t think winning the IBM Youth Innovation Challenge myself would have made me as happy as seeing my students win.

I am proud of our students who worked hard, put in the effort and work well as a team. I am excited about where this could possibly go; I mean, they won the first ever Hackathon held in South Africa by none other than IBM – this is no small accomplishment, and considering that they will now be offered internships at IBM, I am sure there are big things in store for these bright minds.

This is a realisation of our vision at IT varsity to produce the best developers in the country who will be comparable to the best in other countries. Our team is not happy to merely go through the motions of lecturing, giving exams and providing qualifications; we are aiming for much more. We live by the words of Steve Jobs quoted above. We want to do something that really matters. We want to produce the best. We want to make our little dent in the universe. And this week, we made a tiny little dent.

We have an awesome team, each of whom is passionate about technology and about empowering others. There is no substitute for a great team, and I am grateful to be working with such awesome people, and I sincerely hope we can do much greater things going forward.

Whenever our students go out there, winning awards, gathering accolades, becoming success stories of their own, we will always be here, working behind the scenes to ensure that they get all the support they need long after they’ve graduated and moved on. And we will be busy producing the next cohort of winners.

That is what IT varsity is all about.

IT varsity Produces Winners

IT varsity’s Team Deep Blue were awarded the top prize by IBM’s judges at the 2015 IBM Youth Innovation Challenge which was held at the University of KwaZulu Natal in Durban from the 25th to the 29th of May 2015.

The Youth Innovation Challenge is an initiative of ‘Innovate Durban’ in partnership with IBM, the eThekwini Municipality, the Sustainable Enterprise Development Facility (SEDF) and the Government of Flanders. The focus of the competition is to support youth driven technology businesses.

See also: Team Deep Blue – My Thoughts by Bilal Kathrada, CEO of IT varsity

The theme of the Innovate Durban- ’Hackathon’ event was ‘Smarter eThekwini’. This supports the agenda of ‘Open Government’ and ‘Open Data’ and in this way supports engagement by the eThekwini Municipality with its citizens.

The event was booked to capacity, and attracted developers and students from around the country. Nine teams participated in the Challenge, and each team was tasked with developing a technology-based solution to one major challenge facing the city and its citizens.

IT varsity’s Team Blue developed WorkerBee, a social app that linked skilled artisans to potential clients. WorkerBee is like LinkedIn, but for artisans.

So what’s in store for the winners?

  1. A cash prize
  2. A 3 month internship with IBM at any of their facilities worldwide.
  3. Possible funding and incubation by the eThekwini Municipality and SmartXchange.

Well done to our winners!

Some pics of the event. More pics on Facebook.


Maseehullah, Adrial and Simba having fun


IT varsity CEO Bilal Kathrada with the winning team


When the going gets tough…

Six Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs

In an article published on LinkedIn, Frank E. Pobutkiewicz, founder of College Apprentice, outlines six skills that every entrepreneur needs. Despite their importance, most entrepreneurs tend to ignore them, putting themselves at a severe disadvantage.

Skill 1: Presentation and Public Speaking

We all have heard the claim that the number one fear for most people is public speaking. For entrepreneurs, this presents a giant problem. Luckily, most people do not suffer from glossophobia; they simply lack the confidence and experience.

I have years of experience teaching presentation skills, public speaking, and debate. Of all of the skills we teach, I feel most strongly that anyone can learn how to give dynamic presentations and speeches.

Skill 2: Web Design and Development

If you are going to start a new business, you must have a web presence. Regardless of whether or not you are a technology company, every entrepreneur needs to have a basic understanding of how the internet works.

Our web design and development workshop does not focus on coding, nor do I believe that every entrepreneur needs to know how to code. Every entrepreneur does need to know how to speak tech, though.

Without an understanding of how servers, browsers, and programming languages work, you leave yourself open to wasting months of time, at best, or being taken advantage of by unscrupulous programmers, at worst. The end result in either case can be losing thousands of dollars.

I would also like to stress the importance of design in this section. While branding and graphic design do not have a dedicated skill in the Six Skills, they must not be overlooked. The use of space, color, and structure are difficult to master but with time and effort, they can become cornerstones of value for any entrepreneur.

Skill 3: Social Media Campaigning

Admittedly, social media is a forte of mine, but that does not mean I can simply ignore it. The key to social media traction seems to be utilizing the correct platforms. In my context, high school students tend to use Facebook and Twitter while parents seem to check my LinkedIn profile. Because I don’t have an infinite amount of time, I try to concentrate on these three networks, and even that can be taxing.

The more important lesson in social media success revolves around content marketing. Just as cash is king in finance, content is king in marketing. People consume content at incredible rates, and the right content can lead to a huge influx in leads.

Learn how you can acquire these skills at IT varsity with our Digital Lifestyle range of short courses. Click here for more info.

Skill 4: Analytics (KPIs)

For every company, no matter what stage, there are a few key analytics that determine their success or failure. Determining, measuring, and analyzing key performance indicators (KPIs) can have a drastic impact on decision making.

Depending on the industry and business model, startups use a range of KPIs to guide them. For College Apprentice, I focus on three key metrics: repeat customer rate, average customer acquisition cost, and application to customer conversion ratio. For other businesses, different analytics rule the day, such as rate of user growth, click-through-rate, bounce rate, operating leverage, and return on marketing investment, to name a few.

Skill 5: Strategic Analysis

Many new businesses fail because their founders fail to appreciate the intense competition they will face once they go to market or because they fail to properly position their brand. It is of paramount importance that entrepreneurs are able to analyze the marketplace prior, during, and after launch. The market is never static and must constantly be reviewed.

Some of the basic analytical tools can save a fledgling enterprise or provide new market opportunities. I tend to teach the following:

Business Model Canvas (internal, business model tool)
Porter’s Five Forces (industry-level, competitive analysis)
Blue Ocean Strategy (market opportunities analyses)
PEST Analysis (macro-environmental/economic analysis)
SWOT Analysis (internal/external analysis)

Skill 6: Finance and Budgeting

Not every entrepreneur needs to be an accountant; however, every entrepreneur needs a basic handle on finances. Ignoring your bottom line won’t make your losses disappear. Since I normally have a very limited time to teach finance and budgeting, I like to focus on what I believe to be the three* most important financial numbers for every business.

Contribution Margin/Breakeven Point
Quick Ratio
Return on Investment
If students leave with a firm understanding of these three numbers for their business, they can easily learn all other related financial metrics. Even the almighty concept of cash flow can be ascertained after understanding what portion of revenue flows through the income statement and combining it with the return from investment from asset deployment. The Quick Ratio, [(current assets – inventories) / current liabilities], forces students to examine the balance sheet and have a knowledge of liquidity and working capital.

There you have it! The Six Skills that every entrepreneur should try to master through their career. I believe that teaching hard skills to students that already display an interest in entrepreneurship is more vital than trying to teach soft skills, which can be developed over the course of execution.

Entrepreneurship is all about execution, about doing, and I hope to develop the Six Skills into the “how to” manual for new student entrepreneurs.

See the full article here.

Entrepreneurship Session at IT varsity

Entrepreneurship: Something that is essential for everyone to learn and understand. And here at IT varsity we feel that our students should also learn a thing or two about being entrepreneurs in the IT sector.

An Entrepreneurship Session was held at IT varsity for all the students on Thursday, 31 July 2014. An what an inspiring session it was! The Entrepreneurship Session was presented by guests from Enactus Loughbourough in the United Kingdom, who are also team members of the South Africa Challenge.

The session started off with the current president of Enactus Loughborough, Gabriella Ianelli, who introduced the students to world of entrepreneurship. She highlighted the various characteristics that an entrepreneur should have, as well as enlightened the students on the various advantages and disadvantages of being an entrepreneur.


The inspirational speaker of the Entrepreneurship Session, Gabriella Ianelli, the current president of Enactus Loughborough in the UK as well as a team member of the South Africa Challenge.

During the session, Gabriella showed the students inspirational videos on entrepreneurship and had interactive question and answer sessions based on the videos. Students were also asked to brainstorm in groups and come up with innovative product ideas and all the factors involved in creating the product.


One of the groups of students at the Entrepreneurship session discussing the product that they created.

One of the groups came up with a very innovative product called “Skathini”, a mobile app that gives taxi times. Very interesting stuff!

One of the groups presenting their product idea of Skathini, a mobile app that gives taxi times. Interesting stuff!

One of the groups presenting their product idea of Skathini, a mobile app that gives taxi times. Interesting stuff!

The final part of the session involved Gabriella Ianelli showing the students how to fold an origami into the Enactus logo. Very fun stuff indeed!

Gabriella Ianelli shows the students how to fold an origami into the Enactus logo

Gabriella Ianelli shows the students how to fold an origami into the Enactus logo

All in all, the Entrepreneurship Session was a definite success with the students of IT varsity. IT varsity would like to take this opportunity to thank the current president of Enactus Loughborough, Gabriella Ianelli for presenting the Entrepreneurship Session as well all other representatives of Enactus Loughborough, who are are also part of South Africa Challenge.

Click here to view more pictures of the Entrepreneurship Session at IT varsity.