“In all our lives, a thumbnail of opportunity presents itself. Most of us tend to walk past it or ignore it. It happens serendipitously; a chance meeting, a lunch, a late night discussion with friends where someone mentions an invention and everybody goes ‘Wow, that could be game-changing’ and nobody does anything about it.”
“Be conscious and recognise those moments of opportunity around you. Act on them, really act on them.”
This is sage advice expressed by globally successful South African born entrepreneur, David Frankel, in a Harvard Business School profile article.
His ability to recognise and act on his own opportunities, made him a multi-millionaire at age 27 and today has put him at the helm of a business, responsible for providing initial funding to success stories such as Uber and Coupang (South Korea’s equivalent of Amazon and Fedex rolled into one).
David Frankel appears to have an uncanny knack of always being there at the right time and catching the initial wave of a new trend. It should therefore come as no surprise that even acquaintances describe him as an excellent listener who asks questions, and is genuinely interested in the answers.
Having qualified as an electrical engineer, in the early 1990’s David joined a group of friends and founded Internet Solutions (IS), an Internet Service Provider. It was just as the Internet and Web were emerging and the company focused on providing Internet connectivity to corporates.
The team was relentless in pursuing deals and IS dominated the market from the beginning. In 1997 the business was acquired by Dimension Data for R300 million. David joined the London listed Dimension Data PLC board and assisted the company to embark on a global acquisition trail.
At the age of 30, Frankel was voted the South African Technology Achiever of the Century by Financial Mail and the World Economic Forum selected him for their Global Leader of Tomorrow Programme in Davos, Switzerland.
Prior even to starting Internet Solutions, David had qualified for the Harvard Business School Fulbright Scholarship MBA programme but had twice deferred his enrolment. However, in his own words he “felt an itch” and that it was “unfinished business.”
In 2001 he flew to Boston to start his MBA, even though many of his colleagues questioned his decision. David recalls that he hated his first couple of weeks at Harvard and he missed his wife. It was only a discussion with one of his professors, who advised him to sit tight and see it through that persuaded him to remain.
In hindsight, David Frankel views his decision to stay at Harvard as a watershed one. It provided him with the opportunity to find his true calling – transforming from an entrepreneur to an investor and satisfying his yearning to be involved in entrepreneurial pursuits.
Harvard afforded Frankel the opportunity to meet a myriad of bright, talented people and spend hours “kicking around ideas” with his classmates. He recognised and acted on this opportunity, beginning to invest in the business ideas of some of his fellow students in his second year at Harvard.
The success of this initiative led him to partner with one of his peers and establish Founder Collective, a seed-stage venture capital fund with offices in San Francisco and Boston.
As described by a colleague, “Founder Collective seems actively involved in the bulk of blue chip start-ups around the globe.”