With the ever-increasing unemployment statistics in South Africa, entrepreneurship is an essential alternative for school-leavers to consider. The problem is that the current educational system doesn’t support it, which is why entrepreneurs themselves need to get involved.
Matt Brown is a born entrepreneur. His ninth startup, Digital Kungfu, is pioneering storytelling and lead generation for technology businesses, and with this focus on content and sharing insights, Brown has also delved into his greater purpose.
“Originally, through both Digital Kungfu and my podcast, The Matt Brown Show, we wanted to find a way to tell business stories that people respond to, as well as share insights at scale,” says Brown. “Given South Africa’s context and unemployment levels, it was natural for this purpose to extend into the school space as well. We don’t just want to help entrepreneurs build great companies, we want to bring new entrepreneurs into this space.”
Giving youth the opportunity to become financially independent
In Brown’s view, the South African school system is built for school leavers to matriculate and get a job. There are two core problems with this system. First, it is struggling to address current unemployment rates. Second, it’s not a system that is built for a world driven by exponential technologies like AI, blockchain, robotics and quantum computing.
“All I see are kids being schooled for irrelevance,” says Brown. “A McKinsey Global Institute study found that nearly one billion jobs (that’s one fifth of the world’s workforce) will be taken by robotics process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) by 2030.
“If our youth want to be financially independent, then an entirely different mindset is required. Entrepreneurship is the best vehicle for making that happen. The only challenge is that entrepreneurship is rarely, if ever, taught at schools. This is why we founded the Dreamers Dojo, powered by Digital Kungfu. Our goal is to provide structured learning interventions at schools in South Africa and around the world.”
Addressing key entrepreneurial questions
In a series of lessons that were filmed for wider dissemination amongst the youth, Brown addresses key concepts that speak directly to the barriers school leavers are facing and their burning questions around entrepreneurship.
First and foremost is whether you need to be born an entrepreneur, or if you can become one. “It’s such a big question, but the answer is pretty simple,” says Brown. “The truth is that you just need to decide whether you’re going to be an entrepreneur or not. And you need to decide properly, because you are going to be tested. I think it’s so important for youngsters to understand that entrepreneurship is hard, but also incredibly rewarding. More importantly, they hold a huge amount of power in their ability to make decisions – they shouldn’t be afraid of this power. They need to learn to harness it instead.”
Another key point that Brown believes is essential for the youth to embrace is the benefits of failure. “At school, you’re taught that failure is not cool. Fail an exam? Bad. Get good grades? You’re a winner. In the real world though, success doesn’t teach you much. Failure on the other hand is the best teacher you will have. The problem is that in order for entrepreneurs to make the most of failure as a teacher, you need to become comfortable with it. You need to recognize that when a business fails, you haven’t failed.
“Taking failure personally (like I did for many years) is only a race to the bottom; it will only serve to kill your motivation and belief in yourself, as well as what you can achieve. Our youth need to learn to embrace failure. They need to make it part of their daily goals. They need to fail often and early, because success is directly proportionate to the number of times you can fail – and learn from those failures.”
Brown understands that failure brings with it lessons and insights that, when integrated into our thinking, can propel us towards success, which is why he wants potential young entrepreneurs to view it as cool, and not a crutch.
Making a difference
“The why of the Matt Brown Show podcast was always about helping entrepreneurs succeed though information sharing at scale,” says Brown. “As a community we can always do more. We should do more. In fact, the Dreamers Dojo was launched because after hearing what I had to say, one of the students at this series of talks challenged me to do more for students around the country. I took her words to heart – she’s right. We do need to do something.
“I’ve heard a lot of entrepreneurs and brands talk about how irrelevant the educational system is, but very few have actually stepped up and done something about it. As entrepreneurs, we are sitting on a gold mine of experiences, lessons learnt and knowledge capital that can be using to inspire, education and galvanize the youth around the idea of entrepreneurship.
“Mentorship is an essential activity that we can and should offer in our own unique way. We can wait for a huge project that will change the world, or we can just start. That’s what Dreamers Dojo is. Right now, we have a series of videos available online, and we will grow from there.”