Koos Bekker is a South African billionaire and businessman. He is the sitting chairman of Naspers Limited, a position he assumed in 2015. Prior to this, he was also the CEO of Naspers from 1997 – 2014.
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Also, Koos is one of the co-founders of M-Net/Multichoice pay-television business in 1986. He is also one of the founding directors of the mobile communication company MTN, created in 1994.
Today, he is one of the African billionaires according to Forbes. He is renowned for transforming Naspers, South African newspaper publisher into an e-commerce investor and cable TV powerhouse.
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Koos Bekker Background
Jacobus Petrus Koos Bekker was born on December 14, 1952 in Potchefstroom, South Africa. He grew up as a farm boy in the town of Heidelberg, Gauteng Province, SA. For his secondary education, he attended Hoer Volkskool Heidelberg, South Africa.
Afterward, he earned a BA in Literature and BA Law from Stellenbosch University in 1972 and 1975 respectively. Thereafter, he bagged an LLB from the University of Witwatersrand in 1978. Then, an MBA degree from the Columbia Business Administration, in 1984.
He is married to Karen Roos and their union is blessed with two children.
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Koos Bekker Early Career
While studying in the Columbia Business School, US, he noticed the growing Cable TV market, and on his return, he led the founding of M-Net in 1986. This way, M-Net became the first pay-television established outside the United States.
Currently, M-Net is available in 48 different countries, serving over 7 million subscribers. Subsequently, in 1994, Koos was part of the directors that established the cellular telephony group MTN. Today, MTN is the eighth largest mobile operator in the world and the biggest in Africa.
Also, in 1998, Bekker through Naspers invested in the internet business at a time when technology was not yet a big thing in SA. He created the News24 and Fin24, which is now one of the premier news websites in SA. Moreover, during his tenure as the CEO, the market capitalization of Naspers grew from about $1.2 billion to $45 billion.
Interestingly, while still serving as the CEO of Naspers, he signed a contract with Naspers not to receive a salary, or bonus but compensated solely via stock option grants that vested over time.
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In 1997, he became the Chief Executive of Naspers and led the group until 2014 when Bob Van Dijk took over. Later, in 2015, Koos took over from Ton Vosloo as the Chairman of Naspers.
Naspers is a global internet group and one of the largest technology investors in the world. The company operates in 130 countries, and is listed on the London and Johannesburg Stock Exchanges. The group conducts business in Europe, Africa, Latin America, China, India, Russia, and some other countries. Its principal operations are in internet communication, entertainment, gaming and e-commerce.
Through Naspers, Koos made several investments. For instance, he led Naspers to invest in the Chinese internet and media firm, Tencent in 2001. As of 2018, Naspers had approximately a 31% stake in Tencent and is the largest shareholder. This investment boosted Naspers’ stock price over time and became one of the most successful venture capital investments. Also, in December 2018, Naspers invested $1 billion in India’s foodtech giant, Swiggy
In addition, the following brands are also owned by Naspers; Prosus, Media 24, OLX, eMAG, Fin24, Property24, Multiply, Buscape, Movile, SimilarWeb, City Press, e.t.c
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Awards And Recognition
- World Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame, World Entrepreneur Awards
- Best Entrepreneur, Ernst & Young/Rand Merchant Bank
- Lifetime Achievement Award, Business Times
- Honorary Doctorate in Commerce, University of Stellenbosch
- Appointed Member of Board, University of Stellenbosch, 2000 – present
- 1008 wealthiest person in the world, Forbes Rich List 2019
- 4 Wealthiest South African with a fortune of US$2.3 billion, Forbes, 2019
- 11 Africa’s billionaire, Forbes 2020
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Koos Bekker Quotes
“For a group to be great, both good governance and excellent execution are required. It’s not one or the other.”
“Entrepreneurship is a little bit like farming when you start you do everything, you make a team, you do the Photostats machine and as the business grows, it diversifies but certainly, the improvisation of a farm is extremely useful in business.”
“In business, one should never take anything for granted. Your fortune can change in five minutes.”
“The CEO is the captain of the ship; he makes the executive decisions fast and with enough authority to sail the ship. A non-executive chairman is more… a strategic figure in the background.”
“The pace of technological change is still accelerating. Innovation never stops.”
“Currently, e-commerce is the segment of our internet business which is growing the fastest and it will remain that way for the foreseeable future.”
“Naspers has made huge investment in e-commerce during the last few years, some of which is still developing to its fullest potential.”
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Entrepreneurial Lesson From The Life Of Koos Bekker
Every Experience Is A Training
Koos narrated his early life as a farm boy, and how the farming experience prepared him for business. He also likened farming to entrepreneurship and how the improvisation of a farm is extremely useful in business.
In farming, he said, you have an element of interference, you plant the seed then you have an element of nature, it rains, you get yield. Similarly, in business, you do certain things and the environment throws certain issues at you and then, you try to solve it.
Every experience we go through is a training ground on how we can achieve our dream. Absolutely, no life lesson is a waste.
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When Koos Bekker went to study at the Columbia University in New York, he was completely clueless at first. But along the line, he discovered the new pay television industry there and thought of how he could recreate it in Africa. Then, he began to study the process.
After some time, he came back to South Africa with the idea, found a way to encrypt the technology with his team. Eventually, they had a lucky break with M-Net. Subsequently, MultiChoice and its subsidiaries; Showmax, DSTV, GOTV, e.t.c came along. Today, they operate in over 48 countries, serving millions of subscribers.
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According to him, the future is very hard to predict. Koos moved from future prediction to taking action. As he grew older both in age and in life experience, he scans the world to grab opportunity that appears as quick as possible.
For instance, in his interview with CNBC, he mentioned how he has never had any original idea of his own but how he takes what’s already available and make it better or adapt it to his environment.
Bekkers believes that as entrepreneurs, one of the most productive ways of thriving is to identify what is working in other markets; either abroad or anywhere, recreate it, trying not to infringe on copyright laws. Also, you can improve the product and maybe someday you will become a world leader in it.
We must not wait for original ideas. Most of the ideas are already existing, we can always improve on what is available.
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