Cybersmart founder’s R44-million mistake

Cybersmart founder and CTO Laurie Fialkov is a unique executive – he does not own a television and gave up his position as CEO to play with the latest tech – rather than manage his company.

Cybersmart continues to show strong growth and its Lightspeed business unit is one of the biggest independent fibre-to-the-home and fibre-to-the-business infrastructure players.

The company has always pushed the limits under Fialkov’s leadership, and its 400Mbps FTTH product at R599 per month remains unmatched in South Africa.

With Cybersmart doing so well under Fialkov, it raises the question as to why he decided to step down as the CEO of the company.

He said there was little that he liked about the CEO position, which is why he employed a new CEO and “demoted” himself to CTO.

“To be a good CEO you need to like administration, doing budgets, and have a strong financial background,” said Fialkov.

“You also need to make really difficult decisions which affect people’s lives, like closing a department and retrenching people.”

He said the most important part of a CEO’s job is to motivate people to be excited about their work and do their best for the company.

“None of these things are particularly exciting for me. If you manage to do a good job there is a sense of achievement that can make being CEO worthwhile, but I would rather fiddle with tech,” said Fialkov.

You need some luck

Fialkov’s love for tech led him to study computer science at the University of Cape Town, when the Internet was becoming commercialised.

“A global, free network with no rules appealed to me,” said Fialkov.

His first “real” job was as a Novel administrator at UCT’s engineering department, where he earned R5,000 per month.

He soon became bored with this job, started Cybersmart, and did not look back.

Fialkov credits his success to perseverance, hard work, and a fair bit of luck along the way.

“No matter how good you are, you have to have some luck,” he said.

“I have had a fair share of luck along the way, but I have been doing this for 20 years, so I would say perseverance and hard work are at least as important.”

His advice to young people looking to advance their career is: find something you love to do and grab every opportunity with both hands.


Fialkov’s business and tech choices

Fialkov does not like blowing money on gadgets, uses an affordable smartphone, and does not own a television.

Kindle

Which smartphone do you use?

Xiaomi Redmi 4A.

Which laptop do you use?

I don’t own a laptop. I use whatever happens to be available at the office – today it is a Lenovo G50.

What is the best gadget you have ever bought?

I don’t waste too much money on gadgets, and I don’t even have a TV. Having said that, I enjoy my Amazon Kindle.

What Internet connection do you have at home?

400Mbps Lightspeed Fibre from Cybersmart.

What is the best investment you have ever made?

Doing a degree.

What is the worst investment you have ever made?

Buying an indefeasible right of use (IRU) on SEACOM. This was a R44-million mistake.

What is the best business book you have ever read?

Unless it is a textbook on a topic that I am interested in, I don’t read non-fiction. I have never read more than four pages of any business book. In fact, I can’t even name a title of any business book, let alone the author. I have read many technical papers, though.


Now read: Cybersmart in aggressive fibre drive

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Cybersmart founder’s R44-million mistake