The ecommerce exec who earned R700 per month as a Spoornet clerk

Neil Smith is one of South Africa’s most successful ecommerce entrepreneurs, having founded Take 2 and Raru.

Take 2, which was started in 2002, was acquired by Tiger Global Management in October 2010. It was rebranded as Takealot in June 2011.

After building a successful online business and selling it to a large corporate, many entrepreneurs decide to take it easy or retire.

Not so for Smith.

He waited for his restraint of trade to pass, and in June 2014 he and several Take 2 partners founded Raru.

Raru focuses on gaming, music, movies, and electronics, and is a favourite among South Africa’s tech community.

To create one successful online business is challenging, but to do it twice is remarkable, and Smith puts the success down to hard work and having the right team.

He said meeting the right people in the beginning to create the core team which stuck through the early years of Take 2 was important for success.

The strong bond between these entrepreneurs remains to this day, and most of the core Take 2 team are still involved with Raru.

Smith said there is no magic formula to success that he knows of, besides being prepared to do your best possible work every day.

“Every little bit you do adds to the overall growth of the site and the business in the long term. Basically, you have to be very patient and dedicated at what you are doing,” said Smith.

Smith’s first job

Smith started his career as a clerk at Spoornet in 1987, where he earned a salary of R700 per month.

He started to sell computers and computer components “offline”, and later set up a basic PC retailing site when the Internet started to take off in South Africa.

“I remember one of the first items I sold online was a 3DFX graphics card to a customer in Pretoria,” he recalled.

Smith then started selling DVDs, games, and electronics online, which ultimately led to the launch of Take 2.

After many years in the online business, Smith said his passion remains: giving customers a great online shopping experience.


Smith’s tech and business decisions

From Smith’s gadget choices, it is easy to see that he is a techie at heart.

Dell XPS

Which smartphone do you use?

iPhone SE.

Which laptop do you use?

Dell XPS 13 i5-7200U 8G RAM 256GB SSD 13.3 inch Full HD Ultrabook.

What is the best gadget you have ever bought?

iPad.

What is the worst gadget you have ever bought?

A portable air conditioner. It was too noisy to use in the office at the time.

What Internet connection do you have at home?

Telkom Fibre 100Mpbs.

What is the best investment you have ever made?

Naspers.

What is the worst investment you have ever made?

Telkom.

What is the best business book you have ever read?

New New Thing – Michael Lewis.

What is your favourite international ecommerce site?

ThinkGeek.


Now read: Vodacom CEO’s starting salary – R850 per month

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The ecommerce exec who earned R700 per month as a Spoornet clerk