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 then rebranded as Takealot in June 2011.
After waiting for his restraint of trade to pass, he and several Take 2 partners founded Raru in June 2014.
Smith recently answered questions from the MyBroadband community in a question-and-answer session.
The best questions and answers from Neil Smith’s “ask me anything” are below.
SauRoNZA – Considering you started a new business in much the same space as the one you sold to a massive global conglomerate, can you tell us what is wrong with Takealot that makes you think Raru can succeed in the same market? Or are you simply insane?
We have said being a little bit insane isn’t a requirement for working at Raru, but it helps. Seriously though, we are more of a niche player, focussed on range and pop culture as opposed to being a mass FMCG retailer.
Pateet – Where did you get the name Raru from and what does it mean?
It is the Venda word for three. In this case meaning our third ecommerce venture. Take a closer look at the logo, and you’ll see a 3 hidden in there as well.
Spenelo – What advice do you have for any young(ish) wannabe entrepreneurs out there, who have dreams and ideas to start business in tech, business, and ecommerce?
Pay attention to the small details at startup, get the company documentation right before you start trading, make sure you have an accounting plan and start from day one. Trying to fix mistakes years later is nearly impossible.
IzZzy – What did you do to pass the time while your restraint period ran between your exit of Take2 and the birth of Raru?
I travelled a lot overseas. I finally got to go to E3 and Gamescom, which was amazing. Also seeing the range of choice available overseas, as opposed to what we have access to in SA, is one of things that inspired me to create Raru, so that we can offer those choices to South Africans as well.
Bokka1 – When do you think you will be able to sell digital codes for games instead of hard copies, especially in the console realm?
We think this is something we may still see locally. Already we are starting to see small steps in the area with the availability of DLC Codes for Destiny 2 and Call of Duty, as well as FIFA Ultimate Team Points.
SuperChad – What ecommerce platform is Raru built on? I assume an open source platform similar to a Magento platform?
Our systems are bespoke built for our business needs. The advantage of having more than 20 years of experience in ecommerce, when we started Raru, is that we already knew what systems would be needed above and beyond what off-the-shelf systems can provide.
We could also plan for future growth from the start. Our tech stack is kept simple with Linux, Nginx, MySQL, PHP, and Sphinx for search. Keeping it simple helps to keep maintenance low and can provide speed on relatively low-end hardware, too.