The day Cybersmart founder Laurie Fialkov thought he lost it all

Cybersmart is one of South Africa’s most successful Internet service providers (ISPs), and it is a prominent fibre-to-the-home network player in Cape Town.

The company’s fibre network covers thousands of residential buildings to which it offers uncapped 500Mbps fibre-to-the-home for R899 per month.

Cybersmart’s fast and affordable fibre products means it is consistently rated as one of the ISPs with the most satisfied customers.

It was, however, not always easy for its founder, Laurie Fialkov, who once faced losing everything he had worked for.

Laurie Fialkov’s worst day

Cybersmart started as an Internet café called Inthenet in Sea Point in 1996 which used a 33.6kbps modem to serve their clients.

The company later rebranded as Cybersmart and showed strong growth as an ISP, especially after Telkom launched ADSL in 2002.

Selling capped ADSL accounts at affordable prices was Cybersmart’s core business, and Fialkov bet everything he owned on it.

Then, out of the blue, the unthinkable happened. MWEB launched affordable uncapped ADSL products on 18 March 2010.

Fialkov described this as the worst day of his career, as MWEB’s price was well below Cybersmart’s cost price.

“It was a perfect storm. We had just spent all our cash reserves buying an IRU on Seacom and we had no money to react,” he said.

“I had personally signed for the company’s debt along with my partners. I thought that it was the end of Cybersmart and I stood to lose my house. My partners would lose everything too,” he said.

Fialkov said it was very difficult to be faced with the prospect of losing everything he built up over a decade of hard work and having to start over again.

Many good days at Cybersmart

While building Cybersmart included many tough days, it also included many days where Fialkov realized he was on the right track.

He recalled how his father told him in 1998 that he was self-employed, which signalled the day when Cybersmart was born.

Another milestone was in 2001, when Cybersmart’s turnover exceeded R1 million per month for the first time.

He also remembers with fondness how Cybersmart made headlines on MyBroadband when it dropped the price a 3GB ADSL account to R99 – the best price at the time.

Other highlights include launching South Africa’s first discounted after-hours ADSL service in 2009, launching its first LightSpeed fibre product in 2014, and securing funding for its fibre rollouts.

Now read: Cybersmart founder’s R44-million mistake

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The day Cybersmart founder Laurie Fialkov thought he lost it all