The media business is a tough nut to crack, especially if you come up with a new idea that challenges the status quo. Besides a real understanding of business fundamentals, it requires guts, vision, energy and determination. It took more than three years of determination to build up media technology company TBM, and still CEO Pierre van der Hoven is not entirely convinced it is a well-established business. Yet. “It is something you just have to get used to as an entrepreneur,” he says. “The key lesson for entrepreneurs, in the media industry or any other industry, is the same. You’ve got to have an idea, you’ve go to believe in it. And don’t expect anybody else to believe in it, because they are not going to. People think entrepreneurship is glamorous, but 90% of the time it’s tough hard work.” Launched in 1999, TBM started as a technology-driven business and grew to include advertising and communications applications. It broke new territory, and set a new international standard by developing technology that could deliver large video files to plasma screens through a distant PC via satellite. New to the marketing mix, the end product – plasma screen advertising – can be seen at airports, gyms, golf clubs, and garage forecourts around the country. The difference between these and other electronics boards is that TBM uses videos instead of limited animations. Initial challenges revolved around technical issues, such as using satellite technology with a confirmed return path cost effectively. The broadcasting streaming model was too expensive, so TBM develop technology to send packets of files to a remote PC, which would send a message back, confirming delivery. TBM is a short for Three Blind Mice – the three people who started the company – a touch of humour to an otherwise cutting edge operation. The mice refer to a computer mouse and “blind” because they went into the venture “virtually blind”. The first step was to identify a technical solution to moving large video files. The second was to find a business application and construct a sound business model. Media and marketing analyst Chris Moerdyk sees a lot of potential in plasma screen advertising and is especially impressed with TBM’s cost model. Whereas it costs hundreds of thousand of rand to produce television commercials, TBM can do it for as little as R1500. Moerdyk was also excited about the speed at which ads can be changed on the system, by simply using a cell phone. “What impressed me was their passion,” he said. “They have a passion for advertising, they have a passion for marketing and they seem to have a passion for doing the right thing. Now in my book that immediately means that I’ve got to give a company like that the benefit of doubt.” Van der Hoven simply cannot resist a business challenge. An accountant by profession, he was introduced to change management when he worked in a senior position at the SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), where he worked with a new group of thinkers at a time of tremendous change. This taught him “how to think big”. From being involved with strategic thinking at the SABC, Van der Hoven became involved with the Independent Broadcast Authority, while where he consulted and wrote some of the visions for the broadcasting industry. The new political dispensation also created an opportunity for new media licenses, and Van der Hoven joined a group to apply for two of these. One was for Yfm and the other for The rest is history, as they say. “It was pretty ambitious to wake up and say we’re going to apply for a television license and a radio license, but that is what drivers entrepreneurship. You need vision. You need to see something and believe you can do it and then do everything to go and get it,” Van de Hoven says. His key function in both ventures was financial. At TFM he was head of finance sales and marketing and at he drew up the business plan and its funding and financial models. “We went from nothing, in other words a station that didn’t exist, to the third-biggest station in terms of audience. The growth was absolutely phenomenal,” Van der Hoven says.

Source: Business Day – Jill de Villiers