E Squared Responsible Entrepreneurship Awards 2023 winners announced

On 9 September, E Squared hosted its second instalment of the Responsible Entrepreneurship Awards at a dinner attended by investees, the organisation’s talent and leadership as well as several ecosystem partners.

Launched in 2022, the Responsible Entrepreneurship Awards are intended to acknowledge and recognise founders in the E Squared Ventures portfolio and their ventures whose values, culture and behaviours embody responsible entrepreneurship. 

While there is no universal definition of responsible entrepreneurship, E Squared believes that responsible entrepreneurs are characterised by their long-term impact vision and personal commitment to ethical values and behaviours within and beyond the businesses they create and grow. “The objective of tonight’s awards is to recognise the conviction and commitment of our founders to create positive societal value through their ventures, showcase their responsible behaviour as business leaders as well as to motivate, encourage and inspire the behaviours and business practices aligned with our core values” said Tshilidzi Matlala, E Squared’s Chief Portfolio Officer. 

E Squared Ventures currently supports a total of 14 businesses which are founded by Allan Gray Fellows or have Fellows as shareholders across various industries and stages; and the portfolio provides bespoke, hands-on, value-creating, post-investment support.

Each business was voted for by several of their stakeholders including customers, suppliers, employees, advisors, funding and operating partners as well as the E Squared team. The following awards were presented on the night:

  1. Responsible Founder and Venture Values Award – recognising founders and their ventures who display:
    • Commitment to making a long-term, sustainable contribution to society;
    • A spirit of Humility and Significance, combining ambition for work with personal humility;
    • Excellence in focusingon the things that matter most and striving to do them exceptionally well; and
    • Responsible stewardship of the Allan Gray mission and E Squared resources.

Top three contenders: Excel@Uni, Nambu and Xplorio. 

Winner: Nambu  Group

Founder: Lowell Scarr

Lowell Scarr accept award with E Squared CEO, Gladwyn Leeuw and Chief Portfolio Officer, Tshilidzi Matlala

Nambu’s business is built with a long-term commitment to the betterment of the local communities whose food waste it diverts from landfill to turn into high-value insect protein. Nambu has produced One Million Tons of Black Soldier Fly Protein p/a in 10 years, and Lowell Scarr is not only humble but brave in taking on the responsibility of driving sustainable agricultural change that improves people’s quality of life.

  1. Responsible Venture Culture Awardrecognising founders who:
    • acknowledge and celebrate human diversity enhanced by respect and empathy;
    • continuously seek innovative and creative approaches to addressing customer needs  and foster an environment of continuous learning and improvement to drive disruptive thinking and transformative ideas;
    • demonstrate leadership through guiding andinspiring others towards a common purpose, leading by example and driving alignment and passion for the vision; and 
    • are committed to working together within andwith teams towards the common good.

Top three contenders:  Xplorio, Nafasi Water, Oh My Cake!

Winner: Nafasi Water

Founder: Suzie Nkambule

Suzie Nkambule accepts award with E Squared CEO, Gladwyn Leeuw and Chief Portfolio Officer, Tshilidzi Matlala

Nafasi Water is known for its ongoing commitment to innovation and to the ongoing search for new ways of doing things as well as  identifying new opportunities.  Recognised by partners as being committed to a collaborative approach on long term projects, transparent engagements and seeking strategic alignment, Nafasi’s employees also cite how diversity and inclusion are embedded in the organisation’s values, with staff members being treated with respect and dignity and support for employees to bring their whole self to work without fear of prejudice and exclusion.  

  1. Responsible Business Practices and Behaviours Award– recognising businesses that:
    • drive strong revenue growth; 
    • have in place governance structures and best practice models to support transparent and effective decision-making to drive delivery and sustainability;
    • take conscious and deliberate efforts aimed at driving significant or positive changes that address social injustice and environmental challenges in an inclusive, sustainable and scalable fashion; and
    • areengaged in conscious and ongoing cultivation of a network of transparent, fair, and responsible relationships with stakeholders

Top three contenders: Excel@Uni, Media Measure and Nafasi Water.

Winner: Media Measure

Founder: Naeem Ganey

Danielle Crouse, Media Measure’s Value Creation Manager accepts award on Naeem’s behalf, with E Squared CEO, Gladwyn Leeuw and Chief Portfolio Officer, Tshilidzi Matlala

In addition to setting and reaching targets of doubling revenues year on year, Media Measure has taken a considered approach to their business growth. The founders have been consistent with reporting  and have made iterative changes to expand their business and introduce efficiencies and automation to improve and build their product and margins with an undistracted focus on setting a long-term vision, breaking that vision into layered components, and executing the required building blocks to reach it.

The overall Winner of this year’s Responsible Entrepreneurship Award is Nafasi Water

Founder: Suzie Nkambule

Suzie Nkambule accepts award with E Squared CEO, Gladwyn Leeuw and Chief Portfolio Officer, Tshilidzi Matlala joined by 2022 Winner, Lungelo Gumede, CEO of Excel@Uni

Nafasi is South Africa’s leading water reclamation and desalination technology provider for application in complex industrial and wastewater systems in South Africa.  In addition to outstanding venture vulture, Suzie Nkambule has provided inspiration and motivation as a leader with integrity, courage and vision, and has embedded this in Nafasi Water.  Under her leadership, Nafasi has refined its strategy, made necessary changes to the business model and structure, all with a long-term goal of desalinating and creating clean water – a vision whose realisation has a ripple effect on health, education, industry and agriculture.

Responsible entrepreneurship sits at the core of E Squared’s investment activities. It was a cornerstone of founder, Allan Gray’s vision and at the centre of the fundamental purpose for establishing E Squared Investments.  Quoted in his Statement of Vision: “It is my sincere belief that the optimal role of entrepreneurs and of business in society is that they should serve the many and not merely the few, and that life at its best is lived largely for the betterment of others.”