JOHANNESBURG – An enterprising businessman who is bad at having a boss started his own company to become a leader in the financial services industry.
Tshego Sefolo is founder and chief executive of Agile Capital, a mid-market private equity business with investments across the healthcare, media and engineering industries.
He founded the company in 2015 after a successful career in bluechip companies both locally and abroad. Sefolo says his foray into the investment sector started many moons ago when his 22-year-old self joined EY as a trainee account, focusing on the financial services division.
The ardent runner, who holds an MBA from Wits Business School, says his clients included Investec Bank, Standard Bank and Absa Capital. Upon qualifying as a chartered account, Sefolo was seconded to the London office of EY in the UK in 2005, where he focussed on risk management and process controls.
“I stayed in the UK for over a year and came back. Quite frankly, South Africa had a lot of opportunities for youth South Africans in the financial services industry,” says the eloquent businessman, who runs half marathons on weekends.
In 2007, Sefolo joined leading private equity fund manager, Ethos Private Equity, and admits: “That was my initial foray into the investment space, where I started being exposed to leverage and management buyers. This was a completely new world for me.”
A regular golfer at the Johannesburg Country Club, Sefolo says he would go around the market, looking for companies to buy.
“This is where I learnt how to buy and sell companies. I was at Ethos for about four years and I decided I wanted to have my own private equity business,” he recalls.
“The first thing I realised is that I was very bad at having a boss. That’s one weakness I’ve got. I knew I didn’t want to be reporting to anyone. I knew I had the skills and capability to start my own business.” Sefolo, however, delayed branching out on his own and instead joined Standard Bank Private Equity, staying on the job for less than a year.
“That’s when I realised I cannot work in an institution and have a boss. I had my own wild ideas about where I thought the opportunities were,” he chuckles.
In 2010, Sefolo, together with the Rand Merchant Bank, and RMB Corvest, started a private equity fund business called Zico Capital, and invested R500 million on it.
“In 2015, as management we did a buyout of Zico Capital from shareholders who were partners in the business and we launched Agile Capital.” The management then raised a second fund of another R500m invested in 2015/2016. “In 2017/2018 we raised a R1 billion fund which we are in the process of investing,” says Sefolo, a father to three little girls.
He confidently states that currently the business has R2bn of capital backing it. The Sandton-headquartered Agile Capital, says Sefolo, is invested across 14 companies include, among others, its largest, Provantage Media Group (PMG); environmental solutions firm Spill Tech; Provest; Henkel, whose products include Pritt; and SA Biomedical Group, the distributors of surgical instruments in the healthcare sectors,
“We have managed to establish ourselves as a respected black owned investment private equity company in South Africa,” states Sefolo, without seeking approval.
“Our long term desire is to create a business that is a well established player, and a leader in the financial services industry, with a specific focus on growing businesses.”
Agile Capital’s primary investments are in South Africa but PMG, in which they have a controlling stake, has operations in other African countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, the Congo, and Nigeria.
Sefolo says they have also invested in BBE Engineering, which has operations in the country, Australia and Canada.
“We like to think that if we can find attractive businesses in South Africa, we could go to other markets and replicate them.”
Sefolo says the company is also aware of the socio-economic challenges in the country and has established Agile Foundation to give back to the community.
“The foundation is aimed at addressing education and early childhood development needs in the communities that we operate in.”
– BUSINESS REPORT