The propeller head who built a R450-million company

Andre Fourie is not your average entrepreneur – he is a professor with a PhD in engineering, a tech inventor with over 50 patents, and a very successful businessman as the founder of Poynting.

To really understand Fourie and Poynting’s motto – Making Wireless Happen – you have to go back twenty years when he was a professor at the University of the Witwatersrand.

At the time he was doing a lot of antenna design as consultant, but he had a burning desire to see his designs turn into real-world products solving real-world problems.

Although Fourie did not have much money at the time, he had to fulfil this desire to build products and started Poynting Antennas in 2001.

Funding Poynting Antennas

Fourie funded Poynting Antennas through three finance sources:

  • An IDC loan of R1 million.
  • An Armscor Defence R&D Council (DRDC) grant for development of commercial products using defence “expertise”.
  • An IDC Special Programme for Industrial Innovation (SPII) grant for some novel product idea they had.

He recalled how tight finances were initially. “The IDC SPII grant is a 50/50 grant where we had to pay half of the R&D costs – we paid our half using the IDC loan,” he said.

“What is quite noteworthy is that we really maximally leveraged government support. As difficult as it was, I acknowledge that without such support the company could not have been launched.”

Growing Poynting

Fourie told MyBroadband that they made their first R1 million in revenue in the second year, but that the company was struggling for many years before turning a profit.

“It took almost 8 years to get to first profit. We were investing all we made back into research and development and lived ‘on the brink’ for quite some time,” said Fourie.

The biggest challenge when he started Poynting was coming to grips with the two most important business aspects – sales and finances.

“As engineers these are considered trivial and uninteresting, but we later realised that the engineering (for us) is easy,” Fourie said.

“As engineers these are considered trivial and uninteresting, but we later realised that the engineering (for us) is easy,” Fourie said.

“Sales and finances are, however, monsters which will have you for breakfast if you do not get them under control.”

Fourie did get their sales and finances under control and build Poynting Antennas to over 150 employees and listed the company on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in June 2008.

This was only the start, and as Poynting Holdings CEO he built the company from a R20 million market capitalisation in 2010 to R450 million in 2014.

Ditching the suit

While Fourie was a successful businessman and CEO, he decided to ditch his suit and analysts’ meetings to focus on his passion – building cool products.

In 2014 he exited Poynting Holdings by buying out Poynting Antennas in his personal capacity which continued as private company under his guidance.

This split allowed Poynting Antennas to design, manufacture and sell innovative antenna and wireless consumer products unhindered by the constraints of a listed company.

Fourie also started to lecture at the University of the Witwatersrand again, where he passes his knowledge to engineering students.

Poynting continues to make waves in the global antenna market and the company’s products regularly outperform their international competitors.