The only way to discover your limits is to go beyond them. “Limits are created by society. People who surpass these limits have the potential to move beyond the possible to achieve the impossible, but it requires leaning into discomfort.” Throughout his career in digital marketing and technology services, Wayne Zwiers, CEO & Founder of Basalt Technology, realised the gap for a bespoke software company that could provide quality code on time and on budget. With 85% of all digital transformation projects failing (as Forbes recently reported), there was a huge gap for highly-skilled engineers that deliver projects that succeed.
Zwiers saw the gap in the market and decided to start his own technology consultancy. And today, Basalt Technology is an award-winning software development consultancy that brings the best engineering talent together to disrupt the Financial Services Industry, offering a comprehensive suite of custom software development services, ranging from rapid MVP development to custom re-engineering, testing, and UX design.
With over 12 years of experience in the technology space, Wayne’s long-term vision for Basalt is to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots through technology – solving challenges not only within the financial space but also within the housing, water, sanitation, and education sectors, to name a few.
Start of the Dream
Wayne originally started off in the creative field, specialising in fine art, until he moved to the UK. Once there, he took on a client service and business development role in a digital marketing agency. And just like that, he was hooked. He loved being involved in the end-to-end development of each website, application, or solution he worked on.
Moving up and into an MD role in various digital marketing agencies in South Africa and the UK, his fascination with the development side of projects intensified. But he became aware of inefficiencies in the IT consulting space with unnecessary processes and blockers that slowed down projects and caused delays. Wayne wanted to build utilities that truly answered real-world problems for people and that would change people’s lives and behaviour, so he decided to start his own disruptive technology company. “There was a massive opportunity to revolutionise the financial services industry through technology, but the IT consultancy models out there were complicated, large, and badly structured to deliver. By aligning skilled, small autonomous teams around a central user goal, we were able to embed ourselves in our clients’ businesses and deliver software that answered to the end-user needs as well as delivered commercial success for the client,” says Zwiers.
Leaning Into Discomfort
Zwiers recognises that the road to success is often not smooth. “Things don’t happen overnight, and the entrepreneur journey certainly has its ups and downs, but I am lucky to have found a great team and some loyal clients that have supported me along my journey,” says Zwiers. This solutions-oriented mindset has served him well in life and in business and has been the driving force behind his success. He says that finding like-minded people with a shared purpose is the true challenge. Finding the right clients and team members and scaling a business effectively (whilst maintaining a strong culture) requires constant effort. Luckily, Wayne is surrounded by advisers and highly skilled people that give straight and direct feedback and are invested in growing the business and its people.
Defeating Old Ways with Tech
A guiding principle at Basalt is to identify time-consuming/onerous tasks and then remove human dependency through automation. The net result is improved efficiency. Basalt hires highly skilled engineers who find opportunities to improve how people work and build solutions to meet these needs. This ensures that Basalt builds intentional technology for the greater good, rather than building projects with minimal ROI or impact. Surprisingly, about 70% of digital transformation projects fail to deliver on business success due to inadequate planning, resourcing, and processes. Basalt focuses on the 30% of projects that succeed, with a proven process for delivery, on time, every time.
Ideology of Basalt
The Financial Services industry is still contending with legacy systems, red tape, regulations, and compliance – at the expense of innovation. Creating software is complex, and people often get it wrong. Due to unknowns, blockers, inexperience, and bad decisions, projects go way over budget and deadlines. There are a lot of software development companies out there, but where projects fail, it’s mainly due to a lack of communication and misalignment. Basalt hires highly specialised small teams that work autonomously to help their client deliver and remove blockers in the way.
Culture is What Really Matters
“Culture is like a shadow; it is dynamic and changes with time,” says Zwiers. Since Covid, businesses were forced to go fully remote, and Basalt was no exception. Thankfully, the company quickly shifted the business online with no downtime. However, the company faced challenges in creating a culture remotely. It is constantly working to ensure its team members are working seamlessly, taking mental breaks, and not becoming overloaded.
Learnings and Wise Words
In Wayne’s words, “Leadership is less about what you do at work and more about what you do when you are not at work. It requires constant investment in yourself to ensure you create an environment where people can thrive, develop and grow. No textbook can teach someone to build and run a successful startup. It’s a lot of internal strength and resilience to know how and when to pivot.
Building a successful company is not done by one person but by a collective of many great and talented individuals, working together in synchronicity to deliver on a shared vision. Business leaders of the future need to have a great Vision and make sure that all stakeholders buy into that vision.”
Bound to Changes
The technology landscape is constantly evolving. “We see many trends with RegTech becoming critically important, in terms of compliance and legalities around usage of personal data and security. As we evolve into AI, machine learning, open banking, and blockchain, we need to ensure innovative technologies meet compliance regulations, and it’s a constant balancing act,” says Zwiers. Basalt is currently building a Procure Tech solution to align institutions and suppliers through streamlined work processes regarding RFP and RFQ workflows, which involves a thorough understanding of all privacy legalities to automate the process for clients.
Another key change in the IT consultancy sector will be hiring and retention. There has always been a shortage of high-skilled talent around the globe, and the next innovations will be around effective talent sourcing and retention. Wayne and his team are seeing a multi-sourcing approach to ensure the best engineers are allocated to the projects, where collaborative projects with tech companies, banks, and consultants are becoming the norm.
Earned Respect in Society
Basalt has partnered with top banks and insurance companies in South Africa to build some of the most innovative solutions on the market, having been awarded accolades as African Tech company of the Year in 2020 and Top Tech CEO of the year in 2021. But ,Wayne and his team prefer to measure their success by the impactful technology they have built. Recently, Basalt worked on a project with one of the largest banks in South Africa that changed how small ‘unbanked’ business owners could make and track payments – all from their mobile phones, allowing them to save admin time and unnecessary costs and truly streamline their businesses. The Basalt team members fully immerse themselves into the client’s world, from understanding the core systems that the platform had to integrate with, to making educated decisions on the best possible way forward with respect to those integration patterns.
The organisation is also actively involved in NGO work. Its recent project with Book Village, an NGO focused on childhood education, is revolutionising how children learn through online content and democratising education. The online application assists learners with their reading challenges and difficulties by allowing students to access a large amount of digital content with the assistance of an online tutor. Basalt built a functional MVP for Book Village to take to market and get investors. The focus was to select a number of key features to be able to get a workable version out in a short period of time. Basalt is currently building out the application further, as Book Village successfully landed their investment.
As Zwiers says, “Technology can fundamentally change people’s lives for the better – and we are privileged to get to work on a variety of projects from grassroots to big investment and wealth management portals that significantly impact the end consumer.”
What’s in Store!
Taking the South African Talent learnings and successes, the company is scaling its business to the rest of the world and expanding further into the UK and Europe. EMEA is a mature Fintech market and benefits from the same time zone and language (native English) as South Africa, not to mention the exchange rates creates a cost-effective arbitrage model for European clients.