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Reflecting on 2023

Specno
February 21, 2024

New partnerships, awards, and ecosystem development – here’s what happened at Specno in 2023

2023 has come and gone, and, while there was just as much growth as in previous years, our half-decade year (yes, we turned 5!) was marked by a certain level of refinement – not just growing but also “growing up” as it were.

From startup 5 years ago to scale up by year 4, 2023 is perhaps the year we cemented Specno as a name you’re going to be hearing a lot of well into the future.

Here’s why…

We raised funding and partnered with QGroup

After five years of self-sustained growth, Specno has entered a strategic partnership with QGroup. This collaboration is a significant step in Specno's ambitious plan to expand into 100 cities over the next five years.

With a track record of investing in 36 agencies over the past decade, QGroup joins as a minority partner in Specno's South African branch, unlocking access to over 850 consultants and connecting Specno with industry giants like Facebook, Sony, and Spotify.

The deal opens doors to teams all over the world. Specno aims to leverage the partnership to tackle bigger projects in corporate innovation and venture building, offering new services to QGroup's clientele.

We turned 5 years old!

We celebrated its 5th anniversary, marking a significant milestone in our journey of tech innovation. The celebration included a birthday dinner at our office, reflecting on our journey and envisioning the future.

From bootstrapping to sustainable growth, and surviving the pandemic to achieving numerous business milestones, including raising capital, we decked out Specnites in awesome limited-edition T-shirts and remain focused on many more years of technological excellence and innovation.

We revised our values

Though Specnites have over the last five years played a vital role in cultivating a culture that reflects values and behavioural norms pivotal to our success, expanding into the global market meant evolving and redefining our core values to resonate with our new phase of growth and international presence:

  • Service Excellence: We strive to create a 5-star experience with every interaction – clients, team members, everyone!
  • Extreme Ownership: We empower every Specnite to take responsibility, make decisions, and even take actions that align with the company’s vision and values.
  • Courageously Ambitious: Specnites are encouraged to innovate, challenge norms, and strive for excellence, reflecting our dedication to continuous improvement and delivering pioneering solutions
  • Candid Collaboration: This value describes our belief in the power of teamwork and mutual support. It reflects a culture where Specnites can rely on one another to achieve collective success.

We won quite a few Awards

Modern Work Shaper Award 2023

Specno was honoured with the 'Modern Work Shaper' award, which highlights our commitment to revolutionary workplace initiatives, influencing not only our workflow but also inspiring other companies.

Our award-winning culture includes innovative work methods, complimentary in-house dining, wellness support, physical activity initiatives, flexible hours, and a hybrid work model – all contributing to our standout status in modern work dynamics.

Clutch Champion and Global Winner

Specno was named both a Clutch Champion and a Global winner, placing us in the top 10% of companies worldwide. This double accolade from Clutch is a testament to our team’s expertise and our unwavering commitment to quality, earning us global recognition for our exceptional work.

Forbes Africa's 30 Under 30 Recognition

Our Co-Founder, Jacques Jordaan, was named in Forbes Africa's 30 Under 30 for 2023, an incredible honour that underscores his significant contributions and leadership in the industry.

We partnered with amazing clients (and delivered 5-star service!)

We've had the incredible opportunity to collaborate with a range of leading brands, consistently delivering five-star service across various sectors. Among our noteworthy partnerships, we've worked with Ackermans, a prominent South African retail company, providing a significant UX/UI facelift to their website. This project, a testament to our expertise in digital transformation and design, resulted in a remarkable boost in overall conversions, underscoring the impact of our work.

Our client roster also includes PAXI & PEPCell, Spark UK, Momint, and Tiger Trucks, each representing different industries but unified in their quest for digital excellence. These partnerships highlight our versatility and ability to tailor our services to meet diverse client needs, always with a focus on innovation and user experience.

In addition to our client-focused projects, we've also embarked on a journey of self-improvement by redesigning our own website. This revamp is more than just a cosmetic change; it's a reflection of our commitment to staying ahead in the digital realm, embodying the very principles of innovation and cutting-edge design that we advocate and implement for our clients.

Our internal events

At Specno, fostering a robust workplace culture and team spirit is a top priority, and our series of "After Graft Draughts" events hosted by different departments have been a testament to this commitment. These events are not just about unwinding after work; they're a celebration of our creativity, camaraderie, and collective spirit.

  • Internal Team's 'Mad Hatters Tea Party’ with cake and all the extras.
  • Digital Product Team's 'Work from Home' theme saw everyone beer-tasting in pajamas and gowns.
  • UX/UI Design Team's 'Childhood Dream Career' theme saw Specnites dressed as their childhood dream professions, from pro surfers to wizards.
  • Development Team's 'Finals Edition' centred around the Rugby World Cup, complete with a pool table tournament. 

Department Events: Building Bonds Beyond Work

Our department events ranged from roller-skating and go-karting to paintball and artistic sessions at Clay Cafe. These events serve as both a reward for our team's hard work and a way to strengthen our bonds, reinforcing the tight-knit community we've built at Specno.

Annual Company Getaway: Reflecting and Bonding

Our annual company getaways are cherished moments of reflection and bonding. From our first modest gathering to the latest one at ATKV Goudini, each getaway has been an opportunity to celebrate our growth and unity. This year was particularly special as it marked our first bi-continental getaway, with Jacques Jordaan in South Africa and Daniel Novitzkas with our Netherlands team.

We gave back to our communities

Support for Salt NPO

This year, we asked our team which outreach causes are close to their hearts. The overwhelming response led us to select Salt, a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming lives through education, nutrition, and well-being. Our team rallied to collect essential sanitary items and groceries like macaroni, rice, and canned food for Salt’s school feeding program. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Salt NPO for their incredible work in bettering the lives of children and families.

Youth Day Celebration with The Homestead

In celebration of Youth Day, we were thrilled to welcome a group of teenagers from The Homestead to our office. This non-profit organization works tirelessly to provide services for street children. Our team introduced these young minds to the world of technology and software development, hoping to inspire them with the vast possibilities in this field. A special mention to our software developer, Marlon Demas, who shared his personal journey, and to The Homestead for their invaluable work in creating a nurturing environment for these teens.

Nelson Mandela Day: Sandwich Drive

Inspired by Nelson Mandela's words, we dedicated our efforts to support The Homestead's Nelson Mandela Day initiatives. We believe in their mission of empowering every child to thrive and achieve their potential. Our participation in the sandwich drive was a small yet significant step in contributing to a more inclusive and equitable world, embodying Mandela's enduring legacy.

Participation in Soup Kitchen with Ladles of Love

We joined hands with Ladles of Love, a non-profit focused on providing nutritious meals to underprivileged communities. Our team assisted in their soup kitchen, serving over 400 homeless individuals. This experience, vividly described in an article by our team member Paulos Tekle-Tsadik, highlighted life lessons on poverty, resilience, kindness, and the ever-turning wheel of life.

We had some awesome community events

Community Hike: Vhonani's Story

Our community hike turned out to be a transformative experience, especially for Vhonani Given Makhokha. Growing up in Thohoyandou and later moving to Gauteng, Vhonani hadn’t experienced a proper hike since high school. Initially hesitant, he joined our community hike up Lion's Head and discovered a newfound love for hiking. This led to regular weekend hikes with a growing group of friends, highlighting the positive impact on physical and mental health.

Founder's Den Events

Our Founder's Den events have been a roaring success, bringing together over 200 tech founders, investors, and corporate innovators. The energy and passion at these events have been inspirational, fostering meaningful connections that drive progress in the tech industry.

Founder’s Den 2

Founder’s Den 3

UX and Digital Product Events

In April we had our first Digital Product Event, which saw an incredible turnout and engaging discussions. This was followed in June by our UX/UI design event, attracting over 100 designers and tech enthusiasts for an evening of learning and inspiration. These events are part of our commitment to fostering knowledge-sharing and networking in the tech industry, with a focus on delivering educational value.

Product event

UX Design

Founder's Den Venture Series

Responding to the needs of founders, we've launched an online series covering critical aspects of the entrepreneurial journey, from idea validation to building a team. Our interactive webinars were designed to provide valuable insights and real-world examples, supporting founders at every stage of their venture.

SA Innovation Summit

Partnering with and participating in the SA Innovation Summit was a highlight for us. Daniel Novitzkas contributed valuable insights in discussions about funding and venture building, while Jacques Jordaan served as a judge in the Inventors Garage Competition. 

Not to mention our exciting exhibition space were Specno’s gourmet popcorn was an instant hit! Our team ensured engaging conversations and a welcoming atmosphere, proving to be an integral part of the summit's success.

Netherlands X South Africa Event

In collaboration with the Dutch Consulate General in Cape Town, Invest in Holland network (permanently represented in Cape Town by the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA) and Oost NL, we hosted an event to celebrate the "Dag van de Ondernemer," bringing together Dutch and South African entrepreneurs. 

This event was a celebration of global connections and the beginning of new relationships, highlighting our commitment to growth and international expansion.

We launched a newsletter

Every month, Specno 123 gives 3 super-practical insights to businesses at 3 different levels of growth: 1) Startup phase, 2) Growth phase, and 3) Scale and Sale phase. We must be doing something right because the newsletter has a staggering 49% open rate.

Curious? Sign up here.

Cheers to 2023 and hello 2024!

For more on what's coming up at Specno, see the tech-enabled future of retail, an in-depth case study on the Amazon omnichannel strategy and find creative ways to pay for your big innovation projects with these unique models for venture funding in retail.

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Specno Team