Seeking the world’s new artificial intelligence gorilla – maybe born in the RSA?

We should all be blessed with friends like my pal Stafford Masie. Energetic, enthusiastic and hugely knowledgeable, on a scale of smartness he’s the only one of my pals whose intellect is in the same league as Simon Marais, the late chairman of Allan Gray. Stafford is deeply plugged into the tech world, a great advantage for his friends as he willingly helps the rest of us understand the big trends shaping the world.

Our breakfast was a celebration of sorts. Stafford’s most recent venture, the multibillion mobile payments product Thumbzup, is a huge success with its Absa relationship expanded to now include clients like Mr Price and even Uber. After a substantial investment from Visa my pal has at last been able to take the foot off the accelerator. Which is good news for me, as we were able to spend a rare couple of relaxing, thoughtful hours together yesterday.

Too many takeaways to list. But the thing which stays with me is his assertion that South Africa is full of entrepreneurial talent, rough diamonds that with a bit of polish are sure to become world beaters. He has proved the point with Thumbzup while the Paddock brothers of Cape Town did likewise with their recent $133m sale of edutech business Getsmarter to Nasdaq-listed 2U. The next big global winner, Stafford reckons, will be the company that becomes the gorilla in artificial intelligence. With all that talent around, who says it won’t be born in the RSA?