Creator of a translator app for our 11 official languages
Inspired to use mobile technology to keep differences in language and culture from becoming barriers, 27-year-old Glenn Stein created Aweza, the first translation app fluent in all 11 of SA's official languages. The app has a robust and ever-expanding database of about 400 common phrases crowdsourced from and verified by the app's community of registered users, who also provide, approve and rank audio files for pronunciation guidance.
What’s your favourite thing to do when you’re not working?
Music! I manage and play in a band called Los Tacos. I actually play in two other bands as well, so I'm a bit of a band slut.
What’s the next thing you’d like to tick off your bucket list?
It's an incredibly extensive list so it's a bit hard to choose, but I'd say that touring with one of my bands overseas sits very near to the top. Another one would be spending a year living in Colombia. I love the music, the people and the Spanish language.
What are the top 10 things on your wish list?
VERY loaded question! Here we go (in no particular order, because that would take me all day to decide):
1. A European passport.
2. A million AIR MILES on every airline loyalty program ever.
3. A sound proof music studio in my garage.
4. Real friends.
5. The ability to slow down time.
6. An elephant sanctuary.
7. Getting a large amount of funding for my company so that I could hire top talent, rent a beautiful office space and convert one of the rooms into a soundproof music studio/recreation room.
8. To go on a date with Salma Hayek.
9. To catch Mew.
10. World peace.
What’s one question you would ask the president?
Would you rather fight a horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?
How did you start doing what you do?
I learnt to code in high school and taught myself mobile application development on a whim. I wanted to build an app that was relevant to South African culture, and after having spent a year living in Argentina (my gap year after high school), I was fascinated with learning languages, as well as cultural barriers. So I decided to build a South African language translation app! One thing lead to the next, and four years later it's transformed from just an app side-project into an award-winning business with full-time employees.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs wanting to start a business?
1. Learn. Spend as much time as you can learning, because you never know enough. And on that note...
2. Pursue your passions because it is much easier to slave away at a goal when it's something you are passionate about.
3. Fail, and fail fast. Every journey has its bumps, and tripping over them is ok, in fact it's valuable – as long as you learn and learn fast.
4. Teamwork. In most situations we are not equipped to take on every aspect of running a business alone. It will probably end in disappointment and burnout. Find partners who share your vision, passion and are willing and able (and compatible) to walk the journey with you.
5. Find a mentor!
And bonus: keep your eyes and ears VERY focused on the market. Know what's going on, who's doing what and how it could affect you or present an opportunity. Business moves fast; you can blink and an opportunity has come and gone. Move swiftly and be comfortable in your decisions, the worst that can happen is you learn a valuable lesson.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Be okay with not being good at something, because it's the first step towards becoming alright at it.
Which words or phrases do you overuse?
'Dude', 'bro', 'man'. I say those things way too much.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I'd prefer my beard not to be so red.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Becoming fluent in Spanish, and founding Aweza.
What is your most treasured possession?
My Fender P-Bass.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to face in doing what you do?
Pooling together funds to make it sustainable. Raising capital is not an easy thing to acheive for South African entrepreneurs, so many a month has passed by where I was absolutely broke and miserable. There is never a time where it is more crucial to soldier on. It's taken almost four years to get to a point of sustainability.
What is your most marked characteristic?
My inability to control my bladder when I meet celebrities.
Which historical figure do you identify with the most?
Nikolai Tesler – The original Steve Jobs.
What is your biggest regret?
Downloading Pokemon Go.
When and where were you happiest?
On stage with my band at Rocking the Daisies in 2014, or standing up on the podium at the Netexplo Forum in Paris receiving an award for Aweza.
What causes you to lie?
Being shouted at by grown-ups.
What is your idea of complete happiness?
Being secure, being loved, being healthy, and feeling the purpose of life.