26 April 2023 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Supplied
Marlize Holtzhausen
Marlize Holtzhausen, Group CEO of Response24, says prioritising clients’ needs and leveraging successes has enabled her company to build a strong brand and continue to expand its reach in the market.

After a traumatic event with a family member at her side Marlize Holtzhausen, University of the Free State alumna and Group CEO of Response24, used her 15 years of knowledge and experience in the mobile technology industry and created a mobile panic button using cellphone technology that could quickly communicate who was in trouble, the type of help needed, and the precise location of the incident. 

That was in 2014, when Response24 released the first mobile panic app, which won a Google award for the highest social impact and being most innovative. 

Although the app gave persons in danger who needed help a voice, a common global problem of providing consistently good response times in emergencies was identified. 

“In solving this problem, I invented the Response24 response platform, a Software as a Service (SaaS) structure that allows for the management, monitoring, and enablement of services from any location at any time,” says Holtzhausen, who wanted to make a meaningful impact at every aspect of the alert value chain – from the earliest entry point of an incident to the very end.

She explains that the platform connects all response resources with real-time visibility, ensuring the highest level of service delivery possible. This game-changing solution resulted in multiple global license agreements, and Response24 is currently registered in 35 countries, including the USA and Canada.

Conquering obstacles

Although Holtzhausen celebrates the successes of Response24, she admits that it was not always smooth sailing, and that she had to overcome a number of challenges. 

She says in the early days of Response24 it was challenging to be taken seriously in a market dominated by industry giants. However, their unique solution helped in identifying market gaps, leading them to concentrate on bridging some of these gaps through their platform.

“To compete against established competitors, we prioritised delivering our solution with utmost speed, which became our competitive edge in the beginning. We worked with industry experts at first, but decided to go our own way to achieve our goals. By reducing our dependence on other systems by 90%, we eliminated the need to rely on our competition. This strategy paid off and gave us a significant market advantage, allowing us to establish ourselves as a key player in the industry,” she says.

Even though it faced fierce opposition in every stage of its business, the company remained focused on enhancing its clients’ core business. “We understood that our success would be based on providing our customers with a solution that addressed their needs and exceeded their expectations. In staying committed to this approach, we were able to overcome the opposition we faced and establish ourselves as a valuable partner to our clients.”

She adds that, as a woman in the male-dominated safety and security world, she never wanted to be just “one of the men”, but rather to add unique value that commands respect for what her company does, and assists in achieving higher and consistent performance. “I aimed to establish myself as a valuable team member, driving positive change through collaboration and mutual respect.”

Broadening market presence

Hard work and a commitment to saving lives paid off, and Holtzhausen garnered greater recognition after winning two international competitions. These victories, and engaging with clients and building relationships with key stakeholders in the industry, helped her to establish a strong reputation for her company, and gave her the platform to launch Response 24. “From there our focus was on consistently delivering high value to our clients, so that they would speak on our behalf and assist in our growth,” she says.

“By prioritising our clients’ needs and leveraging our successes, we have been able to build a strong brand and continue to expand our reach in the market.” 

Holtzhausen is particularly proud of three accomplishments along the way to building the Response24 brand. “Firstly, we introduced a new way of response that is now globally accepted as the best way to manage response within the security and emergency industry. This has been a game-changer for the industry, and we are proud to have been pioneers in this field.”

Secondly, she believes that Response24’s ability to combine different solutions as unique and new to the market has made a meaningful difference. “Our platform has been able to bring together various technologies and services to create a comprehensive solution that is both effective and efficient.”

The third big accomplishment is closest to her heart, though: being able to secure the income of 16 families through very tough times and against heavy odds. “Keeping all our staff and surviving as a team during challenging times is probably our biggest achievement,” she states.

Advice for future entrepreneurs and inventors

Her advice to women inventors and entrepreneurs is to stay true to their values and build something impactful. “This is what will give you the motivation and fuel to keep going when things get tough.” She also encourages them to be aware of costs upfront, and to take into account that investing their all is crucial for achieving success.

Holtzhausen also believes that vision is non-negotiable, and recommends finding people who share your vision, even if they don’t always agree with you. She also advises that one should be prepared to fail fast, and get over the failure quickly. “And embrace conflict, as business is a battleground and moving forward requires negotiation skills.” 

Most important to her is that you should believe in yourself. “At times, you will be the only one in your corner, so having confidence in yourself and your abilities is crucial to success,” she concludes. 

Believing and staying motivated, energised, and focused on your goals is crucial in achieving one’s vision, says inventor and creative Marlize Holtzhausen. She shares a few pointers on what keeps her motivated: - consistent effort and discipline; - focusing on finishing three critical tasks a day – this will help to acquire a sense of achievement and show daily progress; - setting aside time for personal development activities such as prayer or listening to a leadership or strategy book each week; - physical exercise; - taking a break from your thoughts; and - doing activities that take your mind off work for at least an hour, at least three times a week.

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