Successful former finance executive breaks new ground in engineering startup.
‘We’ve built the world’s brightest long-lasting flashlight.’
CIARAN RYAN: Today’s podcast is sponsored by Draftworx, which provides automated drafting and working-paper financial software to more than 8 000 accounting and auditing firms and corporations, and CFO Talks is a brand of the South African Institute of Business Accountants.
It’s my great pleasure today to welcome Christine Kruger, who left the corporate life to join a very interesting startup company called Clearbeam, which is headquartered in Hartebeespoort in the North West Province in South Africa. I suggest you head on over to clearbeam.co.za to see exactly what this company does. If you thought that flashlights were pretty well taken care of and there wasn’t much that could be done to improve on them, think again. Clearbeam has brought a whole new generation of flashlights of unbelievable power to the market with all sorts of applications from crowd control to outdoor events, border control and the like.
Christine spent many years as a finance executive with companies like Procter & Gamble, Deloitte Consulting and Ask Afrika, which is a marketing research company operating across Africa. But she gave all of that up in December 2020 because of her love for entrepreneurship when she invested in and joined Clearbeam Engineering.
In 2014 she had started a successful e-commerce business, but found herself stuck in the corporate world. It was then that Deloitte headhunted her in Tanzania. She is now using her corporate background and consulting experience to grow a small company into a global enterprise. Clearbeam’s products are engineered and designed in South Africa, manufactured in China and will be sold worldwide. She spends her mornings talking to Australia and then in the evening with America. Between all of that she fits in time with her children.
First of all, Christine, welcome. Where are you talking to us from today?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Ciaran, thank you so much for the invitation and the opportunity. I’m actually sitting, working from home in Pretoria, and my business partners are in Hartebeespoort are the engineers hard at work in Centurion.
CIARAN RYAN: Centurion is also in Pretoria. So you’re scattered all over the place, right? I had a look at the products that you developed at Clearbeam and looked at the website. There are a couple of videos there, and it’s pretty mind-blowing. Tell us about this company – how it came into being and what made you join it after so many years in the corporate mainstream?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Clearbeam Engineering was formed in 2016 by my business partner, Werner van der Westhuizen, with a great idea and a vision. By 2020 it had completed the design of its product, which I’ll tell you about a bit later. It was a great fit for me because at that exact point in time they were looking to expand and needed more hands on deck, and I got to invest early in a company that I believe has huge growth potential. And the best part is I get to help make it happen.
I’ve always had a love for making and selling things, even if it was just for my family. But then, after qualifying as a CA with Deloitte, I also found I liked working with big numbers and big companies. I’ve been lucky enough; I’ve changed roles and companies so much, which has always kept it interesting.
I spent nine years abroad, four years in Geneva and five years in Tanzania. At that point it would have been difficult to move my own company around with me, so corporate suited me for those years. But now I’ve settled back in South Africa for family reasons, and 2020 was absolutely the year for change. So I decided that, if there was ever a time to take the plunge and do something different, that was it. I just couldn’t let an opportunity like Clearbeam pass me by, and so I started there full-time in December.
CIARAN RYAN: Okay. Tell us about the growth of the company, what that’s been like. Startups usually battle for capital, particularly working capital, while you’re growing the business. So how do you manage that?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: You are right, of course, Ciaran. Capital is always the biggest headache for startups. We’re a small startup but a very global business model, as you described. We manufacture in China, doing a crowdfunding campaign
in the US. There the techies are keen to pre-order the latest gadgets, just to be able to say they had one of the first ones. So it’s not equity funding as it’s more popular with angel investors here in South Africa, but rather it’s pre-sales of your product. That pays for the manufacture and the shipping and the setting up of your operations.
The reason we’ve struggled here is because South African investors aren’t always familiar with that model, and US investors are more likely to invest in US-owned companies. So what we did is we actually registered
in Delaware in the US. That state is very friendly to non-resident companies. We also refined our financing needs to make sure that we only raise what we need, when we need it. So the current funding is for a relatively small amount. After the campaign we can use that as a proof of concept, and raise another round of seed capital.
Very innovative funding alternatives have recently hit the market
There are actually these very innovative funding alternatives that have recently hit the market. We are in talks with a financing company in the US that only works with companies running crowdfunding campaigns on the Indiegogo platform. How it works is, once you’ve hit quite a low threshold in your campaign they actually advance
you capital. You can then use that for ad spending to further increase the reach of your campaign, and also for starting manufacture of your product. So you don’t have to wait the customary 30 days post-campaign to get the money. All of these alternatives help startups like ourselves to raise the working capital that we need to grow.
CIARAN RYAN: All right. There’s was just a little bit of a pause there when you were saying that when you hit a threshold they advance you capital. The other one was that you registered the company – and I didn’t quite get the state that you registered it in.
CHRISTINE KRUGER: We registered in Delaware. [Audio loss] The state is very friendly to non-resident companies. That was, to enable us to get foreign investors we realised we needed to have an operation set up in the US as well. And the funding – after you’ve reached a very small campaign level, they already advance you some funds so that you don’t have to wait the 30 days. These are just new and different alternative funding mechanisms that are helping startups like ourselves to raise working capital.
CIARAN RYAN: So they were obviously quite impressed with the technology and the type of product that you were offering – and they go through, I imagine, thousands and thousands of different applications and they settled on you and they liked what you had to offer. Is that how it went?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Yes. We are working with our marketing agency in the US, and they are helping us to prepare all our campaign assets, they are coordinating the public relations efforts, and they’ve told us that they see our product as the next unicorn project for the agency. And you’re right, they see thousands of these projects coming across their path every day.
I want to tell you a little about the product, to say why they’re so excited about it. We’ve built the world’s brightest long-lasting flashlight, which can supply industries like security, defence, emergency services, mining, or even safari and outdoor recreation with a practical light source. Our product shines with 41 000 lumens for 30 minutes. This is only possible because of its custom-designed and patented liquid and air cooling system. To put this in perspective quickly, what is 41 000 lumens? The flashlight on your cellphone is around 50 to 80 lumens. If you go to a store and you’re going to buy any of the majority of bright flashlights, they are under 2 000 lumens, because above 6 000 lumens that are emitted it can become so dangerous.
There are other products on the market that go even up to a 100 000 lumens, but they can sometimes shine for only a few seconds sometimes, or even a maximum of five minutes on that high setting. We have effectively combined the ultrabright 41 000 lumens with a battery runtime of 30 minutes, and that’s just on its highest setting. That’s what makes it special for us. It’s only possible because of our [unclear] cooling system.
CIARAN RYAN: And it is patented, right?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Yes. We’ve actually lodged our patent in the US. At this stage it’s still patent pending, of course. But, because of the global market that we are targeting, we thought that it was the best place to apply for our patent.
CIARAN RYAN: What also fascinated me was the fact that you have to liquid-cool this thing. It obviously gets so hot that it needs a special cooling system.
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Yes. It’s the combination of a liquid and an air-cooling system. But the whole design is very intelligent. The battery use is prioritised to where it’s used. So if you are going to be using it in snowy conditions and it’s not heating up the heat, the cooling system won’t actually engage, which will give you even longer-lasting light on your flashlight. So it’s about an intelligent self-monitoring design. It only switches on the cooling when it’s needed.
CIARAN RYAN: Okay. And what has been the response from the global market to your product range?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Well, at this point everyone that we’ve spoken to – from investors to our marketing agency – is super-excited because they know there is nothing else like this on the market.
We are launching first in the US and secondly in Europe. Then we’ll go to Australia and New Zealand, and finally Asia. From the beginning we’ll also focus on Africa, but mostly from a B2B perspective, because there are very big industrial applications for this product.
CIARAN RYAN: So this is really the year of the launch, 2021. Tell us about your career path and where you grew up, went to school, and your time in Tanzania. You also mentioned that you were in Geneva. You were abroad for nine years, and eventually how you have ended up here.
‘You should never underestimate the importance of good academic results’
CHRISTINE KRUGER: I grew up in Pretoria. I was a good little Girls’ High girl, and I studied for my CA at the University of Pretoria. Then, after I completed my MBA in 2008, I updated my CV and set out looking for adventure.
I spent four weeks visiting some major cities in Europe, with my CV under my arm. My advice to anyone looking for a similar opportunity is that you should never underestimate the importance of good academic results. I was fortunate enough to finish my MBA at the top of the class, and that made me highly employable, I guess, is the best way to put it.
Before I’d finished my tour I’d been offered a position at Procter & Gamble’s international head office in Geneva. So I came back to South Africa, packed up and left for the very green pastures of Switzerland, where I spent four years. What a magical place. Then my husband at the time was transferred to his company’s operations in Tanzania, and we decided to grab the opportunity and experience some more of Africa. That led me into entrepreneurship again.
‘There’s no reason to be bored if you working in the world of finance’
Then I [joined – audio loss] a banking corporate. I guess the one reason I would highly recommend a career in finance to the youth of today, especially a professional qualification like a CA, because it literally opens up a world of opportunities. I’ve worked across many industries, companies and countries, and I’ve never done the same job twice, because there’s no reason to be bored if you working in the world of finance.
CIARAN RYAN: Just to clarify something, where did you do your MBA?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: I was still in Pretoria. I did it through the Graduate School of Management, in the last year that Tukkies [University of Pretoria] offered the MBA before it went to Gibs.
CIARAN RYAN: I see. Did I hear you correctly that you actually went abroad basically on a vacation with your CV, and you were just touting your CV around overseas, and that’s how you found the job at Procter & Gamble?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Absolutely. I literally had my CV, a couple of hard copies of my CV. In those days we still used discs. I was travelling around Europe and would hit a city, look at which big companies were operating there, and start applying – and was lucky. It’s just easier to be interviewed if you’re in the right place at the right time. I was fortunate enough to be noticed and got the job and loved it. Haven’t looked back.
CIARAN RYAN: Wow. Okay. So from Geneva – four years there – just take us forward from that point.
CHRISTINE KRUGER: At that point my husband at the time was offered a transfer to Tanzania and we decided to grab the opportunity. When I arrived in Tanzania I didn’t have a work permit and that’s when I started my own entrepreneurial e-commerce business. But while in Tanzania, and while running that, I was head-hunted again by Deloitte to join a very exciting project working on HIV care and Aids treatment in Tanzania. I decided to take that opportunity again.
CIARAN RYAN: Oh, okay. So you joined Deloitte Consulting in Tanzania, heading up the project there?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Yes. But I’ve been back in South Africa since 2016.
CIARAN RYAN: All right. What have you been doing since 2016?
‘I’ve rediscovered my love of entrepreneurship’
CHRISTINE KRUGER: I was still with Deloitte, spent some time here in Deloitte Business Process Solutions, and then I joined Ask Afrika. The rest is history, as I’ve now rediscovered my love of entrepreneurship.
CIARAN RYAN: Okay. It’s kind of where you felt you always wanted to be?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Sometimes it feels like life comes full circle and brings you back to where you were supposed to be a long time ago.
CIARAN RYAN: You’ve got a lot of international experience at the very top level of finance. How does that help in achieving the business goals of Clearbeam? Clearly you’ve invested in it and you’re also a senior executive in the company. For example, you’ve mentioned Indiegogo and these very interesting and innovative ways of raising money for the bright ideas. Was that something that you were able to bring to the table here?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Throughout my whole career I’ve believed that finance can only function if you operate as a business partner. You have to work closely with the business. Right from the start of my career, when I was an audit clerk, my favourite part was always the tour of the client’s operations and doing the stock counts, because that’s where you could really see what makes businesses tick. You have to get your hands dirty, as they say, and go into the detail. As a CA you’re taught to very quickly understand a new client and a new industry, then to be able to identify potential gaps and areas for improvement. All of that background has helped me to hit the ground running at Clearbeam.
‘There’s always a solution and a smart way of doing something’
Also, my background in consulting and business process solutions, where you’re looking at smarter ways of looking at business processes, helps me every day. I’m the first one to readily admit that I don’t always have the answers, but I’ve a wide network of experts that I can call on. I know how to do my research and my homework. My finance experience has really been that it’s ingrained in me that there’s always a solution and a smart way of doing something. Luckily enough I’m working with an amazing team at Clearbeam, and we all have the same philosophy. We all have our areas of expertise and then ultimately responsibility, but we rely heavily on each other, as a well-functioning board would do in a larger organisation, because together we can just achieve so much more than if we just work in silos. So my background in corporate and as a finance executive has absolutely been the best thing for me to now help a smaller company start to grow into a global business.
CIARAN RYAN: Okay. On the issue of your time in Tanzania, how was that? Did you enjoy what you were doing there, because it seems to have been something different, not really finance-related, because you were doing a project related to HIV? How was that period?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: It was one of the most fascinating and rewarding times in my life, I can tell you honestly. It was still as the director of finance and grants. It was on a USAID-funded project in Tanzania that Deloitte consulting was running, and it was for HIV care and treatment throughout rural areas in Tanzania – a five-year project. It was incredibly rewarding because of the opportunity to learn so much more about HIV care and treatment, and to work on a programme where the goal of finance was to enable every dollar spent to have the maximum impact, to say which clinics and which kinds of treatments should be given, so that each dollar coming from USAID would have reached the maximum impact on people’s lives and actually improve the lives of people living with HIV. That was incredibly rewarding and it was just such an opportunity. It wasn’t necessarily a pure finance role, but it was personally and professionally rewarding for me.
CIARAN RYAN: And were you based in Dar es Salaam at that time?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Yes, we were based in Dar es Salaam.
CIARAN RYAN: Did you get to travel around the country?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Yes. Tanzania is a beautiful country. Dar es Salaam is really a city of two worlds. Zanzibar is of course very close, but we also got to experience a lot of Serengeti, and even lots of travelling to Kenya. I made the most of it. I’ve always believed that wherever you are, make the most of it, see the world. It was such an incredible opportunity.
CIARAN RYAN: Did you like Zanzibar?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Who doesn’t?
CIARAN RYAN: What was the biggest challenge you faced in your career as a senior finance executive? Some people battle with different things – it could be team management, it could be that you are all of a sudden hit with an emergency that needs solving very quickly. What in your case would you say was that challenge?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: I think my biggest challenge was related to what we’ve just been talking about. It was actually that time in Tanzania when my career was almost taken away from me. When we moved from Switzerland to Tanzania, it was very difficult to get a work permit, and suddenly I had to find a new way of defining myself. I’d been a career-driven finance executive, I’d been climbing the [corporate ladder?] . I was stranded, but it turned out to be life-changing experience for me, because I’m not one to sit at home.
So then I volunteered at some local charities, helping them out, using my finance skills, helping them in treasury roles, and then eventually started my own e-commerce venture that I told you about. It was called Afridazzle, and I was sourcing handmade African home-wear jewellery and accessories, mostly from Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa, and I was shipping these all over the world.
CIARAN RYAN: How did that go?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: I had the best time there because it was such a learning curve. I did it all on my own, from the website design to the actual photography of the products for the e-commerce site, to negotiating with suppliers, fulfilling the orders. It was an incredibly creative time in my life, and that’s really when I rediscovered my love for entrepreneurship. But I’ll admit I couldn’t resist it when I was head-hunted again by Deloitte, and they got me my precious work permit. But that was also a challenging decision for me.
‘Every experience that we have is a building block towards who we are becoming’
In the end, I think every experience that we have is a building block towards who we are becoming. And we’re always only becoming. So I don’t regret any of the decisions or the roles in my very varied career. Each one has brought me that step closer to where I am now, and it’s just about embracing each new step and each new challenge as a learning opportunity.
CIARAN RYAN: Okay. Now you’re back in South Africa, and you have been for a few years. Is this kind of where you envisage that you will see out your career, or do you see that you might have to move abroad at some point again with Clearbeam?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Well, the beauty of it is I think this is something that we can work from anywhere. So I’m very happily settled back here for family reasons. As I said, I spend my day – in the mornings we talk to Australia, in the evenings we talk to America, and in the middle we get the actual work done. So it’s just so thrilling to know that we are talking with everybody all over the world here from South Africa.
CIARAN RYAN: Okay, let’s talk about the role of the CFO or the senior finance executive. You’ve got some experience with this – and some international experience of this. How have you seen that change over the years? There’s a lot of demand. There’s a lot of regulatory demand, there are a lot of compliance issues that are confronting the CFO of today. Do you see that there are more pressures on them than there were in the past?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Yes, absolutely. The roles of finance executives we have had to evolve, as technology has created a lot of opportunities. The trick lies in selecting the right systems, and you have to get user buy-in from all levels in the organisation. We tend to rely heavily on systems controls and, if systems then are not used properly or they’re overridden, there’s a lot that can go wrong.
So I think one thing that’s changed is that the finance team needs to be very IT-driven too, and then they must use their role as business enablers. You have to choose systems together with all the users in the organisation so that all needs are met.
I think Covid has obviously also changed the CFO role. What I’ve found is there it’s a lot more about scenario planning, because none of us really knows what is going to happen. So it’s about a bigger focus on cost control, how to stay lean so that you can protect your margins even if the worst-case scenario does come to pass.
Obviously managing remote teams is another challenge, but that’s not only for finance. Then what I’ve found specifically is how to find new ways of automating previous manual sign-offs and authorisations, because now that everybody isn’t always in the same office at the same time you need to find innovative ways of dealing with this.
‘I think that the role of the CFO is much more challenging than in the past’
So yes, I think that the role of the CFO is much more challenging than in the past. But I also see it as more rewarding, because finance is working with the highest levels of organisations, and one has to be involved in driving strategy, being a steward of all the company’s assets and driving change – and then just keeping the wheels running. So it’s really a matter of trying to find that balance between the day-to-day running of the finance, and the long-term strategy and change.
CIARAN RYAN: Now you’re in a startup company, a very different environment to what you are used to operate in. You are a CEO, you have an MBA. Do you find that you get taken a little bit more seriously if you come with academic qualifications? You’ve already mentioned the importance of doing well academically and really putting a lot of focus on that, but now you’re approaching investors overseas. They want to know who the people behind this are. “Oh, I see we’ve got somebody who’s got a CA and an MBA” – does that make a difference?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: It does. And with all the venture-capital companies that we’ve been talking to, a lot of their focus is actually on the experience of your team. But I must say that they’re not driven only by academic experience. That does count, especially in the finance role; they want to know that ……
is looking after the governance and the finances, but ultimately they’re looking for industry experience.
My business partner in Clearbeam had a previous business, also in the flashlight industry – so that also sets us up for success. That’s about proving that you know what’s happening in your industry, and then having some of the qualifications to back it up.
For us, obviously our engineering qualifications [are important] and we need to have the right experts in our electronic and mechanical engineering as well.
CIARAN RYAN: So Werner – does he come from this industry already?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Yes.
CIARAN RYAN: Had he developed products in this business before? Has he had other patents?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Werner was involved in the Jexree SA business in South Africa, which also had flashlights imported from China. That’s where he actually identified the gap in the market. He has built this incredible team of engineers around him, where we’ve got good experts in specifically the lighting industry, as well as in LED engineering design. So we’ve really gathered the right team around us. That’s what we’ve found the venture capital funders are very interested in.
CIARAN RYAN: Right. I guess these flashlights are battery-driven. Is that right?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Yes, they are battery driven. The majority of flashlights out there are using one standard form of battery, but we custom-designed our own battery pack because there are two tricks that you’re sitting with; if you want a very ultra-bright but long-lasting flashlight you need to have a good battery and you need to be able to control the heat. Those are the two key factors. So we’ve got the patented cooling system and then we’ve also got our custom-designed batteries.
CIARAN RYAN: There’s a lot of work going into battery development on its own. I’m sure you’re probably looking at applications for that battery outside what you’re doing. Are you?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Exactly. Our business model is that we would like to have a new product launched every six months. It’s about continued research and development, continued research into what is needed out there in industry – obviously both in the lighting aspect and then batteries is a different [area] we can branch out into.
CIARAN RYAN: Here’s a challenge for you. I’ve just been discussing this. People in South Africa will know this, but people outside might not – we have power cuts. The problem a lot of people are facing is these are becoming so regular. Do I invest in a solar power system which can be a couple of hundred thousand rand, or are there cheaper solutions like, let’s say, just for your desktop computer – just to keep that running for an hour or two? I know there are solutions out there, but nobody’s really kind of cracked that, in my mind. I’m sure Werner could apply his mind to it and come up with a great solution. Could he?
‘The light is also bright enough to light up a rural clinic for an entire night’
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Absolutely. You talk about power cuts and load shedding, but there are also lots of rural areas that have no access to the grid at all. At the moment we are focusing on the lighting side for that. The interesting part is I’ve spoken a lot about the ultra-brights being able to shine for 30 minutes, but in our flashlight the user actually controls the output. So you could put it on a lower setting, and our lowest setting battery life runs for more than seven days. I’m talking 170 hours plus. So, if you picture a situation like a tornado or a hurricane or a building collapse, and someone has a light source in there, they can just keep it at that very low level of light, but for seven days; that can also be a life-saving product. This light is also bright enough to light up a rural clinic for an entire night. There are also some solar-charging options that we are working on at the moment, so there are a lot of applications.
CIARAN RYAN: Wow, okay. I look forward to following your progress. I really do. I think you are onto something. I think that this thing is going to explode.
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Great to hear.
CIARAN RYAN: I just wanted to ask a couple of accounting-type questions before we wrap up here. Going back to your experience that you have operating at these top levels and working in Tanzania and places like that, are there some things that you learn only through experience and hard knocks, things that are not taught in accounting schools?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Yes, absolutely. That’s been my total experience. Accounting schools provide a very good basis, and technical knowledge is always important. But the real lessons, I think, are learnt in the front lines, when you deal with clients and your team. [Audio loss] You need to build your solid relationships based on trust with your leaders, your peers and your colleagues. The foundation of trust is going to be that first you need to know how to do your job. So that technical knowledge is important.
But then you need to really gain that traction with your team and motivate them and help them to work together, because working in finance can be very stressful. I’ve always said that that’s no reason not to have fun at work. So I’ve always found that if you can laugh about stressful situations, and if you’re willing to look for the positive side, that can work wonders for bringing out the best in your team. Then everybody works together, ready to tackle the challenges head-on, and that just results in better results for everybody.
CIARAN RYAN: Right. There’s been a lot of research going into what is expected of the CFO. A lot of academic papers have been written on this. The South African Institute of Business Accountants has a designation, CFO, or Certified Financial Officer SA, which is basically a recognition of these gaps and these competencies that you acquire along the way that are not necessarily learnt through an academic school. Those would be things like strategy and team management, human resources – and communication, which is a vital skill so often overlooked than sometimes the softer skills. Don’t you find that it’s often these things that you’re not really going to be taught, such as how you communicate, how you take a very complex subject and break it down so that the guy on the factory floor can understand this. Is that your experience?
‘One of the key things is about being able to tell the story behind the numbers’
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Yes, because you have not only to be able to break it down for that guy on the factory floor, you also need to be able to communicate on a completely different level with your stakeholders, with your shareholders. It’s also a very different message when you’re talking to your funders. So communication is actually the key, and I think it’s both written and verbal communication. One of the key things is about being able to tell the story behind the numbers. That, I think, is one of the key skills for a CFO.
CIARAN RYAN: Right. Tell us what you do in your down time, on your weekends.
CHRISTINE KRUGER: I love going on adventures with my two beautiful children, and I recently started mountain biking. I find that spending time being active in nature is the best natural stress reliever there is. So that’s what I do.
CIARAN RYAN: Where do you do that? Do you travel out of the city, go to a mountain somewhere?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Around where I stay in Pretoria there are some beautiful mountain-biking trails, some good hills. Anybody who thinks that Pretoria is flat has never got on a bicycle. There are stunning places within riding distance from where I live.
CIARAN RYAN: I haven’t done mountain biking. Is it tough?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: I’d like to brag and say of course it’s tough. No, it’s just fun. I think that it’s a sport that you can do at any level, so I really enjoy it. It’s very sociable also, stopping for coffee breaks along the way and a beer at the end or so. Always good fun.
CIARAN RYAN: When you go on a mountain biking ride, is it a day-long thing or is it just for a few hours, or can you choose however long you want to do it?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: You can choose however long you want to do it. It depends on whether you want just a quick training session or a long ride. But it’s nice to spend a couple of hours on a Saturday or a Sunday morning with a group of friends, going out for a ride, stopping somewhere for a coffee, and riding some more. It’s incredibly sociable and just so relaxing.
CIARAN RYAN: Is this something that you started recently, like during Covid?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Yes, actually this year it really started. I’ve always believed in a bit of good, healthy exercise. I used to just be a runner, and then discovered a love of mountain biking as well.
CIARAN RYAN: Okay. Do your children do it as well?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Yes, my children are 10 and 7. I actually took them this weekend and we went out to Centurion, loaded the bikes in the car, and we spent a gorgeous morning cycling through the forest and had a wonderful breakfast afterwards. Good quality family time.
CIARAN RYAN: Nice. Okay. A great discussion, Christine. A final question – any books that you would recommend?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: I do so much reading and research about entrepreneurship and funding and the LED markets during the day that at night I actually love to relax and unwind with good fiction.
My favourite author is probably Jodi Picoult and I also enjoy Bill Bryson. I think it’s because they resonate with me because both of these authors put an incredible amount of research into their books, and you can learn so much about new topics while just unwinding with a good story.
CIARAN RYAN: Right. Bill Bryson – you’ve read what? Every book he’s brought out type of thing?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: I’m working through the pile is the best way to describe it. At the moment I’m busy with A Brief History of Time. I wish I could absorb all the facts as I go along, but it’s just interesting to see how far the human race has come.
CIARAN RYAN: He’s very light and very funny, right?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: He is, yes. He has a beautiful writing style.
CIARAN RYAN: Okay. So reading is for relaxation in the evening time. Otherwise it’s entrepreneurship and things that will help you in your career.
CHRISTINE KRUGER: And learning about all new crowd-funding options and financing and how to do things differently as our world of business evolves.
CIARAN RYAN: Okay, Christine, I thoroughly enjoyed that. That was fantastic. I’m really glad you came on. A very, very interesting story, and I just wish you the very best. This Clearbeam thing has got to be a winner, and I really urge people listening to this to go and check it out. These products are quite amazing. We’re talking about a system that has to have its own cooling system, but it has applications where, as Christine was saying, for seven days at a low setting you could have light that is not connected to a power source. This is definitely going to change the way we look at flashlights, and are all sorts of applications I’m sure are going to come out of that.
What I’m really keen to also find out is if you can come up with a system for running a computer battery for a few hours if the power goes down. In South Africa that would certainly be a winner. What do you think, Christine?
CHRISTINE KRUGER: I going to take that straight back to the engineers, and we’ll start cracking on it immediately.
CIARAN RYAN: Well, you better keep me posted on that because I’m going to buy one.
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Will do. Thank you so much, Ciaran and, please, if you’re interested you can sign up on the website for availability and they will be sending out news as soon as the launch happens.
CIARAN RYAN: Okay. Super stuff. Thank you so much for coming on, Christine. A wonderful story. That was Christine Kruger, who is an investor and senior finance executive now at a company called Clearbeam Engineering. What a wonderful story.
CHRISTINE KRUGER: Thank you for the time, Ciaran. It was amazing. Have a great day.
CIARAN RYAN: You too, Christine. Bye-bye.