Leadership Spotlight – Ryan Ravens, CEO Accelerate Cape Town

December 8, 2015
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On 1 September 2015, Ryan Ravens joined Accelerate Cape Town as our new CEO. Ryan has an interesting fusion of experience with an extensive entrepreneurial background – having founded a number of companies, but also having some key experience as the lead project manager for the FIFA 2010 World Cup, and a strategic role at Blue IQ Investment Holdings which became the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency.

Ryan is originally from Cape Town and, growing up on the turbulent Cape Flats during Apartheid, was politically militant and caught up in the violence of the struggle. However a key turning point came when Nelson Mandela gave his speech on the Grand Parade in 1991, calling for an end to the bloodshed and imploring cadres to pursue education instead, when he said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”  Ryan heeded the call and embarked on a lifelong quest to obtain the best education possible and currently holds three degrees including an MBA from UCT, as well as numerous internationally recognised certifications. Ryan says: ‘My education has unlocked opportunities around the world and this experience has built the person that I am today’.

Ryan has spent most of his career working in all the major South African cities, as well as diverse international locations from Shanghai to Lagos, and had significant stints in Johannesburg and Zurich before returning to the Cape.

He joined FIFA after his management consultancy was contracted in 2006 to develop the Masterplan for the delivery of World Cup 2010. As FIFA had never organised a World Cup in a developing country before, they wanted a more significant on-the-ground presence and appointed Ryan to assist with the oversight of project delivery. Ryan is proud that 2010 is widely considered to be the most successful World Cup ever held. He said that ‘it had the highest TV rights sales of €1.6 billion, but was also successful in terms of scale and quality standards of associated live productions. It needed to be awesome not in spite of being African, but because it was African!’ Ryan added that ‘the World Cup was a catalyst to fast-track infrastructure development, and seeing everyone pull together to ensure that South Africa hosted a successful World Cup was testament to what can be achieved with collective commitment and effort’. To understand the scale of the event, the project cost R40 million per day, 7 days a week for 4 years! When asked whether he could divulge who the FBI co-conspirators 15 and 16 are, Ryan laughed and said ‘maybe, but you’ll have to wait for my book’.

Ryan’s Gauteng Growth and Development Agency (GGDA) experience is valuable for his understanding of working with government at all levels and driving large infrastructure projects. GGDA (formerly BlueIQ) conceptualised and operationalised a number of key projects such as the Automotive Industrial Development Centre, Supplier Park Development Company, Newtown, Nelson Mandela Bridge, Gautrain, and The Innovation Hub, amongst others. Ryan is complimentary about regional and local government in Cape Town and says: ‘there’s an openness from government in the Western Cape to listen and collaborate with business. This bodes well for our role at Accelerate Cape Town where we plan to amplify the voice of business by acting as the conduit for private sector involvement on significant projects in the city region’. Ryan is looking forward to stimulating business collaboration to collectively impact on the regional economy.

Ryan is very happy being back in our beautiful city. With our amazing outdoor lifestyle and gastronomic culture, he will be in his element given his interest in hiking, photography, fly fishing, and fine dining.

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