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Top 35 under 35 - Gerhard Visagie, Investment Director, Acorn Private Equity, 33

The road to success is not always an easy one, and this was true for Gerard Visagie, who failed his first attempts at both his third year BAcc and his Honours BAcc.

That said, Gerhard has a gift for perseverance. “When I was three years old, I was adamant that I would become a police dog,” he laughs. On a more serious note, from an early age he has believed that anything is possible.  

After completing his CA(SA) traineeship, Gerhard found employment in the private equity industry at Acorn Private Equity and it was here that he found his niche. At the age of 27, he was appointed as an EXCO member, and by the time he was 30, he was one of the youngest directors of a private equity firm in the country.

After just one year at the firm, Gerard had concluded his first private equity transaction, growing the value of the company from R16 million to R420 million in five and a half years. He has subsequently been involved in numerous other transactions, with the largest one worth R190 million.

In addition, Gerhard was one of a team of three executives who managed Acorn Fund 1, generating a gross return of 46% per annum, as well as founding Acorn Agri, which is an agricultural and food focused company with total assets of R950 million.

Despite his considerable financial success, Gerhard maintains that capital has a higher purpose than simply creating wealth. He believes that this purpose is to impact the world for good.

To this end, he has is passionate about the African continent where he hopes to make a positive impact. “I feel that my life’s purpose is to use my investment skills to generate superior returns and contribute a significant portion of the gains to fund social initiatives that will impact the world for good,” he says.

As such, his ultimate goal is to manage an Africa investment holding company with the enduring purpose of making a positive impact on the world. The plan is for the company to have R10 million of total assets and an investment track record in excess of 20% per annum. Moreover, it will own the most successful businesses in Africa and be listed on the JSE, donating millions each year towards the upliftment of society.

During his career, Gerhard has learned a number of invaluable lessons. The most important one, he says, is to trust in God and believe that nothing is impossible for Him. 

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