Deon Retief – Founder of Silverback

[quote style=”boxed”]Traveling, reading, observing and asking questions is the start. The process of ideation can begin with a sketch, a spreadsheet or a graphical chart. I share my ideas with my product team, ask outsiders for comments and conduct qualitative research. The conceptualization period is formalized with feasibility studies, finance mapping and prototype planning.[/quote]

In 2004 the Silverback brand was founded by Deon Retief, an entrepreneur, visionary and strategist. He has more than 22 years of experience in the bicycle industry, has conducted extensive brand studies worldwide (more than 300 brands) and has visited more than 400 independent bicycle dealers and sports retailers in more than 45 countries. Deon was born in Cape Town, South Africa and earned a degree in marketing and business economics.

Deon’s design and marketing insights have earned him appearances on television shows like CNBC and numerous print and online media interviews including The Sunday Times, iafrica, Mens Health and many more.

Deon’s company is progressive and forward thinking. Silverback focuses on process, design and development coupled with the acceleration and advancement of bicycling innovation. Silverback embraces The Science of Motion!

As the owner and founder of Silverback, Deon established a marketing presence for the brand in the Southern Hemisphere from 2004 – 2010. He formulated an exciting brand presence and marketing strategy in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Mauritius. The market conditions in the Southern Hemisphere provided an ideal R&D platform for the company as well as a solid foundation for the brand.

By 2008, Silverback experienced increased demand from European markets, which marked the beginning of the evolution of Silverback onto the global stage. Deon’s passion for details, engineering and design expertise made Germany a natural choice for the development of Silverback’s new global operations and development centre.

In January 2010, Silverback Technologie GmBh was established, which now owns the Silverback trademark worldwide. Germany was established as the centre of Silverback’s global operations when the company purchased land in Stuttgart and plans for a global operations centre were drawn up. Germany remains central to the design, development and ownership of the brand in becoming a truly great company.

The invention of the Silverback Starke has earned numerous accolades from Fast Company, T3, Top magazine and many others.

What are you working on right now?

I am setting the parameters, creating the platforms and forming the structures needed to reach our goal of being one of the most valuable bicycle brands in the world by 2020. Part of this process is designing extraordinary products like the Silverback Starke. We will continue to release new game changing bicycle designs. I have conceptualized and commissioned our latest product programs, including designing one of the most advanced carbon road bikes on the planet and creating a new category in the mountain bike sector.

Where did the idea for Silverback come from?

I want the Silverback brand to be the Apple of the bicycle industry. I wanted to design and develop a bicycle solution that was different, beautiful and functional. Mostly I wanted to integrate technology into the bike experience. Ultimately, the idea came with intensive research and with unique ideation processes. The Silverback Starke series was born featuring the world’s first unifit, fluid formed city bike with an integrated USB port.

What does your typical day look like?

I am a keen advocate of progression, dynamism and idea creation. Therefore, my day is not structured or rigid. I am very much hands-on in my organization so I am occupied with overseeing our global expansion, directing the product team with new projects, keeping abreast of economic developments and of course doing endless reading and research. I focus on learning about various subjects, from product developments in different industries to business leadership. I also pay attention to many new creative initiatives that could potentially be the stimuli for the next creative spark.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Traveling, reading, observing and asking questions is the start. The process of ideation can begin with a sketch, a spreadsheet or a graphical chart. I share my ideas with my product team, ask outsiders for comments and conduct qualitative research. The conceptualization period is formalized with feasibility studies, finance mapping and prototype planning.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

There is more than one, like globalization, the impact of technology on society and product integrations. However, the main trend that excites me is the change in consumer behavior and how it creates equal opportunities for smaller companies to compete with big corporations. Small is the new big.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

In real terms, I haven’t had a bad job, as I have always been self-employed and driven to be the best I could be. Instead, I can remark on mistakes I have made within my own organization. What comes to mind is not sticking to our core identity and trying product line extensions. I learned that you needs to focus on what you know best and that you cannot be all things to all people people.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I believe I have stuck to my plan. Start small, think big and scale fast. As I mentioned before, I would keep product lines as focused as possible and stay true to our core.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Always question. Embrace constant and never-ending improvement. Stay focused, apply with passion and spend smartly. Be a lean and mean company with the goal of operating with no debt.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Create a more integrated coffee-lounge experience than the current operators offer (many ideas on this and more).

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Marketing Genius by Peter Fisk. Ultimately, I prefer to surf many websites and I strongly recommend,, and economic sites like CNBC and Bloomberg Businessweek.

What’s on your playlist?

I don’t have one. I would rather read than eat.

If you weren’t working on Silverback, what would you be doing?

I am working on creating the world’s most advanced carbon road bike. If I wasn’t doing that, I believe I would continue to transform the company from good to great.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

I don’t believe in Twitter and again, I’d rather find and read stories online about leaders like Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet and what made Steve Jobs who he was.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

Watching how girls fight amongst one another for the attention of the bachelor on a recent episode of The Bachelor reality show.

Who is your hero?

I believe God as the creator of heaven and earth has to be all our heroes.

How will e-commerce affect brick-and-mortar store trading?

I believe that consumer will continue to purchase more online and that companies of the future need to achieve a balance between the two.

What is true happiness?

I believe when you have no real expectations of people, find inner peace, do what you love and find true spiritual well being you will be happy.


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