I have always been fascinated by technology and How Things Work. From a young age I spent most of my time inventing things with my Meccano set, Lego Technics and my father's electronics collection. He taught me how to read circuit diagrams, build circuits and eventually design my own basic devices. But I was always interested in how to make these devices cleverer. 

When I was 11, I discovered QBASIC, and quickly fell absolutely in love with computer programming. In those first few years, with parents confused yet supportive, I churned out hundreds of useless but endlessly fun software programmes, games, tools, synthesizers and hacks. I was amazed by the ability to transfer "thinking" - logic and memory - into a machine.

I am passionate about entrepreneurship, solving problems, and disrupting outdated institutions with new creative ideas.

- Evan Robinson

When I was 16, I started experimenting with the web - basic HTML, Photoshop and CSS on a Geocities website. I loved it. My mother, not quite understanding what I was up to, told someone at her office that I could do anything with computers, so I got roped into building my first real website, and got paid! I spent the money on my first computer, of course. Proudest day ever.

Reaching the end of my time at school, I realised that I knew how to build hardware, and I knew how to write software - but what about "wetware"? How are the instructions of life encoded into microscopic machines comprised of molecules and cells? I took the opportunity to study Biotechnology and Biochemistry at UCT and spent my Masters degree peering down a microscope at yeast cells. My goal was to modify their DNA to make them glow blue when exposed to heat - unfortunately they refused.

After 7 years I found that I could not be as creative, as quickly, with science as I could be with software, so during my university education I began my adventures with early entrepreneurship and started my first couple of businesses. These are described below.


Photo by @kevingibson_ct


I think I would be a shocking employee. I have a habit of questioning authority and making them explain themselves. Thus I have never had a "real job". I did not come from wealthy parents, so if I wanted something, I had to make the money appear for it. I was fascinated by all-digital businesses - no stock, no staff, no deliveries, no shop space. My path to date as an entrepreneur has followed this ideal.

EJR DESIGN (1999 - 2011)

> Website design, domain names and website hosting

This was my very first business, started by mistake (see above), but ultimately leading to me creating over 30 websites in time. When I started, I built my first three websites for free, just to build a portfolio. The business model was to hook a customer by building their website, then host their website month after month at SA prices (but pay US rates for web hosting - 10x cheaper). I met some wonderful people doing great things, but eventually became more interested in more complex web projects. I exited the business by selling the client list to another web hosting company.

LIVENOTICE (2004 - 2006)

> Interactive noticeboards, voting and feedback via 5-digit premium SMS

This business taught me the value of selling something simple and easy to explain, and having a high profit margin. I was very excited about SMS, and thrilled that I could connect websites to SMSs and people could get information whenever they wanted. However advanced the product was, I had trouble pitching it, and it only ever attracted a small number of clients. My pricing model was built around moving the "stock" of SMS credits, which cost around R0.30, so potential profits were very small. This business didn't do much, but I sold it to an ex Vodacom guy via a random ad on Gumtree. I think he just shut it down.

debthound (2008 - 2011)

> Debt collection by SMS

This business appeared out of necessity - some of my webdesign clients weren't paying! So I designed a system to send ultra polite SMS reminders on schedule weekly, daily, hourly until they did. This was the first business that I registered officially with CIPC and kept real accounting records for. I tried to penetrate the SA debt collection market, but at age 25, driving my rusty 2-tone VW Golf, I didn't manage to convince SA retailers to give up their call centres for me. I eventually sold this business to a successful property mogul via an advert on CapeAds classifieds. He re-branded the website and put money into it, but it didn't go much further.

TAXTIM (2011 - now)

TaxTim exists because I tried to do the outrageous act of doing my own tax return. It was a horrible experience. After much struggle and stress, I gave up and saw a Tax Practitioner. Luckily he was a friend of mine called Marc, so made plenty of jokes. After our session, I wondered "Could I put Marc's brain into a machine, so that everyone can have their very own tax man?"

Then Google appeared in town and setup a start-up incubator. They were looking for ideas, I had one, so we entered. We made it through from idea, to Powerpoint, to pitch day. Then one day we got the call - we were IN! Google gave us our initial seed funding, investors, a space to work, a registered company at CIPC and some great street cred right off the bat.

In 2012 our funding ran out. We had to seek new investors and become profitable fast. We hired a PR company on retainer and got massive press exposure in Financial Mail, Finweek, Forbes, M&G, CNBC, Al Jazeera, Business Day, Entrepreneur, FIN24 and more.

Things moved fast. In 2014 we integrated with SARS eFiling to create South Africa's first alternative to the tax system, we called it T-Filing. In 2015 we went international with a JV with PwC Namibia (similarly in 2019 with PwC Nigeria). In 2016 we raised investment from Exponential Ventures, part of Momentum Metropolitan Holdings. Since then we have closed deals with Sanlam, Old Mutual, KPMG, Deloitte, FNB, Pick n Pay, AirBnB and more. Now 40% of the SA tax base trusts TaxTim every year.

More importantly, for the first time ever, we hired staff and I had a team of very clever, hard-working people around me. I can honestly say that TaxTim would not exist without them.

I have learned an incredible, breathtaking amount about being an entrepreneur from my decade running TaxTim. I have also gained too many grey hairs to bother trying to hide. I hope you will read about my adventures and learnings in my blog above. I remain involved strategically as a Director and shareholder.


This page does not describe the myriad other inventions, web apps, mobile apps, social apps, games, tools, other businesses, Mxit dating apps, vending machines and other adventures I have had along the way. It's been a busy time!