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Home African CEOs Interviews How Nadav Ossendryver’s Passion for Animal Sightings Birthed Africa’s Leading Wildlife Company
Interviews - July 30, 2023

How Nadav Ossendryver’s Passion for Animal Sightings Birthed Africa’s Leading Wildlife Company

In 2011, during his school days, Nadav Ossendryver laid the foundation of Latest Sightings, a venture that would soon captivate wildlife enthusiasts. Nadav’s unwavering passion for Kruger Park drove him to repeatedly request his parents to signal passing drivers and inquire about their animal sightings. However, as time passed, his parents grew weary of this recurrent pursuit, leading them to decline such interactions. Determined to find a solution, Nadav turned to technology. He established Latest Sightings, an innovative Wildlife media/technology company that has gained global traction, revolutionalised African tourism, and left an indelible mark on the wildlife-watching landscape.

BEA: What Inspired you to start a Wildlife media company?

Nadav Ossendryver: It all started when I was 15 and was at the Kruger National Park (one of Africa’s largest game reserves). I loved going to the game reserves since I was eight years old. One of the ways we found animals was by driving around looking for them, and we would stop to ask passersby if they had seen the animals. Doing that was a hassle because my parents did the driving around since I didn’t have a driver’s license then, so they hated stopping people and speaking all the time. There had to be an easier way, so it occurred to me that people could download an app and share what they have seen in real-time, which could help me and other people see more animals. So, I developed the app, which is how I started.

BEA: Did the business idea hit you when you were 15, or you started the business at that age?

Nadav Ossendryver: I started that same year. During the December break of that year, all my friends were away, and I didn’t go anywhere, so I had time to think. So I combed through Google and YouTube searches to learn how to develop a website and build an app. After developing the app, I put it on the app store, and that’s how it started in 2011.

BEA: How did you gain incredible social media traction?

Nadav Ossendryver: We have about three and a half million subscribers on YouTube, four million on Facebook, and six million on Tiktok. It started when we help people see animals, and they start seeing amazing sightings and the best way to share that is on social media. So we created pages for our business, took the best photos and videos, edited them, and posted them there, and that is when they started going viral. I’ve always had an innate understanding of what people enjoy watching and seeing, so I used that, and it seemed to work, and people loved what we were posting, and that’s why we’ve grown so much. We reach about 2 billion people a year with our videos.

BEA: Gaining huge social media traction is also heavily dependent on the algorithm. Give us insights on what you do to make the algorithm consistently show your content to millions of people.

Nadav Ossendryver: So, I always get it right, but then it changes, and I have to try and get it right again. It’s not that you will get it right once, and then that’s it. It changes every day, so I take it as it comes. We’ve got a whole team here, constantly analysing the videos we put out.

We look at every split second of the video because every second counts. If the opening of the video isn’t interesting, no one will watch the full video. That’s something we spend a lot of time doing and we analyse how we edit the videos. We also analyse what’s the best combination of titles and thumbnails. We’ve got a backend system that we have developed in-house to track the click-through rate of the different options. So one video can have many different storylines, thumbnails, and titles. We test that to see which one does the best within our community, and then that’s the one we put out online. So that’s how you keep up with the algorithm.

BEA: You know passion is one thing, and monetising the passion is another. How did you start generating revenue?

Nadav Ossendryver: It’s actually two different things. My passion is going to the game reserve and looking for animals; I can do that everyday. It was not even a business per se at the time. I just wanted something that would help feed my passion for seeing animals. We started monetising when we saw that everything was going viral. YouTube began paying us, Facebook started paying us, and the videos we were getting were super rare, and some national geographic sites started requesting our footage. That’s when we began our partnership program, where our filmmakers would send us videos from the game reserve, which they earned from. For example, if you go to the game reserve and see a lion doing something crazy, you send us the video; we then get a few million views from the video and earn, we’ll keep some money, and so will you. That’s basically what the majority of the business is today.

BEA: What were some of the initial challenges you had to confront?

Nadav Ossendryver: One of the major challenges we’ve had is copyright issues. We work here on lots of people’s content and copyright, and that’s a learning curve. We went from me just asking people to share their videos to now having them sign contracts. That was a learning curve when things went wrong there. Another thing is the lack of signal because we’re in a remote area. We had to overcome that by developing an app that people can use without needing the internet.

BEA: What is the most challenging thing about being a CEO?

Nadav Ossendryver: One, I love running everything, and it’s fun, but the hard part is making all the decisions. You’re the one who has all the pressure to earn the money for everyone you’ve hired. That is a lot of pressure. Learning to work with many different people has been a fantastic learning curve.

Where do you see the business in 5 years?

Nadav Ossendryver: I’m gradually becoming a technical developer because I have learnt that programming is my other passion. With the huge potential of technology, we’ll become more media and technology-driven company. Our app has been doing well since we built it in-house. We can incorporate all the interesting Artificial Intelligence (AI) – special animal recognition and expand it to different areas. That’s the direction we’ll be heading, and hopefully, we’ll grow more content platforms.

BEA: What would you say are the highlights of your entrepreneurship journey?

Nadav Ossendryver: The fact that we are helping so many people with earning is key. Many people who send videos to us are game rangers who work in the national parks in South Africa and other game reserves worldwide. Generally, the game rangers and the guards are earning less, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic, because there wasn’t a lot of tourism. We have been able to take people’s videos and pay them a lot. Some people have earned like $30,000 on one video. That’s a big success. We are also helping a lot of conservations; we get a lot of amazing sightings with data that researchers can use. The fact that we are still growing, that we are still getting tens of thousands of new followers every day is part of our high points.

BEA: What’s the sharing formula between your company and the guys who send in the videos? For example, how much comes to me if I go to a park and send a video to the app? How much goes to you?

Nadav Ossendryver: The company keeps 60% while the filmmakers make 40%. We also sometimes pay people upfront because sometimes the video may not generate any money, it’s very rare, but it happens. So we envisage what a video can earn and pay upfront. If it earns less, you win; if it earns more, that’s to our benefit. Basically, the risk is on us.

BEA: Failure is inevitable in business, and even life generally. How do you deal with your failures?

Nadav Ossendryver: I don’t even think about them. I always say that you can’t have everything perfect at the beginning; it’s impossible. We’ve had failures in the past, but I don’t really see them as that deep. I just focus on how to fix it, and once it’s fixed, we move on, and the cycle continues.

BEA: What are the most important skills you think an entrepreneur must possess?

Nadav Ossendryver: I think he has to know what the business must do and how to grow it. Also, the entrepreneur must understand the people he works with and make sure everyone is happy. If everyone is happy, then we’ll grow together. You can’t achieve much if everyone is always leaving.
He must also believe that anything is possible, but if you have this mentality that you need money to do it or you need to be clever to do it, then you’ll not get anything done. Literally, anyone can do anything – everything is available online; just learn how to do it. So, I think an entrepreneur has to be able to go out and try something and not make excuses.

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