Caspar Lee: From famous YouTube star to super savvy entrepreneur

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Caspar Lee. (Photo: Supplied)
Caspar Lee. (Photo: Supplied)

News24's lifestyle editor Herman Eloff catches up with YouTube star turned successful entrepreneur, Caspar Lee, during a recent visit to Cape Town.

I can hear the wind howling around the corners of the surrounding buildings when I get out of my Uber in Observatory. My phone pings, and it's a message from Caspar. He's on his way, and his business partner Benji will meet me in the foyer of their joint venture. 

It's a busy day at Proper Living, a business focused on accommodating students and young professionals in Cape Town. It's their annual end-of-year bash, and preparations are well under way by the time I arrive. "We do this every year as a treat for our residents. It's a party. On us," Benji Schaffer tells me as we take a quick stroll around the parking lot, as it's being converted into the perfect spot for an underground gig.

Moments later, Caspar arrives at the entrance with a jumper tied over his shoulders. He's taller than I had imagined when he shakes my hand, and we meet for the first time. I'm familiar with the 28-year-old's successful YouTube career, but we've never met in person. It was Caspar himself who suggested we meet in real life. He currently lives in London, but flew down for a friend's wedding in the Winelands and made time to show me around his South African business.

Caspar is co-founder of a multitude of incredibly successful projects, investments, and endeavours. Despite juggling various responsibilities, the social-media-star-turned-entrepreneur set up everything for today's meet-up. He's quick to respond to emails and is friendly, warm, and accommodating in all our interactions.

"I'm currently living with my girlfriend in London. We're moving to Pimlico next month," Caspar tells me, adding, "It's the first time I'm moving in with her on my own. We've lived with my friend YouTuber Josh Pieters, who I went to school with at Oakhill in Knysna. Josh and I always lived together, even when we got girlfriends. We got them to move in as well. Now they're finally breaking up the two of us. Now we have to go live with our amazing girlfriends." 

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 13: Caspar Lee and Ambar D
Caspar Lee and Ambar Driscoll attend the EE British Academy Film Awards 2022 at Royal Albert Hall on 13 March 2022 in London, England. (Photo: Joe Maher/Getty Images)

We get comfortable in the communal entertainment and kitchen area to catch up on Caspar's life since his YouTube days. If there's one constant theme running through our conversations, it's growth. The energetic youngster who captured the attention of millions on social media has matured into a super-skilled and savvy entrepreneur. 

"I did YouTube for many years, and about five years ago co-founded a company called which connects brands with creatives at scale. We now have offices in London, Manchester, Dubai, New York, and Poland. We had an office in Ukraine, but with the whole situation there, we've brought many people over to Poland. That's one business with about 500 people working there. It's very exciting. We get to work with brands like Google Pixel, Amazon, tourism boards, and so on."

But there's more. A lot more. Caspar also co-founded Margravine Management with English YouTuber and actor Joe Sugg. The company is described as "a full-service management company that identifies, develops and elevates the next generation of digital stars". He's also part of a venture fund, Creator Ventures, which "invests in startups alongside large-scale creators including social media influencers, rappers, footballers and TV personalities".

Caspar Lee
Caspar Lee on PandaConf Stage during day one of Web Summit 2021 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images)

'My main role is connecting people'

"Margravine is a management company which we started with IMG, one of the biggest talent agencies in the world. That business is in London and Los Angeles. Then there's the international fund. That's a $20-million fund, and we invest alongside creators in startups," he says.

That's all separate from Proper Living, which Caspar and Benji started together after noticing a gap in the market for student living that understands its target market. "Proper Living is my very exciting business in South Africa that I love to come and work on whenever I'm here. It's just so exciting.

"Each company has an incredible person running the business. I'm very much involved as a co-founder, but not necessarily in the day-to-day operations. My main role is connecting people. Doing all of these different things actually really help each other, because you meet so many different people that can work with you on one thing or another thing, and you build a relationship like that.

"When building a business, the most important thing is to ensure you bring in good talent. That's something I've managed to do in the early days of some of the businesses. It's to bring that skill throughout. When you build a good team, you're able to do more things than if you were doing it on your own."

Caspar adds: "Meeting as many people as possible is kind of my talent. Meeting people who would be interesting to work with. That's kind of the secret to being able to do many things. It's surrounding yourself with very smart people. That's kind of my mantra.

"You become the six people you spend the most time with and surround yourself with. Surrounding myself with good people has elevated my skills, and hopefully, I can help them using the learnings from everything I do."

Caspar's working days usually have him busy on his phone, on a phone call, or in a Google Hangout. Being involved in many companies, he's constantly meeting and speaking to new people and clients, and sometimes even talking on a panel at events. "It's different but also similar to being a YouTuber," he says, adding, "because you're doing a lot of talking, and your words are very important."

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 06: Caspar Lee attends
Caspar Lee attends the after party for James Camerons Avatar: The Way of Water world premiere at The Natural History Museum in London, England. (Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Disney)

Natural and genuine

The management business is where Caspar is currently thriving. It's thrilling for him to sit down with creators and give them the support and advice to carve out their own paths. Although Caspar isn't as active on social media anymore, he keeps in touch with all things social through the people he works with. 

Caspar likes to get involved in all parts of every venture he takes on. "Tonight, we've got a party at Proper Living. I'll be serving some drinks and getting involved. On the way here, Sir Richard Branson was on the flight. He's a great example of someone who gets involved in the small stuff.

"He was walking around, looking around, at the bar, going down all the way to the back of the plane. At the very end of the flight, he got on the microphone and spoke to everyone. You could see he was happy to be there and be involved. You wouldn't expect someone who owns so many planes to be on a regular flight. He's very famous, but very involved. I thought that was very interesting."

After we wrap up our interview, Benji and Caspar take me on a tour of Proper Living, which currently has three locations: Observatory, Woodstock, and Rondebosch. The space has top-notch security, WiFi, and modern finishes. As we walk down corridors, residents pop out to greet the guys, who enthusiastically reply with fist bumps and handshakes. Caspar is no stranger here. It's no wonder there's a waiting list of thousands vying for a spot at what's undoubtedly the perfect spot for any student or youngster to live.

When I leave, Caspar and Benji walk me to my Uber which is waiting outside. I only spent an hour hanging out with them, but somehow I can't help but feel a sense of familiarity when we say goodbye.  

As I make my way back to the office through the still-windy streets of Cape Town, I muse over the meetup in my mind. Caspar wasn't kidding when he said he had a knack for connecting with people authentically.

He reminds me a lot of a certain British billionaire and business magnate who heads one of the biggest venture capital conglomerates in the world. Just watch him fly.

Inside Proper Living's apartments:

Proper Living
Proper Living. (Photo: Supplied)
Proper Living
Proper Living. (Photo: Supplied)
Proper Living
Proper Living. (Photo: Supplied)
Proper Living
Proper Living. (Photo: Supplied)
Proper Living
Proper Living. (Photo: Supplied)

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