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Bettr goes big at African TechCrunch startup battle

Bettr, the South African virtual banking platform set to launch in 2019, was one of 15 startups to pitch at Africa’s edition of TechCrunch Startup Battlefield in Lagos this week. And it came away with one of the top honours. 

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Some of Africa’s most promising tech newcomers took to the stage to present their ideas in the hopes of winning the $25,000 equity-free cash prize, a trip for two to TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco 2019.

After the success of the 2017 event in Nairobi, Kenya, the Lagos event was the second TechCrunch Startup Battlefield to take place in Sub-Saharan Africa. This time around, the organisers reviewed hundreds of African startups to arrive at a list of 15 semi-finalists. With TechCrunch Startup Battlefield’s 2% acceptance rate, it was stated by one of the organisers that it is easier to get into Harvard.

“We came as a small team. The process was intense,” said Tobie Van Zyl, Chief Innovation Officer of Bettr. “The level of performance required to compete I’d compare to the training of an Olympic Athlete. Every company at this event deserved to win. They are world-class innovators solving real human problems. We came as competitors, and we have left with friends from 15 different countries, Lagos contacts and a community that wants to see us expand here next.”

Each company was given 6-minutes to pitch and share a live demo to a sold-out venue and panel of judges. Van Zyl delivered a presentation commenting on the shortcomings of the traditional banking industry and how Bettr will reinvent this ‘broken system’. Andrzej Stempowski, Chief Technical Officer, conducted a live demonstration, showcasing how an account can be opened using only a South African identification document. The full pitch, with more details about the soon-to-be-released product, can be watched on the TechCrunch website.

The resulted in Bettr being selected as one of the five finalists.

The startups delivered their same pitches a second time to a new panel of judges, followed by a thorough Q & A.

The final-round judges included Dapo Olagunju, head of West Africa JP Morgan, and Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, director of developer platforms and programs for Facebook. The winner was M-SCAN, a Ugandan based startup that has invented a mobile ultrasound that is portable and compatible with basic devices, including a mobile phone. Second place went to Bettr.

Bettr is a virtual banking platform powered by a smartphone and a transactional card. The startup is set to launch to the public in 2019.

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The myths of microwaves

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We all know microwaves make cooking a breeze and it helps save those minutes, we rarely have enough of these days. However, some people do have those lingering doubts about whether microwaving food destroys nutrients or that it emits harmful radiation. However, the truth is a lot more comforting and positive.

“The microwave makes life so much easier,” says Tracy Gordon, Head of Product – Home Appliances at Samsung South Africa. “It’s human-centred technology at its most helpful. The Samsung Hotblast for example, has revolutionary functions, which are tailor-made to create fast, tasty and healthy meals in minutes.”

A recent article by Harvard Health Publishingclaims stated that “microwave ovens cook food using waves of energy that are remarkably selective, primarily affecting water and other molecules that are electrically asymmetrical. Microwaves cause these molecules to vibrate and quickly build up thermal (heat) energy.” The article debunks two common myths about microwaving food.

Myth 1: Microwaving kills nutrients

Whether in a microwave or a regular oven, some nutrients, including vitamin C, do break down when exposed to heat. However, the fact is, cooking with a microwave might be better when it comes to preserving nutrients because it takes a shorter time to cook. Additionally, as far as vegetables go, cooking them in water robs them of some of their nutritional value because the nutrients seep out into the cooking water,” states the report by Harvard Health Publishing. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), food cooked in a microwave oven is as safe and has the same nutrient value, as food cooked in a conventional oven.

Myth 2: Microwaving food can give you cancer

The American Cancer Society (ACS) says that microwaves do not make food radioactive. Microwaves heat food but they do not change the chemical or molecular structure of it. In fact, there is absolutely no evidence that microwaves pose a health risk to people when used appropriately, the organisation added.

With those myths well busted, it’s comforting to know one can make full use of the convenient kitchen appliance. And when the time comes to use a microwave to heat up a tasty meal in no time, one can trust the Samsung Hotblast to do the job. The HotBlast has multiple air holes blowing out powerful hot air, which reduces cooking time. Samsung claims the Slim Fry technology ensures that food is perfectly crisp on the outside and delicious and juicy on the inside. Additionally, this versatile microwave has a wider grill, making it easier to brown food fast and evenly. The turntable is wider, measuring 345mm, making it possible to prepare bigger portions of food. And with its Eco Mode power, it significantly reduces energy consumption with its low standby power. Its intelligent features and stylish design makes it very useful and as we now know – a safe, healthy way to enjoy a meal.

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New BMW 3-series ushers in autonomous future

The new BMW 3-series is not meant to be an autonomous car, but it is so close, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK discovers.

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It was not meant to be a test-drive of an autonomous vehicle. But the Driving Assist button on the steering wheel of the new BMW 330i was just too tempting. And there I found myself, on Sir Lowry’s Pass near Cape Town, “driving” with my arms folded while the vehicle negotiated curves on its own.

Every 10 seconds or so, yellow or red lights flashed to alert me to put my hands back on the wheel. The yellow lights meant the car wanted me to put my hands on the wheel, just to show that I was in control. The red lights meant that I had to take over control from the artificial intelligence built into the vehicle.

With co-driver Ernest Page, we negotiated a major highway, the bends of Sir Lowry’s pass, and the passes of Hell’s Heights (Hel se Hoogte) above the Cape Winelands.

As the above video of the experience reveals, it can be nerve-racking for someone who hasn’t experienced autonomous driving, or hasn’t been dreaming of testing it for many years. For this driver, it was exhilarating. Not because the car performed so magnificently, but because it tells us just how close true autonomous driving really is.

There was one nervous moment when the autonomous – or rather, Driving Assist – mode disengaged on Hell’s Heights, but fear not. A powerful sense of responsibility prevailed, and my hands hovered over the steering wheel as it took the curve. Assist disengaged, and the car began to veer towards the other side of the road. I quickly took over, and also sobered up from the giddiness of thinking I was already in the future.

In reality, Driving Assist is part of level 2 of driving autonomy, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers. A presentation on the evening of the test drive, by Edward Makwana, manager of group product communications at BMW Group in South Africa, summed up the five stages as the driver having Feet Off, Hands Off, Eyes Off, Mind off, and finally, only being a Passenger.

However, the extent to which the hands-off mode of Driving Assist mimics self-driving, and easily shows the way to eyes-off and mind-off, is astonishing.

Click here to read about the components that make the Driving Assist work.

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