For many of South Africa’s fast-growing technology companies, expansion into new countries and markets is a top priority. Indeed, it is a natural next step for companies that are looking to widen their reach, increase profits and become truly global competitors. Given that technology innovation is advancing at breakneck speed, there is also growing demand internationally for skilled IT service providers and talented teams.
Having recently set up a new office and software offering in the United Kingdom, our executive team has gained key insights into what to do – and what not to do – when entering a new market. For SA business leaders and entrepreneurs who have their sights set abroad, here are our key learnings from a successful expansion into the UK…
1. Find a trusted local partner
When expanding abroad, leaders don’t have the luxury of leaning on their South African networks and support systems. That is why it is imperative to find a strategic partner in your new market who has extensive local knowledge – and is willing to integrate you into their network and business ecosystem.
When working with this partner, it is critical to develop a trusting and open relationship – and to quickly demonstrate the value that you can bring to the table. This means, for example, reducing the legwork that is required of your partner and taking on as much as possible internally.
The key to success here is to be able to move and respond very quickly, providing detailed proposals and quotes that are easy to understand and action. In order to be nimble and responsive, make sure that you have the skills and resources available within your teams. When crafting proposals, for example, we draw on our Business Analysts and Product Owners to provide compelling business cases that are not only informative but also visually engaging and easy to understand.
2. Master the pain points
Every market has different challenges and pain points, just as every company and client has different pain points. When establishing a new presence, devote a great deal of time to understanding the unique pain points of customers in the market. This understanding should then shape your strategy and your offering. Importantly, be open to change – and to pivoting on the strategy or plan you initially entered with! For example, we entered with a broad offering of enterprise software solutions for retail clients – yet as we became more immersed in the UK environment, we began to narrow our focus and concentrate on developing enterprise mobile solutions for hardware players.
To succeed in addressing pain points, you must not only demonstrate your own credibility and expertise, but you must also innovate within your vertical. For example, our UK customers were often daunted by the cost of software licences which needed to be renewed annually.
To address this challenge, we develop highly customised mobile applications and enable customers to pay a once off fee to own the software, and the intellectual property (IP). If the once off fee is not manageable for clients, we work with finance houses to provide a financing option whereby the software development fee is paid off over an agreed period of time. This allows customers to purchase customised solutions which they essentially own – and no longer have to worry about annual licensing fees.
3. Take the lead on innovation
Whether you are opening a new office in the UK or elsewhere, decision-makers always have the option of near-shoring or offshoring certain requirements. With this in mind, it is critical to demonstrate the value you can bring as an in-country partner. Given that disruption is the theme of technology today, one of the quickest ways to prove your value is to innovate and bring new (and unexpected) solutions to persistent problems. Be proactive… and take the lead, even when you have not been asked to do so! This might mean investing time and resources into projects or applications that are merely used to stimulate ideas and discussions. In the long term, however, these proactive projects almost always pay huge dividends.
Within the mobile enterprise space, for example, we built demo applications using OCR (optical character recognition) that enabled users to scan various ID documents (passports, driver licences, etc) as a form of verification. This approach also establishes you as a trusted, consultative partner – instead of a once-off supplier or service provider.
On a broader note, South African technology companies are well-positioned to enter developed markets such as the UK and Europe and make an immediate impact. We have a great pool of home-grown talent, our English language proficiency makes us immediately attractive, and the time zone enables easy cross border collaboration. That said, the global marketplace is increasingly cutthroat – and you have to demonstrate your value very quickly in order to become a trusted provider in any market today…
About redPanda Software
redPanda Software is a specialist enterprise retail software developer with a focus on customer experience. With a proven track record of long-term partnerships in South Africa, Botswana and the UK, redPanda Software caters for retailers who want to position themselves competitively, by adding a layer of customisation to their client’s software to cater to client-specific needs. Their success is underpinned by their “Way to Grow” ethos which is the driving force behind its distinguishing advantage to grow curiosity, creativity and confidence and in turn benefit their customers, operations and people.
For more information on redPanda Software, visit www.redpandasoftware.com
About Leon Coetzer: UK MD
Leon holds both a Computer Systems diploma and an Enterprise Architect qualification. He has more than 20 years of experience in the software industry, with extensive experience in enterprise software development.
Prior to joining redPanda Software, Leon was a Senior Development Manager, working closely at an executive level with various corporate companies. Through this involvement, he gained an intimate appreciation of the workings of large corporates.
Leon has a strong background in implementing and improving the full systems development cycle (SDLC), with a preference for agile methodologies and tools, and technical abilities in architecting and overseeing projects using a wide range of technologies and frameworks.
Responsible for strategy and operations in the UK, Leon brings a unique blend of technical and business knowledge to the redPanda Software team.
Liquid, IS, partner for 5G roll-out to corporate SA
Liquid Telecom has teamed up with Internet Solutions to develop an ultra-fast wholesale connectivity service for enterprises – including telcos
Liquid Telecom South Africa has partnered with Internet Solutions (IS) to provide wholesale 5G connectivity targeted at delivering enterprise services to their existing and potential new customer bases.
The 5G service will provide operators and internet service providers with faster speeds, lower latency and greater capacity, ultimately enabling businesses to deliver richer experiences to their customers.
“Providing IS with 5G wholesale services as an alternative to fibre connectivity, Liquid Telecom South Africa is highlighting how we are delivering on our commitment to the market to continue being the best business network in South Africa,” says Reshaad Sha, CEO of Liquid Telecom South Africa. “Local businesses are adopting technologies like SD-WAN, IoT, and cloud computing, However, these technologies need network connectivity that provides high quality, increased capacity, and greater reliability to ensure optimum performance.”
IS managing executive Dr Setumo Mohapisays the company has evolved its networking model to provide a high-performance hybrid network that aggregates multiple WAN transport services.
“This enables clients to fully utilise all available bandwidth for high availability and total application performance,” he says. “The innovation, flexibility and range of 5G use cases that this offers for different industries such as agriculture, retail, manufacturing, and logistics is boundless. 5G is a core component of our hybrid network and we are extremely excited about the extended capability this partnership with Liquid enables us to offer our clients.
Liquid Telecom is the first to launch a 5G wholesale network service, which it says will “accelerate the building of Africa’s digital future and the digital revolution in South Africa”.
Liquid Telecom is a leading communications solutions provider across 13 countries, primarily in Eastern, Southern and South Africa. It serves mobile operators, carriers, enterprise, media and content companies and retail customers with high-speed, reliable connectivity, hosting and co-location and digital services. This means that it can provide the basis for its clients to offer 5G services to end-users.
Liquid has built Africa’s largest independent fibre network, approaching 70,000km, and operates state-of-the-art data centres in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Nairobi.
IS, which pioneered Internet connectivity in South Africa, is a subsidiary of the Dimension Data Group and part of Japanese telecoms giant NTT. It now leverages its infrastructure and global footprint to support organisations with the rapid deployment of emerging technologies. Still headquartered in South Africa, it has operating offices in Mozambique, Uganda, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria. It has 82 Points of Presence (PoPs) in 19 African countries and four international PoPs in London, Germany, Hong Kong and Singapore. The company has over 10 000 square metres of data centre space across Africa.
So you think you need a Blockchain?
By CAYLE SHARROCK, Head of Engineering at Tari Labs
It’s 2020, and we’re still in hype overdrive about blockchain. If conventional wisdom is to be believed, blockchain is going revolutionise and disrupt every industry known to humankind.
But does every industry actually need a blockchain? Let’s take an objective look at two of the most aggressively touted use cases for Blockchain to see if it’s all it’s cracked up to be.
Before we do this, let’s remind ourselves about the four pillars of Blockchain technology and what they give you: tamper-evident logs (the blockchain); cryptographic proof of ownership (digital signatures); public accountability (the distributed public ledger); and corruption resistance (proof of work).
If we use these four features as a checklist, we can evaluate any proposed use case of blockchain technology and decide whether the potential is genuine, or whether it’s just buzzword bingo.
There have been hundreds of headlines over the past four years proclaiming how Bank Y will use Blockchain to disrupt the industry. Usually, what they claim is that they can perform interbank settlements at a fraction of the cost of what the incumbent monopoly, SWIFT, provides.
So does Blockchain work for the banking sector? Clearly, tamper detection of the transaction history is a must-have here. What about digital signatures and proof of ownership? Without a doubt. Multiple signatures? The more the merrier.
Bitcoin was conceived as trustless money – and with banks, we have a fairly small community that is heavily regulated, and that do actually trust each other to some degree. Essentially, banks use governments’ big stick instead of proof-of-work to keep everyone honest. This works most of the time. Except when it doesn’t. The 2008 crisis and the 2012 Cypriot haircuts are just two examples.
How about Public Accountability from distributed public records? No, public accountability has never been the banking sector’s strong suit. That means the banks’ ideal “blockchain” is just tamper detection, plus digital signatures. This sounds like a bunch of databases that have tightly controlled access along with strong cryptographic signatures.
The banks actually gave this non-Blockchain blockchain a name: Distributed Ledger Technology. And it’s pretty much what SWIFT already does.
Verdict: Do banks need Blockchain? Nah. They want a cheaper alternative to SWIFT.
Blockchain technology is going to revolutionise the supply-chain management (SCM) industry, we’re told. BHP Billiton was one of the first large companies to announce in 2016 that they were implementing Blockchain for their core sample supply chain. We’ve heard similar stories about the diamond industry.
Whether you think a proof-of-work Blockchain makes sense for SCM is really secondary to the challenge of The Oracle problem: blockchains are brilliant at letting you know when data in the system has been compromised. But they have zero sense whether that data is true or not.
The Oracle problem arises whenever you need to bring the concept of truth, or providence from the real world into a trustless system like Blockchain. How does the core sample data get onto the blockchain ledger? Does a guy type it in? Does he never make mistakes? Can he be bribed to type in something else? If it’s a totally automated system, can it fail? Be hacked?
Maybe we solve this by having two systems running and we compare the results. Or three. Or four. Now we have the problem of having to ship our samples to different labs around the world and be sure they weren’t tampered with in transit. If only we had a blockchain-based SCM system to secure our blockchain-based SCM system …
Verdict: The Oracle problem is really hard, and torpedos a lot of tangible good-based blockchain proposals.
So, back to our original question: do you need a blockchain? Ultimately, the future of blockchain applications (beyond money) lies in whether the benefits of having a decentralised, public record secured by proof-of-work outweighs its costs. There are plenty of really encouraging use cases emerging – think ticketing, for example, or trading in any digital assets. But for most industries, the jury’s still out.