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PE startup invited to Silicon Valley

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The founders of Millbug in Port Elizabeth have been invited on a one-month trip to America to visit Silicon Valley – the world’s most influential dreamland for ICT start-ups.

Millbug – a client of Seda Nelson Mandela Bay ICT Incubator (SNII) in Port Elizabeth –  members Sabelo Sibanda and Thulisile Volwana also founded another company Tuse along with Michael Kyazze.

Shortly after the launch of Tuse’s public beta version of the Tuse application on the Google Play store, they were invited to join Founders Space in Silicon Valley.

Sibanda hails from Port Elizabeth while Volwana is from Engcobo in the Transkei while Kyazze is from Uganda.
Sibanda and Volwana both studied Commerce at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) while Kyazze Michael studied Computer Science at NMMU.

The three met through a mutual friend about three years ago.

“Founders Space are one of the top 10 start-up accelerators in Silicon Valley according to Forbes magazine. During the course of the programme, we will interact with corporates, angel investors and the top venture capitalists in Silicon Valley to hopefully take our offerings to the entire world,” said an excited Sabelo Sibanda, co-founder of Millbug.

The Tuse application, which launched earlier last year, is an Android app that allows people to communicate freely without the need for traditional telecommunication infrastructure.

“The Tuse app had a public beta launched and the feedback the company received from more than 250 beta testers has helped us design the final product was released in late-December last year. An iOS version of the Tuse app is also being developed,” said Sibanda and will be available in February 2016.

“We hope our stay at Silicon Valley will help us build a large network of partners and experts who can help Millbug rapidly deploy our innovations. The problems we are solving are unique and will need significant resources to deploy at scale,” said Sibanda.

Millbug, were the developers of the solar powered Vuya Tablet PC in 2013.

After joining SNII three years ago, Millbug today still benefit from the incubator’s expertise.

“SNII have been of great assistance in getting the device (Vuya Tablet) tested and certified for sale in compliance with South African law,” said Sibanda.

Millbug’s co-founder Thulisile Volwana was also mentioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for releasing Africa’s first solar powered tablet, the Vuya Tablet.

The tablet uses wi-fi only for connectivity and takes at least eight hours to charge.
“Being mentioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave us exposure and it helps when it comes to client and user acquisition. The article is a fantastic endorsement as the Gates Foundation does a lot of really amazing things the world over. It is a privilege for our work to be recognized and acknowledged by them,” said Volwana.

Sibanda said that working towards a smart, safer and green city through technology needed to be sped up in Nelson Mandela Bay.

He recommends that green energy practices be observed as well as the adoption of free communications protocols.

“All smart cities, traditionally, begin with internet ubiquity. This is reliant on the availability of traditional telco infrastructure or open wi-fi initiatives. The wide adoption of the freely available Tuse application would cover a region at almost no cost and ensure safe, decentralised and free communication. Running on our solar powered tablet PCs, we can have a green and smart city through technology which is starting to happen in Port Elizabeth where we have built the required solutions. But there is a long way to go.”

Apart from developing the Vuya Tablet and the Tuse app, they have also developed solutions for various clients from Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Ghana, Nigeria and the United Kingdom.

Millbug’s goal is, according to Sibanda, to “always bring happiness to people who need it the most.  Altruistic as it sounds, this implies solutions ubiquity in our chosen field”.
His advice for upcoming businesses is to treat employees with respect and dignity which is the quickest way to succeed.

“They pay it forward to your clients. It’s easy to persevere when everyone has the same goal and vision that you all work together on consistently.”

Sibanda added that there has never been a better time to be a technology entrepreneur. “Focussing solely on making money is the quickest way to fail.”

Sipelo Lupondwana, SNII centre manager, congratulated the Millbug team for being selected to visit Silicon Valley.

“Millbug’s Vuya tablet was successfully commercialised through incubator support last year. The device received various international media attention. Our Enterprise Development team all played a crucial role in successfully commercialising Millbug Vuya,” said Lupondwana.

He added that SNII will continue to be the place where Port Elizabeth’s technology entrepreneurs, young ICT businesses, and inventors with ideas come to in order to be developed into successful enterprises.

“We offer world-class office facilities and spaces, IT infrastructure and connectivity to reduce the cost of doing business. We also have good business coaches, mentors and business support services in place.”

During the 2014/15 financial year SNII 10 new ICT and technology start-ups were established from 11 projects. In terms of job creation from SNII clients, 46 direct jobs, 102 indirect jobs and 25 casual jobs were created for Nelson Mandela Bay’s regional economy during the 2014/15FY.

The combined turnover of SMMEs and incubator beneficiaries added R5,1 million to the regional economy of Port Elizabeth.

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SA startups in Visa final

Leading fintech companies from the Sub-Sahara Africa technology startup community have made it to the finals of Visa’s Everywhere Initiative.

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Among the 12 chosen, from the 238 total entries, South African startups Howler and FinChatBot will compete against innovators from across Sub Sahara Africa for a chance to secure funding of up to US$50,000 to develop their ideas when the initiative concludes in Johannesburg on July 24. 

Fintechs in Africa are making incredible strides; not only to bring more convenience to consumers, but also to enable people who would not otherwise have access to financial services or even a way to connect to the formal banking system. Venture funding for African startups jumped by 51% to $195 million in 2017 and fintech in Africa is expected to grow exponentially in the next few years as it continues to disrupt the traditional financial sector. With a clear goal of reducing reliance on cash, building digital payment based economies and increasing financial inclusion, Visa is committed to fostering an entrepreneurial spirit and driving innovation in its payments landscape. 

The Sub Saharan Africa edition of the Visa’s Everywhere Initiative challenged local fintech startup to deliver solutions based around three real life business challenges: 

  • How can startups leverage Visa Developer APIs to either:  Enable smaller merchants to accept payments in-store digitally OR Provide a safe and secure solution for online merchants to drive eCommerce and reduce cash on delivery?
  • How can startups use Visa’s APIs to leverage mass reach and social media partner platforms like Facebook to help businesses operating in fast-paced consumer centric environments improve cash flow and receive payments? 
  • How can startups leverage technology to provide services that are functional for illiterate customers to provide them with secure transaction experiences that build and enhance their confidence in the banking system?. 

Entrants were asked to submit ideas to leverage Visa’s network and technologies to resolve against at least one of the challenges. One winner per brief will be selected, with each receiving funding of US$25,000. Winners will be invited to a working meeting with Visa and may be presented with the opportunity to create a prototype. Visa will then select one overall winner to receive an additional US$25,000.

Geraldine Mitchley, Senior Director – Digital Solutions, Sub-Sahara Africa, Visa, said: “We are delighted with the response to our Visa’s Everywhere Initiative and the quality of submissions we received is an indication of the region’s rich talent pool and innovative spirit.”

“Launching this innovation program in the region has been an exciting time for the Visa SSA team, and the takeup reflects Africa’s enthusiasm to develop and pioneer solutions to the continent’s challenge – particularly in the payments technology space. I would like to congratulate the finalists and  wish them luck as they enter the final stretch.  When they come together for the final, they will not only have the chance to turn their ideas into reality, but also potentially help shape the future of payments in the region.”  

Howler which enables cashless transactions and end-to-end ticket handling for consumers and event organisers is competing in the first challenge and FinChatBot, which aims to automate part of customer services for financial service providers through AI-powered conversations is competing in the third challenge. 

The SSA edition of the Visa’s Everywhere Initiative will wrap up on July 24 in Johannesburg, with each finalist having an opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges from Visa and the payments industry. 

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Win a Poster Heater with Gadget and Takealot.com

This winter Gadget and Takealot.com are giving away three Poster Heaters, which look like posters but become heaters when you plug them in.

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Three Gadget readers will each win a unit, valued at R550 each. To enter, follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter and tell us on the @GadgetZA account how many Watts the heater consumes.

What’s the big deal about these heaters? Many of us are struggling to keep the balance between soaring electricity costs and the need to keep warm this winter.

However, the recently launched Poster Heater by EasyHeat and distributed in South Africa by Takealot.com is not only one of the most cost effective electric heaters currently on the market, it is also easy to setup and use.

As the name indicates, it is a poster similar to one you would hang on a wall. But, plug it in and it turns into a 300 Watt heater. The Poster Heater isn’t designed to heat hallways or large rooms, but rather smaller ones like a bedroom or a baby’s nursery or a dressing room.

It uses radiant heating, which means that it heats up in a couple of minutes and the heat is directed at the objects or people around it, quickly taking the chill out of the air and providing a comfortable ambient temperature.

The other advantage of radiant heating is that it doesn’t dry out the air like infrared or gas heaters. Users also don’t have to worry about their children or pets getting too close to it because, even though it gets hot, it can be touched.

To enter the competition follow the steps below:

Competition entry details:

1. Follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter. (We will ONLY be accepting entries via Twitter, so please don’t enter through the comments section of this article.)

2. Tell us on Twitter, via @GadgetZA, mentioning @Takealot in your posting, how many Watts the Poster Heater consumes.

cleardot.gif3. The competition closes on 31 July 2018.

4. Winners will be notified via Twitter on 1 August and Takealot.com will be in touch to organise delivery.

5. The competition is only open to South African residents.

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