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South Africa’s on-demand cleaners raise R50m

SweepSouth, the online platform providing on-demand and regular home cleaning services, has announced its intention to grow its market share in South Africa.

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SweepSouth, the online platform providing on-demand and regular home cleaning services, has announced its intention to grow its market share in South Africa and launch additional services following the closure of a successful funding round that has seen the company raise more than R50 million in new investment.

The final deal signed in the funding round was with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, which has invested USD1 million (R14,5 million) into the company. This investment follows the June announcement of a R30 million investment by Naspers Foundry, a start-up fund aimed at boosting the South African technology sector.

In addition to Naspers Foundry and the Dell Foundation, who both came on board as new investors, existing investors Smollan, Vumela, CRE VC (previously Africa Angels Network), and musician and venture capitalist Black Coffee have also reinvested into SweepSouth bringing the total investment raised by SweepSouth in this round to more than R50 million. The latest round places SweepSouth into a small international group of tech startups run by black women who have raised more than USD5 million in total.

Since its launch in 2014, SweepSouth recorded exceptional growth. Since the closure of the previous funding round in 2017, SweepSouth has expanded its operations and now operates in seven South African cities. The company has also grown 26% since the announcement in June 2019 of the investment by Naspers Foundry. In a partnership with insurtech start-up Simply, it has also been able to provide accidental death and disability cover at no cost to domestic cleaners who find work through SweepSouth. The company also partnered with Caveat Legal for their launch of The Warrior Project to domestic workers, providing legal help and advice, a support line, and access to police services for victims of domestic abuse and gender-based violence. Since their last funding round, SweepSouth has also seen its customer base, bookings and revenue triple, which were marked by the company winning the Best Small Company category at the inaugural Southern African Venture Capital and Private Equity Association awards in November of 2018. 

The businesses growth has afforded SweepSouth the opportunity to create more almost 15 000 employment opportunities for previously unemployed and underemployed domestic workers. According to Fairwork, a collaboration between the universities of Cape Town, the Western Cape, Manchester, and Oxford that ranks working conditions and standards in the gig economy, SweepSouth is noted for the fair treatment of people finding work through its platform. In addition to receiving points for fair pay, management and contracts, Fairwork has also noted SweepSouth actively improved working conditions by providing work-related insurance, as well as the facilitation of worker voice mechanisms on the platform.

According to Aisha Pandor, CEO and cofounder of SweepSouth, this worker-centric approach will also be a primary consideration as it expands into new markets and offering services beyond domestic services.

“The funding received during this round will be instrumental in achieving SweepSouth’s strategic goals going forward. In addition to expanding the markets we operate in, in South Africa and elsewhere on the continent, we are also looking forward to a formal announcement regarding our new platform, SweepSouth Connect, which offers services like handymen, plumbers, electricians, locksmiths, carpet cleaners, and nannies, as well as the growth of our online SweepSouth Shop which sells a range of home products.”

“The approach we’ve always taken with investors goes beyond merely money. For us it’s also about the experience and support they will provide us with when it comes to scaling the business, and a shared vision of the positive impacts on employment and digital and financial inclusivity that we can create through the platform. As such, our investors take a significant but minority stake, but most importantly will also add broader value to the business,” Pandor says

Pandor also extends her thanks to Vinny Lingham and Llew Claasen’s Newtown Partners, which has exited SweepSouth in this round of funding with a more than 10x return on their original investment since coming on board. “Newtown Partners was our very first investor and as a fund founded by entrepreneurs themselves, lent a lot of insight that helped us to achieve the growth we have and avoid a lot of mistakes common to first time founders. Not only did Newtown Partners open up their network of contacts to us, helping us to secure additional seed funding, they have been key advisors particularly in our earlier days as we built SweepSouth and worked to find product market fit.”  

“The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation has made more than 40 impact investments to date, many of which are companies that provide economic stability for families living in urban poverty,” says Thashlin Govender, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation program director. “Our new collaboration with SweepSouth falls within that category by providing jobs for South Africans who need employment. SweepSouth removes friction by connecting those who want to work with jobs and wages for their hours worked, and creates a fully vetted, credible service available for those interested in procuring cleaning services. SweepStars have taken the first step to access employment and will hopefully feel empowered to go further – resulting in better education and futures for their children.”

Vinny Lingham, General Partner at Newtown Partners says, “At Newtown Partners we pride ourselves on investing in emerging, disruptive technology startup businesses, and nurturing them from ideation to market-leading businesses. Looking at the success SweepSouth has enjoyed during the time we have been involved in the company, has more than fulfilled what we were looking to achieve when we joined them. We look forward to watching SweepSouth’s continued growth going forward.” 

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Samsung enters 2020 with six new smartphones

With six new devices, Samsung has started 2020 on the right foot and in the right direction with strong devices at attractive price points, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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In Johannesburg this week, Samsung unveiled six new devices, five of which aim to simplify the various Samsung Galaxy lineups.

The most notable new handset, the Galaxy Note10 Lite, has arrived in South Africa – and in record time. The device was unveiled at CES 2020 in Las Vegas only two weeks ago, and is expected to launch in South Africa in the next two weeks.

The Note10 Lite shaves off a few arguably non-essential features from the Note10 to make Note features accessible to more South Africans. These features include wireless charging, waterproofing and a curved screen. Other than that, the Note10 Lite still features the iconic S-Pen, including all the cool features of the new S-Pen. Of course, the Lite comes in at around R7000 less than its more feature-rich sibling, which is a huge price drop considering the three non-vital features it sacrificed.

For a full specs list of the features of the Note10 Lite, please read our launch coverage from CES 2020.

“We have to be able to support the customers with better memory and better battery,” says Justin Hume, director of integrated mobility at Samsung South Africa. “128GB storage becomes fairly standardised across the range. From a battery perspective, we now see 5000 milliamp batteries making an appearance on A21 and A31 product. So you can see the customer is truly getting great value for their money there. But as we focus on those products, we are also introducing a brand new product into the range, which is the Note 10 Lite and we are making the S-Pen more accessible to everyday South Africans.”

Samsung’s extensive lineups, the Galaxy S, A, J, and Z lines, were understandable because they were all set at their own price points. For a while, it made sense that the Galaxy S range were the flagships, the Galaxy A range was the high-mid range devices, the Galaxy J devices were mid-range, and the Galaxy Z devices were entry-level.

Until they weren’t. When Galaxy Z devices from 2017 started being better than Galaxy A devices from 2018, it became apparent that technology was moving forward way too quickly to have so many lines. Consumers also became confused because the Galaxy A devices were supposed to hold a level of status that was shared with the Galaxy Z range just a year later.

Last year, Samsung reduced its device line to Galaxy S for its flagships and Galaxy A for everything else. It now launches devices under the A prefix with a numbered suffix indicating the level of its specifications. The new lineup started taking shape with the Galaxy devices last year with the Galaxy A50 and Galaxy A70, and consolidated the Z and J devices to the Galaxy A10, A20, and A30.

This year, Samsung has announced the Galaxy A11, A21, A31, A51 and A71, which provide a clear indication of which devices they will be succeeding. The devices will be released throughout 2020, staggered over the next few months until July.

The Galaxy A11 will feature a large 6.4-inch screen with an Infinity-O display, which is a punch hole for the front camera. On this device, the punch hole will be on the corner of the screen, instead of in the middle as with the Note10 handsets.

For an entry-level device, it’s surprising to see a triple camera array with a 13MP main sensor, an 8MP ultrawide lens, and a 2MP depth-sensing camera for portrait mode pictures. It will also support 15W fast-charging and features a 4000mAh battery. It will start at R2999 for the 32GB version and will be available in July 2020.

The Galaxy A21 shows off a slightly larger 6.5-inch screen and a triple rear camera system as well, but ups the ante with a 48MP main rear sensor. The battery will also be a whopping 5000mAh, with 15W fast charging as well. It will start at R3499 for the 32GB version and will be available in June 2020.

The Galaxy A31 will go back to 2019 roots with its display featuring an Infinity-U display, which is a tear-drop notch in the middle for the front camera. What users will get from the display is an in-screen fingerprint sensor, which can unlock the phone by reading one’s fingerprint through the display.

It will pack another camera in the array. It will feature the familiar 48MP and 8MP ultrawide lenses, with an upgraded 5MP depth sensor and a 5MP macro lens for taking sharper close-up shots. It will also feature the massive 5000mAh battery as in the A21, with 15W fast charging support. It will start at R5499 for the 128GB version and will be available in May 2020.

The Galaxy A51, which we will be providing a review of soon, gets closer to the flagships with some impressive features, like the quad-camera array in the A31, as well as a wide-angle 32MP selfie camera. It features an Infinity-O display, with a punch hole in the centre like the Note10. It also houses Samsung’s Exynos 9611 CPU, which is suitable for playing graphically intensive games. It starts at R6999 for the 128GB version and is available now.

The Galaxy A71, which is right below the Galaxy S10 in the line of devices, features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 730, which also translates to having a better graphics processor and a better gaming experience. It will feature a similar quad-camera array with a 64MP main sensor. It starts at R8999 for the 128GB version and will be available from February.

Samsung has shown off its strong competitive by revealing so many products at the beginning of the year. This will be an interesting year in the mid-range handset space, now that Samsung is pulling out the stops to put so much value into its mid-range devices.

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Security issues grow with transition to smart TVs

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You can’t picture a modern home without smart equipment. Smart thermostats, smart refrigerators, robot vacuums, and smart TVs won’t surprise anyone these days. For example, around 70% of the TVs being sold worldwide are smart TVs. Although they bring more entertainment, these devices also carry new digital threats. 

Sometimes people forget that smart TVs are as vulnerable to cybercrime as their smartphones and computers. Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN, says that “although smart TVs are connected to the internet and have similar functions to computers, they aren’t equipped with the same security tools, which makes them easy prey for hackers.” 

What’s so scary about your TV getting hacked? As smart TVs gain more features, the amount of your private information they handle increases too. TVs aren’t just for watching movies and shows anymore. Now you can use them for web browsing, streaming video content, gaming, and even shopping online. 

To enjoy your smart TV to the fullest, you need to download various apps and games. These cost money, so you need your credit card details filled in. Putting your financial information, logins, and passwords on your TV makes it an appealing target for hacking. 

According to Daniel Markuson, a smart TV can be used to spy on its users. Hackers can access its camera and microphone through malware, which they can slip into your TV when it is connected to Wi-Fi. They can use footage from your bedroom or living room to blackmail you and your family. By watching your home and listening to your conversations, hackers know what goods you have, where you keep them when you’re away, and what your plans are. 

If you use your smart TV for web browsing, you can infect it with various viruses too, says the digital privacy expert at NordVPN. Like computers, smart TVs run on software, but they don’t have the same strong antivirus and firewall systems installed. Once your TV gets infected, your browsing history, passwords, and other private data become accessible to hackers. And they won’t miss the opportunity to use this information in ransomware attacks. 

Even though smart TVs are vulnerable to cyber threats, Daniel Markuson says there is no need to panic yet. The expert names a few simple principles every smart TV owner should follow to protect their device.

Always update your TV’s software whenever a new version becomes available. The expert says that software updates are crucial for cybersecurity as manufacturers do their best to patch vulnerabilities. Updates often repair security flaws, fix or remove various bugs, add new features, and improve the existing ones. Some TVs install updates automatically by default. With others, you may need to check for updates periodically to make sure your device runs on the latest version. 

Use available security measures such as a VPN. The best practice for any internet-connected device is to install a firewall and use a VPN such as NordVPN. It secures your device and lets you enjoy fast internet access with encryption-powered privacy.

Connect your smart TV to the internet only when needed. It isn’t necessary to have your TV connected to Wi-Fi all the time. To make it less vulnerable to hacker attacks, turn on the Wi-Fi connection only when you are using it.

Download apps from official stores only. Do not install any programs and games from unofficial sources on your smart TV. Make sure that both the app and its provider are reliable. Moreover, if an application asks for access to your data, camera, or microphone that isn’t necessary for its operation, never accept it.

Be careful with personal files and financial data. Shopping online on a big smart TV screen might be fun, but be careful providing your credit card details and other sensitive information this way. Although some manufacturers equip their TV sets with security features, they cannot guarantee safety online. “People who synchronize their smart TVs with their computers to access compatible media content should be especially cautious,” warns Daniel Markuson. The connection between your smart TV and your computer can be a weak link and lead to a data breach.

Use strong Wi-Fi passwords. This practice is the most obvious and the easiest to follow. Create a strong password to protect your Wi-Fi connection at home and don’t share it with any outsiders.

Turn off your TV camera when not in use. Whether it’s a built-in camera or the one connected to a TV via Wi-Fi, turn it off when not using it. If you can’t turn off your camera, use a piece of tape or a sticker over the camera lens to cover it. 

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