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SA’s Vizibiliti conquers US

A South African app was selected recently for showcasing at one of the largest technology conferences in the world.

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Viva Tech attracts more than 66 000 people and over 200 speakers, including the CEOs of Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, and Uber, along with brands like LMVH, Verizon, and SoftBank.

Verizon selected Vizibiliti Insight as the overall winner of the Customer Experience Transformation through Digital challenge, after it had been shortlisted from 110 entries in the alternative credit scoring category.

“This is a significant milestone for us and a huge honour to have been selected out of a pool of such strong competitors, many of whom have received millions of dollars in funding,” said Courtney Bentley, CEO of Vizibiliti Insight.

Aside from winning a presentation slot at Viva Tech 2018, Vizibiliti Insight was also invited to Verizon’s New York office to collaborate with some of the top minds in the telecommunications world. Part of the first prize award was 5 000 Euros and membership credits to Verizon’s Innovation Garage offices located across the United States, in effect allowing them to open an office in New York.

Vizibiliti Insight’s alternative scoring solution enables any credit provider to provide credit safely for difficult-to-analyse customers who otherwise would be turned down for credit. Vizibiliti is also working on specialised credit scoring solutions for South African entrepreneurs often considered too high-risk for banks and other credit providers to lend to.

The aim is to support credit worthiness applications for these businesses and individuals who, although contributing to over 40% of South Africa’s GDP, would be declined without further consideration.

Asked what has differentiated it from competitors in the challenge, Bentley pointed out that its models incorporate traditional scorecards, which remain the current de facto standard. 

“This is significant because we can align the alternative credit scoring models with traditional scorecards which have a proven accuracy rate.  This further allows granular customer segmentation and predictive capabilities in predicting which applications have a high likelihood of converting to a loan being accepted with a low likelihood of default.”

But it goes further, venturing into non-traditional measures.

“We are able to incorporate transactional behaviour which would be all the financial information collected on customers. This would be everything from data usage, SIM card age, location, and demographic data, to spending patterns . We then factor in macro and micro variables impacting affordability and, finally, behavioural data which we collect, analyse and add into this model.”

So far, he says, the system has achieved an 89% accuracy rate of detecting high-risk in customers using Vizibiliti’s own proprietary scorecard. 

“The next unique factor is our ability to determine upsell and cross-sell opportunities, which in turn lead to more sales and overall growth for the enterprise. Not only do we alternatively score an individual or business but we can then predict which non-traditional customer segments are likely to accept and pay back products and services which have been recommended.”

Bentley says the American judges had a scorecard of criteria which included how scalable the business is, whether the solution can be fully customised to the US market, whether the business model is sustainable over the long-term, and whether the solution supports digital authentication. 

“I believe that our capabilities to create a fully customised bespoke solution with a cross and up-sell sales capability and being able to rapidly scale, not only in the US but globally, were key factors in our success.”

 Alternative scoring, says Bentley, is important because “many of the companies we have come across have an average decline rate of 40% sometimes more on credit submissions”. 

“We have done a lot with very little compared to our competitors who have millions of dollars in funding. We have heard that these international companies are interested to see what can be done on their own turf with a company that can deliver value quickly, with innovative ways of keeping costs to a minimum.”

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Now for hardware-as-a-service

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Integrated ICT and Infrastructure provider Vox has entered into an exclusive partnership with Go Rentals to introduce a Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS) offering, which is aimed at providing local small and medium businesses (SMEs) with quick, affordable, and scalable access to a wide variety of IT infrastructure – as well as the management thereof.

“Despite an increasingly competitive business environment where every rand counts, many business owners are still buying technology-based equipment outright rather than renting it,” says Barry Kemp, Head of Managed IT at Vox. “The problem with this is that the modern device arena has grown in variety and complexity, making it more difficult to manage, and to reduce the overheads of controlling these devices.”

According to Kemp, there is a global trend being observed in businesses moving away from owning and managing IT infrastructure. This started with the move away from servers and toward cloud-based subscription services, and now organisations are looking to do the same with the remaining on-premise hardware – employees’ desktop systems.

The availability of HaaS changes the way in which local businesses consume IT, by allowing them to direct valuable capital expenditure toward the more efficient and competitive operation of their organisation, rather than spending on hardware products. 

“The rental costs are up to 50% lower than if they buy these products through traditional asset financing methods. Furthermore, using HaaS gives businesses the ability to scale up and down depending on their infrastructure requirements. Customers on a 12 month contract can return up to 10% of the devices rented, while those customers on 24 and 36 month contracts can return up to 20% of the devices – at any time during the contract,” adds Kemp.

More than just a rental

HaaS gives business access to repurposed Tier 1 hardware from vendors such as Dell, HP and Lenovo, equipped with the required specifications (processor, memory, and storage), and come installed with the latest Microsoft Windows operating system, unless an older version is specifically requested by the customer.

Kemp says: “Where HaaS is different from simply renting IT hardware is that businesses get full asset lifecycle management, such as having all company software pre-installed, flexible refresh cycles and upgrades, support and warranty management and transparent and predictable per user monthly fees.”

The ability to upgrade during the contract period means that businesses can keep pace with the latest in technology without needing to invest on depreciating equipment, while ensuring maximum productivity and efficiency for employees. Returned devices are put through a decommissioning process that ensures anonymity, certified data protection, and environmental compliance. 

Businesses further stand to benefit from Vox Care, which incorporates asset management and logistical services for customers. This includes initial delivery and setup in major centres, asset tagging of all rented items, creation, and the repair and/or replacement of faulty machines within three business days – again in the main metropolitan areas. 

Vox Care also assists in the design, testing and deployment of custom images, whereby HaaS clients can have the additional programmes they need (security, productivity tools, business software, etc) easily pre-installed along with the Windows operating system, on all their machines.

Kemp says HaaS customers can get further peace of mind by outsourcing the day to day management of their desktop environment to Vox Managed Services, as well as leverage the company’s knowledge and expertise to manage and host workstation backups to ensure business continuity.

Says Kemp: “Hardware-as-a-Service allows businesses to reduce the total cost of ownership of their hardware and ensure they only pay for what they use. Making the switch to a service model helps them take advantage of the global move in this direction, and to turn their business into a highly functional, flexible, low cost, change your mind whenever you want workplace.”

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Seedstars seeks tech to reverse land degradation in Africa

A new partnership is offering prizes to young entrepreneurs for coming up with innovations that tackle the loss of arable land in Africa.

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The DOEN Foundation has joined forces with Seedstars, an emerging market startup community, to launch the DOEN Land Restoration Prize, which showcases solutions to environmental, social and financial challenges that focus on land restoration activities in Africa. Stichting DOEN is a Dutch fund that supports green, socially-inclusive and creative initiatives that contribute to a better and cleaner world.

While land degradation and deforestation date back millennia, industrialization and a rising population have dramatically accelerated the process. Today we are seeing unprecedented land degradation, and the loss of arable land at 30 to 35 times the historical rate.

Currently, nearly two-thirds of Africa’s land is degraded, which hinders sustainable economic development and resilience to climate change. As a result, Africa has the largest restoration opportunity of any continent: more than 700 million hectares (1.7 billion acres) of degraded forest landscapes that can be restored. The potential benefits include improved food and water security, biodiversity protection, climate change resilience, and economic growth. Recognizing this opportunity, the African Union set an ambitious target to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.

Land restoration is an urgent response to the poor management of land. Forest and landscape restoration is the process of reversing the degradation of soils, agricultural areas, forests, and watersheds thereby regaining their ecological functionality. According to the World Resources Institute, for every $1 invested in land restoration it can yield $7-$30 in benefits, and now is the time to prove it.

The winner of the challenge will be awarded 9 months access to the Seedstars Investment Readiness Program, the hybrid program challenging traditional acceleration models by creating a unique mix to improve startup performance and get them ready to secure investment. They will also access a 10K USD grant.

“Our current economic system does not meet the growing need to improve our society ecologically and socially,” says Saskia Werther, Program Manager at the DOEN Foundation. “The problems arising from this can be tackled only if a different economic system is considered. DOEN sees opportunities to contribute to this necessary change. After all, the world is changing rapidly and the outlines of a new economy are becoming increasingly clear. This new economy is circular and regenerative. Landscape restoration is a vital part of this regenerative economy and social entrepreneurs play an important role to establish innovative business models to counter land degradation and deforestation. Through this challenge, DOEN wants to highlight the work of early-stage restoration enterprises and inspire other frontrunners to follow suit.”

Applications are open now and will be accepted until October 15th. Startups can apply here: http://seedsta.rs/doen

To enter the competition, startups should meet the following criteria:

  • Existing startups/young companies with less than 4 years of existence
  • Startups that can adapt their current solution to the land restoration space
  • The startup must have a demonstrable product or service (Minimum Viable Product, MVP)
  • The startup needs to be scalable or have the potential to reach scalability in low resource areas.
  • The startup can show clear environmental impact (either by reducing a negative impact or creating a positive one)
  • The startup can show a clear social impact
  • Technology startups, tech-enabled startups and/or businesses that can show a clear innovation component (e.g. in their business model)

Also, a specific emphasis is laid, but not limited to: Finance the restoration of degraded land for production and/or conservation purposes; big data and technology to reverse land degradation; resource efficiency optimization technologies, ecosystems impacts reduction and lower carbon emissions; water-saving soil technologies; technologies focused on improving livelihoods and communities ; planning, management and education tools for land restoration; agriculture (with a focus on precision conservation) and agroforestry; clean Energy solutions that aid in the combat of land degradation; and responsible ecotourism that aids in the support of land restoration.

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