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Travelstart gets $40m boost

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Travelstart has announced that it has secured $40 million in funding from MTN and global technology investors Amadeus Capital Partners. The investment will be used to accelerate the company’s growth into new markets.

The investment round is led by UK-based technology investor Amadeus Capital Partners, with participation from the MTN Group.

Amadeus Capital Partners’ Andrea Traversone will join Travelstart’s Board of Directors as part of this financing. “The market potential for Travelstart is huge and the company is already a tour de force in emerging markets. They are one of the most profitable e-commerce companies on the African continent and with this new round of funding Travelstart will be able to fast-track its already rapid growth. We’re excited to spearhead this round and to see the company’s continued growth and success,” said Traversone.

“Travelstart’s goal has always been to put people in charge of their own travel arrangements – to help them save time and money while receiving excellent customer service,” says Stephan Ekbergh, CEO of Travelstart. “This capital gives us additional resources to expand quickly and strategically into new markets, innovate rapidly, and deliver on our vision in more countries”.

Since launching in South Africa in 2006, Travelstart has grown to become Africa’s largest platform for flight, hotel and car hire bookings. In this time, the company has built distribution partnerships with more than 1000 third party websites through its Affiliate Program, launched its B2B offering called neXt, and has increased its standing as a forerunner in the mobile app space last year launching Flapp – a unique app which allows users to book flights on single popular “commuter” routes in seconds.

In addition to its large booking inventory, in recent years, Travelstart has focused on expanding into emerging markets throughout Africa, the Middle East and Turkey.

Today, Travelstart has more than 2 million monthly users in 16 countries who use its secure technology to book flights, hotels and rental cars around the world. Travelstart’s meteoric growth has been driven by Internet penetration growth and fast paced smartphone connectedness rates in the regions they operate.

Over the last year, Travelstart has grown its staff to well over 200 located in Cape Town, Lagos, Cairo, Dar es Salaam, Dubai and Istanbul.  Building on this momentum, Travelstart will use the additional financing to continue expanding its global reach, accelerate product growth and innovation, and invest in additional sales and marketing resources.

Herman Singh, Group Chief Digital Officer, MTN, added: “MTN’s vision is one of delivering a Bold New Digital World and this investment in partnership with Amadeus is a key step on a multi-year journey to achieve that promise. It strongly complements our existing investments in online and e-commerce in retail, marketplaces, classifieds and travel. This investment in the largest multi-national player in a very large and rapidly growing market positions MTN as an enabler of exciting new leading edge businesses. The MTN footprint, subscriber base, payment capability, network and brand awareness strongly underpin the synergies already being manifested in our other investments.  We look forward to working with Amadeus and the Travelstart team to accelerate the business development of this adjacency.”

With this investment, Andrea Traversone, Investment Partner at Amadeus Capital Partners, and Stephan Ekbergh, Chief Executive Officer of Travelstart have joined Travelstart’s Board of Directors. Travelstart’s financial advisor for this transaction was EOC Partners LLP.

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Huawei Mate 20 unveils ‘higher intelligence’

The new Mate 20 series, launching in South Africa today, includes a 7.2″ handset, and promises improved AI.

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Huawei Consumer Business Group today launches the Huawei Mate 20 Series in South Africa.

The phones are powered by Huawei’s densest and highest performing system on chip (SoC) to date, the Kirin 980. Manufactured with the 7nm process, incorporating the Cortex-A76-based CPU and Mali-G76 GPU, the SoC offers improved performance and, according to Huawei, “an unprecedented smooth user experience”.

The new 40W Huawei SuperCharge, 15W Huawei Wireless Quick Charge, and large batteries work in tandem to provide users with improved battery life. A Matrix Camera System includes a  Leica Ultra Wide Angle Lens that lets users see both wider and closer, with a new macro distance capability. The camera system adopts a Four-Point Design that gives the device a distinct visual identity.

The Mate 20 Series is available in 6.53-inch, 6.39-inch and 7.2-inch sizes, across four devices: Huawei Mate 20, Mate 20 Pro, Mate 20 X and Porsche Design Huawei Mate 20 RS. They ship with the customisable Android P-based EMUI 9 operating system.

“Smartphones are an important entrance to the digital world,” said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer BG, at the global launch in London last week. “The Huawei Mate 20 Series is designed to be the best ‘mate’ of consumers, accompanying and empowering them to enjoy a richer, more fulfilled life with their higher intelligence, unparalleled battery lives and powerful camera performance.”

The SoC fits 6.9 billion transistors within a die the size of a fingernail. Compared to Kirin 970, the latest chipset is equipped with a CPU that is claimed to be 75 percent more powerful, a GPU that is 46 percent more powerful and an NPU (neural processing unit) that is 226 percent more powerful. The efficiency of the components has also been elevated: the CPU is claimed to be 58 percent more efficient, the GPU 178 percent more efficient, and the NPU 182 percent more efficient. The Kirin 980 is the world’s first commercial SoC to use the Cortex-A76-based cores.

Huawei has designed a three-tier architecture that consists of two ultra-large cores, two large cores and four small cores. This allows the CPU to allocate the optimal amount of resources to heavy, medium and light tasks for greater efficiency, improving the performance of the SoC while enhancing battery life. The Kirin 980 is also the industry’s first SoC to be equipped with Dual-NPU, giving it higher On-Device AI processing capability to support AI applications.

Read more about the Mate 20 Pro’s connectivity, battery and camera on the next page. 

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How Quantum computing will change … everything?

Research labs, government agencies (NASA) and tech giants like Microsoft, IBM and Google are all focused on developing quantum theories first put forward in the 1970s. What’s more, a growing start-up quantum computing ecosystem is attracting hundreds of millions of investor dollars. Given this scenario, Forrester believes it is time for IT leaders to pay attention.

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“We expect CIOs in life sciences, energy, defence, and manufacturing to see a deluge of hype from vendors and the media in the coming months,” says Forrester’s Brian Hopkins, VP, principal analyst serving CIOs and lead author of a report: A First Look at Quantum Computing. “Financial services, supply-chain, and healthcare firms will feel some of this as well. We see a market emerging, media interest on the rise, and client interest trickling in. It’s time for CIOs to take notice.”

The Forrester report gives some practical applications for quantum computing which helps contextualise its potential: 

  • Security could massively benefit from quantum computing. Factoring very large integers could break RSA-encrypted data, but could also be used to protect systems against malicious attempts. 
  • Supply chain managers could use quantum computing to gather and act on price information using minute-by-minute fluctuations in supply and demand 
  • Robotics engineers could determine the best parameters to use in deep-learning models that recognise and react to objects in computer vision
  • Quantum computing could be used to discover revolutionary new molecules making use of the petabytes of data that studies are now producing. This would significantly benefit many organisations in the material and life sciences verticals – particularly those trying to create more cost-effective electric car batteries which still depend on expensive and rare materials. 

Continue reading to find out how Quantum computing differs.

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