Entersekt never would have been established in 2007, were it not for the audacious claims by a B.Comm student and the activities of an unknown bank fraudster, which stirred up the emotions of four electronic engineering students: Christiaan Brand, Dewald Nolte, Altus van Tonder and Niel Müller.
The Stellenbosch-based software house is a fast-growing African player, which wants to establish itself in the States, the United Kingdom and beyond. Most of the major South African banking groups have already signed up Entersekt, which has been certified by Visa, MasterCard and American Express to integrate with their 3-D secure payments system. It has become an ally of the domestic banking industry in dealing with online fraudsters.
Bank corruption is one of the principal cyber-crimes in the world. According to the South African Banking Risk Information Centre, the South African banking industry incurred losses of R263.3 million ($29.6 million) in 2009/2010 for card fraud. These fraudulent activities increased by 53% in 2010/2011 to R403.1 million ($45.4 million).
According to Schalk Nolte, chief executive of Entersekt, independent statistics from IT Web show that web phishing in South Africa amounted to R320 million ($36 million) in 2011. In the second half of 2012, bank fraudsters used online banking to harvest around R100 million ($11.3 million) illegally. The country has registered 3% of the world’s phishing activities, while 46% occur in the States and 19% in the United Kingdom.
Dewald Nolte remembers how, during a challenging week filled with tests, a self-assured B.Comm student confronted him and a group of engineers, while they strolled to the Langenhoven Student Centre for a meal.
“Here I am, relaxing, and you poor guys are working so hard but I’m still going to make a fortune, much more than you engineers,” he said.
Nolte, Brand, van Tonder and Müller, who all possessed an entrepreneurial spirit, became more committed to pursuing a successful business career after the encounter. The group met weekly to brainstorm the inception of the right business. Their ‘aha’ moment came through default, not design. Brand’s mother became victim of an online banking fraudster and lost R20,000 ($2,250). Brand couldn’t believe how this was possible in an age of one-time password (OTP) access logins and online security systems.
The four students worked around the clock for over a year in a virtual garage to mastermind Entersekt.
Their enormous investment of time and money to invest seed capital for the establishment of Entersekt, conjures images of Bill Gates, the Beatles and the 10,000-hour rule mentioned by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers. He claims that 10,000 hours are needed to secure greatness and mastery; Mozart, The Beatles and Gates are some examples. The Beatles performed in Hamburg, Germany over 1,200 times between 1960 to 1964, amassing more than 10,000 hours of playing time. Gates spent 10,000 hours programing on a high-school computer in 1968, aged 13.
The four students amassed their 10,000 hours by developing a prototype, which was conceptualized into a company in 2008. Its revolutionary technology was registered at a patent-office in the same year.
The pioneers needed the intervention of two more leaders to propel the idea from their virtual garage to the commercial marketplace.
Earlier in his career, Schalk Nolte was one of 33 expatriates sent to Nigeria by Vodacom to manage a possible new venture. The deal was eventually scuttled because of shareholder concerns. Twenty eight of the expatriates remained in Nigeria to form a new management company to run V-mobile Nigeria. With Nolte at the helm of network expansion, they grew their clients from 300,000 to a couple of million, while the numbers at the base station increased from 300 to 2,500.
Nolte was approached to join Entersekt, after it had been patented but was not yet commercially formed. He realized that banks wouldn’t do business with a virtual garage start-up.
“We had to establish a presence and an address and the technopark in the technological hub [of Stellenbosch] was appealing,” he says.
Through Schalk Nolte’s acquaintance with Ramzi Mansour of Carita Investments in Nigeria, he set up a meeting in Centurion between Mansour and Dewald Nolte.
“He decided to invest in us not only because of the idea of our business but because of the people. He said he could see the passion in our eyes,” says Dewald Nolte.
Securing the finances was a considerable challenge for the students, who lacked collateral, especially in 2008 when the global recession was in full swing.
“We had to pull through tough times, pay ourselves nothing and invest everything into the seed capital of the company to succeed. In hindsight, it proved to be the right way of doing it,” says Schalk Nolte.
In internet banking a two-factor authentication system is used based on something you know, your username and password, and something you have, a cellphone. Unfortunately, such an authentication system, which relies on browser communication, can be defeated.
In the real world, people are sent a phishing e-mail; if they click on the link, they will get routed to a fake banking website, which fools them into entering their username and password. This fake site, in real time, runs a script and enters the credentials into the real bank account. When the real bank receives the credentials it sends an OTP or asks the user to generate this OTP on the token. When you enter your OTP, it is intercepted by the man in the middle, who now has access to your username, password and OTP.
The beauty of Entersekt’s system, however, is that it uses industry-standard electronic certificates to create a secure out-of-band communication channel, based on mutual authentication between a bank and its customers’ mobile devices, according to Nolte. These certificates are deployed using a light-weight application that is available for hundreds of cellphone models on the iOs, Blackberry, Android Windows Phone and Java platforms. An electronic transaction initiated through any channel (online banking, card-not-present and via the ATM) is sent to the bank customer’s mobile device for confirmation before the transaction takes place.
In the OTP system it goes via the internet, where the fraudsters have access, while this system is beyond the reach of fraudsters as customers respond to real-time requests for transactions by selecting ‘accept’ or ‘reject’. The bank retains control over the process of registering users and all communication is encrypted end-to-end and cannot be intercepted by any other party, says Nolte.
The result is true out-of-brand, two-factor authentication that counters phishing and other kinds of fraud. This system has cut online banking fraud for Entersekt’s clients to zero and annually re-issues certificates per client.
“We have found that our contracts become a net saving for the banks and not a cost increase.
When Entersekt sold their technology to Nedbank, the crime moved to other banks.
“It’s like a burglary in your street. If you increase your security and use more burglar-bars, the criminals might target your next-door neighbors,” he added.
Although the company has established a local footprint—with eight of their 10 clients based in South Africa—it has received international recognition and the demand for its services is growing. Entersekt has patented their technology in the States, United Kingdom, China and India and is aggressively pursuing markets in Nigeria and Kenya.
“We were nominated at the world’s biggest security conference in San Francisco in 2011 as one of the top 10w most innovative companies globally. We are 18 to 24 months ahead of our competitors in terms of technology,” says Nolte.
Protection to safeguard their assets is one thing; expansion to ensure a bigger global presence is a different proposition all together.
“We have a staff presence and a small office in London and we are about to open an office in Atlanta in the States… We have to be where the new ideas, the standards and the concepts are created,” he adds.
The Maverick In Tech
The founder of some of Nigeria’s best-known startups on the mistakes and the millions that made him click in the technology business.
Sometimes, the simplest business ideas can come from strange places, or even strangers.
In his first year studying law at Waterloo University in Canada, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji was approached by a stranger who asked to stay in his house.
“I was like ‘I don’t know you, you have long hair and you are white; I don’t know about this’, but I said, ‘ok cool’, and he stayed over and we became good friends.”
About a year later, Pierre, the friend, decided to head to Silicon Valley for his cooperative education term.
“He told me about this amazing world of Silicon Valley, tech and investments, and I was sold. A few months later, we decided to start our own tech company called bookneto.com,” says Aboyeji.
It was a platform that enabled students to download past examination questions and work with a team of people at the school to help answer them.
The company did decently for three years until it got sued by the university, but at least that marked a turning point in Aboyeji’s entrepreneurial life.
It turned out that the intellectual property for past examination questions belonged to the professors at Waterloo University, a fact that was “unknown” to the pair of entrepreneurs and they were found “guilty of piracy”. The venture was eventually sold to a professor who wanted to teach students not enrolled on campus, for a small fee.
“We had it for three years, and by this time, I had graduated and looking for a new adventure and I was pretty sure I did not want to run another business in Canada, so I had started looking at other markets and Africa was a big one for me, Nigeria in particular,” says Aboyeji.
After graduating, he returned to Nigeria in 2013.
His proclivity for identifying opportunities inducted him into the world of massive open online courses (MOOCs). The dominant players at the time were Coursera and Udacity.
According to a report by Component, globally, the MOOCs market is estimated to hit $20.8 billion by 2023. Aboyeji wanted in. He set up a company in Abuja called Fora.com focused on incorporating MOOCs into the university environment especially for courses that were relevant but not provided by Nigerian universities due to a lack of quality resources.
“I was very naïve. I imagined that it would be a breeze to build that business and learned the hard way that anything regulated doesn’t operate rationally. So, the regulators didn’t give me any approvals and universities were skeptical and didn’t want to be laid off so it didn’t work out. We ended up pivoting that business and ended up selling online MBAs instead. Our typical clients were young bank managers who wanted to get an MBA or advanced degree courses to improve their chances of being promoted,” says Aboyeji.
The firm began to gain some traction. People were paying for the application courses and Aboyeji decided to pilot a loan program where financial institutions would offer loans to students.
“So, we were making money but it wasn’t popping off. I went to New York with the team because we had just gotten some new funding and we had to meet the new investors. I had met a guy named Jeremy Johnson when he was in Nigeria earlier so I pinged him and told him what we wanted to do. I wanted to learn from his experiences. He agreed to meet for coffee in New York.”
During their meeting, Johnson expressed his idea about a new form of education geared towards skills rather than degrees. Aboyeji also talked about unemployment in Nigeria and how that represented a massive opportunity.
It was a match made in heaven.
“One of the things he told me was that he could not find a sales force engineer for $150,000 in New York. They just didn’t exist so I said, ‘man, I can train you sales force engineers’. And he said ‘if you decide you are going to pivot, what you are doing or adding to it… I would fund you and I will be chairman and we can do this together’. So, I said ‘someone is going to fund you to do a new business, why not’.”
Aboyeji had just stumbled on a new gold mine and Andela was born. He started with one person and began teaching him how to code. He repurposed the team from Fora into coding masters, bid masters and operational staff, and shifted the focus of Fora because they had the flexibility to do it.
“I don’t think at the time we had any idea how big what we were doing was. We did the first one, it was semi-successful, we trained the next four, which was really good. We put out a job description saying no experience required, we will pay you to learn how to program and we had over 700 applicants off Twitter and we knew we had something.”
They whittled down to about four or five people that completed that program. To find work for his new coders, Aboyeji used Upwork, the popular freelance jobsite, to bid for jobs.
“We didn’t know anybody, so we bid for jobs, executed it and before we knew it, we had about 150 people in the room. That was how the transition happened from Fora to Andela,” says Aboyeji.
The company has since gone on to raise $180 million in venture funding from the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and other notable investors from Silicon Valley. Aboyeji left the company after three years in search of his next adventure but is still a major shareholder in Andela.
That voyage led him to co-found Flutterwave, an integrated payments platform for Africans to make and accept any payment, anywhere from across Africa and around the world. Under his watch, the company processed 100 million transactions worth $2.5 billion.
Turning his eyes firmly on future opportunities has led Aboyeji to set up his own family office called Street Capital, with a focus on identifying passionate and experienced missionary entrepreneurs with the integrity and courage to flawlessly execute in Africa.
With a solid track-record of unearthing diamonds in the rough, Aboyeji hopes to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs to achieve their fullest potential and help build some of Africa’s fastest-growing and most-impactful tech businesses.
The Movie Buff With A Happy Ending In Business
Kene Okwuosa continues to make profit selling the immersive cinema experience across movie halls in Nigeria.
If trailers of Simon Kinberg’s upcoming X-Men: Dark Phoenix have whetted your appetite for more action-packed cinema, you could take your pick from the likes of Hobbs & Shaw, John Wick 3: Parabellum or Avengers: End game. But as any film buff would tell you, watching these adrenaline rushes on DVD or TV is no match for a full-throttle cinema experience.
Kene Okwuosa is bullish about letting Nigeria’s 190 million population experience the thrilling excitement of the celluloid world. Using the theater to extract a sizeable profit from the Nigerian culture of socializing and communal engagement, his Filmhouse Cinemas has grown from just three screens to multiple locations across the country.
As part of the company’s strategic expansion plans, Okwuosa signed a pioneer deal to bring IMAX, the world’s most immersive cinematic experience, to West Africa in 2016. In doing so, Filmhouse has flipped a switch not just to beat competition from other local cinema chains, but also become one of the fastest-growing IMAX businesses in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
READ MORE | Worldwide Box Office, The Best It’s Ever Been
Quite a feat considering Okwuosa’s first stint at the cinema business did not have a happy ending.
The year was 2008 and Okwuosa and his partner at the time, also named Kene, were desperately looking for greener pastures beyond the borders of the United Kingdom (UK), where they were both employed as assistant general manager and general manager respectively at Odeon Cinemas.
“I had a conversation with Kene on the first of December 2008 and he was saying there is an opportunity with a friend of his who was an investor in Nigeria and we could go back, set up a company and create a great product in Nigeria. I resigned from my job on the second of December, I saw my family on the third of December and I caught a flight on the fourth of December after not being back in Nigeria for 11 years,” says Okwuosa.
And their voyage back home was favored by lady luck. A South African company at the time was exiting the Nigerian market and their assets were up for grabs. With the help of their investor, the pair bought up the assets and just like that, Genesis Deluxe Cinemas was born. It was a magical moment in the lives of the newly-minted entrepreneurs.
With three chains of Genesis Cinemas under their belt, the pair were ready to reap the profits of their entrepreneurial pursuits until everything went belly up.
“A year later, that deal went so bad we had to exit. Myself and Kene exited the company to our dismay. The private investor owned most of the business and there were issues between the investor and my partner relating to a slight misalignment of the company. We were torn between either staying in Lagos or going back to the UK. We decided to stay and tug it out,” says Okwuosa.
The pair had to downsize from the guest house they were staying in to a smaller flat and survived on noodles, while they hatched their next plan. They turned their living room into an office and went back to the drawing board.
Okwuosa believed there was still a market in the cinema theater business and he was not wrong. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Nigerian film industry is globally recognized as the second-largest film producer in the world. Total cinema revenue is set to reach $22 million in 2021, rising at 8.6% CAGR over the forecast period.
READ MORE | Will Cinema Just Disappear?
The cinema industry is one of the priority sectors identified in the economic recovery growth plan of the federal government of Nigeria with a planned $1 billion in export revenue by 2020. Furthermore, the National Film and Video Censors Board estimates the Nigerian movie industry needs at least 774 cinemas across the country for it to tackle the menace of piracy.
“So, for two years, I was literally waking up and going to every single office trying to pitch and raise money. We didn’t know anybody and we are not sons of rich men, we had already failed with Genesis, we had no assets or collateral. We were literally telling people we were going to modernize Nigeria’s entertainment scene and everybody was looking at us like we were crazy.”
In 2009, the Intervention Funds, created by then president Goodluck Jonathan to boost the Nigerian creative industry, would prove to be the lifeline Okwuosa and his partner so badly needed.
“I am proud to say we were the very first to access that fund in 2012, which was about N200 million at the time which, when you look back is not that much but considering the exchange rate, it was over $1 million. It was enough to help us kickstart Filmhouse. We had nothing, so that particular facility was largely uncollateralized,” says Okwuosa.
The fund took a bet on Okuwosa and his partner and it paid off. The loan was used to open their first three-screen cinema in Surulere, Lagos.
“It had a slow start but ultimately grew to be one of the biggest locations in the country and that organic growth led us to open two more cinemas prior to our second round of investors, which was private equity money from African Capital Alliance.”
The investment helped Okwuosa to scale to 10 operational locations across six states. The original vision when Okwuosa started Filmhouse was to be the biggest and best cinema and create an amazing space where people could escape into a different world.
Two years after, the company set up the production and distribution part of the business.
Filmhouse now represents about 50% of tickets sold in Nigerian cinemas, according to Okwuosa. With just a dream to conquer the Nigerian market, today, Filmhouse has a vision to become a media entertainment company.
In addition to IMAX, the company represents other international brands like Warner Bros and Lionsgate. With the institutional investment, Okwuosa has strengthened his core team, which no longer includes his former partner, as well as providing the company the impetus to scale with the right mind and right trajectory.
With a GDP of $375 billion making the Nigerian economy the 30th largest economy in the world, Okwuosa believes there is still a big chunk of money to be made from the entertainment and media space.
“I think we haven’t even scratched the surface of this industry and we want to position ourselves at the forefront of Nigerian entertainment.”
Advances In Nigeria’s ‘Burglar Watch’ Industry
The escalating safety and security issues in Nigeria raised the alarm for this innovative entrepreneur.
Today, organizations not only face escalating risks but also the certitude that they will face a security breach at any time, if proper precautions are not taken. Such was the case for Paul Ajibulu when his office premises were ransacked by thugs in Adeola Odeku, Victoria Island, Lagos.
“We had just got our office fully furnished with MacBook computers and the whole works. When we came in the next day, we found the locks broken and all the office equipment had been looted. I lost about $20,000 in all that day and that set our business back for a couple of months,” says Ajibulu.
To solve his problems, he reached out to Extreme Mutual Technique, an automated digital systems solution and renewable energy service provider.
The company says it boasts top-tier clients such as MTN, the Embassy of Sierra Leone, South African Breweries, and Africa Finance Corporation, amongst many others.
Akpobome Ojoboh, its founder and Managing Director, is adamant his systems are a must-have for every organization in Nigeria.
“We initially started the business called Extreme Surveillance Systems limited. Coming from my previous background, we decided to focus on CCTV and digital security. Considering the fact that Nigeria was being terrorized by security mishaps, we decided to [resolve] that,” says Ojoboh.
Safety and security have never been discussed in Nigeria as they are now. Threats are from everywhere, and at all places. Routine security checking at offices and shopping mall entrances has become the norm.
The idea of preventing crime is an appealing twist in today’s times and although it’s comforting for many to imagine a competent police officer monitoring every camera in Lagos, the question remains whether CCTV systems really do prevent crimes from happening or do they merely help in nabbing a criminal once a crime has occurred.
In a city like Lagos where you have constant disruptions to power, the long-term success of these systems presented significant hurdles for Ojoboh in the early days.
“There are so many limitations to digital security vis-à-vis the lack of a proper database that even when you have [identified] the culprits, you cannot find them. Furthermore, there were limitations to how people took ownership of their equipment because there was [often] no power. So, you put a system and people say ‘what if there is no power’?”
To combat these challenges, Ojoboh decided to provide another solution, by moving into the world of inverters.
“Then again, these inverters run down when there is no power to charge them so we went into renewable energy called solar to back up our inverters and digital solutions. That is when we changed the business to Extreme Mutual Technique Limited,” says Ojoboh.
Security is one of the largest businesses in the world, according to Ojoboh.
He has seen an increase in more families opting for peace of mind by having big brother watching over their loved ones whenever they cannot be with them.
“When I first became a mum, I would always worry incessantly about my daughter left alone at home with my nanny. Then, we started noticing strange marks on my daughter and I had heard about people mistreating children they cared for but I never thought it would happen to me. I reached out to a security company to install a camera in the house and lo and behold, I saw the nanny hitting my daughter. My whole world crumbled,” says Rebecca Gyan, a grocery store owner in Accra.
READ MORE | Pain, Poison And Potential
“You have to be prepared because if you are not, then you almost cannot stop any security breach. It helps you to know some proactive measures to protect yourself. If you have a CCTV system and you notice there is a particular group of people visiting your building, you will be able to notice and react,” says Ojoboh.
As organizations become familiar with probable threats and vulnerabilities, they will be able to establish both preventive measures and responsive systems, to decrease the likelihood of intruders and attacks.
Since starting out in 2007, Ojoboh has grown the team to a 40-member business spread across Lagos and Abuja. The company has also moved into IT and engineering services in the areas of energy infrastructure, home automation, fire safety and digital security solutions.
With power still an issue in Nigeria, Ojoboh sees the future of his business in the area of renewable energy to power his systems to provide that all-important peace of mind to his clients.
Subscribe to Forbes
Why The High Number Of Employees Quitting Reveals A Strong Job Market
No Seat At The Global Table For Indigenous African Cuisine
Xenophobia: Time For Cool Heads To Prevail In Nigeria And South Africa
The Laws Of Impactful Banking
Side Hustles: The Entrepreneur Employees
Arts4 weeks ago
Trevor Noah Is Laughing All The Way To The Bank
Cover Story4 weeks ago
Pioneer For Women In Construction Thandi Ndlovu has died
Travel4 weeks ago
Executive Travel: Reneilwe Letsholonyane’s Manchester
Cover Story2 weeks ago
Mastercard: Diligent About Digital In Africa
Technology3 weeks ago
Africa Takes Quantum Leap In Computing
Brand Voice3 weeks ago
How The Cradle Of Mankind Is Fearlessly Leading By Example
Arts4 weeks ago
Mr Eazi On A Global Campaign To Mentor And Fund African Artists
Arts4 weeks ago
The Highest-Paid Actors 2019: Dwayne Johnson, Bradley Cooper And Chris Hemsworth