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Ten Technology Start-Ups To Watch

Innovation is becoming the cornerstone of business. These are 10 of the most promising technology companies in Cape Town.

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Entersekt

Entersekt is a global pioneer in transaction authentication for financial institutions. The system combines electronic certificate technology with encrypted cloud messaging and the convenience of mobile phones to give banks, and their customers, full protection from cyber criminals looking to steal users login details and passwords. Entersekts clients, who include Investec, Absa, Old Mutual, Nedbank and Capitec, have allegedly reported an elimination of online banking fraud since implementing the system. Over 12 million customers are protected by Entersekt’s security software which has authenticated more than 250 million transactions since being launched in 2010. The start-up has so far raised around $10 million and has been implemented in Swiss financial institutions with plans to expand to Nigeria, Britain, Netherlands and the United States.

iono.fm

Described as PVR for radio, iono.fm is an audio-on-demand platform that publishes content from radio stations, podcasts and audiobooks. Listeners create their unique playlists and download content for later use. The revenue model centers on short audio adverts and all the content is currently free but going forward they may charge for exclusive content and added functionality. Where traditional radio stations can only monetize their content once as it is streamed live, iono.fm can monetize the content multiple times with different advertisers as the audio is stored online for repeat use. The platform currently generates over a million page views and 800,000 downloads per month. In the second quarter this year, iono.fm saw a 400% increase in downloads. The company has been self-funded since 2008 but is now engaging with venture capital investment to expand operations to the rest of Africa, India, and South America.

 

wiGroup

wiGroup is a specialized point-of-sale integration platform that enables retailers of any size to tap into the mobile money market. Retailers that plug-in to the wiPlatform are able to accept any kind of current or future mobile payment, loyalty, reward or couponing application that exists on the platform. MTN Mobile Money, FlickPay and M-Pesa are some of the apps that have been integrated into the system which services over 50,000 till lanes across South Africa and has processed close to $250 million in mobile transactions. wiGroup’s clients include Pick n Pay, Shoprite, Vodacom and KFC, and the revenue model is based on transaction fees and monthly licensing subscriptions for apps that run on the platform. The company has a presence in Namibia and Mauritius, with plans to expand into Nigeria, Zambia and Britain in the near future.

CapeRay

CapeRay develops and manufactures advanced breast cancer screening equipment combining X-ray and ultrasound technology to enhance a clinician’s ability to detect cancer in women – especially those with dense breast tissue where conventional methods often miss a cancerous lesion. The technology is the first of its kind globally. The start-up spun away from the University of Cape Town around four years ago and has so far raised $2.26 million in funding pre-revenue. Clinical trials have been completed and an offering memorandum is now in front of 15 major multinational companies with CapeRay looking to raise an additional $10 million to begin rolling out the product in the United States, Europe and South Africa.

 

iKubu

iKubu specializes in developing computer vision and commercial radar systems. The small team of engineers have a deep understanding of embedded software solutions and electronic hardware with a strong focus on algorithm development. The start-up developed a 3D scanning system for automated baggage check-in that has been implemented in major airports, including Heathrow, Sydney and Singapore. The company has, up until now, been bootstrapped by the founders who are engaging with international investors to expand operations.

 

Nomanini

Nomanini develops and manufactures rugged mobile point-of-sale terminals to sell products such as airtime and electricity in emerging markets. The technology enables vendors in the informal sector to efficiently distribute prepaid vouchers and facilitate micro cash payments with plans in the works to enable additional transactions such as mobile money and insurance premium collections. Nomanini has partnerships in Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia, Namibia, Guinea and Mozambique with active terminals processing over a million transactions in September with the company expecting to process a million payments per month by December. Nomanini has so far raised more than $2.3 million in funding and is engaging with venture capital players in foreign markets for further expansion.

 

8bit

8bit is a content recommendation platform that connects online publishers to a larger network of content producers driving traffic to members’ websites by showcasing their most popular content on other sites in the network. 8bit’s system automatically detects a site’s top content based on time, click rate and social media engagement and shares impressions across the network of publishers. It is currently in a closed invite only beta stage with South Africa’s leading independent publishers and has begun trialling with the country’s largest media houses. 8bit will officially launch at the upcoming Web Summit conference in Dublin in November after being named as one of Africa’s top 10 start-ups. In the upcoming months the company will be launching its paid promotions platform where publishers and advertisers can promote sponsored content not only on 8bit’s network but on traditional advertising exchanges. Since being founded earlier this year 8bit has raised around $135,000 in seed funding with plans to expand into Kenya, Nigeria and Denmark. 8bit processes over 20 million recommendations per month and in many instances, directs more traffic to publishers on its network than Google, Facebook and Twitter.

OrderCloud

OrderCloud integrates all the sales channels of a business, whether telephone, web or mobile, into a single online dashboard for simple and effective order management. The system automatically locates the closest outlet to the customer and links it with the necessary delivery services to process the order. Whether customers pay with credit, cash or mobile money, all your funds are instantly aggregated into a single account which distributes the lump sum to all the relevant parties in the supply chain. OrderCloud is being integrated into large franchises in South Africa though the start-up cannot say who at this point as the information is classified. The company is busy putting together a prominent board of directors and has so far raised $226,000 with plans to raise an additional $900,000 from local and international investors.

 

WhereIsMyTransport

This month, WhereIsMyTransport will be launching Africa’s first official multi-modal transport application for Cape Town. Commuters using the app are able to seamlessly plot their journey from point to point linking various modes of public transport such as Golden Arrow buses and Metrorail trains with minibus taxis to come online in the near future. The application generates valuable data regarding commuter traffic and congestion enabling cities to more efficiently develop their transport networks. The start-up, still in its infancy, is engaged in talks with investors in three foreign markets to develop similar applications for major metros. The long-term vision of the company will be to open up its application programming interface to allow other developers to build apps using their technology.

 

Ekaya

Ekaya has created an online marketplace where you can list, find and rent property from your phone or on the web. Landlords can vet and rate tenants, collect rent and freely advertise their property on the platform. Tenants applying for property pay an administrative fee of less than $10 for all necessary criminal and credit record checks, whereas property agents usually charge around $100. Also, instead of paying a fat deposit upfront, Ekaya offers an insurance scheme where tenants pay a smaller monthly fee that can be used to cover damages. Ekaya makes money by taking a small commission of the rent and is looking to expand its insurance, micro-loan and deposit components with added loyalty and reward features. Ekaya recently raised $126,000 in angel funding and has over 1,000 estate listings in Cape Town since the beta version went live about two weeks ago with the platform aiming to launch in Durban and Johannesburg in the next few months.

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‘AI Is A Powerful Tool’

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Research forecasts that by 2025, machines will perform more current work tasks than humans. Murat Sonmez, member of the managing board, and Head of the Centre for the WEF Fourth Industrial Revolution Network, expands on the role humans might play.


The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is at the center of the current economic frontier. In reality, is Africa prepared for such changes?

Moving quickly and being agile are key principles of success in the 4IR. Any country can succeed if they take on this mindset. A few years ago, Rwanda saw the opportunities drones, a 4IR technology, brought to their country.

They helped save over 800 lives by delivering blood to remote villages. To scale this, the government worked with the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) drones’ team to create the world’s first agile airspace regulation. Now, we see countries in Africa and around the world looking to the Rwandan model.

READ MORE | 5 Ways Tech Can Revolutionize Education

What feasible solutions can  artificial intelligence (AI) offer in terms of forecasting natural disasters, droughts food security on the African continent?

AI can help predict diseases, increase agriculture yields and help first responders. It is a powerful tool for governments and businesses, but it needs a lot of data to be effective.

For AI to be all that it can be, countries and companies need to work together to build frameworks for better management and protection of our data and ensure that it is shared and not stored in silos. Data is the oxygen of the (4IR). If countries do not leverage data and have their policies in place, they will be left behind.

There is a growing concern that the 4IR will strip people of jobs, of which there is already a shortage. How true is this?

The world is going through a workplace revolution that will bring a seismic shift in the way humans work alongside machines and algorithms.

Latest research from the WEF forecasts that by 2025, machines will perform more current work tasks than humans, compared to 71% being performed by humans today.

READ MORE | Roadmap For African Startups

The rapid evolution of machines and algorithms in the workplace could create 133 million new roles in place of 75 million that will be displaced between now and 2022.

Consumers have real concerns around the potential harm technology can cause in areas such as privacy, misinformation, surveillance, job loss, environmental damage and increased inequality. What ethical precautions are being considered in the robotics space?

Now more than ever, it is important to incorporate ethics into the design, deployment and use of emerging technology. Innovating in the 4IR requires addressing concerns around privacy and data ownership, while attracting the skills and forward-looking thinkers of the future.

There are big challenges and bigger opportunities ahead. We have seen many companies and countries create ethical and human rights-based frameworks. What’s important is they are co-designed with members of both communities along with academia, civil society and start-ups.

A multi-stakeholder approach will result in a more holistic set of guidelines and principles that can be adopted in many different industries and geographies.

READ MORE | It’s Time For Africa’s Gazelles To Shine

What changes need to take place for the African continent to be on par with global developments, and are there tangible goals set?

The 4IR provides governments the opportunity to be global leaders in shaping the next 20 to 30 years of science and technology. It is important they create an environment where companies can innovate.

The other tenet is to be open to working across borders and learning from each other. The global health industry has access to mountains of data on rare diseases, but it is trapped within countries and sometimes even within the hospital walls.

If we can build trust and find innovative ways to share the data while protecting privacy, we can employ tools like AI to help us cure disease faster. Countries and companies need to have the right governance frameworks and mechanisms in place for these breakthroughs to happen. It is possible to do these things now, but we need to work together to make it happen.

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Businesses At The Heart Of A Greener Future

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With every day that passes by it becomes more apparent that the Earth is deteriorating and time is running out to save it. Scientists have estimated that we have less than a decade to save the planet before it is irreversibly damaged, mainly due to climate change.

Businesses claim the largest percentage of global emissions (at approximately 70% since 1988, according to The Guardian) which is an alarming statistic, especially in a time when the planet’s well-being is being compromised.

Many large business corporations are hastily coming on board with operating sustainably by transforming their practices and placing business ethics at the forefront of their priorities.

READ MORE | The Most Sustainable Companies In 2019

Last week, a round table discussion was held at the Fairlawns Boutique Hotel, Sandton hosted by Environmental Resources Management (ERM) – the world’s largest sustainability consulting firm. Their aim was to discuss how imperative it is for African businesses to get on board with sustainability.

“We have been talking about how to be sustainable for a long time but now it is time for us to do sustainability,” says Thapelo Letete, Technical Director of ERM.

An engaging and thought-provoking panel discussion ensued with representatives from ERM and mining companies, Anglo American and Gold Fields. They emphasized the importance of sustainability being recognized by investors, especially in mining and oil companies that rely solely on Earth’s natural resources.

Civil society has a colossal role to play in ensuring the sustainability of businesses. Due to the law of supply and demand in production, consumers are being urged to be mindful of their buying habits and to make sustainable decisions. These are as simple as minimizing the utilization of plastic straws by replacing them with metal or paper straws and reusable shopping bags and by recycling selected items.

READ MORE | Challenging The Gender Divide

“Research suggests that socially and environmentally responsible practices have the potential to garner more positive consumer perceptions of (businesses), as well as increases in profitability,” according to an entry in Sage Journals published in May.

The advancement of science, artificial intelligence and the rapid growth of the technological industry make it an undeniable fact that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is underway. Many businesses across the globe seem to be well prepared for this change. However, businesses in Africa seem to be vulnerable. 

“It is difficult to say that all businesses in Africa are prepared for it. It is not a country specific thing but it does vary across corporations. There will be businesses that are well prepared and businesses that are not so well prepared,” says Keryn James, CEO of ERM.

A large part of sustainability also relies on empowerment and equality. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest number of female-owned businesses who contribute a large amount of money towards their respective countries’ GDPs. However, most of these businesses struggle with the issue of scaling.

“Women sometimes underestimate their ability and they don’t necessarily  have the confidence that they should have about the value that their businesses present. Women often take less risks than men,” says James.

“The issue of scaling is one that we see globally. One of the issues are access to funding to support in the investment and growth of their businesses.”

READ MORE | Mastercard: Diligent About Digital In Africa

Going forward, the availability of mentorship programmes and skills development opportunities for women, especially black women in business should be encouraged.

According to a study done by the UN Women’s organization, an average of 3 out of 7 women score higher in performance when they are placed in senior managerial positions. Additionally, if more women work, the more countries can exponentially maximise their economic growth.

Women will be empowered when given the correct skills and opportunities to be able to run their own businesses independently which would ultimately lead to the scaling of female-owned businesses in Africa and sustainable development.

The Nedbank Capital Sustainable Business Awards aim to recognize the efforts of businesses that operate sustainably and to encourage other corporations who intend to adopt more sustainable strategies into their practices. Initiatives such as these prove that business value also depends on how sustainable they are.

It is clear that the prioritization of sustainability and accountability in businesses is the only way forward in the midst of this global crisis. With a combination of will and the rigorous work that African businesses have put into sustainability initiatives and strategies, it is easier to be optimistic about our planet’s wellbeing.

-Buhle Ntusi

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Ex-Google Staffer Says After Split With Chief Legal Officer David Drummond: ‘Hell Does Not Begin To Capture My Life’

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Former Google employee Jennifer Blakely has written a scathing blog post with allegations about how her affair with chief legal officer David Drummond unfolded.


A former member of Google’s legal team who says she had a child with the company’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, has written a scathing blog post about the way that their relationship unfolded within the search engine giant, including that he issued “terrifying threats” to take custody of their child after initially refusing to pay child support.

In a Medium post, Jennifer Blakely says that she was inspired to detail her experience after an explosive New York Times story last fall put a spotlight on how the company shielded top executives from harassment claims and sparked massive employee protests.

“Looking back, I see how standards that I was willing to indulge early on became institutionalized behavior as Google’s world prominence grew and its executives grew more powerful,” Blakely writes.

READ MORE | Google, Facebook, Twitter Fail To Live Up To Fake News Pledge

“Women that I worked with at Google who have spoken to me since the New York Times article have told me how offended they were by the blatant womanizing and philandering that became common practice among some (but certainly not all) executives, starting at the very top.” 

While her relationship with the married Drummond was included in the Times story and first reported byThe Information in November 2017, this is the first time Blakely has written about the experience herself.

Drummond is one of several current and former Google executives who has reportedly had relationships with employees or extramarital affairs, including Eric Schmidt, Sergey Brin, and Andy Rubin.

READ MORE | Calling Out Sexual Harassment

Blakely alleges that after their relationship ended, Drummond had another relationship with a subordinate, which is against Google’s workplace policy. He is still employed by Google and made more than $47 million last year. 

Blakely says that she started working in Google’s legal department under Drummond in 2001 and that after he told her that he was estranged from his wife, they began a relationship in 2004. She says the two had a child together in 2007 and that Google’s human resources department then told her that one of them had to leave the department.

She moved to sales, an area where she had no experience, and subsequently struggled with her work. Blakely alleges that after she ultimately left the company at Drummond’s urging in 2008, but that while they were living together in Palo Alto, he broke off their relationship via text message.

“‘Hell’ does not begin to capture my life since that day,” she writes. “I’ve spent the last 11 years taking on one of the most powerful, ruthless lawyers in the world. From that fateful night forward, David did things exclusively on his terms.” 

She alleges that Drummond initially refused to see their son or pay child support, and then fought against her in a custody battle. While she says they ultimately reached a settlement and he began paying child support, she writes that “months or years” would go by when he wouldn’t see their son. In 2014, Drummond allegedly showed her an article about Eric Schmidt’s reported history of extramarital affairs during an argument, implying that the executive’s position granted him impunity.

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“His ‘personal life’ (which apparently didn’t include his son) was off limits and since I was no longer his ‘personal life’ it was time for me to shut up, fall in line and stop bothering him with the nuisances or demands of raising a child,” Blakely writes.

Blakely’s story is the latest in a string of public posts from former Google employees highlighting issues with the company’s culture and policies (or their lack of enforcement).

One of the women who helped organize last fall’s protests, Claire Stapelton, recently wrote about her experience with retaliation, another employee detailed the disappointing way the company’s human resources department dealt with her harassment reports, and former senior engineer Liz Fong-Jones posted about “grave concerns” with the company’s decision making in general.

The outspokenness of Google employees exemplifies — and has helped spur — a broader activism in the tech sector that has seen workers speaking out against their employer’s internal policies and business decisions.

Blakely’s post also taps into the larger #MeToo movement which has drawn attention to sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace across industries.

“Until truth is willing to speak to power and is heard, there’s not going to be the sea change necessary to bring equality to the workplace,” she writes.

Neither Google nor Drummond immediately responded to a request for comment. 

This story is developing.

-Jillian D’Onfro; Forbes

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