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Local app DialMedia comes of age

Published by on Jan 14th, 2013, No Comments

For those of you who haven’t heard of DialMedia, it must be said that it’s one of those rare South African apps that is also a business. And I must say that I like their app and offering, even though I will never use it.

The DialMedia app is simple: you download and install, and every time you make a call, you hear an advert just before you connect. In doing so, you earn money, in the form of airtime on your mobile balance (TopUp/PrePaid). In other words, every time you hear an ad, you get paid. And they’ve patented it, too.

If someone doesn’t want to listen to an advert, they press #, but then don’t earn anything. Also, any number dialed under 10 digits will not be served an ad, this prevents the obvious situation of not wanting to hear marketing messages whilst calling the fire brigade, etc. Adverts can also include endings like: “Press 3 to request a call-back for a quote” and so on.

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Could an SMS purchasing startup help stop online fraud?

Published by on Jan 10th, 2013, No Comments

Any online retailer will tell you in no uncertain terms that fraud, specifically by using credit cards online, is a huge challenge for them and their competitors. Not only are these retailers often liable for the chargebacks caused by fraud, but it creates a negative impact on the online buying industry as a whole.

Over the festive break, a number of people have sent emails asking about making online transactions via other means — in other words not using credit cards. They asked: Can we make payments from our bank accounts directly? Can we buy with our mobile phone accounts?

Those two questions are very different things. Buying straight from your bank account is like doing and electronic funds transfer (EFT) or a debit order, both which require manual effort each time. Also, EFT payments are already offered by companies such as PayFast.

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Bid4Africa takes online auctions a few steps further

Published by on Jan 7th, 2013, No Comments

Many of us have come across penny auction websites, and almost all of them follow the same line of thought: buy credits and bid, win the item and it’s yours. Bid4Africa is following two key trends, and has one or two twists in how they operate, which in my mind give the site far more potential.

The first is that to buy bids, you send an SMS. The SMS costs you R10, and you in turn buy 100 credits (worth R10). While many readers may think this is only for the lower LSM market, they would be wrong: all of us have SMS capabilities on our phones. However, not all of us have credit cards, or at least cards that can be used online. For those of us with a prepaid cellphone package and no bank account, this website is an option. For those of us with a contract package, it is just as simple. The only drawback here might be that the only denomination is R10, and some bidders may wish to buy 1000 credits, or more, and not send so many SMSes.

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Bid4Africa takes online auctions a few steps further

Published by on Dec 20th, 2012, No Comments

Many of us have come across penny auction websites, and almost all of them follow the same line of thought: buy credits and bid, win the item and it’s yours. Bid4Africa is following two key trends, and has one or two twists in how they operate, which in my mind give the site far more potential.

The first is that to buy bids, you send an SMS. The SMS costs you R10, and you in turn buy 100 credits (worth R10). While many readers may think this is only for the lower LSM market, they would be wrong: all of us have SMS capabilities on our phones. However, not all of us have credit cards, or at least cards that can be used online. For those of us with a prepaid cellphone package and no bank account, this website is an option. For those of us with a contract package, it is just as simple. The only drawback here might be that the only denomination is R10, and some bidders may wish to buy 1000 credits, or more, and not send so many SMSes.

Another major difference is the bidding timer. Usually, when the time left drops below 10 seconds, a new bid renews the time to 10 seconds. This kept auctions going for days, and on previous penny auction websites that I’ve seen, people complained heavily about this, claiming that the website itself had “bots” that were bidding whenever humans were not, just to keep the auction ticking along. One quick search for Smokoo on MyBroadBand will show a number of threads where that website was accused of gambling, being a scam, etc. Not so with Bid4Africa.com – when a timer appears, that is the amount of time left. I’m not sure how they make sure who bid last just before the clock ends, but I suppose technology solves this objectively.

Their offering is also priced more affordably: R10 gives you 100 credits, while most South African penny auction websites used a ratio of R5 equals just one single bid. Here’s an iPod Touch that recently went for R41,95 and the delivery is always free. (Of course, the price is not all that Bid4Africa receives.) I must admit, it’s tempting to bid at this early stage of the website’s lifespan – less people subscribed means less bidders to push you off the winning spot.

I have seen penny auction websites from numerous parts of the world, but very few that actually have traction in South Africa. Since launching, Bid4Africa has already climbed to 200 users in its first week and the site is now well-visited daily. Opening it up on your mobile induces responsive design, and it shows up well on all smartphones. Try it and see.

My sources tell me they are planning a massive advertising campaign, even using television. It will be interesting to see how far they can take this newer, better version of an already existing business model.

Meet Jacques Blom: The 14 year old entrepreneur

Published by on Nov 20th, 2012, 6 Comments

If you think you’ve done a lot in your life, think again. On Friday evening, a boy of 14 got up and presented his idea and business during the Cape Town Entrepreneurship Week (CTEW), and immediately raised the bar for what people of his age should have accomplished by their time.

Jacques Blom is from the Cape and currently attends high school, but that didn’t stop him from spotting a gap in a market and going for it. He was busy on Facebook, trying out a colour changer app that would make his profile look different and exciting – but the app was a hoax and asked him to complete a survey. This got him going on iStyla, a profile theme changer for Facebook. And he’s built it all by himself.

I was quite impressed by the site and how the business model works. New users sign up via Facebook and install free or premium themes. The code for the theme or style is injected into Facebook on the user’s side, through the browser plugin, but such that if one iStyla user visits another iStyla user’s profile page, their Facebook design will temporarily change to that person’s design. Where I got impressed was that Blom’s user base helps create the product – designers can design new styles, and the cherry on the top: an affiliate program which allows users to earn money based on how many new people they refer to iStyla. In fact, a user might just receive a commission for having their current style viewed by someone else! These last two points make me believe this can go far.

Right now, the site already has over 3,000 users and over a thousand Likes on it’s Facebook page. Blom’s profiles on StackOverFlow, StartupLi.st, Crunchbase and VentureBeat prove what the youngster has put into this so far, all on his own. It would seem the site uses a freemium model, with no charge for anything as of yet. And right now, with Facebook covering a billion users a little while ago, all he’ll need is traction.

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Invitation to the Silicon Cape 2013 Committee Elections

Published by on Nov 12th, 2012, 1 Comment

The Silicon Cape Initiative is inviting it’s community to their committee election voting event at 6PM on Wednesday November 14 2012, hosted at the Bandwidth Barn.

Candidates for the 2013 committee will be giving brief motivations for the community to vote them onto the committee, making this a unique opportunity to hear industry leading thoughts around the initiative from those interested in moving closer toward the vision.

This is the second committee election since the original appointment after the launch event. There are 10 out of 12 seats up for election, meaning the new committee could consist almost entirely of new players, and will be able to set completely new directions for the initiative.

Those interested in getting more involved with the initiative, but who do not make it on to the committee, could be considered by the new committee as part of a sub-committee around each portfolio.

Members of the Cape Town IT and startup community are encouraged to attend the election event to place their votes for which of the candidates they would like to see on the committee. Snacks and pizza will be provided, RSVPing is recommended.

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The dawn of mobile influence

Published by on Oct 19th, 2012, 2 Comments

When we all sat down for PriceCheck’s presentation at the Online Retail Conference in Cape Town last week, online and brick-and-mortar retailers both expected a lecture on price comparison. We were wrong.

Andre de Wet (GM of PriceCheck) took us through a rather enlightening talk showing that physical retailers stores’ walls are evaporating and with the mobile tools that consumers have nowadays, strategies need to change for a retailer to stay at the top.

De Wet stressed that “mobile shopping is not necessarily mobile buying.” In other words, while 50-60% of your customers will use their phones inside your store, it is for research and price comparisons and not to purchase goods. However, this research directly affects purchasing behaviour. And interestingly for the future, 14% of those on mobile click on the buy button anyway.

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88mph launches in Cape Town with Google Umbono

Published by on Oct 19th, 2012, 1 Comment

Investors increasing speed to exactly 88mph: How Google is taking entrepreneurship forward in Cape Town, South Africa and Africa.

Many of you will know who 88mph is, and for those who don’t, it doesn’t refer to the speed of bikers in a recent article I wrote on News24. Nor does it mean the WordPress development company at 88mph.com. In a move that was applauded from Cairo to Cape Town, 88mph, a top African start-up incubator, has merged forces with Google (Umbono) and created a fantastic space for entrepreneurial investment and lab-type assistance. Their opening launch party happened on Wednesday in offices which are almost finished and already stylish, situated at 66 Albert Road, Woodstock.

The event was all about what they revolve around: tech start-ups. Kicking off with a few short presentations from Johanna Kollar and Kresten Buch on how they plan to invest, 88mph and Google showed investors how the ecosystem in South Africa has more than enough deal flow, and in turn showed entrepreneurs that a stint on the 4th floor will give you the kick your idea needs. While craft beer and ice tea flowed freely and pizzas were scoffed in seconds, 8 teams pitched for a chance at winning techware and a place on the 4th floor.

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