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Automation Apps For New Businesses

It is absolutely crucial that a business owner use every tool at their disposal to make sure that their business is as successful as it can be.

Josh Althuser

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Starting a business is one of the most harrowing endeavours a human can undertake. It is rife with hazards and forks in the road. Decisions must be made constantly and the work never truly ends. Why then would a new business owner want to take the entire responsibility of a company upon their shoulders alone? Even when the company is made in partnership, or with a group, the tasks that must be completed to assure the business is a success are daunting and tedious to say the least.

Luckily, technology has progressed far enough to automate some of these essential tasks for us and let us focus purely on running a business. Steps that need to be taken at the outset of a business include marketing, meetings and leads. These tasks can get in the way of perfecting your product or designing a service that can provide a fully realised experience. In this article, we are going to explore automation applications that can assist you in starting your business and running it for the future. There should never be anything in the way of a successful idea from being successful. No one who has a good idea or product should be limited  by the mundane activities that come with starting a business.

Related: How Automation Can Transform Your Start-up

The first thing that any business owner should be concerned with is marketing and design. Without good marketing your product or service will never reach the eyes and ears of a customer base. Without customers there will never be a business that succeeds or generates profit. So, it can be said, that without marketing there is no business.

Luckily, there are a number of companies who focus on automating marketing tasks so that you can focus on delivering your product in the best way possible.

Firstly, the company HubSpot centralises your needs and tools so that you can run an effective campaign automatically. This service uses automation to generate appropriate marketing materials and publishes them to the correct social media platforms. They also act as an entire marketing team that helps you to come up with a brand and image that accurately represents your business. In the same vein, there is the company MailChimp. Their goal is to create email blast campaigns on your behalf so that you do not have to scour for email addresses or constantly write up new email marketing materials.

MailChimp also helps with SEO and brand development so that you do not have to be bogged down with ideas for marketing. Services like these  automate the marketing process so that you do not have to undertake the tedious task of writing new email marketing materials everyday. Though it is an essential task, it is very much a laborious slog. In the early going, new owners typically do not have budgets to hire people that might specialise in marketing or advertising. MailChimp and HubSpot make it so that a new business does not suffer from being without a marketing team.

Website design is a crucial facet of business as it is your portal through the internet into people’s homes.  Luckily, companies like Squarespace and WordPress make web design easy and simple. An owner can use these services to create nice looking websites that are easy to navigate in a day or less. The simplicity, combined with the efficacy, make these services absolutely invaluable to new owners who are in dire need of a website. The services also come at fairly low price points and have elegant looks that can constantly scale with the size of your business. Having a website that can grow alongside your business gives you a better opportunity to reach the customers you need to reach. Web design is such an important facet and these services can make sure you are not left in the dust.

Related: 6 Resources For Start-ups Looking For Funding

Finally, we have one of the most important tools a new business owner can have and that is a personal assistant. Devices like the Google Home and Amazon Alexa allow new business owners the opportunity to have a personal assistant with them at all times. This is absolutely invaluable to new business owners as they are usually incredibly busy and need to be reminded of important events at all times. These automated digital devices can help to keep you organised and informed constantly so that you are never left in the dark. These devices provide assistance to new business owners that need constant reminders so that they do not fall behind on any work.

They are absolutely incredible pieces of technology and can prevent a company from failing. The services and devices listed above can help a brand new business owner to be successful in their business without the risk of failure due to a lack of funds. Because the technology continues to grow, and is reasonably priced, business owners around the world are finding running their businesses to be much easier than ever before. It is absolutely crucial that a business owner use every tool at their disposal to make sure that their business is as successful as it can be.

Josh Althuser is a tech entrepreneur and open source advocate specializing in providing mentorship for startups. You may connect with him on Twitter.

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Why SA’s Latest Tech Start-up ‘Merge,’ Is Going To Disrupt The Current Entrepreneur And Investment Landscape

Merge aims to level the playing field.

Merge Connect

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Vital Stats

In the world that we live in today entrepreneurs and investors are seen as the pioneers of the future. Together, they have the ability to not only shape our current society, but construct a future with endless possibilities. The problem however lies in the process of becoming either one of the two.

The current entrepreneur and investor landscape in South Africa is a bit of an exclusive club. From an entrepreneur point of view, if you don’t have immediate access to a strong personal network then you are immediately at a huge disadvantage. For investors, more often than not there is a minimum net-worth requirement to be able to join an angel network or even be considered as a serious investor. This minimum net-worth figure is usually so high that it excludes thousands of potential investors that can potentially fund or provide mentorship to entrepreneurs.

Merge aims to level the playing field.

“There are so many people in South Africa with access to capital or who can be great mentors through skills transfer. These individuals can contribute to the growth of entrepreneurship but many of them have not considered investing into entrepreneurs as they haven’t had the access to do so. Entrepreneurs and investors can contribute heavily to the economy but we want to encourage and facilitate inclusive economic growth, giving more people access to opportunities.” – Christopher Watt-Pringle, Investor and Operations Director at Merge

What is Merge?

Merge is South Africa’s latest app and web-based platform where entrepreneurs and investors meet online. Think of it as on online version of the popular television series; ‘Shark Tank’, or ‘Dragons Den’, where entrepreneurs get the chance to engage with investors to potentially secure funding or mentorship for their venture.

How Does it Work?

Much like ‘Tinder’ where there needs to be a mutual interest from both parties; entrepreneurs can add their venture to the Merge platform and then immediately scroll through a network of investors. Once they identify the right investor they can send them a ‘Merge request’.

Investors also create a profile, either as a private or corporate investor. After completing their profile, they too are able to immediately scroll through all ventures until they identify an opportunity that suits their investment portfolio. Once they have done this they will also send a ‘Merge request’ to the entrepreneur. If there is a mutual interest, both parties will receive a notification whereby they will be taken to the Merge chat feature known as the ‘Boardroom’ in order to take the discussions further.

“A lot of existing ways to find funding are very one dimensional. Normally the entrepreneur will find a website, fill out a long application form and sit and wait for someone to reply to them via email (if they’re lucky). We designed Merge to be social and more community-based for easier two way communication between investors and entrepreneurs. Being an app-based platform was also important in terms of increasing usage and making the exercise of seeking investment a frictionless daily routine with faster feedback loops” – Christopher Peters, Investor and UX Director at Merge 

Related: Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

Who Can use Merge?

All entrepreneurs are encouraged to join Merge should they be seeking investment or want to grow their business through mentorship. Merge’s aim is not to replace current avenues where entrepreneurs can find investment, it is to use technology to accelerate the process for both parties.

“We intend to work with existing capital investment firms and investor networks to ensure that there is a strong investor presence on the platform. It’s important to have credible investors on the platform to increase the chances of success for entrepreneurs, so we will have a strong focus on nurturing these relationships and forming strategic partnerships” – Brandon Bate, Co-founder of Merge 

What About the Protection of User Information?

“Protecting the interests of the entrepreneurs and investors on Merge is our number one priority. We have designed some specific features to protect information and make entrepreneurs feel comfortable with sharing their ideas on the platform. We also want to make sure we protect the investors and make Merge a safe place to for them to find investment opportunities. One example of this is in the ‘Boardroom’ where before engaging in discussion, both parties have to sign a mutual NDA in the app” – Zander Matthee, Co-founder of Merge 

Watch the video for more features:

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Make A Quality First Inkpression

Brother’s refill tank system inkjet all-in-ones are perfect for home or SMEs requiring higher print volumes. Enjoy superior quality and efficiency. Every time.

Brother

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In today’s busy, entrepreneurial world, smart users need a smart design when it comes to home and small workgroup printing and document management. Brother’s products work side by side with you and your team to meet essential daily printing needs, while ensuring the highest level of professional output.

Brother offers you printing without worrying about print costs and expands your print capabilities with professional quality that yields crisp text and brilliant graphics. What’s more, our refill tank system all-in-ones deliver high-impact, vivid colour printing that gets your company noticed.

As your business grows you’ll need to optimise as much of your everyday processes to improve efficiency, increase productivity and stay ahead of the curve.

“Whether you are printing everyday forms and memos or high-impact brochures, reports or presentations, these devices deliver results your business can depend on.”

Brother’s devices can effectively and reliably keep pace and improve your bottom line. These innovative smart printers can offer your business the following:

Print at full speed

With a document print speed of up to 12/10ipm, Brother machines can speed up your workflow, so you can do more in less time. From printing professional reports to outstanding brochures, you can confidently create powerful business materials that will make the right impression.

Save more with every print

Lower your cost per print with Brother’s ultra-high yield ink bottles. Print up to 6 500 pages in black and 5 000 pages in colour. You’ll also save the environment and running costs, with automatic two-sided printing on the MFC-T910DW that reduces paper usage by up to 50%.

Related: Keep Your Information Moving At The Speed Of Your Business

Refill easily and accurately

The Refill Tank Series features a smart design with an embedded, front-access ink tank and a see-through cover. This saves space effectively and makes it easy to check how much ink is left. Fill the ink tanks at the optimised angle of 45º and avoid unnecessary mess and leakage.

brother-injet-printerMultiplying productivity

The Brother MFC-T910W machine features a 4.5cm user-friendly LCD touchscreen and keypad. This enables you to browse menu options at a glance and easily navigate print settings. You can also print files or scan to a USB device without needing to connect to a PC.

Handle tasks efficiently

Handle a variety of projects with a 150-sheet paper tray adjustable for different paper sizes and a 20 sheet Auto Document Feeder* that allows for convenient scanning, copying and faxing. The multi-purpose tray (MFC-T910DW only) also holds up to 80 sheets and provides support for various paper weights, enabling you to breeze through your print jobs.

Print from anywhere

With flexible connectivity options, our printers are designed to suit all work environments. Plus you’ll enjoy the convenience of printing wirelessly from desktop PCs, laptops, mobile devices or tablets.

*MFC-T910DW and DCP-T710DW Only

Peace of Mind Guaranteed

When you purchase a Brother printer or multifunction centre and our genuine inks or toners, we’ll support you every step of the way with our free three-year warranty commitment.

You do not need to register your product, our warranty is automatic when you purchase your Brother device. With Brother, you can have peace of mind that we are always ‘At Your Side’.

To keep your Brother machine running in optimal condition we recommend using only Brother Genuine Consumables. This will ensure you automatically enjoy our exclusive three-year warranty.

Visit www.brother.co.za

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What’s Smart About Cities? Inviting Exponential Possibilities

It is also what produces both their problems and their innovativity that needs to be considered.

Dr Geci Karuri-Sebina

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Cities are intense. They are diverse, competitive and malleable – highly responsive to human and non-human action, sometimes in weird and unpredictable ways. Therefore, cities tend to be characterised by an elevated urgency, messiness and even volatility. And this intensity is what attracts many of us to them. It is also what produces both their problems and their innovativity.

What cities are not is a place to park off and wait for anything. These are energetic places where you have to be busy and engaged – light on the feet, fingers to the pulse, living in the dynamic realities and fantasies, and there are always old and new problems with which to contend. And this is exactly why innovation is often acknowledged as a largely urban phenomenon – the consequence of this intensity combined with other conditions, such as the concentration of knowledge organisations and infrastructures in urban centres worldwide.

So, whenever people ask me about smart cities, I have a standard response: “What’s smart to you?” And often what follows is a litany of tech solutions we could be deploying in cities to make them more efficient, more futuristic.

Now, I love tech as much as the next person and I am not ignorant of the exponential growth and fundamental impacts of tech in our times. However, I am also aware of another concurrent reality: that human population, and particularly in the youth category, has also been growing exponentially in Africa. And people (for now) develop tech. So, where do we locate smart or not smart?

Let’s start with some facts that we are all increasingly aware of. Today, over half of the world’s population is under 30, and two billion are classified as youth. In South Africa, already over 20 million people (35% of national population) are between the ages of 15 and 34. According to the United Nations, one out of three young people in the world will be African by 2050.

Related: Watch List: 20 SA Tech Entrepreneurs Making It Big In The Industry

How exciting! Notwithstanding the serious issue of planetary limits, we are looking at billions of young people who are designed to be creative and adaptive in a range of contexts and with the ability to exchange and learn. There are so many possibilities and directions imaginable! Yet when we start talking about how we innovate our way into and through the future, the focus is squarely elsewhere. Suddenly there are very few and very similar voices around the table that focus on the agency of a few and centre tech as the key driver. The agency of billions is occluded and they become the so-called entitled beneficiaries, use cases, and/or the grateful consumers.

Coming back to smart (and my assertion that I am not anti-tech) – why does this matter? Well, it matters because tech is developed and governed by people. People determine the assumptions and rules that we embed into what we encode. We en-culture tech so to speak – contrary to the simplistic claim that tech is objective or neutral.

In my view, it is not likely that technology on its own has the potential to be usefully transformative. Consider, the hyper-connected world that IoT enables or blockchain’s democratisation of not only administration, but also of traditional entrepreneurship and innovation systems. These could be transformative – but not if our processes of technological development and diffusion are the domain of the fortunate few, circumventing – or even subverting – the recognition and involvement of the billions. Barring blind faith in the benevolence of the privileged or in happenstance – the technologies are far more likely to reproduce our current structure and gaps of privilege and exclusion. This is a good example of how not to be smart: following the same old processes with new tools and expecting different results. And then not recognising it as such.

We need to get smarter. We need to activate the over 50% unemployed youth in South Africa as well as the billion who are living in slums all around the world. We need to cease thinking of inclusion only as an outcome, and instead tap into the dynamism of place and the spirit of youth to engage, play, imagine, try to mix. We need to open up to an abundance of visceral ideas and queer possibilities which speak to a multiverse of unique contexts, circumstances and considerations; which are witty, novel and generative.

This, in my view, is the essence of what we should refer to as “smart”. With this openness, there is the possibility of pursuing the idea that everything from the strategic to the operational processes and assumptions of technological change can be more relevant and transformative as processes of current inclusiveness than as solutions for a magical future destination called inclusion.

Imagine a situation where everyone was acknowledged as having ideas which any of them could pursue on the ideas’ merit and relevance, and with concomitant recognition, rather than advancement relying on arbitrarily (or even unfairly) assigned access and privilege and power? Imagine that…

“Smart” for South Africa – and for African cities – has got to be about enabling the millions and billions of youth to do what they could do best: energise and inspire. And while we may have been focusing on millennials’ poor education or non-sensibilities as the excuses for their perpetual exclusion, it is evident that even these assumptions need to be subjected to interrogation and innovation. The smart process has to be open to finding new ways of being and doing, and figure out how to make them work. The technologies will follow function, rather than vice versa.

The recently launched African Leadership Institute report An Abundance of Young African Leaders but no Seat at the Table (2018), bears a title that tells it all. According to this report, 700 000 young Africans have been exposed to some form of leadership initiative in recent years. Yet they get little opportunity to gain the experience of providing leadership and are, the report says, largely invisible.

Cities and emerging technologies are not abstract trends around us. Nor are they autonomous solutions for the future of humanity or so-called smartness. They are part of an ecosystem of which we are part, and in which we should probably be looking to enact different processes of engagement, given our challenges and desire to be smarter. We could start by inviting the transformative potential of our massive numbers of youth, drawing them out of invisibility. If we don’t recognise our real abundance – the abundance of youthful potential and possibility – then perhaps we are just waiting for a few people somewhere with their gadgets to come colonise our future with their version of what is considered to be smart, and then to specify our role in it. And that is really not very smart.

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