- Company: wiGroup
- Player: Bevan Ducasse
- Est: 2007
- Visit: wigroupinternational.com
The growth stats
- 2008: wiGroup makes no money. It’s living off investment finance while developing and tweaking the platform.
- 2011: Breakeven
- 2012: R7 million
- 2013: R20 million
- 2014: Projecting R40 million
- 2015: Goal is R65 million
- 2016: Goal is R100 million
What strategic decisions did you make in your start-up phase that are still paying dividends today?
The first and biggest has been taking great care to get the right people onboard from day one. Businesses are essentially their people. If you get the people part right you set the foundation and the environment for success.
The second was to find the right funding partner. I was 24 years old and I’d left my job to start something on my own. I’d been working for another start-up and realised that I wanted to be in that environment – I wanted to be an entrepreneur, taking risks and creating new things.
The problem was that I had only a few months of rent in hand, and I needed a few million rands to get my idea, which centred on point-of-sale transactions from a mobile device, off the ground. I needed an investor, but I also didn’t want to just take money from anyone.
I wanted an investor who would add strategic value to my business, specifically a company with retail and point of sale (POS) relationships in place. When I met Capital Eye Investments (which was UCS Group at the time) I knew it was a good match.
They were looking for innovative software companies to invest in, and I was looking for a company to add strategic value to my business. That relationship still holds today, and it’s been a strong contributing factor in our growth.
Did your start-up strategy align with today’s growth figures?
Absolutely… not. The initial incarnation of the business was wiWallet, a solution that enabled you to load your credit card details onto your mobile phone and pay in participating stores using your mobile phone.
Initially, we had partnered with some small innovative coffee shops, and launched on 8 August 2008: I remember walking into Café Neo and buying coffee using my phone linked to my credit card. It was an incredible feeling.
However, wiWallet was a consumer play and one that was probably seven years ahead of its time. We learnt a lot of very quick lessons in launching the business, the key one being that big retailers were not going to integrate a point solution to their POS for every new application that launched.
It was too risky for them; they were wary of backing the wrong horse knowing that there would, in the near future, be a slew of mobile applications all wanting to integrate to them. Equally, the banks were very hesitant about the idea.
We realised that what the market really needed was a platform that would sit between the retailers’ POS and the growing number of applications that would begin entering the space, so we pivoted our business from a consumer play to a business to business play.
This is when we changed the name to wiGroup, and built our new platform, an open and interoperable solution that enabled retailers to integrate once to their POS to then be able to accept any mobile transaction application, including vouchers, coupons, payments, loyalty and money transfer applications.
From the outset we knew that we needed to attract the big retail players for our business to be successful. Once you’ve got two or three major clients on board, the rest will follow. But it’s a chicken and egg situation. We’re a platform for mobile applications aimed at the retail market. We needed apps on our platform to attract retailers and we needed retailers to attract applications.
How did you get your foot in the door?
Step one was proving we had the technology. Step two was making sure that we were able to articulate the value proposition delivered by the wiPlatform clearly and at the right level within the big retailers.
In any software business, real growth comes when you can scale the product. Your development costs are high upfront, but at a certain point your sales exceed your investment, and because you aren’t manufacturing a product, this results in great margins. But it’s dependent on uptake.
It’s also a slow process – you can spend up to a year going through the motions with a retail group before an agreement is reached.
Our value proposition resonated with the retailers. They don’t want to spend months vetting and negotiating with each app developer that presents them with an idea. Similarly, for app developers, getting an integration to a large retail chain is extremely difficult.
Our platform solved both those problems. It works on a similar principle to Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android in that it enables app developers to build on to it and get reach and scale. In our case this reach and scale is through the retailers that have integrated to our platform.
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How did you sign your first big deal?
With a lot of hard work, patience, persistence and timing. We’d proven the technology through our pilot with Vida e Caffé, which is a brand people want to associate with, so we had something innovative to show Shoprite and Pick n Pay, the retail groups we were targeting. We also understood that landing such big clients takes time, but they were vital to our growth plans. You need to be prepared for a lot of meetings, and reiterations of the concept. That’s how big corporates work, and you have to play by their rules. You won’t sign the deal if you can’t put in the time.
We also had a number of things going for us. First, we were speaking to them at a time when they were beginning to be approached by app developers on a weekly basis. The need for our platform was clear. Second, both retailers knew that enabling mobile transactions at their POS was strategically important.
What is interesting is that Pick n Pay and Shoprite went live on our platform within a matter of weeks of each other, but they each launched with very different use cases. Shoprite launched with their mobile coupon offering, Eezicoupons, and Pick n Pay launched with MTN Mobile Money.
Through the Pick n Pay integration to wiPlatform, MTN Mobile Money users are able to deposit, withdraw and pay from their mobile bank account at any Pick n Pay till point across South Africa. The success of the MTN Mobile Money integration opened doors for discussions with other tier one networks such as Vodacom.
Having the two biggest FMCG retailers and two biggest networks on our platform was the cornerstone of our growth strategy, and once we had them, the momentum really shifted.
What was your most strategic decision when it came to laying the foundations for your growth?
Our integrations are essential. Who we’ve targeted was, and is, crucial to our goals. So important, in fact, that having them as clients is almost priceless. Getting them on board was therefore essential, and we were willing to lower our revenue to ensure the integration and strategic positioning we needed happened.
We didn’t want to set our price point too low though – once you do that, it’s very difficult to raise your prices – so we offered them a good discount instead. They know they’re getting a discounted rate, but we won’t need to change our price point later.
Always work out what your most important strategic goal is. Ours wasn’t getting as much money in the bank as quickly as possible. I’d rather invest heavily in the business this year to see our goal of R100 million realised in 2016, and to do that, the platform needs to grow quickly and sustainably.
Our whole growth model has followed this same path. From 2008 to 2010 we were living off investment capital as we had projected. In 2011 we broke even. By 2012 our turnover was R7 million, which grew to R20 million in 2013. We’re projecting turnover of R40 million this year, and R100 million by 2016.
Our investors have seen a good return on their investment, and all growth for the last two and a half years has been organically funded through our own cash flow.
At this stage in the business, I’d rather invest a few million into new product ideas that add value to our platform and our clients than keep that money on our bottom line. We spend a lot on developing new opportunities and solutions to support and stimulate the market and on enhancing our platform.
How is your current growth stimulated?
MTN Mobile Money alone has over one million users in South Africa, generating huge transaction volume through our platform. Our business model supports exponential growth as we leverage the marketing and expanse of the applications that integrate into us.
Being POS integrated, our mobile coupon capability enables our clients to close the marketing loop with any campaigns they run. We’ve found that mobile money transfer, digital coupons, vouchers and loyalty have driven the growth, and our belief is that payments will follow once mobile transacting has become more widely accepted.
Start-up app developers are increasingly finding wiGroup when they carry out their research ahead of launching their businesses. The capability our platform offers them is clear. They’re approaching us to get onto our platform, and some of them are developing amazing, leading edge apps. It means we’re not doing it alone – we’re all growing together, and benefiting from joint exposure to the market.
Similarly, when app developers approach our clients, the retailers are sending them our way. So for example, if a developer approaches KFC with a loyalty programme, they direct them towards us, since KFC tills are already integrated with our system. We currently have R1,9 billion in transactions that have gone through our system, and it’s growing each day.
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What additional value do you offer your clients?
Over and above the fact that they just need to integrate with one platform, we give our clients unprecedented access to track and engage with their customers.
We have built tools and products that can link to basket information and deliver deep analytics and reporting. The reporting is real time and invaluable to retailers and restaurants.
We also work hard at finding applications that will suit our retailer partners and assist in both pairing the application with the retailer and allowing them to leverage from the benefits.
How much focus is placed on development at this point?
It’s still our major focus. Of the 50 employees we have, 20 work on development, while the remaining 30 are in admin, sales, business analysis, account management and project management.
All new product sign off and direction resides with myself, but everyone in the company provides input and ideas, ensuring the product and value is always prioritised.
We also have a team that deals exclusively with agencies. So for example if Unilever and Quirk develop a campaign that rewards customers for buying Nivea products, we’ll build the app that supports the campaign.
In addition, mainstream apps will be hitting soon and we look forward to seeing the innovative and exciting ways that these applications make use of our platform. At this point the market is in its infancy in South Africa.
This is an easy and convenient platform, and we’re ready for even greater growth, particularly because we pay a lot of attention to what consumers want, and to what our clients need.
- wiGroup is currently in discussions with one of the biggest switching companies in Nigeria. With an agreement already in place to integrate the company’s tech into one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, wiGroup’s reach into Africa is poised for explosive growth.
- wiGroup is currently launching with partners through the SADC region.
- Talks with large retail groups in the UK have already begun.
Dealing with competition
wiGroup might be a first mover, but success breeds competition. Ducasse’s strategy to deal with competition is threefold.
Continue to expand wiGroup’s platform as fast as possible.
By definition the strongest competitive advantage a platform can have is reach — Facebook, Google and Apple have all proven this model.
Continue to add valuable products to the platform,always striving to be innovative and leading with creative ideas. Every new product wiGroup bolts onto its platform puts it another step ahead of anyone else wanting to enter the space.
Ensuring excellent service and relationships.
“We strive to be the most reliable partner to our clients, always providing them with excellent service,” says Ducasse. It’s easy to pay lip service to the importance of focusing on the customer, but in wiGroup’s case, there is a strong understanding that through these relationships the company ensures clients trust them, and more importantly, like working with them.
“We believe this is critical to keeping their business and assisting us in gaining further market share through their positive word of mouth.”
“I read a lot of business books and biographies of top entrepreneurs. I’m inspired by the drive for perfection, out-the-box thinking and passion of people like Steve Jobs, the genius of Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and the energy and passion of Richard Branson.
“There are also so many excellent business lessons in top business books. We’ve built the entire company around Jim Collins’ advice in Good to Great on finding the right people and getting them on the bus. One person doesn’t run a business, especially as we grow. A business is only as good as the team you have, so make sure that you’re hiring well — and giving your employees a great environment within which they may excel.”
What To Look Out For When Seeking A Mentor Or Coach
There is value in choosing a mentor or coach to help you build your business, says Dr John Demartini. Here he offers some sound advice on how to go about doing this so that you benefit from the experience.
When I was in practice I noticed many doctors attempting to build a business would seek out mentorship from management consultants, from people who have already been down that path. And there’s wisdom from learning from foresight and not learning from trial and error. But there’s a pitfall – I noticed that not everybody is able to do or sustain the actions that these consultants would suggest. Where some would follow and immediately go and succeed, there were others who would sometimes feel self defeated because they couldn’t sustain the actions that the consultants would suggest and recommend.
So a small percentage would excel and do extremely well. But there were those who would spend their money on the coaching and they’d never get anything in return. So the question is – what made the few excel with the help of a coach, consultant or mentor? And why is it that the majority of them didn’t do as well? And it boils down to how congruent the actions of the coach or consultant are with the values of the person that’s striving to build a business.
I have listened to numerous professional consultants all offering slightly different information about how to build a business. I have taken and learned from all of them. Some of them would suggest things I just couldn’t do – it just wasn’t me – and other things that I could do. And when I couldn’t do something, the coaches and consultants believed I just was not disciplined, not driven. They would imply that I didn’t have the drive… Their material works, but I wasn’t following it.
And those of you who have had the same experience will understand what I’m saying. And you need to know that the reason you don’t do what these coaches suggest is because it’s not aligning to your values. So you are labeled lazy, undisciplined, not driven. You are given these labels instead of realising that you’re self defeating because what they suggest is not congruent with your values. And so you go to different consultants until you finally find the one who matches, whose values are aligned with yours.
So it’s important to not envy and imitate somebody with a drastically different set of values. If you’re seeking a coach or mentor, make sure the coach/mentor has a value system that is closely enough aligned to yours or you will be setting yourself up to fail. Just because somebody is successful doesn’t mean if they are your coach or mentor that they will have the values that will lead you to that same form of success. You need to either shift your values to be able to succeed in their system or you need to find the mentor that aligns more with your values. Otherwise you’ll be beating yourself up thinking there’s something wrong with you when there’s nothing wrong with you. When you find the right mentor, you will take off.
So you either have to change your values to match the objectives of the coach, or change the coach to match the truth of your own values.
So the bottom line is, if you’re going to get mentorship, coaching or consulting from somebody, don’t just select the person because they’re successful. Select them because they’re successful and they have some alignment with your mission and your values. Make sure you select your mentorship and a consultant that is truly valuable to you; don’t live in a fantasy about who you are.
The Link Between Scaling, Relationship Building And Technology
It is the first solution of its kind in South Africa, this platform supports entrepreneurs to effectively establish legal foundations in their businesses for optimum growth and overall business success.
The challenges and opportunities of this new world and that the world is more connected than ever. The constraints of distance is no longer applicable and as a result business has little constraining borders. Networking is therefore still a component in key relationship building.
It brings me to my real point – in a world so busy and connected, what we cannot make more of is time and time, unlike any other commodity is invaluable when it comes to forging important relationships and sustaining them. So, if technology can break barriers when it comes to legal cost and time spent on it… why not? Especially when so many have experienced the consequences of not documenting the most important relationships in their business.
The SchoemanLaw SME Self- Service DeskTM is the ideal tool for any member-based organisation wanting to capacitate and empower members. It is an affordable and reliable online solution for start-ups and SMEs, where Users can customise and download their own contracts online and in minutes. It is the first solution of its kind in South Africa, this platform supports entrepreneurs to effectively establish legal foundations in their businesses for optimum growth and overall business success.
The following documents are examples of those available on the platform (currently hosting over 35 documents / agreement types):
- Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreement (“NDA”)
- Independent Contractor Agreement
- JV Agreement
- MOI and Shareholder’s Agreement
- Supplier Agreement
- Letter Demanding Payment
- Various HR Documents and Company Resolutions
- BBBEE Affidavits (EME and generic QSE)
and many more!
Prices range from R195 and R895 per document if downloaded on a pay- as- you- need- basis or R249 / R495 per month on a subscription basis, this is over 75% less than usual rates if traditionally drafted by an Attorney. What is more, Users have the support of a Law Firm not only having created, but who maintains the platform and supports each User. We even offer customisable solutions. So, there support and a solution for any business regardless of size and industry are on offer.
The platform is easy to use, no prior legal training is required, and Users are supported through help texts, free podcasts, videos and training events. In the case of a legal incident occurring, you can consult with an attorney with the click of a button.
The platform is also ever evolving and completely customer- driven. Documents are added as and when customers request them. All the documents are also frequently updated to ensure that they align to the latest best practice. There is no need to leave your legal needs unattended ever again! The SchoemanLaw SME Self- Service DeskTM therefore ensures that SMEs are no longer invisible and capacitates them to free up time needed to build relationships, grow and scale their businesses.
Empower your business today, go to: https://www.schoemanlaw.co.za/online-legal-services/
To Survive And Thrive, You Need A Growth Mindset
The business case for a growth mindset is not what you think it is — if you’re serious about success, you need to start believing in yourself.
Any leadership and personal mastery principle that booms in popularity is ripe for misinterpretation. Growth Mindset has been hailed as one of the defining leadership principles of top international companies and is believed to be one of the core skills that will keep individuals future fit in disruptive times.
Despite its popularity and importance, many companies still think a growth mindset is about the profit growth of a business. It’s not. And if you don’t know what it really is and how to apply it, you and your business might not be around to grow at all.
Growth Mindset is about Belief in Ability
Studies that we have done at the NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI) have shown that many businesses still believe that having a growth mindset means keeping eyes towards profits and striving for business growth.
Having a growth mindset is really about the continuous belief that improvement is possible and that failures are opportunities to learn. It is much larger than the objective of improving earnings, although applying a growth mindset makes one more resilient and engaged in times of change, which can only improve earnings overall.
Another study completed at NLI revealed that there are five reasons why businesses are applying a growth mindset to drive business success.
1. Digital Transformation
The most popular reason is to stay agile in the face of technological uncertainty. Digital technologies are continuing to disrupt the way that we do business and a growth mindset is put forward as a priority to ensure businesses thrive through digital disruption.
2. Business Improvement
A growth mindset encourages feedback and continuous improvement and many businesses look to embed this when they are streamlining work streams, teams and business processes.
When organisations are pivoting they use a growth mindset in their approach to reinvention of culture, operating model and leadership challenges. The growth mindset principle of seeing challenges as opportunities and not threats has an impact here.
4. Growing up
In an effort to scale a business, organisations see the benefit of applying a growth mindset to navigate the challenges and turmoil that accompanies growth.
5. Performance Management Transformation
Some businesses interview for and reward demonstration of a growth mindset. This means that they value improvement over time as a priority.
Clearly a growth mindset has business success at the core of its value-add to many organisations. It helps businesses be more agile and engaged during change, but how does it work, and how can we cultivate it?
When faced with a challenge we either tackle it head on, hoping for positive results, or we shy away from the challenge, feeling inadequate. In the brain, this is caused by how we view the challenge. If we view it as a threat, our body reacts with duress (negative stress) and we don’t prioritise our best thinking, going into survival mode instead. But if we view it as an opportunity, our body goes into euress (positive stress) and we are energised, our body is able to prioritise its best thinking. This type of behaviour can be categorised into two groups, that of a growth mindset and a fixed mindset.
Psychologists have studied these behavioural traits and found that individuals who believe in their ability to succeed are seen to have a growth mindset, whereas people who give up instantly or constantly harp on the negative aspects of a situation are seen to have a fixed mindset. Therefore, a fixed mindset sees no room for improvement and in return devalues their ability to perform.
A fixed mindset is linked to a belief that our ability is fixed and a growth mindset is linked to the belief that our ability can be grown. The surprising finding here is that our default wiring is wired to that of a fixed mindset.
Creating a Growth Mindset
Researchers have found that to incorporate the growth mindset into organisations, leaders should focus on factors such as transparency, empowerment and development.
With the digital age that we are currently living in and even trying to adapt to daily, organisations need to constantly reinvent, improve and manage performance based on digital transformation. A growth mindset assists in the rapid changes that organisations face even on a digital platform.
For a growth mindset to be established in organisations, management needs to lead the overall process. Thus, there needs to be a shared language. To ensure that there is a shared language, managers should encourage employees to build the right behaviours, and have systems and processes in place that promote a growth mindset throughout the organisation.
This can be done by:
- Valuing and rewarding progress in others
- Focusing and highlighting learnings from mistakes and challenges
- Role modelling this behaviour.
Researchers have shown that a growth mindset can have measured benefit in organisations. An internal survey at a technology company showed that 92% of employees agree that learning is a lifelong exercise and 82% of managers displayed growth mindset behaviours. The growth mindset enhances the quality of an organisation for the greater good of future and current employees.
When calamity strikes in organisations, the growth mindset aids in seeing change not as a threat but rather as an opportunity to improve based on a positive mindset.
Shifting Away from a Fixed Mindset Approach
A fixed mindset hinders progress. For businesses to prosper, there needs to be an attitude of constant learning, even when failure occurs. There are certain things one can do to shift your fixed mindset to a growth mindset.
Firstly, eliminate any thoughts of inadequacy. Your thoughts determine your actions, therefore shift your thinking to that of a “can do” attitude. You need to recognise your potential, understand your abilities and that they can be improved, and know that stressful situations are opportunities to learn and grow, rather being a threat.
The minute you find yourself in a fixed mindset with a negative thought process, talk yourself into remembering your capabilities. Try replacing those negative thoughts with, “I know that I am not excelling in this area, but I am going to learn how to improve and come back stronger than before”.
A growth mindset is a phenomenon that you must constantly think about and instil in your daily life, both on a personal and professional level to see positive results, remembering that you are in a cycle of lifelong learning.
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