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MTLS: Barry Geer

Engineer-cum-entrepreneur invents a traffic light system that’s set to revolutionise a global industry.

Juliet Pitman



Barry Geer of MTLS

Some of the best business ideas involvelooking at something that already exists and thinking “I can do that better”.Just ask Barry Geer, founder of MTLS (Modular Traffic Light Systems). “I was driving past an accident where acar had hit a traffic light and my partner said to me, ‘If someone could inventa safe traffic light system they’d make millions,’” he says. At 2am the next morning, the light cameon. “I woke up with a vision of how to do it and I scribbled some stuff down,”Geer, an engineer by training, remembers. The next day he set off for hisbrother’s house, borrowed some of his nephew’s Lego blocks and started puttingtogether the first “prototype” of his idea.

Meetingglobal safety needs

Some 30% of accidents involve acollision with a traffic light or street pole and there is a strong move inEurope and the UKto mandate the use of what’s known as “passive poles”, which absorb the energyduring an impact. MTLS meets this need perfectly. Geerexplains: “A traditional traffic light consists of a steel pole with a separatesignal head. But ours is made of separate plasticinjection-moulded components that are held together with a lightweight chainassembly that is tensioned at the top and runs the length of the pole. Ratherlike a giant Lego set,” he says, harkening back to the product’s beginnings. Geer adds, “Every impact is differentbut these units break up and the entire system falls apart on impact, eitherfalling over or flying over the back of

the vehicle.

”Because they are plastic, they don’tharm the driver.”Cheaper cost, faster installation. But while it’s a key unique sellingproposition, the system has more to offer than safety alone. “It’s cheaper andfaster to install, uses less manpower, and is easier to replace,” says Geer.The foundation unit is pre-cast and can be inserted directly into a hole, withthe other components quick to assemble. There’s no waiting for concrete to dry.“From a cost point of view, the entiresystem is probably slightly more expensive than the current traffic lightsbeing used, but in an accident our foundation is not disturbed so that’s aonce-off cost. Also, a standard signal head costs a municipality around R2 500to replace, whereas ours is between R450 and R500,” he adds.

Thelong road to development

But while the product is undoubtedlyinnovative, marketable and unique, getting it to this point has not been easy.The design took three years of prototyping. “Because South Africa has no impact testingfacility, we tested the product ourselves. “A friend of mine volunteered to crasha car into the traffic light – fortunately there was only R2 000 worth ofdamage to the car and he was absolutely fine. It was an incredibly stupid thingto do but it proved we were on the right track,” Geer says. But the biggest challenges all camedown to funding. “This sort of product sucks up cash faster thananything,” he notes. Along the way he’s bartered agreements, promisingproduction contracts to the supplier who did some of the engineering work, forexample. Finally, in 2004 he met up with partner Jayson Gouws, who injected alarge capital sum into the company. Since then, other large companies haveshown interest in investing and MTLS is currently negotiating with them.

Gettingto market

In November 2007, the Johannesburg RoadAgency partnered with the company to set up a pilot test site in Sandton andhas since approved the product for roll-out. There are test sites in Dubai and Germanyand enormous opportunities exist in the UK and European markets. “We’rejust in the process of getting certification for a new European and UK safetystandard,” Geer indicates. In 2008, MTLS won the SABS Design Awardfor Excellence and has recently been approached by one of the world’s largestdesign and technology institutes to showcase the product as the central focusof an upcoming USexhibition. As Geer concludes: “We’re at a reallycritical stage now. This is the tipping point – we have people who want theproduct so we just need the last final push to get certification and gear upfor manufacture.”

  • Company:MTLS
  • Players: BarryGeer and Jayson Gouws
  • Est2004
  • or +27 82 434 1948

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.


25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton



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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.






Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect




Vital Stats

It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.


“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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