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Skyrove: Henk Kleynhans

Two students attract investors and turn an innovative internet access idea to big profits

Entrepreneur

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Henk Kleynhans of Skyrove

“The idea had been forming gradually in my head and then all of a sudden the entire business plan fell into place at 4 o’clock in the morning before a maths exam. I sat there for about three hours frantically trying to write it all down,” remembers Henk Kleynhans, CEO and founding partner of Skyrove. The idea he’s referring to was for paid shared Wi-Fi usage. The solution he and co-founding partner and fellow student, Allister Kreft, hit upon has attracted local and international investment and earned them numerous awards, including the 2005 Enablis / Business Report Entrepreneur Challenge in the Business Idea Category and the 2006 Technology Top 100 Award for Most Promising Emerging Enterprise.

As a student on financial aid, and a self-confessed internet junkie, Kleynhans realised that he would be able to afford broadband (which then cost R1 400) if he was able to share internet usage with digs-mates and neighbours and charge them for it. “Wi-Fi existed at the time but it didn’t have the capability to allow you to measure how much data people were downloading or how much time they were spending on the Internet. I realised that the best way of going about things was to charge people upfront on a pre-paid basis for the amount of data they were going to use,” he says.

So Kleynhans and Kreft set their minds to creating a solution that would enable them to implement the idea. Their first hurdle was funding – they needed capital to develop the prototype so, true to his techie nature, Kleynhans set up a simple website and a blog with one posting. “I explained that I had this idea about sharing Wi-Fi with your neighbours and getting money back for it, and said that I was looking for engineers, investors and the like,” says Kleynhans. Remarkably, one of the people who read the blog posting was Donald Levy in Texas, founder and then CEO of Ski-Wi. After some discussions, Kleynhans and Kreft had their hands on $20 000 and the Skyrove prototype was on its way.

Skyrove has two groups of customers: the first are business people such as coffee shop and hotel owners, who want to sell wireless internet access to customers, and the second are the end-users themselves. The way the system works is simple, as Kleynhans explains: “The businessperson – who has any type of broadband from ADSL to iBurst or 3G –purchases the Skyrove router at cost price (R595), turning their business into a Skyrove hotspot.

Their customers purchase pre-paid Skyrove credits online which relate to a data amount and then access the Internet via their laptop at any Skyrove hotspot they choose. The end-user is charged about 80c per megabyte used in a particular hotspot – Skyrove retains 30% of the payment and passes 70% on to the business owner.” He adds that while most Skyrove users access Skyrove credits online, they can also do so by purchasing vouchers at Skyrove hotspots. Although the business has grown rapidly, Kleynhans says the biggest challenge has been marketing and branding on a tight budget. As he points out: “The lesson I learned is that you can have a fantastic product but it’s not going to sell itself.” To overcome the challenge, the Skyrove team has been creative about using inexpensive online media, especially blogs, to get the word out there. However, Kleynhans still finds that while many people in the IT industry know about Skyrove, there are still plenty of potential end-users who don’t.

Which is where an undisclosed seven-digit venture capital investment from Lingham Capital, secured this year, will make a big difference. “This will allow us to expand extensively in South Africa and develop the brand significantly,” says Kleynhans. In the long-term, Skyrove plans to go global but, as he adds, “We want to establish a strong footprint in South Africa first.” If the interest already generated among those in the know is anything to go by, it’s a plan that could see implementation in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, Kleynhans reflects on their success to date.

“I think the thing with starting a business is to scratch your own itch,” he concludes. “If you understand the needs ofyour customers from a personal point of view, you have a better chance of creating a product that will provide them with a solution that will meet those needs, and that’s what we’ve done. We’ve created something that we find value in using.” 

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

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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.

CEOwise

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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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