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TrafficSynergy: Shelly & Gavin Levin & Eric Edelstein

An affiliate network reaps big rewards for bringing advertisers and marketers together under one virtual roof

Juliet Pitman



Shelly & Gavin Levin & Eric Edelstein of Traffic Synergy

“I like being in a space where I’m not comfortable. As soon as I’m comfortable I’m bored,” quips Dr Shelly Levin, MD and founding partner of TrafficSynergy. Given this comment, her career moves are not surprising. The former dancer with a PhD in Applied Mathematics left her job in asset management (conforming, she says, is not her strong point) to work on building affiliate pricing models for an online casino.

Newly married,she and programming-wiz husband, Gavin (who also left a promising career in the Woolworths business intelligence division) then teamed up with technology entrepreneur Eric Edelstein to start TrafficSynergy in 2004.

The company is an affiliate network which, as Dr Levin explains, acts as an intermediary between advertisers and marketers (affiliates), bringing them together and providing a place for them to ‘meet’under one virtual roof. “We take any online – or offline – merchants who want an online marketing solution and we match them up to affiliates,” she says.

Edelstein elaborates: “An affiliate is a marketer who sends visitors to another site using a variety of methods such as placing banners or text links on their own site, buying sponsored listings on search engines, email marketing and many other different methods.

The affiliate gets paid when an action happens. This action can be a lead, a sale, a download or one of many other variations. As an example, some advertisers are looking to build up their databases, so they pay for each opt-in email address they receive; others want leads from specific locations so they pay for each zip code. The common denominator is that the affiliate gets paid when an action happens.”

While affiliates sign up toTrafficSynergy’s affiliate network for free, the company charges advertisers a small commission for each click, lead or sale it helps to bring them, depending on the metric they are running with the affiliates.

The entire model is performance-based, so advertisers only pay for marketing that delivers results.“What a lot of media companies do is track the impressions and clicks so that they can tell advertisers that they have brought them five million impressions and 300 clicks, for example.

But we take this a step further and tell the advertiser, of the five million impressions and 300 clicks, we brought them three sales that actually converted and these sales were from the left, not the bottom banner, for example,” explains Dr Levin. One would imagine that paying only for advertising spend that delivers actual sales would be welcomed as a god-send by companies trying to get ahead in a competitive business environment.

But one of TrafficSynergy’s biggest challenges in the initial stages was a complete lack of understanding about how affiliate marketing works, particularly among old-school corporates. “It took a while to get a couple of the big deals in to make big corporates understand that affiliate marketing is a very powerful way to advertise,” relates Dr Levin, adding that the company spends a lot of time educating South African advertisers.

“A lot of them spend huge amounts of money building very flashy sites and then have no budget left to drive traffic to these sites. We try to explain that the most beautiful site is not worth anything to the company if no one sees it so you have to invest in driving traffic to it,” she continues.

Today, TrafficSynergy has the largest base of South African affiliates. “Once deals are in place, you can manage them passively and move on to the next deal. In this way it’s a powerful system that we can keep building,” says Dr Levin. “Some people have suggested we move into other areas that the business has close ties with, such as pay-per-click.

But we’ve taken a decision to specialise in affiliate marketing – to eat, breathe and live it, rather than diversifying. This is what we’re good at.” With this kind of focus, there can be little doubt that the future holds even greater success for the trio.


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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