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XLink: Anton Leal

A trailblazing telemetry company retains its market leader position by constantly innovating new products and services, all the while looking ahead.

Juliet Pitman

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Anton Leal of XLinks

It takes creativity, courage and an eye for the gap to be the first to market, but the true innovators are the ones who manage to retain their position as market leaders – even when competitors join the fray after getting wind that a new opportunity is in the offing. Staying ahead of the curve requires ongoing innovation, creativity and a pioneering spirit that constantly seeks out new opportunities in a changing landscape.

Turning great ideas into a great business

Not many businesses possess such a winning combination, but XLink is one of the few. It was started in 2004 with a simple mission – to link up electronic point of sale (EPOS) debit and credit card devices to the banks via the cellular networks. “At the time, these machines were linked to the banks via dial-up or radio – we knew that linking them via the cellular networks would provide retailers with a faster, more reliable and cost-effective payment connection,” says Anton Leal, managing director. The solution they devised became known as POSLink.

Sounds simple and sensible enough. But as Leal will tell you, having a great idea and executing it are two very different things. XLink was forging into unchartered waters and to be successful it would have to convince other stakeholders that the voyage upon which it was embarking was a trip worth taking.

“Although the retailers are our customers, we first needed to get the cellular networks on board, as well as the banks,” says Leal. Before buying into the idea of POSLink, banks wanted to be assured of a robust, national support infrastructure. Backed by two angel investors, XLink grew from five people to 30 in just seven months to establish a nation-wide field force. The first year turned out to be a busy one – the company deployed its first 1 000 POSLink devices, obtained ICASA approval and received the endorsement from four of the major banks.

Today it’s the market leader in machine-to-machine telemetry, both in market share and innovation, it has approval from all five major banks as well as MTN and Vodacom, and it employs over 100 people and has 27 000 units and 3 000 SIMs installed in the field.

Diversifying the offering

But while early innovation proved critical to establishing XLink’s foothold in the market, the year-on-year growth and success that has followed has been due in large part to the company’s ability to move with the technology curve and diversify its offering.

It started offering value-added services to its core product – XPlan and MaintenanceLink provided customers with protection against stolen and damaged devices and a fixed monthly support package with priority response and no call-out fees. “As technology advanced, we included connectivity via HSDPA router and built in greater reliability by allowing for dual network connections to both MTN and Vodacom. This ensures continuous uptime which is vitally important for such business-critical devices,” says Leal.

Other product innovations followed, expanding the company’s focus beyond simple EFT and growing from increased understanding of customer challenges and needs. PowerLink provides an uninterrupted power supply; VersaLink connects up to six POS devices; and SMSLink allows companies to send customers SMSs from a PC. Then there’s CashLink, an automated in-store cash management system which deposits bank notes on a daily basis into a SMARTSafe and then credits the client’s bank account. ATMLink connects ATMs to a proprietary host. “We’ve leveraged our existing knowledge and infrastructure to get more market share in the telemetry sector,” says Leal, although he adds that it’s been important to keep their eye on the main prize during such diversification. “We created the Priority Club to provide priority support, maintenance, service and coverage to our key clients,” he explains.

All eyes on Africa

XLink’s next frontier is Africa, which the company initially started investigating in 2007. “We were a little bit early then as there weren’t enough credit card machines on the ground, but by 2010 things have changed somewhat,” says Leal.

XLink in a Box is the solution currently being deployed in Uganda, where one of South Africa’s largest banks has a presence. “We sell the technology and equipment to the customer, provide training on the method and collect an annuity income. This means we don’t need to have a large local infrastructure established wherever we want to go next,” he explains.

It’s a solution that’s nimble, flexible, responsive to a direct need and above all, forward-thinking – which is what got XLink to where it is today and what will no doubt keep it ahead of the curve into the future.

Company: XLink

Player: Anton Leal

Est: 2004

Contact: +27 11 438 3019

www.xlink.co.za

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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27 Of The Richest People In South Africa

Here are 27 of South Africa’s richest people, but how did they achieve this level of wealth? Find out here.

Nicole Crampton

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Learn the secrets of SA’s most successful business people, here is the list of the 27 richest people in South Africa:

In a world with growing entrepreneurship success stories, victory is often measured in terms of money. The feat of achieving a place on this list is, however, years of hard work, determination and persistence. “One has to set high standards… I can never be happy with mediocre performance,” advises Patrice Motsepe.

From the individuals that made the 27 of the richest people in South Africa list, actual entrepreneurs and self-made business people dominate the list; while those who inherited their fortunes have gone on to do even bigger and better things with their wealth. Over the years, some have slipped off the list, while others continue to climb higher and higher each year.

  1. Elisabeth Bradley
  2. Sharon Wapnick
  3. Bridgette Radebe
  4. Irene Charnley
  5. Wendy Ackerman
  6. Paul Harris
  7. Wendy Appelbaum
  8. Mark Shuttleworth
  9. Desmond Sacco
  10. Giovanni Ravazzotti
  11. Markus Jooste
  12. Gus Attridge
  13. Gerrit Thomas Ferreira
  14. Cyril Ramaphosa
  15. Adrian Gore
  16. Raymond Ackerman
  17. Michiel Le Roux
  18. Lauritz Dippenaar
  19. Jannie Mouton
  20. Stephen Saad
  21. Patrice Motsepe
  22. Allan Gray
  23. Koos Bekker
  24. Ivan Glasenberg
  25. Christoffel Wiese
  26. Johann Rupert
  27. Nicky Oppenheimer
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Watch List: 50 Top SA Black Entrepreneurs To Watch

South Africa needs more entrepreneurs to build businesses that can make a positive impact on the economy. These up-and-coming black entrepreneurs are showing how it can be done.

Nicole Crampton

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Early-stage South African entrepreneurial activity is at an all-time high of 11%, according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, and entrepreneurial intentions have also increased to 11.7%. With both activity and intentions growing significantly year-on-year, there are more businesses opening up around South Africa than ever before.

The increase in entrepreneurship has seen the rise of more black entrepreneurs across numerous sectors. From beauty brands to legal services and even tech start-ups, these are 50 top black entrepreneurs to watch:

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Watch List: 50 Top SA Small Businesses To Watch

Keep your finger on the pulse of the start-up space by using our comprehensive list of SA small business to watch.

Nicole Crampton

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Entrepreneurship in South Africa is at an all-time high. According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), total early-stage entrepreneurial activity has increased by 4.1% to 11% in 2017/2018. This means numerous new, exciting and promising small businesses are launching and growing.

To ensure you know who the innovative trailblazers are in the start-up and small business space, here are 50 of South Africa’s top establishing companies to watch, in no particular order:

  1. Livestock Wealth
  2. The Lazy Makoti
  3. Aerobuddies
  4. Mimi Women
  5. i-Pay
  6. AfriTorch Digital
  7. Akili Labs
  8. Native Décor
  9. Aerobotics
  10. Quality Solutions
  11. EM Guidance
  12. Kahvé Road
  13. HSE Matters
  14. VA Virtual Assistant
  15. Famram Solutions and Famram Foundation
  16. BioTech Africa
  17. Brand LAIKI
  18. Plus Fab
  19. LifeQ
  20. Organico
  21. 10dot
  22. Lenoma Legal
  23. Nkukhu-Box
  24. Benji + Moon
  25. Beonics
  26. Brett Naicker Wines
  27. Khalala
  28. Legal Legends
  29. The Power Woman Project
  30. Aviro Health
  31. AnaStellar Brands
  32. Data Innovator
  33. Fo-Sho
  34. Oolala Collection Club
  35. Recomed
  36. VoiceMap
  37. ClockWork
  38. Empty Trips
  39. Vula Mobile
  40. SwiitchBeauty
  41. Pineapple
  42. The Katy Valentine Collection
  43. OfferZen
  44. KHULA
  45. Incitech
  46. Pimp my Book
  47. ART Technologies and ART Call Management
  48. Prosperiprop
  49. WAXIT
  50. The Sun Exchange
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