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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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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.

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.

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

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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.

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.

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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.

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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