The Superbalist (Citymob)/Wantitall deal was big news in the tech space. A team of entrepreneurs attracting such a big equity partner is the ultimate dream of many start-ups.
And yet Luke Jedeiken, a co-founder of Citymob (today called Superbalist), says the deal wasn’t about funding, but rather finding a partner whose expertise complemented their own.
“Too many start-ups think that finding funding is the be-all and end-all of a successful business,” says Jedeiken. “Spending money on bad IP – or no IP – doesn’t solve the problem of not having something customers want.
“That’s where you need to start: What do we have that people will pay for, and how do we make the experience as effortless as possible for our customers? When we started we were three guys working out of an apartment, taking on huge competitors.
“We bootstrapped the business and it worked because we had something people wanted. The deal with Wantitall isn’t about funding, although that’s available. It’s about both businesses increasing and fine-tuning our offerings.”
What was Superbalist when you started out?
It was 2010 and we came across the story of a small start-up called Groupon that had become the darling of the Internet. We all wanted to start our own business, and we kept coming back to that idea: Online, group buying of vouchers — we didn’t need start-up capital because we wouldn’t be purchasing product.
We just needed a great site and vouchers that we could email to our customers. We worked from an apartment, and lived off our savings while we got the business off the ground.
Was it a competitive market?
We had inadvertently joined the biggest online bun fight South Africa had ever seen. We weren’t the only company that had heard of Groupon’s success. There were multiple players with big corporates behind them. Groupon itself even joined the fray when it bought Twangoo.
How did you stand out in this saturated market?
Well, it wasn’t really saturated. Sure, we had a lot of competitors, but online buying in South Africa is relatively new, so we didn’t need to steal market share, we needed to create a market, and we were good at that. We differentiated ourselves by focusing on quality. And when ‘deal fatigue’ set in, we changed our business model. Quality was all we had to differentiate ourselves; if we lost that, we’d be dead in the water.
So what changed?
It was such a commoditised market, we wanted to pivot into something else. Group buying eliminates a lot of the risk of e-commerce: You don’t have to worry about couriers, loss, theft, warehouse space or even purchasing products. But there are also no barriers to entry.
By July 2012 we had earned our online stripes and wanted to move into a space where we could create barriers to entry. We looked at how online apparel buying is taking off around the world, but didn’t want to go into a market that is also highly commoditised, and will probably be the next big bun fight to hit SA’s online space. We needed something different.
And that was design?
Yes. Design can be anything, as long as it’s artistic, unique, different and not commoditised. We’ve kept things open and flexible, but our customers know they can expect a level of quality, style and uniqueness from us. We offer both local and international products.
We love supporting local designers and giving them the same platform as international talent, but we also didn’t want to limit ourselves to local.
Many South African designers run small, niche businesses, and they can’t scale from 50 pieces a month to 500. We aim to really grow this space, and we needed to ensure we would have the products to do that.
Where does Wantitall fit in?
Once we decided to make a move from group buying to a product-based business, it was also time to start networking within the tech space. There are incredible initiatives happening in Cape Town, but we were working so hard we didn’t come up for air.
One organisation in our network was Wantitall. It was a match waiting to happen. The original founders (two brothers and a school friend, just like us) still run the business, and their values align perfectly with ours. We both value integrity, and we’re all obsessed with innovation. We’ll call each other five times a day discussing something new or exciting we’ve just seen or heard about.
What does each company offer?
We’re a product business, but our logistical side was weak. In December 2012 we had a 300% increase on the site. We had more traffic than Kulula and Instagram, and we couldn’t cope. We had a complete logistical failure.
Wantitall is an efficient, streamlined business because it’s good at logistics.
Their back-end is head and shoulders above anyone else in this space, but their model is fulfilment-focused as opposed to product-focused. They’ve been a commoditised online retailer. We bring a quality brand, website, user experience and products to the table, and Wantitall brings their mastery of logistics. It’s a perfect match.
- Players: Luke Jedeiken, Matthew Goslett, Claude Hanan and Mikael Hanan
- Company: Superbalist
- Est: 2010
- X-Factor: The ability to differentiate from competitors and find the right partner to take the business further
- Connect: www.superbalist.com
Watch List: 11 Teen Entrepreneurs Who Have Launched Successful Businesses
These teens are proving that you don’t need a driver’s licence – or the ability to vote – to create and execute a successful start-up.
In South Africa youth entrepreneurship is encouraged as the best way to build the economy. Teens are no longer relying on tertiary education to jumpstart their careers, as many high school students become budding entrepreneurs. From make-up to confectionary and tech-centred ventures, youth entrepreneurship is taking the business world by storm.
“It’s easier than ever to become an entrepreneur, and technology has a lot to do with it. You’re a tech-savvy millennial, and Internet and mobile technologies make it easier to connect and identify with people, based on shared values and ideals,” says Michael Freestone, founder of the MJF Group. “All entrepreneurs wonder if their companies will succeed, but you don’t really know until you try. So, do it while you’re young and have little or nothing to lose.”
And that’s exactly what teenagers across the country are doing. While being a teenager is stressful enough, without worrying about marketing and your bottom line – these young entrepreneurs thrive on success, which must be their secret sauce to their winning business ideas.
10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets
The future of entrepreneurship has never looked so bright…these young entrepreneurs share their wisdom around building a successful business.
Natural Talent Can Become Your Success
Thabo Khumalo – ToVch
“I learnt to design and sew while assisting my mother who was a seamstress, and that is when I realised that I had a talent to create,” Thabo Khumalo explains. “But I never knew I was an entrepreneur.” Thabo Khumalo started his company ToVch in 2010 and has since appeared in South African Fashion Week, Soweto Fashion Week and Mpumalanga Fashion Week.
Khumalo has a small but engaged audience, who he communicates directly with. “The brand has a dedicated audience, and the social media presence also allows me to continuously scan the fashion environment to keep up with external forces.”
One of the most challenging aspects of launching his businesses was marketing the brand with limited funds. He used social media and word-of-mouth to market. “On social media, people share your brand with others simply because they want to,” says Khumalo. “It’s a powerful platform, and it does not cost anything.” Khumalo built up his company using support from a strong online network, which became his marketing strategy.
For Founder Of National Tekkie Tax Day Having A Higher (Business) Purpose Keeps Her Driving Forward
The NGO space isn’t easy. It’s a constant uphill battle to connect scarce resources with the vulnerable. Annelise de Jager has persevered in this space because she’s tapped into her personal purpose and values.
- Player: Annelise de Jager
- Initiative: National Tekkie Tax Day
- Launched: 2013
- Visit: www.tekkietax.co.za
Use your purpose to drive you forward
Connect your purpose with what you do, and you’ll find untapped reserves of perseverance and the discipline needed to achieve your goals.
Purpose before profit is not a new concept in business. In fact, it underlines the motivations behind some of the most successful entrepreneurs. It’s also not reserved for social enterprises alone.
However, it is in the social entrepreneurship and charitable spaces that living one’s purpose first found a foothold, mostly because without a strong purpose, the work would just be too hard, and many would give up.
Annelise de Jager, founder of National Tekkie Tax Day, unpacks how she’s used living her purpose to drive her forward, even when she’s faced almost insurmountable challenges and disappointments.
Make ‘living a life that matters’ intrinsic to everything you do.
“I was lucky in that I didn’t ever need to sit down and say, ‘I want my life to matter, so I need to do x, y, z’,” says Annelise. “It was intrinsic for me. However, in the past five years I’ve become acutely aware of it, and I’ve seen how important the ability to look beyond oneself is when you’re facing disappointment and challenges.
“It helps you look beyond the now, find a solution and keep pushing on, because there is a bigger goal at stake. The biggest revelation for me has been that anyone can figure this out and use it as a tool to achieve their dreams and purpose — you just need to trigger your intrinsic motivators.
“Figure out what’s really important to you, and then align this with what you’re doing, in both your business and personal journeys. Robin Bank’s Mind Power and Shaping your Destiny courses are a great place to start.”
Don’t be afraid to ask what’s next
Critical to Annelise’s journey has been the realisation that when goals are met, we need to ask ourselves: What’s next? “Too many people achieve their goals and then feel adrift. You should meet your goals. Your ultimate vision should change. That’s growth, and it’s critical if you want to keep moving forward.
“Our experiences inform our knowledge base and world views, and so as you live and run your business, that view should be changing, bringing with it new challenges and perceptions. Don’t be scared of it; embrace it.”
Annelise went to Potchefstroom University to study social work where she joined the university’s musical revue group, the Alabama Student Company. “Alabama was given the opportunity to tour Taiwan, but I was about to graduate. Travel is high on my personal values list, so I started a second degree in communications to stay in university — and — in Alabama.”
New experiences can be the source of great ideas and strength
Studying communications opened Annelise to a new discipline that she loved. “Marketing and communications are so filled with energy — an energy social work didn’t possess. I loved both, and I wanted to find a way to meld them together. This would ultimately shape my business, The Marketing Team, after I’d been a social worker for a few years. Don’t be afraid to adjust your plans based on new experiences; they can be the source of our greatest ideas and strengths.”
No experience is ever wasted
“We spend too much time trying to plan exactly what we should be doing, where and when, instead of following our hearts and instincts,” says Annelise. “No experience is ever wasted. Once I discovered my love for communications, I questioned whether I’d wasted four years studying social work. I hadn’t.
“Both disciplines became the bedrock of how I would assist the charitable space in South Africa. Experiences open our eyes, our hearts, and our understanding. They give us empathy and patience. They allow us to view things from other perspectives. If you want to really make a difference in other peoples’ lives, these traits are invaluable.”
Be open to finding answers in unexpected places
“By 2004 I felt rudderless,” says Annelise. “I’d been running my own business, handling communications and marketing for NGOs, developing campaigns and even assisting NGOs to run more as businesses than under-funded organisations, but it didn’t feel like I was doing enough.
“Part of the problem was that you can only give people the tools to work with, you can’t make them use them. Another problem was under-funding. Corporates spend billions each year on CSI projects but they don’t like to fund salaries and basic operational expenses.
“It’s frustrating because volunteers can’t do what needs to be done — most households need two breadwinners, which limits the availability of volunteers to assist.
“I was looking for a way to add more value. Should I start my own NGO? Where could I make the biggest impact? I’d been offered an excellent coaching position, which would allow me to walk away from the problems this sector deals with daily. It was tempting, but it wasn’t what I wanted.
“At that time I attended the Global Day of Prayer in Argentina on behalf of a client. It was at that conference that I had an almost supernatural experience. I left knowing exactly what my purpose was.
“How these realisations come to you is less important than the fact that you’re open to them. Deep down I knew what I wanted and needed — I just needed the courage and fortitude to follow my path. My experience in Argentina gave that to me because I allowed it to.”
Always find the strength to persevere.
Nothing worth doing is ever easy. In the NGO space, this is particularly true. “I developed the idea for National Tekkie Tax Day because NGOs constantly asked me to help them develop funding campaigns. I developed this fundraising model when I launched Casual Day and ran the project successfully for 18 years.
“But I also believe the NGO space can benefit from a more unified mindset to overcome donor confusion and fatigue. This is my new focus, but it’s difficult to get organisations to shift their mindsets. National Tekkie Tax Day is a step in this direction.
“It encompasses 12 national NGOs and 1 000 regional organisations across five categories — but there’s one product and one national marketing drive. Donors can choose a category to support.
“I’ve needed to persevere to help NGOs see the benefits in working collaboratively, and corporates to see the benefits of supporting the operational costs of NGOs.
“I don’t have a high profile job at a top company. People don’t call you back in my world. And yet you need to keep pushing forward against incredible headwinds.
“I wake up each morning and repeat the mantra that my success helps everybody; my failure helps nobody. There won’t always be easy wins, but with the right purpose you can persevere. You can make a difference.”
Support National Tekkie Tax Day on 26 May 2017
12 national charities | 1 000 local charities | 5 sectors to support
Animals, Bring Hope, Children, Disability, Education
Available at Toys R Us, Clicks and Babies R Us or online at www.tekkietax.co.za
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