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Accessing Angel Investors

Animating (and negotiating) the angel investment scene in South Africa.

Wesley Lynch

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Angel investors generally get involved at the very early stages of a start-up’s life. Unlike venture capital and private equity providers and banks, angel funders are willing to accept a comparatively higher risk of business failure. Typically, they are willing to accept a viable business case, while certain VCs or banks may require a proven trading history. Angel investors may fund ventures to produce a working prototype or launch their product into the market, while most VCs will only fund from the commercialisation phase of the enterprise – including driving growth, arranging launch into foreign markets, arrangements of any mass production and the finalisation of its business models or routes to market.

The angel investment scene

Angel investors play an important part in making funding available to businesses at an early stage. In the UK, angels provide about £750 million in annual funding (R8,2 billion) to SMEs – the single largest source of early-stage capital in that country.

Early-stage funding can have a great impact on the recipient. High-growth industries in particular, such as technology, can benefit from it on a large scale. While the US lost 1.3 million jobs from 2009 to 2011, a star turn of funding-backed tech start-ups swelled their ranks impressively – LinkedIn added 79% of its 1 300 current employees, Groupon 99% out of a total of 7 100, and Zynga 92% out of 2 200.

Conducive environment

But angel investment requires an environment that encourages its activities. In the US State of Louisiana, a law offering tax credits to angel investors spurred investments of $62 million in 57 companies between 2005 and 2009.  The UK tax regime sees angel investors receiving immediate deductions of 30% of their investment, with no tax on investment gains for investments held for more than 3 years.  The incentive is quoted by many UK angels as a key initiator of their investment and the UK government is currently in consultations to increase incentives to ensure even further support to the very early stage businesses. Add to this that the British Business Angels Association (BBAA), together with the UK Regional Growth Fund, launched a GBP50m Angel Co-investment fund whereby government directly supports Angel Investment.

On the opposite end of the scale, the South African early-stage investment scene is not nearly as conducive with no formal incentives, either tax or other, yet in place. As a result, only about eight angel funded deals are reported each year. While certain incentives are being considered, the government would do well to see the impact that angel investment into SMEs and high growth potential businesses has had globally, and create far reaching incentives to drive private capital into this investment sector. The recently launched Job’s fund specifically excluded start-ups, missing a clear opportunity to provide much needed support in a very promising sector.  Clearly, resolving the problem at national policy level will help stimulate angel investment deals in SA, going a significant way towards achieving some of the government’s growth objectives

Succeeding with getting funding

Meanwhile, what can start-up enterprises do to increase their chances of success? In truth, many do not appreciate the amount of research and information needed to support their application and are genuinely surprised when they’re rejected by the few sources of funding out there.

Very often their failure has little to do with the product, and much more with the way it is presented. A crucial component to include in the case for funding is an indication that the applicants have a thorough understanding of their target market, the opportunity, the competition and the business model, backed by adequate research and experience.

Ask someone

Entrepreneurs should get help with their applications, from someone who has represented investors successfully before, in order to increase their likelihood of success. The right consulting partner will assist the business with a realistic business strategy to enter and grow in its target market and, where appropriate, raise funding to further this process.

In the latter regard, it is advisable to find a partner with the right VC and angel investor networks. Of critical importance here is the ability to help match business objectives to investor expectations.

Why it’s hard, even with help

Many firms support start-ups with various offerings, all of them playing an important role. Most however struggle with obtaining funding for their charges, due to the limited number of funders willing to invest in early-stage businesses and the highly specific mandates of those that do provide it.

Ultimately what is needed is more angel investors to build a mature eco-system for start-up funding, which caters for applicants at all the different stages of business development including seed stage, start-up and growth phase businesses.

There have been repeated calls for new blood among SA’s angel funders, namely benefactors who are willing to invest small amounts at a very early stage, thus helping to build the experience needed to qualify for later-stage funding from VCs and growth capital funders.

Things are improving

For now, angel investment remains under the radar, difficult to access and at best ad hoc in their funding.

But entrepreneurs shouldn’t despair. The market for early investments received a much-needed boost with recent exit deals brokered for SA start-ups by PoweredbyVC (HBD’s fund managers). This again proves that start-ups with the right support and investment have it in them to attract the right exit partners – including Fortune 500 companies.

More help is at hand, with other recent additions to the angel investment scene. These include AngelHub, a new angel investment group currently being finalised.  Start-ups should take advantage of these new opportunities, while also considering some of the aforementioned guidelines. SA’s angel investors may yet fulfil their potential for boosting high-growth industries and significant job creation.

Wesley Lynch is the founder and CEO of Realmdigital, a top South African e-business strategy and technology partner, specialising in Web, Social and Mobile platforms. As a technology entrepreneur, Wesley has over a decade of experience in the financial, business and software development industries. He is also the co-founder of MyTrueSpark which sees him regularly consulting with start-ups, Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors. Wesley has recently been recognised in the Old Mutual Entrepreneurship Guide as one of the 38 emerging South African tech entrepreneurs to watch.

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Surge In South Africans Swopping Their Cars For Bitcoin

The cryptocurrency Bitcoin has experienced a seemingly interminable rise. Early adopters have experience lottery-sized pay-outs on minor investments as the currency exploded in value in 2017.

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The cryptocurrency Bitcoin has experienced a seemingly interminable rise. Early adopters have experience lottery-sized pay-outs on minor investments as the currency exploded in value in 2017.

As South Africans are itching to get their hands on the digital currency, there’s been an increase in swops and bitcoin-only sales on Gumtree.co.za, says Claire Cobbledick, Head of Core at Gumtree. “This is particularly true for high-value items like cars, bikes and boats. Many sellers are willing to take a gamble with their assets in hopes of a large pay-out.”

This is on trend with other marketplaces. In the United States a McLaren 720S was put up for sale in exchange for 25 bitcoin, a theoretical value of $425,000.

Related: 11 Things You Need To Know About Bitcoin

While Gumtree does not allow for the sale of bitcoin miners or services, Cobbledick says that customers can exchange goods for bitcoin on the site, but should be fully aware of the risks. “Bitcoin is a volatile currency, so while you could easily see a 50% increase in your investment, you could just as easily end up with nothing. It’s up to the seller to decide if they are willing and able to take a gamble.”

Some cars currently up for sale in exchange for bitcoin includes a Land Rover Defender, BMW X5 and a rare 1970 Mercury Cougar V8.

“There are also a few other sellers accepting bitcoin in exchange for Kruger Rands,” says Cobbledick. “Perhaps proving that gold as a store of value is falling out of vogue.”

But the most unusual swop would have to go to an entrepreneurial seller who is offering carnivorous plants in exchange for the cryptocurrency.

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Zando Sold 80 Items A Minute During Black Friday – By Doing This

Black Friday has brought immense success for numerous local online retailers – reflecting the potential of e-commerce in South Africa. Why not learn from Zando’s success in 2017 to ensure your success during the 2018 Black Friday sales season?

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For South African e-retailers, Black Friday is a big sales event. But you need to ensure you’re prepared for the web traffic and that your e-commerce store can handle the logistics of thousands of orders.

zando-sascha-breussAccording to Zando, they experience 100% up-time during Black Friday and less than a week after the season sales event, 95% of customer orders have already been shipped.

To help fellow e-tailers perform better next year, Zando’s CEO, Sascha Breuss answers some key questions about the company’s preparations and learnings around Black Friday:

1. How did you encourage greater sales on Black Friday?

Over the last few years Black Friday has developed a following in South Africa, so we benefitted from the existing hype around it. We didn’t focus too much on upfront marketing, but put our energy into flawless execution and of course great deals for the customers.

Related: The Evolution Of Retail: From Corner Store To Artificial Intelligence

2. How much planning went into ensuring your store platform ran at optimum?

The real ‘hot phase’ started with the first day of November when our IT department went into a ‘feature freeze’ and we focused 100% on site-stability and scalability.

We went through some intense testing of our site with loads up to 15 times the average daily amount of visitors. So, when the actual day came, we were confident in our systems.

3. How were you able to successfully co-ordinate logistics during Black Friday?

Early preparation and experience from past years have been the key to success. We increased our head count in both Warehouse and Customer Service well in advance so that we could rely on well-trained and experienced colleagues come Black Friday.

4. How did you ensure a seamless experience between your website and your app?

We know that our customers are browsing Zando on all platforms, desktop, mobile and app so we implemented some handy features to make the transition between each platform easier. For example, shared baskets and wish lists are now a feature. Some of the deals however have been app-only and sometimes we reward our app users with early access to shop the best deals. So it is definitely worth it to download our app.

Related: How SA’s Online Retailers Can Cash In On Black Friday Fever

5. How did you scale your entire operation for a single event?

This is easy to summarise in one word – TEAMWORK. The Zando staff did an amazing job and were the backbone of our success. Not only did they put the required extra hours in and worked hard until the job was done, but they also showed real team-spirit. When you called our Customer Service during Black Friday it’s very possible that you spoke to someone in our HR, Social Media or Legal team who helped out answering calls.

6. How did your marketing campaign affect traffic on your platforms?

The most surprising element was probably the high volume of traffic that we saw during the night. Visits started to increase every minute before midnight and during the first two hours of the day we saw peaks that were higher than on our strongest week day. This traffic never dropped with a lot of orders being placed between 2am and 3am on Black Friday.

7. How did your technology systems handle the influx of shopper traffic?

In the build up to Black Friday we added additional server capacity and changed the way we handled the flow of traffic. This made us very flexible to switch on additional capacity wherever required. So it was a combination of intensive preparation, close monitoring and ultimately very little sleep for a couple of days to ensure we monitored our system health 24 hours a day.

8. What was your sales strategy?

For us everything that had a discount of 40%-80%, and was still a relevant and recent look, qualified for Black Friday 2017. Once these criteria were fulfilled we made sure that we had sufficient stock available – in some cases the demand was so high that we brought on additional stock from our suppliers during the Black Friday weekend.

Related: 5 Last-Minute Tips For Small Retailers To Boost Black Friday Sales

9. What were your biggest learnings?

We have been very successful in our approach to remain true to the idea of Black Friday – offering great deals on relevant product and not outdated clearance ranges. The customer is very educated and will identify a good deal, and we have seen consumers’ negative comments on stores who used Black Friday solely as a warehouse clearance opportunity.

10. What surprised you about Zando’s success during Black Friday?

Thanks to extensive preparation we have been able to achieve an uptime of 100% for the full month of November. We also kept the deliveries and returns 100% free regardless of discount or basket size. It seems like our customers appreciated this approach and we have actually seen very positive sales numbers after Black Friday while we expected a drop. I believe the full focus and investment on the Customer Experience has worked for us.

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Team Resolutions: 11 Tips To Uncover Passion And Potential In New Hires

If there’s one resolution HR departments should make this new year, it should be to transform the onboarding experience for new hires.

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If there’s one resolution HR departments should make this new year, it should be to transform the onboarding experience for new hires says Michelle Seko, Talent Acquisition Manger at Sage Africa & Middle East.

The importance of a good candidate experience cannot be underestimated. Research has shown that 88% of job applicants are more likely to buy from a company if they’ve had a positive experience when applying for work there. Research has also shown that candidates talk about their experiences with a company, regardless of whether they got the job. Some candidates would even refer a friend to the company and others will re-apply for a future role, if the experience was a good one.

Research also found that:

Related: Why You Should (Seriously) Stop Hiring People

Win-win

Businesses enter into a relationship with a new hire the moment they sign on the dotted line. And, as with any relationship, it will only flourish if built on trust, respect and a commitment to self-improvement.

When you set new hires up for personal success, the outcomes naturally feed into your business’ success, which means you both win.

Here are a few ideas to get the most out of your new hires:

Make them feel welcome

Introduce them to the people they’ll be working with as soon as possible so that they immediately feel part of a team. At Sage, we partner new hires with a buddy, or Sage Ambassador, who helps them settle in and meet new people, contributing to the positive on-boarding experience.

Focus on the benefits

Compelling benefits not only attract the best candidates but also boost loyalty and job satisfaction. People are motivated by different things: one person might value flexi-time while another could place more importance on growth opportunities or bonuses. Focus on the benefits that align with the individual’s values when onboarding.

Set goals early and outline a plan to achieve them

This keeps your team focused, especially if they will be rewarded for achieving their goals.

Assess performance

Monthly, at least. Adjust goals and plans where necessary, reward good performance, introduce new challenges and deal with issues promptly.

Show genuine interest

Regular catch-ups and remembering children’s names, for instance, makes people feel appreciated.

Empower them

Let your new hires apply their knowledge to business challenges and offer training opportunities outside of their comfort zones. Reward ideas that help you do things better and faster.

Related: Hiring The Right Person Is Critical When Growing A Business

Encourage collaboration

People thrive when they can learn from others and when they can share their knowledge. Involve experienced team members in the new hire’s training. This is a great way to recognise and appreciate their loyalty and skills.

Be transparent

Do you have difficult clients? Will the new hire have to work overtime? What are the business’s goals? New hires should know what they’re getting into.

Provide solid training on everything from company culture and benefits, to opportunities for growth

The biggest cost associated with training people is the time it takes for them to become productive. But rushing through on-the-job training could lead to a host of other problems, including repeated mistakes and a lack of confidence.

Openly communicate any changes in the business

Manage your team’s expectations and be clear about yours. Allow new hires to question and understand how you do things and to point out errors – their past experience probably gave them new ideas and ways of working that could boost your team’s efficiency and productivity.

Be upbeat

Your mood sets the tone for everyone else. You can have the best product in the world but unless your team is passionate and enthusiastic about that product, you won’t get the results you’re hoping for.

Keeping people motivated and productive is hard work

But if you provide them with the tools, knowledge and support to do their best work and to contribute their best ideas, motivation and productivity will come naturally.

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