Archives For South Africa

TL;DR I recently became the advisor and Angel Investor for the Startup-Incubator Springlab. Springlabs launch announcement was already covered by Ventureburn and you can find a copy of our official press release below. Springlab is currently looking for investors (tickets starting at 100k) and motivated employees with a desire to experience all that Africa has to offer.

 

Springlab Südafrika Inkubator

The background:

South Africa has been my central residence for the last 7 years. Although the majority of my income during the first few years came from the developed market (Gulli-Exit & 3Gstore-sale with German speaking focus, and some English speaking online projects with US focus) I was active in the South African market from the start:

The acquisition of weather.co.za  in August 2007, a few months after my initial stay in South Africa, followed by the development of a substantial Domain-portfolio and a share in CapeTownMagazine.com  late in 2008 were my biggest investments and gave me a lot of insight into the Online Industry.

The arrival of Rocket Internet at the end of 2010 significantly aided the development of the online market and indirectly aided me as well: In my English blog I forecast the aquisition of Rocket's entry into the market (that was only officially announced a few weeks later). This scoop provided me with many new acquaintances and an insight into the exciting and dynamically growing South African Internet scene, thanks to Rockets ventures like Zando and 5Rooms.  My good knowledge of Western Start-Up culture allowed me to recognize real opportunities for development and also just skeptical enough to avoid getting caught up in a hype.

Of course the possibility to create my own start-up was always in the back of my mind. Yelp for Africa, wine E-Commerce, Couponing für Africa – since 2010 I have considered these with different teams but could never find the passion, market or team of people that I needed to really devote myself to it.

The ideal position for someone with my portfolio would likely be as an advisor. Those that know me and the severity of my PowerPoint allergy and general ‘employability’ can understand why this was not a viable career choice for me. I am passionate about Beerhouse , keeping guests happy and working out global development strategies on a Friday night (often completely sober!) fills me with excitement and satisfaction.  The creation of internet based B2C Brands and Online Marketing Strategies on the other hand, does not awaken the same passion and enthusiasm in me.

In this whole time I have only met one team that has entered into the market with the realistic self-evaluation necessary to build a sustainable and successful business. Springlab is not just waiting for the luck of the e-Commerce lottery (and endless VC Rounds) to succeed, but instead actively concentrates on business models that can be successfully executed in a relatively transparent time frame and easily adapted to the local Market.  Between Eugen from Germany and his South African partner Sheraan, the combination of hunger and international experience is perfectly balanced. I can only say one thing about this team: I look forward to future work, new discoveries and mutual success - Prost!

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Contact Person: Eugen Petersen (Co-Founder)
Company Name: Springlab
Voice Phone Number: +27 21 448 0496
FAX Number: +27 86 660 5131

Email Address: press@springlab.co

Website URL: www.springlab.co

Springlab (www.springlab.co), a new technology incubator based in Cape Town is setting out to foster entrepreneurship in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The founders of Springlab are Eugen Petersen (co-founder of Zando, Africa’s largest online fashion store) and Sheraan Amod (co-founder of Personera, a US-based venture capital backed firm), who bring diverse local and international startup experience to the company. Strategic advisor Randolf Jorberg (founder of Gulli.com, one of Europe’s largest online tech communities) is renowned as one of Germany’s top online marketers and brand builders.

“Entrepreneurship has been the engine for growth in the United States. Now Africa is on the rise and technology entrepreneurship should be at the forefront of it” says Eugen Petersen. “We are deploying the internationally successful incubator model to reduce startup risk and to spur this growth."

The company settled into a converted warehouse in Observatory, Cape Town several months ago and has just opened a sales office in Rivonia, Johannesburg. To date, Springlab has been backed by private angel investors, and is now open for direct equity or convertible loan investments into the incubator and portfolio companies.

Springlab is geared towards lean, data driven startups that are scalable, and will avoid capital-intensive business models such as e-commerce. It also acts as joint venture partner for international technology companies looking to enter the African market.

“Springlab founds its own companies and is not an external investor or temporary accelerator” says Sheraan Amod. “We take on fewer projects, but stay hands on while the venture grows up. We’re a committed partner.”

The typical investment per venture for Springlab will be between R200,000 and R2-million including the use of the incubators core resources and services. Springlab often covers the full spread of a technology venture’s needs: strategy, product development, online marketing, sales, administration and later stage fundraising. Currently, Springlab is hiring across all areas.

The first venture of Springlab is RecoMed (www.recomed.com) - a site to find the best doctors nearby and book appointments with them. The service already features 4000 doctors and is free for patients. RecoMed was silently launched last December and already attracts 14,000 visits a month, is generating appointments for doctors on a daily basis and has a growing revenue base.

Springlab’s (www.springlab.co) doors are officially open. Prospective investors, founders, co-workers, interns and anyone else looking to crack an invite to their next dinner roundtable is encouraged to email them at join@springlab.co

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Beerhouse LogoWhat takes a well established Online Marketer to become a restaurateur? The truth is, that while I am still involved in quite some online activities, my Beerhouse is here to stay and about to branch to Joburg and beyond... I am very happy with our baby, that opened 8 months ago on August 2nd 2013 and - because that's often a topic of my conversation - would like to share, how the idea of Beerhouse started during a trip to Germany:

brad-anonymized-beerhouse-historyOther than Babies, the Beerhouse concept took a solid 16 months from conception to birth. It was exactly two years ago on April 2nd, 2012, that my (then pregnant) girlfriend Varnia and me were sitting in a beer bar in Heidelberg, discussing the various available Beers and their stories and wondering why no similar place exists in Cape Town. Quick market research through text messages and Facebook followed and we realised, that there might indeed be a gap in the South African market.

Thanks to the pregnancy, we went back to the hotel quite early that evening and I reserved the most obvious domain name beerbar.co.za, created a brand new Facebook page, invited Capetonian friends and started posting, before going to bed.

I couldn't be bothered to work on the Beerbar idea when we returned from our Eurotrip, as pregnancy and my OMClub party took up all my time, but I did notice the friends congratulating me on our new bar business.

varnia-randolf-eliza-festival-of-beer

Beerhouse Team at the CT Festival of Beer 2012: Varnia, Randolf and baby Eliza. Not in the picture: Jane

Just a few days after the birth of our daughter it happened: Varnias uncle told us, that some of his rugby mates asked him, 'whether he heard about these mavericks, that were planning to open a beer bar with more than 40 different beers' and they mentioned my name. Beer blogger Joakim had written about us, although we had no location, no experience in the hospitality industry - we did nothing, but promise beer variety...

I slowly realized what we've done: it wasn't only friends & family, that liked our idea. We had planted an idea into peoples mind and they actually really wanted a beerbar with 40+ different beers! We finally started to seriously turn a drunk crackpot idea into a business.

restaurant-to-letEven without any experience in the industry, it is obvious, that a successful bar business starts with a good location and Long Street is where it's at. After looking at smaller available vacancies, we finally called the 'Restaurant space to let' number, that we walked past so many times and found a fascinating venue we knew would work.

Few days after signing the contract for 223 Long Street we still had no real plan how to open a bar, but were ready to spread the word. We printed blue Beerbar T-Shirts and visited the Cape Town Festival of Beer, where we met all the brewers, that are now our best partners for the first time and we also found our vision: give our guests at the Beerhouse a 365 day a year beer festival experience and be the tasting room for the South African craft beer industry.

beerhouse-coming-soonWith the new name finalised we decided to not wait for a logo and the Artads artists painted the name, two beer mugs and the opening soon message on the building, that would stay visible way past the April due date we originally anticipated. We invited all our new beer loving friends to the Beerhouse fundraising & christening party and were able to collect more than R5000 in donations. With all this exciting momentum, we launched into 2013, knowing that a family-team together with relentless Jane, wouldn't be able to do it all themselves and would need to grow. Once again fortune was in our favour and Murray joined us after just returning to Cape Town from a career and his own restaurant in London...

finding-murrayand the rest is history... ;-)

Written for the Beerhouse-blog, to be continued over there.

Argus 2014 Fundraiser My successful 2011 NYC Marathon fundraiser made it clear: My business partners & friends like to see me sweat!

This article in german? Please go to my german blog!

Since then I also explored the beauty of the Cape Peninsula coastal bike routes and found out about the 109 km Cape Argus Cycle Tour - the largest individually timed cycling event in the world! As some of you may know, the Argus will be held on the 9th of March 2014 and I have decided to participate in aid of an organization called Mamelani Projects. I challenge you to get me onto the bike - Please donate your last penny or cent and remember that at the spectacular low exchange rate of R15 for a Euro and R11 for a US$ your donation looks impressive on the overview but harmless on your bank account. I linked all donors below and thank you all for supporting this cause! My legendary network reached the original R5000 goal in less than an hour and donated a total of R37725 (ca. 3500 US$ / 2500€!) in donations and helped South African disadvantaged youths!

Randolf Jorberg Cape Argus certificateI also managed to keep to my promise and I finished the 109 km Cape Argus in 05:05:58 hours - missing the 5 hour mark, and with quite some way for me to improve in the next few years, but some great impressions along the incredible route...

Some background on the organization you'll support: Mamelani runs a programme that consists of supporting young people in successfully transitioning out of state care at 18 years of age. Care leavers are said to be one of the most vulnerable groups in society, and without adequate support, after years of care and development, many face poor outcomes in adult life. Mamelani has developed an approach to working with young people, a process to support them in preparing for and facing life beyond care. The programme runs over 3 years, providing support prior to the transition, as well as continued support after leaving. Below is a message from Nkululeko, a 19 year old from Gugulethu, about how Mamelani has assisted him.

“I really didn’t think about having to leave Homestead one day. I didn’t take it seriously until I realised that I had to leave. I realised that I needed help! I didn’t know where I was going to go and what I was going to do. Mamelani helped me. You see these guys at Mamelani are like brothers to me and I get to talk about things that one would expect from a family. Mamelani gives people hope and that is so important because people lose hope when they are not supported. It gives guys leaving the children’s home an opportunity of making something different of our lives and not have excuses.

R4500 (that's only €300!) allows one young person to complete a paid internship, providing them with the opportunity to gain access to the world of work, technical experience and money management skills. Together the Mamelani Movers Argus team would like to secure enough funds to allow 5 youth to be a part of this process. So come on and back me on my adventure. Together we can make a difference! If you wish to donate then please click on this link and follow the simple instructions. http://www.backabuddy.co.za/champion/project/randolfs-mamelani-movers-argus-challenge

Argus Fundraiser 2014

Please donate to my Argus 2014 fundraiser!

 

Not too many know, that I've been involved with ICANN's process of setting up new TLDs since 2009. With 24 days left to register and no initiative in sight to establish a .CAPETOWN for them I sent out this letter to the city and the press and hope to see a .CAPETOWN Top Level Domain come true in 2013, so the city can establish itself at the forefront of digital. This opinion of mine was printed in the Cape Times yesterday, but as it hasn't yet been published online, I'm publishing it here.

Please comment, forward, tweet & Facebook this posting, if you support the establishment of this new TLD!

In the future, city governments, businesses and organizations will use web addresses that end with intuitive, localized domain suffixes like .joburg, .lagos and .denver rather than .za, .ng or .com. But for the moment, this opportunity can only be realized by a handful of the most innovative and forward-looking metros, such as .berlin, .london, .nyc, .tokyo and – if our leaders have the vision to join this exclusive club – .capetown.

 

For a limited time, until mid-April 2012, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – which manages the registration of top-level domains (TLDs) – is accepting applications for new TLDs. Once the deadline has passed, it is not expected to open up the process again for many years.

 

I believe that the City of Cape Town should take this opportunity to spearhead the application for the .capetown domain. A successful bid will lead to significant branding, community-building and economic opportunities for the city, its businesses and its residents.

 

As a branding device, the early adoption of the .capetown domain would signal our claim to being a world class city. It would also say that we’re a cutting-edge creative hub of digital innovation and a uniquely worthwhile destination. These qualities would help the city compete for travelers, conferences, foreign direct investment and international knowledge workers. It would also add to the city’s growing brand profile, revealing that we are aware of our own value and are keen to enhance it.

 

The world is starting to wake up to the Cape Town brand as more films are shot here, more tourists visit and as we host more international events. Initiatives like the Silicon Cape, the World Design Capital and the Cape Biotech Initiative are all enhancing the city’s brand as well.

 

Unfortunately, everything online about the city falls under the .za domain, a suffix that has none of the branding benefits that .capetown does.

 

The main reason is because it is not intuitive. The .za suffix for “South Africa” does not make immediate sense for the online community. (The .sa domain belongs to Saudi Arabia, so we got stuck with .za, from the German “Zuid Afrika”.)

 

Second, the .za referent is too broad for activities, organizations or businesses that are based solely in the Mother City. These should enjoy a city TLD, matching their actual unique location, such as waterfront.capetown or myciti.capetown. The City, by applying for and adopting this virtual platform, would then be able to incentivize the local use of the .capetown brand in all digital communications.

 

As a community-building device, the .capetown domain would also allow people to proudly declare their membership in the metro. Businesses and organizations would gladly do so of their own volition, but the City could also democratize this possibility by offering every resident a free .capetown email account. Consider the impact: hundreds of thousands of emails each day would assert residents’ claims to the City. That would be a powerful statement of community.

 

Moreover, the .capetown domain promises greater commercial opportunities for local businesses and clients. Many companies already use the word “capetown” or “cpt” in their website URL, usually followed by .za. But the .capetown domain would render the overly-broad .za redundant.

 

Think about it: city TLDs make sense because cities provide the natural limits for most people’s everyday movements. It is in cities that people form communities, send their children to school, go to work and hang out with friends. It is also the natural unit for various work sectors, including the creative industries such as film production, graphic design and biomedical R&D. The .capetown domain makes better sense for most businesses as they operate from highly particular locales.

 

At some point in the future, when ICANN opens the application process again, other South African cities should seek their own domains, such as .joburg and .durban. But right now, the application process requires not only the support of each city’s governing authority and business community, but significant technical, administrative and financial capacity. ICANN’s requirements are formidable, guaranteeing that only the most far-sighted and administratively capable cities obtain them.

 

At this stage, due to the City’s energetic leadership and financial stability, Cape Town would likely be the only South African city that would be able to lodge a successful application.

 

Thus I urge Patricia de Lille and her team at the City of Cape Town to take advantage of this unique opportunity and apply for the .capetown domain. We would all benefit together from her decision to solidify Cape Town’s place in the digital age. With this act, she would confirm our status as the Gateway to Africa and promote our aspiration to be part of a globally connected citizenry.

Disclaimer: I write this as the owner of weather.co.za - a privately held weather forecasting site that has definite plans to extend it's offerings to launch and produce it's own weather forecasts and warning data very soon. The weather bill can and will be used by the South African Weather Service (SAWS) and it's heavily connected private sister-company Weather Intelligence Systems  (Pty) Ltd. to fight off private competition as my site could become.

Less than a week before the final hearings, the proposed SA weather service amendment bill, 2011 does finally make some headlines and gets attention by the DA MP Gareth Morgan, FW De Clerk Foundation and many other affected parties.

"Only the Weather Service may issue severe weather-related warnings over South Africa in order to ensure that there is a single authoritative voice in this regard." 

is what the South African Weather Service Act already says since 2001. As if this questionable decision, that lacks any legally binding definition of a 'severe weather-related warning' isn't enough the new amendment is now supposed to add the following section 30A that reads:

(1) No person may
(a) issue a severe weather or air pollution-related warning without the necessary written permission from the Weather Service;
(b) supply false or misleading information about the Weather Service;
(c) unlawfully, intentionally or negligently commit any act or omission which detrimentally affects or is likely to detrimentally affect the Weather Service.

(2) A person who contravenes any provisions of subsection (1), is guilty of an offence and is liable, in the case of a first conviction, to a fine not exceeding five million rand or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years, and in the case of a second or subsequent conviction, to a fine not exceeding ten million rand or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years, or in both instances to both such fine and such imprisonment, respectively.

As the SA weather service amendment bill is so outrageous and wrong, I just sent the following letter to the parliament, just in time for the public hearing, that I will attend January 17 and 18:

I heavily object to the new weather service amendment bill and ask parliament to review essential clauses to understand what this bill does to any legitimate competitor to South African Weather Service (SAWS) or their licensing customers:

  • South African might become the first country in the world where there is a state guaranteed monopoly for weather services. In my humble opinion does South Africa not need less, but more competition to guarantee a better forecasting quality, than we currently get.
  • The SAWS must by law adhere to The World Meteorological Organization Resolution 40 that urges Members to: "Strengthen their commitment to the free and unrestricted exchange of meteorological and related data and products" and specially states in Annex 3 "The purpose of these guidelines is to further improve the relationship between NMSs and the commercial sector. The development of the exchange of meteorological and related information depends greatly upon sound, fair, transparent, and stable relations between these two sectors.". This bill clearly does NOT help fair relations between SAWS and private competition!
  • The bill does not define "Severe weather warning". SAWS can use to scare clients by way of fine if they use any other forecast service other than SAWS and thereby creating a monopoly. Also, what would be considered "false" information? There is no 100% accurate weather forecast.
  • SAWS already acts and markets themselves as "The ONLY accurate source of SA weather" and take a very similar stance when negotiating with third parties over licensing terms. Their self-conception is NOT matched by their accuracy and I hope to bring some fresh competitive comparison with me to the parliamentary hearing next week.
  • The insertion of Clause 28A is also of great concern. The minister can change the act without going through parliment. Really not fair since this can change legislation even further to keep competitors out.

The offenses clause and clause 28A in the Bill needs to be removed and I ask parliament to rethink the current policy on "one single authoritative voice" in regards to severe weather warnings.

kind regards,
Randolf Jorberg
owner of weather.co.za

People who know me, know that I'm 1. into domain names (owning quite some .co.za them, not only weather.co.za, (fly-)nationwide.co.za and runner.co.za :-) and 2. into stats so I wanted to share some findings that I found to be pretty interesting.

Previous stats on SA webhosting marketshare had a serious flaw: it covered only 70,000 COM, NET, ORG, BIZ, INFO domains, that were hosted in South Africa while my research covers all 643,453 .co.za domain names, that are registered as of June 1st, 2011. My research does also include .co.za domains hosted overseas, as many clients avoid local companies and use cheap international webhosting companies with unlimited bandwidth offerings.

See the 50 biggest co.za domain hosting Companies:

co.za webhosting companies

I published the full list of the 50 biggest domain hosting companies / nameservers on http://randolf.jorberg.com/web-hosting-south-africa/ and I intend to update it regularly.

Methodology: This research is based on the number of .co.za domains registered to your nameservers. If you are a reseller or you are using someone elses nameservers I have no way of finding out about you. While my research covered the 100 most frequently used nameservers, I might have missed some nameservers from companies whose aggregated numbers would've made it to the list. I found companies with up to five nameserver-sets but I can't guarantee completeness of my current list. I ask companies or clients who notice that there's a discrepancy to their own count that you contact me and I'll update the data ASAP.

I first wrote about Angel Investments in South Africa back in 2008 and I'm happy to see that there's now a local movement starting, that's based in Cape Town.

Craig Mullett from Branison Group LLCThrough Alex Fraser and Roger Norton from the awesome Silicon Cape initiative I received an invitation to an Angel Groups seminar by Craig Mullett from the Branison Group at the UCT Graduate School of Business in Cape Town. The seminar focused on the research topic of bridging the missing middle in entrepreneurial finance in South Africa through developing angel investor networks. It gave an overview of the research on how these groups work in the USA as well as research ideas on how this could be done in South Africa and I'm happy that I was given permission to publish it here on my blog:

Angel groups in South Africa (PDF Download)

To my knowledge, this was scheduled to released on Friday, but Groupon Inc. just issued this press release, where they announce:

CHICAGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Groupon (http://www.groupon.com) announces the launch of Groupon India, Groupon Israel and Groupon South Africa via acquisition of daily deal sites SoSasta (http://www.sosasta.com), Grouper (http://www.grouper.co.il) and Twangoo (http://www.twangoo.co.za), respectively. Terms of the deals were not disclosed. [...]
The acquisitions continue Groupon’s rapid global growth and extend its reach across India, the Middle East and South Africa. In just three months since launch, SoSasta has grown to run daily deals in 11 Indian cities. Serving Tel Aviv and surrounding cities since March 2010, Grouper is widely recognized as the first and largest deal site in Israel. Twangoo has rapidly grown to serve the most cities of any deal site in South Africa. All three sites will transition to the Groupon brand name and site design in coming months, and will serve deals in the local communities’ primary languages: English in India and South Africa and Hebrew in Israel.

To my best knowledge my blog post "Groupon to launch in South Africa in cooperation with Twangoo" dated December 17th was the first public posting about the Twangoo/Groupon connection and I got quite some interesting follow-up conversation with industry people that indicated the takeover deal that was finally announced today.

Groupon South Africa now looks at a launch from a market leader position, but they might face special problems, they yet have to solve:

- groupon.co.za is currently owned by competiting dailydeal-site wicount and they might face the same problem they're currently facing in Australia: they offered the local domain owners "about $286,000 for the Groupon.com.au domain and trademark" but only got a counter-offer to buy the whole competing business in a package deal. Now that Groupon was stupid enough to publicly value their own brand-typo-domain, I'm interested to hear what might happen if Wicount goes the same route. Will Groupon go to court about the very essential domain name groupon.co.za or will they simply put cash on the table and possibly buy the whole Wicount business ending up with two local companies?

groupon.co.za whois

As the whole startup world is going crazy over Groupon and it's alleged 6 billion $ (US, not Zimbabwean!) offer from Google, I just want to look onto the tiny South African market, where it looks like Group-buying 'Giant' Groupon is about to launch under the domain name mycitydeal.co.za. They use that rather lenghty and generic domain, as the groupon.co.za domain, seems to be registered by Competitor WiiCount.

The launch of Groupon in South Africa was to be expected, as there are currently many Groupon clones starting up on the South African market. While the whole technology is operated by Groupon Europe GmbH out of Berlin, there is one surprise to be found:

mycitydeal.co.za is a service of:
Groupon South Africa
office at Boulevard Office Park, Block G, Ground Floor
Searle Street, Woodstock
Cape Town 8001

Phone: 0844 879 2888
e-mail: info(at)mycitydeal.co.za

Director: Christopher Muhr

Responsible for the content of this website: Twangoo South Africa PTY Ltd.

groupon mycitydeal south africaGroupon seems to cooperate with one of their clones when it comes to the sales side of operations instead of setting up their own local sales force: To me this is somehow surprising, as Twangoo (part of a group of global groupon clones) is a direct competitor to Groupon in the South African market and I wonder who's going to get the better deals or if both platforms will see identical deals every day... Maybe this is also a sign that Groupon and Groupon Europe (that started as citydeal.de and were just aquired by Groupon a few months ago) are getting closer to other clones and think about aquiring Twangoo soon?

Just some thoughts for clarity: Do you really think Groupon is a viable business model and yet another clone is going to succeed? Livingsocial CEO clarifies the real cost of building your own Dailydeal site in this video and I think that a quick exit may be the only really profitable way out. But seeing that Google did NOT buy Groupon (and I highly doubt that 6 billion was ever offered by them!) there may be less options than you hope there are...

There are many group buying sites that were started in the last few months in South Africa. I don't think that many of them will be live a few months down the road...

Great news for Stephan Ekbergh and for South African entrepreneurs hoping to make it big! My Friend Pip just found this story: eTRAVELi acquires the european arm of their competitor Travelstart - this adds just another success story to serial entrepreneur Stephan Ekberghs biography. While Travelstart had sales of approximately ZAR 1.5 billion in Europe during 2009 eTRAVELi and Travelstart together are now expected to sell 5 billion (Rand and Swedish kronor are nearly on par) worth of travel in 2010. The sales price is not disclosed, but Stephan blogs about his motivation to sell the european operation on his personal blog and that he wants to completely concentrate on the emerging markets and he realised that he had to let go of the european arm of his 'baby'.

Reportedly brokering 50,000 flight bookings a month on the South African Travelstart platform alone, Travelstart is a travel giant on the tiny e-commerce market of South Africa and I do seriously hope that this is not the last positive news we hear from this travel powerhouse, operating from Cape Town.

Update: after receiving confirmation and further details from Stephan via this comment, I rewrote the posting and clarified the separation between Travelstart Europe and Travelstart South Africa. Official confirmation can be found on the Travelstart blog where they confirm: "The deal means that Travelstart.co.za will own the rights to the global Travelstart brand, and that eTraveli takes over the European brand management and all its operations there."