Four black-owned South African financial services startups each won R1-million last night at an exciting pitching event hosted by AlphaCode in partnership with Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Royal Bafokeng Holdings.
The Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) pitching event is an initiative of Merrill Lynch South Africa and Royal Bafokeng Holdings which seeks to identify and reward high potential South African fintech entrepreneurs to boost the development of fintech in South Africa. The event was run for the third time in collaboration with AlphaCode, a club for next-generation financial services entrepreneurs powered by RMI Holdings. Monetary awards were made to four of the 10 black-owned financial services businesses which pitched. The four businesses, as recipients of the grant funding, will become members of AlphaCode’s BEE Centre of Excellence and will receive additional business support services including free office space at a prime Sandton location.
To date, the programme has disbursed R13 million to 15 businesses over the past two years. The grant funding has ranged from R500 000 to R1 million per business. The winning startups were:
Commuscore - an alternate credit scoring provider that captures payment and lending behaviours of consumers and micro-lenders in the informal sector. They provide an informal saving scheme administration and management tool that is able to build a credit profile based on various data points. Founders are Philile Mkhize and Priya Mistry.
Investsure provides fraud insurance to shareholders against losses in share price caused by actual or perceived deception committed by management. Their fraud insurance product operates on trading platforms and is targeted at individuals investing in the JSE and asset managers. Founders are Mbulelo Mpofana, Ignatius Nkwinika and Shane Curran.
Cascade was founded in 2016 by two actuaries, Mutoda Mahamba and Gavin Waldeck. Through technology and digital marketing, Cascade reduces the cost of insurance and gives the savings back to the consumer through an insurance savings product. Their product is the equivalent of a medical aid savings account within the short-term insurance market.
Everest Ventures, founded by Neo Ratau, is an entrepreneurial SME finance advisory service and investment management company offering comprehensive services such as capital raising, business case solutions, acquisitions and disposals and financial reporting. It’s the meeting point of large and small businesses providing access to funding and opportunities.
During the event, contestants from the 10 businesses had just five minutes to pitch their businesses with a few minutes set aside for questions from the esteemed panel of judges. The judging panel included Senior Investment Executive at RMI Holdings, Dominique Collett; Justin Bothner, Head of Investment Banking at Merrill Lynch South Africa; Albertina Kekana, CEO of Royal Bafokeng Holdings and Raymond Ndlovu, Investment Executive at Remgro Limited.
Chipo Mushwana, Head of Ecosystem Development at AlphaCode said, “We are delighted by the commitment and quality of the entrepreneurs of these high impact black-owned businesses that we see in the financial services space. This is testament to the need for our BEE Centre of Excellence. The winning businesses were selected because of their ability to meet our judging criteria which included their revenue model, the problem they are solving, how they differentiate from their competitors and their marketing plans.”
Julia Benadie, Regional Executive of Operations and Corporate Affairs at Merrill Lynch explained, “Our company is wholly supportive of young entrepreneurs in South Africa and we recognise them as significant contributors to our economy. Disruptive ideas are to be supported and encouraged as we need to see creative fintech solutions emerge for the challenges that South Africans face today.”
Mushwana continued, “We have seen that this funding is used for the development of technology platforms to create annuity revenue for the businesses; recruitment of highly skilled team members; purchasing of equipment such as laptops and boosting marketing and business development efforts.”
“We have also tracked the impact of these businesses over the last two years. Previous successes of this initiative include Isazi Consulting, a machine learning business which used the funds received in 2015 to build a data visualisation tool and made a 266% return on the investment. Livestock Wealth when they joined the programme had sold only 10 cows and with the funds received in 2015, increased marketing efforts and have now sold more than 1000 cows and attracted additional funding as well as a global audience.