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FlexClub secures $5m funding to scale its unique car subscription marketplace

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FlexClub Founders; Tinashe Ruzane, Marlon Gallardo and Rudolf Vavruch (Source: JNPR)

As consumer behaviour has been reshaped by the Covid-19 pandemic, e-commerce has fast become the new ‘high street’, with customers now buying everything from groceries and medicine to electronics and even houses all online.  While vehicle purchases are not excluded from these quickly shifting consumer preferences for online retail, the traditional process of buying, insuring and financing a car still remains a major challenge to building a simple digital car shopping experience, given the multiple parties required for the transaction – until FlexClub arrived that is.

Established in 2019, by co-founders Marlon Gallardo, Rudolf Vavruch and Tinashe Ruzane, FlexClub is an online marketplace that connects customers looking for flexible access to long-term cars with its partners offering car subscriptions. FlexClub’s innovative rewards technology enhances the experience for its members, while reducing risk for its partners.

Through this technology, FlexClub is able to assess the risk profile of its members using several alternative data sources and rewards its members for responsible vehicle usage.

Since it collaborated with Uber in Mexico and South Africa in 2019, helping their community of drivers subscribe for cars that become cheaper to purchase every month through rewards, the FlexClub model of all inclusive car subscriptions has gained significant traction. Their unique car subscription marketplace is now also being extended to retail consumers, who are also rewarded for safer driving while subscribing for the vehicle thanks to their ‘Club Rewards Program’.

And it’s not just prospective vehicle buyers who love the FlexClub approach; several leading global tech investors are recognising the value and scalability of the model, which resulted in FlexClub attracting a further US$5 million in equity and debt funding in 2020, significantly bolstering the $US1.2 million it had already raised in 2019.

According to FlexClub co-founder and CEO, Tinashe Ruzane, their latest fundraising round, led by Kindred Ventures, early backers of global technology businesses such as Uber, Postmates, Virgin Hyperloop and Coinbase, demonstrates the recognition by some of the world’s foremost venture investors of the potential for the FlexClub model and the confidence in the strength of its leadership team deeply experienced in mobility.

“With seasoned and highly respected VC investors like Kindred Ventures, CRE Venture Capital and Endeavor getting behind our mission, we’re well placed to usher in the future of how people get cars in markets like Mexico and South Africa” Ruzane says, “and the support from prominent angel investors, like Matt Mullenweg (founder of WordPress), Federico Ranero (COO of KAVAK), Tariq Zaid (formerly of Shopify and Getaround) and Ron Pragides (formerly of Twitter and Salesforce), further validates the incredible global opportunity for our technology to reimagine commerce in the automotive industry.”

Accordingto Ruzane, the expected transformation of how people acquire their vehicles is not unlike the evolution that happened over the past decade in other consumer sectors such as music retail.

“10 years ago, most people would struggle to imagine a world in which CDs were not the dominant driver of music industry revenues,” he explains, “but today, thanks to the likes of Spotify and Apple Music, streaming accounts for more than 80% of all music revenues generated in the U.S. The industry successfully transitioned from product-led distribution to service-led distribution.” Ruzane is adamant that car subscriptions will drive the same radical transformation of the automotive industry distribution model and he believes that the early traction found by FlexClub with its unique car subscription marketplace points to a much larger opportunity to catalyze this transformation for its partners and members.

“Our partners recognise the opportunity to work with FlexClub to look beyond just driving unit sales of vehicles and transition towards building deeper relationships with customers through this service-driven approach. All while diversifying away from the reliance the auto industry now has on consumer vehicle financing to drive revenue,” he explains, “and the buy-in we have seen from partners like Avis and other major automotive distributors, demonstrates that car subscriptions are finally emerging into the automotive zeitgeist.”

Ruzanesays that FlexClub’s partners are quite diverse, ranging from small fleet owners to multinational fleet operators looking to easily launch car subscription offers on the FlexClub marketplace without requiring significant investment in new technology, infrastructure or operations. Just two years ago, FlexClub’s partners were predominantly individuals looking to earn passive income from owning one or two cars offered on subscription to members. A year ago, private debt funds entered the scene with an interest in the yield opportunity from funding car subscription fleets. Today, partners on FlexClub also include major brands like Avis with tens of thousands of vehicles in their fleet and the operational wherewithal to scale across multiple cities on the FlexClub marketplace.

“Our members are drawn to the fact that, in just a few clicks, they can get flexible access to a car that suits their needs in under a week. Members can choose vehicles from an array of reputable partners, without the need for large upfront deposits, high balloon payment obligations, or rigid long-term vehicle finance contracts; and they always have the freedom to buy the car, return it, or swap it at any time, without incurring any penalties or unexpected costs.”

“By enhancing and simplifying the car shopping experience for our members, and better managing the risk for our partners, FlexClub is supporting the redesign of the auto commerce landscape,” Ruzane concludes, “and we firmly believe that car subscriptions will be one of the fastest-growing segments of automotive retail over the next decade, especially as a growing number of car rental groups, car manufacturers, car dealer groups, leasing companies and even vehicle financiers start to invest more meaningfully in launching their own car subscription offers across the globe. FlexClub is a powerful bridge between the fleets our partners control and the digital car shopping experienceo our members desire.”

 

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João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, The President of the Republic of Angola To Speak At The Angola and Turkey Business Forum

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João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, The President of the Republic of Angola (Image: Claudia Padayachy)

The President of the Republic of Angola, João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, will give the inaugural speech at the Angola-Turkey Business Forum, to be held at the Ato Congresium Conference Center in Ankara, Turkey, today, 28 July 2021, at 9:00 am local time.

President Lourenço, who will address the Turkish business community, will take this opportunity to highlight Angola’s economic potential and the opportunities that the country offers. He will also discuss his government’s commitment to economic growth and development through the private sector as well as the multiple initiatives that have been adopted to improve the business environment.

This Forum is part of the official program of President Lourenço’s visit to the Republic of Turkey and is the perfect opportunity to inform the local business community and investors of Angola’s new business environment. Numerous ongoing reforms and support policies for private investment and the diversification of the economy have been put in place.

The Chairman of the Board of Directors of AIPEX, António Henriques da Silva, will present the numerous investment opportunities in the Republic of Angola.

Turkey’s Minister of Commerce, Mr. Ahmet, and the President of DEIK, are also expected to present at the Forum. 

Around a hundred Angolan and Turkish companies from various sectors are expected to participate in the event.

The Angolan and Turkish business communities will soon enjoy closer ties, with the launch of two direct weekly air connections between Luanda and Ankara through Turkish Airlines.

The  Angolan presidential delegation comprises Manuel Nunes Júnior – Minister of State for Economic Coordination, Edeltrudes da Costa – Minister and Cabinet Director of PR, Tete António – Minister of Foreign Affairs, João Ernesto dos Santos – Minister of National Defense and Homeland Veterans, Sérgio dos Santos – Minister of Economy and Planning, Ricardo Viegas de Abreu – Minister of Transport, João Baptista Jorges – Minister of Energy and Water, Manuel Tavares de Almeida – Minister of Public Works and Spatial Planning, Diamantino de Azevedo – Minister of Mineral Resources , Oil and Gas, António Francisco de Assís – Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Victor Fernandes – Minister of Industry and Commerce and Antonio Henriques da Silva – Chairman of the Board of Directors at AIPEX.

Over the last 18 years, Turkey has significantly increased its presence in Africa, going from 12 embassies and investments of around USD 100 million in 2003 to 42 embassies and around USD 6.5 billion in direct investments in 2021.

From 2003 to 2019, Turkey’s trade with Africa increased about five times, and now some 51 African cities are served by Turkish Airlines, which plans to start flights to Angola soon. (Source: issafrica.org and AIPEX).

To date, Angola has registered around USD 200 million in investments of Turkish origin, especially in mining and steel. President João Lourenço’s visit to Turkey will boost economic relations between the two countries and, in the medium term, an increase in Turkish investment in Angola is expected in priority sectors, namely, industry, mining, energy, tourism and transport, in addition to trade, where the two countries already have strong links.

The trade balance between the two countries is unfavourable for Angola, data from the General Tax Administration (AGT) indicate that from 2015 to 2020, Angola’s imports from Turkey was around USD 1,702,737,951.00, while exports from Angola to Turkey in the same period were only 41,960,419.00 USD.

 

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Wärtsilä to modernise power generation at Nigeria’s oldest and largest food company, Flour Mills Nigeria

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Wärtsilä will enable leading Nigerian food company to modernise its power generation facilities to meet everyday production needs

The technology group Wärtsilä will supply fuel-flexible dual-fuel engines to extend, improve, and modernise power generation for a captive power plant at Nigeria’s oldest and largest food and agro allied company, Flour Mills Nigeria. The company’s Lagos-based power plant is needed to ensure sufficient capacity and a reliable electricity supply around the clock to meet its food production requirements, and commitments to its customers. The two received orders were booked by Wärtsilä in March and June. 

The first order comprises a 9-cylinder Wärtsilä 34DF dual-fuel engine generator set and is an extension to the existing generating capacity provided by a similar Wärtsilä engine generator set that has been successfully operating since 2017. The second order comprises a 12-cylinder Wärtsilä 34DF engine generator set and is intended to replace an existing inefficient mono-fuel generating asset in the plant with efficient dual-fuel generating capacity as part of Flour Mills Nigeria’s captive power plant modernisation plans. The Wärtsilä engine generator sets will be delivered during 2021 and are expected to become fully operational in early 2022. 

The multi-fuel capability of the Wärtsilä engines, which can switch seamlessly from natural gas to liquid fuel mode while running at full load, facilitates continuous supply of electricity to critical loads in the event of uncertainties in the quality and quantity of the gas supply. In addition to maximising the availability and reliability, this inherent capability provides a valuable hedge against fuel price increases, and lends itself to accommodating future fuel infrastructure developments. 

Also Read Wärtsilä Optimised Maintenance agreement supports growth ambitions of a privately-owned Nigerian supplier of energy to the national grid

“It is always gratifying to receive repeat orders from a customer, not only because it signifies their satisfaction with our solution, but also because it cements the relationship between our companies. Operational flexibility and efficiency, which are features of the Wärtsilä engines, are becoming key issues in energy production, and are especially relevant for production facilities with a critical need for a reliable electricity supply,” commented Marc Thiriet, Energy Business Director, Africa West. 

The Nigerian government’s 30-30-30 vision document for the power sector aims to achieve a capacity of 30,000 megawatts of electricity by the year 2030, with at least 30 percent being supplied from renewable energy sources. The selection of fast-starting and stopping Wärtsilä engines means that should the customer have access to solar or wind power in the future, these engine generator sets can provide smart back-up generation to balance the fluctuating supply from renewables.

Wärtsilä has a leading position in supplying flexible power generation to West Africa with 4792 MW of capacity installed, of which 667 MW in Nigeria. Wärtsilä has operated in the country since 2010 and has about 90 employees locally.

 

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Journey Wellness, an AI-Enabled, Personalised Healthcare Platform Launches in South Africa

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Journey Wellness Co-Founders, Dr. Jacques Ludik and Lara Wayburne (Image: Nomsa Mdhluli)

Journey Wellness, an AI-Enabled, Personalised Healthcare Platform set to Revolutionize Wellness & Healthcare in South Africa. The Platform will transform business employee benefits and medical schemes’ approach to offering wellness for employees and medical aid members.

A revolutionary new approach to offering Ultra-Personalised, Artificial Intelligence-Enabled Healthcare from tech-trendsetting company Cortex Logic is set to transform the way medical aid schemes, consumers and corporates offering employee benefits as part of their EAP (Employee Assistance Programmes) view their current healthcare offering.

The Journey Wellness platform is perfectly timed to coincide with the current global shift in Healthcare, as the focus moves from a disease-management model to one that encourages optimum health and disease-avoidance, targeting younger as well as existing members with a holistic, pro-active offering.

Corporates and medical schemes are realising that they need to offer their employees and members wellness and EAP benefits that move beyond expensive, reactive, chemical care to cost-effective, proactive preventative primary care.

“Globally, an ever-increasing portion of healthcare spend and focus is shifting to promote wellness and wellbeing, rather than responding to illness,” says Lara Wayburne, a respected Healthcare Actuary consulting to Cortex Logic and part of the development team of the Journey Wellness Platform.

“Healthcare analysts predict that over the coming decade the focus on wellness and wellbeing can reduce overall healthcare costs by as much as 30%.”

“Journey Wellness enables that future by empowering and engaging consumers to better understand the drivers that impact their health and therefore be more actively involved in managing their own health. By doing so, the Journey Wellness ecosystem encourages positive health seeking behaviour, promoting better physical and mental health,” says Wayburne.

The driving force behind Journey Wellness, Dr Jacques Ludik, Founder and CEO of Cortex Logic, who has also recently written a book called ‘Democratizing Artificial Intelligence to Benefit Everyone’, says that the Journey Wellness platform will provide more healthcare, to more people, faster.

“Essentially, Journey is a cost-effective, pro-active, personalised and engaged AI health companion that will improve health outcomes for everyone involved – the medical scheme provider, employers, employees, healthcare providers and ultimately the end-user consumer who will benefit from personalised, proactive healthcare with the added benefits of cost savings all-round,” says Dr Ludik.

Journey Wellness offers a number of benefits for Medical Schemes, Corporates and End-Users:

Employer Groups and Medical Scheme providers will benefit from the cost savings inherent in moving from expensive, reactive, chemical care to cost-effective, proactive preventative primary care for their members and employees. This will result in increased productivity, increased employee engagement, reduced absenteeism and cost-savings to all involved.

Healthcare Providers will benefit from having a 360-degree view of their patients that will improve wellness proactively without costly chemical intervention, usually at the reactive stage and will also empower patients with continuous self-care.

And, Consumers will benefit from a Holistic Wellness Solution and the reduced need for expensive healthcare options, improved wellbeing, rewards for engagement and ultimately having a personalised wellness coach on hand at all times to help them understand their health status and associated risks and better manage their health and improve quality of life.

“Overall, it’s a win-win scenario in which technology, data and analytics foster a collaborative and progressive healthcare environment, creating an ecosystem for improved wellbeing one step at a time that benefits everyone,” says Wayburne.

Journey Wellness has also made an exciting announcement around making the Platform’s Mental Health Module available for free to users from 1 September 2021.

“We realise that the current state of affairs globally, and in South Africa in particular, with pandemic lockdowns and economic uncertainty foremost on our minds, places an enormous amount of pressure on people. So, we’re offering free access to our Mental Health Module to users, where they can access an AI-enabled mental health companion 24/7,” says Dr Ludik.

The Journey Wellness Demo Platform for Corporate Employers and Medical Schemes is available at www.journeywellness.co.za, and for Consumers, the User App is available as a free download for Android and iOS devices at Google Play and App Store. Medical schemes and Employers looking to offer Journey Wellness to their members can interact directly with Journey Wellness by requesting a demo via the website.

 

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