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InvestSure: Inspired by the need for investors to manage fraud risks that can be unforeseen – Mbulelo Mpofana

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From left- Ettienne Myburgh (Easy Equities), Mbulelo Mpofana, Carly Barnes (Easy Equities), Shane Curran and Ignatious Nkwinika.

Based in Johannesburg and founded by Shane Curran, Mbulelo Mpofana and Ignatious Nkwinika. InvestSure is a new insurance product that insures listed shares bought on participating trading platforms, against losses arising out of the deceptive or misleading acts of management of the company. The insurance is offered on shares listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), with plans to insure shares in global markets in future. Investors can insure their shares as they buy them, as well as insure their existing portfolio. This product is a world first innovation, developed in South Africa and supported by global partners. In this interview with  Alaba Ayinuola  of Business Africa Online. Mbulelo Mpofana- Co-Founder & COO at InvestSure talked about the inspiration behind InvestSure, how they got funded and the future for their brand. Excerpt.

 

Alaba: Kindly tell us about InvestSure and the gap it’s filling.

Mbulelo: InvestSure is an insurtech startup that has developed APIs that enable share trading platforms to sell their unique insurance product. InvestSure has developed a world-first insurance product that provides shareholders protection against losses in the share price which are caused by management misleading and deceiving shareholders. The product is currently available on Easy Equities.

In the wake of the Volkswagen (VW) emissions scandal we noticed that the share price had dropped significantly, yet there was no recourse to investors who had invested in the company not knowing that VW weren’t all they made out to be. After that multiple similar events around the world prompted us to think that investors should have some kind of protection for these events.  Management fraud presents a difficult to manage and asses risk for investors (even sophisticated investors). It is often caused by deception on the part of trusted managers who are much closer to the business on a daily basis.

There was simply no accessible, simple and cost effective product to allow investors to protect themselves from the risk of being blindsided by management of the companies they invest in. We also think this product can make investing more accessible by simplifying the decision process and allow people to invest with more confidence, knowing they have this “sleep easy” cover.

On the tech side InvestSure provides a set of APIs that trading platform developers can use to integrate their insurance product seamlessly into their websites and applications. Once InvestSure’s technology is added to a trading platform, it enables users to easily buy insurance on their shares with a single click. The full process from buying to insurance to settling claims is fully automated.

 

Alaba: What was your startup capital and how were you able to raise it? 

Mbulelo: Entrepreneurs often talk about needing a bit of luck; we had our right at the beginning. We were very fortunate to partner with Hannover RE from a very early stage; the Africa region MD liked the product idea from the get go. They agreed to incubate and fund the founding team until we actually launched through their specialist insurance subsidiary Compass Insure. Compass is the insurer behind the product and is now also a shareholder in InvestSure. We also won R1-million at a pitch event run by AlphaCode, Merrill Lynch South Africa and Royal Bafokeng Holdings. The initial funding from Compass formed part of our recently announced R9.6m funding round.

 

Alaba: As a startup, what are the challenges and how are you overcoming them?

Mbulelo: We have been fortunate in many respects to have secured support from a multinational insurance giant at idea stage so our set of challenges are of a different nature than most innovative startups. For us the challenges included:

  1.  Navigating the internal processes of our partner companies; these can result in long delays and take up a lot of the founders’ time.
  2. Linked to the above, the other big challenge was the B-2-B aspect of the business, established companies move much slower than we were able to, especially on the IT and decision making sides, and this created some frustration for us as well as increasing time to market (and cash spent before getting to market).
  3. Managing the at time conflicting objectives of all partners and stakeholder to make the business relationship worthwhile for all parties, especially with a unusually low cost product like ours.  The insurance industry is still used to high distribution cost models.
  4. Client education, we’ve tried to make the product quite simple but there are still misunderstandings we find in terms of people getting what the product does, the value in it and how it’s different to things like put options.
  5. Awareness, spreading awareness of the product on a tight budget is always a challenge!

 

Alaba: What advice would you give potential entrepreneurs who intend to start a business or invest in Africa?

Mbulelo: There is a lot of advice from much smarter and successful people than me out there! I’ll stick to specifically insurtech were I have more experience and less has been said about.

Our advice for anyone trying to create a new product is to partner with an established player. This allows you the time to focus on the product design and development, rather than trying to deal with the insurance regulatory mine-field. You can always change direction once the product is established. It also allows you much easier access to flexible capital,  accessing their networks and relationships, instant credibility enhancement and tapping into internal expertise to name a few. I’ve found that more and more companies are seeing value in partnerships with disruptive innovators.

Investors in South Africa are much more profit focused and will look for shorter break even time frames over and above big opportunity. It is therefore important to manage costs down.

 

Alaba: What’s the future for InvestSure and what steps are you taking in achieving them?

Mbulelo: There is a ton of scope for us to grow in South Africa, we are looking to do this by increasing our penetration rate on Easy Equities (our first platform partner) and we are keen on signing up other trading platforms as well which will increase our accessible market.

We are also keen to take advantage of the uniqueness of the product by taking it to other markets; initially we are looking at Australia and the UK as markets with similar regulation and business culture as SA.

Alaba: How is your business contributing to the development of Africa?

Mbulelo: We are embracing the idea of “community” in the startup scene and engaging with many other founders as well as people who are interested. We have also actively sought to use our network to create opportunities for other startups e.g. at least one other startup has secured funding from our shareholders through our initial intro; quite a few others are in talks with them.

 

Alaba: What’s your view on the development of Africa InsurTech ecosystem?

Mbulelo: I think it’s small but high quality even compared to the US and UK. I see a lot of innovation around the intersection of hardware/devices and insurance in Africa and I think we can be a player in that space. I also think it’s growing especially as more corporate become open to collaborating and funding insurtech startups. Insurance has a very bad image and many insurtech’s are creating a fairer and more transparent version of doing things which I think will appeal to consumers more and more over time.

 

Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?

Mbulelo: I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur so this is a dream for me. From an African perspective, I’m proud we could create something that has surprised even the global executives of a company like Hannover Re and bring a new insurance product to the global insurance market. Africans continue to innovate and create value though new products and business models so it shouldn’t be a surprise to people but for some reason it still is! Hannover Re South Africa itself is seen as the innovation sub for the group which is testament to the unique thinking and creativity in Africa.

 

Alaba: How do you and partners relax and what books do you read?

Mbulelo: Sports is a consistent passion across the team for sports, I more watch than play these days but Shane plays soccer like 2 or 3 times a week. We also like to travel and spend time with family. We tend to read a lot of business related books. I also like to read about politics and historical figures.

 

Alaba: Please teach us one word in your home language and your favorite local dish?

Mbulelo: Nkululeko- which means freedom in isiZulu, Freedom Day in SA is coming up on Saturday 27 April. Can’t pick an outright favorite but will mention two- Putu with Amasi and I also love Biltong.

 

Alaba: What’s your favorite holiday spot in your country?

Mbulelo: It changes over time but current would say rural KZN around the town of Port Shepstone and further down the coast. It’s really beautiful and still quite natural in parts. I also have family around those parts.

Also Read SMEs: Before you sign that deed of guarantee | Morenike Okebu

Bio’s:

Shane Curran- Co-Founder & MD

Shane is a Chartered Accountant (CA(SA)) who originally saw the opportunity to approach Hannover Re Group Africa with an idea for a new insurance product. He believes that investing in shares is crucial to enhancing one’s wealth over the long term, but that certain risks could seriously harm that long term wealth growth. In his personal time he enjoys soccer, reading, holidays and spending time with friends and family.

Mbulelo Mpofana- Co-Founder & COO

Mbulelo teamed up with Shane to develop this unique insurance idea after gaining 6 years insurance experience, covering most technical areas of the industry including actuarial, capital management and risk management. Mbulelo has an enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and loves finding pragmatic and practical solutions to challenging problems.

Ignatious Nkwinika- Co-Founder & CTO

Before designing and building InvestSure’s tech from scratch, Iggy gained over 14 years of experience as an IT Solutions Architect including over 6 years in insurance. He is passionate about technology development and finding innovative solutions within the insurance industry.

 

Visit InvestSure today!

 

Afripreneur

Cycles, Nigeria’s No.1 Bike-Sharing Platform Achieving The United Nations SDG Goal 11 – Damilola Soladoye

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The private bike-sharing ecosystem is beginning to gain momentum in Africa, most especially in Nigeria. Although not new to the dense Asian cities and some parts of Europe. Some Nigerian startups are now exploring this new business model. Such startup testing the waters is Cycles, as it’s redefining the way people commute within tertiary institutions, communities and cities. Using an efficient, fun and healthy means of transport, building better people, communities and a greener earth. In this interview,  Alaba Ayinuola  of Business Africa Online spoke with Damilola Soladoye, the co-founder and CEO of Cycles, to know more about the brand good start and insights into the bike-sharing business in Nigeria. Excerpts.

 

Alaba: Tell us about Cycles and the gap it’s filling.

Damilola: Cycles is a mobility startup solving last mile transportation inefficiencies in Nigerian and African Universities, Estates and communities with our smart and efficient bicycle sharing system.

We are filling the gap of last mile transportation in communities where multiple transportation options do not exist or are not sufficient.

 

Alaba: What’s your startup capital and how were you able to raise it?

Damilola: Currently, we have raised over $5000 dollars in equity free grants majorly from the Fbstart accelerator from Facebook in partnership with Co-creation Hub. Asides this most of our capital has been bootstrapped till date with personal funds from team members.

 

Alaba: What are the challenges, competition and how are you overcoming them?

Damilola: Our major challenge is the pace of adoption by our target community. Most University and estate management have been slow to adopt our solution. This is purely bureaucratic as some tend to see our solution as a direct competition with the already existing means of transportation which they currently have on the ground.

It has been daunting, but we are gradually overcoming these challenges by presenting our solution as a complement to the already existing transport options and also offering our bicycle sharing system at no cost to the community. Instead, the community generates revenue off our system through a revenue share model.

 

Alaba: How’s your brand making mobility and logistics safe, accessible and affordable?

Damilola: Globally, bicycle sharing is widely adopted in many major cities, communities and Universities all over the world. This is no surprise because cycling is a green, healthy and sustainable means of mobility. It is so because it removes the human factor of having a driver and burning fuel to make it more affordable for the end user.

It is also an accessible system as it is available 24/7 in any community deployed in. To boost safety on our system we are working closely with officials from Institute of Transport Development Policy (ITDP) and Lagos State Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) to ensure compliance with global safety and stand practices

Also Read Startups: The Ideal Partnership Agreement

Alaba: How’s your brand different and unique to other brands in the bike-sharing business?

Damilola: At cycles, what makes us unique is our passion for building green and sustainable mobility solutions coupled with a particular focus for providing great user experiences with our technology.

Alaba: What’s the future for Cycles and what steps are you taking in achieving them?

Damilola: The future for Cycles is to place Africa on the global mico-mobility map by flooding African communities with sustainable mobility systems. We are taking steps to achieve this daily through partnerships with both local and international organisations to augment our growth.

 

Alaba: How’s the government supporting startups and SME in your Nigeria?

Damilola: The Government has been supporting startups and SME’s in Nigeria, though I strongly believe more can be done. The future of Nigeria and Africa lies in part in its entrepreneurs and the more government involvement in this sector, the more accelerated growth is bound to occur in the country.

 

Alaba: What’s your view on the development of Africa logistics and mobility ecosystem?

Damilola: The logistics and mobility ecosystem is accelerating at a mammoth pace. Safe to say that with the recent rounds of investments in logistics/mobility-related startups, I believe massive disruption is said to happen in the coming years and more investment is said to be attracted to this sector.

Though a major set back in my opinion would be infrastructure. This has and will always be a major roadblock for any logistics/mobility-related business and Government should begin to intervene appropriately.

 

Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?

Damilola: Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but in general, I derive joy from knowing that I am a change agent on a mission to develop and change my continent even in the little way I can.

 

Alaba: What advice would you give potential entrepreneurs who intend to start a business or invest in Africa?

Damilola: My advice to potential entrepreneurs or investors interested in the African space would be to see Africa as a very daunting and challenging market to penetrate. This might sound cliche, but in comparison to other markets of the world, Africa’s market poses so many challenges from infrastructure, the ecosystem to customers in total.

It takes courage, time and grit to build a business in Africa and every stakeholder involved in this such be aware as this would drive their expectations, timelines and overall outlook of the market in the end.

 

Alaba: How do you relax and what books do you read?

Damilola: I relax mostly by watching movies and I read motivational books.

 

Alaba: Please teach us one word in your home language and your favourite local dish?

Damilola: “Siṣẹ”, this means work! My favourite dish is pounded yam and egusi soup.

 

Alaba: What’s your favourite holiday spot on the continent?

Damilola: My favourite holiday spot on the continent would be the pyramids of Egypt.

 

Damilola Soladoye and his team.

 

Short Bio:

Damilola Soladoye is a passionate and self-motivated individual interested in technology, mobility and solving societal problems. A first class graduate of Covenant University and alumni of the premier cohort of the Fbstart accelerator program from Facebook in collaboration with Co-creation Hub, Nigeria.

 

Visit Cycles today

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Afripreneur

6 Reasons Why Culture Is Important For Startup Growth (Case Study: SmartCodes)

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When I was in Harvard Business School, I learnt a lot regarding how to operate profitable businesses by not only making just a business grow and expand in different markets but also to make an impact to your clients and customers. Being in the US as Harvard student for couple of weeks was major shift on my perception about what growth is, and how we Africans are not taking advantage of what we have.

Hence fast forward, I would like to share with the startup community on why culture should be most important part for the growth of your business and why it’s important to let everyone involve on the process.

 

1. Conduct a proper SWOT analysis within your Industry

I am not a huge fan of questions like “who are your competitors” as I believe everyone has a purpose. If you know whereyou’re going and take an important challenge to venture in new opportunities, you will find yourself focusing more on delivering solutions to your customers and less looking on what others are doing. For us, we have different competitors in different category as our company structured to implement solutions for tech, advertising, products and venture in helping startups and collaborate with other corporate, hence SWOT is important as it will make you see all sort of weakness and threats and use your strength as a checklist to combat them and grow faster.

 

2. Use your SWOT results to review your company vision

After sitting with your team and review all the SWOT results, it’s very important now to strategically review your vision, mission and purpose that will inspire everyone to deliver and know why they should workup in the morning and execute their task. This was one of the great exercises we did at Smart Codes and we involved everyone from our top managers to the supporting teams’ even drivers to security team, and collectively we awesomely re-define our purpose. The major key question to everyone was on defining our WHY which was the light to our PURPOSE. As a result, we find our main purpose was to make a mark in their project we touch and help our client’s grow.

 

3. Train your dragons

During the SWOT process, you must measure the culture from strength to weakness and immediately invest more on your weak holes so as to train the team to be better than themselves. There is no better investment than training and empowering your existing team vs trying to hire the new one which they won’t really understand your purpose at one place unless your growth need new wings and hence add one to grow faster.

Even at SC, after strategically knowing our focus was to expand in other African markets, we immediately started collaborating with top talented experts in different African markets. We inspired our teamthat, with this digital age of transformation, you can do anything it’s just you need to plan and have courage to execute it. I remember we once invited Stanbic’s CIO, Mussa Ally to come and we did amazing workshop with our team on how they can grow their career. This was not just for Smart Codes but most importantly was for their own career growth. This was done to train them to think BIG by eating an elephant in bit by bit instead of thinking or eating chips-mayai which no-one will get a wow factor from you as a person.

We have also worked closely with great minds like Max Ngari – one of the top creative people in Africa who won many awards such as the Cannes Lions awards.

 

4. Break your Vision into objective goals

The major learning here is, knowing how to eat an Elephant. You need to break down this elephant goal into small tasks and assign each team member to deal with a few tasks. For example, at Smart Codes we don’t have KPIs but we have objective goals plan at which each team members knows what part are they executing, hence it has helped to have smooth execution and objectives which define timelines. That has been a success for us, as it works better that, just calling them KPIs.

 

5. Show your client and partners your vision and purpose

Showing it’s not an easy task, but I remember one of my Professors who was teaching us about the implementation of “Diffusion of innovations”. This shows the baby steps of implementing anything new, you would 1st need to know your “Innovators” – People who will be willing to listen and then “Early Adopters” – which are more of opinion leaders, which are those around your Industry ecosystem. Surprisingly when we implemented our new VISION at Smart Codes, everyone got it and mostly we have seen people starting to add our key purpose “Making a Mark” in their hashtags, and “UNTIL ITS DONE” which is our infinity journey.

Also Read: Startups: The Ideal Partnership Agreement

6. Share your small wins with everyone

The major thing most people have is selfishness, most of people are fearing to share their ideas and success because of competitors will know theirs moves, rather than looking at the mirror of sharing skills and opinions to help other grow the same way they did. Sharing most of the things we do at Smart Codes have been a major key growth from our team, as we know, only by sharing and open doors for outsiders to comment it’s a two way learning, and it has been an incredible growth within our team and we have even seen it via our Innovation wing at SmartLab.

I remember one of or my classmate was inspiring using a phone brand called “ONE-PLUS” and when we asked, She says that brand helped to push her dreams because all the time she switch the phone-on its pop a message says “NEVER SETTLE” then I get that this A1 culture have been a major shift of growth at OnePlus’ fanbase. Let’s share our success and failures so others can learn and also collect opinions from outsiders that will only impacting our growth.

I never thought culture was a very big thing, but as Strive Masiyiwa says “believe you me” until you practice it,its when you will see the results. And it’s important to impact your life with adding more books in your reading list and try to implement those learnings in your real life to measure growth results.Lastly, reading is the only way you can get a chance to learn new skills, as we all know “you can only give the output of what you know” and knowledge is collectively inputs and output of your interest.

I am looking forward to share more and please also share your growth list via the comment section below, so we can all learn from you as well and collectively we can MAKE A MARK across our African ecosystem.

 

Author

Edwin Bruno is the Founder and CEO at SmartCodes

 

 

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Afripreneur

Coverdor: An insurtech providing digital insurance experience targeted at millennial and emerging generation

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Seun Ayegbusi is the Founder and CEO at Coverdor, a Lagos based and Nigeria’s first fully digital insurance platform, providing insurance when you need it the most, entirely online. Seun and his team believe insurance is not just a fancy product, but A FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHT everyone deserves, especially in Nigeria and Africa where the level of risks and uncertainties we face is really high.  In this interview with  Alaba Ayinuola  of Business Africa Online, Seun shed more light on his brand tend to simplify the insurance experience and create easy accessibility to social benefiting insurance products in every emerging market they serve. Excerpt.

 

 

Alaba: Kindly tell us about Coverdor and the gap it’s filling.

Seun: Coverdor is an AI-powered digital insurance distribution platform focused on insurance coverage for everyday items like smartphone, laptops etc against mechanical, liquid, accidental damages and theft. Coverdor also enables service providers (retail stores and ecommerce websites) cross-sell add-on gadget insurance on every consumer gadgets sold at their online or offline point of sale.

We discovered that although insurance was created for the fundamental good of society in indemnifying against risks and uncertainties, however the industry lacks the technology and innovation to connect to the retail market segment (the millennial demographic) who are more risk-prone and expects to interact with insurers and insurance products the exact way they interact with any online business who offers them convenience when shopping online.

Hence, Coverdor is filling the gap of complex, paper-based, delayed and manual processes experienced in the conventional insurance system to deliver a completely digital insurance experience for the average upward-mobile millennial offering innovative insurance products that fit their lifestyle.

 

Alaba: What was your startup capital and how were you able to raise it?

Seun: Our startup capital was in excess of $20,000 and was sourced through savings committed from founders and funds raised from family and friends.

 

Alaba: What are the challenges, competition and how are you overcoming them?

Seun: Talking about challenges we encountered while innovating within the insurance industry can’t be over stretched, one of which is compliance with NAICOM’s regulation, which I must say is the biggest challenge we have faced however, working closely with our partner insurance company has helped us and is constantly helping us to navigate this issue.

 

Alaba: How is your startup different from other financial startups?

Seun: Coverdor is a lot different from any other fintech startup as the category of financial services sector we operate in differs from the categories other fintech startups operate within, especially within the payment, lending, asset management categories. However, Coverdor on the other hand is an insurance technology startup focused on insurance digitization, direct-to-customer  distribution and cross-selling distribution. We also differ from other insurtech categories that focus on insurance price comparison.

 

Alaba: What’s the future for your startup and what steps are you taking in achieving them?

Seun: The future of Coverdor is to become a full fledged digital insurance company, providing new and innovative insurance products that fits the lifestyle and meet the needs of Nigerian millennials. Also in the next 2-3 years we plan to launch a dedicated technology arm of Coverdor that will focus on core insurance solutions using emerging technologies to redefine core operational areas of insurance business, while advancing the digital transformation of the insurance industry in Nigeria.

 

Alaba: How can governments provide the best support for startups in Africa?

Seun: The government can do a lot in supporting startups in Africa, however, top on the list will be creating enabling policies to foster growth for startup across all sectors of the economy.

 

Alaba: What’s your view on the development of Africa InsurTech ecosystem?

Seun: The insurtech ecosystem in Africa is beginning to gain momentum as we witnessing different startups innovating across different points of the insurance value chain, however, to speed up the development, ecosystem players must become deliberate and intentional about fast-tracking development. Incumbent Insurers should set up digital transformation units that will foster partnerships with insurtechs looking to innovate alongside incumbent insurers. Furthermore, we need insurtech-focused accelerators to bolster insurtech startup growth, when these things are done, then the African Insurtech ecosystem will experience similar growth as seen in the US, Europe and Asia.

 

Also Read SMEs: Legal Tips For Office Space Acquisition | Morenike Okebu

 

Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?

Seun: I feel proud to be an African entrepreneur, being part of the people bringing solutions to the many problems Africans are facing in Africa. Also being able to team up with other entrepreneurs to create jobs and contribute to the economy is a great way to live one’s life.

 

Alaba: What advice would you give prospecting entrepreneurs who intend to start a business or invest in Africa.

Seun: I will like to tell them that “nothing moves until you move”. There is never a better time to push yourself and kickstart that idea or pet project of yours, work hard to turn it into a great product or service. Three things I think will pull you through are “passion” for what you do or build, “tenacity” to see it succeed and “hope” that you will succeed as well.

 

Alaba: How do you and partners relax and what books do you read?

Seun: All work and no play makes Seun a dull boy, however when I need to relax I hang out with my family, family happy hour does it for me. Then as for books, I read lots of business and personal development books. Top on my list is “My Vision: challenges in the race for excellence” by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

 

Alaba: Please teach us one word in your home language and your favorite local dish?

Seun: Has a Yoruba man, I will like to teach you a Yoruba word that says “elubo” translated in English as yam flour.

My favourite local dish as a proud Ondo man is “iyan and efo elegusi with eja kika” translated as pounded yam with melon and vegetable soup with stock fish.

 

Short Bio:

Seun Ayegbusi is a Nigerian-born tech entrepreneur, business development and digital product development expert, and a serial innovator with extensive knowledge of the African emerging markets. A graduate of Olabisi Onabanjo University, and an alumnus of London Academy Business School. With over six years of experience in the private sector and the tech startup scene and a passion to tackle one of Africa’s most stubborn social development issues birthed the startup – Coverdor.

 

Visit Coverdor today!

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