[Startup Interview] Brandon Wilson, founder, Awesome South Africa, South Africa
What is Awesome South Africa and where is it located?
Awesome South Africa is a free mobile app which enables users to find a wide range of products and services within South Africa. The point of difference is that it is location based, meaning search results can be tailored to find what you need in your immediate vicinity. Spanning 15 categories, it covers an extensive range of products and services.
Our offices are located in Rondebosch, Cape Town, South Africa
What is your business background pre-Awesome South Africa?
Prior to launching Awesome South Africa I worked in advertising and sales management, primarily in the tourism industry with a focus on online marketing and social media. I’ve also project managed marketing and sales campaigns in the telecoms and retail industries.
Why did you start Awesome South Africa?
I was initially inspired by South Africa hosting the world cup in 2010. I wanted to develop an application that would help SME's connect to the throngs of tourists descending on the country and looking for places to eat and sleep as well as things to do and see. I approached various tourist boards with the idea and was not greeted with much enthusiasm.
I persisted with the development process for 5 years and during that time became more and more convinced of the opportunity for SME’s to connect with their target market via mobile. The mobile industry was exploding and apps were becoming more mainstream as an everyday tool. Simultaneously, the SME market was growing but one of the biggest challenges faced by small businesses is the exorbitant cost of advertising and marketing.
I believed this app was the answer to connecting demand (end consumer) and supply (vendor) cost effectively and conveniently.
Who owns Awesome South Africa and how is it financed?
I am the sole owner and my company is self-funded. When I could not obtain funding from the tourism boards, I relied on personal bank loans and overdrafts to finance the project. During the 5 years I spent developing the app, I returned briefly to paid employment while completing the project.
How would you describe the Startup Environment in South Africa in terms of support given by the government?
There are various initiatives in place supporting small business and government is spending an approximate R1.2-billion per year in an effort to fund SME’s. However, the execution of initiatives are not as effective as they could be with the process for obtaining funding swaddled in red tape. Also, as entrepreneurship is by nature risky, government funding focuses largely on asset based businesses with service industries not as likely to be successful in obtaining support.
What roles do banks and investors play towards startups in South Africa?
As with government, the focus is on asset based businesses which are viewed as less risky. In my case, I had to rely on my personal good credit ratings to obtain overdrafts and loans.
What can Awesome South Africa do that other companies cannot?
We were the first location-based search app in the country. We also offer the most comprehensive list of services on one platform searchable via mobile.
What does Awesome South Africa need to be able to grow?
Increased exposure and funding to finance that exposure. As a hub bringing together vendors and the targeted end consumer, we need to continuously attract new vendors through various channels and make end users aware of the service.
We have in our sights incorporating a tele-marketing call centre into our business model to more effectively reach out to vendors nationally.
What will Awesome South Africa deliver in 2015?
A facility for vendors and SME’s listed on the app to cost effectively broadcast multiple adverts on both iOS and Android platforms. We do not take any commission on bookings. End users are also able to interact, book, share, locate and call SME’s or vendors directly. We aim to penetrate the tourist market abroad and become the platform of choice for international tourists travelling to South Africa due to the comprehensiveness, reliability and convenience of the app.
What do you want people and companies that read this interview to do?
Download the app via Google Play or the App store (Apple) and check out our website to learn more.
For vendors and SME’s, list your business for free today.
For users who have used the app and found it of benefit, please spread the word!
Investors, get in touch to discuss how to get involved. We are growing fast and are currently listed among the top 30 apps on Google Play.
Africa Business Communities is conducting a series of interviews with startup businesses in Africa. Are you a startup and interested in an interview? Please send an e-mail to Andrea Ayemoba: firstname.lastname@example.org