Young South Africans: Information Technology
Tobie van der Spuy, Harvey Theron, Henk Kleynhans, Andy Higgins, Tracy Cohen, Rapelang Rabana and Alan Knott-Craig Jnr
A chapter of the Mail & Guardian‘s 200 Young South Africans You Must Take to Lunch
Tobie van der Spuy and Harvey Theron
Harvey and Tobie head up Luuk Information and Communication Technology, a research and development company based at the Innovation Hub in Pretoria. Luuk has been operational for more than three years and is at the forefront of new technological developments in South Africa. Luuk’s most promising development so far has been its Push 2 Talk (P2T) product, which allows users to use their cellphone in a similar way to a walkie-talkie. In a normal cellphone call both parties can hear each other at the same time, but with P2T you hold down a button to record a voice message and when you are done it is sent to the receiver using the operator’s data network.
Because these voice messages are delivered via the data network the cost of communication is drastically reduced by as much as 5 000% of normal cellphone call rates. Tobie is also involved in other ventures such as TC3 Mobile and media company QKey Holdings.
Lunch spot: Any restaurant with a sea view between Cape Town Waterfront and Camps Bay
Henk is the brain behind Skyrove, one of the department of science and technology’s Top 100 technology companies in 2006. The idea behind Skyrove is to allow Internet users the ability to earn an income by creating and managing their own unique hotspots. It is as simple as plugging a Skyrove router into your broadband connection, either ADSL or wireless, and purchasing credits online to begin surfing the net. By sharing their internet access with their neighbours, internet users can become entrepreneurs and at the same time help to increase broadband penetration in the country. At the end of each month, Skyrove will pay out 50% of the revenues earned from its users. Henk also writes a popular blog about technology, entrepreneurship and venture capital at www.geekrebel.com.
Lunch spot: Frangipani’s, Woodstock, Cape Town
Andy is the founder and managing director of South Africa’s leading online marketplace www.bidorbuy.co.za, which he founded in August 1999. The site is an incredibly popular, safe and convenient way for people to buy and sell goods online. Bidorbuy is currently ranked among South Africa’s top websites and generates more than four million page impressions and receives over 300 000 unique visitors each month.
With more than 180 000 registered users and over 9 000 sellers the site produces about R5-million in turnover each month via its online marketplace. Andy has 10 years’ experience in the internet industry and has been involved in start-ups in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, India, Hong Kong, Brazil and the United States. His current areas of interest are search engine optimisation and viral internet marketing.
Lunch spot: Primi Piatti, Rosebank, Johannesburg
As a councillor at South Africa’s information, communication, technology and broadcasting regulator, Tracy has been at the forefront of attempts to regulate sectors that are going through much turmoil and remain in desperate need of competition. A juggling act that has proved immensely difficult for the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), which has had its hands full trying to implement new legislation in the form of the Electronic Communications Act, aimed at governing the new converging ICT space.
However, Tracy has served the regulator with aplomb, bringing her vast knowledge of telecommunications and ICT law to the table. She has held academic positions at Columbia University, Toronto University and the London School of Economics and the University of the Witwatersrand. Tracy’s term as an Icasa councillor expires in June 2008 and it is understood she has had a number of job offers, as her skills and experience are highly sought after.
Lunch spot: Delectable, Grayston Centre, Johannesburg
Rapelang is the current chief executive and co-founder of Yeigo Communications, an innovative telecoms start-up that is looking to become a major player in the Voice over Internet Protocol (Voip) space. Yeigo has a business model similar to international Voip operator Skype. Users can direct their voice calls via the data networks operated by cellphone networks rather than over the existing voice network. When Yeigo launched in 2007 they were among the first companies worldwide to offer Voip services for cellphones. Their Voip offering allows cellphone calls from one subscriber to another that cost as little as a few cents a minute per call.
Calls from subscribers to non-subscribers are between 30% and 80% cheaper than current call rates and savings on calls to non-subscribers overseas are up to 4 500% cheaper. Yeigo does not make any money on Yeigo subscribers calling each other but only when they call outside numbers.
Lunch spot: Myoga, Cape Town
Alan Knott-Craig Jnr
The son of Vodacom’s chief executive Alan Knott-Craig Snr, Alan Jnr is a major player in the ICT space in his own right. He is the current managing director of iBurst, formerly known as WBS. Alan Jnr was appointed as managing director in the beginning of 2006 when Blue Label Investment bought a share of iBurst. Alongside iBurst’s chief executive Thami Mtshali, they have turned the wireless broadband operator into a major player and, through iBurst’s partnership with Vodacom, and it’s affordable entry-level broadband packages, which aim to upgrade users from dial-up to broadband internet, it has built a substantial market share in the industry.
iBurst’s more recent movements have been to branch out into Voip offerings and gaming platforms, which they hope will drive subscription to their broadband offerings. Alan Jnr was the former managing director of Cellfind, a wireless application service provider.