wiGroup processes billions at tills across the country

Bevan Ducasse smartly transformed his flagging app into a massive mobile payment system

Bevan Ducasse smartly transformed his flagging app into a massive mobile payment system

Bevan Ducasse’s curious and entrepreneurial mind-set began at a young age. As a boy he kept a folder of ideas in his desk.

Ducasse completed his Financial Analysis studies at Stellenbosch University, thereafter joining UCS solutions as a junior consultant. He then went on to work as a business development manager at a mobile advertising firm. Soon after he graduated and part way through his second job, he founded wiWallet, a mobile application allowing customers to pay with their phones by linking an app to any credit card. He was 23. The mobile landscape seemed ready for an offering of this nature, and the idea appeared solid.

But, several months into the start-up and with the company’s first round investment dwindling, the team realised they needed to change the way they were selling their product. The mobile payment app market was becoming too well contested. Ducasse was faced with “starting the business with one idea, only to find out a year later that the idea wasn’t gaining traction quickly enough, and we weren’t going to achieve break-even in time to justify the investment”. This required a new way of thinking about what their product actually was.

“We then had to gather as a leadership team and totally pivot the business away from being a B2C (business to customer) play, to a B2B (business to business) offering,” he says.

Rather than trying to win over consumers first with an app, wiGroup could use its app’s integration with retailers’ payment systems — which had already been built — and rework it to sell a mobile payment service to the retail sector. This system could be integrated into point-of-sale systems at tills.

The business then became an open platform provider, enabling all mobile transaction apps at any retailer’s point of sale. This approach jump-started the business into a leading position in the mobile transacting sector. “We had to overcome significant failure before we truly started to reap some of the rewards,” says Ducasse.

Today, wiGroup’s platform is live in more than 65 000 till lanes across South Africa and Africa, and more than R4.8-billion worth of transaction value has been processed through the system. WiGroup’s platform is the dominant interface for mobile transactions across the formal grocery, health and beauty, cellphone and hospitality sectors, with significant coverage of fashion, petroleum and credit-based retailers too. “It was also through our open platform that we stimulated the growth of mobile transacting in South Africa to reach over R5-billion in processed value, which we believe has had a significant positive impact in our market and in the lives of millions of South Africans.”

Clients include two of the largest fast-moving consumer goods retailers, the two largest telecoms companies, several of the top five banks, as well as some of the largest branded goods companies and application providers in South Africa. The business is also expanding into Southern Africa, Nigeria and then globally on the back of demonstrating real value locally.

Today Ducasse is 32 and wiGroup is eight years old, doubling in size every two years as more and more brands, retailers and applications transact across the wiGroup platform.

Nevertheless, he says: “I believe strongly in a balanced life. If your whole life revolves around business I don’t believe it is sustainable and I also believe you’ll lose the passion and creativity that is required for the job.”

The company received the best alternative payments award at the Card and ePayments Africa event in 2014, and also won the inaugural PWC Vision to Reality awards program in South Africa, as well as the global leg of this program, Local to Global, in Luxembourg in 2015.

Bevan was invited onto the global Endeavor entrepreneurship program at the organisation’s 53rd International selection panel in Brazil, one of only 29 high-impact entrepreneurs to receive this honour globally in 2014. He was also chosen as the 2014 Maverick under-35 winner in Johannesburg and as a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization in 2015.

Ducasse also believes that “having an incredible team keeps the work we do enjoyable, and assists in keeping perspective when the tough days do come. Focussing on the small wins each week keeps the momentum behind what we do, and always keeps me excited enough to get to work in the morning.”

Find out more about wiGroup at www.wigroupinternational.com