Redeeming your Discovery Vitality active reward for a smoothie? Ordering your dinner through Woolworths’ NOW NOW app using their Order Ahead functionality? Paying for your coffee at Vida e Caffè with the Vida App?
Then you are using one of many products developed by mobile software firm wiGroup, a company founded by Stellenbosch University (SU) alumnus Bevan Ducasse in 2007 when he was only 24.
Frustrated by the clutter in his wallet Ducasse, who graduated with a BCom degree in Financial Analysis in 2004, imagined a simpler way of transacting using a mobile phone. His initial idea of a mobile application which would allow customers to pay with their phones by linking an app to any credit card did not gain enough traction, though, and eventually the business pivoted away from a B2C (business to customer) to a B2B (business to business) offering.
Today, wiGroup focuses on two core products: Loyalty and Rewards products and Mobile Commerce. It powers rewards programmes as well as vouchering and discount campaigns for retailers, banks, telecommunication companies and insurance companies. To date, its system has processed transactions worth more than R7.7 billion. The company has more than 160 employees in seven countries and has recently secured investment from two leading global companies – Virgin Group and retail solutions leader Smollan.
Looking back over the past 10 years, Ducasse feels very blessed and grateful. His aim was always to love what he does and love who he does it with. Valuing, respecting and empowering people and creating an environment where creativity and innovation can flourish, is very important at wiGroup.
“I’m enjoying the journey, but I also realise that we can’t become complacent. I compare us to companies like Google and Uber and I realise, we’re still small. There is still so much growth to be extracted.
“I’m excited about building an international company. We have wonderful talent in South Africa and we should be building solutions here that we export globally. It is my hope that the government will prioritise working with innovative tech companies, as other regions provide significant tax breaks which assist growing companies to thrive in their early years. There are too many entrepreneurs who fail or limit their growth due to restrictive economic policies and tax rates.”
He believes South African businesses have a responsibility to impact the world around them in a positive way.
“The only way that we are going to take South Africa forward is firstly through education and secondly through entrepreneurship and job creation.”
As part of their social responsibility initiatives, wiGroup invests in three spheres: Early childhood development (ECD) programmes, high school bursaries (wiForward) and a graduate programme.
Ducasse’s advice to prospective entrepreneurs is: Firstly, count the cost.
“Being an entrepreneur can be a long, hard, lonely journey. But if you have counted the cost and you feel you have the passion and tenacity to push through the hard times – because they are going to come – go for it! Success takes time and although building a company is challenging, it is extremely rewarding.”
- By Pia Nänny -