Stuart Minnaar, Founder of Studentology and Yappo, believes the lack of support to local entrepreneurs because of a void in contextual understanding is one of the missing keys for potential success stories from South Africa.
“I don’t believe in banks. I know they don’t help start-up entrepreneurs,” Minnaar said in an exclusive interview with HumanIPO.
He relates his experience with a leading South African bank, who offered him a large sum of money to roll out his product but retreated on their promises three months later.
Was it not for his threats of being open about his unprofessional experience, they would not have offered further support.
“When you go to the bank and ask for startup money, they will say no. Cool, but don’t say you do (offer that) then. You need to put down surety. I am going to find it where? The model doesn’t work for the people who need it,” he said.
Minnaar assigns the root of the problem to the gap between the private sector, which is willing and has the capital to invest, and the entrepreneurs who need it.
“You need to understand the sheep, you’ve got to know when they eat, what they eat. So we have a sheep farmer who doesn’t know the sheep. That is exactly what we have in South Africa. You’ve got, say 1,000, 10,000 entrepreneurs, spend time with them to know what they need.
“I asked them (the bank): ‘Who of you are entrepreneurs?’, ‘Are you?’, ‘Are you?’ and none of them knew how it is to be, or had any experience.
“You know at the end of the month you have your money in the bank. It is not the same for the entrepreneurs, there are no salaries or company benefits, when you pull the plug, this is it,” Minnaar explained.
The entrepreneur is of opinion there are not enough opportunities for entrepreneurs who start out at entry level.
“Only once you are setup, and successful, are there more opportunities to grow,” he said.
“The approach should rather be: “Come with nothing, we give you a first chunk, whereas others go show me, show me,” he advises.
Minnaar refers to a project called Level 39 in London, an office in the heart of the financial capital. The idea is to match the need of emerging entrepreneurs with solutions.
Minnaar believes that such an idea would “completely” work in South Africa.
Studentology, an online student trading platform, and Yappo, the mobile payment app, evolved under the entrepreneurship of Minnaar, who spotted a gap in the student market.
What started as a trading interface for hand books, became a discount beneficial retail and budgeting system due to be launched in February.