Studentology is on the edge of releasing its mobile app extension, Yappo, and both are the brain children of Stuart Minnaar.
Minnaar was awarded Mamba Mentors investment on the London Pitch tour by Silicon Cape in November 2012, and HumanIPO caught up with him about his journey as an app developer and experience as an entrepreneur in South Africa.
HumanIPO: What is the aim of your main product, Studentology?
Minnaar: I noticed that there should be a more integrated way of buying and selling textbooks because students put up notices in handwriting and these are just covered by another’s and so Studentology became the new way of buying and selling textbooks.
How did the app development start?
I wanted to develop an app to buy goods, pay a friend and manage spending to make it all possible for students. It is all about creating convenience for the consumer. Financial earnings from Eduloan, National Finance Students Association (NFSA) etc. can be transferred on to the account and allocate spending into categories.
It provides a controlled way to spend scholarships by blocking out or allowing the student to manage his or her finances safely. The student is also rewarded with discount. We can transfer the student’s funds onto the account and then they can only redeem it at these stores and then at this rate it is being controlled.
What, in your opinion, gave you the edge when pitching to the Mamba Mentors?
I didn’t ever feel like I could fit into a box and I am not going to fit into the box that says an entrepreneur should wear a suit and pointy shoes. I can’t because this was the case: I realised I am different, I was never serious, playful, up and down, loose energy.
On the day of pitching, I went last. These guys (investors) were all tired and I had to compete with the evening cocktails and snacks that would follow the day of pitching. It was a conversation, no big numbers and figures, I decided not to prepare a formal presentation, instead I decided to just to go and speak.
They asked about the presentation. I said I want a whiteboard and a marker. I drew it all out for them. Maybe it was the connection that they liked rather than only the product. It became a conversation.
Don’t get me wrong, I know my stuff. When you wake me up at three in the morning, I can tell you exactly because it is my everything. The main difference is that I was, I didn’t want to be like anyone else and I wanted an easy conversation.
Would you recommend education as a requirement or obstacle to entrepreneurship?
To put things into perspective, we’ve got serious problems with our education system. If you think you want to start a business, it is possible to give people who do not have formal education and give them a different form of thinking that enables them to run a business.
Education helps if people have access to it. If you can go to university, do it. But if you have the agency inside of yourself, and you don’t have access to that education, you can start a business anyway. I was fortunate enough to have both.
Are there enough opportunities for SA entrepreneurs to pitch for overseas investors?
Yes. To put this into context, we have the highest unemployment rate. The solution for me is creating businesses. The rest must come from somewhere. Because this is the case of high unemployment, people have an intrinsic entrepreneurial voice because of the need.
Now imagine at the bottom there is this chunk of entrepreneurs with the agency inside to do something, to create value, with no background or understanding how to start their own businesses because school does not prepare you for it.
At the top there are public and private institutions that want entrepreneur stuff, like FNB kick start, people who can give support. Why is it not working? They are not connected. There is no platform where people can go: this is me, I need support.