Start-up snapshot: Website creation platform looking to target African SMEs

Start-up: ViGO, South Africa

"The best moment for me was definitely the very first day [of launching] when the first customer signed up, created his own site with his own domain and paid," says Carl Wallace, founder of ViGO.

“The best moment for me was definitely the very first day when the first customer signed up, created his own site with his own domain and paid,” says Carl Wallace, founder of ViGO.

ViGO, initially launched in 2013, is a South African-based website creation platform providing the tools for users to easily build their own website from any device. The start-up already hosts over 2,000 websites, and offers a variety of pricing options for users and businesses who want to publish interactive and search-engine optimised websites under their own domain, starting from R99 (about $8.50). The platform is free to those who want to create a website under the “” domain. 

ViGO’s founder, Carl Wallace, said he was inspired to start the company after witnessing his father’s business close down and realised this happens to over 80% of SMEs worldwide. Research revealed that lack of access to the right software tools was one of the main reasons.

He told How we made it in Africa that ViGO aims to help improve SMEs’ chances of survival by professionalising their online presence, especially in Africa where this is often lacking. 

1. Give us your elevator pitch.

ViGO is a DIY website building tool that anyone, with no skills required, can use to create their own website. It works on mobile, tablet and on laptop, so you can create a website using any device. The website also works on any device so it makes it easy for users to both access your site and your information.

However, should it be too big a task to do yourself, you can contact us and we can create a website for you.

2. How did you finance your start-up?

I got some advice from people at PwC, and they helped me put together a business plan and a financial forecast. I then went to pitch to a couple of people, and a private angel investor believed in me enough to fund the operations.

3. If you were given US$1m to invest in your company now, where would it go?

I would invest it into the infrastructure to employ about 150 people so that we could roll out our solution on a larger scale. There are a huge number of businesses in South Africa and wider Africa that need proper online services and although ViGO is a do-it-yourself solution, African business owners often still need someone to hold their hand.

We have sort of modelled our business with a focus on training people from previously disadvantaged circumstances, where we train them up with creative and online marketing skills, such as search engine optimisation. So they can come through our training programme and become self-sustainable, and we have got a great commission package that we offer them. So that is exactly what I would do with $1m.

4. What risks does your business face?

No real risks… Reputation I would say is the only risk. Every business faces a reputation risk if something goes wrong. But we are focused on doing everything that we do to the best of our abilities, so hopefully our reputation won’t ever be at risk.

5. So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?

Partnering with big partners who have a network or a database of existing clients, and offering them [our services] as a value-add to their client base.

6. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.

The best moment for me was definitely the very first day [of launching] when the first customer signed up, created his own site with his own domain and paid. This was all done without us ever knowing who he was or having ever had any communication with him. We just looked at the database and there was a brand new site for a guy who took our technology and made the best of it. That was the moment I realised that we will become a profitable business and the tool that we are putting out there is empowering people. I can’t actually describe how awesome that felt because when you start a tech company you always have that thought at the back of your mind that you might actually fail. But when that moment happened, I knew we had something good going on.

7. What has been the biggest mistake you have made at your start-up, and what have you learnt from it?

Trusting people too quickly. My message to other technology start-up entrepreneurs is that when you have a start-up with a lot of potential, you have to be careful of who you get in bed with. People aren’t always who they seem to be, and you can easily walk blindly into something without realising what the consequences may be. So my advice to other entrepreneurs is to keep your eyes open and surround yourself with the right, loyal people who can advise you along your journey.