Startup snapshot: Entrepreneur seeks to capitalise on the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Veronica Motloutsi

South Africa-based SmartDigital Solutions is an internet and digital services provider and consultant for Africans by Africans. Some of the company’s offerings include fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) connectivity, cloud hosting services, a payments solution, and remote security surveillance for homes. Veronica Motloutsi, founder and CEO, answers our questions.

1. Give us your elevator pitch.

The company is a fast-growing internet and digital services provider built to leverage the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, focusing mainly on connectivity, internet of things (IoT), digital analytics and digital platforms such as digital banking. Core to our business is enabling consumers to enjoy the seamless and remote management of the ‘connected home and businesses’ experience from anywhere, anytime using their mobile solutions – resulting in efficiencies and cost reductions. Our products are simple to use; enabled by the IoT and machine-to-machine communication technologies.

2. How did you finance your startup?

The startup was largely financed through self funding. Additionally, my previous employer offered me the opportunity as their preferred supplier to provide connectivity.

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

I would invest the $1m to further develop our SmartHome Connect solution to build capacity and capability for streaming analytics. Digital skills are rare and need to be developed.

4. What risks does your business face?

Although we test the market viability, our products are on the high-end of cutting-edge technology. The speed of adoption of the latest technology is a risk to our business. Secondly, lack of skills in IoT and analytics is also a risk.

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

Apart from the traditional methods such as media profiling, we use social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. We have also successfully used search marketing and channel partnership programmes for marketing our services and products.

6. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.

Among the most exciting moments so far in my entrepreneurial journey was the launch of the AfrinicaStyle online store for African print clothes, which I sourced from across the continent. This was the first-to-market initiative for our company and the first African print e-commerce business in South Africa.

7. Tell us about your biggest mistake, and what you’ve learnt from it?

The journey of an entrepreneur is full of obstacles and unanticipated problems that often are overwhelming. When I launched the online store I could not capitalise on the first-to-market opportunity in South Africa due to lack of funding for aggressive marketing. The business rule “cash is king” still applies.

8. In addition to your own industry, name one untapped business opportunity in Africa.

Tapping into data analytics to increase consumer engagement. As smart home technology adoption grows and more data is produced, companies should experiment with employing analytics along different parts of the technology stack to gather the behaviour of customers in the home.