Tag Archives: business

The Wooltru mystery

Wooltru and City Hall
The building on the left in the photo backs onto Cape Town City Hall and is know as the Wooltru building in Corporation Street. While Wooltru is a huge company that (as I understand) is the cash shell of several other large corporates I've found it extremely difficult to find much useful information about them on the Web.

They have no Wikipedia page and their www.wooltru.co.za site doesn't work and hasn't been indexed by Google. With the exception of a handful of financial articles on fin24.com there really doesn't seem to be much information that someone like myself (who is largely ignorant when it comes to cash shells, reverse takeovers, and other business strategies) would find useful.

Please, if you know more than I do, would you mind leaving a comment to explain what Wooltru is about and how this all works?

MXit, taking instant messaging into deepest Africa

MXit Evolution

MXit ("mix-it"), a mobile-phone-based instant-messaging company born in Stellenbosch, could be one of the most successful South African technology startups in our history. Over 18 million registered users around the world, and over 20 million log-ons per day, make them a significant player in the instant-messaging world.

I mentioned in my previous post that we had the opportunity to visit two technology startup companies in Stellenbosch - the first being FireID, and the second being the larger MXit. I'm not sure if you can see it clearly from this photo, but the view from their offices is spectacular, seemingly the perfect view to stimulate creativity.

The exciting thing about MXit is their vision of expanding their operations in Africa. South Africa and Africa in general have a huge number of mobile phone users. It's perfectly normal for people in even the poorest townships to have mobile phones, as they are generally the only way for folk in these communities to keep in touch. MXit offers a *very* cheap alternative to SMS text messaging, as well as a host of other features and services.

Across the world, the internet has become a tool of learning, a way to make money, and a means of cheap communication. While many initiatives exist to use computers to expand internet access into deepest Africa, the reality is that due to infrastructure costs it's going to be many years before computers (and stable internet connections) become as ubiquitous as mobile phones. The introduction of MXit into countries such as Zambia, Rwanda and Ghana creates a dirt-cheap means of communication and access to education and information.

Find out how to get MXit on your phone or computer here, and if you'd like to learn a little more about it, click here to read the Wikipedia page about their history and services.

FireID, the first of two successful Internet startups


Thanks to Dave Duarte from Huddlemind we had the opportunity to visit the Stellenbosch offices of two Cape Town-based technology startup companies, FireID and MXit. In this post I'll tell you just a little about FireID; if you find tech stuff kinda interesting, then check out their website for more detailed information.

In short, if you've used internet banking before you may be familiar with the little security token that some banks give you. When a button on the token is pressed, it generates a brand new password that you can use to sign on to your internet banking site. The idea is that the password is a random set of letters and numbers that nobody (human or computer) can predict; and once you've used the password it becomes obsolete and useless to anyone who might have seen you type it in (or who may have gained access to it in some other way - through key-logging, for instance).

These devices are expensive and are yet another thing that you have to carry with you. FireID have written a clever application that works in a similar way, but on your mobile phone. The cool thing is that the FireID application can be used to generate one-time passwords on your phone for many different websites, reducing the need for you to remember a long list of passwords or carry a dozen security tokens.

FireID have the most awesome offices and working atmosphere. The offices are modern and bright, and the vibe is relaxed. Their core working hours are from 10h00 to 15h00, but apart from that their employees are encouraged to work whenever and wherever they feel they'd be the most productive. Isn't that awesome?

I've uploaded a few more photos to an album - click here to check them out.

Die Burger, Naspers and The Borg

Newspaper Salesman

Die Burger, first published as long ago as 26 July 1915, is a super-popular print newspaper read mostly by Afrikaans-speaking South Africans. The name is essentially a direct translation of The Citizen, which I would imagine to be a popular name for newspapers all around the world.

Die Burger is owned by Naspers, a large corporate that owns other well-known print brands such as Huisgenoot (and YOU), Drum, Fair Lady, City Press, Shape, Daily Sun, City Press, Beeld, etc. Many years ago Naspers formed a pay-television company, M-Net, and a television signal-distribution and communications company, MultiChoice. The company expanded in later years to create a large Internet service provider called MWeb, then launched the Media24 division (with it's *24 brands), and in more recent years started buying stakes in hot-shot digital startup companies like MXit and Blue World Communities.

People have often referred to large software companies such as IBM and Microsoft as "The Borg" due to their strategy of buying out the competition's software to add to their growing portfolio of solutions. It's become apparent to me that, due to their size and pervasiveness in the market, in some ways Naspers is becoming South Africa's own Borg of the media and publication sector...