SilverBridge and fintech Airbuy have entered the second year of an enterprise development programme, highlighting how the technology solutions provider can assist start-ups in unlocking additional value by providing them with the relevant expertise to navigate the complexities surrounding the financial services industry.
“At the time, SilverBridge interviewed numerous start-ups to identify one that provided them with a good cultural fit from an enterprise development perspective. Airbuy stood out from others due to the passion and commitment of the founders, and how focused they were at realising their idea. They also wanted to make a difference in their communities which is something SilverBridge feels quite strongly about,” says Ruth Wotela, people wellness executive at SilverBridge.
The Airbuy payment gateway allows e-commerce sites to accept payments without customers needing to provide their banking details. For the end user, this entails using only their mobile number to set up and complete a transaction.
“Given the increasing connectedness of people thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones, we identified a huge gap in the market,” says Njabulo Makhathini, co-founder and head of business development at Airbuy. “Mobile penetration is significant not only in this country, but throughout the continent.
“It therefore made sense to harness the power of the mobile phone allowing us to create the opportunity for all South Africans to buy online and also experience the product accessibility and convenience benefits on offer.
“Of course, Airbuy not only ensures increased accessibility, it also caters for those users who are sceptical about the security of saving their credit card details on e-commerce sites. Airbuy has developed a proudly South African solution to cater for those requirements.”
SilverBridge supports Airbuy with office resources in a shared environment as well as access to several experts in different areas that include marketing, IT, HR, compliance, and business.
“We identified individuals at the company to provide Airbuy with guidance and mentor the team in different ways. It is not a case of changing their vision but supporting and empowering them as they embark on this journey of building their business,” says Wotela.
Tshepang Kobo, co-founder and CEO of Airbuy, believes SilverBridge gave the company the structure required to think more strategically about their goals.
“Before, we were very free flowing. But working with SilverBridge made us realise there are certain elements to consider and being cognisant of their long-term impact on the business,” says Kobo.
“Even though we are passionate about our idea, we learnt very quickly in the journey that starting a fintech is not the same as doing, for example, a delivery app. There are significant legal and regulatory elements that must be in place. SilverBridge helped us every step of the way and enabled us to grow quicker than we anticipated and scale our systems accordingly,” adds Makhathini.
He points out that the biggest lesson is that a start-up does not necessarily require funding but the right expertise.
“It is easy to spend funds in the wrong way. It is more about getting the right resources and making less mistakes on spending money inefficiently.”
For Kobo, the SilverBridge relationship brought with it a lot of stability.
“Previously, we used to meet at coffee shops or worked at various incubators for a few weeks at a time. This was a very volatile approach but SilverBridge gave us a safe environment to work from.”
As to be expected, Airbuy dealt with setup-related issues in 2019, but now it is focused on scaling up. It plans to expand into another country by 2024 but will remain reliant on SilverBridge consulting throughout the process.
“Even though we might not be working from their offices by then, we will always use them from a consulting perspective. They have vast experience in scaling solutions across Africa which is extremely valuable for us as we focus on growing Airbuy,” adds Makhathini.
According to SilverBridge’s Wotela, the relationship is very flexible.
“SilverBridge is there to support Airbuy. We believe in what they are doing and hope they continue with the innovative work for years to come. Our support is focused on assisting them as they navigate through their business developments,” concludes Wotela.