Google gives two local start-ups a major boost

2018-12-07 05:01

Two South African-born and bred start-ups are taking things up a notch after getting the backing of the world’s largest search engine.

Pineapple and Preeva are taking the traditional model of insurance and tutoring, and adding technology – disrupting the world with their business models.

Pineapple and Preeva are two of 11 African start-ups that were selected to join Google’s Launchpad Accelerator Africa programme, a three-month high-intensity incubator that provides training, mentorship and ecosystem immersion.

City Press first met the start-ups in an air-conditioned, buzzing living room area that was converted into an office space at the Impact Hub in the humid city of Lagos, Nigeria.

Pineapple is a digital-only company that uses the idea of a stokvel “to reinvent the way insurance is done”.

READ: Insurance doesn’t need to be a zero-sum game, says SA insurance start-up

By taking a photo of the item you wish to insure, the company says it has no incentive to deny claims to gain profit because it works on a fixed fee taken as a percentage from the premium, with policyholders able to withdraw all unused premiums every year.

Marnus van Heerden, a co-founder of Pineapple, explains: “The premium you pay goes into your own wallet and that wallet forms a network with all the other wallets in the system.

“When a claim occurs, this network pays for the claim and whatever money is left in the wallet is the policyholder’s to keep.”

The idea was born from an insurance disruption competition run by reinsurer Hannover Re, which now owns 25% of Pineapple, in 2016.

Officially launched in June, the company’s founders plan to fly to the US to meet with potential investors and determine if their model will work in an international market.

Van Heerden says they’ve garnered interest from around the world, including from the Middle East because their model of insurance has the potential to work within sharia law.

The six-person company, where all the staff are younger than 30, already has 6 500 users.

Preeva also has a core team of six people. The Cape-based company provides an online web application that matches students with tutors – think of it as Tinder for tutoring.

Qhama Sinandile, Preeva’s public relations manager, says: “A student creates a web application and that application is sent to a bunch of [accredited] tutors that match [the student’s] description. A tutor will then decide to match with the student. Once connected to the tutor by the app, tutoring can start immediately.”

The unique selling point for Preeva is that the tutors it provides are of a similar age to the students as they are usually second- or third-year students themselves, or are busy completing their honours degree.

Sinandile says that the idea was born out of a need when co-founder Max Herberstein realised that traditional tutoring services were affordable among only the privileged few, and that there was a generational gap between tutors and students.

Sinandile, who is in his third year of a BSc degree majoring in mathematics and computer science, says that he is a product of the tutoring system and knows first-hand how helpful it is.

“I was tutored from as early as high school. At the Cape Academy of Mathematics, Science and Technology, I was tutored in advanced mathematics. I saw the value of tutoring and became a private tutor in university,” Sinandile says, clearly passionate about what he does.

Preeva was started in 2015 and has built a platform of 500 registered tutors and more than 4 000 students.

Google’s aim with the Launchpad programme has been to connect start-ups with the right people within the ecosystem.

Launchpad’s head of start-up success, Fola Olatunji-David, says: “We do this by connecting the start-ups to Google’s technology, ecosystem [players], mentors and, more importantly, its resources.”

With 5.3 million users, $12 million (R163 million) in funding raised and 253 direct jobs created, class two of the Launchpad Accelerator Africa programme is ready to disrupt industries across the globe.

Hussain travelled to Nigeria as a guest of Google SA

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April 21 2019