It has helped to shape me into a better entrepreneur

Mbulelo Mpofana | InvestSure

After I finished varsity, I worked for AIG, a multinational short-term insurer, but was always interested in becoming an entrepreneur. I’ve always had so many ideas so, when I heard about IBM’s Aspiring Entrepreneurship Initiative with Raizcorp, I thought it would be the ideal time to step into the entrepreneurial space because I’d have support.

When I applied for the programme, I pitched my idea for Traffic Eye – an app for managing telematics insurance data independently. The way the insurance industry is currently set up, if you have telematics-driven insurance from Company A and you want to move to Company B, you lose your historic telematics data. I wanted to create a company that holds consumers’ telematics data independently so that they have control, meaning they can more easily switch insurers and still leverage their telematics history. It would also ensure that insurers receive only the data they truly need without any invasions of privacy. Unfortunately, it was an extremely data-heavy model and we were not able to raise the upfront capital we needed to develop it.

Even though Traffic Eye didn’t get off the ground, all the experience and knowledge that I gained on the Raizcorp programme made me a better entrepreneur, and this allowed me to transition to my new business – InvestSure – which I co-founded with Shane Curran and Ignatius Nkwinika and which has already attracted some capital. InvestSure has developed a world-first, short-term insurance product to protect people who are investing on the JSE. If you look at what happened with Steinhoff, for example, where even asset managers were caught in the crosshairs, what chance does a regular investor have? Our product guarantees that if another Steinhoff happens and you sell your shares at a loss, we will pay the difference to minimise your losses. It’s a way of protecting investors against this difficult-to-assess risk. We have partnered with Compass Insurance, who are part of the international group, Hanover Insurance, and hope that this will give us the opportunity to take our product global.

While I’ve always had lots of ideas, Raizcorp taught me to really think things through properly. They provide a clear, structured process for you to think through every aspect of your business. Their experienced guides – like Tshepo and Silas – really interrogate everything you say and ask the difficult questions. They challenge all your assumptions. The programme also helped me to understand how investors think and what they’re looking for and this really helped when setting up InvestSure. From the IBM side, having access to them and knowing that they’re backing you has been very inspiring and motivating. It’s validating knowing that a company like IBM likes your idea. It all made starting from scratch with InvestSure that much easier.

If an aspiring entrepreneur asked for my advice, I’d tell them to take advantage of all the opportunities out there to partner with large companies. You could even start with where you work. Don’t be afraid to try. Take action. Don’t just sit on your ideas and do nothing with them.

I’d like to say a big thank you to both Raizcorp and IBM. I learned a lot and got so much out of the programme. It has helped to shape me into a better entrepreneur and – even though my first venture didn’t work out – my second is already doing well. It’s not often that you get the kind of support I’ve received and I’m very thankful. I think it is great that IBM is investing in South African entrepreneurs in this way, and I hope all the other beneficiaries of their programme get to the same point that I have and beyond.