South African startup on its way… to Silicon Valley

Nathan Sasto and Anton van Metzinger, founders of SnappCab (Image source: SnappCab)

Johannesburg-based startup venture SnappCab, an offering based on the integration of mobile apps with a metered cab service, was chosen yesterday as the winner of the Innovation Hub Absa Maxum Business Incubator competition.


Nathan Sasto and Anton van Metzinger, founders of SnappCab (Image source: SnappCab)
Nathan Sasto and Anton van Metzinger, founders of SnappCab (Image source: SnappCab)

The Maxum Incubation Programme, involving 80 ventures, is a subset at the Innovation Hub. It is designed to develop leaders of tomorrow by creating an enabling environment for startups from a variety of sectors, including ICT. The idea is to help fast-track credible businesse to compete locally and internationally.

The CEO of The Innovation Hub, McLean Sibanda, said: “Our Maxum Business Incubator is very important for addressing South Africa’s transition to a knowledge-based economy and it has grown extensively as we have reached maximum capacity in 2013.  By connecting entrepreneurs with venture capitalists through the Absa/Maxum annual showcase, we have the potential to accelerate Start-up companies’ growth. The annual showcase will thereby assist us to advance issues of economic growth, job creation and poverty alleviation in Gauteng and the country as a whole.”

The Innovation Hub’s Maxum Programme is an entrepreneurship intervention designed to accelerate the growth of innovative knowledge and technology-based enterprises in Gauteng. The pre-incubation programme (renamed Maxum Innovation Factory) is between six to nine months duration and the main incubation programme (Maxum Core) lasts up to three years.  In pre-incubation, entrepreneurs are assisted to refine their business cases and finalise their prototypes, whereas in main incubation the focus is on commercialisation, growth in revenues and sustainability.

SnappCab was established to encourage South Africans out of their private vehicles and into metered cabs, based on the demand for quality public transport at a reasonable cost. The goal is to become the preferred means to order a metered cab, to be the trusted brand for both passengers and affiliated taxi services.

How it works

The user downloads the app for free (currently from the Play Store or App Store), registers with the Company and can then immediately SNAPP a cab on demand. Using their GPS location, a user can order a cab in a matter of two clicks. Or the user can enter more trip details, such as specify a destination, which payment method they want to use (cash or credit card) and which providers of cab services they want to include in their search.

When they click the button to order a cab, it goes out to the closest cabs to their position.  The first driver to accept the trip (via Driver Devices provided to them by SnappCab) will connect with the client on a peer-to-peer basis. This means that the user sees the driver’s photo, name, vehicle description and registration number.  The driver sees the users name (and photo if loaded) and pick-up location.

The user can now track the vehicle on their screen as the driver approaches them – relative to their own position.  SnappCab provides a countdown of kilometres as well as time.  This means the user knows exactly where the cab is, and when to expect it.

When the cab arrives at pick-up, the user will get an in-app message, as well as an SMS to say the cab has arrived. They can then take the trip, and at end of trip pay cash, or with credit card that they have loaded in the app.

Opportunity to go global

As the prize winner, the young company will head to New York, Silicon Valley and Miami in a unique opportunity to engage with global entrepreneurs.

Managing Director, Anton van Metzinger, describes the trip as a fact-finding mission and says he will use it to gain additional insight into how to deal with challenges and grow.

Given that the basic premise of proposition is that the consumer advertises their physical position to any number of service providers – from retail to medical care, anywhere where people need to be found and potentially where their position changes, business opportunities can be established.

As such the business model allows for expansion and can be adapted to add value to a range of businesses and sectors.

“This business sounds like it has a particular value proposition, which it does right now, but in fact the broader technical under-build allows for a range of potential business opportunities. We are very much thinking around horizontal expansion once we’ve vertically nailed down the cab aggregation business. So I think this trip will provide some real input and food for thought around potential expansion.”

By horizontal expansion, van Metzinger explains that there is scope to develop the offering to take advantage of the convergence of single devices with seamless operation between various modes of transport.

Another possibility is leveraging off developments within GPS-based location technology.

On the back of this early feather in its cap, there may be a temptation to go aggressive and begin to immediately explore options. However, leadership at SnappCab is adamant that the emphasis now is on building, reinforcing, getting up the numbers and cementing the offering.

“There is a real discipline in our business and we’re a long way off from cash-break even. The last thing we can afford to do now is to become unfocussed and start dabbling. We are focused on making the aggregation play in South and Southern Africa work. We need to create a self-reinforcing ecosystem of customers and drivers… so this trip will be academic in exploration and only practical in implementation only further down the line,” van Metzinger.

Chris Tredger – Online Editor