Delvv is a misspelling of delve, a “cool qualitative term” for investigate, explore.
‘We see ourselves as more qualitative research startup than data analytics.’
If he could have a word with his younger self, Trevor Wolfe says, he would tell him to do things a bit differently. But, if his young self could see him now, he would probably say: I am not changing a thing!
Wolfe, co-founder and chief executive officer of startup Delvv.io, is going to San Francisco to compete against 15 other winners of regional startup competitions in the grande finale of the World Startup Cup on March 24. They will compete in front of an all-star panel of distinguished venture capitalists for a $1 million investment prize.
Still, Wolfe says, if given that imagined moment with his younger self he would say: “Experiment more. Don’t be so focused on career planning, on following a linear path … Take some risks early on in your career.”
Wolfe held a number of senior roles in the corporate world before he took the plunge, giving up “a lot of money and potential” to get into the startup world but, he says, “has never looked back”.
It is unlikely that he will be looking back much now. He and his co-founder at Delvv.io, Remon Geyser, are heading to the U.S. for the startup world finals after winning the Ventureburn Pitching Den at the South African Innovation Summit in September 2016.
Delvv.io is a platform that provides professional feedback for creative concepts. It enables brands and agencies to test the effectiveness of a concept anywhere in the world by tapping into local marketing, advertising and creative professionals.
Wolfe and Geyser were working at Springleap, which allowed graphic designers around the world to vote on each others’ designs for T-shirts, when they started “playing around” with their model. They wanted to see if they could use the creative community for research purposes. By November 2015 Springleap had closed down and the Delvv.io journey got properly under way. The two self-funded for the first five months, including paying the salaries of the first employee or two and creating the first technology to show to investors.
“It was a rough period of time for Remon and I and we thank our very patient spouses,” he adds.
That patience has paid off. In 2016, Delvv.io became an Endeavor company, finalists of the FNB Business Innovation Awards and beat 39 other startups to win the Startup World Cup Africa regionals at the Innovation Summit. They also won financial backing from British investor Kevin Gaskell and local VC fund Havaic.
Now, says Wolfe, we are 12 employees, working with 17 active clients in in 10 countries. This time last year we were two employees. Their clients include Unilever, Barclays, Pernod Ricard, GSK, Edelman, FNB, Outsurance and British American Tobacco.
An example of a use case is, say, you are big beverage company launching an advertising campaign across 10 African countries.
“Most likely your agency doesn’t have huge networks on the ground. If they do it’s one or two people and they might not have anyone with beverage experience in Ghana, for example.”
The client will give Delvv.io their asset, which could be a mobile app, a website, a finished television ad or even just a raw script. Delvv.io will go through 20,000 profiles across Africa and select 20 or 30 local marketing, advertising and creative professionals per market to give about two hours worth of constructive feedback.
The panel is chosen automatically according to information on their profile, including what products and brands they have worked on, location, gender and do on. Filters on the system automatically remove anyone who might have a conflict of interest.
They will give feedback on how to make a campaign locally relevant, how to incorporate domestic trends, make the messaging clearer and ensure it is on brief and on brand. That feedback is packaged and sent to the client.
Wolfe says there are thousands of market research firms doing consumer research. “There is a $45 billion market research industry based on what consumers say … There is no need for another firm to do that.”
Besides, Wolfe adds, “consumers sometimes don’t have the right words, especially on things like how to fix an ad … That is where our sweet spot is!”
Another sweet spot is South Africa.
“Research talent here has been amazing, it’s world class research talent. We have been able to staff up with some of the most amazing researchers here,” says Wolfe.
“South Africa also has a pretty vibrant advertising industry, there are tons of agencies.
“Africa is kind of untapped in the market research industry. In America, Europe, Asia even, there are thousands of firms doing consumer research and providing insights. There are very few outside of South Africa in Africa, this is a good opportunity for us.”
Early breakthroughs came with clients such as L’oreal, FNB “that validated our thinking that the creative brain has value outside of design work”.
Then Unilever, which Wolfe describes as one of the most progressive researchers in the world, started using the platform across multiple countries at early stages of campaign development.
Then the awards starting coming in.
“People started to look at us against other tech startups and said not only are you serving your clients well but you are a scalable business with a lot of potential.”
The World Start-Up Cup is run by Fenox Venture Capital is a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm, which has invested in more than 90 companies globally. The company is dedicated “to launching and advising the world’s next wave of leading entrepreneurs”.
Trevor Wolfe, winner of the 2016 Ventureburn Pitching Den receives his trophy from Chris Abshire, Fenox Executive Director (left) and Evgeny Zhilinsky, Fenox Head of Operations