The SA Innovation Summit believes that entrepreneurship is the biggest opportunity in our lifetime, and the most important way that Africa can come to its full potential and develop and deliver products and services that stand out, that are credible and are inspired from the continent. This was evident when our 2017 Chivas Venture Pitching Den winner, Benji Coetzee of EmptyTrips recently made waves at the SLUSH event in Finland. She made it to Top 10 in the Slush GIA (Global Impact Accelerator) category; a program with a purpose to support impact startups and showcase the business opportunities in emerging markets, which are vital for implementing the Agenda 2030 and solving complex agendas.
Benji speaks to us about her experience at this global event and shares her entrepreneurial journey with us.
What is EmptyTrips?
EmptyTrips is a disruptive open logistics marketplace using smart algorithms and competitive game-theory to better match demand and supply (deckspace) of cargo transport in Africa. The platform currently focuses on road and rail across Africa, with future expansion into sea, air and on-demand warehousing. By using smart-mapped spaces Emptytrips creates intelligence for business users to transact competitively, securely and anonymously.
What impact will your product have?
EmptyTrips has a multi-dimensional impact, with a motto of doing good business for good.
Firstly, economic: As competitive auctions are hosted with a scaled algorithmic digital platform, users are enabled to lowers transport costs by better matching demand and supply. Given the data-driven approach that is secure, users can transact safely and transparently, encouraging trade. By providing access across borders to road and rail operators, regional integration of goods and services are facilitated.
From an infrastructure project development perspective, many projects are deemed not viable (or unbankable) due to lack of traffic demand to rehabilitate, whereas this data is simply not captured. By using a digital platform such as EmptyTrips, we can collect and monitor the cargo flows with true reflection of demand on modes of transport. For Rail infrastructure, this is particularly to validate the investment into rolling stock, infrastructure and supporting certain corridor developments.
Socially, by reducing transport costs, the inflationary knock-on to consumer prices supports community prosperity and competitiveness of goods and services.
Environmentally, ultimately EmptyTrips aims to reduce the number of empty wasted space on transport vehicles for better utilization, leading to lower congestion, and as such, is better for the environment! EmptyTrips will be launching the first digital rail exchange in Africa in January 2018, to further accelerate conversion of road to rail traffic, with significant benefits to the environment by proxy of CO2 per km.
What has participating in the 2017 Chivas Venture Pitching Den meant for your business? Being part of the 2017 Chivas Venture Pitching Den has given Emptytrips international exposure, supporting credibility as a new player in the industry.
You were recently part of the SLUSH event in Helsinki, Finland, please tell us about your experience? Helsinki was overwhelmingly exciting, it was like a Ted-event on steroids, on the next level. I got to experience the most innovative leading tech in the market and meet leading industry players, exposing the EmptyTrips and personal brand. A first to see a tesla car personally. It is always great to meet and learn from like-minded entrepreneurs who are doing fantastic things around the globe. Inspiring your struggle to keep going. Coming together at events like Slush, is not only to compete against one another but to learn from one another and hopefully align and create partnerships.
One of your prizes for winning the Chivas Venture Pitching Den is an entry to the 2018 StartUp World Cup that will take place in San Francisco, how do you feel about that? For EmptyTrips, this means more than just an opportunity to go to Silicon Valley, it validates that we are on the right track and that the right people are taking notice. As a team, we actively nurture a supportive culture to keep focus on success, winning obviously helps! We are excited and grateful to Innovation Summit, Chivas Regal and everyone who was involved for creating opportunities such as this one for startups, and for crowning us the favorites.
What challenges were you faced with while building your product? The logistics industry is very old and traditional. One of the key challenges faced are corporate timelines to setup pilots and integrate, finding more corporate “intrapreneurs” are rare. Secondly, our restricted marketing budget has forced us to be creative with our public relations strategy, although we are getting attention, we need alternative / creative marketing investment to reach our audience and grow our brand. We remain committed as we know that technology is the way of the future. We do have first-mover advantage and have come this far, we will keep on pioneering!
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs or those looking to start their own business? You really need to learn how to persevere. Know what you are asking for from yourself, from your team and from investors. You don’t have to have all the skills, but you must be ready. I recently wrote an article, “Dear Entrepreneur Wannabe – Don’t try be what you are not”. Entrepreneurship is hard, most of us fell for it, we wanted to leave the flock and be part of the mysterious Entrepreneur Wolfpack, but didn’t understand what it really meant. Stepping away from a stable job and a monthly paycheck is not as easy as it might seem. Be ready, prepare yourself, know your story and focus on surviving 1 day at a time. Check it out here.
Website link: https://www.emptytrips.com/