This year’s DEMO Africa Launchpad event is coming ever so closer with around 2 weeks left. Aside from the startups that will be taking the DEMO stage to launch their product, there will also be a number of well chosen, experienced speakers in the tech and business space, who will share their wisdom as well as give advice to the budding entrepreneurs and those attending the event.
One of the speakers who will be on the DEMO stage is Vinny Lingham. If his name doesn’t ring a bell in your mind, let me introduce you to a man, who I can loosely describe as an expert serial entrepreneur, with an un-extinguishing need to build companies from the ground up.
Born in South Africa, it was natural for him to start his entrepreneurship journey there. In 2003, he founded Clicks2Customers (along with incuBeta, its holding company) that deals with digital marketing. In 3 years at the rein of the company, the business grew to a R100 million per year company, with a number of high level clients.
Thereafter, he jumped into another venture, this time a business targeted to offer solutions to small businesses operating in South Africa. He founded Yola in 2007. Yola is a website building company that gives small businesses an opportunity to have much needed online presence in the digital space. They provide easy to build websites and hosting for business (some say as fast as 5 minutes) without the need of knowing how to code. He decided to move the business globally and after securing funding he moved the business to Silicon Valley. Despite this being a competitive market now (Weebly and Squarespace) Yola is still growing strong with over 10 million users worldwide, with operations based in Cape Town and San Francisco
Being in Silicon Valley, he set out to create another tech company and this time, he targeted the gift card industry by moving gift cards from the then current plastic form to mobile. This new company was called Gyft. Gyft, which launched at TechCrunch Disrupt SF back in 2012 allows you to buy, save and redeem gift cards using your mobile phone. It currently has more than 200 US major retailers on board and still growing, including an acquisition by First Data Corporation in 2014.
As if these ventures were not enough, he has recently started another company, Civic, a digital identity protection startup that is also based in Palo Alto, and that has already received $2.75 million in funding.
In addition to his entrepreneurship ventures, he is a co-founder and board member of The Silicon Cape, which is a community of tech entrepreneurs, developers, creatives, angel investors and VC’s who are make South Africa the tech hub of Africa. He is also a board member of the Bitcoin Foundation and appears to be very passionate about bitcoins (as evident in his blog) and has also integrated bitcoins into Gyft.
Vinny Lingham has an impressive CV and background and is clearly not slowing down. He believes and invests in budding entrepreneurs as evident in his participation in South Africa’s version of the Dragon’s den.
The startups launching this month at DEMO Africa will gather a lot of knowledge and advice from Vinny’s experience in the tech and business space over the years which may turn out to be invaluable and might also turn out in investment offers. We shall see
You can check out the DEMO Africa website for more information about the many other exceptional speakers who will be participating in the event.