Millbug, a start-up based in Port Elizabeth in South Africa, is making it big in the eCommerce and now the tablet manufacturing industry. TechMoran came in contact with Sabelo Sibanda, one of the founders of this fast growing IT Company and told us a lot about the company, but first things first, who exactly is Millbug.
Millbug was founded in 2012 by Thulsile Volwana and Sabelo Sibanda. It began life as an eCommerce firm that sold millennial women’s clothing and was nominated for a South African eCommerce Award in its first year of existence. After learning as much as we could about our clients, the founders found it necessary to pivot in order to solve a bigger problem and that is how we ended up developing the solar powered Millbug Vuya Tablet PC.
- What was the inspiration behind Millbug, how it began as well as how it works and what did it take for you to get where you are now?
When our company was still in the eCommerce space, we conducted some research and found that our target client accessed the internet primarily through their mobile phone and was more inclined to purchase digital products as opposed to tactictile products on the small screen. We decided to develop a product that would address this and as we were doing so, discovered more important problems our solution could address and decided to pivot and devote all our time, energy and resources into the Millbug Vuya Tablet PC. The device is a solar powered tablet running on the Android 4.4 Operating System and is powerful enough to run the most demanding apps very comfortably.
- What were you doing before Millbug?
Before Millbug, Thulisile was a student and I was working in the Advertising industry.
- Did you know you were going to be an Entrepreneur all along or did it happen by chance?
Thulisile and I both always admired entrepreneurs and felt that we would eventually be them ourselves and, thus, read extensively. Our previous entrepreneurial experience was limited so I can safely say that the opportunities we became aware of really kick started our entrepreneurial ambitions.
- How successful are you in the business? Is there competition? And how do you face them
I believe that Millbug hasn’t begun to realize its potential. We are growing unbelievably fast but the needs we address need much faster growth. Our success isn’t fully quantified in financial statements but rather on our impact on society and it is there that we are working tirelessly to improve as many lives as possible. There is plenty of competition but we found that each competitor has unique strengths so we tend to work together with a lot of our competitors to leverage this effectively.
- In how many countries can we find your services or company and which countries are you?
Currently we are doing work in South Africa but have been in very advanced talks with resellers in Kenya, Angola, Mozambique, Argentina, Zimbabwe and Nigeria. It is our goal to have our products available throughout Africa, South America and the Middle East by this time next year and welcome any parties who would like to work with us on achieving this.
- How is the response in your markets, and who is your most important client?
The response in the market has been absolutely phoenomenal. The product really sells itself and have found wonderful partners in the ICT for education space. There has been significant interest as well from private and public sector entities in the finance, retail, agriculture, health and government process industries.
- Tell us about the tablet Millbug designed?
The Millbug Vuya Tablet started off as a basic idea, which progressed to a 23 page schematic and thereafter a detailed gerber file that we sent to a contract manufacturer to make.
- How is the market responding to this tablet? And which markets in Africa can we find them? And at how much can we buy them?
The market is responding extremely positively to the tablet and is currently only available in South Africa for a retail price of R1499.00. We will soon be available throughout the continent and will make announcements closer to the time with regards to outlets where the device may be purchased.
- Comparing the markets that you have worked with and the different African countries you have explored, how would you rate Africa’s adaptability of your product?
Africa is an amazingly innovative continent and we have found that one cannot have a blanket approach when rolling out a product of this nature. Each and every region of our continent has its own culture, expectations, problems and solutions to those problems. We have found that one cannot impose a solution on an everybody but rather, we should collaborate with partners around the continent to create highly tailoredd solutions leveraging on our technology.
- Where could you place Africa compared to the world in terms of ICT development?
Sadly, Africa is lagging behind in terms of ICT development. There are some standout countries such as Kenya, Morocco and Senegal as far as internet contribution to GDP is concerned but we need greater adoption of technological solutions to be catalysts for the continents growth.
- Which are some of the major partnerships you have done and how has it influenced you business?
We have been very fortunate to work with some of the most innovative organizations in the world. We are part of Shanduka Black Umbrellas, participated in the SAB KickStart Program, participated in the Brightest Young Minds Summit and are part of the SEDA ICT Incubator. Each of the organizations above have created some unbelievable opportunities for our our company through opening doors to public and private sector partners to numerous to mention here.
- What do you love most about your business and your life as an Entrepreneur?
We love the adventure that comes with entrepreneurship. The lifestyle is quite intense what with the 80 + hour work weeks, but the results sure are worth the effort.
- What keeps you and your team motivated?
Our team stays motivated by the greater purpose Millbug has to serve. The statistics on literacy, unemployment and poverty in Africa are just unacceptable and we all feel compelled to get Africa to where it should be.
- What can your team not live without?
A Millbug Vuya Tablet and an internet connection.