You know you’re onto a good thing when you can hop in an Uber with one of South Africa’s foremost venture capitalists, and win him over with a 90-second pitch.
Then again, the team at Bettr, the South African virtual banking platform set to launch very shortly, are used to the accolades.
In December, they were one of the start-ups to pitch at Africa’s edition of TechCrunch Startup Battlefield in Lagos. After reviewing hundreds of African start-ups, organisers narrowed it down to 15, and the continent’s most promising tech newcomers took to the stage.
Leading the charge for Bettr was Tobie Van Zyl, Chief Innovation Officer, who was chuffed with how things turned out:
“We came as a small team. The process was intense. The level of performance required to compete I’d compare to the training of an Olympic Athlete. Every company at this event deserved to win. They are world-class innovators solving real human problems. We came as competitors, and we have left with friends from 15 different countries, Lagos contacts and a community that wants to see us expand here next.”
Each company was given six minutes to pitch and share a live demo to a sold-out venue and panel of judges. Tobie delivered a thought-provoking presentation, commenting on the shortcomings of the traditional banking industry and how Bettr will reinvent this ‘broken system’.
Andrzej Stempowski, the Chief Technical Officer (above right, with van Zyl), then conducted a live demonstration, showcasing how an account can be opened using only a South African identification document.
After the initial pitch, the field was narrowed to five finalists, and then Bettr delivered their final effort, followed by a thorough question and answer session:
The final round judges included Dapo Olagunju, head of West Africa JP Morgan, and Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, director of developer platforms and programs for Facebook.
The panel ultimately selected M-SCAN as the winner, a Ugandan-based start-up that has invented a mobile ultrasound that is portable and compatible with basic devices, including a mobile phone.
Second place went to Bettr, and Stempowski was understandably stoked:
“Being ranked amongst the top 15 start-ups on the continent is a great achievement for us. Coming in second is an absolute honour when you’re competing at this level of innovation.”
I reckon second place on the continent is pretty decent going, and it’s easy to see why Bettr is generating such buzz ahead of its launch on the market later this year.
Bettr comes with zero legacy baggage, which means they’re not paying bills for huge buildings and thousands of branches filled with fancy furniture that can only be used when they actually decide to be open – hence their Zero Monthly Fee accounts.
With Bettr there are no queues, no paperwork, no wasting your time and missing lunch breaks. In addition, no branches and no massive rental costs mean those savings are then passed on to the customer, getting a high-quality service at a fraction of the cost.
Our local banking systems have been in need of a kick up the backside for far too long, and we’re excited to see exactly how disruptive Bettr will prove to be.
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