M4JAM acquires digital research company Pondering Panda to fuel African expansion

South African micro-jobbing startup M4JAM (Money for Jam) had a good first year. The Stellenbosch-based company lured high-profile talents such as Brett StClair from Google South Africa into its den, which was quickly followed up by investment from media giants Naspers and Tencent through WeChat Africa. This has been accompanied by impressive user growth.

Now, adding muscle to its African expansion plans, M4JAM has acquired digital market research company Pondering Panda.

Founded in 2011 and also operating from Stellenbosch, Pondering Panda has over the years established itself as a reputable research brand and, leveraging popular digital channels such as Mxit and WeChat, has conducted about 7.5-million digital interviews.

“What really makes it unique is we are both African companies, known for disruption, tried and tested in Africa. We are therefore ideally suited for any developing market,” says M4JAM co-founder Andre Hugo.

Read more: WeChat, Pondering Panda ink deal to expand research capabilities

M4JAM was launched by Hugo and WayTag founder Warren Venter one year ago. The startup primarily operates through WeChat and encourages people to complete short-term tasks using their smartphones, in exchange for cash.

This novel crowdsourcing technique enables 90 partnered brands to gain market insights from the platform’s 80 000-plus active users.

Hugo tells Ventureburn that Pondering Panda’s proven track record, along with with M4JAM’s business model, will build an enhanced market offering, scaling both businesses:

Our clients are demanding more than basic insights and real-time data gathering. They want predictive analytics and they want the ability to really influence the way they interact with their consumers real-time at each and every touch point.

Pondering Panda joins the micro-jobbing startup — nearly doubling its staff — while maintaining its own brand. Financial details of the deal remain hush-hush.

“Pondering Panda will stay fully base-agnostic and continue sourcing data across multiple respondents’ bases, while at the same time bringing a whole new data analytics and consumer insights dimension to M4JAM’s research offering,” says Diane Gantz, the CEO of Pondering Panda, in a press release.

Read more: WeChat Africa invests in M4JAM, allowing it to scale its local and global reach [updated]

Expansion plans

Queried about how the company plans to achieve scale, Hugo says he hopes that M4JAM’s recently launched Earn Button has the potential to tap into markets beyond South Africa.

Likened to Google AdWords or website banners, the Earn Button enables people to complete tasks on M4JAM’s website and other brands’ digital assets. Partnered sites receive five percent of each job fee completed via the button.

Hugo reveals that the online widget has resulted in a 500% increase in engagement with the platform within the last two weeks.

Read more: M4JAM: the new startup that uses micro-jobbing to solve SA’s biggest problem

The co-founder adds that M4JAM recently established two global partnerships that it is testing pilots with. Details on what these pilots entail are unclear, although Hugo does make mention of introducing gamification elements later this month.

M4JAM plans to expand into four other African markets where it will activate once it has secured enough jobs within the respective territories.

“M4JAM and Pondering Panda are together without doubt the go-to place for digital research in Africa,” says Gantz. “Not only are M4JAM like-minded digital disruptors, but they are taking mobile research beyond simple questionnaires into a whole new world of real-time insights powered by their micro-jobbing platform.”

Jacques Coetzee: Staff Reporter


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