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A few months ago, software engineer David Kaplan quit his full-time job, stepped out into the wild, and joined an incubator. Today, the 23-year-old spends his days at JoziHub working on his startup called ValueForest.
When searching for an item, such as a Xbox One controller, the website will list all of the active listings from various websites.
Besides featuring loads of deals on one platform, the site also features some nifty tools. For instance, it shows the average price of the product, while also enabling you to filter the price and narrow down whatever it is you’re looking for.
While the online classifieds space is crowded, there’s certainly a big market for it. ValueForest may face competition from bigger players in the future, but unlike PriceCheck and uPrice, which primarily list from online stores, it pulls classifieds.
Gumtree holds the title in South Africa as the most popular website, with nearly 5 million unique views per month. Kaplan points out that while the classifieds giant holds a monopoly, its position doesn’t allow it to make any major changes at the risk of losing its bulky user base. According to Kaplan, this is a major disadvantage.
“Coming in as a smaller startup — obviously you’ve got the challenge of going head-to-head with these gigantic businesses — but you can bring with it a certain freshness and creativity,” he says.
Since going live a few months ago, ValueForest is clocking in around 17 00 unique visits a day. The entrepreneur hopes to see massive growth by the year’s end.
Kaplan is currently getting mentorship and support from Johannesburg’s Ignitor programme. Given the fact that he’s a programmer, he didn’t need any financial support. His biggest expenditure so far has been paying for cloud services. The rest he just built himself from scratch.
Though Kaplan enjoyed his previous job title as a software developer, the lack of a creative outlet irked him.
“I started working over the weekends but eventually found that that wasn’t enough,” he says.
Kaplan is part of the 70% of South African startup founders who have a corporate background. The young entrepreneur believes that, with the right kind of support, startups have massive potential to create jobs in the country.
It was quite a scary leap, to rip off the bandaid so to speak. Some friends were definitely doubting my decision but now I’m pretty happy with what I’ve done. It’s a great environment — seeing how all these people from South Africa are forming startups and are driven to do so.
According to Kaplan, more and more programmes are being created to support different startup initiatives. He says it’s a growing sector and South Africa is slowly catching up with the Silicon Valley mindset, although he admits that it’s not for everyone.
In terms of changing careers, the young entrepreneur believes that there’s no better time to take the risk than now.
“I’ve got my degree and three years of programming experience. If I want to start my own business, now is the best time to do it,” he explains. If Kaplan’s entrepreneurial endeavours fail, his programming skills and three-year work experience could act as a safety net in finding another job.
In five years time Kaplan sees himself in the Bahamas with a Macbook Air checking stats. His company, on the other hand, will operate in a handful of countries, scooping up users as it goes along.
Image by Martin LaBar via Flickr