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Will SA startup Moonrock energise local portable power sector?


Taking on a saturated market isn’t always the smartest move when it comes to starting a business. However Cape Town startup Moonrock, is doing just that.

Founded by Marcel Hattingh in 2016, the startup retails single-use emergency powerbanks through merchants who sell them to customers wanting to recharge their cellphones in a hurry.

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The powerbanks are offered through merchants who can only make use of them once before having to return them to Moonrock to be charged.

Hattingh came up with the idea after getting tired of relying on plugging his devices directly into the wall.

One of Hattingh’s team members, Josh Swart, detailed to Ventureburn how the idea for the devices came about.

“He (Marcel) decided to look around to see what other chargers were out there and then we came across these emergency ones. Marcel, my brother (Nathan) and I, and a mate of mine (Ian) brainstormed the s**t out of this idea and came up with this company and how we were going to be executing it and where we will be selling it,” said Swart.

This led them to their target market. “It’s (the target market) anyone who is away from a comfortable charging station for longer than 12 hours,” said Josh.

“We also looked at when your battery comes into effect — ie in the evening, after work drinks or going out clubbing; your phone runs out of battery and it becomes a necessity to get it back online especially if you need to take an Uber home or you need to pay with your phone,” he said.

“One of our first gigs was selling at We Love Summer and then we did a Corona Sunday Party and then we started gaining momentum at random bars and restaurants,” he said.

In comparison to a standard powerbank, Moonrock targets those consumers who don’t necessarily carry around powerbanks when going about their day — especially on a night out on the town.

Josh said while their single-use chargers aren’t unique, the company is responsible for the branding and packaging, “It’s been around the market for four or five years, we’ve just brought them in from China. They’re produced in China and then we distribute them.”

Moonrock started out selling at small gigs, today they’re at 55 merchants

Moonrock is available in over 55 establishments as well as from several online stores. One of their major retailers is located in one of Cape Town’s top tourist destinations, the V&A Waterfront, where the Ferryman pub sells almost 30 units per week.

The startup has sold over 4,000 units since January this year and also offers the device in Namibia through one of the contacts which added their product to his sales platform.

The company has also introduced the Moonrock special merchants policy where customers who are finished recharging their device are able to return the device and receive a buy-one-get-one-free voucher from the merchant for example.*

While currently merchants have to return the used Moonrock to the company which then gets recharged and returned to the merchant, Josh said the team at Moonrock has filed a provisional patent to develop a rechargeable version of the product and is working with a product development company to develop this further.

In addition the company is planning to develop a virtual reality (VR) app.

“We’ve got an opportunity with a business partner of ours to make our app a virtual reality platform and within it will be advertising where we’re selling our Moonrock from, how many units are at a branch etc,” explained Josh.

Featured image via Moonrock

*Editors note: Marcel Hattingh subsequently emailed Ventureburn on 4 July 2017 to say that currently the company’s batteries are not rechargable. Says Hattingh: “I’m working with the product development company to make them rechargable, but as of right now, these are once off chargers. We do have the Moonrock Special Merchant initiative to recollect used units. The batteries inside these may be recharged at some time in the future, but for now the used Moonrocks are just kept in storage untill that time, just so that they don’t end in the gardens!”

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