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Former Lions rugby player Dylan des Fountain is looking to solve the “administrative nightmare” that many firms face collecting and reconciling staff expense claims through a new app his tech startup is developing.
For the past 12 months Des Fountain, who retired from professional rugby three years ago following several injuries, has been involved in developing the app through his startup Slipztream.
“I’ve always been the type of person who is looking for solutions to any problems whatever they may be, that’s actually how Slipzstream came along,” he told Ventureburn in an exclusive interview. He credits his wife Joy, who is a co-founder and works in administration, for coming up with the idea.
Using their cellphone, along with QR codes, all employees will be able to scan and then submit petrol, travel, entertainment and other expense receipts to their respective managers who can then opt to reject or report these. This will eliminate the need to file receipts or keep figures in Excel spreadsheets.
The app — with the help of GPS logging — will also allow finance managers to track expenses in real time do determine whether or not these were being abused by particular employees.
‘I’ve always been the type of person who is looking for solutions to any problems’
Following the initial testing, Des Fountain says he hopes to launch the product later this year, initially to the SME sector. Thereafter the aim is to integrate the app with existing accounting software, he says.
“We’re doing internal testing and there’s a lot of adjustments happening all the time, but we’re looking to go into pilot stage in the next four weeks,” he says. He aims, he adds, is to pilot the product initially with two or three companies.
At present he has a team of five people at present, including his wife Joy and a friend in finance who is also a fellow founder.
However he was reluctant to reveal how much he and his partners have so far invested in the business.
‘Appetite for business’
Des Fountain says he’s always had an “appetite” for business. A few years ago he started investing in several small businesses — including one in the property sector in 2012 and a year later in a cold press beverage company in Johannesburg where he has a 33% shareholding.
“I’m still actively involved in that (beverage company) in terms of getting the business to where it needs to be strategically,” he added. Slipztream however is his first step into the tech sector.
“I retired at 27, 28. I was early (in retiring). I had to make a plan. I was already involved in business but you know I was never ready to retire. I still wanted to play for another 10 years, but my body didn’t allow me to.
“So there was no sitting back and saying ‘Ah I feel sorry for myself’. I had to get into business. I had to grind. I had to make relationships work. But it’s fantastic. I enjoy every minute of it.”
Business vs rugby
He says there are a lot of similarities between being a professional sportsman and being a business owner.
“If we talk about rugby and we talk about business there are a lot of similarities in terms of adversity and tough times that you go through,” says Des Fountain.
“From a professional sportsman’s perspective the people from the outside only see the glamorous part. But from the other side you’re looking at injuries,” he says, adding that he had 18 operations during his 10-year career.
“That was a constant a battle that one had to fight in terms of get through it and take adversity head on. And in business as well – there are going to be good times, there are going to be tough times,” he says.
He says being a professional sportsman has allowed him to meet a lot of influential people which he hopes will help him in his business career.
“I think the downside of the whole thing is that from a rugby perspective I was involved in a team environment, now you’re moving into business which can be a little bit lonely at stages,” he says.
He moved back to Cape Town seven months ago, after living in Johannesburg where he played for the Lions. But he says he’s in Johannesburg every two weeks where he stays for business for five or six days.
‘Young players better prepared’
He says while many rugby players don’t plan what they want to do after retiring, the younger generation are being prepared better.
“If you look at the Varsity Cup, the okes need to be a certain third year to be able to play there, so it prepares them to actually get everything in order, their degrees and all that and then be prepared after rugby, because it can end anytime,” he says.
While being a former professional sportsman has its benefits, it isn’t everything stresses Des Fountain. “If you’re a recognisable face it might get you into a meeting or two or three, but ultimately you still need to be able to sell a good product.”
For now everyone will be waiting eagerly to see how his product turns out.