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Being selected by Google as one of 12 startups for the tech giant’s first Launchpad Africa Accelerator has been “mind blowing”, says Cape Town’s Russel Luck. Despite this, Luck won’t say too much about how his online platform works.
Luck is the co-founder of swiftVEE, an online platform that connects livestock agencies to a network of buyers and sellers.
A technology lawyer by day, Luck says the idea for the platform came about when farmer and student Andrew Meyer approached him for help with an idea a few years back.
Luck believed the idea had merit and in November 2016 together with Meyer, who is currently completing a Masters in Business in London, the two teamed up with software engineer Alex Molde to start the business.
Google participant and swiftVEE founder won’t detail how platform works ‘as we like to get all our ducks in a row’
Speaking yesterday evening via Whatsapp call with Ventureburn from Lagos, where he has just completed the first day at the programme, Luck acknowledged that he was being vague on how the platform works.
“I can’t give away too many things, just because we like to get all our ducks in a row,” he said.
He added that he was also being vague on how the platform worked as until its launch the startup is at “a stage of vulnerability”. He didn’t specify what this vulnerability is.
He could only let on that the platform provides data to allow those in the market to track trends such as resource scarcities and logistical shortfalls. Currently, he says, farmers have to rely on phoning fellow farmers or colleagues in the agricultural sector if they want to determine such information.
Like this, Luck reckons the platform will “empower” small-scale farmers. He said the trio has concluded a pre-launch of the platform — which showed the possibility of capturing 12% of the market (he didn’t want to explain what market this exactly is) — and aims to go live with the platform later this year.
Looking for funding
SwiftVEE meanwhile is in search of its first Series-A investment. It follows initial seed funding the startup first received last year from the Technology Innovation Agency’s (TIA) seed funding programme – via the mLab’s incubator programme – and subsequently from an angel investor.
Though the TIA funding is public funding and should be disclosed, Luck would only say that it was not more than R650 000, the threshold at which disbursements are capped.
He said when he sent the application off to Google for the programme last year, he never imagined that he would hear back from the organisation.
A panel of over 10 people from Google Africa and Google San Francisco assessed the startup’s application. When Google notified him that his startup had been selected, he initially thought it was a scam and then realised it was for real.
So why does he believe Google selected his startup?
“Because we’re solving drought and food security and because we’re successfully mapping the market,” said Luck. “They saw it, they understood it, they interrogated us like the KGB,” he added.
As part of the programme, Luck will remain in Lagos until 7 April. He will then spend a week in Nairobi, Kenya in late April, before returning to Lagos for another week in June. During the three-month programme participants can also get virtual support from Google, he said.
And how is the programme going so far? “The level of questions is insane, it’s like Harvard for tech,” said Luck.
Participants, he said, have access to leading experts in different areas of tech. “It’s very practical. They’re analysing your stuff in a very high-level way that is better than any programme I’ve ever been on.”