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SA tech entrepreneur Russel Luck has revealed that his startup swiftVEE has completed South Africa’s first sale of a bull to an online bidder.
The Cape Town based startup runs an online platform that connects livestock agencies to a network of buyers and sellers.
The sale was for an R81 000 bull (pictured above) and was made on Friday in Sterkstroom in the Eastern Cape, to an online bidder Werner de Jager, who farms near Kenton-on-Sea. The auction was held over a webcast (see this video of the R81 000 bull being sold).
Russel Luck says his startup swiftVEE has completed South Africa’s first sale of a bull using online bidding
Earlier this week Luck told Ventureburn that the bidder was one of 60 that took part in the online auction.
He said 22 of the 701 bids made at Friday’s auction were placed online. This, while three winning bids totalling R140 000 were closed online — out of a total of R1.72-million in bid value achieved at the auction.
He added that though there have been online cattle auctions held in South Africa in the past, these have never been successful, as the online connection has to be “absolutely perfect” to ensure that any offers can be placed simultaneously with the auctioneer’s bids.
“Their (others who have tried to run online cattle bids) tech failed because they used normal Wi-Fi,” added Luck.
He said his platform aims to next offer 360-degree auctions, which will allow bidders situated hundreds of kilometres away to look up and down the bullpen.
In March swiftVEE was announced as one of the winning projects for the 2019 International Telecommunications Unit’s (ITU) World Summit for Information Systems (WSIS) (see the names of the winners here).
Luck, a technology lawyer by day, founded the platform in 2016 with help from farmer and student Andrew Meyer and software engineer Alex Molde.
However, Luck said both Molde and Meyer have however since left the startup both “on good terms”.
He said in the case of Meyer, who was a shareholder, he was a student and had wanted to go back to England so investors had bought him out. Luck wouldn’t reveal how much investors had bought Meyer out for.
The startup was last year selected by Google as one of 12 startups for the tech giant’s first Launchpad Africa Accelerator. Since then the company has grown to employ 12 people now.
At the time in an earlier interview Luck was vague on how the platform worked, saying that he couldn’t give away too many things, before he and his team got “all our ducks in a row”. However, earlier this week he revealed more to Ventureburn on how the platform works.
The platform links farmers to various agents to help them sell and buy cattle. Luck claims his platform represents about half of the country’s over 70 livestock agents, which means the startup has access to about 150 000 livestock farmers.
While some may argue that it might have made more sense to cut out the agent and in so doing lower the cost of business for farmers, Luck argues that agents play a vital role as a trusted partner in the sector in the sale of cattle, where it may be easy for the seller to misrepresent things such as the health or strength of the animal he is selling.
Up to 30% savings with price-checker
The startup’s platform also offers farmers a price-checker. By gathering the invoices of various farmers and displaying this on the platform, farmers are able to see if they are being overcharged for farm inputs or not.
Luck points out that like this, farmers can achieve savings of between five to 30% on things like feed.
He believes his platform’s price-checker tool will help farmers to overcome the stranglehold that some farmers’ co-operatives have over the market, opting to charge higher prices to some and lower ones to others.
SwiftVEE received funding in 2017 from the Technology Innovation Agency’s (TIA) seed funding programme – via the mLab’s incubator programme.
The startup subsequently also received investment from what Luck said were “SA investors linked to the US”, however Luck would not reveal the names of the investors.
Editor’s note (31 July 2019): Subsequent to the publication of this article SwiftVEE founder Russel Luck told Ventureburn that former shareholder Andrew Meyer and software engineer Alex Molde had both since left the company on “good terms”.
He said Meyer had wanted to go back to England so investors had bought him out. Luck wouldn’t reveal how much investors had bought Meyer out for.
The article has been updated to reflect these additions. We have also corrected the name of the town where the auction took place — it’s Sterkstroom (not Coldstream as we had it earlier).
Featured image: Screengrab from a video of South Africa’s first bull sold in a bid online (Facebook)