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Being featured on talk show host John Robbie’s radio show, helped save SA founder Oliver du Toit’s UK based startup Fourex and net the company millions or rand from SA investors, including Larry Lipshitz and Brett Dawson.
Almost two weeks ago Fourex — which was founded in 2015 by Du Toit (pictured above) and the late Jeff Patterson — opened its second crowdfunding campaign, through Crowdcube, to raise £900 000 (R16.3-million).
The business has developed a self-service kiosk for exchanging 150 currencies in both coins and notes. Patterson passed away in 2017 from cancer.
Things might be looking up for Du Toit these days, but four years ago it was quite a different story.
Fourex is looking to raise £900k in a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube
In 2015 Du Toit and Patterson moved from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates where they had founded a construction company together (after working together on a contract there for Etihad Airways) to London.
To finance the business Du Toit cashed in the savings he’d made from working in the Middle East for eight years and the two sold their homes and cars.
‘We ran out of money’
But it wasn’t long before the £1.2-million of their own money that they had invested in developing the kiosk (including contracting a team in the US from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to help build the coin hopper) began to run out
“At that stage we’d run out of money,” said Du Toit.
Their luck only changed when in the same year, in 2015, the two won Richard Branson’s Pitch-to-Rich competition. The competition garnered them media attention from South Africa — and they were featured on John Robbie’s 567 talk radio show.
The show, says Du Toit, “saved our bacon”.
Call from Larry Lipschitz
The next thing Du Toit received a call from Super Group founder Larry Lipschitz. “He said he liked what I’m doing and asked if he can meet me,” recalls Du Toit, who said Lipschitz visited the UK with Calculus Capital partner Hugh Bauer to meet him.
Later, former Dimension Data CEO Brett Dawson and Fincheck co-founder Chris Ball invested in the company as well.
In all, the four SA investors have contributed about three quarters of the R18-million the company has so far garnered in investment.
The remaining investors include Patterson’s widow and about 430 investors who took part in the first equity crowdfunding campaign.
Using the investment the company Fourex was able to set up a manufacturing facility in Kent, near London.
Revenue up 175% in two years
Today things are looking up for Du Toit.
Fourex revenue has grown by 175% in two years, reaching nearly £2-million (over R36-million) and is on track to turnover about £6.5-million this year, according to Fourex CEO Anthony Rice, who adds that the business employs over 40 people.
So far the business has rolled out 68 kiosks in the UK, mainly in airports and rail terminals, and plans to have 80 sites there by the end of the year.
Then, the plan is to expand elsewhere, likely to Europe first, says Du Toit.
Du Toit points out that the business has one machine in Johannesburg, which is being being trialled by a bank in a warehouse away from the public until the business meet the various regulatory requirements to operate it there.
Rice points out that coins make up about 30% of the value of all foreign exchange trades handled by the machines.
Fourex does not charge commission or fees, but rather generates a revenue on the exchange rate it offers, which Rice says is competitively priced.
The solution has won innovation awards from Virgin, Lloyds Bank and Amazon.
£575k raised in campaign so far
Rice said almost two weeks into the campaign and with 17 days to go, the company has raised £575 000 some of it from the SA board members.
Rice and Du Toit, as well as the current investors must be pretty confident that they’ll meet the £900 000 target. Its first round, in which the company raised £640 000, was oversubscribed by 243%.
A little positive press can, it seems go a long way — even if your business is based far away.
Editor’s note (9 September 2019): In the initial version of this story we neglected to state that one of Fourex’s machines is being trialled in Johannesburg by a bank. We’ve added it in now.
Featured image: Fourex founder Oliver du Toit (Supplied)