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Meet the startup behind the ANC Presidential Gala Dinner’s payment gateway system


With a seat at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s table billed at a whopping R600 000 and a platinum table for 10 people at R500 000, the ANC’s gala dinner held earlier this month in Kimberley was nothing short of a lavish affair.

A single seat at a regular table at the gala dinner, held on 10 January during the ANC’s 108th birthday celebrations, was billed at R5000, according to a EWN news report.

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Key to facilitating these massive sums of money was Whoosh Innovations. The startup, based in Centurion near Pretoria, was launched by Lebeko Mphelo (pictured above) in 2014.

Mphelo told Ventureburn by email this week that his company won the work after pitching its customised payment gateway solution to the ANC’s business forum, the Progressive Business Forum to deliver a membership portal, which included a payment and ticketing system.

Lebeko Mphelo started Whoosh Innovations in 2014 and after bootstrapping it for six years, now aims to raise the business’s first funding round

While it’s not clear what the value of the contract was — Mphelo stressed that his company serviced a professional business body and “not a political party”.

“They (The Progressive Business Forum) function as a corporate or professional body where we were able to do a great amount of work in a short space of time,” he added

Mphelo declined to disclose specific names of who attended the dinner, saying the information is the “property of our client”.

“Tables for the gala dinner were purchased through our gateway while we also issued QR Code enabled tickets for scanning and verification at entry of the event,” he added.

In order to get the work the startup had to comply with a number of regulations, including the National Payments System Act, FICA, AML, Payment Card Industry Compliance as well as GDPR – globally and POPI Act — locally.

‘Pivoted after market was saturated’

Whoosh Innovation’s primary focus is on helping businesses develop online payments or solutions centred around payments. But it wasn’t always like that.

Mpheko originally started Whoosh as a mobile card reader business in 2014. By 2016 an investment holdings company was keen on investing.

“By the time we had a promise of funding, iKhokha, Yoco, Zip Zap and Nedbank Pocket POS had already entered the market. We went to the drawing board and regrouped to pivot to being a payment gateway.

“In between I also was in the Project Management team that launched the world’s first WiFi TV in Tshwane together with Project Isizwe. I also helped a Portuguese consultancy open an office in South Africa. I was using the money I was earning on these projects to fund Whoosh into existence,” he explained.

He said he was fortunate enough to have been a shareholder in a farming group company that he left the corporate world for. This has helped him, at the age of 27 to fund Whoosh.

Up until now the startup has been generating revenue by offering consulting on payment technology (which has helped to validate the need for Whoosh’s solution) and the development of payments solutions for clients and the provision of a payment gateway.

But the provision of a payment gateway, he said, remains the startup’s core strategy going forward.

Today the business has 11 employees and Mpheko disclosed that he is busy bringing two of his employees on board as fellow shareholders. The business is expected to turn R4-million in revenue by the end of January.

He now plans to go to raise funding in the second half of the year.

Mpheko is optimistic about the future for Whoosh. “We have been building from ground up in order to get where we are. We are optimistic that government DFIs (development finance intermediaries) or social-impact investors will note the value in our offering to webify industries and markets that currently have not acquired the online audience.”

*Correction: In the initial article the incorrect link referring to Whoosh Innovations was used. We have since updated the story to reflect the correct link. Sorry for that.

Featured image: Whoosh Innovations founder Lebeko Mphelo (Supplied)

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