Trailblazing Techpreneur Transforming Industries

Boitumelo Maswabi
TECHPRENEUR: Refilwe Matlapeng
Meet Refilwe Matlapeng of Vimo Technologies

Recipient of the World Summit Best Digital Innovator Award, Refilwe Matlapeng, is the co-founder of Vimo Technologies, a tech company specializing in fintech solutions and software development services.

Additionally, the young, visionary leader co-owns South African-based start-up, IPOXCap, whose focus is investment banking.

In continuation of International Women’s Day commemoration, Voice Woman spoke to the accomplished, self-taught coder and bibliophile about her journey Intech, and the future.

Please introduce yourself to our readers.

I am a 27-year-old software developer who is passionate about all things innovation, technology and digital skills, and have found my life purpose in using technology to solve some of society’s issues.

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If I’m not doing any coding, I can be found reading anything that’s nourishing to my mind. I’m quite an avid reader.

What book are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading ‘The 4-hour Work Week’ by Timothy Ferriss, for the first time.

You are quite the high-achiever, having won international awards over the years.

Do tell us more about the accolades, but first, where and when did it all begin?

I can go as far as primary.

My curiosity of how video games work and how they are made gradually led me to falling in love with technology.

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However, my first experience with the internet and a computer was in Standard 7 and, since then, a lot of my interests have been doing just about anything on the internet, including learning how to code.

The first award I scooped was from TYI in 2019 for the Top 100 Independent Innovators in Africa, particularly for the MyMoney app we launched.

There are many more of the awards, all which are humbling and exciting experience.

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Give us a brief background of Vimo Studios and IPOXCap.

Vimo Technologies houses some of the digital solutions we’ve built in-house.

Vimo Studios being its flagship arm, and the solutions we provide are mainly software development, which includes building web and mobile apps from small to large scale.

Together with two of my friends, Sicelo Nkambule and Wandile Gumede, we founded IPOXCap.

Having navigated the fintech space enough, with both failures and successes, we started IPOXCap to solve the issue existing between VCs and fintech start-ups, mainly around funding and corporate finance using AI.

SA is undoubtedly a giant in Africa’s digital space. Was that the inspiration for co-founding IPOXCap and is Botswana an ideal country/market to startup a fintech business?

The digital space has become more broad and open, especially since Covid-19 presented us with remote work.

Though a lot is in infant stage, we’re not focused on South Africa or Africa alone.

We currently have partners in UK and USA. Botswana has room for growth in the fintech industry compared to other countries.

I wouldn’t completely write it off.

In fact, where there is room for growth, there are opportunities to tap into.

How many people do you have in your teams?

All together we’re running on 12, that’s including part-time individuals.

Let’s talk about funding the businesses…

All start-ups are self-funded.

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We pooled resources and funds, including our skills and experiences.

However, we’ve received great amount of support from accelerator programmes such as Greenhouse Capital, which most of them offer benefits enabling us to perform certain tasks.

So, how profitable is your local venture at the moment and is business continuity assured, considering that Botswana does not make the continent’s list of top 10 fintech markets?

Vimo Studios is on its uptake.

It has been like a cash cow especially that Covid-19 catapulted economies to some new heights when everyone noticed the preassigned to go digital.

And, in this high inflation time, we’re continuously seeking to offer solutions that make processes seamless and easier.

Fintech-wise, the environment isn’t quite friendly; hence we exited Botswana market in 2019.

We’re still passionate about this market.

The big issue still remains regulations, but everything is in the pipeline.

We already have few leads and we’ve been a bit busy tweaking the business model and will continue to do so especially ensuring we have onboard people with high skills and experience.

Start-ups are all about finding solutions until you get the most fitting.

Who are your main clients?

Currently, we have found some sort of niche in insurance and mining.

Overall, what key lessons have you learnt about entrepreneurship locally?

Thick skin and grit are important to have especially if you’re coming in with something very new.

You will jump a few hurdles here and there, but that’s what entrepreneurship is.

You have to love the journey because you grow in it.

But I’m yet to learn more locally in certain areas.

There are very few women in the digital sector, what advice do you have for aspirant founders or up and coming female techpreneurs?

First and foremost, it’s important to have a goal far beyond yourself.

Before anything can get technical or tech complicated, finding purpose in what you do is key.

When you’ve found purpose, you start pursuing entrepreneurship, laser-focused on doing exactly that, even if it means doing it in many different ways.

Having a support structure is also important — be it friends, family, mentors, role models , etc.

Are you mentoring any young women at the moment?

When it comes to mentoring, I occasionally work with accelerator programmes and I look forward to engaging more with some programmes already launched locally.

And, what are some of the in-demand skills required for this field?

Coding skills.

But there are some niches that require little to no coding such as digital marketing, devops, product designing, which is — by the way – my favourite.

Looking to the future, what’s your vision for Vimo and IPOXCap?

We want to house some of the best digital and technology solutions, which solve actual pressing problems, and to fully operate remotely yet globally.

FAST FACTS

  • Only 9% of tech startups in Africa have females in their founding team.[Source: appruve.co]
  • Asia has the highest proportion of female founders at 7.7%, followed closely by Africa at 7.4% – this compares to North America at 4.8% and Europe at 6.5%.
  • Africa has the highest proportion of female board members at nearly 15%.
  • Africa and the Middle East are the leading regions for the proportion of female.
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