📶 Serving Only What The Customer Wants…

Plus: Crime-fighting plates, Stellies space bucks & how to capitalise on SA’s renewables surge.
February 16, 2024

Feeling Meta? The jury is still out on whether it was Mark Zuckerberg’s Apple Vision Pro review that prompted Warren Buffet to sell off some of his Apple shares.

In this Open Letter:

  • Hyper-personalised: The next frontier in customer data.
  • Crime-fighting plates, end of SMS & Stellenbosch space bucks.
  • Inside track: Capitalising on SA’s surge to renewables.
  • Augment teachers with AI? The results are in.
  • Free business stuff: Share this and get cool tools.

The Next Frontier for Personalisation

If you grew up in the 80s, you’ll remember how simple life was back then. 

Thirsty? Well, there was Coke, Fanta, Iron Brew or Creme Soda. 

Buying a car? BMW, Toyota, Mercedes or VW. Simple.

But as supply chains developed, manufacturing processes advanced and entrepreneurs spotted opportunities to create niche products and services, we got overspoilt for choice.

Now add e-commerce, online marketplaces, last-mile delivery, social and influencer marketing, and you have access to whatever your heart desires – plus some stuff you never even knew you wanted.

We’ve gone full circle – from no choice to too much choice.

Cutting the noise

The problem with noise is it overwhelms and debilitates – extending sales cycles.

So for a while now companies have been looking into reducing the noise and using insights to offer you exactly what you want and need. From personalisation to hyper-personalisation.

There are two ways to do this:

  1. Have large datasets that can be analysed to pick up on trends and behavioural signs
  2. Use data points to hyper-personalise customer experience and offering.

(All POPI compliant, though – itself an opportunity for consulting services to manage.)

Hyper-personalisation has been every company’s pipe dream for decades: What if I knew what you wanted and offered just that instead of my entire catalogue? You’d probably buy it. 

But it’s been hard to do well. 

In e-commerce, patterns aren’t impossible to spot. But go check your own order history on Takealot – if it’s anything like ours, you’ll understand why they have a hard time predicting what you’re gonna buy next:

  • nappies for a friend’s baby shower
  • a LEGO set for your nephew
  • and a few monthly necessities here and there…

A human won’t be able to make sense of it, and neither would machines.

“yeh let me add some dogfood with that toilet seat”

But it’s changing fast. The acceleration in the development of AI has brought with it the capability to be more accurate in personalisation. 

Fueled by Data

Yeh, you have heard this since we almost got wiped out by the Y2K bug, data is the new oil. In fact, this has been so clichéd I doubt many people still believe this, but they should.

The more data points these AI algorithms have the more useful they become. 

And whilst not all data is equal, i.e. your morning routine might be less useful than your browser history, every data point fed into a system creates a point of reference for the AI to figure out how to personalise your experience or can be used to analyse and spot trends.

Drilling for oil

Loyalty programs are the ultimate data generators. 

Every time you swipe that loyalty card, it creates a whole host of data. Think time of the month, total basket size, what was in the basket – all mapped with the details you filled in signing up. 

Add a delivery app and you have location data, lifestyle insights (hey, you seem to braai every Friday!), and what’s more, personalised pricing. 

Deals and offers tailored for you and pricing strategies that mutually benefit both retailer and customer.

Now add external sources, and it gets fascinating – health and fitness data for one. Having a view of the health and fitness habits of your customers has long been a focus via programmes like Vitality and Multiply. 

But the application of this data extends beyond health and life insurance.

SA’s future personalised marketplace, according to AI.

That’s where a startup like FitVault becomes interesting – initially launched as a way for Momentum customers to track their fitness activity and claim rewards, they have now evolved into a data platform that provides an SDK (software dev kit) and integrated data lake (centralised storage repository) to app developers to aggregate and augment health data from devices and other datasets securely and ethically. 

This means you as the user of the app have full control over what data you share with which companies. In many cases the data is synthetic (anonymous, not directly linked to you personally), meaning the access offers amazing general insights into a large market segment, but not personal details.

So if you feel overwhelmed by choice, the good news is decision paralysis might soon be a thing of the past. 

But then again, will we ever try new things if machines figure out exactly what we like/want? That remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure, we finally figured out how to make data(oil) useful. And it’s going to change everything – we’re watching this space.


🚀 Space Bucks. CubeSpace a South African spacecraft attitude determination and control systems (ADCS) developer and manufacturer has just received R47 million in VC funding from the Stellenbosch University of Technology Fund and Savant Venture Fund.

👮‍♀️ Crime-Busting Plates. Gauteng will be getting new high-tech number plates in April in a bid to combat crime in the province. The plates are apparently tamper-proof and very difficult to copy.

💬 Scammy SMS. With nearly 5% of all SMS traffic around the world being fraudulent, it could spell the end of SMS as a business platform. Between 19.8 billion and 35.7 billion fraudulent messages were sent in 2023 alone with various attacks being used.

🚙 Vrooming ahead. WeBuyCars is continuing its upward climb having bought and sold over 100’000 cars in just 4 months. They’ve also added to their national footprint taking their national capacity to over 10’000 bays.

🍺 Bitter Brew. Beer giant Heineken has written down the value of their South Africa business by a staggering R10 billion due to higher inflation and lower sales — that comes within a year of their purchase of Distell and Namibia Breweries in April last year.


How to Capitalise on SA’s Renewables Drive

If you’re looking for spaces to build something unique in renewables, there’s no better time (thanks, Eskom!) and this week’s podcast is for you. We sat down with Ross Mains-Sheard from rent-to-own solar installer Versofy and Michael Maas of EV solutions builder Zimi for some insights on opportunities in the alternative energy space.

Just the highlights…

1. Renewables look poised to heat up in SA

As the guys mention here, adoption rates of renewables in SA are showing phenomenal growth, with a close to 350% increase in renewable added to the grid in the past year alone – driven by the necessity due to load shedding, of course. But the shift points to a lot of potential for startups to build exciting solutions that could also have uses in other regions facing similar challenges to SA. 

2. Electronic vehicles and solar – a match made in heaven?

As the team says here, one such opportunity lies in collabs between the Electric Vehicle (EV) industry and solar. EVs paired with solar energy offer a sustainable and cost-effective solution for transportation. Charging or full-on powering EVs with solar can help reduce operating costs for commercial fleets and even the man on the street…

3. SA innovations making international waves

Cutting-edge technologies being developed in SA to address the power crisis are turning SA into something of a testing ground for innovations in EVs, fleets, data analytics and energy efficiency. As the team mentions here, some local products and developments are starting to raise eyebrows globally.

You can also grab the Spotify and Apple Podcast links on our website here.


We asked whether you would have liked having an AI tutor, and there’s a lotta pro-AI…

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 👍 Definitely yes – I might actually learn something. (62%)

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🙅 No, I’d never listen to a robot. (8%)

🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 😏 Oh yes, way easier to manipulate a machine. (13%)

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 😗 Depends on how hot the avatar is. (4%)

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🤔 Would it be better or worse at spotting me cheating? (0)

🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🕶 Seems dumb to give our future overlords access to our children. (13%)

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