Anneli Krige Nel’s journey doesn’t read like the typical fintech story: in 2013 as a 17-year-old high schooler, she launched her digital receipt startup, Slippy, with virtually no experience in the field.
The Slippy platform aims to help users (the target market for the app is retailers and farmers) to manage their paper receipts and invoices.
No longer will they have to keep their paper receipts and invoices buried in boxes, as Slippy hopes to digitise the entire process.
In the future, Nel hopes that Slippy will be able to integrate into existing accounting and payroll systems in order to ensure that recons are simple and accurate, and that the documents are stored for SARS’ access.
“Once a purchase is made, the information will be sent to the farmers’ database which initiates the whole process. The receipts will then be stored in the correct format for tax and bookkeeping purposes. Finally we aim to collaborate with accounting systems where the data can be pulled through all the way,” Nel says.
The idea for the service was sparked when Nel was completing vacation work at the auditing firm, PwC. Her experience at the firm and seeing first-hand how they had digitised their processes opened her eyes to the challenges that paper-based systems presented, and how the right technology could change that.
“All forms of processes in the business world have become digitised, whereas our wallets are still cramped with paper receipts. I realized, as is the case with any challenge, there is a great business opportunity. It was a scary risk I took, but three months later I took all my savings to register my patent. It was then that my journey began,” says Nel.
Despite her young age, this was not Nel’s first venture into the entrepreneurship world. When she was 10 years old, while living on the family farm located next to the Limpopo River, Nel sold goods like biscuits, rice, butter and maize meal to the neighbouring Zimbabwean farm community. Her small business was a success, and she went on to rent space from dad for her burgeoning business.
“A year later, my dad gave me a small office where I sold my products, and within two years I started renting shop premises on the farm. Not only did I love working with the people of my community, the thrill of buying and selling also motivated me to keep on growing the business and look for new opportunities.”
Nel is currently completing her B.Acc degree at Stellenbosch University where she is also a part of the university’s mixed-use business incubator.
Fintech – No age limit
Over the last few years, a crop of fintech startups has emerged, using technology to solve challenges from helping to increase access to banking to mobile payments. While the industry presents plenty of opportunities, the right skills are still needed to form part of the package of a successful entrepreneur.
Typically a fintech entrepreneur would need basic knowledge of finance and technology, among other fields. The lack of these skills however, presented Nel her first stumbling block.
“The development of my idea required extensive information technology knowledge. Having no prior knowledge of the IT world, I found this challenging, but also enriching as I was open to learn a lot about the industry.”
Her youth could also at times be an issue, says Nel, but she very quickly learned to look on the bright side and seek the benefits of being a young business mind.
“My age did to some extent limit me when I allowed it to, but it has also driven me to success. Being younger than most people I’ve come across has motivated me to learn more in much less time than those with years of experience,” says Nel.
There are, however upsides to entering the industry at a young age, says Nel, like being able to afford to fail.
“When you take big risks, you are much more adaptable to failure.”
In 2016 Nel’s efforts received a major boost when she pitched her business at the ATTACQ Retail Challenge competing against other startups ranging from e-commerce companies to revenue tracking platforms. She made it into the top 10 and was later chosen as one of six winners and the only woman. As part of her winnings, Nel received a share of R100 000 in seed funding as well as an opportunity to participate in the LaunchLab‘s Knowledge Acceleration Programme.
“On numerous occasions I felt like giving up, until I became a part of LaunchLab, which hosted the ATTACQ retail challenge. By being chosen as one of six winners gave me a platform for people to listen to me.”
Although it’s still early days for the app, the experience has taught Nel invaluable lessons that she will carry with her as the app further develops.
Firstly, that formulating an idea is only one aspect of the process to becoming an entrepreneur. Success is also about knowing how to implement the idea and having the discipline and other valuable traits, to see it through.
“One needs self-confidence, not only when working with other people, but also in your idea. You need such passion and drive that you are willing to give up spare time for something that might not work.”
“Maintaining a professional standard as a business owner also requires a great deal of networking and people skills. It seems strange, but more than often we merely create the product in our mind and people around us actually transform it into a reality.”
With the lessons she has learned and the risks she has taken so far, Nel is optimistic about the future of Slippy.
“I don’t know what the future of business holds, but I do know that I will never stop looking for new opportunities, growing as an individual and as an entrepreneur, and most importantly enjoying every step of the journey.”