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How moWallet is bringing retail innovation to SA

Startup founder, Desmond Mongwe, on his startup journey from idea to reality


Motivated by his passion to add value to people's lives using the power of technology, Pretoria-based techpreneur, Desmond Mongwe (35), launched his company moWallet in 2015.

The company is responsible for creating PopApp Deals, a digital marketing solution that enables businesses ranging from banks to network operators and SMEs to communicate with consumers about deals and vouchers and "offer that little incentive to customers in order to move products off the shelves," says Mongwe. The app is also designed to enable the distribution of food parcels, social products and loyalty programmes. 

Mongwe has 14 years working experience in the ICT industry in South Africa working as a Java developer. Earlier this year he won the Hack.Jozi Challenge - a competition that searches for digital entrepreneurs wanting to make a positive change in their communities using technology. He took home a startup fund worth R1 million. 

SME South Africa speaks to Mongwe about his desire to disrupt the retail market and the ongoing challenge entrepreneurs face with access to markets. 

Desmond Mongwe.

On plans to innovate the retail market

My startup offers a white label solution to clients. We have first-mover advantage in the market. For the first time in South Africa we have retail innovation to deliver coupons, food parcels, loyalty programmes, mobile payments in informal retail stores (spazas, super markets and independent shops).

moWallet has achieved few key milestones, we will only be called successful when the platform is able to deliver 1 million coupons daily to South African citizens. The end results I want to see is the smiles on the faces of our consumers, and for the key metrics for our clients to be fully defined and measured successfully.

Looking at the road-map of our solutions, we expect to have two or three channels to offer solutions, as well as have an international footprint. Most importantly, we want to have clients from the telecommunications, banking and the FMCG market.

On entrepreneurial challenges faced

Access to market and resources to make things happen has been the biggest problems for moWallet. It is very difficult to identify and access business decision-makers in corporates. Getting clients is also difficult because our customer segment is network operators, banks, FMCG brands and franchises. One needs to have minimum viable product to show them as proof that the platform works.

Because moWallet offers innovative and disruptive solutions in the market, I thought we would have the business up and running within the first year of the business, unfortunately that was not the case.

Funding and finance was also extremely hard. I took an option to fund my startup through competitions.

"At times you just need to be crazy, don't wait for people to confirm and validate your idea"

On what SA entrepreneurs need

I think in South Africa we are still trying to get all communities, resources, corporate and the government working together to build a solid entrepreneurial foundation and ecosystem. We obviously use successful leading ecosystems in the world as benchmarks, and we are on to something good, you can tell because the rest of the world is watching us.

 On making things happen

 At times you just need to be crazy, don't wait for people to confirm and validate your idea. Just go for it and make things happen, they will come.

I wish I could have known and accessed the startup ecosystem in Europe and USA, my journey of entrepreneurship could have been less painful, with fewer surprises and more rewarding.

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