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Startup Oflocal wants to build SA's ultimate city guides

Startup founder on how they are getting South Africans to curate the best of what their cities have to offer


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Let's say you are looking for the best real estate agents in Johannesburg, or schools in Durban or even wedding venues in Cape Town; most people's first instinct is to Google and hope for the best. 

Traditionally, however, the problem with popularity lists that you get from search results are often out of date and the rankings can be questionable.  

OfLocal, a new web-based app launched in December 2015, wants to give everyone the ability to curate the best of what their cities has to offer, and in the process bring transparency and authenticity to these lists.

"We saw many top 10 lists on websites all over the web that we did not agree with, but did not have any means to manipulate it. OfLocal was created to provide reliable and trusted recommendations based on the feedback of the locals," says Joubert Botha (36) who together with Rich Harrington (32) founded OfLocal. 

The website, which relies on user-generated content, allows users to create or add an entry to an existing list. The order of the entries are based on community votes and users are able to vote once every six days for a specific entry.   

"[Users] can engage without reading or writing lengthy reviews. You log in using your Facebook account, or simply vote anonymously - you decide. It is a simple process. The results displayed in real-time are based on voting," says Botha. 

Local business owners are also able to create and publish their own personalised lists, which can then be shared and voted for by consumers.

Business owners can also share the lists that they are featured in.

The lists are dynamic, with users being able to see the most up to date rankings at each particular moment. 

Each list can be voted for over a period of a year.  At the end of the voting period the business that receives the most votes will be announced publicly annually. 

We speak to Botha about the importance of focus and the support they have received from the Western Cape's entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

On gaining traction
At the moment we are focused on expanding our database of list entries. We're very excited about this venture and believe it will add lots of value to travelers and local businesses. We've had an overwhelming response from the community so far; many lists and entries are being created on a daily basis. 

We want to build OfLocal to become a prominent brand and trusted source of information. OfLocal will be available on a mobile app. We will also be launching the app in the UK by June and we're hoping to enter the US market by early 2017. The ultimate goal is to have an online presence in all the major English speaking countries within the next two years.  

On funding
OfLocal got an initial investment from co-founder and Angel investor, Joubert Botha of R500 000.

On challenges
I think the biggest hurdle is still in front of us. Starting a business is the easy part. Growing the business and increasing revenue is the challenging part. Scaling into multiple countries will also be a challenge as every country introduces new competition.  

It definitely always does look easier on paper. 

On success factors
Besides our hard-working internal team, we definitely need to give credit to our media partners and especially the news publications and blogs that have been featuring our journey so far. 

On operating in Cape Town's entrepreneurship ecosystem
We are very privileged to have such a developed ecosystem in the Western Cape and the support structures are second to none. I don't think we lack anything - the backbone is in place. We just need time to streamline the process. 

On words of wisdom
Get a mentor with a good 'track record' and focus on perfecting your craft. Don't get distracted by seeking advice from too many people. The fastest way to learn is to execute and find out for yourself.   

Some things have taken even longer than initially expected - be patient.  

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