When an innovative business idea comes to life
Gerrit de Villiers and Gerhard Landman, both MBA alumni of the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), were the winners of last year’s USB Lion’s Den competition with their RoomCheck business idea, which was a favourite amongst the impressive panel of investors.
Gerhard, who owns a Bed and Breakfast (B&B) in Bloemfontein, Free State, experienced challenges first-hand in running a B&B remotely and that is how the idea for RoomCheck started. With their idea, they aim to solve a relevant challenge in the hospitality industry where the owner or manager needs to know how many guests occupied a room versus what was paid for.
“The idea is a device that provides the user with information on exactly how many individuals slept in a bed via a privacy-preserving device that is easily installed. This way our customers are empowered to take action based on the information provided in the way that they choose, whether this be charging the customer for an additional guest or confronting the manager,” Gerrit explains.
They decided to enter Lion’s Den because they needed help to get the idea off the ground. “We believed USB could offer the right connections, having studied there and knowing the competition will present us with the opportunity to engage with possible investors.”
USB started Lion’s Den two years ago to encourage and support entrepreneurs and job creation in South Africa, supporting the thinking that business has an increasing role in changing society.
They say it was an “incredible experience that not only changed the business but also our mind-set around entrepreneurship”. “You often fall in love with your solution and the whole experience cemented the importance of rather falling in love with the problem and building your solution around it. It gave us the confidence in the idea to pursue it further,” he says.
They won a R50 000 cash prize and say financially it provided them with the boost they needed. Furthermore, they also won a mentorship programme from investment holding company Stocks & Strauss (which will resume after the Covid-19 pandemic).
Their advice to aspiring entrepreneurs wanting to enter this year’s Lion’s Den is to focus on the opportunity to build relationships. “I would encourage anyone with a business idea to participate because it is not only a great opportunity to get the attention of investors or soundboard your idea (against some of the best in the industry), but it’s got more to do with the like-minded individuals that you get to meet. Your next business might just be in partnership with the entrepreneur you meet at Lion’s Den!”
*If you want to witness promising entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a panel of seasoned investors, join us at the online 2020 Lion’s Den, in association with Centuro Global, Stellenbosch University LaunchLab and O’Reilly Law, on Wednesday, 18 November at 14:00. Book here
** The business idea that conquers all and emerges victorious from the den this year, will take home R50 000, plus a share of over R220 000 worth of prizes – including entry into the Virtual International Study Module on Entrepreneurship, run by the ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. There is also a healthy second prize of R30 000 courtesy of SU LaunchLab and services from Centuro Global and O’Reilley Law.