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The Early Starter

Rapelang Rabana

Co-founder and Chief Executive, Yeigo Communications

Corporate disease

Rapelang Rabana, co-founder of Yeigo Communications (one of our featured companies this week) always knew that she needed to do what suited her strengths best, and that included picking the environment that was most conducive to her talents. "I didn’t want to go into a corporate environment. When you enter corporations ,you have to subscribe to their systems of strategy. These have very masculine traits – it’s all about outwitting and outstripping your competitor. I didn´t want to go into something that was so against who I was – I didn’t want to spend the next forty years of my life in that kind of environment," she explains.

Communicating success

Shortly after completing their studies at the University of Cape Town, Rapelang and colleagues, Wilterd u Toit and Lungisa Matshoda, founded Yeigo Communications in Cape Town in 2005. In 2008, Swiss telecommunications company Telfree acquired the majority share in Yeigo Communications. Rapelang was later appointed as Global Head of Research and Development of Telfree.

After its launch in 2007, Yeigo was one of the first companies in the world to offer VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services for mobile phones. Yeigo allows users who have downloaded the application to speak to each other, absolutely free. If this wasn’t enough, users are also able to use platforms such as Facebook, Skype, GoogleTalk, MSN Messenger, ICQ, AIM and Jabber to message or call other users for free.

Ups and downs

Rapelang has a pretty impressive resume, even without counting her successes with Yeigo. She was included in Mail and Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans You Must Take to Lunch feature in 2008, following her selection as an Endeavour Entrepreneur as well as placing as a finalist in the BBQ Young Business Achiever Awards in 2007.

The mobile industry, however, has its ups and downs and the obstacles keep on coming, says Rapelang. “Providing telecommunications services to South Africa has been severely hampered by along history of anti-competitive behaviour.” Steep rates for new operators and have made it difficult for new competitors to enter the arena and the whole mobile sphere has suffered as a result.

Fortunately, there is always a way around any problem: “Before the changes in regulations, we simply had to focus on a smaller market and differentiate ourselves through the quality, transparency and convenience of our services,” she says.

Starting up, and sharing

For young, would-be entrepreneurs, Rapelang provides excellent advice:

"One of the biggest misconceptions about starting your own business is that the first thing you need to do is get funding. You shouldn’t actually take any money until you absolutely need it – and this should only be after about a year of hard work on your own," she says. "Starting out by working on your own computer at your desk at home, even on your bed, is the best way."

She also advises that you shouldn’t be scared of sharing your ideas with others:"A lot of people think they have to keep it a secret or it will be stolen by a competitor – this happens a lot less frequently than it’s made out. The reality is that if you have a really simple, effective idea, even if you keep it underwraps until the day it’s launched, the very next day someone will launch their own product to compete with it."

In the news

An early starter, Rapelang founded Yeigo when she was only 23 years old. She has also been featured in numerous print publications in South Africa including Oprah, Financial Mail, Destiny, Finance Week, Sunday Times, Business Report and Fair Lady. In her spare time, Rapelang enjoys reclining with a nice book to unwind from the stresses of running her business.

Rapelang holds a Bachelor in Business Science degree in Computer Science and Finance from the University of Cape Town and Matriculated from Roedean School, Parktown (with seven distinctions!)

Follow Rapelang online:

Silicon Cape profile
 LinkedIn profile

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