SA’s wiGroup secures investment from Virgin Group, Smollan

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South African mobile payments and brand rewards company wiGroup has secured investment from Virgin Group and Smollan to fast-track its entry into emerging and developed markets.

wiGroup provides mobile-first transactional technology that enables the convergence of payment and loyalty value to over 75,000 retail lanes, and has so far processed transactions worth more than US$500 million.

Virgin Group and retail solutions leader Smollan have purchased a stake in the business for an undisclosed sum. This follows a similar investment from Investec Asset Management in 2015.

wiGroup chief executive officer (CEO) Bevan Ducasse said the investment comes as the company is looking to accelerate its global expansion.

“Our presence in Europe and expansion into Australasia and emerging markets will be fast-tracked by leveraging both Virgin Group and Smollan’s extensive global networks. As a business this brings us one step closer to realising our vision of simplifying and improving the way the world transacts,” he said.

The investment from the Virgin Group follows a successful partnership with wiGroup on the creation of Virgin Money South Africa’s new peer-to-peer payment app, Virgin Money Spot, which launched in January 2018 and allows customers to send money to friends in a simple, safe and social way.

“More and more people are using their phones to pay each other, pay for products or take advantage of loyalty offerings. wiGroup is an established player in this sector and has innovative solutions in place which will simplify and improve mobile transactions globally,” said Josh Bayliss, CEO of Virgin Group.

“We are always on the lookout for innovative companies with an eye on making our customers’ lives easier; we’re delighted to be investing in wiGroup and we look forward to supporting them on the next stage of their business journey.”

Smollan CEO David Smollan said wiGroup had successfully pioneered mobile loyalty, rewards, and transacting services for some of the world’s leading brands.

“Its understanding of mobile as a transactional tool is perfectly suited to brands operating in both developed markets as well as fast-paced emerging market environments. We look forward to a strong partnership with Bevan and his team,” he said.

wiGroup’s year-on-year growth over the last number of years has consistently been over 45 per cent, and it has established a growing African market presence in countries including Namibia, Nigeria, Mauritius and Ghana.

Ducasse said the business has also recently established itself in Amsterdam, London and Paris, and is looking to the Middle East and Australia as key growth markets over the short to medium term.

“We hope to leverage our new partners’ extensive global footprints and explore opportunities to create shared value between our businesses. In addition, our strategic focus on Africa – which will be home to one-fifth of the global consumer market by 2025 – remains in place, especially in light of the continent’s high penetration and usage of mobile,” he said.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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