Cars.co.za is widely regarded as the country’s leading automotive classifieds site and motoring content producer but, at its heart, the business is a quintessential tech start-up. Founded in 2009 in Bedfordview, Gauteng, by a trio of young friends with a strong coding background, tech has been at the forefront of the business from day one.
Cars.co.za’s rapid growth to becoming one of the largest privately owned websites in South Africa is attributed to implementing technology early and effectively in (what was a conservative) vehicle retail market, as well as investing in measures that helped the site to gain optimal online visibility from an early stage.
Now, with the brand readying itself for the next phase of its evolution, being at the cutting edge of tech is more critical than ever before, and consequently the brand has set its sights on a more significant presence in Cape Town, which is recognised as the top tech employment hub in Africa, and in the Top 100 in the world. According to Wesgro, the official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape, the Mother City hosts 38% of the total developers in South Africa, the highest concentration in the country.
“Technology and automation will continue to play an increasing role in the vehicle retail business and Cars.co.za is committed to being at the forefront of tech innovation in the motor industry,” says co-founder Ross McIlroy. “We have a number of exciting projects in the pipeline, as we seek to find additional ways to inform and empower consumers and to further improve the level of service to our users and partners. The ultimate goal is the further blending of the digital and physical car buying experience,” he continues.
“We have therefore made the strategic decision to investigate the benefits of a more significant presence in Cape Town, in addition to our Johannesburg HQ,” McIlroy says. “The Mother City also offers a blend of first-class infrastructure and the type of lifestyle that is very appealing to skilled individuals who could conceivably find employment anywhere in the world,” he continues.
The announcement puts Cars.co.za among a number of the world and country’s top tech firms to have recently announced shifts to the Western Cape. Cape Town is already (or will soon be) home to heavyweights such as Amazon, Takealot, Clickatell, Yoco and more. It is important to note, however, that Cars.co.za’s current headquarters, located in Bedfordview, Gauteng, will be unaffected by any expansion in the Western Cape. “We still believe there is an incredible tech ecosystem in Johannesburg and want to remain a part of it. The Cape Town investment will allow us to access both markets. While our team already enjoys remote working benefits, this opportunity would enable a stronger base for employees wishing to work in the Cape Town area,” McIlroy explains, “and access to some of the core attributes of our Gauteng office, such as an in-house coffee shop with full-time barista, electric-vehicle charging facility, creative areas, boardrooms, studios and so on.”
“Access to key talent is not the only motivating force behind Cars.co.za’s intended Cape Town shift. “We really value our start-up culture,” McIlroy explains. “Our brand is ambitious, and we like to work with people who bring fresh thinking and big, bold dreams to the table. Cape Town has become one of the world’s top emerging start-up ecosystems, with a high density of digital skills and it’s absolutely vital for a brand like ours to plug into that,” he says.
A final decision on the Cape Town premises is likely to be made soon and, in fact, McIlroy says that software developers and data analysts based in the Western Cape (or who would want to work from there) are welcome to already reach out to the brand, which is actively hiring. Cars.co.za currently operates a content office in Cape Town, where a creative team produces the articles and videos that have endeared the brand to millions of South African consumers, particularly through its massively successful Youtube channel, the biggest of its type in the country.
“I can, however, reveal that any future Cars.co.za presence in Cape Town won’t be a purely digital one, or be restricted to a tech play. “South Africans are passionate about cars. Through our content, social media platforms and projects like SentiMETAL, our classic car brand, we’ve already managed to tap into this rich vein of motoring passion. Our Cape Town presence would allow for personal interaction between the Cars.co.za brand and consumer, for the first time. It should bring Cars.co.za into the physical realm, in a most interesting, bold manner,” he concludes.
Watch this space.