Alphawave, primary investor and shareholder in leading South African field sales management and productivity app, Skynamo, announced R431m Series A funding in January from US venture capital and private equity firm, Five Elms Capital – one of the highest investments in recent years, according to Bloomberg.
A lesser-known fact is that this is the second investment in recent years in a product that originated out of the Stellenbosch-based Alphawave Group, previously known as the EMSS Group. A significant, but undisclosed, sum was paid in 2014 for FEKO, a high-tech simulation software product owned by one of the Group’s companies.
The global leader in the solver market, Altair, acquired 100% of the EMSS company and its international distributor offices in the United States, Germany, and China to gain access to the comprehensive electromagnetic solver FEKO, a software used by Antenna design engineers all over the world at companies including Boeing, Nasa, DaimlerChrysler. Another subsidiary of Alphawave is EMSS Antennas, the company that was in the news in 2019 for developing the most sensitive radio astronomy receiver in the world used in the MeerKAT telescope.
Multiple sales of South African homegrown companies into the US do not come easily. CEO, Frans Meyer, believes our world-class South African engineers, software developers and scientists combined with a strong business centre of gravity have been the differentiator.
“We are not like a normal VC. Our niche of engineering, electronics, software, data science combined with business acumen is multi-dimensional. We are, by no means, saying everything we touch turns to gold, we’ve had our failures, but Skynamo was established in 2012 and was a result of the technical excellence of a core group of developers combined with the business brilliance of CEO Sam Clarke, who joined the Group already in 2002. FEKO’s success hailed from our exceptional and world-class antenna engineers and our drive and vision at the time that we could build an international antenna simulation business. At EMSS previously, and now at Alphawave, our focus is on the selection of individuals or teams with very strong technical skills, so the product is built ‘inside out’. If it lacks business ‘savvy’, or requires finance, we can help because we’ve got a track record of successfully taking tech products to market. At our heart, our skill is finding and bringing together unique local talent and building businesses with them.”
Alphawave targets industry gaps to unlock revenue potential. Skynamo, as an example, seeks to service the shift from manual order taking to digital transactions in the B2B commerce space. Surprisingly, approximately $7 trillion – or 49% of all B2B transactions – are still performed via methods such as fax and telephone.”
Meyer believes there are more to come from Alphawave, “The golfing industry, a $US13.4 billion market according to the 2019 World Golf Report, has undergone significant shifts in design thinking and player engagement. Golfing estates and institutions have been looking for intelligent technology platforms that enhance the golfing experience as these have become the definitive marker by which leading clubs are measured, creating a distributed radar system designed to accurately track balls across the range and the field. The solution, Inrange, has already been successfully installed at Greenwich Peninsula Driving Range in London, the busiest range in the country, at Flying Tee in Oklahoma and at the Leadbetter Academy World Headquarters in Orlando, Florida. Once adoption like this started to happen, the enquiries into this unique technology started to flood in. We’re installing at another five sites soon and our pipeline is strong. This is our biggest opportunity at present.”
“We will continue to invest in themes associated with the Internet of Everything: sensors, electronics, data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and mobile and web software,” concludes Meyer. “Our services-first approach allows us to deepen our skillsets across these themes, reducing the upfront investment while evaluating future opportunities. We provide funding to incubate products, test product and market suitability, and scale to growth.”
Alphawave has numerous solutions already in the product-market and scale phases that will be driven aggressively over the next few years. “This is not our first rodeo,” he concludes, “watch this space.”