A Motswana tech entrepreneur making it big

It is not every day that a Motswana is profiles by Forbes magazine, or gives a Ted Talk, or is acknowledged by multi-millionaire Strive Masiyiwa. One Rapelang Rabana, a tech entrepreneur, has however scored all these points.

The Cape Town based Rabana aims to change the way we learn at every stage of our lives. Her company, Rekindle Learning provides an app tool that gives learners self-testing and training through their mobile phones. The tool also enables users to take short, personalized tests designed to maximize memorization.
“It’s an idea I first had when I was 14 years old, though I received very good education, I’ve always felt there were a lot of inefficiencies in the learning process. So I asked myself, what is it that can help one master and retain information for longer,” explained Rabana. She said her Computer Science background and the telecommunication solutions business which she used to run gave her insight on the possibilities presented by mobile technology.

“What I want to achieve with the business is how we can use technology to learn more efficiently and to enable us to reach the highest levels of productivity and competency,” she said, further highlighting that the youth demographic on the continent coupled with a large skills gap makes her business ideal.

The Shoshong native’s business continues to feature in human resources training conversations around the world. Rabana, who appeared on the 2013 ‘Forbes 30 under 30 entrepreneurs to look out for’, has become a thought leaders on matters of learning since she turned her idea into reality. She aims to have the technology adopted as widely as possible for both short and long term training. “To make the business sustainable in the short term, I’ve focused a lot in training young people in big companies, especially young people coming out with just a high school certificate, to make them more attractive to employers by using technology to make them competent sooner and quicker. “What happens is that businesses still use the traditional workshop based training methods. Research shows that the information shared that way is not retained for long. So, this tool will assist companies to provide weekly or monthly courses on mobile phones or computers. This will enhance information retention,” she said.

The tech entrepreneur said after working with several companies, she is now looking to start working with tertiary institutions both in South Africa and Botswana. “In the next phase, I will look into how we can work more with academic institutions. I’m looking to do a pilot with Boitekanelo Health Care College where I’ll get data which will help me revise the business model so as to roll the app to schools.”

However, the Business Insider, a business magazine, warns in one of the articles carried in it that many tech entrepreneurs put together exceptional solutions that can improve lives significantly, but a lot of them never see the light of day because they fail the convergence from conceptual idea into a scalable revenue maker. Rabana is fully aware of this and is quick to highlight the importance making the idea a sustainable and profitable business. “Very often entrepreneurs, especially in this space of education and learning, only bank on the nobility of their course, but that does not generate revenue. I think the most sustainable and successful solutions in the world are for profit solutions,” she said, adding that this reality is what shaped her approach of starting with companies which gave her money to invest in Research and Development for a wide roll out in schools and other segments of society.

Rabana said her most significant achievement is being able to clearly articulate her value proposition, “to get to the point where you can articulate your value proposition is one of the toughest things for a startup, the other is being able to shift the training conversation that happens in companies, now we see companies realigning their training processes to the business performance.”