Watch Out: Here Comes Jonga

Proudly South African tech startup Jonga aims to bring peace and dignity to townships by providing a security solution that was born there.

Jonga’s origin story

Ntsako Mgiba, CEO of Jonga, was visiting his aunt and cousin in the Witbank township one night when thieves burgled her house and five others while they were sleeping. That’s when Mgiba decided it was time to do something about safety in townships, and Jonga (a Xhosa word meaning “to watch”) was born.

Mgiba co-founded Jonga with Ntandoyenkosi Shezi and Matthew Tait through UCT Up-Starts during his second year at the University of Cape Town. At the time, he was studying mechatronics engineering on a Sasol bursary.

Jonga is a low-cost, low-tech security system that sends a notification to your smartphone when something triggers the motion sensors in your home. If you suspect foul play, you can hit the panic button, which alerts your neighbours and the local policing forum.

It takes a village

In 2017, Jonga won the first season of the Santam Safety Ideas drive, which earned it start-up capital of R200,000 and the opportunity to participate in the 10X Entrepreneurship Programme.

Through Santam’s incubation process (valued at R150,000) Jonga learned to align its product to the emerging market, and this encouraged it to join the Sanlam Enterprise and Supplier Development (ESD) Programme.

WATCH | Mgiba chats about winning, Jonga and the team’s vision

“We are currently learning a lot about financial modelling, and building a robust business plan to help us raise the kind of money we need to commercialise our solution,” says Mgiba.

“The programme is usually for companies further down the line than us, so a lot of effort is going into tailoring it so that it can accommodate a startup, and we’re finding it all very helpful. The kind of support we’re receiving has just been absolutely amazing.”

The Sanlam ESD Programme is also helping Jonga to obtain accreditation of its product with various legal structures and helping it to secure business partners.

Mgiba explains how Jonga secured funding before its launch: “We had a really powerful story. Just with the story and concept alone we were able to bring in our first angel investor.”

A lecturer took interest in the idea, became Jonga’s adviser and then decided to invest in the business. That opened the door to further investments. “We just closed our third angel investor about a month ago.”

No journey is without sacrifice

Mgiba gave up his bursary and turned down a job at Sasol to work on Jonga full-time. “It was not an easy decision at all. I’m so grateful for the opportunity they gave me by funding my studies. When I was doing my reflection towards the end of my final year, I realised that the opportunity I had before me was a really good one and I didn’t want to put it aside and one day look back and have regrets,” he says.

On the challenge of running a business while studying, he says: “There are just so many people like my aunt who are out there, women who stay by themselves with young children, and they’re vulnerable. That’s what keeps me going – if I don’t work on a solution, I can’t just expect that someone else will.”

The future beckons

Mgiba says Jonga plans to deploy its first units in March 2019 in Litha Park, Khayelitsha. “We’ve yet to deploy units in the field but we’re doing customer development ahead of time and have begun building an agent network that will be doing distribution and support,” he says.

“We have already created employment opportunities in the form of Jonga agents who are signing up homes onto a Jonga community WhatsApp group, so they’re helping us get a captive audience.”

Mgiba, a Mandela Rhodes Scholar studying towards a master’s degree in information technology at UCT and one of the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans in 2018, says Jonga is his future.

“We have an awesome opportunity to connect communities. Our tagline is ‘Introducing safety and security into townships’, and that’s really my passion. How can we start to restore dignity and integrity to our people and provide them with services that are not only extracting value but also adding value?”

This article was paid for by Sanlam as a part of their #SantamSafetyIdeas campaign. That original article, entitled “Criminals, watch out: here comes Jonga“, was published on the Business Live website.

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