By: Phumzile Ngcatshe
As the leader and CEO of one of South Africa’s fastest-growing technology companies, The Good People Data Company, Jan-Kolbe du Toit looks back at his journey in the Big Data space.
Du Toit is the driver of The Good People Data Company, a leading Level 1 BEE data company based in Sandton, South Africa founded in 2018.
He and his teams have their sights firmly set on reducing the barriers to transactional trust in Africa through live onboarding and verification platforms, significantly improving data quality, and improving transactional trust for individuals and businesses.
When asked what the key differentiator is, Du Toit smiles and says “The Good People Data Company has not only automated onboarding and digital verification for a range of industries but also actively monitors conflicts of interest up to 10 degrees of separation to proactively reduce fraud and collusion for projects and procurement activities. This is especially helpful for tenders, contractors, and procurement contracts, even after the event.”
In an impressive interview, the businessman said The Good People Data Company’s aim was to reduce transactional barriers in the economy through automated verification and conflict of interest monitoring, directly tackling an estimated USD $5.127tn global fraud problem, around 6% of Global GDP.
Du Toit goes on to explain that they managed to save a single client hundreds of millions of Rands of wasteful expenditure by conducting a lifestyle and conflict of interest check on their employee and supplier base, identifying more than 1,000 conflicts of interest between employees and suppliers with more than 100 suppliers directly implicated.
The young and travelled lad explained that after bagging an early opportunity to work with a large pension fund administrator in 2018, they never looked back. He also stated that he founded The Good People Data Company with the undying support of The Empire Partner Foundation four years ago while he was based in London.
“In 2018 we set out to quantify, in monetary terms, people risk and people opportunity to companies. We believe that through the smart use of data, companies are able to more accurately describe and predict outcomes and therefore pro-actively manage risk and maximise opportunity,” said Du Toit.
“We landed an early opportunity with a pension fund administrator to predict fund exit exposure to improve liquidity management – a model we delivered with a 92.7% accuracy over a 12-month period. Today, we’re both a data provider for people and company data, as well as a software developer for our own products.”
Reminiscing about how he founded his business entity, the astute CEO elaborated that the aim of the business was to solve African problems using African solutions.
“I founded The Good People Data Company with the support of The Empire Partner Foundation in 2018. I was living in London at the time and I had built an employee risk calculator that I was exploring opportunities with,” he added.
“The Empire Partner Foundation met with me in London and asked me to come back to South Africa with the data journey I had started – they want South African grown products to solve African problems, an opportunity I grabbed with both hands. The Empire Partner Foundation has been a fantastic business partner to have, they allowed us the learning curve we needed to find our feet, and now it’s all systems go!”
The IT sector is one of the fastest-growing spaces in the South African and global economies and JK puts emphasis on the advantages of having an early academic background related to the industry.
He says he started his early studies with coding in the United Kingdom and that after completing the basic courses, he realized that he would never be the world’s best developer. “I learned what the smart use of technology could enable. I turned my career to finance and qualified as a management accountant (CIMA), completing my training contracts with an FTSE firm in London where I eventually ended up as a Divisional Accountant and SAP Finance Trainer for the group’s Directors” he continued.
After the 2010 FIFA World Cup was staged in South Africa, Du Toit looks back at how he was headhunted by a well-known company to help them in Europe.
“In 2010 I was approached by a headhunting firm to assist with their banking client portfolio across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. During the transition from technology, to finance to strategic HR, I realized that an opportunity existed to use technology to measure people’s financial impact on organizations more accurately and to assign monetary values to people’s risk and opportunity – this is where The Good People Data Company’s first people risk calculator was born,” he continued.
“Today, our clients are both private and public sector clients and include financial services, property management, auditors, enterprise supplier development, and law firms. We have a small footprint in Switzerland for one of our products and we plan to launch in the UK in 2023 and the United States markets in 2024.
“We’ve got the UK and the US firmly in our sights with partnerships already being set up to support the international expansion and market entries in the next two to three years. The importance of stabilising our technology and enabling for scale, particularly for the US market cannot be emphasized enough. The ability to expand rapidly, integrate to various platforms and have a well-trained, established team will be critical to our survival in those markets.
“The market scale, especially in the United States, is very different from our local markets. We’re getting ourselves ready. Within the next five years, The Good People Data Company should be able to verify individuals, profile transactions, and identify conflicts of interest in every major territory in the world.
“The local market response has been excellent. Our tenant management system onboarded more than 20,000 properties through agents in its first couple of months in 2021 before we had to stop taking customers while stabilizing the platform.
“We never expected “the big property managers” to adopt our platforms so quickly which was a big learning curve in itself. The platform is now stable and we are pushing the sales agenda again. We hope to have 100,000 properties onboarded within the next 12 months. This will be a good acid test for our international market readiness.
Asked if it has been smooth sailing all the way, Du Toit shakes his head.
“As most data entrepreneurs learn, innovation and regulation often sit on different sides of the campfire. Learning to navigate the regulatory landscape while delivering on our mission has been a steep learning curve filled with many late nights scratching our heads. Luckily we’ve been well supported by globally trusted brands, including Amazon which has been a phenomenal support structure, particularly for products such as the conflict of interest monitoring tool, Scrapeout.
“Covid-19 has been an excellent catalyst for all things digital and our business was no exception. It forced us to become market-ready a lot faster than we had anticipated. On the flip side, it added significant pressure to our cash flow as companies’ ability to continue with services diminished. Luckily some normality has returned.”
The company has a team comprising of more than 20 staffers and Du Toit concluded by saying one of its aims is to unlock a society of trust by making digital verification and trust available to everyone.
“Our development team remains rather lean (though growing) and our tech staff complement is 20 developers comprising a core team of 8, surrounded by 12 young, bright minds,” he concluded.
“The Good People Data Company exists to unlock a society of trust by making digital verification and online trust available to everyone, to enable the next step in human interaction and to unlock potential by frictionlessly reducing the barriers to trust in all transactions.”