Startup Stories: How Falling in Love Led To a Tech Trailblazer

Jared Kruger

02 Jul 2019

Reading time: 7 min Featured post | Thought leadership articles

Jacobus Kriel, a Startup School Graduate, has put an innovative twist on the way that we show our appreciation to the ones we care about. In a recent interview he tells us how the love of his life inspired his company, Gift Drop, a cutting edge app designed to help you find, buy and send the perfect gift to anyone, anywhere. 

How Long-Distance Sparked Jacobus’ Best Business Idea 

Jacobus Kriel met the girl of his dreams a few months before he was scheduled to move to the UK. While most new relationships are filled with flowers and romantic gestures, theirs was limited to scheduled phone calls and video chats – talk about zapping the fun out of a good thing! However, struggle often leads to creative solutions, and Jacobus decided to bring to life a product he wished he had in those difficult times – an app that lets users send gifts and vouchers to the ones they care about.

This is his story and journey in the tech space.

  1. Hitting milestones as a pre-revenue startup
  2. Getting into business for the right reasons
  3. What it means to be a South African entrepreneur
  4. An entrepreneurship course in your own time 


Hitting milestones as a pre-revenue startup

Jacobus had no idea how to start a business, let alone a tech business, when he came up with Gift Drop. All he knew was that he had a dream that he was passionate about, because the product had his full attention and his whole heart. 

With a dream to fight for, he worked hard to ensure that the company would prevail triumphantly. Learning everything he could about the tech industry, and making connections along the way, it wasn’t long before good things started to take shape.

“Our first memorable success was when we won the retail challenge in collaboration with The LaunchLab and Attacq. Attacq released a grant that propelled us into research and development. Thereafter, we were the first ever pre-revenue startup to successfully form part of TRIGA Ventures. This has enabled us to gain big access to market and restructure the company to make it future proof. We’ve also been accepted into Microsoft BizSpark, who has given us access to their software. Google LaunchPad has given us free access to their Cloud services.”

This connection and integration means that there are exciting things in the pipeline.

“We have successfully sent and forwarded the first gifts on the platform. We will now be launching a public promotion to gain more feedback.”

Getting into business for the right reasons

Jacobus sees himself as a creator and visionary, and it’s the challenge of doing something that has never been done before that keeps him excited, passionate and enthralled, to keep on going.

“This motivated me to wake up every morning with an excitement in my heart. Although the hours are more flexible, the toughest boss is yourself.” 

However, routed in his success is his authenticity and love for what he is building. Without it, he believes a business is doomed before it gets started, and others will see through any facade. 

“In almost all instances, investors invest in people, more than the product. For that reason, they can sniff out when you do it only for the money. If you truly believe in what you are doing and teachable, then you might be surprised as to how your idea becomes a reality!”

What it means to be a South African entrepreneur

Having experienced working abroad, Jacobus can speak honestly, and without bias, about his thoughts on entrepreneurship in South Africa. While developed nations come with their benefits, it is a hunger for solutions that drives our local entrepreneurs.

“I truly believe that entrepreneurship at its core, is problem-solving. The more complex the problem, the more money needs to be paid to get it solved. South Africa certainly has its fair share of problems, and therefore avails itself to entrepreneurs with innovative ideas and approaches to solve these problems.”

Furthermore, the ripple effect in job creation and community wealth is what will continue to build better lives for our future generations.

“This inherently creates job opportunities, which ripples into families moving from poverty to middle class. Middle class has the ability to spend money locally and thus stimulate micro economies. This full circle of one idea impacting so many people is the stuff that excited me within South African entrepreneurship sphere. This has a long term impact on the next generation.”

An entrepreneurship course in your own time

Jacobus is no stranger to self motivation. He always pushes himself physically through rigorous workouts and runs. He also prioritises sleep, in order to maintain a high level mental state. However, for everything that he does, he agrees that flexing his mental muscle is one of the most important aspects of staying sharp and ahead of the curve when it comes to building a business. 

When he came across the Startup School entrepreneurship programme, Jacobus knew it would be an invaluable asset to his business. Having the flexibility to learn from the comfort of his office, and in his own time, was a bonus he really appreciated when choosing this course.

“It was my first experience of studying online and on your own time. I was curious as to how it would go. Luckily the Startup School team made a great effort in their communication to keep the human element to online studying. I’ve learnt a lot about our business by exploring questions that hasn’t crossed my mind (and probably wouldn’t have).” 

Even though Gift Drop is still getting off the ground, Jacobus has no doubt that the theoretical and practical knowledge that he has acquired will easily be transferable through all stages of his business’ growth. 

“As we are early stage, I think a lot of the content will also become more relevant as the company grows.”

Do you have any thoughts or questions about Jacobus and Gift Drop? Make sure to leave them in the comments below!

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