Click This Way
Pieter de Villiers is convinced that the telecommunications industry in emerging markets is going to help lead the world economy out of its funk.
The CEO of Clickatell, a cellphone messaging company he co founded in Cape Town in 2000 at the peak of the last bubble, De Villiers now lives in Silicon Valley on the US West Coast.
"Telecoms will be the stimulus out of this thing," he says. "Every 10% additional penetration of mobile phones leads to an increase of 1,6% in GDP growth."
Clickatell, whose investors include SA private equity firm Ethos and the US's Sequoia Capital, moved its head office to Silicon Valley earlier this decade to tackle the fast-growing US SMS market.
"It's worth being in Silicon Valley because there is a high stream of consciousness around technology and we can be closer to our large clients."
Clickatell has signed up big-name clients, including software giant Oracle. It works with mobile operators around the world and offers bulk SMS services but De Villiers says the company does not send unsolicited messages and prohibits its clients from doing the same.
The company is now turning its attention to emerging markets, which are likely to grow much faster than developed economies over the next few years. It retains a strong presence in SA, and will use the office here to grow elsewhere in Africa. But it's also keen on Brazil, Russia, India, China and Eastern Europe. De Villiers also sees big growth in financial transactions on cellphones and says this is a market Clickatell is keen to go after.
"In a world with 1,4bn credit and debit cards and 4bn mobile phones, it's inevitable that the [financial services and telecom industries] will come together.