Updated: Jul 5
Merge aims to level the playing field.
In the world that we live in today entrepreneurs and investors are seen as the pioneers of the future. Together, they have the ability to not only shape our current society, but construct a future with endless possibilities. The problem however lies in the process of becoming either one of the two.
The current entrepreneur and investor landscape in South Africa is a bit of an exclusive club. From an entrepreneur point of view, if you don’t have immediate access to a strong personal network then you are immediately at a huge disadvantage.
For investors, more often than not there is a minimum net-worth requirement to be able to join an angel network or even be considered as a serious investor. This minimum net-worth figure is usually so high that it excludes thousands of potential investors that can potentially fund or provide mentorship to entrepreneurs.
Merge aims to level the playing field.
“There are so many people in South Africa with access to capital or who can be great mentors through skills transfer. These individuals can contribute to the growth of entrepreneurship but many of them have not considered investing into entrepreneurs as they haven’t had the access to do so. Entrepreneurs and investors can contribute heavily to the economy but we want to encourage and facilitate inclusive economic growth, giving more people access to opportunities.” – Christopher Watt-Pringle, Investor and Operations Director at Merge
What is Merge?
Merge is South Africa’s latest app and web-based platform where entrepreneurs and investors meet online. Think of it as on online version of the popular television series; ‘Shark Tank’, or ‘Dragons Den’, where entrepreneurs get the chance to engage with investors to potentially secure funding or mentorship for their venture.
How Does it Work?
Much like ‘Tinder’ where there needs to be a mutual interest from both parties; entrepreneurs can add their venture to the Merge platform and then immediately scroll through a network of investors. Once they identify the right investor th
ey can send them a ‘Merge request’.
Investors also create a profile, either as a private or corporate investor. After completing their profile, they too are able to immediately scroll through all ventures until they identify an opportunity that suits their investment portfolio. Once they have done this they will also send a ‘Merge request’ to the entrepreneur. If there is a mutual interest, both parties will receive a notification whereby they will be taken to the Merge chat feature known as the ‘Bo
ardroom’ in order to take the discussions further.
“A lot of existing ways to find funding are very one dimensional. Normally the entrepreneur will find a website, fill out a long application form and sit and wait for someone to reply to them via email (if they’re lucky). We designed Merge to be social and more community-based for easier two way communication between investors and
Being an app-based platform was also important in terms of increasing usage and making the exercise of seeking investment a frictionless daily routine with faster feedback loops” – Christopher Peters, Investor and UX Director at Merge.
Who Can use Merge?
All entrepreneurs are encouraged to join Merge should they be seeking investment or want to grow their business through mentorship. Merge’s aim is not to replace current avenues where entrepreneurs can find investment, it is to use technology to accelerate the process for both parties.
“We intend to work with existing capital investment firms and investor networks to ensure that there is a strong investor presence on the platform. It’s important to have credible investors on the platform to increase the chances of success for entrepreneurs, so we will have a strong focus on nurturing these relationships and forming strategic partnerships” – Brandon Bate, Co-founder of Merge.
What About the Protection?
on of User Information?
“Protecting the interests of the entrepreneurs and investors on Merge is our number one priority. We have designed some specific features to protect information and make entrepreneurs feel comfortable with sharing their ideas on the platfo
We also want to make sure we protect the investors and make Merge a safe place to for them to find investment opportunities. One example of this is in the ‘Boardroom’ where before engaging in discussion, both parties have to sign a mutual NDA in the app” – Zander Matthee, Co-founder of Merge.