Ricochet News

Are multi-sided-platforms the new blueprint for global business?

Apr 6, 2018
Are multi-sided-platforms the new blueprint for global business?

It is widely reported that the top five companies in the world have a combined market cap of more than USD3 trillion (R36trln) and they all have something in common.

Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon are all multi-sided-platforms (MSPs), and they are leading the change in how global businesses are evolving, backed by other digital giants such as Alibaba and Tencent.

These companies have realigned their strategies and operations to maximise the prime audience that their products and services have captured, which has created a global trend that is seeing MSPs reverse integrating themselves into content providers/platforms. 

Examples of this include Asian giant Alibaba's acquisition of the South China Morning Post and Amazon kingpin Jeff Bezos' purchase of the Washington Post.

In South Africa, media giant Independent Media is waiting on the results of a ground-breaking listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) which, would bring to life a dynamic, multi-sided platform that would marry the group's industry leading content platform with its digital brand and Loot.co.za, its thriving eCommerce platform.

Breaking new ground as the first MSP in Africa, Sagarmatha Technologies presents a fully-integrated MSP using 14 different business sectors, some of which are already rolled out, while others will follow, ultimately providing consumers with peak offerings.

In South Africa, the content platform Independent Media and its digital brands, along with the eCommerce platform Loot.co.za, have proven that deep integration delivers deep benefits and value for consumers, and it's the power of a captive audience that is key to growth for a multi-sided platform.

Content has always been regarded as 'king' in the world of media, but the reality is that, without strong eCommerce, the content kingdom will be run on empty coffers. The digital age has torn down many of the world economy's great monoliths as bricks and mortar institutions face the reality of embracing the digital world themselves or, alternatively, finding partnerships and new alliances with powerful digital disrupters.

The same applies in the relationship between cash and content: eCommerce needs content as much as content needs eCommerce. The deciding vote, as always, is cast by the consumers - and they need both.

"What we’ve done is bring it all together, using technology to unlock and enable the various different systems,” explained joint CEOS, Grant Fredericks and Gary Hadfield, in unpacking the dynamite offerings Sagarmatha Technologies is set to serve before consumers.

Sagarmatha has attracted substantial attention in recent days since announcing its intention to list on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). International investors and investment houses in particular have shown a keen interest in dissecting Sagarmatha's stock offering and reading the details of all its numerous operations.

For the astute international investor, the Multi-Sided-Platform (MSP) holds the key to the digital future, and this makes the result of the listing on Wednesday 11 April a moment critique in the African digital revolution. If Sagarmatha succeeds in reaching their listing capital, it will pave the way for the South African giant to drive the digital economy through Africa.

When one considers that the continent is home to over a billion people with newfound access to high tech digital access, and who are all hungry for information, it positions the company on the edge of enormous economic opportunity for growth internationally. 

Building an MSP in Africa is a bold move when one considers the continent's legacy of being behind the curve internationally in terms of digital technology, combined with a low appreciation for the potential of MSPs from the local investment community.

Africa has, however, been able to leapfrog to the latest technology, which has created its massive new market potential on the ground, and the growing interest from international investors. 

Boldness, scrutiny and misunderstanding are all part of the pioneering package for any disruptor, and for every success there are numerous failures. This makes Sagarmatha’s bid to be the first successful African Unicorn* MSP, even more daring, and for those driving the business, it makes them even more determined to get it right. 

Putting all the pieces of this mega deal in place has been a mammoth undertaking. Gary Hadfield, Managing Director of Loot.co.za (and joint CEO of Sagarmatha Technologies), reveals that it has taken nearly 18-months to jump through the hoops, regulations and requirements to get to the pre-listing phase, but he doesn’t doubt that hooking up with Independent Media was the best bet for Loot and its customers.

"Loot’s figures over the past three years since we started working with Independent Media have been impressive. We have consistently grown and we put that down in the main to the increased media exposure through the right media partner. Print campaigns have been used for brand building, promoting special deals, building consumer trust and communicating Loot’s value proposition.

“This completely underlines the direction we are going with Sagarmatha – eCommerce needs media and vice versa.”

Of course, to value a multi-sided-platform in Africa, and one that, to all intents and purposes, is a Unicorn*, takes some doing – since it’s never been done before. As per the rules of any stock exchange, the JSE included, valuations are critical to the listing process. Given the complexity of Sagarmatha’s structure and the plans it has for growth and expansion, this has been particularly important and time-consuming. 

Redwood Valuation Partners were independently contracted for their assistance by members of Sagarmatha’s International Advisory Board, strategic partners and investors. A world-class technology valuation company from Silicon Valley, Redwood has conducted valuations for hundreds of technology companies, including FitBit, Visa and WhatsApp. 

Sagarmatha’s joint CEO, Grant Fredericks (who also heads up the content side of the business), believes that “Sagarmatha Technologies is uniquely positioned to create an integrated MSP ecosystem in Africa, one that knits technology platforms - content creation, distribution and eCommerce - into a consolidated value proposition. 

“We know the world is looking at us, because multi-sided-platforms are the way forward for businesses in general but Africa specifically.”

What makes MSPs so attractive to investors are their margins. MSPs typically generate huge margins and can run at 60 percent to 70 percent, as opposed to traditional market companies that find themselves pegged anywhere between 15% and 35%.

*Unicorn – standard definition: a start-up company valued at more than a billion dollars, typically in the software or technology sector