TDDD Interviews: Zest Mobile
With mobile being an important topic on the blog this week, I was lucky enough to get a 2nd mobile related interview. This time, I looked onto the tech and entrepreneurship side of mobile and spoke to the man behind a fast growing, proudly South African smartphone company with the vision to connect Africa with powerful, high quality technology at affordable prices.
Meet David Lindeque, founder and CEO of Zest Mobile, finance student at UCT and my former res and digs roommate too! David has had an extremely busy year, with the launch of Zest’s first smartphone in the South African market – the Zest T1. With high demand, thousands of units sold to date, powerful partnerships, a growing community of Zest super-fans and support from the likes of MyBroadband, TechCentral and Gearburn – it certainly looks like there is a bright future for this smartphone start-up!
I caught up with David during the week to speak about his Zest Mobile journey.
TDDD: Your Zest Mobile journey has come a long way in a short space of time, can you tell us what first got you interested in the mobile and tech start-up industry?
David: I just felt that in South Africa and other African countries, we pay a really high premium for any real quality technology. Upon spending time in certain areas around the world where technology is produced, I realized that the cost price is actually a lot lower than what we’re paying. So why should we pay a premium for high quality technology when it can be offered at a lower price? At the same time, many people are trying to import cheap products into SA, but that’s not the answer. The answer from Zest, is to produce and develop our own locally developed devices of great quality to meet the needs of the local market.
TDDD: You’ve developed a great smartphone product for the South African market, what are the key features that make the Zest T1 stand out?
David: I’d say that the greatest feature is the overall quality of the device. From the minute you pick it up, you can see the build quality and aesthetical attention to detail, coming in pearlescent white and matte black. We spent a lot of time working on the device’s appearance, accessories and packaging. Secondly, we’re one of the very few companies in Africa to be offering Android KitKat, with over the air updates for our users to make sure they have the latest software version. In addition, we offer a really great camera, with 8 megapixel hardware, it takes some great pictures! There’s also 1GB RAM, Quadcore processor and a crystal clear QHD screen, all at an affordable price. Finally, the dual sim aspect is crucially important and helps to reduce data costs in SA.
TDDD: The dual sim-card feature on the T1 and your partnership with Afrihost has seen Zest provide users with unparalleled data value. Has this played a large role in the T1’s success?
David: Yes definitely. Most premium smartphones on the market in South Africa only offer single sim, largely due to the networks wanting to monetize calls, SMS’s and data. The fact that we offer a dual sim means that you can use your network of choice for calling and SMSing, but reduce your data costs by thousands of rands just by getting a data sim through a provider such as Afrihost. The deal with Afrihost has been really important, they’ve got a great fan-base and they’re a great company to work with. Combing the quality and performance of the Zest and the data offering from Afrihost helped to make the launch such a success.
TDDD: The Zest T1 launch in June saw over 3000 units sold on the first day alone, can you talk us through the excitement of the launch?
David: The launch was really exciting! A few days before the launch, Afrihost and their CEO, Gian Visser, slowly released details of a new smartphone to be launched in SA. We were quite hush-hush about the finer details, as we wanted to create a bit of mystery and excitement around it. Leading up to the launch, we started offering pre-order ticket numbers, so people could win the opportunity to be first in line to purchase a Zest – with the great demand we were sure they were going to sell quite quickly. This added a great demand aspect to the product and made the pre-order tickets somewhat of a commodity, with some people actually selling and trading them online! This demand translated into a lot of excitement, talk and hype about the product and proved to be vitally important when launching our product into the market.
TDDD: The Zest website and social media channels have been teasing a new product that will be coming out soon, the Zest Accelerate. What can we expect from this device?
David: At the moment, we’re looking at developing a few different products. The difference between Zest and other African companies is that many of them import products in Africa without any input into the development. This reflects poorly on their quality and many customers leave disappointed. We spend a lot of time in the development stages, working with a lot of engineers abroad and locally, to ensure that we offer a really great product. So without giving too many details away, the Zest Accelerate should be launched in the upcoming months, you can expect an extremely powerful device with a lot of RAM, a 16 megapixel Sony camera and a great HD screen developed by LG.
TDDD: In between your role as CEO of a fast-growing tech start-up and catching flights within and outside the country, you’re finishing up your commerce degree at UCT. How do you keep up the balance?
David: It’s extremely tough, and the travel often feels like a time-waste in between all these things. We have suppliers of certain parts and features of the device abroad, which requires traveling to see them. Also, our partner Afrihost is located in Joburg and we’re also starting to work with partners from other parts of the country. So it does require a lot of traveling and makes for a busy schedule. I think the key thing is to just prioritise and realise that there are a limited number of hours in the day. From there, I just make sure that I schedule everything very carefully to be completed.
TDDD: When you get a free weekend to take a break from all the action, what do you get up to in your spare time?
David: It usually involves a lot of golf! Also going out for dinner and drinks with friends or finding anything to unwind. I enjoy browsing shopping malls and online to see what the latest trends are in consumers’ eyes and what they’re demanding at the moment.
TDDD: The Zest fan-base and community has been actively involved in the #myzestpic hashtag competition. What do most of the photos that you have taken on your Zest consist of?
David: The great thing about the #myzestpic competition is that it created a bit of a community aspect surrounding our new product. Established brands with millions of users find it easy to obtain a sense of community between users of their products. So the #myzestpic competition has been a great tool to quickly establish that same sort of feeling of belonging and association. Most of the photos that have been taken involve a variety of topics, the T1 takes great macro shots so there’ve been a lot of great close-ups. In terms of my photos, it usually involves a lot of photos taken on golf courses and a few of my mates playing the fool!
TDDD: Zest smartphones are kitted out with the latest Android KitKat software. So what sort of voice commands do you frequently give to the Google Now feature on your phone?
David: The Google Now feature has been really great. It offers automated power in the user’s hand, especially when busy or driving. I enjoy waking up in the morning and tapping Google Now to find out what the weather is. I’m also very interested in finance and Google Now makes it really easy to get stock quotes instantly. The navigational feature is great too, so it’s easy to ask Google Now how to get somewhere – the interview we’re having right now is at Barristers and all it requires is a touch of a button and to ask “navigate to Barristers.” It’s a great tool for automation, information and convenience.
TDDD: Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs looking to make their mark in South Africa’s tech start-up industry?
David: I feel that a lot of the guys that we interact with socially and at a university level have a lot of great ideas and SA definitely has the potential to make a mark in this industry. However, I feel that there’s a lot of talk that goes on but not enough action. Many people have static ideas, but it’s important to act on these ideas and find ways to circumvent the obstacles and barriers that stand in the way. I think that fulfilling ideas with action is the biggest difference between an idea and something actually taking shape.
Video Review via MyBroadband: