MEET COVER STAR Karidas Tshintsholo: Building Tech To Support Africa’s Farmers

Published 11 months ago
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Words and Curation: Chanel Retief and Lillian Roberts
Art Director: Lucy Nkosi Photography: Katlego Mokubyane
Photography Assistant: Sbusiso Sigidi Studio: NewKatz Studio, Johannesburg
CNBC Africa Videographer: Thabo Mathebula
Video Editor: Chanel Retief
Styling: Bontlefeela Mogoye and Wanda Baloyi
Outfits supplied by: Kworks Design; Imprint South Africa; House of Suitability; LSJ Designs
Hair & Makeup: Makole Made

Khula! was built on friendship.

“We [Matthew Piper, Chief Product Officer and co-founder] became friends pretty quickly at university,” Karidas Tshintsholo, wearing a powder blue suit and a bright smile, says to FORBES AFRICA.

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“And then the friendship grew into business. I think already by the second semester of our first year [in university], we had an education type of business running.”

It was after university that Piper returned to Johannesburg with ideas that he relayed to Tshintsholo.

“Initially, agriculture is not a very sexy industry,” Tshintsholo laughs. “From the outside, it looks pretty dirty and all of that…Almost everybody on the continent is dependent on agriculture for survival. But it just didn’t make sense that we were getting more food in than what we were taking out. We should be ideally positioned to be supplying the world 10 times over.”

And with that in mind, Tshintsholo, Piper and Jackson Dyora (Chief Technology Officer and co-founder cofounder) set out to build Khula!

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In a nutshell, the company provides small-scale and commercial size farmers with software and a marketplace to grow their business. The whole idea was to be an ecosystem of support to farmers across Africa. The platform has three key components: an input marketplace, which allows farmers to purchase inputs and get technical services; there is a trader platform where farmers can sell; and to close the loop, there is a funded dashboard, where the platform links farmers with financing assistance.

“I think it really speaks to the nature of agriculture,” Tshintsholo says, “that quite often, when you’re trying to solve one problem, you get undone by another problem.” This was what drove him to entrepreneurship to begin with–wanting to solve problems.

“I think Mike Tyson said ‘everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face’. And I think entrepreneurship is like that…We went into this thinking, we’ve got this, and we have a solid plan, we are going to connect farmers with buyers’. Easy. Until…”

“How many times have you been punched in the face?” we ask. “I get punched in the face every day,” Tshintsholo laughs. “We had to get a lot of punches. But I think the pilot helped us because the farmers were okay with giving us those punches, because in the end, we’re working together to build a product that we can then begin to scale.”

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