Founders Spotlight:Refiloe Matlapeng (Founder & CEO,Vimo Technologies)

Having won numerous awards like "Best Digital Innovator" at the World Summit Awards and most recently  "MEA Markets African Excellence Award", Refiloe is quite the trailblazer. We caught up with the innovator to learn more about her journey from learning programming in primary school to being the founder and CEO of a company with operations across Southern Africa and as far as Israel.

To start with, congratulations on your MEA Markets Excellence Award. Please tell us more about MEA Markets and your award from them

Thank you very much. It’s a humbling experience. MEA Markets is simply Middle East/Africa Markets. The prestigious recognition was targeting businesses of all industries and we happened to be nominated for the Fintech Category alongside other fintech companies in the MEA. They gave credit where credit is due.

In your own words, please tell us who is Refiloe Matlapeng

Refiloe is a thinker and a doer. Often very quiet and curious, observant and mostly laser-focused on the future. Hardly plays small, well most times.

Briefly take us through your journey to a career in software development

I learned about Java programming when I was in primary, shortly after my mother told me about programming. At that time nobody around me knew about it in-depth, so I focused more on learning the basics of computer skills. Eventually, I could build my own simple mobile app games and websites. School helped a lot in staying consistent too. I studied Computer Studies all my high school years through to University. I’m here now, software development was a hobby but it turned into a career. 

Unfortunately and wrongfully so, software development is still considered by many as a male-oriented career path. What was your experience as a woman coming up in such a field?

It was lonely as a beginner. Many times I just did not fit in anywhere especially in Uni. Personality tends to also play a huge role in the field, and being reserved doesn’t help either. It just made me even more invisible. But eventually, people start to buy your skills and experience. 

What made you decide to go the entrepreneurship path instead of taking your rather impressive skills to a corporate setup?

I decided that when I realized it’s too late to go back into corporate. I got too busy with a project I couldn’t anymore look back. It’s been a journey of experiences and exposure to new ways of life.

Please tell us more about your startup Vimo Technologies

It’s a technology company housing many ideas and creativity from brave people. I’d simply say it’s a place we all drop our thoughts and imaginations before they become a reality. Vimosure, VimoPay, Vimo API, Vimo Studios etc. It’s plenty of fintech products, and one should always expect Vimo something. 

What was the motivation for starting Vimo Technologies?

The motivation is found in the desire to address problems using technology. We truly believe in the future, and we’re constantly building products of the future.

Vimosure is your flagship product under Vimo. Briefly tell us about its mandate and value proposition

We enable low-income earners to get affordable insurance policies from insurers without the insurance jargon and in the easiest way.

Botswana’s adoption of deep learning and machine learning solutions like Vimosure, both in the public and private sectors, is still significantly low and slow compared to other countries where Vimosure is present like Israel. What has been your experience as a risk intelligent solutions provider in such a conservative setup?

It’s uninspiring, but also hopeful. Industry leaders and incumbents are quite knowledgeable about these new developments, however, they’re also conscious of the risks new developments and solutions may carry. That’s beside the slow and expensive internet. Countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Israel and South Africa are keen and open to trying new ideas before they can say it’s not working. I closely follow companies like Discovery and Hollard, they’ve been pioneering this space and also working closely with tech startups.

What do you think can be done to speed up the adoption of AI, Internet of Things (IoT) and machine learning technologies which are very vital to Botswana’s quest for participation in the 4th Industrial Revolution?

Reliable and fast Internet will speed up the adoption. Partnerships with incumbents as well, or rather big companies partnering with small companies.

What has been your experience doing business outside the borders of your motherland? What are some of the challenges and upsides you have come across and how have you made your way through the challenges?

Every country has its own problems actually. There’s no better place. You just have to choose your kind of stress. It could be things like language barriers, xenophobia, racism, or political differences. But I’ve come to a point where I make the most of relationships I have with natives of said country. Aligning with the youth anywhere in the world will always remind you that we almost have similar problems, just in different time zones. I also believe in relationships, and they may not always be business relationships, but also platonic friendships. I’ve had friends visit Botswana both with business interests and just leisure. You overcome by being an ally to a good cause.

What advice can you give to young people, women and otherwise, who are looking to embark on a career in software development like yourself?

It’s fun when you love it. It’s fun when you’re curious, and when you constantly want to be a problem solver. That’s all there is about software development. Providing solutions. 

From your experience as a woman software developer and founder of a tech startup, what advice can you give to women who are looking to take a leap from corporate to entrepreneurship in tech? 

Entrepreneurship is not easy, but it's also fulfilling and rewarding when you approach it with a sense of purpose. The journey of entrepreneurship is bigger than the founder most times. It can be lonely but that’s why we always make sure that we support each other and we don’t become lone wolves. 

Lastly, please share with our readers your contact details if they are interested in getting in touch with you

Reachable at 

We take it from there 😊

NB:Interview has been edited for clarity


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