Rejected 11 times, this 27-yr-old now owns company using AI to predict and detect vehicle breakdowns

Abu Mubarik October 09, 2021
At just the age of 27, Rivo Mhlari co-founder and CEO of Rikatec, has earned himself the title of "a tech and innovation guru". Photo: Supplied by Nedbank via News24

Rivo Mhlari is the founder of Rikatec, an information management system that uses big data and artificial intelligence to predict and detect vehicle breakdowns, track vehicles, assist in determining insurance and warranty premiums, among others.

The idea of starting Rikatec occurred to Mhlari, nicknamed “a tech and innovation guru,” when he was in his first year at the university and eventually started the business when he was 23 years.

Mhlari, who hails from South Africa’s Limpopo Provence, is a graduate of the University of Cape Town with an Honours in Business Science, specializing in finance and accounting. 

Now 27, his invention has earned him an enviable feature on Forbes Africa’s 30-under-30 and Mail & Guardian Top 200 Young South Africans lists just four years after executing his vision.

Behind Mhlari’s entrepreneurial success is the spirit of entrepreneurship. He was reportedly rejected 11 times by manufacturers and insurance companies when he pitched Rikatec to them but the rejections were his motivation, he told Forbes Africa.

“I realized we were rejected not because what we were doing was not novel or attractive; we were rejected because they thought what Rikatec wanted to do was impossible. We were simply ahead of our time,” he said.

Mhlari founded a marketing consultancy and hosted several events on business strategies. It was from these events that he raised money to fund the development of Rikatec prototypes. He also highlighted the challenges startup founders like him face when it comes to funding. His advocacy earned him a $40,000 investment to commercially test the product in exchange for 5% equity in the business. Today, Rikatec provides solutions to car manufacturers and insurance firms.

Rikatec uses data and artificial intelligence to provide predictive maintenance of vehicles, track vehicles, assist in determining insurance and warranty premiums, enhancing the resale value of motor vehicles, among others.

The young South African told Mail and Guardian that he finds entrepreneurship liberating and allows him to make a meaningful impact not only in South Africa but also globally.

“Both economically and socially, I became an entrepreneur because I wanted to make an impactful change in my country and continent, through innovation, job creation and socio-economic enhancement. I became an entrepreneur because I didn’t want to be boxed into a certain career; I wanted to make a difference through being ambitious and innovative,” he said.

In addition, Mhlari wants young Africans to be part of the technology revolution and not just adapt to the rest of the world.

“I believe this is where the world is going and young people in Africa need to be a part of this so that Africa can rise as an innovative continent and not just be adapting to the rest of the world.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: October 8, 2021


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