VELANI MBOWENI, H’18
A South African Entrepreneur Reclaims Commute Time
“My career vision is a quest for a sustainable Africa where people are not given fish, but taught how to fish.”
Serve People, Solve Problems
THE CHALLENGE. Transport in South Africa was operating in silos, with inefficiencies such has unreliable public transport, high congestion and the inability for commuters to go from A to B without interruption at a high price point. With the average cost of owning a car being R8 500 per month and Cape Town being the most congested city in South Africa, it meant that many hours were being wasted during commute times. People in South Africa were spending on average up to 13 work weeks a year just driving to work and back, which created barriers to economic opportunities. South African entrepreneur Velani Mboweni wondered if there was a way to solve the problem and make commuting affordable, convenient and productive.
THE PROCESS. Harambean Velani Mboweni had always been intrigued with mobility and payments. He started selling airtime at school through his phone at 15 so he could buy juice at lunch. He connected with the issue of mobility based on his travels around the world: public transit was always a joy in London and New York, but was a major issue in Johannesburg and Harare. As a South African entrepreneur, Mboweni knew he could create a solution with LÜLA — a mobile-first platform connecting company commuters to private shuttles on their way to work, saving money and freeing up time. The Mobility-as-a-Service platform connects with transport operators and their fleets to residential clusters to make commuting to work reliable, convenient, and accessible.
THE RESULT. Current passengers are already saving up to 20% on their commute with the LÜLA app – as opposed to driving – and works out 80% cheaper than using conventional ride hailing services. The long-term impact is summarized in one word: Ubiquity. LÜLA aims to have all transport related activity flow from their platform. In doing this, passengers will have a safer transport experience that provides them with options that enable them to not depend on waking up early and leaving late. LÜLA has been recognized as one of five innovations shaping Africa by the African Union at the 2017 African Economic Platform in Mauritius.
Within LÜLA, Mboweni has taken things to the next level and partnered with Busmark and the Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) to build the iBus – Africa’s first fully integrated and intelligent bus that comes in a hydrogen, electric or diesel drivetrain made of 97% local materials. More so, having gone through the Startupbootcamp Afritech accelerator, LULA has signed up clients that include, Old Mutual, PwC, and Aurecon to name a few. As a South African entrepreneur with big visions, Mboweni believes that the convergence of transport in the fourth industrial revolution will also reduce the overall carbon footprint both in the developed and developing world. Ultimately, LULA’s benefits – to the individual and the company – are tangible environmentally, economically and socially.
LEARN MORE ABOUT LÜLA
LÜLA is making mobility accessible, convenient, and productive by integrating drivers, operators, and corporate passengers through shared mobility. The company partners with verified 3rd party shuttle operators who use the driver app to pick up passengers on route in an optimized manner. Passengers use the commuter app to request, pay, and track their ride in real-time and then use the mobile pass to check-in on board.
Creating Opportunities for Development
ABOUT VELANI MBOWENI
Disrupting Industry through Tech, Shared mobility, and Social Justice
A noted South African entrepreneur, Velani Mboweni’s interests lie in technology, transport, IoT, and social entrepreneurship. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce in Philosophy, Politics & Economics from the University of Cape Town, a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Political Science from University of Witwatersrand and PDBA from Wits Business School. Mboweni has worked in South Africa and the United States of America across industries including financial services, chemicals, payments and the social sector. He co-founded the social venture, Phambili Mzansi to connect young and old with resources and a network to solve Africa’s pertinent issues. He serves as the Commissioner for HR, Science, Technology & Innovation at the African Youth Commission and has been recognised by Fast Company magazine as a Top 30 Under 40.
Mboweni founded LÜLA in 2016 in order to help South Africans reclaim their commute times by being more productive and to also help reduce inefficiencies such as the lack of reliable public transit when commuting. Being in the Tech Platforms business, the value Mboweni offers to everyone is the opportunity for self-determination and expression by allowing users to define their own commute schedule and match that with a ride aligned to their life, with the intention to be sustainable.
Mboweni’s personal mantra – Serve People, Solve Problems – is at the centre of his driving force to be a Billionaire (defined as positively impacting a billion lives in one way or another). This ethos has been manifest in the choice of education (politics, philosophy, economics and business) he chose to pursue as well as the businesses he founded (transport and social incubation). By definition of the context of which they originate, all of the above choices aim to improve the lives of people (starting in Africa) by giving them three things: 1. Knowledge 2. Choices 3. Resources/Networks. With these three components, Mboweni’s career vision is a quest for a sustainable Africa where people are not given fish, but taught how to fish.
I AM A HARAMBEAN
Velani Mboweni believes that being a Harambean brings value by connecting him with the catalysts that matter most to his journey:
“I’ve always been a firm believer that iron sharpens iron. I’m a Harambean not just to strengthen my own entrepreneurial journey but to do so for others in light of my experiences.
The values and diversity of Harambeans connect with me and thus it is something I enjoy contributing to and receiving from. I love participating in an African ecosystem that emphasizes Youth Entrepreneurship, collaboration, and impact for the continent and the world.”