Entrepreneur Doug Hoernle is the founder and CEO of Karri Payments.
He has been involved in building a number of technology businesses in the education space over the past 10 years and was featured in Forbes Magazine, Fast Company and a number of other journals.
Prior to Karri, he built and ran a mobile education venture that taught students maths and science via basic mobile phones. He also co-founded a school communication business to help schools communicate better with parents.
Karri, in collaboration with Nedbank, has over the past years launched a school payments and collection business targeting the SA education market. Off the South African base, Hoernle believes Karri is now well positioned to grow into other African markets.
Karri at its core is a mobile payment/collection application to allow parents to pay schools quickly and easily for ad hoc events. It allows users to store funds to be used for school related activities.
Karri is supported by a national team of sales staff, account managers and customer support agents who keep client needs satisfied. Its chief technical officer was a director of engineering at Amazon and built some of Africa's largest money transfer systems.
Karri has an IT platform built on the very latest tech. It is stable, scalable, robust, quick and extremely user-friendly. It is multi-lingual and multi-currency. Karri signed up South Africa’s largest education corporate AdvTech as a client in 2019.
"I've always loved to sell. Since I can remember I was looking for something to sell and a way to build value," says Hoernle.
"I started my first business at the age of 15, selling wristbands to my school mates. I used the proceeds to build a house for a homeless lady in a township outside Johannesburg, which also sparked my interest in philanthropy and social upliftment, a value which is core to my businesses today."
He says he saw a gap in the market as collecting money in a school set-up used to be "an absolute nightmare" for both teachers and parents.
"If a teacher wanted to arrange a trip to the aquarium for her class, she would need to send a notification to her parents, who would then need to find cash, shove it into an envelope, and trust their child to deliver the cash to their class teacher. The teacher has to keep track of who has and has not paid, and remind parents who forget to send the cash in," explains Hoernle.
"Payments were being collected by teachers, leaving large amounts of cash on school premises, and adding a huge administrative burden to the teachers, parents and school. We built Karri to solve exactly this problem. Karri is now used in just under 1 000 schools across SA."
He says Karri has solved a real problem for both teachers and parents by allowing a safe, secure and convenient way to make ad-hoc school payments.
"We've also been extremely fortunate to be able to build a world class team of people who make Karri what it is today. This includes a team of expert in house software developers, financiers, account managers, customer support agents, and our very own teachers and parents," says Hoernle.
His advice for would-be entrepreneurs?
"Opportunity is everywhere. Keep your eyes open, remain open minded, and get out and sell!"
And what about future plans?
"Although Karri is already operational in hundreds of schools across the county, there are still many more to go. We are committed to getting the Karri app into every parents pockets across the country and making sure we provide a flawless customer experience for our schools and parents," he concludes.
"Although Karri is primarily used in primary and high schools, we've had universities, churches, sports clubs, scouts groups and many other community organisations make use of Karri. We're looking forward to growing these communities and helping them remove the burden of collecting payments."