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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Women Rocking the IT world



Trust is fundamental to business. But on the web, where more and more commerce is moving, there are no visual or body language cues, no physical signs to help with gut feel. All you have is a website with some claims that may or may not be true. How can you tell the fly-by-nights from the worthies? One possible answer is to outsource the background-checking to an expert. That’s where Shana Kay and her business, InfoInteg, come in. Kay has been in the IT industry for about 14 years as a developer, project manager and MD of a software development company. She says that InfoInteg is, at its heart, a trust provider.

“My partner Kevin Derman said he was frustrated with the state of web searches,” she says. “And his idea was to create a way to identify credible businesses. So we provide a way for businesses to have credibility online.

“We have different products. We don’t verify absolutely everything on your website, but we do verify that the company exists, that the people who you say work for you actually do and, if you’re making claims like you’re a specific partner with a big company, we’ll check with them that you’re listed. We do all this so the consumer doesn’t have to.”

The process is almost journalistic.

“You register for an account, pay via PayPal, and submit the domain you would like to have checked. We receive the request and immediately send you a piece of code that you can embed in your website. Once the verification goes through, the status will change from ‘in progress’ to ‘verified’.”
But isn’t this a throwback to the early days of digital certificates?
Kay says there is an important difference.

“Traditionally, everyone works with people whom they trust and they spend more online with them too. Thawte and Verisign’s processes are transactional and only concerned with the security and identity of the information that’s there. Our differentiation is that we’re checking the credentials of that information. We have verification analysts who do our verifying work for us and we have a development company that does our coding for us.”

InfoInteg has been operational for a year, when Kay and Derman first had the idea, but has only just recently gone live to paying customers.

“Last year I was running a software development company and I happened to come across a competition called SAB Kickstart, so we entered it. We won the regionals and have since then taken it from prototype to going live in the last couple of months.”
Kay says entering competitions is unconventional advice for startups, but it’s effective.
“You can win funding for your business. But even if you don’t win, various people will still be helping you to refine your business.”

Money Mountains

For the rest of the startup crowd, the hard way remains and the biggest challenge is still financial.
“People say one of the challenges for a startup is funding and that’s correct,” says Kay. “We haven’t been funded to date; people are surprised that Kevin and I have bootstrapped our business completely without funding. The problem is that there isn’t really a startup fund that will help a young business get through that first and second year of existence. Every kind of fund available wants you to be trading or have a track record for a year or even two. But that one-year period is critical and it’s where startups need the most help and don’t have access to any kind of tools that can help them.”

Kay says she is fortunate to have gone though a few business development programmes and, therefore, understands that even if a startup were to be given R1 million, it might not know how to execute with it.

“But with a little bit of a cushion, as well as mentorship, a startup is much more likely to survive because they would have the guidance and the resources. If there were a fund like that, it would create more incentives for startups.
“For startups just getting going, I would advise drawing on an incubator that offers business development programmes and gives you access to mentorship. If you know you have a good idea, build up a cushion before you go out into the world. Everything takes at least four times as long as you plan!”

Kay has also avoided possible famines by having her fingers in many pies. As well as her software development concern, she started Onyx Interweb, a social media business with a twist. “I do social media but in a different way. Because I’m very into the business development side of things, I work a lot with incubators in the technology space. So the social media I do is focused on technology products or it has a business development spin to it.”B

This article was first published by IT Web Brainstorm Magazine – visit www.brainstormmag.co.za

Previous Awards and Nominations
I am humbled and honored to have received nominations for the following:
• South Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government (MIW) Award – 2010
• Mail&Guardian 200 young South Africans to take to lunch publication – 2010
• Mail&Guardian 300 young South Africans to take to lunch publication – 2009
• DTI TWIB (Technology for Women in Business) Award – 2009
• Graca Machel – African Women Excel Award – 2009
Favourite Quotes:
“Begin to live out of the glory of your imagination and not your memory” – Robin S Sharma
“Life is about juggling. Your job is to realize which balls are in the air and which are glass.” – Julie Lenzer Kirk
Books:
Time Traveler’s wife – Audrey Niffenegger
Eat, Pray, Love
Shana K owns two companies Infointeg and Your Digital agent
Contact Shana K on
• http://www.shanakay.com
• http://www.infointeg.com
• http://www.theconnector.co.za
• http://www.toydrive.co.za
• http://www.annualtoydrive.org
• http://www.yourdigitalagent.com

Emails
shana16@gmail.com
me@shanakay.com
shana@yourdigitalagent.com

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