In 1990, the famous American author, Kurt Vonnegut, said that “another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build, and nobody wants to do maintenance”. Twenty-one years later, Rinae Musekene and Ibrahim Sururu are proving him wrong by doing both. The pair are the founders and managing partners of RINAIBRA, a leading provider of maintenance management software. What’s more, they’re both still students at Stellenbosch University.
With a portmanteau of the two founders for a company name, RINAIBRA is a maintenance communication system for residences, body corporates, and private property owners. The platform helps people responsible for building upkeep to track all maintenance issues, and to then communicate any relevant information with those living on the property. Residents are also able to provide feedback on repair jobs, giving everyone real-time insights on maintenance issues affecting their home.
A COVID-19 Creation
Founded during level three of the COVID-19 lockdown, the company has come a long way in its first six months.
“At the time, we were both living in Huis de Villiers residence at Stellenbosch University,” says Rinae. “I was in my third year of studying civil engineering and decided to take on the role of Head of Maintenance, Health and Safety for our building.”
He explains that the pandemic caused maintenance at the residence to grind to a halt, but that new issues kept coming up: “I had people calling me, sending me WhatsApps and emails – there were so many problems, but the maintenance staff couldn’t keep up and communication became a real issue.”
Frustrated with the delays and eager to improve things, Rinae realised that the challenge presented a perfect opportunity to think up something new. He immediately went to Ibrahim – a data science student with a passion for programming and ace at creating problem-solving applications.
“Rinae explained what was happening, and we set aside some time to think things through,” recalls Ibrahim. “We started by drafting everything by hand on paper before writing the code and creating the programme. This was in July, and we pushed as hard as we could to get things up and running as soon as possible.”
The pair’s hard work paid off, and by the first week of August, they had finished the first edition of RINAIBRA. It was put to use soon thereafter in Huis de Villiers and quickly gained the attention of other residences around town that were keen to test out the new platform for themselves. By the end of the year, Rinae and Ibrahim had another two residences on board and more followed suit. Today, their software is being used in 14 residences at Stellenbosch University and five accommodation complexes in Mpumalanga.
“It’s been an unbelievable process,” shares Rinae. “We went from building a platform in one week for one place, to then needing to expand pretty quickly. It’s been a rather hectic challenge too, because it’s just the two of us, and we’re both full time students.”
Ibrahim adds, “Despite this and some technical growing pains, catering for the expansion has been really fun and we’ve had some great support along the way.”
To the Future and Beyond
With the business booming, the duo has its sights set on the future. To this end, they’re pursuing any and all opportunities to help them grow RINAIBRA into the number one maintenance and communication tracking company in the world.
Rinae says: “To achieve this, we’ve started looking for funding and mentorship opportunities to develop both our skills and capabilities as business owners. So far, we’ve completed the #Ideasforchange Challenge run by Stellenbosch Network where we finished in the top five. From there, we were referred to the Stellenbosch University Business School’s Lion’s Den where we got the opportunity to pitch our business idea to a panel of seasoned investors. We finished second in that and won some seed funding, as well as membership to the SU Launchlab Countdown programme.”
By learning to become better entrepreneurs, Rinae and Ibrahim are looking to expand the business to one day include its own dedicated maintenance teams and serve customers from across the globe.
“But in the short term, we’re wanting to get into more residences at universities across South Africa, as well as some new industries and local municipalities. Our plan is to use Stellenbosch as a steppingstone as we grow the business, and as we identify more problems that need to be solved,” explains Ibrahim.
“To that end, it’s important to realise that not all problems can be immediately solved – they can be incredibly nuanced and complex, and you need to earn them This means taking the time to think them through and gather some first-hand experience before you try solving them,” concludes Rinae.
To find out more about Rinae, Ibrahim and the RINAIBRA story, go to https://www.rinaibra.com