Over the last few months, we have covered the exploits of South African search engine Web9 and its CEO, Shingi Mushipe.
Mushipe’s endeavours included a daily spam email blast advertising his search engine, which was sent to recipients whose email addresses had been scraped from multiple sources across the Internet.
These emails impersonated other companies such as Google, SARS, FNB, and many more in an attempt to trick recipients into opening them.
Recipients of these spam emails found they were unable to unsubscribe from the mailing list by clicking the appropriate link.
Following an investigation by MyBroadband, Mushipe subsequently apologised for the mails and stopped impersonating companies while adding the ability for recipients to unsubscribe.
[Click here for a full breakdown of Mushipe’s spam mail tactics.]
MyBroadband attempted to track down Mr Mushipe through various online channels, but we were unable to verify his identity.
We did find an article published by VentureBurn last year which mentioned Mr Mushipe being a partner in another search engine product – Ovuwa – with Joren Communications creative director Rendani Nevhulaudzi.
Ovuwa and Joren Communications
Joren Communications is described as a digital agency focused on providing digital marketing services to organisations and businesses in South Africa.
When contacted by MyBroadband, Nevhulaudzi maintained that Joren Communications was entirely separate from both Web9 and Ovuwa.
Nevhulaudzi said that he is a venture investor in Ovuwa, which Mushipe runs in partnership with him. Both Ovuwa and Web9 are built on the same platform and subsequently have extremely similar interfaces and Android applications.
“Mushipe is only my business partner on Ovuwa Technologies,” Nevhulaudzi said. “The story begins when I was interested in diversifying my investments in digital marketing and I found a search engine as one the best ventures to try, by then Mr Mushipe had a search engine called Goofrica.”
Goofrica was the name bestowed on the Web9 platform by Mushipe before Google inevitably sent him a legal letter asking him to change the name of his platform from a portmanteau of the words “Google” and “Africa”.
Nevhulaudzi said that Ovuwa runs on the same system as Web9 but does not run any illegal advertisements or send spam emails.
“Ovuwa was meant to target the South African market as an alternative search engine and it doesn’t run any illegal adverts or send any illegal emails to end-users,” he said.
“Our agreement stipulated that Web9 and Ovuwa should never cross paths and the agreement remains the same.”
“I am not involved in Web9, my day job is running my agency and Ovuwa. I don’t even know what is happening to Web9,” Nevhulaudzi told MyBroadband. “As indicated since the beginning, I started Ovuwa to separate Web9 from us since we are a proud member of DMASA.”
“I have to say, however, I have tried to plead with Mr Mushipe to respect the rule of law and follow marketing principles and desist from fake advertising.”
Nevhulaudzi said that Ovuwa does not send any emails and using Google AdWords for advertisement, but added that if the controversy surrounding Web9 begins to affect the operation of Ovuwa, he would have no choice but to shut it down.
Nevhulaudzi confirmed that Shingi Mushipe was not an alias and in fact the name of a real person, albeit one who prefers his privacy.
“I can confirm that Mr Shingi Mushipe is a real name of a person; one of our agreements is that he always wanted to maintain his privacy,” Nevhulaudzi told MyBroadband.
When Nevhulaudzi was first interested in buying Web9 (then called Goofrica), he went to great lengths to contact Mushipe, who he described as “untraceable”.
“I then tried finding Mr Mushipe until I got hold of him,” Nevhulaudzi said. “It took me almost a year to get hold of him as he was untraceable.”
With regards to the building the Ovuwa platform with Mushipe, Nevhulaudzi said his main vision was to diversify his investment through creating a credible search engine for South Africans.
MyBroadband contacted Shingi Mushipe regarding his affiliation with Ovuwa and his preference for privacy.
Consulting services and privacy
Mushipe confirmed to MyBroadband that he has “always been a quiet and private person”, adding that he is also involved in the Ovuwa search engine.
“Ovuwa is a South African search engine in which I am a partner and investor,” Mushipe said.
“In 2018, Ovuwa exhibited at the Gitex Future Stars expo in Dubai and National Science Week at the University of Mpumalanga.”
He added that while he is not involved directly with Joren Communications, he does sometimes provide services to the agency.
“Joren Communications is a Pretoria-based digital agency,” Mushipe told MyBroadband.
“In my free time I provide consulting services to Joren and many other companies, but I am not involved in the management and daily operations.”