Andy Higgins is one of South Africa’s most successful ecommerce entrepreneurs – he started Bidorbuy, helped to launch Takealot and PayFast, and is now making online shopping easier through uAfrica.
Although Higgins entered the ecommerce space at a young age as a technical developer at QXL (now Tradus), it was not his first job.
After completing an electronic engineering degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, he worked as an engineer on a 175ft private super yacht sailing around North America and the Caribbean.
This was followed by a one-year stint at OXL, after which he founded Bidorbuy and served as its managing director from 1999 to 2010.
Higgins said when he launched Bidorbuy in 1999, no one had done anything like it in South Africa, and eBay and QXL.com were showing great promise in their respective markets.
At launch, Bidorbuy had its head office in Sydney, Australia, and employed around 30 people – mostly developers building the platform.
The company showed rapid growth in its first six months, and opened or were about to open sites in 12 countries.
The dotcom crash stopped this rapid expansion, however, but Bidorbuy’s operations in South Africa remained strong.
Higgins continued his focus on Bidorbuy’s local operations, and under his leadership he grew the company to 40 employees.
Life after Bidorbuy
After running Bidorbuy for over a decade, Higgins decided to take a traveling sabbatical.
“I enjoy the very early stage of a business so decided to start something new when I returned from my travels,” said Higgins.
He launched uAfrica in June 2011, where he is trying to improve logistics in the South African ecommerce space.
This is done by integrating with a number of local courier companies – The Courier Guy, Dawn Wing, Courierit – and ecommerce platforms – Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, and PriceCheck.
uAfrica’s aim is to make it cost effective and easy to ship orders received online through multiple sale channels.
Higgins said uAfrica is still in a developmental phase, which means it will keep him busy for a few years to come.
A side passion project for him is www.geekfund.io, where he provides funding to mostly highly-technical individuals who want to start a technology business.
“Through Geekfund I am looking for a version of myself when Bidorbuy was started,” said Higgins.
Higgins’ tech and business choices
Linux, Windows, or macOS?
macOS (best of both worlds – it has a Linux shell).
Which smartphone do you use?
Which laptop do you use?
What is the best gadget you have ever bought?
Garmin inReach Explorer – it is currently the cheapest way of communicating via satellite when out of cellphone range.
What is the worst gadget you have ever bought?
An early smartwatch (circa 2012).
What Internet connection (fixed broadband) do you have at home?
Telkom LTE (upgrading soon to FTTH).
What is the best investment you have ever made?
In myself (education).
What is the worst investment you have ever made?
Buying expensive domain names for businesses that still need to prove themselves.
What is the best business or IT book you have ever read?
Not one book specifically but books that fall into the category of personal finance – e.g. The Latte Factor, Rich Dad Poor Dad, Multiple Streams of Income, The Millionaire Next Door.