Archive for January, 2011

Launch of the Sugarhut Club

I’m not much of a clubber anymore, o.k, I was never much of a clubber… but I still found myself at some dodgy clubs in my day. Some fun, most not,

This made the launch of the Sugarhut Club a rare outing to a club, or so I thought. I forget that now days a club can be anything, the Pepper Club for example is a hotel, restaurant, bar but no club. And the Sugarhut Club isn’t a club per se but a restaurant, loungey kind of place with multiple themed lounges and bars, fusion food  and of course a Dj.

The club is situated on the second floor of the old Castle Hotel, in the East City Precinct, now called the Fringe; it’s the area east of Buitenkant Street, home to Charley’s Bakery, Woodhead’s Leather Merchants, Assembly, QuePasa and the old faithful, Dias Tavern, not to forget Balkanology who set up camp, literally, in the central parking lot on Friday night. The Music coming from the Bedouin tents sounded great even thought they were competing against an unpleasant south easter.

So the area is undergoing a rejuvenation of note and the Sugarhut Club is the newest addition.  It’s always difficult to judge a club by its launch, surely that many skinny models (wearing not much more than an elastic band to hide their not so privates), can’t be there every night). So plenty of eye candy, bubbly and then a flashback to the 80’s complete with the Dj, emerging from his lounge-music induced stupor, to play some pretty ordinary 80’s tunes, while some blokes with too much bubbly in them got aggro with each other – some things never change.

The food, assuming it’s the same fare to be served on normal evenings, was tasty, although the waitresses kept giving us a miss for more important guests. But we made do, although thin pita bread with rocket does not count as a snack, and after being placed on our table near the door, was given some airtime by the wind and landed up decorating the table and some guests at the same time. According to Dax Villenueva from Relax with Dax, the temporary outside bar on the balcony collapsed in the wind later in the evening.

Look the place is pleasant enough – but do I have a desire to return any time soon? Not really – but as the area develops, the outside deck facing Table Mountain might be a nice place to enjoy a sun-downer or two(if the wind isn’t blowing) and in winter the place might be quite cosy inside.

I like what’s happening in that area, I think it’s a nice extension to Cape Town and as more places start opening up – it might even give Long Street a run for its money.

Swinging along with roundabouts

By Peter Alex

The cliché about swings and roundabouts is decidedly unfair. Why should the gains always accrue to the swings and the roundabouts debited? On closer inspection it need not be so.

For many wasted years the fathers of the city have pondered deeply on the growing traffic congestion in the Mother City’s environs; little seems to ease the growing gridlocks, save for more freeways to allow for more speed (with more speed controls immediately slapped on) and more traffic cops to (invisibly it seems) patrol the teeming thoroughfares.

Traffic lights (robots to the locals) abound, (for four-way stop streets read “inevitable death” ) seldom linked, thus causing more delays, frustration and road rage.

These “controllers of passage” are expensive. They require high maintenance and when they fail or another power outage occurs, chaos reigns. Moreover, drivers appear to take a delight in knocking them over with regular monotony.

There is a solution … yes, you guessed it, roundabouts!

I remember visiting Welkom in the early 1970s. I was impressed with the manner in which residents drove. They were calm, collected and polite. They did not speed and demonstrated great courtesy to fellow road users.

I later realised it was the city’s chain of roundabouts at major intersections throughout the area that contributed greatly to that relaxed road use. Residents and visitors rapidly got the hang of giving way to traffic from the right, not needing to signal and only slowing rather than stopping.

“Driving the roundabouts” became prescribed Sunday afternoon outings …like  taking a sort of calming down motorised pill.

The same applies to minor intersections in the east of Pretoria, where leafy, green suburban roads twist and turn. There, tiny “traffic pacifiers” makes non-stop driving a pleasure.

How about it Cape Town?

Cut out the lights, bring on a new look … it works well in Green Point behind the new Stadium, why not everywhere. Think of the long-term saving.

In any case, it’s a wonderful chance for roundabouts to get their own back on the swings.

Group buying & saying no to Google’s billions

In the 90’s start-up IT companies dreamed about been bought out by Microsoft, and many were. In the 0’s internet start-ups dreamed about been bought out by Google, and many were. Today’s start-ups, apparently, dream about turning down Google. And that’s what Groupon has done – the group buying giant from the States has reportedly turned down an offer of $6 billion from the search engine giants; this for a business that was started in November 2008.

Who and what are Groupon and what do they do? Groupon is the largest collective buying or group buying site in the States, and I imagine, the world. These sites secure group deals with companies, whereby the deal, which is offered at a discount from between 20% to 90 %( depends on the site and the deal), only kicks in when enough people buy it. The site acts as a conduit between the supplier and the public, offering the supplier publicity, marketing and often some much needed business.

South Africa has about 20 group buying sites and it looks like this year will see Group buying really take off in South Africa. Groupon have made their move and bought local guys Twangoo and there are a number of guys staking their claim in this potentially lucrative industry.

The more the merrier I say, and although I have been slightly under-whelmed by the deals on offer – my low-maintenance self doesn’t do beauty treatments –  this should definitely improve as the industry and awareness grows.

One of the local contenders, is just four months old but is already making a name for itself; I spoke to internet entrepreneur and Ubuntudeal
group-buying specialist, Jess Green.

Do you think this is the year for collective buying to take off in South Africa?
I think it took off in 2010, but this year we’ll see a phenomenal growth in the industry.

There are probably 20 sites in SA at the moment – what sets you apart from the others?JG:
Quality, not quantity. Firstly, our deals are always at least 50% off. No other group buying site in SA has adhered to this at all. It’s easy to ask for 25% or 40% off. Hence, we have had fewer deals, but they’ve given the consumer a bigger and better deal. Secondly, our site is the best by far. We’re the only ones to have film/video on every deal, who have an updated blog, who have a scalable site that can hold millions of users, if and when it comes to that. 🙂 We are also very strong on customer-service; something the group buying industry is notorious for being bad on. We have our 0861 UBUNTU number – we’re a real company out there, not a one man band like many SA group buying sites.

I see many of your deals are spa and treatment related, what other kinds of deals will there be?
I think on all group buying sites there are more spa deals than others, but we still have one of the best spreads in terms of deals. Just look at our Underground Cape Town adventure, our yoga classes, restaurant deals, t-shirts and much more.

I see Groupon have bought Twangoo – your thoughts
Yes, they did. Twangoo grew quickly due to getting deals on the one hand, which I applaud them for. They also got subscribers abnormally quickly, mainly through spam, which I, well, don’t applaud them for. Groupon doesn’t mind if you’ve grown due to spam, they bought a Brazilian site too which had even had court action against them for spam. It’s an unfair method of growing quickly, but I suppose it’s worked for them.

Do you know what they paid?
No, and I don’t think this is important. What is important is how they were bought. I see that the owners are now on contract for three years for Groupon. That tells you they weren’t just paid a lump sum, and were probably tied into what Groupon usually does – a revenue sharing offer. This could be the right or wrong choice for them.

How do you feel about these guys entering the market?
How many banks are there in South Africa? How many car companies? I’m elated – the group buying industry worldwide will now look to SA. LivingSocial and BuyWithMe are coming too. The world is now watching us much more closely.

How many people are you at UbuntuDeal?
Including the whole team, 12 people.

Where do you see UbuntuDeal in two years time?
That’s a tough question, because in our industry, two years is a very long time! UbuntuDeal will probably have been bought by then, but our quality focus will always be there. We’ll be sure to still have the best deals and service.