Goodbye to Online Crooks: SA Fintech Startup Promises to Keep Your Money Safe

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Jethro O’Brien, CEO and co-founder of TradeSafe.co.za
Jethro O’Brien, CEO and co-founder of TradeSafe.co.za (Photo Credit: TradeSafe.co.za)

As online fraud in South Africa escalates, buying and selling goods using online platforms places both buyers and sellers at risk. After Jethro O’Brien, CEO and co-founder of TradeSafe, was duped while trying to buy car parts that had been advertised online, his idea for TradeSafe was born.

TradeSafe is a licensed, independent fintech company that safeguards a buyer’s funds in trust (escrow) until the seller delivers what was promised. Only once the buyer is happy with the goods or services received, does TradeSafe release the funds.

Explains O’Brien, “We act as a buffer between a buyer and a seller. The funds are deposited with TradeSafe, in full, whilst the two parties perform the transaction. Our system is totally transparent and payments are tracked and visible to all parties. Amounts have ranged from a few hundred Rands to a few million.”

O’Brien admits that the word escrow presented a challenge when launching TradeSafe as many people don’t know what it means.

“Simply put, we hold the buyer’s funds in trust. ​If the buyer does not have the funds, the transaction will not start, and if the seller does not deliver what was contracted, he or she will not get paid. TradeSafe does not get involved in delivery. It waits for the go-ahead from each party before releasing the funds.”

Not only was TradeSafe first to market with its standalone platform in early 2015, but its Application Program Interface (API) is the first of its kind in South Africa and allows almost any business or individual to easily plug into TradeSafe’s escrow platform.

TradeSafe finalised its API two months before Escrow.com, the global leaders in escrow, released its API to the market. The company is authorised as a third-party payment provider with the Payment Association of South Africa (PASA).

The applications of TradeSafe are limitless and the company operates in a multitude of sectors. TradeSafe’s current top five income sectors are freelancing, general goods such as cellphones and electronics, motor vehicles, fuel and commodities (diesel and chrome) and rental deposits.

A focus for TradeSafe will be in the commodities sector. “There is a pressing need for our services due to the high levels of fraud and criminality in these environments, more particularly in South Africa’s oil and gas sector especially with the trading of diesel. We can pay multiple beneficiaries involved in complex deals that may include agents, brokers, legal advisors, transport and logistics suppliers and a range of other third-party suppliers. We manage the full payment function and act as paymaster.”

The company uses EFT as its primary payment method. To automate the process, TradeSafe partnered with Callpay’s EFTSecure to provide instant EFT capability. “The escrow market demands automation, compliance and trust,” says JP van der Spuy, CEO and co-founder of Callpay. “TradeSafe is first to market with its API and Callpay is proud to work with TradeSafe to bring payment security to all South Africans.”

TradeSafe supports cross-border transactions between South Africa and countries on the African continent, as well as international deals.

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