Self-Taught Tech Innovator Goaded by the Youth Expo
“Ideas thrive in an environment where you are given a chance,” says Xolile Xaba, a 28-year-old entrepreneur and founder of CarPark Technologies.
Following a family trip to Mall of Africa when it opened in 2016, the frustration of losing their car in the expansive and multi-level parking space inspired the cell phone app CarPark. Available on Google Play, it currently has 3 665 installs and over 1 000 daily active users who have discovered the convenient solution through word-of-mouth.
Since exhibiting at the Motsepe Foundation Youth Expo in 2023, Xolile has gone on to win the Best Innovator award from Geekulcha but he says things weren’t going too well before then.
After the pandemic subsided, the economy remained in a state of uncertainty. Promised investments never materialised, and he confronted a disappointing and stressful period that is familiar to many entrepreneurs.
His mother, a teacher who encouraged his curiosity for learning about the world, motivated him to not give up on his dream. “No amount of investment can substitute for parents who are supportive of what I’m doing,” he says.
Xolile and his family discovered his passion for technology while he was a teenager. During his adolescence social media proliferated and Mxit and Facebook became the primary interactions between him and his peers. Xolile found inspiration in the stories and ideas of the founders of these companies such as Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates.
“As an innovator, when I create something, I know that there is always a younger version of me that gets inspired. That kind of impact on people keeps me awake at night.”
At eighteen, he developed his first website, an RSS feed that grabbed tech and business news from reputable media houses and summarised the articles into 250 characters that appealed to a young demographic who were familiar with social media’s pithy communication style.
Despite his avid interest in technology, Xolile went on to graduate with a BCom Law, while teaching himself coding and software development as a hobby. Irrespective of his educational background, Xolile receives job offers from tech companies. But he is adamant on pursuing his passion as a tech innovator.
“The Youth Expo saved my passion and was a reminder that we have come so far. It was an opportunity to see a different side of what we hear – the stories of youth being lazy. What I saw at the expo were youth who are hungry to learn and desperate to make something of themselves. Being around that was energising.”