We interviewed an inspiring young innovator who started Zlto, an online programme that rewards growth and development.

No one lives the gospel he preaches like Allan van der Meulen. Before creating Zlto, he discovered Rlabs, an organisation that focuses on improving the lives of young people by helping them advance their skill sets. This was the place where he learned to improve himself. He describes himself at that time as “willing to learn about anything; any certificate they offered I did.”

A quote on his LinkedIn site describes his personal ethos perfectly: “I believe that success should be earned, hard work rewarded and that victory through deception is not an achievement.”

When asked to reflect on it, he laughed and admitted that he wrote it a long time ago, but it still resonated with him to this day. Zoom interviews can be impersonal, but Allan, from the first hello to his last answer, was totally present and entirely relatable.

We could not have chosen a better candidate to start off our Youth Month here at FunDza Ashoka Changemaker, Seedstars 2017 runner-up, and a Google Impact Challenge South Africa 2018 winner.  Allan’s goal is to show that people from smaller communities like Mitchells Plain, where he is from, can show they can fight on the main stage with anyone from anywhere and win recognisable accolades.

What inspired you to create Zlto?

I would like to think the idea of Zlto was created by the community. In 2013 Rlabs got a group of young people together and asked them what prevented them from getting employment. We then said we don’t have work experience; we don’t have skills, and no money to find work. Looking for work is expensive and sometimes it’s cheaper to be unemployed. We created Zlto because it’s not just about creating jobs; we could create a thousand jobs tomorrow but if you don’t have a CV, or money to print out and apply for that job, then we still have a thousand unemployed people.

To someone who doesn’t know, can you explain what Zlto is?

It’s a way to increase and track positive behaviour.  For example, if you are passionate about teaching, and volunteer to tutor, you then, by teaching that subject, learn the skills of teaching as well as increasing your knowledge of the subject. Zlto rewards you for the skills you gained and the time you spent to gain them. We do this by tracking your contribution. You can show your contributions through pictures, by tagging your location and time. We track that through our team of reviewers. If the reviewers approve, you can get points you can use to buy airtime, electricity, etc.

How can young people sign up for Zlto?

Zlto is a web app, so you can log in from any browser. There is no public Zlto signup link; you can reach out to us on our social media through Instagram and Facebook and someone will send them a way to sign up.

What fuels you to keep pushing boundaries?

It’s difficult the first time, but once one person does something then it means it can be done. Sometimes people don’t do anything because they don’t believe it’s possible. So, if we can push those boundaries and show that you can jump from community-focused to a platform that can scale, then they will know it’s possible. Younger people must do it quicker than us because they can learn from our mistakes

Any words of advice for aspiring techpreneurs out there?

Don’t settle. Don’t give up. And be okay with hearing no until you hear a yes. 

If you enjoyed reading this article, you may like Edwina Stevens story of how she became educator to autistic children.

Tell us: Do you think Zlto is a good idea? Have you got any questions about it?