An entrepreneur who claims to have invented Vodacom's money-spinner, Look4Me, says that former CEO Alan Knott-Craig snr stole his invention - and passed it on to his son, Alan jnr.The article goes on to give more detail of how Gridwatch was asked to hand over plans, patents and specifications to Vodacom's lawyers. It seems their good faith was exploited and soon thereafter the new service replaced the old one.
Internal Vodacom documents in the possession of the Sunday Times show that Knott-Craig snr then went out of his way to spend millions of Vodacom's money on promoting the idea through Knott-Craig jnr's company, Cellfind.
Stephen Rodgers, who patented the country's first cellphone tracking service in 2002, claims that, when confronted, Knott-Craig snr was unrepentant. Rodgers said Knott-Craig snr said he had "investigated (the patent) for loopholes and was quite happy to go to court and fight us. He also told my MD that we should go ahead and sue them."
The distraught entrepreneur and investors in his company, Gridwatch, had already ploughed R12-million into the business, which soon collapsed. Gridwatch's tracking system - known as Multi-Alert - was used by Vodacom in 2003, signing up over 3000 subscribers within months.
The new service, Look4Me, then decided to add numbers to its "opt out" service is a devious and misleading way, and then lied about where they got my number from. It seems that their insistence that they got my number from Autopage is wrong, in the light of their cosy relationship with Vodacom, and because of the internal controls at Autopage. According to the Sunday Times:
Vodacom then allegedly went to "major expense" in marketing Look4Me for Cellfind, including providing Knott-Craig jnr with access to Vodacom's subscriber base.