• Sagarmatha Technologies, a holding company that owns online shopping company Loot and the Independent Media business, lists on the JSE next week.
  • It wants to be like YouTube, and Amazon, and create cryptocurrencies, and sell the genetic information of its customers.
  • It also plans to dabble in artificial intelligence, augmented reality – and the discredited psychological technique neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).


Sagarmatha Technologies is expected to list on the JSE next week Wednesday. It has been called an "African unicorn" – because of an listing valuation of more then $1 billion – by the media platforms it will own once the listing formalities are completed.

It is named for the Nepalese title of Mount Everest.

It controls the online shopping site Loot and Independent Media, which owns newspapers such as The Star as well as the third-largest news website in South Africa, IOL.

Its plans, however, stretch well beyond online shopping and media.

Here are three weird things Sagarmatha wants to do.

It wants to sell its customers' genetic information.

Sagarmatha tolds investors it plans to expand into a long list of fields. One of those is personal genetics, analysing the DNA of its customers to give them personalised information on fitness and nutrition.

Then it wants to sell that information.

"Data sets can be analysed with customers’ consent and further packaged to provide information to pharmaceutical companies focusing on personalised medicine.," Sagarmatha says.

That is on top of its plans to "develop consumer intelligence that can be sold on."

It wants to combine voice recognition with neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).

Sagarmatha provided investors with a list of 15 companies it hopes to buy. It did not name any, instead listing them as "Company A" through "Company O". 

"Company B" is an online food delivery player; "Company O" is "a state-run national news agency in East Africa".

But "Company F" really stands out. That potential acquisition is "a leader in voice biometrics", which allows people to be identified through only their voice.

The company also has an artificial intelligence solution that "combine best-in-class speech, neuro-linguistic programming and voice biometric technologies into a unified multi-engine platform," Sagarmatha says.

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a psychological technique dating from the 1970s used to treat a variety of disorders. It has been largely dismissed by the scientific community for the lack of evidence that it works.

It wants to be like both Amazon and YouTube – plus make cryptocurrencies.

One of its subsidiaries owns "a video sharing site and app similar in many respects to YouTube", Sagarmatha told its investors – Video360.

The day of its parent company's listing, Video360 had not had a new video uploaded in 24 days.

Sagarmatha also plans to emulate Amazon, although it never mentioned the e-commerce giant by name.

It plans to launch an offering called Sagarmatha Peak, the company said, that would give customers free or expedited delivery on online shopping, member-only discounts, access to streaming TV shows and movies ("including original content"), and subscriptions to its newspapers and magazines.

That is a near perfect description of Amazon Prime.

It also has plans for augemented reality, virtual reality, and wants to develop "cryptocurrencies and other products and services such as insurance and lending arrangements".

Receive a single WhatsApp message every morning with all our latest news: Sign up here.

See also: