Co-founder and Chief Investment Officer at Startupbootcamp Africa
Guest editors are local ecosystem leaders: successful founders, investors, or thought leaders. Have someone in mind? Nominate a country guest editor.
Disclaimer: all content within the Startup Ecosystem Summary and Editor’s Guide sections is written by and reflects the personal perspective of the guest editor. The guest editor is not responsible for content within the Country Snapshot and Community sections, as much of this content is compiled from external sources and does not necessarily reflect the guest editor’s view.
The South African startup ecosystem has successfully moved through an emerging phase (2012 through 2017) where there has been a marked increase in entrepreneurial spirit, digital skills & training, improvement in the ease of doing business and the relative availability of Seed and Series A funding. Today, South Africa has arguably the most mature startup ecosystem on the African continent, with significant consumer and business markets, sophisticated entrepreneurial talent, a strong corporate sector, and an emerging local venture capital industry with ties to a growing number of international investors. This growth has been driven by:
The efforts of the collective ecosystem have generated results across the country, although most of the activity is still concentrated in the two major economic hubs of Johannesburg and Cape Town. These efforts have resulted in:
Looking ahead, South Africa’s entrepreneurs need to realize that the world is more connected than ever before, and to create high-growth, digitally-enabled businesses that make an impact in the country and create jobs, they should build local but also aim beyond the borders of South Africa.
The South African government also needs to create more incentives to attract skilled professionals, as well as attract entrepreneurs with international experience to build businesses in the country. This will bring more seasoned startup founders into the space, result in skills transfer, create international networks, create more export-focused companies, as well as more high-growth businesses that create jobs.
Editor’s choice of the industries with the most potential for technology disruption and growth.
Editor’s choice of the country’s top 10 emerging tech startups.
Editor’s pick of which ‘Featured Startup’ is especially worth following and why.
Editor’s perspective of the maturity level of talent in the ecosystem.
Editor’s commentary on how the country’s culture and history have impacted the ecosystem.
Given its Apartheid past and the economic disadvantages and effects that so many non-white South Africans still experience, South Africa has created the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) policy which is relevant for all businesses operating in the country. The codes of the B-BBEE legislation have changed recently, and companies are now required to allocate more funding to contribute to skills development, enterprise and supplier development as well as procurement. This means that there is now significantly more funding available and there are more corporate sponsored business support initiatives in place, specifically for majority black-owned companies. However, most of the businesses supported are fairly traditional. To drive greater business innovation and transformation, corporates could develop a dual strategy to better support black-owned companies throughout South Africa.
Startups begun and run by black tech entrepreneurs struggle more than their white counterparts, although there are an increasing number of black tech entrepreneurs. Only 7% of black-owned tech startups are turning a profit compared with 15% of startups begun by white entrepreneurs. Also, the financial position of black startups is more dire than for white-owned new businesses: 28% of white founders have three or fewer months left of funds whereas the equivalent situation for black tech startup founders is 51%. The reason for this appears to be that white tech startup founders have greater access to capital, skills, experience and productive networks, which obviously has a knock-on effect.
Guest editors are local ecosystem leaders: successful founders, investors, or thought leaders. Have someone in mind?
4Di Capital (Cape Town): An independent venture capital focused on early-stage mobile, enterprise software, web sectors. It is located in Cape Town, South Africa with an office in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. It was founded in 2009. (Source: ThinkAfrica)
800 Ventures (Cape Town): A seed stage investment company with offices in Zagreb and Cape Town investing in companies from Southeast Europe and South Africa. (Source: ThinkAfrica)
Action Hero Ventures (Stellenbosch): A private investment holding company that makes early stage investments. (Source: Ventureburn)
AngelHub Ventures (Stellenbosch): Started out as South Africa’s “first group of angel investors” that provides pool funding, expertise and networks to foster startup growth. Angel investors Michael Jordaan (the ex-FNB head) and Kevin Harris joined from 2014 and the firm upgraded to a VC. Under the leadership of Brett Commaille, the firm has been supporting startups like GoMetro, Snapplify and AmaLocker. (Source: Ventureburn)
Dazzle Angels (Johannesburg): A vibrant community of female angel investors in South Africa. Dazzle Angels was created by collaborators Alexandra Fraser, Adi Zuk, Lee Zuk and Charlotte Luzuka to close the gap of around inequality of fund management and investment. It was established in 2018. (Source: ThinkAfrica)
Earth Capital (Cape Town): An entrepreneur-led early stage impact investor, backing founders who have scalable visions to change the world. Founded in 2009, Earth Capital operates in South Africa and seeks impact ventures which can scale throughout the continent, and the developing world. The firm’s funds sit alongside their sister company, Impact Amplifier, a top impact accelerator based in Cape Town. (Source: ThinkAfrica)
Edge Growth (Johannesburg, Cape Town): Manages over R900 million of early stage venture capital and has invested in more than 45 deals since launching its first fund in 2010. Edge targets opportunities across any sector that has the potential to create positive impact. Portfolio companies include Sweepsouth, Mobenzi, Pioneer Academies and Everlytic. (Source: Ventureburn)
Grovest (Johannesburg): Claims to be South Africa’s first VC company incorporated under Section 12J of the Income Tax Act — a relatively new asset class in the country that has proven to be successful in the UK and sees VC companies traded as venture capital trusts. The VC structure offers investors exposure to the VC sector, while at the same time providing up to 40% tax relief on their investments. Grovest’s average investment size is R3 million to R6 million per investment. (Source: Ventureburn)
HAVAÍC (Cape Town): A Cape Town based VC company that sources funding from family offices and investors. The company has invested in several startups, including among others: delv.io, Digital Cabinet, Aura and Instant Property. HAVAÍC invests in early-stage, high-growth technology businesses with proven products and revenue, that can scale both locally and internationally, offering access to local investments with global prospects. (Source: Ventureburn)
Kalon Venture Partners (Johannesburg): A Section 12 J venture capital fund that invests in digital disruptive technology. The fund has invested in companies such as SnapnSave, i-Pay and The Sun Exchange. (Source: Ventureburn)
Kingson Capital (Durban): A venture capital firm founded in 2015. In 2019, it raised a R400-million VC fund aimed at investing in 30 to 50 tech startups and black-owned small businesses. (Source: Ventureburn)
Knife Capital (Cape Town): One of South Africa’s best-known venture firms--a growth equity fund with a specific focus on sustainable technology-enabled ventures. (Source: Ventureburn)
Omidyar Network South Africa (Global): Founded by Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, the initiative has been funding a range of ventures from Lagos to Cape Town and Nairobi. Some notable South African investments include online distribution network Bozza, education programme IkamvaYouth as well as fact-checking media outlet Africa Check. (Source: Ventureburn)
SA SME Fund (Johannesburg): Established by members of the CEO Initiative – a collaboration between government, labour and business to address some of the most pressing challenges to the country’s economic growth – as an avenue of support for the SME sector. The fund allocates investment capital to accredited fund managers – venture capital or growth oriented equity funds – that invest directly in scalable small and medium enterprises. (Source: SA SME Fund)
Seedstars World (Switzerland): A global venture capital firm based in Switzerland. Startups from a growing number of emerging markets — including South Africa — are invited to pitch and take part in the international competition where they’ll stand a chance to win up to US$1 million in equity investment. (Source: Ventureburn)
Silvertree Holdings (Cape Town): An investment, holding and operating company for early and mid-stage startups that use tech to reach African consumers. (Source: Silvertree Holdings)
Singularity Investments (Lagos): A private investment company led by one of Africa’s most prominent and successful entrepreneurs, Issam Darwish, Founder, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of IHS Towers. They look to invest in, and support, dynamic entrepreneurs and teams that lead disruptive technology, media and telecommunications companies which are building the future. (Source: Singularity Investments)
The People’s Fund (Johannesburg): A Johannesburg-based crowdfunding platform. (Source: Ventureburn)
Uprise.Africa (Cape Town): South Africa’s first equity crowdfunding platform, launched in October 2017. In January 2019 the Uprise.Africa’s head revealed that the platform was mulling 159 deals valued at nearly R1 billion collectively. (Source: Ventureburn)
88 Business Collective (Cape Town): A program based in Cape Town focusing on support for female-founded businesses. (Source: 88 Business Collective)
CiTi (Cape Town): The Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi) is Africa’s oldest tech incubator. Working with government, academia, business and society, CiTi promotes the inclusive growth of the digital economy. (Source: CiTi)
Cortex Hub (East London): An ICT business incubator that aims to create global players through leading research and development, and an incubation platform that will activate, nurture and support technology innovation. It achieves this by forming strong partnerships with universities, ICT providers, entrepreneurs and other business incubators to create a robust entrepreneurship ecosystem within the Eastern Cape region. (Source: Ventureburn)
Head Start (Online): A Microsoft programme launched in November 2018 providing startups with access to wide ranging skills development, development resources, access to coaches and mentors as well as its customer network. In addition, the programme also provides participants with access to Microsoft’s customer network and its Azure cloud computing platform. (Source: Ventureburn)
Impact Amplifier (Cape Town): Impact Amplifier provides investment readiness and acceleration services to impact businesses, which combine financial success with positive social and environmental change; assisting impact investors to source and invest into compelling opportunities; and delivering supplier development and sustainability advisory services to corporations and public institutions. (Source: Impact Amplifier)
Injini (Cape Town): An edtech incubator that selects a cohort of 8 ambitious edtech startups from across Africa to join a 4-month program. (Source: Injini)
LaunchLab (Stellenbosch): LaunchLab is Stellenbosch University’s start-up incubator, founded for university spin-outs. It also incubates startups from the startup ecosystem and partner universities in South Africa and Africa. (Source: LaunchLab)
MEST Incubator Cape Town (Cape Town): A shared workspace where leading startups, entrepreneurs and members of the pan-African tech community can come together to meet, work and build. (Source: MEST Incubator Cape Town)
MyGrowthFund (Johannesburg): Includes an accelerator, incubators, masterclasses & investments. (Source: MyGrowthFund)
Propella (Port Elizabeth): Focuses on companies building Smart City Solutions and Industry 4.0 Technologies. Propella provides four types of support: technology and/or technology platform development - prototyping testing and preparation for scale; business support; customer insights and access to markets within the growing Propella network; working on growing entrepreneurial ability in order to grow the business. (Source: Propella)
Raizcorp (Sandton): Raizcorp is Africa's most successful, established for-profit business incubator model, supporting 500+ entrepreneurs. (Source: Raizcorp)
Riversands Incubation Hub (Johannesburg): The Riversands initiative was launched in 2015 thanks to a private-public partnership between Century Property Developments and National Treasury’s Jobs Fund. Established and start-up small businesses are accommodated at Riversands for a period of up to three years in subsidised premises with access to business support services. The campus is currently home to over 170 small businesses. (Source: Riversands Incubation Hub)
RLabs (Cape Town): A Cape Town-based incubator providing entrepreneurs — particularly those working on solutions with a social impact — with a shared space to develop their ideas with help from an experienced developer and entrepreneurship network. (Source: Ventureburn)
Sw7 (Sandton): The Sw7 platform is for B2B technology businesses that are looking for support as they launch, grow and scale without the requirement to give up equity or to join a formal “programme”. Open to businesses at every stage, you can sign up at any time and stay for as long as you need. (Source: Sw7)
Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct (Johannesburg): Owned by the University of The Witwatersrand, Tshimologong is where the incubation of Digital entrepreneurs, commercialization of research and the development of high-level digital skills for students, working professionals and unemployed youth takes place. (Source: Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct)
AccelerateHer (Sandton): A bespoke, fully-funded, three month business accelerator for women entrepreneurs, designed to fast track the development of their businesses taking into account the specific and unique challenges women face. (Source: Seed Engine)
Founders Factory Africa (Johannesburg): Founders Factory Africa is a local branch of a global accelerator that plans to build and scale 140 startups across the continent within five years.
(Source: Founders Factory Africa)
Grindstone Accelerator (Johannesburg): An accelerator program run by venture capital firm Knife Capital.
(Source: Grindstone Accelerator)
I’M IN Accelerator (Sandton): Seeks to launch African owned, high growth technology startups into the South African technology sector by providing opportunities to technically apt entrepreneurs with limited access to resources. I’M IN partners with entrepreneurs who have commercially viable application technologies by facilitating access to seed funding of (up to) R1 million through early stage equity, in conjunction with business development support and one-on-one mentorship from industry specialists.
(Source: I’M IN Accelerator)
MAN Impact Accelerator (Johannesburg): The MAN Impact Accelerator is built to scale social ventures in transport and logistics with a considerable impact on society.
(Source: MAN Impact Accelerator)
mLab Southern Africa (Cape Town, Tshwane): Launched as a mobile technology accelerator with the aim of supporting innovative new startups and to unlock the mobile apps economy. Since then, it has grown into an open innovation lab including programmes that support skills development through it own and partner code academies, and facilitated co-creation seasons with industry and public sector partners. Innovative app startups, including those who focus on mobile, Internet of Things, CryptoTech, HealthTech and wearable devices, can apply to participate in this accelerator and will have an opportunity to qualify for an early stage development & validation grant of up to R500,000.00 (Five Hundred Thousand Rand) plus Lab support. (Source: mLab Southern Africa)
New Ventures Studio (Cape Town): An accelerator targeting young entrepreneurs ages 18 to 35-years old. The program offers seed capital of R100, 000 in start-up services in exchange for 20% equity. (Source: New Ventures Studio)
Startupbootcamp AfriTech (Cape Town): Startupbootcamp AfriTech is a leading accelerator focused on high-growth startups in blockchain, connected devices, payment solutions, capital markets and asset management, integrated supply chain, e-commerce, retailtech, insurtech, alternative financing, identity management, digital connectivity, data and behavioural analytics and enabling technologies. It runs a three-month accelerator programme offering select companies €15 000 equity investment, free working space, access to a network of mentors and investors. (Source: Startupbootcamp AfriTech)
AlphaCode (Johannesburg): A space meant for financial services entrepreneurs. (Source: AlphaCode)
JoziHub (Johannesburg): JoziHub is a co-creation space in Johannesburg dedicated to creating sustainable change in Africa. (Source: JoziHub)
Seedspace Cape Town (Cape Town): Seedspace Cape Town is the place to work from a private office or a desk in the coworking area. Located in the CBD on the historical Church Square, the biggest entrepreneurs hub in Cape Town, launched by Seedstars, is ready to welcome you in the entrepreneurs community. (Source: Seedspace)
The Innovation Hub (Pretoria): The Innovation Hub, the innovation agency of the Gauteng Province is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency. It was established by the Gauteng Provincial Government through its Department of Economic Development to promote economic development and competitiveness of Gauteng through fostering innovation and entrepreneurship. (Source: The Innovation Hub)
Africa Energy Indaba (Cape Town): The Africa Energy Indaba Conference discusses, debates and seeks solutions to enable adequate energy generation across Africa. (Source: Africa Energy Indaba)
AfricArena (Cape Town): AfricArena accelerates the growth of tech startups and the ecosystems in which they operate by providing a platform where they can share their business model, gain valuable networks and attain funding. (Source: AfricArena)
Heavy Chef (Country-wide): Holds regular entrepreneurship-themed events in Cape Town and Johannesburg which include masterclasses and fireside chats. (Source: Heavy Chef)
Industrial Development Corporation (IDC): A national development finance institution set up to promote economic growth and industrial development. It is owned by the South African government under the supervision of the Economic Development Department. (Source: IDC)
Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda): The Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) is an agency of the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD) that provides non-financial support to small enterprises and cooperatives. Seda has by far the biggest network of offices in the country, with 55 branches including 46 co-location points. Seda has presence in some townships and rural areas and has programmes targeting youth and women. Seda supports 56 Technology Incubation Centres across the country, affording start-ups and new disruptive innovations a well-equipped and protected environment in which to develop and grow for a period of three years. (Source: National Government of South Africa)
Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme (THRIP): THRIP aims to boost South African industry by supporting research and technology development and enhancing the numbers of appropriately-skilled people. THRIP brings together the best of SA's researchers, academics and industry players. It offers a 50:50 cost-sharing grant, for a maximum of R8 million per year, across any number of projects. (Source: DTI)
Technology Innovation Agency (TIA): TIA is a national public entity that serves as the key institutional intervention to bridge the innovation chasm between research and development and commercialisation. TIA’s focus is on technology development; from proof of concept to the pre commercialisation. To achieve this, TIA established the following funds: the Seed Fund, the Technology Development Fund and the Commercialisation Support Fund. (Source: TIA)
SABAN: Launched in 2016, The South African Business Angel Network is a non-profit industry association dedicated to growing angel investing in South Africa. (Source: SABAN)
SABTIA: The Southern African Business and Technology Incubation Association is a non-profit private association formed to promote and coordinate business incubation in Southern Africa. It was initially set up in 2005 to serve as the incubator industry standards, practitioner and members association, by providing the dissemination of knowledge, skills and expertise to all incubators nationally, continentally and internationally through partnerships with stakeholders like STP. (Source: SABTIA)
The Shuttleworth Foundation: The Shuttleworth Foundation is a small social investor that provides funding to dynamic leaders who are at the forefront of social change. We look for social innovators who are helping to change the world for the better and could benefit from a social investment model with a difference. We identify amazing people, give them a fellowship grant, and multiply the money they put into their own projects by a factor of ten or more. (Source: The Shuttleworth Foundation)