January 13, 2014

Startups Made in South Africa: 10 Success Stories from the Rainbow Nation

In the past weeks, all eyes were on South Africa, which has lost its political father and an international icon. But Nelson Mandela’s legacy of a new and stronger South Africa lives on, especially in a new generation of young entrepreneurs. When we supported the first StartupBus Africa, we were overwhelmed by the positive and enthusiastic reactions from the international press. Even more pleasant news is the fact that the local startup community in South Africa, where the longest part of the journey was to take place, was a thriving fan base. Since I have been commuting between Berlin and Cape Town for almost three years and, thus, Mashup Communications also has an international office in the Mother City, it is time to have a closer look at this startup scene, its challenges, ideas, and protagonists. Let’s start with a surprising fact: an international long-term study by RSM (2007-2011) shows that the growth rate of newly founded companies in developing countries is 5.8 percent, which is way above the average of the G7 states (only 0.8 percent). A small bitter pill: South Africa is far behind Brazil, China, India, and Russia. The biggest obstacle seems to be the funding issue, as shown in this infographic. Nevertheless, the euphoric mood on the African continent is unbroken. Besides South Africa, companies from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and many more African countries are making headlines. To get a clearer idea of the potential and creativity evolving in the rainbow nation, I want to introduce a variety of aspiring and successful startups from South Africa.

moWoza (Mobile Commerce)

moWoza was founded by Suzanna Moreira in 2009 making it possible for so-called migrant workers, who come to the cities for work, to deliver everyday commodities in a faster, safer and cheaper way to their families, who live in rural areas. They only submit an order on the mobile platform or via a moWoza agent. At the destination point, their family as well as a local merchant will be informed about the delivery. Thereby nobody is relying on sending long-distance freight under unsafe circumstances and price corruption anymore.


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moWoza: Mobile Shopping from Suzana Moreira on Vimeo.

Mxit (Mobile Social Network)

Mxit is the largest mobile social network in Africa and a free instant messenger. In South Africa alone, there are more than 6.5 million monthly users, who consume and share text messages and digital entertainment content on over 8,000 different kinds of devices

Zapacab (Mobile Taxi Bookings)

The MyTaxi of South Africa was just launched this summer. When confronted with the growing presence of Uber in their country, the founders of Zapacab emphasize especially their local expertise and their experiences in working together with local drivers.


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Khaya Power (Re-chargeable Portable Solar Battery)

Khaya Power’s mission is to bring electricity to households in remote and poor areas. The solar-powered 5-liter battery provides enough electricity for small devices like phones, lights, or radios. A special bonus in this list is this enchanting “company profile”, made by the founder Billy Hadlow and his team.

Khaya Power

Yola (Website Kit)

Yola was created by Vinny Lingham in Cape Town in 2007 and enables by now more than 8 million users around the world to create their own websites with just a few clicks.

Gyft (Mobile Gift Cards)

After Yola, Vinny Lingham continued his serial entrepreneurship by founding Gyft. Even though this new company is now officially based in San Francisco, it still carries the signature of its South African founder. In September this year, the startup closed a financing round of 5 million US dollars and already works together with more than 300 merchants.


Eduze (Content Cloud in a Box)

Eduze wants to make mobile content accessible to everyone in a simple and fast way. They work together with shopping malls, restaurants, etc., which can offer their customers free Eduze content via a specially designed WiFi box.


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Eduze Pitch Video from Charlie Beuthin on Vimeo.

Obami (Social Learning)

The e-learning market in Africa is growing by 15.2 percent each year. Obami, founded by Barbara Mallinson, was launched in 2010 and since then received many renowned awards. Her goal is to combine social networking with e-learning by enabling teachers and students to connect and cooperate on the basis of digital content; a Facebook for schools.


Yappo (Mobile Payment)

Stuart Minnaar, who is also one of the initiators of StartupBus Africa, founded Yappo, which is a mobile extension of his already established student community Catered to the needs of this specific user base, Yappo makes it possible to pay, send money, and benefit from special deals via mobile phones.


Real Time Wine (Wine Discovery App)

Not to be left out when talking about typical South African products is an app that let’s you discover and review the great variety of South African as well as international wines, which is exactly what Real Time Wine does.


Cover Photo: Jesse Abrams – jabramsphoto.comArtikelbild

Miriam Rupp on EmailMiriam Rupp on Linkedin
Miriam Rupp
Miriam nimmt die Rolle des Kapitäns der Agentur ein und führt diese visionär, aber auch gut geplant und strukturiert, durch die Zeiten des Medienwandels. Sie manövriert bekannte wie auch neue Gewässer mit Begeisterung. Wer sich darauf einlässt, kann eine turbulente, mitreißende Fahrt erleben.
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