7 South Africans behind some of the biggest startup successes in the US

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Nope, we’re not talking about PayPal-Tesla-SpaceX founder Elon Musk, or Thawte and Ubuntu main man, Mark Shuttleworth. The people showcased here are behind some of biggest and most admired startups in the world, and yet they remain relatively unknown beyond the confines of Silicon Valley.

Earlier this year we took a look at some notable US-based startups founded by immigrants. Now, we’re putting the spotlight squarely on founders from South Africa.

An article like this serves as a motivator for aspiring entrepreneurs, but it also brings to mind inevitable questions about South Africa’s leaking talent pool. According to South Africa’s ambassador to the US, Ebrahim Rasool, there are were a mere 83 000 South Africans living in the US at the end of 2012 — and yet the successes accomplished by this group are great.

Earlier this year, an article in Forbes remarked how entrepreneurs in developed countries, like the United States and Western Europe, typically start with a brilliant idea. In sharp contrast, fledgling innovators in emerging markets like South Africa begin by first figuring out how to gain access to a computer and the internet.

Yes, entrepreneurs beyond the developed world face complex challenges and yet, the complexity of the problems breed high quality innovators that have no choice but to rise above the challenges. Perhaps it’s the reason why, given a conducive environment, entrepreneurs from emerging markets, and South Africa in particular, soar.

Let’s take a look at some of the notable startups, backed by South Africans, that have grown into tall trees on American soil.

Notable SA-born entrepreneurs in the USA

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