Digital All Stars is a series of articles which aims to celebrate the best of South African digital. The articles, which will appear on Memeburn and Ventureburn, recognise and celebrate South Africa’s best digital entrepreneurs, business people, advertisers, and media professionals among others.
The All Stars listed in the articles are compiled using a combination of our editorial team’s own knowledge, that of experts in the fields covered by each article, as well as public vote.
There’s a variety of talent in the South African startup space. Each and every year we’re seeing more and more interesting startups coming out of the country.
In this article, we feature some of the best SA entrepreneurs under 40 who are doing big things*, whether they’re gaining traction, have several companies under their belt, or have incredible rounds of funding. The names featured alphabetically by startup and multiple entrepreneurs in the same startup have been grouped together.
As someone with over 14 years of experience in the hygiene sector (at the likes of Sto-fo and Spectank), Crispin Russell went on to found ArcAqua in 2010 and taking on the role of CEO, later becoming the CTO in 2014.
The startup produces an “ozone-based” cleaning solution which is able to convert tap water into a sanitiser. ArcAqua has attracted investment from Invenfin and was a 2014 finalist in PWC’s Vision to Reality awards.
As Domestly’s co-founder and COO, Thatoyaona Marumo holds a tertiary business education degree from both Stellenbosch University and the University of Pretoria. This businessman has been a radio presenter at SHINDA Edutainment, co-founder of Nucleus, and vice president of Enactus among other things.
With a Bachelor and Masters degrees in Chemical Engineering from the University of Stellenbosch, Berno Potgieter has interned at Aspen Pharmacare, been COO of Fumana, a packing engineer in Unilever, and a chemical engineer at his university.
On-demand cleaning service Domestly, is easily one of the most high-profile startups in recent months, though their traction in the startup scene has been questioned. The service connects homeowners with domestic workers, effectively delivering an on-demand cleaning service. Domestly also enjoys significant backing from entrepreneurial heavyweights such as Hannes van Rensburg and Hein Carse. It has gone on to win the grand prize at the 2016 MTN App of the Year awards.
Having achieved much over the past few years, Ngoveni has been listed in the Mail & Guardian’s 2015 Top 200 Young South Africans list, and the Sowetan Top 100 Young Bosses in 2015 and 2016. He was previously a coach lab graduate at The Innovation Hub, and studio assistant at mLab South Africa, among other things. His latest endeavour, a skills development and training organisation, Geekulcha, is making quite the splash in Gauteng, being founded by Ngoveni back in 2013.
Geekulcha facilitates tech/entrepreneurship courses, project management training and other forms of skills development. And in a lovely touch, the group also regularly plays host to hackathons.
As the co-founder and head of product at Giraffe, Shafin Anwarsha holds a post graduate in actuarial science from UCT. He has worked as an analyst and associate at Delta Partners, and an actuary at SolveCo Actuarial Services.
Anish Shivdasani is the co-founder and CEO of this recruitment platform. A Cambridge graduate, Shivdasani has been a research fellow at Stanford University School of Medicine, strategy consultant at Accenture, and principal at Delta Partners.
Founded in 2014, Giraffe has been on the rise since its launch. Two months after its launch, the startup reported it had reached almost 10 000 job seekers. The startup went on to win the South African leg of the Seedstars World challenge in 2015 and later take home overall first place, netting them a US$500 000 equity investment prize earlier this year. It was also listed as one of Ventureburn’s top 5 tech startups in SA of 2015.
The founder of education and skills development startup Got Game, Arthur Wade Anderson has already made a splash, earning a spot on the Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans list and having held positions at MTN, Hewlett-Packard, Blacode Networks, and Green Outdoor Gyms.
The most prominent project is perhaps its Diepsloot-based Got Game Digital Hub. Being equipped with tablets and internet access, the hub is used as a safe study space for students, while also being managed by students from the community. Furthermore, job seekers can upload their CVs and search for jobs via the hub’s digital platform.
One of the younger individuals on this list, Alex Fourie started iFix in 2007 out of his dormitory room at Stellenbosch University. In 2006 has was the CFO of Rhythm Music Store and became the founder and CEO of RiCharge from 2011 onwards.
With almost 30 stores opened to date, Fourie’s company has become the go-to third-party solution for Apple device repairs in South Africa. In fact, it celebrated its 200 000th customer repair in March last year and is one of the most popular repair chains in the country. The company was recently rebranded as weFix.
The founder and driving force behind the non-profit Code4CT, Emma Dicks has been part of a number of initiatives from Innovate South Africa to UCT’s Upstarts Social Innovation Challenge. She also holds a Bachelor of Business Science, Marketing from UCT, and has even received a Young Leaders Award from the Queen of England at Buckingham Palace.
Code4CT is a project that teaches girls to code as a means of solving community problems, but also with a view to building websites, games and more. The initiative also offers career guidance and general skills training (such as pitching an idea and problem-solving).
Shana Kay is the co-founder of IntelliCred and one of 11 women invited to study tech-entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. She was also listed in the Top 200 Young People to Take to Lunch in South Africa by the Mail & Guardian, and nominated for SA’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government (MIW) Award. Kay graduated from UCT with a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce, majoring in information systems.
IntelliCred is an online protection system which monitors, detects and prevents spam, online impersonations, brand-jacking, phishing and much more.
Not only has Riaan Conradie regrettably lost his eye to Retinoblastoma, a rare malignant tumour of the retina, he’s used this to motivate him in his life’s work. He graduated from the Stellenbosch University with a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and is the Executive Founder of LifeQ.
LifeQ makes use of computational systems biology to monitor the human body, recording personal physiology and health, thus allowing medical specialists and organisations to better understand and manage human health. The startup launched globally at CES in 2015 and partnered with Garmin this year.
An electromechanical engineering graduate from UCT, Ntuthuko Shezi has gone on to do amazing things in the startup sphere. He achieved a Certificate in Business and Entrepreneurship, Business Administration and Management through the University of Notre Dame — Mendoza College of Business.
Shezi is the founder and CEO of Livestock Wealth, a crowd-farming company that allows any individual to own cattle and earn an income from selling the offspring to the organic beef market. It was part of a group awarded R4-million during a BEE pitching event by AlphaCode and Merrill Lynch South Africa.
Trevor Gosling‘s last venture, 5ounces, was acquired by Naspers in 2013 where he continued to serve as its CEO after the acquisition. He also graduated from the University of Pretoria as a Chartered Accountant. He has held positions at Goldman Sachs, KPMG, and Rand Merchant Bank.
Gosling is the CEO and co-founder of LulaLend, a B2B micro-lending platform which uses unique scoring technology that takes at least two to 12 working days to be approved. It was a semi-finalist in the Innotribe Startup Challenge for 2015.
This social enterprise addresses the issue of fires in informal settlements using early-warning systems. The startup made headlines in 2015 by winning Chivas Regal’s Win the Right Way competition, netting it US$50 000 and a trip to Silicon Valley to compete against other startups. It was named a finalist in the 2015 Index Awards and scored a further US$75 ooo from Chivas Regal.
Nic Haralambous is one of the most prolific entrepreneurs, having started ten companies, such as Motribe (which exited to Mxit) and Resolve Mobile, giving him valuable entrepreneurial lessons in the process. Haralambous graduated from Rhodes University with a BA in journalism and politics.
Talya Goldberg graduated from UCT with a degree in Business Science and Marketing as well as completed a short course in Gamification — Coursera and Marketing at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
Goldberg also worked on social media campaigns for companies such as Mr. Delivery and Sunglass Hut. She’s also responsible for starting the TGTHER blog network, Shades of Gold and BBLOGCLASS. Goldberg is the co-founder and Marketing Manager of Nifty250, an online store dedicated to reviving photographic print culture. This online printing service connects directly to your Instagram account and lets you select the images you wish to print with two formats to choose from which are then couriered to directly to you.
Lucas Adams grew up in an artistic family; his grandfather Boet van der Hoven was an incredible artist from the Karoo who gifted David Kramer his first pair of vellies (veld shoes). He tried his own hand at being an artist, producing canvas photographs for sale at the Royal Eatery and for exhibition purposes. He’s also had a part in the success of Kraftisan, a South African design and manufacturing brand. Currently, he’s the co-founder and CEO at Nifty250.
Both are currently on the Superbalist 100 list.
Graduating from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University with a National Diploma in IT, Justin Drenan was well-equipped to take on the startup world with his venture, ParcelNinja. His company received global interest, specifically from UK investors C5 Holdings, which invested R20-million. But before Parcel Ninja, Drenan had a hand in starting the e-store, WantItAll.
ParcelNinja is an e-commerce warehouse which allows you to drop your stock at one of the smart-warehouse locations, allowing customers to then order via ParcelNinja’s own systems. The order is then picked and packaged in your branded packaging and delivered to the customer.
Kevin Tucker, a BSc graduate in Computer Science at UCT, successfully put PriceCheck on the small-business map. After selling to Naspers, Tucker decided to get his project back with the help of Silvertree Internet Holdings, a South African business incubator.
Tucker is the founder and CEO of PriceCheck, a product and financial service platform which allows customers to compare products from thousands of stores.
A man with marketing smarts, Neo Lekgabo held the position of senior marketing manager for MultiChoice Africa for over seven years, as well as marketing manager for the SABC for two years. He holds numerous academic accomplishments, such as a Masters in Business Administration from Henley Business School and a Marketing Management Diploma from the Tshwane University of Technology.
Lekgabo’s own venture, Sendr, is a point-to-point delivery service for small goods and items. You just enter a pickup address and a delivery point using the mobile app. It grew from just 10 motorbikes in October 2015 to over 100 drivers by March 2016.
A co-founder of SnapScan, Kobus Ehlers has a BA in Value and Policy Studies as well as an MPhil in decision-making, knowledge dynamics, and values from the Stellenbosch University. He also managed FireID, a Mxit money product which managed to sign up 160 000 users in three months. Couple this with his consultancy, strategy development, and big data research and you have one busy entrepreneur.
SnapScan may be one of the more controversial entries on this list. The fintech company partnered with Standard Bank in 2014 and some may not consider it to be a startup any longer. The cashless mobile payment system has been implemented by the likes of parking guards and food trucks, teamed up with PriceCheck, and even tested online payments with Superbalist. In 2013, it took home the MTN App of the Year Award along with a R50 000 cash prize.
A graduate of Rhodes University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and an entrepreneurial veteran, Dave Blakey was the youngest person in the world to receive his A+ Computer Certification when he was just 13 years old. Since launching Snapt in 2012, the company has grown by 400% a year and services clients from over 50 countries.
Snapt was launched in 2012 and since then has acquired 1000 global clients representing 10 000 licenses. It recently raised R15-million in funding from Convergence Partners, and opened offices in Atlanta, USA last year.
Aisha Pandor holds a B.Sc in microbiology and biochemistry as well as a PhD in human genetics from UCT. Before co-founding SweepSouth, she was an associate in management at UCT and a business analyst at Accenture. She was also included in the Mail & Guardian Top 200 Young South Africans list of 2012. Pandor is a recipient of a SA Women in Science Award as well as a former molecular geneticist.
Alen Ribic completed his tertiary education with UNISA and went on to be a software engineer at Safmarine, a senior IT specialist at IBM, and the CEO of Eldo Software. Alen Ribic is also an avid software engineer and tech entrepreneur as well as an education activist.
For a startup that’s only two years old, SweepSouth has managed to achieve quite a lot. During its launch year it received an undisclosed amount of funding from the likes of Newtown Partners and won the SiMODiSA Get-Up Start-Up pitching award. In 2015, it was the first South African startup accepted into the Silicon Valley-based accelerator programme 500 Startups, and was awarded US$125 000 in seed funding. In 2016, it managed to raise R10-million in funding from the First Rand Group and Vumela Fund.
A graduate of Rhodes University with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, Lauren Edwards was also included in the Superbalist 100 and Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans in 2015.
Edwards is the co-founder and Managing Editor at VoiceMap, an app that allows you to choose stories written by local journalists and tour guides that combine an audio account to your GPS coordinates. The app also allows users to audibly record the historical events of a location and sell them on VoiceMap.
The co-founder of Wumdrop, Simon Hartley is no stranger to startups. He previously experimented with an on-demand grilled cheese company, Le Grande Fromage, and a subscription service for diapers, WumWum. In 2010, Hartley was even a reporter at our sister website Memeburn and on Ventureburn, and was the managing editor at 2oceansvibe Media. Hartley also graduated from UCT with a Bachelor’s degree in Media Production.
Wumdrop is a delivery service that’ll pick up and drop anything for you anytime and anywhere using the app or website. In 2015, the startup won MTN’s Best Enterprise App and Best Overall App of the year award, and went on to receive over R1-million in investment — the bulk coming from angel investor Ernst Hertzog from Action Heroes Ventures. Wumdrop was one of three winners crowned at the 2016 Seedstars World Cape Town pitching event.
He’s a young graduate with an Honours degree in actuarial science from the University of the Witwatersrand. Wattrus is also responsible for making sure Yoco remains compliant with any and all regulations. He also served as a strategy consultant with Monitor Group and a venture developer with RocketInternet.
Carl Wazen spent eight years in the Middle East and Africa, growing the footprint of various mobile operators.
Besides being a co-founder of Yoco, he’s also the commercial director. Along with his team, he’s responsible for growing Yoco by anticipating marketing trends and angling Yoco into a position to meet those trends head on.
Maphai was a part of the incubation team that set up jumia.com.ng, which has grown to become one of the largest e-tailers in Africa. Katlego Maphai focused his career on meeting mobile telecommunications, broadband, and emerging market requirements. He also did a stint with Delta Partners, an advisory investment firm.
Mapai is also a co-founder and Managing Director of Yoco.
A business and computer science major from UCT, Lungisa Matshoba is an experienced developer who helped develop mobile and server technologies with Scala Python and Objective C. He’s also the co-founder of Yeigo Communications, which focuses on VoIP communications which was sold to Swiss telecoms brand Telfree.
He’s the Product and Technology Director of Yoco and leads the development of Yoco’s products.
Rapelang Rabana is a Business Science Bachelor’s degree holder as well as a Computer Science Honours graduate who developed innovative VoIP and IP communications systems. Rabana, along with a few classmates, started Yeigo Communications shortly after she completed her studies. She was also featured on the cover of Forbes Africa.
Rabana is the founder and CEO of Rekindle Learning, an education technology company that believes in using the transformative powers of computer and mobile devices to overcome educational inefficiencies.
Previous Ventureburn Digital All Stars articles:
This Digital All Stars article has been put together with the help of Graham van der Made (staff writer, Memeburn), Stuart Thomas (Memeburn alumnus), Matthew Alexander (junior writer, Memeburn), Hadlee Simons (editor, Memeburn), Jacques Coetzee (trend analyst, Lacuna Innovation), Llew Claasen (managing partner, Newtown Partners), Sarah Rice, Mich Atagana (head of communications and public affairs, Google South Africa), Ian Merrington (CEO, CiTi), Neo Lekgabo (CEO, Sendr), Vuyisa Qabaka (founding partner, Entrepreneur Traction), Naz Saunders (head of ecosystem development and management, CiTi), Guillaume De Smedt (global community director, Startup Grind), Stephen van der Heijden (Stellenbosch Digital), and public submissions.
Disclaimer: Neo Lekgabo, who appears on the list, is also a judge. However, we want to assure our readers that he has had no influence over his name appearing on the list.
*If you feel there is a startup we missed then please email firstname.lastname@example.org. All entries will be taken into consideration by our panel of judges.