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All posts by Stephen Timm: Editor

  • How WooThemes built an over $30m business using a remote work team

    It sounds hard to believe, but Adriaan Pienaar, Magnus Jepson, and Mark Forrester -- the founders of WordPress plugin maker Woo Themes -- only met for the first time face-to-face 16 months after registering their business. "We hadn't even spoken on the phone in that time," recalls Forrester, who met Jepson and Pienaar online in 2007, while based in London. Pienaar was living in Cape Town and Jepson, in Stavanger, Norway at the time. After registering the business in 2008, the three would later base the startup in Cape Town. They grew WooThemes to 55 staff members across 20 countries by...

  • Tired of corporate job South African cruises with fellow digital nomads

    After 20 years in the corporate world Samantha Wolhuter quit her job as a creative director. The first thing she did was take a cruise with digital nomads. "I was tired of going to work every day to a job I didn’t particularly enjoy for a company I didn’t believe in," says Wolhunter. After searching online for information about digital nomads she happened upon Nomad Cruise, a company that organises cruise trips for remote workers and entrepreneurs. She applied right away. While she was accepted to go on a December trip she was not ready to take the plunge and so she waited. "I got an email in...

  • Just 26% of business loans by SA banks go to SMEs reveals OECD survey

    Just 26% of business lending by banks in South Africa go to startups and SMEs, which is lower than in a number of other rich and emerging economies, a survey released by the OECD yesterday revealed. The finding is one of a number presented by the OECD, which said the country needed to boost entrepreneurship -- which is low compared to other emerging economies -- if it is to create more jobs. While South Africa's level of SME loans as a percentage of business lending by banks is similar to that of Colombia (26%) and higher than the US (22.1%), UK (22.5%) or Chile...

  • Two years on tax exemption for grants to small businesses fails to take off

    More than two years after it came into effect, a tax exemption for entities approved by the SA Revenue Services (Sars) that provide grant funding to small businesses has failed to take off. The tax exemption has been in effect since March 2015, yet only a single entity has applied for and received approval from Sars commissioner Tom Moyane (pictured above, left with Finance minister Malusi Gigaba) to operate as a small business funding entity. Under Section 10 (1) (cQ) of the Income Tax Act such entities that provide small businesses, including startups, with grants have since March 2015 been exempt from paying tax. The provision was included in the...

  • Grotech rebranding as Kalon Venture Partners to avoid marketplace confusion

    South African Section 12J venture capital (VC) company Grotech has rebranded as Kalon Venture Partners. Kalon CEO Clive Butkow said the rebranding was to avoid being seen as associated with another Section 12J VC company, Grovest. "The confusion in the marketplace was that we were an offshoot of Grovest and that's where the initial idea for a rebrand came from," explained Butkow. This, he added, was partly driven by Malcom Segal being chairman of both companies. In addition Butkow is a non-executive director of Grovest. He said Segal will continue to chair Kalon. Another factor driving the rebrand was that when the company was...

  • Innovator taps over R220 000 in support from CSIR grassroots programme

    Nkosana Madi has been able to tap over R220 000 in training and support from a Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) programme that aims to help innovators from townships and rural areas. Madi (pictured above), who is from KwaThema near Springs in Gauteng, has developed a motorised bike, the Fla'va. He says the CSIR, through its Grassroots Innovators Programme, is helping to fund an auto-CAD and design-modelling course he is undertaking. Since July last year the CSIR has also provided him with an engineer to advise him on the kinds of tools he should use to manufacture the bike and has...

  • Egyptian wins $100 000 Innovation Prize for Africa with smart magnetic bearings

    Egyptian Aly El-Shafei was last night awarded the Innovation Prize for Africa's grand prize of $100 000 for his innovative magnetic bearings which help increase energy generation. The competition is run by the African Innovation Foundation. Shafei (pictured above), whose prize was presented by the President of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo at a ceremony at Movenpick Ambassador Hotel in Accra, Ghana, said he plans to use the prize money to further develop his product which he patented in the US in 2010. Instead of the normal oil bearing, his patented innovation – SEMAJIB – includes a magnetic bearing embedded in the oil bearing, which will...

  • Don’t rush to get backers, African Innovation Foundation head tells hubs

    Those running tech hubs in poor areas of Africa should not rush to get corporate and government sponsors, but should rather grow their hubs organically and produce success stories before getting outside partners, says entrepreneur Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais. Speaking on the sidelines of the 2017 Innovation Prize for Africa event in Accra, Ghana, Bastos de Morais, who is also the founder of the African Innovation Foundation, detailed his new project, an innovation hub in the Cazenga slum in Luanda, Angola. The 49-year-old Swiss entrepreneur founded Fabrica de Sabao, a former soap factory, in 2015. It includes a co-working space, a MakerSpace with equipment such as...

  • 6 drone startups in South Africa to look out for [Digital All Stars]

    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. In this piece we take a look at some interesting startups involved in developing drones and drone software solutions. Aerobotics Aerobotics was started in 2014 by Benji Meltzer (pictured above, left) and James Paterson. Using artificial intelligence (AI), Aerobotics deploys drones to help farmers in South Africa, Australia and the UK to collect data and to detect leaks and determine whether crops are receiving too little...

  • SA’s first equity crowdfunding platform to launch later this month

    South Africa's first equity crowdfunding platform will be unveiled by ThundaFund founder Patrick Schofield in a soft launch later this month, Schofield confirmed today. Schofield did not want to comment on the launch of the platform, which is expected to take place in Johannesburg, saying only "at this stage, no comment, treading lightly right now :-)" in an email to Ventureburn. However a source said the soft launch is aimed at creating awareness on the platform to those in the media and to startups in search of equity finance. The platform is expected to initially list six startups or projects, the source said. South Africa's first equity...