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Startups

  • 2012 startups in review: funding, competition winners and acquisitions

    Despite a struggling global economy and a notable downturn in Series A funding in the US, 2012 left a veritable smorgasbord of startup deals, competitions and acquisitions in its wake. With our birds-eye view of the activity in emerging markets, especially sub-Saharan Africa, we wrote about many of this year's deals. We covered startup competitions and talked to their finalists and we watched with glee as startups successfully completed mega government deals and got snapped up by bigger fish. New incubators popped up, helping brilliant early-stage startups take root. New venture funds came into existence and existing ones became larger, expanding...

  • 2012’s top 10 most popular startups on Ventureburn

    Which were the 10 most popular startups on Ventureburn this year? We're glad you asked. To compile this list we trawled through our logs and found the startup stories that generated the most views. Let us know what your favourite startups were. Mimiboard Umuntu Media's Mimiboards seemed to grab people's attention in a big way. We took a look at how the geographically sensitive, virtual noticeboards form part of an emerging publishing platform, social network and advertising empire that earned Umuntu Media a US$1 million seed investment late last year. Härnu We found Härnu to be something unique and called it "map-based social...

  • Music startups: your entire product is probably just a feature

    If startups have a one in 10 chance of surviving, music startups’ odds must be one in 10 000. The industry’s most famous success story, Napster, is also its most famous failure. And aside from Last.fm, which sold to CBS in 2007 for US$280-million, few have successfully exited since. It’s a prickly, difficult industry that’s as attractive as it is impossible. Peter Kafka noted as much last week when he questioned the logic of anyone launching a music startup in 2012, citing the incredibly high burn rate it takes to get to any sort of scale. This is true — the cost...

  • 4 key survival tips for early-stage startups

    Regardless of where you live, starting up a business and growing it through its early stages is difficult. As the chief strategy officer for SoftLayer, I’ve had the opportunity to mentor hundreds (if not thousands) of entrepreneurs and startups who were selected to join our Catalyst Startup Program, so I often find myself responding to questions about everything from business mechanics and corporate culture in Canada to conflict resolution and branding in Europe. Every startup faces unique trials and tribulations, but I’ve noticed that there is a universality to the challenge of keeping a new business alive through the...

  • Seed Engine: a lifeline for idea-stage ventures

    While the US is seeing a downturn in Series A tech startup funding, 2012 has been a bumper year for seed/angel deals. In more risk averse arenas like South Africa, the feeling is that investors have traditionally been reluctant to throw money at idea-stage startups without active revenue streams. That's what makes Seed Engine, a new early-stage startup accelerator and incubator, so intriguing. In exchange for equity, 10 startups will receive R100 000 startup capital to turn their ideas into business plans, with the wind of three 13-week accelerator bootcamps at their backs. At the end of the programme, the...

  • If Twitter had Evernote’s baby it would look like Life Note

    If you're looking for a lightweight version of über note taking app Evernote, you might want to take a look at Life Note, a quirky, Twitter-esque web application developed by Cape Town-based web entrepreneur Ian Whiteley. Whiteley thinks of Life Note as "your brain online," useful for storing information you may want to recall later. The service focuses on notes and tasks currently, and although it doesn't have video and image upload functionality, it does support links to files stored on services such as Dropbox, Google Docs and SkyDrive. Whiteley, who worked as product manager at Vodacom and Virgin Mobile, developed...

  • 4 killer emerging market startups emerge from MEF innovation awards

    MEF, the global community for mobile content and commerce, recently held a startup battle in Miami that saw North and Latin American companies go head to head for top honours. Although a US-based CMS startup, GENWI, walked away as overall winner, the innovation competition recognised some interesting ventures from emerging markets such as Brazil, Mexico and Chile. The competition was open to mobile content and commerce startups actively innovating in the North America and Latin America regions. MEF presented its first innovation award during the third annual MEF event held in Miami. The MEF Americas 2012 Award for Mobile...

  • Protecting your inventions: IP and the perceptions of Kenyan startups

    Economies can lose billions of dollars due to piracy and IP infringement. Therefore, a country that values intellectual property (IP) can potentially create an excellent environment for IT innovation and economic growth. The 2008 survey conducted by the International Data Corporation (IDC) revealed that Kenya could create 977 IT jobs and the local IT industry could contribute $73.60 million to GDP (an increase of $40.01 million) by reducing the current 80% software piracy rate by 10 percentage points over four years. Perhaps the most successful case of IP protection is the Indian software industry. Between 1994-95 and 2001-02, the industry’s gross...

  • 3 key online marketing tips for startups

    If you are building a consumer internet business, you have probably spent 90 percent of your time on product development, building a team, chasing funding, and defending your decision not to get a “real job” to your mother. If you are lucky, then you spent the other 10 percent getting some sleep. The one area of execution that I typically see startups least equipped to tackle is advertising. As I have written before, there is a dangerous and false notion that products sell themselves. They don’t. Your product will not go viral and anyone that bets the success of their startup...

  • Why we’re not quite ready for the hardware startup renaissance

    "The Hardware Renaissance". It's unmissable. Paul Graham has noticed it and, certainly, my credit card has. Where once, entrepreneurs turned to software to form their 'next big thing', there is an increasing trend towards hardware in this space and, while many would seem to point to the likes of Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms as the driving force behind this shift, I believe that the credit should really be handed to two guys in Cupertino who changed the way the world feels about hardware; Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive. Apple certainly wasn't the first company to introduce people to...