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  • Delphix: a standout startup with standout leadership

    I meet with huge numbers of companies every year but it's rare for me to come across a company that excites me as much as Delphix. Delphix founder Jed Yueh is just 37 years old and will undoubtably become one of Silicon Valley's next generation of leaders and success stories. His focus, his discipline, and his intellect are striking -- and it's these qualities of leadership that sets Delphix apart from the many thousands of startups in the extraordinary global innovation engine that is Silicon Valley. I visited the company earlier this year shortly after it had raised $25 million in...

  • Company Office

    Securing the right investor for every stage of your business

    So you’ve nailed down the big idea, you’ve got the inspiration, and you’ve laid out a savvy business plan - now all you need is the right investor (or investors) to get your startup off the ground. For many new entrepreneurs, this is the hardest part (so far)…it usually requires pitching your idea (and essentially, pitching yourself), to family and friends, and as the business grows, to angel/seed investors and venture capitalists. It requires asking people to place their money and trust in you and your ability to make something out of nothing. For even the most self-assured among...

  • The opposite test: how to tell if your business is worth talking about

    The way most businesses talk about their advantages is so boring. How many companies are "the best", "faster", "biggest", "most trusted", and so on? These vague adjectives that we use to describe our businesses are meaningless and boring to customers, and they give no good reason to actually prefer your brand over another. If you'd like to craft a better differentiator, one that may even affect what you do and how you do it, then ask yourself: Are any of your competitors doing the opposite of what you claim to be doing? The Hans Brinker Budget Hotel in Amsterdam passes...

  • Event tech startup Virtuvent to ‘set industry standard’ and ‘spark copy-cats’

    If you've ever watched a stable, HD webcast of a product announcement, easily registered for an event or enjoyed a high-speed internet connection while venturing around a trade show floor, you'll appreciate the companies that work behind the scenes to make it all work efficiently. Virtuvent, an events tech company with a strong South African connection, has a unique, integrated approach and some notable events under its belt. Officially launched in October last year, Virtuvent is a B2B startup that targets large or enterprise events, with cloud-based software to manage the logistics, communications and video of the events. It's...

  • Why African tech entrepreneurs need to learn from each other

    “Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” – John Cotton Dana Learn. Teach. Two words that startups and members of tech hubs should breathe and live out if they are to succeed. Having travelled to different hubs in Kenya and Africa through an ongoing study by iHub Research; ‘Understanding African ICT Hubs model and impact to its startups/members’ , I can testify the modus operandi of the startups in the tech hubs is akin. They are operating in a high-risk environment, with little capital, a dearth of business skills e.g. marketing; but are great techies who can code...

  • ValuationUP: the startup that could save your business

    We first heard about ValuationUP, the financial performance analysis, benchmarking and valuation tool for SMBs when it won the Ignite startup competition at African innovation conference, Tech4Africa, last year. The South African team behind ValuationUP, Gareth Ochse and Kenneth Kalmer believe their startup will help people -- even those without financial backgrounds -- benchmark the financial performance of the ventures they are growing, selling, buying or advising. Research suggests that a high percentage of startups fail -- some estimate 75%, depending on how failure is defined. "Startups often fail because founders and investors neglect to look before they leap, surging...

  • Could an SMS purchasing startup help stop online fraud?

    Any online retailer will tell you in no uncertain terms that fraud, specifically by using credit cards online, is a huge challenge for them and their competitors. Not only are these retailers often liable for the chargebacks caused by fraud, but it creates a negative impact on the online buying industry as a whole. Over the festive break, a number of people have sent emails asking about making online transactions via other means -- in other words not using credit cards. They asked: Can we make payments from our bank accounts directly? Can we buy with our mobile phone accounts? Those...

  • Entrepreneurs speak about their motivations for 2013

    What motivates entrepreneurs building great companies in Africa? At VC4Africa, the largest online community of African entrepreneurs and investors, ‘creating better lives’ and ‘feeling you can change the world’ come out as the most popular motivations in its recent poll on the subject. Are you in it for the money, or for another reason? The survey we circulated in the Venture Capital for Africa community indicates many African entrepreneurs are triggered by social motives. A whopping 68% of the respondents chose ‘creating better lives’ and ‘feeling you can change the world’ as what motivates them the most as an entrepreneur....

  • 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...

  • Is online buying via SMS possible?

    For people in emerging markets like South Africa to buy online, they pretty much have to use a bank card of some sort. And while fraud, online security and chargebacks all add to the difficulties that both consumers and merchants experience, there are many companies and startups trying to crack the mobile payments industry. This is simply because many more people are browsing content rich ecommerce websites on their smartphones. But recently someone asked me: why not simply let people buy via SMS? If I wanted to pay for a R100 t-shirt online, I should be able to SMS a...

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