Small town, many startups: 6 ventures Stellenbosch should be very proud of


Mountains, wine and more wine. These are the three things the small Western Cape student town Stellenbosch is probably most well-known for. Those, and the university of course, are responsible for creating an environment that inspires and stimulates innovation. Needles to say, the town has seen its share of startups. Below is a list of some interesting Stellenbosch-based startups that I found very interesting.

Apart from the fact that the Stellenbosch University is probably one of the greatest contributors to fostering research and innovation in the wineland area, its campus (together with the mountains of course) also creates an atmosphere that’s both fresh and stimulating.

Fostering growth

Stellenbosch University’s Hope Project for instance is a massive driver for both local and regional change with its core activities linked to the international Developmental Goals. Both social and science projects has brought about popular initiatives such as the Gates Foundation-backed iShack. This projects aims to provide cost-effective and sustainable modifications to the basic corrugated iron shack common in developing countries.

Other major technology companies are also fostering innovation through project funding and scholarships. In a PwC report released earlier this year, Cape Town together with Stellenbosch was referred to as the Silicon Cape because of the important role that it plays in this sector.

MIH Media Lab, formed out of a close partnership with media giant Naspers, is a research initiative focused on next-generation technologies that will influence the ways in which humans interact with computers, the web and other forms of electronic media.

InnovUS is Stellenbosch University’s technology transfer company, and supports the University’s researchers and students in the further development and commercialisation of their ideas and inventions through patenting, licensing and establishing spin-out companies.

We’ve identified six startups that have used the opportunities afforded by the Stellenbosch environment to make a serious name for themselves.

SnapScan is a payment solution startup that lets people simply transfer money by scanning a code in-store. The app is available for iOS, Android, and BlackBerry devices. SnapScan is currently being rolled out to various merchants in and around Stellenbosch with some national expansion to follow.

SnapScan won the award for Best Overall App and Best HTML5 App at MTN Business App of the Year Awards. Part of technology incubator FireID based in Technopark, the startup managed to beat over 250 other app competitors August this year.

AgriProtein isn’t exactly tech but it is incredibly impressive to say the least. The Innovation Prize for Africa named this startup the winner of 2013. It basically uses fly rearing and other unsavoury techniques to produce sustainable, natural livestock feed. Founder Jason Drew says “It’s about cleaning up waste locally and making the food chain sustainable.”

As reported by The Guardian, the startup is planning on operating a US$3.7-million plant to be located in Stellenbosch. The insect-rearing factory’s flies will be fattened on food industry leftovers that will then be used to meet the world’s massive demand for fish food. Yes, our world’s massive appetite exceeds all imagination.

Affordable Choice


This ecommerce startup was founded by Ryan Blake in May 2013 in response to the high cost of electronic goods in South Africa. The startup sources electronic products from all around the world in an attempt to bring affordable quality products to South Africa.

The outfit is still in its infancy, but there’s a growing potential for ecommerce in South Africa and other emerging markets, hopefully we’ll hear more about this one in the near future.

Gust Pay

gust pay
Gust Pay recently launched the Daisies 2013 app for the Rocking the Daisies music festival where it also showcased its NFC wristband payment technology. The startup is offering a really interesting payment solution (either smartphone or NFC) namely Gust Pay which is available for Android and iOS.

The startup is also working on some other interesting features such as Gust Finder which helps you find and navigate to nearby Gust Merchants. This feature comes paired with loyalty coffee deals with beer “coming soon”. Yay!

Edge Campus

Quiro logo
Edge Campus was founded by Paul Kim and Gareth Heuer in 2010 in order to bring high quality, low-cost education solutions to the masses through mobile web technologies. The company won the award for the “Idea” category at Cape Town Entrepreneurship Competition in 2011.

Edge Campus is responsible for math games such as MathX and BrickStorm for Mxit. Earlier this year Stellenbosch-based education software startup has announced Qurio — an innovative assessment tool for educators.


Here’s a startup that’s seen its share of waves in the media.

It’s mostly known for the construction of the world’s first open-source metabolic chamber. HealthQ’s more affordable chamber acts as a lens to look into a person’s body that then uses mathematical modelling to ultimately give accurate tracking of human metabolism. This could then lead to development of personalised medicine that is tailor-made for the individual.

CEO Riaan Conradie has also noted that the company has another project in the pipeline namely LifeQ. This project consists of creating a wearable device that replicates similar functions of the metabolic chamber. Watch this space.

Jacques Coetzee: Staff Reporter


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