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15 impressive startups from emerging markets you should know about

The last year we’ve seen a lot of startups do a lot of great things. On top of that, we’ve not only seen small businesses from emerging markets continue to raise the stakes internationally but more importantly, cater and adapt to their own markets — tackling real issues and market gaps with innovative solutions.

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Most of these startups listed below have done just that and have maintained sustainable business models worth note.


Paperight aims to repurpose the humble copy shop for printing affordable books, while protecting the rights of authors and publishers. The startup launched in May this year and received funding through the Shuttleworth Foundation.

Why is it impressive? Paperight has won numerous prestigious awards internationally and has been recognized by the South African government for its efforts in providing a solution to a big issue in the country while having a sustainable business model.


This service aims to be a simple, fast and convenient way to file your income tax return online, all with step-by-step help from the little man himself: TimTax. Tim’s valuation up to ZAR1.8 million (about US$219 500).

Why is it impressive? While TaxTim has been remained being an attractive investment over the last tow years, it has also launched a Student Assist programme to help students at some of SA’s top universities to learn doing their tax returns.

Over 80 percent of kids in India lack access to experiential, hands-on learning. Very similar to what HaKidemia is doing, this startup wants to ensure that the nation’s kids get access to fun and engaging science classes. These mini science labs travel around rural areas via motorbikes.

Why is it impressive? Organizations such as these realize the importance of learning when it comes to science and general creativity. The organization gives underprivileged kids a chance be on par with the rest thus sparking innovation all round.

Backed by Rocket Internet, Jumia is often referred to as a Nigerian-based Amazon clone. The ecommerce store won “The Best New Retail Launch of the Year” and has created its own “ecommerce campus in West Africa,”. It’s also represents the startup with the largest investment in a Nigerian ecommerce to date.

Why is it impressive? The company has remained an attractive investment opportunity as it landed a hefty US$26-million early 2013. While dubbed an Amazon clone, the business has still had to adapt to its specific environment and have found interesting innovative ways in doing so.


Similar to Jumia, this ecommerce competitor from West Africa is instead backed by media giant Naspers. It was launched in March 2012 and has since shown impressive indicators in its growth.

Why is it impressive? Konga has recently won the “Online Retailer Of The Year” and “Best Emerging Brand Of The Year (Fastest Growing Brand)” at Marketing World Awards 2013.

Learncafe is a social place where people can learn and connect. Based in Brazil, the startup aims to connect students and teachers. In order to tackle the countries big appetite for education, elearning startups such as this has been popping out in all corners of Brazil.

Why is it impressive? Learncafe has recognized the potential of tapping into a billion-dollar industry.


TripTrus is one of those startups taking advantage of the industry but unlike its competitors, it focuses on individual adventurers while offering unique trips outside of the commercial stream. Based in Indonesia, TripTrus describes itself as being “the first and only online marketplace for adventure tourism to alternative destinations in Indonesia.”

Why is it impressive? TripTrus focuses on the non-commercial stream which has been left out in the dark.


HealthQ is most well known for having built the world’s first open-source metabolic chamber that’s meant to enable South African entrepreneurs, researchers and the lot to perform crucial experiments using facilities which were previously inaccessible. With a greater focus on wearable tech, the company is also currently developing new technologies and products in the wellness, weight-loss and fitness industries.

Why is it impressive? It created the world’s first open-source metabolic chamber and is one of the few startups working on ground-breaking tech that could potentially change the world’s medical industry.


Bringing you “best of the worst,” this Czech-based startup brings the silver lining to the dark cloud that is corruption. This humorous yet insightful take on the “sleazy” and “crony” side on Prague’s wildlife includes a package tour of “Three Prague hospitals notorious for graft and sleaze.”

Why is it impressive? It makes a good situation out of a bad one and a fun one at that. While there are seemingly countless of tourist/ travel startups across the globe, CorruptTour is exceptionally fun.

This startup was first introduced in Africa’s first StartupBus tour when it was ultimately recognized for having the best overall pitch. Workforce is a mobile-powered planning app for connecting workers and employers. The platform is meant to link unskilled worker teams with potential employers through an SMS-based communication system.

Why is it impressive? Not only did it dubbed the most-impressive startup out of a total of eight, it wants to innovate the unskilled labour force and both bridge and identify the gap between employee and employer in Africa while having a sustainable business model.

One of the runner-ups of Startup Bus Africa, Bribed is a crime-solving app with a twist. The aim is to crowdsource the price of bribes to provide realtime market prices. By doing this, the team not only hopes to help victims of bribes pay a “fair amount” but to capture and provide data that should help authorities prevent corruption.

Why is it impressive? Basically, it’s fun and out-of-the-box as well as intelligent.


This one has just been expanding, expanding and expanding lately. Zomato is an online restaurant discovery service that provides information on everything from home delivery, dine-out, cafés to nightlife in cities of India, Brazil, Turkey, Indonesia, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

Why is it impressive? It’s known for expanding incredibly fast over the years and is ranked 1,926th in the world and 205th in India since October 2013 by Alexa. It has since amounted to a funding valuation of an impressive US$53.5 million.


Langhar is marketplace providing healthy food, luxury home-made chocolates, designer chocolates and pure vegetarian dishes in Delhi, India. It’s also been described simply as being an Airbnb for food, allowing home cooks to convert their homes into restaurants to earn extra income.

Why is it impressive? Since launching in 2012, the company remains picking up awards and funding as it recently raised US$150,000 from the startup bootcamp ARK Challenge.


Based in South Africa, AgriProtein basically uses fly rearing and other quite gross techniques to produce sustainable, natural livestock feed to clean up waste and ultimately make the food chain sustainable.

Why is it impressive? It was the winner of 2013’s Innovation Prize for Africa and many others. It’s awesome to see how certain unsavory innovative methods could be used to address such pertinent issues such as the increasing global food demand.

iROKOtv is an online platform that provides free and paid-for Nollywood and Ghanaian films on-demand. It is one of Africa’s first mainstream online movie steaming websites and is often referred to the Netflix of Africa.

Why is it impressive? It could be said that iROKOtv has successfully disrupted, reorganised and tapped into the multi-million dollar Nigerian movie industry’s distribution infrastructure.

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