Here are 6 South African startups worth watching in 2014

South African flag

South African flag

Ventureburn, with our focus on emerging markets, covered a fare amount of startups from the BRIC countries and the likes in 2013. With our eye on 2014, let’s take a look at seven startups from South Africa specifically, with Africa to follow, that caught our eye then, and are worth following into 2014.


There are a plethora of taxi startups coming out of South Africa, all hoping to secure the market and get a piece the country’s multi billion rand industry. With international players like Uber entering the country it’s becoming tougher for local startups to compete, which is why finding a niche is so important. Enter Mellowcabs, the Franschhoek, Cape Town-based startup that wants to disrupt first and last mile transport.

Why it’s worth watching?

Mellowcabs’ revenue model is unique, and its target market is niche. The rides are free, and Mellowcabs offsets running costs by using the internet’s advertising model: banner ads — directly on the vehicles. Down the line the aim is to put tablets into the cabs which can then cash in on geolocation advertising. Because the pedal-cabs focus on first and last mile transportation, Mellowcabs’ isn’t directly competing with the likes of Uber or regular cab companies. Add in a green stance and Mellowcabs is our most exciting cab startup to watch in 2014.

EDGE Campus

Mobile penetration has been a hot topic for a while when speaking about Africa, and African startups. With education a sector sorely in need of innovation, it was only a matter of time before someone combined the two. EDGE Campus, a Stellenbosch-based education software startup, has introduced Qurio, a teaching assistant that aids with assessments.

Why it’s worth watching?

Assessing students is time-consuming, and automating the process could help teachers focus their energy into preparing their lessons, and spending more time with students. Qurio can be accessed on Mxit, as well as its native mobi-site, and is reportedly very bandwidth-friendly, plus it’s free.

Gust Pay

If you’re sick and tired of hearing about mobile, just wait until the end of 2014 when you’ve heard “wearable tech, wearable tech, wearable tech” ad nauseam. It’s the next big trend, and South African startup Gust Pay is placed well to take it with its mobile payment app and NFC wristband tech.

Why it’s worth watching?

Gust Pay’s NFC wristband makes mobile payment convenient and efficient. It was used at the 2013 Rocking the Daisies festival in Cape Town, alongside the Gust Pay Rocking the Daisies festival app which allowed party-goers to create their own schedule, provided GPS coordinates, and navigate a 2D map. We’re interested to see how this tech could be adapted to other large-scale events like conferences and sports’ games.


Crime remains a huge problem in South Africa, but Cape Town-based mobile startup SPOTTM is looking to fix that with their crowdsourced crime-fighting app.

Why it’s worth watching?

SPOTTM’s tech is in real-time, allowing victims of crime or witnesses of crime to be able to report a felony to thousands of people immediately in the area). It’s a platform that facilitates neighbourhood-watch on a grand scale, and its simple three-button interface hopes to address user uptake. SPOTTM launches in 2014.


Video streaming in Africa is still in its infancy because broadband and data connections remain expensive affairs on the continent. Most people still only access the internet on their mobiles, and a lot of them via GSM/EDGE networks that operate at speeds below 50kbps.

Mobile service Tuluntulu wants to marry this unlikely pair — low data speeds, and video streaming.

Why it’s worth watching?

According to the ITU, Africa has around 63.5 mobile subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, and that figure is growing.

Tuluntulu’s ARTIST tech, which promises to deliver unbroken video at around 30kbps, aims to service that growing mobile consumer on the continent.


Online dating has become a more ingrained part of our 21st-century lives, however that doesn’t change the fact that people might still have reservations about going on a date with an almost-complete stranger. Weaver, which promotes itself as a “social club” takes a different approach.

Why it’s worth watching?

Weaver’s unique angle, by making dates three-on-three takes out the nerves and stigma of online dating. Two wingmen, and two wingwomen accompany the “main datees” on their rendezvous, with the idea that even if the date doesn’t go too well, there might be some friendships formed along the way. The revenue model is also quite friendly, you pay-per-date (with a drink included). Weaver has done well to make its experience approachable and, well, social, and we think it might just take off in 2014.



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