Wow, well this was unexpected. Keanu Reeves and Halle Berry’s John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum debuted a number one on the SA box office…
Entrepreneurship means setting sail on a whirlwind adventure without a boat and the hope that you’ll be able to build a ship along the way. It is the impossible, the improbable and magnificent all at the same time. Giving up everything of themselves, entrepreneurs will work to build their proverbial ships.
On Ventureburn we cover a lot of startups and we have seen our fair share of kickass companies birthed in Africa. Behind those amazing companies are some very dedicated entrepreneurs who work tirelessly to build great companies that Africa’s tech ecosystem can be proud of.
We have picked some very impressive entrepreneurs that have made, and continue to make, Africa’s tech and entrepreneurial space an inextinguishable firestorm. By no means do we think these are the only noteworthy entrepreneurs in Africa, so please tell us who we have missed in the comments.
We are currently collecting a list of Africa’s top tech entrepreneurs for our end of year list, so please make your nominations here.
Khaled Shady, Mubser — Egypt
This 22-year-old university student majoring in computer engineering is helping the blind navigate the world. Shady’s product, Mubser, is a wearable belt fully equipped with Bluetooth and Microsoft Kinect, which helps visually impaired individuals to navigate safely around objects and obstacles using a system of vibration motors.
Adii Pienaar, WooThemes — South Africa
Fan of bootstrapping and a millionaire to boot, Pienaar blazed a trail in South African’s tech ecosystem with the biggest WordPress theme and plugin provider, WooThemes, before setting off on a new path. What we really dig about Pienaar is his blog and the transparency with which he navigates the crazy world of starting your own business.
Mark Essien, Hotels.ng — Nigeria
We dig Hotels.ng, and we found out that we dig the founder too. Essien caught our attention with his startup tweets and his epic blog post that detailed the last few years of his company: the trials, the tribulations and the small miracles. Also, he has a degree in robotics and that’s always cool.
Patrick Ngowi, Helvetic Group — Tanzania
Anyone who wants to help solve the energy crisis is okay in our books, which is why we rate Ngowi. His company is pioneering renewable energy in East Africa with around 26 agents bringing solar, hydro and wind solutions to the region. The group’s companies deal with supply, installation and maintenance of renewable energy, as well as conducting feasibility power studies.
Herman Heunis, Mxit –South Africa
Without people like Heunis, the fabric of South Africa and Africa’s tech ecosystem wouldn’t look like it does today. He is the guy that entrepreneurs look to and say, “Sure I can build this”. He is the founder of Mxit and made mobile IMing a thing before Africa really got into all that chatting.
Verone Mankou, VMK — Congo
Hardware is cool but hardware startups are hard. Mankou is in the business of bringing cool hardware to the African populace with his Android tablets. He wants to give African affordable mobile devices, that is all.
Opeyemi Awoyemi, Olalekan Olude and Ayodeji Adewunmi, Jobberman –Nigeria
Jobberman is Nigerian’s biggest jobs platform and these three guys are the brains behind the success. Their platform clocks in more than 50 000 unique visitors a day. Jobberman aims to link job seekers to the right jobs by giving employers access to the most relevant pool of qualified professionals.
Clarisse Iribagize, HeHe Ltd — Rwanda
Women in tech we love, and Clarisse Iribagize is one to watch. Her company HeHe Ltd builds custom mobile apps for businesses. HeHe has worked with the likes of MTN and the Praekelt Foundation. The vision for the company is to transform Africa into an information society.
Oluwaseun Osewa, Nairaland — Nigeria
This is guy is cool. Why? Because he built what is, in effect, Nigeria’s Craiglist. Nairaland is Nigeria’s largest discussion forum with threads on entertainment, technology and more. The site has more than 1.1-million registered users and has more than 60-million pageviews a month. Osewa is also kinda humble about it all.
Lorna Rutto, EcoPost — Kenya
Greentech is in but Lorna Rutto and EcoPost would make our list even if it wasn’t. EcoPost is a social enterprise established to address the challenges of plastic pollution, urban waste management, unemployment, deforestation and climate change. The organisation collects plastic waste and manufactures fencing posts from it. It also use Mpesa payments.
Emma Kaye, Bozza — Zimbabwe/Zambia/South Africa
Bozza is all about African content for the African audience and that is so hot right now. What’s also really amazing is Emma Kaye, Bozza’s founder. Kaye is a seasoned entrepreneur with wicked experience and worthwhile insights. For her, Bozza is not just about cool beats and short films, it’s about giving people ownership of their stories.
Mikul Shah, SleepOut — Kenya
Like Hotels.ng, SleepOut is making it easy to travel to East Africa. The site offers travellers a selection of hotels, lodges, resorts, guest houses and private accommodation in the region. Prior to founding SleepOut, Shah founded another lifestyle brand in the shape of Eat Out Kenya, a restaurant guide for Kenyan and visiting diners.
Maxwell Donkor, mPawa — Ghana
Maxwell Donkor makes our list because he has done what many people have tried to do and failed. He created a blue-collar recruitment platform that actually works. mPawa matches the right candidates to jobs based on the given requirement. It also gives you the option to manually pick a candidate.
Marlon Parker, RLabs — South Africa
Social entrepreneur Marlon Parker gives us faith in humanity again. His organisation RLabs is all about building up communities and empowering the youth. Recently named a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, Parker is setting the scene for what social entrepreneurs should be doing. RLabs has expanded beyond South Africa and currently operates in 21 countries.
Rebecca Enonchong, AppsTech — Cameroon
If you want to know anything about tech in Africa, ask Rebecca Enonchong. She knows everything and is committed to great African innovations. Enonchong is on the pulse of Africa’s tech ecosystem and her tweets are always informative. Her company, AppsTech, is a global provider of enterprise application solutions with a special focus on Oracle.
Willem van Biljoen — South Africa
Like Heunis, van Biljoen is a legend in the African tech space. He played a role in founding Amazon’s insanely popular EC2 cloud and co-founded Nimbula, another successful cloud services company that was acquired by Oracle in 2013.
Jason Njoku, iROKO Partners — Nigeria
Jason Njoku is probably one of Africa’s most popular tech entrepreneurs these days. With big investments from New York VC Tiger Global and an appetite for expansion, it’s not difficult to see why. Njoku took an industry that was exploding and made it convenient. His company delivers Nigerian movies online through its iROKO TV platform. Nigerians in the diaspora all thank you for bringing them Nollywood, mister.
Abdu Sekalala, WordBook — Uganda
Making millions one Ovi store app at a time. Sekalala has made billions of Ugandan shillings building paid-for apps that have gained international attention. According to a Reuters report, Wordbook one of his most successful apps. “It earns him US$1.25 every time it’s downloaded. So far that’s over 300 000 times — making him some 375 000 US dollars.”