Last night the big names in technology and investment met up in downtown Cape Town with some of the most promising startup offerings in the city. Net Prophet’s Sparkup!Live is a self-professed business gauntlet connecting founders to secure investment and (for some) a very prosperous future. The event hosted pitches by the top seven startups to come out of Net Prophet’s coveted training program for startups this past weekend. The key angel investors were made up of Cape Town’s technology investor, including Justin Stanford, founder of Silicon Cape Initiative and 4Di Capital.
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Here are our impressions of the startups that pitched
Weaverlution (not to be confused with weavolution, a surprisingly popular social network for hand-weavers) is an online platform that allows non-profits, corporates, and small businesses to engage and collaborate—specifically to solve community issues. This startup is innovative because it stands to reduce the duplication of efforts currently happening in the NGO sector, while connecting relevant parties together and streamlining the resolution process.
Although it wasn’t able to garner support from any of the angel Investors last night, we have no doubt they’ll be disrupting and evolving community development in no time.
Peach Payments is an ecommerce platform that allows online business owners to send and receive safe and secure payments online. The company is tailored to the specific needs and challenges faced by online businesses in emerging economies, setting it apart from similar ventures like Pay Pal.
Unfortunately, Peach Payments did not secure funding from any of the lovely angel Investors this time around. However, if the platform is as useful as predicted, then it’s set be a major player in the future ecommerce of emerging markets.
Shopstar is a locally grown ecommerce platform for small merchants wanting to sell their products online. We recently did a profile on the company, and are pretty excited about the direction it is taking. Shopstar sets itself apart from other online marketplaces like Etsy, WooCommerce, and Shopify by tailoring its service to local vendors. Unlike its competitors, Shopstar integrates shipping into its platform: allowing merchants to garner lower shipping rates, and fewer logistics.
Subsequently, Shopstar is an incredibly accessible platform that has seen steady growth since its inception a year ago. Not to mention it was the first startup to receive an offer from the angels. It was looking to raise R250 000 in exchange for a five percent share in the company, and came out with an offer of R100 000 for 25% of the company. There’s no word yet on whether they’ve accepted, but we think not. Although the funding could probably go a long way for the small company, giving away a quarter of your shares isn’t child’s play. According to cofounder Jen Herf, none of the figures are binding, and they are currently in talks with potential investors.
The platform combines notes of AirBnb with novel deposit solutions for both renters and tenants. By creating a comprehensive Ekaya profile, renters can better project the attributes that make them a great tenant.
Meanwhile, landlords are able to distinguish the renter that suits them best in a market flooded with tenants. Additionally, Ekaya has decided to scrap the deposit model in favour of an insurance-based model, and it just might work. Instead of putting down a few months’ rent at the beginning of a tenancy, renters pay insurance every month to cover potential damage to the property. Just like with car insurance, if the tenants have a good record over time, their insurance decreases.
According to Melville, after three years of solid renting on their platform, the insurance becomes virtually null. Ekaya might just blow-up the renting scene. It’s a big deal, and the angel investors agreed, collectively investing R300 000.
Happiness is followed with a pitch to take herbal pet treatments viral. The company was started with a product that manages urban pet stress naturally. The pet product industry is a massive one, with a lot of potential for growth in South Africa. Happiness is hopes to leverage this growth to their advantage through ecommerce. Thus far they’ve had some promising success selling their product to local vets.
The angel investors loved the idea for the company, but saw its growth flourishing through more traditional distribution methods. In the end, an audience member involved in distribution overseas offered it something far more valuable: distribution connections abroad.
Wowzit is an online platform for coupons. In a nutshell, it wants to take traditional print coupon distribution, and bring it online. As cofounder Wil Violago made painfully clear, Wowzit is not Groupon, instead offering free coupons to consumers and affordable promotion campaigns for businesses.
The angel investors drilled Wowzit with complex questions about what sets the service apart from other similar ecommerce initiatives. Unfortunately Violago failed to address the key concerns, often ducking them and plugging his company with misplaced adjectives instead. In the end Wowzit left without any funding, reminding the audience how important pitch execution really is.
8Bit was definitely the big winner of the night. The Cape Town based startup aims to disrupt the way everyone consumes and networks content on the internet. 8Bit acts as a vehicle to drive relevant content to interested audiences, thereby connecting content generators to a larger network.
Its algorithm serves consumers of content by vastly reducing the noise that is currently consuming the interweb as the content market gets saturated. Conversely, it aids the producers by rewarding good content with traffic. Currently in closed BETA testing, 8bit has reported greater click through rates than Facebook and Twitter.
The cherry on the cake was their excellent execution. The reps from 8Bit reigned supreme not only in their superior start up, but also their pitch skills. Managing Director Tom Kennedy seriously killed it, with his snappy responses, concrete numbers, and jargon heavy banter. All of the angels were pretty impressed, and rewarded 8Bit with R500 000 in investment.