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14 tech startups from emerging markets onto something big

Startup office

This year, for Ventureburn and all the other tech blogs covering startup scenes, we’ve seen an exciting crop of talent show face. From major ecommerce moves to exciting health technologies and crowdsourced design platforms, below we’ve rounded-up some of the ones that have stood out to us showing the most potential.


The Stellenbosch-based startup HealthQ is onto something really big. After introducing the world’s first open source metabolic chamber a few years ago, it has now industrialised the LifeQ technology, which can track your metabolism, heart rate and blood pressure among other world-class things.

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Co-founder Riaan Conradie has also been invited to one of the world’s biggest tech events, CES 2015, where he’ll be sharing the story about the company’s ground-breaking technology and vision.

HealthQ was also voted as South Africa’s most innovative company of 2014 by Fast Company SA.


Apart from FlipKart, Zomato has become one of the poster children for India’s booming tech startup scene.

The restaurant discovery slash brand engagement platform is home to 300 000 restaurants in 100 cities, a few months ago it raised US$60-million, and is now valued US$660-million. This massive appetite is made possible by the company’s 300% growth in revenue since last year.


People are placing big bets on Africa’s future ecommerce. Incubated in a garage in Lagos, Nigeria, the ecommerce startup is currently operating in 10 countries including Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire and Uganda after it raised a massive US$150-million in November.

Given all the money that’s gone into Africa’s undeveloped ecommerce space, the scene is yet to show itself fruitful. While it’s moving slowly in the right direction, the competition is tough even though the race hasn’t even started.


While Jumia is getting backing from the likes of Rocket Internet, its counterpart Konga is getting backing from South African media giant Naspers. The ecommerce site has received US$50-million from Naspers and is gearing up to face up to the competition in the Nigerian ecommerce space as well as the greater region.


The Cape Town-based startup has recently opened up offices in Johannesburg as well as New York City, while it’s expanding its crowdsourced design service to the Middle Eastern and pan-African markets. It received a boost of confidence when it raised R4.1-million from a group of British and South African investors and appointed industry leader Trevor Wolfe as the Managing Director.

It’s also said to launch new products come 2015, so be on a lookout (or just read Ventureburn).


Bitcoin is set to become something massive. Similar to how ISPs skittishly laid the foundations of the web we know today, bitcoin startups and their VCs are trying to do the same for the cryptocurrency. BitX, which is probably one of the most active in emerging markets, has tried to lay the groundwork by introducing a easy-to-use app together with its online exchange platform operating in South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Conceived on a entrepreneurial bus trip in Africa last year, is an education startup that uses SMS-triggered inbound voice calls to bridge the gap between students and teachers. Apart from winning the Venture Bus Africa 2013 award, it was also given the World Summit Youth Award.

Didi Dache

The Chinese taxi app has become the second most funded Uber competitor in the world after it raised US$700-million a month ago. As discribed by Tech In Asia, Didi Dache was founded in June 2012 and today has more than 100 million registered users, one million registered licensed taxi drivers, and 5.2 million peak daily orders. It covers over 300 cities in China.


The transport data startup has scooped up what seems to be dozens of awards this year, both locally and internationally. Apart from the flagship, MetroRail information feature it also enables users to track bus routes and upload their own information.

The company hopes to expand beyond the borders of South Africa, into the greater region. Watch this space.

Kopo Kopo

Back-end merchant payments solution Kopo Kopo last year secured US$2.6-million in funding after it managed to raise over US$6-million. The Kenyan company has been dubbed the Square of Africa which has adapted to the local popularity of M-Pesa which a large chunk of its merchants prefer to transact with.

The company finds itself in a unique exciting space where the payment environment is much different from abroad. The country is, however, also operating in Rwanda and Tanzania.


Ushahidi and its BRICK — the so-called back-up for the internet, has risen US$1.2-million and hopes to connect 4 billion people in emerging markets. This comes after the company managed to secure over US$170 000 on Kickstarter which, again, built confidence.


Kenya’s most-talked about startup is M-Pesa with its mobile money transfer services which has revolutionised the way citizens save and spend their money. It leapfrogged the basic infrastructure of banking. After raising US$20-million and connecting over 60 000 customers, M-Kopa hopes to do what its mobile money cousin did, but for electricity. Solar electricity, to be specific.

Off Grid Electric

M-Kopa’s neighbour and competitor Off Grid Electric has recently raised US$16-million to help the pre-paid solar electricity startup scale beyond its Tanzanian borders.

Off Grid plans to expand its installation workforce while improving its hardware and software. Ultimately, it wants to increase its customer base from 25 000 to 100 000. Though its investors are placing their bets on a global strategy.

Solar energy statups, especially in East Africa, are going big in 2015.


Another high-roller. ApexPeak is a financial startup that essentially allows cash-strapped SMEs to sell their invoices in return for money. In early 2014, it raised $200-million and doesn’t show any indication of slowing down.

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