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There’s no doubt that 2015 has been an exciting year for South African innovation. Out of the hundreds of companies building exciting new products and services, five stand out for their innovative solutions, impact, and sustainability as businesses.
“Its been a great year for startup South Africa, which started on a high with the January sale of Stellenbosch-based iKubu to Nasdaq-listed Garmin and has ended with the recently announced sale of Kapa BioSystems,” echoes Vuyisa Qabaka from Abaphumeleli Business Consultants, who assisted with nominations.
Other judges Ventureburn consulted with include CEO of Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative Ian Merrington, Knife Capital‘s Keet van Zyl, the regional manager for Seedstars World in Africa, Marcello Schermer, and Michelle Atagana who’s Head of Communications and Public Affairs at Google SA.
The following startups (listed in no specific order) were found to be the top five of 2015:
HealthQ: revolutionising the way we understand our bodies
This Stellenbosch startup started the year off with a bang. While it’s been under the Ventureburn radar ever since 2012 when it revealed the world’s first open-source metabolic chamber, the health company finally launched its game-changing LifeQ technology at CES 2015.
By using physiological monitoring through optical sensors and bio-mathematical modeling, the LifeQ technology can help people better understand their health and fitness. It’s first partner to get this tech onto the market is the Dutch multinational TomTom, which released its latest fitness tracker.
Headed by Riaan Conradie and 70 employees, the company is backed by the likes of Remgro’s Johann Rupert and Nicky Oppenheimer of De Beers as well as 4DiCapital, Invenfin and Convergence Partners. Microsoft’s Dean Hachamovitch, who was in charge of the Internet Explorer team, has also joined LifeQ as advisor.
With its main offices in South Africa, LifeQ has expanded as a global player to be reckoned with. Besides its South African lair, it now has offices in Atlanta and soon Boston and San Diego.
WhereIsMyTransport: changing the way we go from A to B
WhereIsMyTransport (or just WIMT) is behind developing software and mobile app solutions for transport development since 2008. After many years of work it seems the juice is finally worth the squeeze.
Early 2015, the company was selected for Knife Capital’s Grindstone accelerator and soon after relaunched its offering. It’s also a member of the Microsoft BizSpark Programme.
Headed by Devin de Vries, WIMT went on to announce R12-million in funding. At the same time, it opened up new offices in the UK. It’s literally gone from a little garage in South Africa to snazzy offices in London.
And its efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. The startup has tallied up numerous awards and recognitions around the world for its FindMyWay app. Most recently, these include the 2015 Global Grand MobiPrize and WWF 2015 South African Climate Solver Awards.
Domestly: creating a marketplace for jobseekers
Launched in 2014, Domestly is an online marketplace for requesting domestic workers. The platform links owners of dirty homes with cleaning professionals, in turn giving them opportunity to find work and set their own rates.
Founded by Berno Potgieter and Thatoyaona Marumo, the startup is backed by some of the most influential profiles in the Silicon Cape tech community. These include mobile industry superstar Hannes van Rensburg, Ernst Hertzog from Action Hero Ventures, M&T Cadence’s Adriaan Tromp as well as Hein Carse.
On-demand services and online marketplaces have taken the world by storm, with the cleaning industry attracting many entrepreneurs as well as venture capital. US-based on-demand cleaning startup Handy is said to connect 10 000 of its contractors with over a million bookings per month. The American company also gone on to raise US$110-million. It will be interesting to see where Domestly fits into the this space going forward.
Giraffe: giving people access to jobs
Launched in early 2015, this startup has gone on to impress the startup community locally and abroad by addressing one of South Africa’s most pressing problems: access to employment.
The Giraffe app enables jobseekers to register and create a CV by simply sending an SMS, with a keyword, and completing a basic form. Giraffe then sends the CV to a range of employers, based on their precise requirements, ensuring that only relevant CVs are matched with any given vacancy.
This mobile employment startup has seen massive traction since it launched in January, with nearly 10 000 jobseekers within just two months.
Founded by Shafin Anwarsha, Anish Shivdasani and Bradley Cowie, the Johannesburg-based employment company has been named South Africa’s best startup by Seedstars World. It will now travel to Geneva, Switzerland where it will take a shot at the US$500 000 equity prize in 2016.
SweepSouth: getting stuff clean on demand
Since launching early 2014, South African on-demand domestic cleaning service SweepSouth has had a blast. Founded by Alen Ribic and Aisha Pandor, SweepSouth has been boasting monthly double-digit growth while making a name for itself in Silicon Valley.
Following numerous recognitions for creating jobs and cleaner houses, the startup went on to secure funding from angel investors Vinny Lingham, Llew Claasen, Pule Taukobong’s Africa Angels Network and Polo Leteka Radebe’s Identity Development Fund. To top that off, it became the first South African startup to join Silicon Valley’s prestigious 500 Startups programme.
Marcello Schermer from Seedstars World adds that local startups have shown a combination of technical excellency and relentless focus on scalable opportunities that can work beyond just South Africa.
“It’s inspiring to see how local entrepreneurs have the ability to identify a global opportunity, solve hard technical problems and execute at a world class level that allows them to be global players that are born and raised in South Africa,” says Schermer.
Let us know which are your favourites in the comments below.