17 South African startups to watch out for in 2017 [Digital All Stars] [update]

Digital All Stars is a series of articles which aims to celebrate the best of South African digital. The articles, which will appear on Memeburn and Ventureburn, recognise and celebrate South Africa’s best digital entrepreneurs, business people, advertisers, and media professionals among others.

In this piece we take a look at all of the interesting (and one or two controversial) changes that SA startups have gone through in 2016. With that in mind, we compiled a list of companies to watch for in the year ahead.


BitX / Luno

Easily one of the most popular Bitcoin wallets worldwide, BitX launched out of Stellenbosch in 2013. Since then the company has seen substantial growth, raising US$4-million from Naspers in 2014 and an undisclosed amount from Venturra Capital in 2015.

Besides the funding, BitX expanded on its product ranges by allowing customers to purchase airtime and products from Bid or Buy with Bitcoin, as well as a partnership with virtual card system Zazoo.

This year, the company has already taken a lead forward by shedding off the technical name of BitX and adopting the more consumer-friendly name of Luno. The company is also expanding into the UK.

Custos Media Technologies

This startup is one of two on this list using Blockchain in interesting ways. Custos is trying to kerb movie piracy.

Originating from the famed Stellenbosch LaunchLab in 2015, the co-founders wanted to do something different with Blockchain, which they did.

It seems that the idea has impressed more than a few people as Custos received R4-million in funding in April last year, and another R5.9-million from the Technology Innovation Agency in August.

With Hollywood always looking to fight movie piracy, this is one startup you’re bound to hear more of.


This crowdsourcing newcomer aims at providing feedback to products of brands/agencies through its innovative crowdsourcing systems.

In May 2016, Delvv.io received an R2-million cash injection from veteran investor Kevin Gaskell, and another R6.5-million raised by SA VC HAVAIC and Gaskell later in the year.

The company was also crowned the winner of the Ventureburn Pitching Den, which was held at the 2016 Innovation Summit in Johannesburg, and secured its spot at the Startup World Cup.

With all of these achievements, it will be interesting to see what Delvv.io gets up to in 2017.



Probably the biggest rival to SweepSouth, on-demand cleaning service Domestly had a fruitful 2016.

The company beat out 450 other entries to take home the MTN App of the Year Award.

Domestly also used its existing traction to scale its business within SA, stretching operations to Pretoria, Midrand and Centurion. Shortly after entering those various areas, Domestly introduced a subscription service whereby you could book your favourite cleaner for a three to 12-month period.

To top off the year, Domestly took home the Best Disruptive Innovation Award at the AppsAfrica Awards.


This recruitment app is easily one of the biggest highlights in the South African startup ecosystem. Last year, the company was chosen to represent SA in the Seedstars World pitching finals and went on to bag first place and a cool US$500 000 in equity investment.

This startup also concluded an undisclosed funding round with the Omidyar Network.

All of this from a company that only launched in 2015.


iKhokha deviated from other fintech startups by cracking the consumer market when it rolled out PoS terminals for purchases in Game stores across the country.

Months after this announcement, iKhokha doubled up on its offering by allowing merchants to receive cash advancements to help grow its businesses. Three months after this announcement iKhokha partnered with Mastercard to try and roll out 700 PoS terminals to businesses within informal settlements.

iKhokha then later went on to win the Mastercard Innovation Award at the Mastercard Innovation Forum in Hungary.



This health tech startup launched at one of the biggest global tech events CES Las Vegas in 2015.

LifeQ has the backing of some major Fortune 500 companies and angel investors. Some of which include former corporate vice president in charge of the Internet Explorer team at Microsoft Dean Hachamovitch, CEO of Dakine and former vice president of Nike Running Chris Donnelly.

In mid-2016, LifeQ also partnered with US Analog Devices and Garmin to create its “connected health solution”.


This micro-jobbing platform has undergone some interesting changes since its launch in 2014. Not only has the startup receive investment from WeChat, it also acquired the services of Google’s Brett St. Clair (though he has since left), and bought digital market research company Pondering Panda.

Last year the company stated it was looking for a buyer, and founder Andre Hugo confirmed it may have to shutter if one couldn’t be found. Users were also asked to cash-out their earnings before 31 March.

Hugo later confirmed that the company was sold to Informal Solutions and exited with a re-launch coming soon. Since then, the startup has been rather quiet. Maybe 2017 is the year of its comeback?


Started by brothers Malan and Philip Joubert, OfferZen burst onto the SA startup scene last year. Taking what they had learned in Silicon Valley, the pair started this curated job platform just for programmers and technical specialists.

Just months after launching, OfferZen saw phenomenal growth and helped 250 companies find employees through the platform. This included the likes of Superbalist, Takealot, and Snapscan.

Couple that with an impressive month-to-month growth of well over 40%, and you’ve got a tech startup that’s bound to make more waves in the coming year. All of this from a bootstrapped company too.



This fintech company, which launched in 2012, had an interesting 2016. At the beginning of the year the startup announced that Absa, which already held a 49% stake in it, would offer the startup’s services to its clients.

In November the company announced it would be buying back its shares from Absa. The startup then added R100m business retail loans to its offering.

Whatever 2017 may hold for RainFin, the company will be an interesting one to watch as it creates a new image away from Absa and for itself.


Founded by husband and wife Aisha Pandor and Alen Ribic, the startup came onto the SA scene in 2014 when it won the Get-Up Start-Up pitch award.

In 2015 it announced a seed funding round, and joined the 500 Startups programme in Silicon Valley later that year.

Early last year the startup secured R10-million in funding, which is a pretty substantial amount. It also expanded to Durban and finally launched a mobile app.

Is there no stopping SweepSouth in 2017? We’ll just have to wait and see.


Snapt, which launched in early 2012, provides secure application delivery software which recorded more than 1000 global clients representing 10 000 licenses.

In June 2016 Snapt raised R15-million in capital from Convergence Partners. This influx of funds propelled Snapt’s international expansion. Snapt was also a finalist at the 2016 Seedstars World Soweto event.


The Sun Exchange

The second interesting digital currency company on our list (not just using it for money transfer services), The Sun Exchange uses Bitcoin for solar energy investment.

Last year the company was not only named the best Blockchain and Bitcoin company in SA at the Finance Africa Conference, but also placed first in the Bitcoin and Block Exchange category at the African FinTech Awards.


This online income tax calculator has made its way around the startup scene somewhat having launched in 2012.

TaxTim founders Marc Sevitz and Evan Robinson have scaled TaxTim gradually throughout the years. Rolling out various services such as direct filing to SARS, receiving funding from MMI holdings, and developing systems to serve SMEs with its tax completion tools.

TaxTim also enjoys backing from 15 tax professionals at PwC.


Verification service ThisIsMe launched in Septemeber 2014 and has since landed US$2.5-million in funding last year.

This substantial investment was intended to be used to expand into international territory, namely Australia and New Zealand. 20 major companies which include two banks, insurance companies, and many others have already signed up to the service.



WeFix (formerly known as iFix before last year’s name change) has opened 33 stores and fixes a range of phones from Apple to LG. It has also launched many services and products such as Plus, a protection plan for apple devices, RiCharge and Houdt. WeFix will have an additional 3 stores open by the end of March.

In 2016 the company not only rebranded but expanded its product offering to go beyond Apple products. WeFix has also teamed up with FNB since the bank launched its ConeXis smartphones.

During the Pokemon Go phase, the team ramped up sales of its charging stations and have been in talks with Uber about a RiCharge solution.


Another fintech startup, Zoona initially launched to help bank the unbankable, or those without banking facilities or access to the financial establishments.

In 2016 Zoona had already accomplished a number of stellar achievements. In April the company announced it had processed more than US$1-billion in transactions, and later went on to raise an additional US$15-million in funding in August.

Finally, Zoona won the Social Entrepreneurship award at the Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship.

It will be interesting to see not only how the company grows in 2017, but what it will be doing with that cool US$15-million in funding.

Thank you to Andy Walker and Matthew Alexander for assisting with editing and research for the feature.

Update: Additional clarity to M4JAM and WeFix.



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