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From selling their startup for over a billion rand, to turning air into water — here are 12 South African entrepreneurs who made headlines in Ventureburn in 2017.
Sam and Rob Paddock (Getsmarter founders): It was a chance encounter with US listed company 2u’s CEO Chip Paucek in October last year that set Cape Town based SA edtech startup GetSmarter on the road to being acquired by the US firm in a $103-million deal which was finally concluded in October this year. The deal is one of the biggest acquisitions of an SA tech startups (see the list of the top 10 reported exits), and included an earn-out provision of as much as $20m in cash. It will be a merry Christmas for the Paddock brothers.
Vinny Lingham (Civic founder): SA entrepreneur and Civic founder Vinny Lingham earlier this year raised $33-million in an initial coin offering (ICO). In May Lingham, who is based in Silicon Valley, told Ventureburn that he plans to open an office in Cape Town to hire developers for the startup, following reforms to South Africa’s Intellectual Property (IP) control regulations. And earlier this month, US cryptofund Multicoin Capital announced that Lingham would join the fund as a general partner, while also this month investment platform BnkToTheFuture announced that Lingham will join the organisation’s token sale advisory board.
Katlego Maphai (Yoco founder): After concluding a Series-A funding round in of an undisclosed amount led by two foreign investors, Yoco is expanding its product offering and laying the groundwork for its international expansion next year. In July the startup announced that it notched up 10 000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) clients in South Africa using its point-of-sale payments platform to accept card payments.
Llew Morkel (Prosperiprop founder): His Johannesburg startup Prosperiprop raised over $200 000 in an initial coin offering (ICO) which closed last month. Here he explains the ins and outs of organising and running an ICO.
Yaseen Khan and Mohammed Dalwai (EMGuidance founders): These two Cape Town entrepreneurs hit the Ventureburn headlines earlier this year when they chosen to represent South Africa at the next Seedstars World competition. Their app, EMGuidance helps doctors to source more reliable information on treatment guidelines and medication dosages among other things. In April they will be in Zurich, Switzerland to compete against more than 75 startups for the top prize of $500 000. Read more about their startup here.
Peter Castleden (Indie founder): South African insurtech startup Indie hopes to takes on traditional insurers in the youth market and is being bank-rolled by insurance giant Sanlam. This, despite claims from its founder Peter Castleden that it’s “a genuine garage-built startup”. While Castleden claims his company is “absolutely a genuine garage-built startup”, the former Sanlam employee admits that Sanlam holds the majority stake in the business.
Andrew Watkins-Ball (JUMO founder): The founder of Cape Town fintech startup JUMO has helped the company grow from seven to 300 employees in just just under three years, with development offices in Cape Town, Nairobi and Portugal. The company operates in several African countries as well as Pakistan and is now looking at expanding into South-East Asia. Earlier this year the startup became the first SA startup to be accepted into Google’s Launchpad Accelerator programme. In November JUMO walked away with a $150 000 prize from the Mastercard Foundation. The company also clinched $24-million in debt finance in the same month.
James Paterson and Benji Meltzer (Aerobotics founders): The two founders of three-year old Cape Town aerial data analytics platform Aerobotics came to the forefront this year, clinching the Digital Insurer European 2017 Startup Insurtech Award in September, as well as funding of R8-million from 4Di Capital and the Savannah Fund in Kenya. The startup currently serves farmers and agricultural consultants in South Africa and the rest of the continent, as well as in Australia and the UK. The two also grabbed a coveted place in Google’s Launchpad Accelerator’s fifth cohort which starts next month.
Lebogang Mokubela (Lemok founder): Looking to perhaps grab the headlines, entrepreneur and marketer Lebogang Mokubela in July ran a series of YouTube videos. In one he said South Africa’s black entrepreneurs need to look at promising business opportunities in the township rather than in the suburbs. Is the founder of Shoshunguve (Gauteng) marketing business Lemok just looking for a clever way to get his name of there or could he be onto something. Read more here.
Amanda Dambuza (Uyandiswa founder): Three years after it bought a 49% stake in black-owned project management consultancy Uyandiswa and built the firm up to an almost R100-million a year company, JSE-listed IT firm Adapt IT sold its stake back to the black-owned startup — at a whopping 90% discount. Adapt IT said the buyback concluded a “successful enterprise development programme”. But it raised several questions from Ventureburn over whether it was in keeping with the spirit of BEE. At the centre of the deal was Uyandiswa founder, who says there is nothing untoward about the deal (see her response here).
David de Villiers (Zapper CEO): In under four years South African mobile payments platform Zapper has grown to operate in 12 markets, employing over 300 people. It sounds like a SA startup success — but who really owns the Durban-based company? While a number of media stories have in the past have referred to Zapper Group CEO David de Villiers, as the founder of Zapper, the former IT head at Investec bank told Ventureburn that he started the firm in November 2013 with an angel investor company. Read more here.
Ray de Vries (Airwater founder): Is he a clever marketer or is he trying to pull a fast one? Airwater CEO Ray de Vries this year appeared on television talk shows and in newspaper articles warning that if the water crisis is not tackled Cape Town will be “dry by Christmas”, while punting his machines that he claims can provide a sustainable water solution to everyone from offices and restaurants to car-wash services — by producing, wait for it: water from air (read more here). Things however are moving. He’s already helped set up a Cape Town bottling factory.