How Seedstars competition helped put these SA startups on the map

It’s been two years since SA startup Giraffe was crowned the 2016 Seedstars World winner, scoring equity investment of an undisclosed amount and putting the company on the radar of local and international investors.

Last month the Johannesburg startup, which runs a web platform that matches job seekers with job placements, announced a second round of funding led by Edge Growth.

Giraffe CEO Anish Shivdasani told Ventureburn this week that winning the South African leg of the competition generated media interest which culminated in the startup’s first round of finance led by Omidyar shortly after winning the SA leg.

Read more: Giraffe receives undisclosed seed funding from Omidyar Network
Read more: ‘Investor’s share in Giraffe funding round valued at R10m to R20m’

“Startup competitions provide the opportunity for visibility and PR — that’s why it’s useful to get involved,” says Shivdasani.

Yet he admits that in 2015 when Seedstars approached him and his business partner Shafin Anwarsha to take part in the Johannesburg leg of the pitching competition — barely months after the two had founded the company — he was sceptical.

Startup competitions provide the opportunity for visibility and PR says Giraffe founder on Seedstars

He told Anwarsha that he was all good for the company to take part — as long as he won the pitching contest for them. And he did. He went onto repeat the win in Switzerland a few months later. Today Shivdasani describes the unexpected win as somewhat “amusing”.

Between 2013 and last year Seedstars has selected 237 startups to attend its annual summit from almost 13 000 applicants. Of those selected, 65 have come from Africa — including five from South Africa, namely: EM Guidance (2017), ID Work — now called Kandua (2016), Giraffe (2015), Lumkani (2014) and GUST Pay (2013).

So, where are these startups today? Ventureburn takes a look.

EM Guidance (2017)

The startup which aggregates medical content from regional experts for medical professionals in one app and platform won the $50 000 Merck health tech prize at this year’s Seedstars World summit. Ghanaian startup AgroCenta was crowned 2018 Seedstars Global Winner.

Read more: African agritech startup AgroCenta named 2018 Seedstars Global winner

The Cape Town based company, which was founded in 2016 by Yaseen Khan and Mohammed Dalwai (read more about the startup in this article and this one), was also one of the 12 finalists at this year’s Seedstar World summit.

Khan told Ventureburn in an email from Switzerland last week (where he was meeting with prospective investors) that he and Dalwai were thrilled with taking home the prize which includes support from the company’s innovation and acceleration system, which is headquartered in Darmstadt, Germany.

“It is substantial, global-level validation, that whilst we’re focused on creating a socially impactful, trusted platform for medical professionals in emerging markets, we’re on the right track in terms of solving a real pain-point for a major industry globally,” said Khan.

ID Work — now called Kandua (2016)

IDWork, which was founded by Sayo Folawiyo and Arjun Khoosal in 2014, offers a platform that connects technically minded informal workers (like tilers) to clients. The company last year underwent a name change during a branding campaign and is now called Kandua.

Khoosal said taking part in the Seedstars competition had got the startup “trending on Twitter”. “Basically (following the competition), it was clear to everyone that we were onto something.”

He confirmed that the company last year raised funding from several angel investors and two institutions, but did not want to disclose the amount the startup raised or reveal who the investors are. He also declined to disclose sales growth figures or say how many trades people are registered as users on the platform.

The company is still just focused on Gauteng and has closed an agreement with Leroy Merlin, a global leader in the hardware store and DIY, to work together. Khoosal said the exact nature of the agreement must still be worked out when the brand opens its first SA store. No date has been set on when the first store will open.

Giraffe (2015)

The Johannesburg based startup which was crowned the overall 2016 Seedstars World winner is a web platform that matches job seekers with job placements. It was founded by Anish Shivdasani and Shafin Anwarsha in 2015.

Earlier this month the company announced that it had closed a second funding round led by Edge Growth’s Vumela Fund. Edge Growth revealed that its own share of the contribution was valued at “between R10-million and R20-million”.

Currently the company has 10 staff, double the number over a year ago. Shivdasani told Ventureburn last month that the startup plans to double the number again, within a year. He said since he and Anwarsha founded the company, Giraffe has attracted over half a million jobseekers and invited almost 200 000 candidates for interviews.

Lumkani (2014)

Since participating as a finalist in the 2014 competition, the founders of social enterprise startup Lumkani has perfected their early-warning device for fires in informal settlements.

Speaking to Ventureburn last week, co-founder David Gluckman said the company has made improvements of the device, such that he calls the current device — in place in 5000 shacks in Cape Town informal settlement Imizamo Yethu — the “scalable version”.

These improvements include improved heat profile data, which has lowered the chance of false alarms from things such as kettles, stoves or heaters.

In addition, using more accurate GPS tracking officials at the control centre are now able to isolate any reported incident to an individual shack itself, whereas in the past the device was only able to make out the approximate area in which an incident took place.

The company, said Gluckman, is on the cusp of announcing a major contract. He said he could not discuss the details yet as he was under embargo from the client.

Since the company was founded in 2014 — by Gluckman, Paul Mesarcik, Francois Petousis, Samuel Ginsberg, Max Basler and Emily Vining — the company has supplied 18 000 devices to mostly shacks in four informal townships in South Africa.

Gluckman said he still stays in touch with fellow startups he met at the 2015 Seedstars Summit. And his advice for entrepreneurs keen on taking part in the competition? “I would say build things that people need and are willing to pay for.”

Gust Pay (2013)

The Stellenbosch-based startup was started by Joe Botha in 2012. Gust Pay created smartphone apps and RFID wristbands for access control and cashless payments for companies to deploy these at live music events, sports stadiums and corporate events.

Botha’s LinkedIn profile has it that he worked there until December 2014. All media mentions on Google and Twitter of the company cease after 2014. Ventureburn tried to ascertain whether the company is still operating but Botha did not reply to several emails and a direct message sent by Ventureburn to his Twitter account.

In 2015 he co-founded fibre network Octotel with Michael Pollock. Botha’s LinkedIn profile has it that he has been building and running companies in the telecoms sector for 16 years. He is also behind opt-out registry TrustFabric.

Featured image: Giraffe co-founder Shafin Anwarsha (centre with arm around his neck) with the 2016 Seedstars World prize



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