Six black SA tech entrepreneurs to watch [Digital All Stars]

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.

Yoco, Recomed and Giraffe. For many SA entrepreneurs these startups and their respective founders — Katlego Maphai, Sheraan Amod and Anish Shivdasani — have become household names.

They are just some of the many new tech startups emerging headed by black entrepreneurs (Ventureburn uses the definition in the Constitution to define black people — which include: black African, Indian, coloured and Chinese South Africans).

Ventureburn lists six black tech entrepreneurs to watch. Here they are.


Katlego Maphai

After a brief career in management consulting and as a venture builder with Rocket Internet, Katlego Maphai founded fintech Yoco in 2015 with Lungisa Matshoba (who studied together with Maphai), Bradley Wattrus (who he worked with at Rocket Internet) and Carl Wazen (a former consultancy colleague).

It was in late 2012, that the four first began working on the idea for the startup — how to make it easier for small businesses to accept manual credit card payments. The four then spent a full year trying to get a license to operate.

After they were able to secure a license to operate as a payments company, the four moved back to Cape Town, where they were able to get their first angel funding. About a year later, in late 2014 the company went live with its first customers and decided to hunt for a Series-A round.

“The time leading up to that was really, really tough. There were moments where we literally had a month of capital in our bank account. We were just raising angel and family office money to allow us to continue,” Maphai told an audience at an event in March.

Today the company has secured over 20 000 card machine users and is now raising a Series-B funding round, to assist the company to expand into new markets internationally.

Maphai says the ability to think long term makes all the difference. Says Maphai: “When you have that perspective you are able to have belief. And when you have belief you can constantly infuse that into your team.”


Sheraan Amod

Sheraan Amod is no stranger to the tech world. After helping co-found personalised publishing company Personera in 2009 with Jaco de Wet and Michael Champanis he sold it to US firm Impression Works in 2011 for an undisclosed sum. After a stint in New York he founded RecoMed. in 2013.

The startup’s platform enables patients to find their closest doctor at any hour of the day or night and to book the next available appointment. The system reduces practice costs and enhances a customer-centric care policy, as patients are at liberty to recommend their medic to the general population and comment on their experience.

In April Amod revealed that following a R4.5-million equity raise announced in November, his startup had successfully rolled out a service to Discovery’s inhouse Wellness Clinics programme.

“It’s not something I feel I could have done as a first-time entrepreneur as I had to raise R6-million-plus before the company was investable,” he said of Recomed in August last year (see the story here).

In November he revealed that Recomed had 14 employees (see this article) and that his platform fields about 30 000 bookings per month and lists about 1500 providers.


Anish Shivdasani

Anish Shivdasani is the co-founder and CEO of Giraffe, which was 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 (see this story on how the competition helped other SA startups).

Shivdasani founded Giraffe — a web platform that matches job seekers with job placements — with Shafin Anwarsha in 2015.

In April 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 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.


Yaseen Khan

Former doctor Yaseen Khan(pictured above left) worked in various Cape Town hospitals, before he came together with former Mohammed Dalwai (pictured above, right) to start EMGuidance in 2016.

The Cape Town based startup was one of the 12 finalists at this year’s Seedstars World summit. Khan’s 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.

The idea for the app arose from a non-profit that the duo founded in 2012, called the Open Medicine Project South Africa in 2012, where they built apps for the Department of Health and a number of other institutions to distribute guidelines to medical professionals (read more in this story).

As of April a total of 13 000 medical professionals have signed up to the app, which is available in several African countries.

Featured image: Nkazi Sokhulu, CEO and co-founder of Yalu (Supplied)

Nkazi Sokhulu 

Nkazi Sokhulu is the CEO of Johannesburg based insurtech Yalu which he founded last year with Tlalane Ntuli. Both are former Old Mutual managers.

Sokhulu’s startup claims to offer South Africans “more affordable and transparent” credit life insurance. The startup launched its first product, which covers personal loans, on 1 June and plans to launch more products that cover other forms of credit over the next few months.

In May the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) — which oversees government employees’ pensions — revealed that it is funding the new black-owned insurtech with an undisclosed amount.

The startup began operating in January, after the two spent last year “conceptualising and thinking through the value proposition”. Sokhulu told Biznews in May in an interview that Yalu’s team is made up of eight people.

While Yalu’s policies are underwritten by Old Mutual, Sokhulu says the startup has not received any funding from the financial services provider. Both Old Mutual and insurer insurer RGA helped out with licensing requirements.

Avi Naidoo Fo Sho

Avi Naidoo

Avi Naidoo heads Joburg-based Fo-Sho, which he founded in 2016 with Mithun Kalan and Siva Moodley. The trio came together three years ago after leaving their corporate jobs to work on software for high frequency stock exchange trading.

Last year the company was part of accelerator Startbootcamp Cape Town‘s first cohort, where it unveiled its short-term insurance offering, which targets lower-income consumers. It purports to have secured premium commitments in excess of R10-million (read more here).

And last month Naidoo told Ventureburn that the startup had carried out soft launch with its beta test groups.

The startup has already secured a “multi-million rand venture capital investment” from BEE investor and Alpha Vista Systems director Dempsey Naidoo (no relation). Naidoo would not disclose the exact amount of the investment but he said the deal was signed in July last year.



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