Pick a sector, add internet and your firm could be worth millions [Opinion]


Given all the press, you would be forgiven for thinking that startups were have only become a thing in the last 20 years. The reality is that startups have existed in all shapes and forms since the beginning of time. Some fail and some are the big companies we know today.

But it really is different this time. And the reason is because this new wave entrepreneurship is far bigger than ever before, and it’s been driven by the internet revolution.

In the past it was unheard of that young university graduates would go on to create billion-dollar companies.

It’s because of the very nature of the internet: its disintermediating nature has smashed traditional business models and provides better ways to transact, communicate, market and distribute.

The low barrier-to-entry of the internet mean startups can spring up with very little capital, using open source software, work-from-home developers and without needing to build physical structures in the world.

There are a whole lot of new buzzwords that have arrived in the past few years which have are creating a new raft of startup categories: fintech, edtech, insurtech, healthtech, legaltech, proptech, retailtech, mediatech and even agritech.

The low barrier-to-entry of the internet mean startups can spring up with very little capital

Each of these words describe categories of startups that are disrupting traditional business sectors and changing the way they do business.

In South Africa we have startups that are disrupting these categories and if they hit the big time, may even play a role in remodeling how business in these categories work.


In the edtech space, we have the online courses company GetSmarter, which offers a new and credible way to study online. GetSmarter has made such an impact that it was recently sold for a reported, whopping 100-millon dollars.

Then there is Paper Video, which uses QR codes innovatively, offering past exam papers and subject maps with step-by-step video lessons for each and every question and concept.

Read more: Chance meeting helped SA startup GetSmarter secure over $100m sale
Read more: Paper Video founder could teach mom Helen Zille thing or two on disruption


In the fintech sector there is the well-known wiGroup, which Investec took a stake in for R400-million in 2015. Led by the impressive Bevan Ducasse, wiGroup is a leader in mobile loyalty, rewards and mCommerce.

ThisIsMe is another impressive fintech startup to watch. It plays in the identity theft and credit monitoring game, and can’t seem to stop winning awards. The company holds the record for the fastest FICA verification at three minutes, and uses an array of tech that includes artificial intelligence, bio-metrics, machine learning, and tamper detection.

Wala is a zero-fee money app on a “mission to support customers on their path to financial freedom”. They believe that the financial systems in this world are broken due
to high fees, poor experiences, and inaccessibility. Its mobile financial platform uses blockchain technology to enable zero-fee, instant borderless micro-payments for
consumers in emerging markets.

There is also former FNB boss, Michael Jordaan’s, BankZero which has recently launched and one to watch for the future. Then there are i-Pay and Jumo. They are also great fintech startups to watch in the future too.

Read more: SA fintech wiGroup secures funding from Virgin, Smollan to boost global expansion
Read more: SA startup ThisIsMe claims can process FICA filing in record three minutes
Read more: SA startup Wala wins $100k Zambezi Prize for Innovation in Financial Inclusion
Read more: Michael Jordaan blown away by all the good wishes on app-based Bank Zero
Read more: Fintech startup i-Pay secures R10m investment from Kalon Venture Partners
Read more: SA fintech JUMO closes $52m round led by Goldman Sachs


In the healthtech space we have disruptive companies that are changing the way we approach health. Some worth mentioning are LifeQ, Sancreed, HearX, Recomed,
EMGuidance and Vula Mobile.

Recomed is a platform that enables patients to find their closest doctor at any hour of the day or night and to book the next available appointment.

EMGuidance, a 2018 Seedstars best Healthtech winner, developed an app to help doctors to source more reliable information on treatment guidelines and medication
dosages among other things.

Vula Mobile is a referral platform which links health workers to specialists in tertiary hospitals.

LifeQ uses computational systems, biology and continuous body monitoring to gather data from which users can draw insights about their own personal health. Sancreed’s
health platform, Guidepost, helps facilitate support and guidance for type-2 diabetes sufferers.

The multi-award winning HearX Group has developed a suite of clinical smartphone hearing health solutions consisting of eight products.

Read more: 7 South African healthtech startups to watch in 2018 [Digital All Stars]

Insurtech, legaltech, agritech

In the insurtech space, Pineapple (pictured above) claims to be the world’s first flexible, scalable and decentralised peer-to-peer insurer that provides insurance coverage to its members.

Investsure is a startup that provides fraud insurance to shareholders against losses in share price caused by actual or perceived deception committed by management.

The local Groupon founder, Daniel Guasco’s, Click2Sure, positions itself as a “fullstack digital insurance platform” enabling retailers, service providers, distributors and brokers to bolt on a selection of over 20 custom insurance products at the point of sale.

There are other insurance startups that are also leveraging social media platforms to “growth-hack” their products by using these networks to gain customers and use
information online to make assessments on the risk profiles of clients to give them discounts.

In the agritech space there is Aerobotics, which developed a technology called Aeroview, a data-analytics platform that uses satellites, drones and artificial intelligence
to help farmers optimise crop performance and reduce input costs.

It also has a toe in the Insurtech sector, because the company’s solutions can be applied in the crop- insurance sector.

In the legaltech sector there is Libryo, Portable Lawyer and Nuvalaw. Libryo is a legal platform which enables organisations to understand their legal obligations.

Portable Lawyer is a startup that allows for easy, affordable access to more than 30 critical contracts, real-time on demand legal support, digital signatures, contract management and data protection compliant.

NuvaLaw creates inter-party negotiation and adjudication platforms that bring together smart technology, processes, and services to reduce the time and cost of legal information exchange and dispute settlement.

Read more: SA insurance platform Click2Sure secures investment from Greenlight Re
Read more: SA’s Aerobotics launches five new precision agriculture products
Read more: Seven SA insurtech startups to watch [Digital All Stars]


In the mediatech space there is Snapplify, possibly a bit too established now to be called a startup, but it’s a company that concentrates on content distribution and mobile

In 2013, Snapplify announced a partnership with global digital and epublishing service provider SPi Global. IONO.fm is a Cape Town based startup, with funding, which is a modern podcast platform for large radio stations to solo podcasters.

The secret ingredient to all these startups is simple: Find a traditional business sector, then add the revolutionary features of the internet to it, and the result is a disruptive business that could be worth millions.

Read more: Time for startups to get over myth of the ‘one big idea’ and just get going [Opinion]
Read more: What really is the secret to getting a VC deal? [Opinion]
Read more: SA’s startup ecosystem offers a positive vision of country’s future [Opinion]
Read more: Indonesian unicorn shows Silicon Valley model can’t beat going local [Opinion]
Read more: What’s the secret ingredient that makes entrepreneurs successful? [Opinion]

Matthew Buckland is an investor, entrepreneur and the founder of Burn Media Group, which publishes Ventureburn.comThis column was first published in Business Day. See that version here.

Editor’s note (24 October 2018): Subsequent to the publication of this opinion piece, Snapplify’s marketing manager Marie-Louise Rouget wrote to Ventureburn to say that the startup is not a mediatech company, but rather an edtech company. As this is an opinion piece Ventureburn has retained the reference to Snapplify as a mediatech firm, rather than edtech firm. 

Featured image: Pineapple team with founders Marnus van Heerden (standing, top right), Matthew Elan Smith (seated, far right) and Ndabenhle Junior Ngulube (middle, right of flag) (Supplied)

Matthew Buckland: Publisher


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