AlphaCode awards pandemic-founded tech start-ups

AlphaCode founders: Catherine-Jane Paulse from BriefCo, Kelly Hoffman from Vocalysd, Tom David from Abela and Zanele Matome from Welo. Photos: Supplied/Ventureburn
Catherine-Jane Paulse from BriefCo, Kelly Hoffman from Vocalysd, Tom David from Abela and Zanele Matome from Welo. Photos: Supplied/Ventureburn

South Africa’s finest tech start-ups which were founded during the pandemic went head to head at a virtual demo day yesterday where they had just 10 minutes each to convince a panel of judges that they should remain part of the next phase of the AlphaCode Incubate programme.

Fiver of the eight start-ups which just completed a three-month programme were selected to receive R500 000 (about $32 300) grant funding each, an additional six months of mentorship and expert execution support.

Amina Patterson, head of operations at AlphaCode, says, “What was remarkable about this cohort is that there are seven female founders across the eight start-ups, several of which have run successful businesses prior to these start-ups which we know makes for more successful entrepreneurs.

“Women are grossly underrepresented in the start-up ecosystem globally. Representation matters and by having a diverse AlphaCode team and selection panel, we have an inclusive and diverse cohort. Female founders are eager to engage and contribute to the start-up sector and it helps when they are given the platforms to truly be heard, acknowledged and appreciated.

“Another point to highlight is that every year the businesses focus on getting to know their customers, solving their customer problems and getting traction, but this cohort blew the lights out. I believe the pandemic forced the founders to work extra hard getting to know their customers  and they had to be incredibly resourceful, resilient and creative how they validated their products with customers.”

In addition, these start-ups will be able to apply for seed capital from AlphaCode’s fund that invests in early-stage start-ups.

5 promising businesses selected

  • Abela, a fintech start-up: a mobile payments platform that allows the underserved to make and receive payments. Tom David and Amery Winter are co-founders.
  • BriefCo, a legaltech start-up: a legal cost consultancy leveraging technology to digitise and automate the preparation of bill of costs and oppositions. Catherine-Jane Paulse, Yusha Davidson, Carlton Ngwenya and Dhanyal Davidson are co-founders.
  • Sizanani, a fintech start-up: a stokvel management platform providing the first Whatsapp stokvel solution. The founders are Makabongwe Gambushe, Sinqobile Mashalaba and Thandolwethu Hlongwane.
  • Vocalysd, a datatech start-up: transforming conversations into actionable insights by leveraging AI for call monitoring, analysis and reporting. Kelly Hoffman is the founder.
  • Welo a healthtech start-up: Monitors on-site healthcare services, home medicine delivery and pathology services for individuals and corporates. It was founded by Zanele Matome.

Dominique Collett, head of AlphaCode and a Rand Merchant Investments Holdings (RMI) executive, commented, “We are in the seventh year of this programme and it was clear this year how the standard has raised.

“At Demo Day we were so blown away by the talent of the entrepreneurs that RMI awarded additional budget for a fifth business to move forward to the next phase. Our initial intention was four. We will also offer mentorship to the three businesses that didn’t make it to the next round because they are so promising.”

Almost 170 tech businesses initially applied for AlphaCode’s Incubate programme which aims to grow innovative tech-enabled start-ups and find the next OUTsurance or Discovery.  Only eight were selected to participate in the initial three-month programme that provided funding, guidance from performance coaches and a panel of advisory experts, access to AlphaCode’s co-working space, and opportunities to apply for further early-stage investment.

The panel of judges included Collett and Abu Cassim from AlphaCode as well as Per Lagerstrom, CEO and co-founder of Mavens and YellowSpot, an entrepreneur and angel investor Raj Wanniappa, founder and MD of Agile Venture Holdings. All have previously invested in start-ups.

The AlphaCode Incubate programme has disbursed R36.7 million in funding to 50 tech-enabled startups over the past seven years. It is viewed as South Africa’s most prestigious fintech start-up initiative.

AlphaCode Incubate awards entrepreneurial packages to South Africa’s most promising financial services startups through AlphaCode with the support of Rand Merchant Investments.

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