SA’s tech start-ups are making it big globally as they push beyond their Cape Town and Johannesburg borders, and some are attracting big global investors. By Gugu Lourie
South African tech start-ups are already making headlines globally and might be aiming to follow on the footsteps of South African born Elon Musk, who founded Paypal and later sold it to eBay to create exciting firms such as Tesla Motors and Space X. Other local start-up sold for billion dollars include a virtual gift card service firm, Gyft, founded by a South African Vinny Lingham.
These start-ups are aiming to go globally and some may end up being sold to the highest bidder in few years’ time or they may become conglomerates themselves like Naspers, which is a big player globally in the ecommerce and etailing space, etc. They might end up gobbling up other smaller rivals as they expand their services and diversify revenue streams.
The growth of these start-ups typifies the expansion of new technology firms inspired by innovation to shake up the technology industry in South Africa and beyond.
Here is six of those start-ups that TechFinancials.co.za has been monitoring in the past few months.
South Africa’s popular online comparison website Click n Compare created some buzz of its own in Nigeria and Kenya last month after the company announced it was expanding into Africa’s biggest economy and East Africa’s largest economy.
The online comparison website established in 2013 is a one-stop portal for African consumers who are looking to source services and be educated in hard-to-navigate verticals, such as insurance, mobile, broadband, and banking.
The company, which is owned by CNC Group (CNC), said it was launching new consumer-facing brand, CompareGuru, into both Nigeria and Kenya.
GreatSoft is the first company in Africa to provide fully integrated cloud-based practice management software solutions to accounting practices and firms. The software is aimed at minimising time needed for administrative tasks in order to maximise the time available for billable services, according to the company’s website.
The software integrates and streamlines operations across multiple offices, currencies and jurisdictions and can be accessed through the public cloud or installed on a client’s private server. Clients that have installed the software on their servers include Deloitte, EY, Grant Thornton, KPMG, Mazars and Moore Stephens.
With the help of a very competent team in South Africa, CEO of GreatSoft Bruce Morgan is in the process of building global partnerships as far afield as Australia, the UK and even the US.
“I am busy tying up an agreement in Australia and should wrap up an agreement in the UK within the next two months,” he reveals.
There seems to be a lot in the pipeline for GreatSoft.
“We just bought a document management business and are in the process of buying a payroll business,” says Morgan. This will assist the company in becoming a serious player internationally and not just in Africa.
A South African business – which provides secure electronic communications such as paperless bank statements – is targeting more global growth after venturing into the tough US market.
Striata operates in London, Johannesburg, Hong Kong, Sydney, and via partners in North and South America, Europe and Asia Pacific. The company provides paperless solutions: document delivery, electronic messaging and marketing communications.
Striata recently announced that it has bought Mass Transmit – a New York based provider of email marketing tools and services – for an undisclosed amount.
The US buy exposes Striata to a bigger market that offers growth opportunities.
CEO and founder Michael Wright said in South Africa Striata counts big corporates, including the banks, among its clients.
“We get to America then we find 50 companies that are bigger than the bigger customers we got in South Africa,” said Wright. “The market we are seeing globally is enormous. Every insurance company, every bank, every telco can use what we do.
Last month, Silicon Valley-based venture capital fund and start-up accelerator, 500 Startups, announced its 14th batch of start-ups, which included the South African home cleaning service, SweepSouth.
This is the first time a local company has been selected by 500 Startups, with only a handful of African companies being chosen to join the programme in the past. Of thousands of applicants for each batch, only 2% are successful, and the prestigious and effective 4-month accelerator programme also comes with $125,000 in funding.
In the last five years, 500 Startups, led by Silicon Valley veteran Dave McClure, has invested in 1000 companies and backed a number of well-known companies such as TaskRabbit, Twilio and Gyft.
Alen Ribic, SweepSouth’s CTO who is currently working with 500 Startups’ at their San Francisco offices says, “We are meeting some of the smartest people in the industry who understand and have experience in taking a company like SweepSouth from thousands of transactions a month to hundreds of thousands.”
Launched in 2014, SweepSouth has created work opportunities for cleaners across the country, and has completed thousands of bookings in homes and offices in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria.
Webfluential, the online platform – which already has a cumulative site reach of more than 80-million people across the globe designed to provide influencers on social platforms with a means of quantifying their influence so that they can generate a new revenue stream off the media that they have created – is targeting growth in East and West Africa.
Webfluential announced last month that it is investing in its growth in Africa by introducing an agency partner programme and Cape Town based office.
It added that the agency partner programme is in the process of being rolled-out to support in-country sales and logistics throughout East and West Africa.
The company said eager media agencies in Africa are encouraged to apply for the agency partner programme in Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana. Successful applicants will become official Webfluential partners, act as the local in-country sales and operations support and have access to the partner features and commission structure on the Webfluential platform.
SA start-up WhereIsMyTransport goes global
WhereIsMyTransport, a South African-based transport solutions start-up has announced a R12 million investment from local and global investors. Now the company is looking to overseas expansion after it set-up an office in London.
The transport solutions startup, which was established in Cape Town seven years ago, is dedicated to improving the commuter experience in emerging markets and determined to turn commuter data into a system that serves cities and users alike.
The company’s investors includes Tom Boardman, ex-CEO of Nedbank and chairman of Athena Capital, as well as Kim Fennell, CEO of deCarta, an Uber tech company, who have both made personal investments. Other investors include South Africa’s Infotech, and global investors consists of a Dutch-based venture fund Horizen Ventures and Goodwell Investments.
“We been fortunate to have a fantastic group of investors from key industries join us. Their added expertise and experience will be crucial as we enter a new phase of product development and international expansion,” says co-founder Devin de Vries.