The Joburg vs Cape Town customer

Updated on 22 April 2016

Subscription Form (#66)

I recently wrote an article for New Ventures Studio, a young entrepreneur accelerator in Cape Town, about startup success and how perfect timing in a ready market can catapult a business to new heights. In there, I quoted Dave McClure from 500 Startups who says: “Customers don’t care about your solution. They care about their problems.”

Now I ask, what do South African customers care about?

Joburg speed versus Cape Town’s specificity.

South Africa is made up of many opportunities for customer exploration. From the bustling, overpriced coffee shops at Cape Town International and OR Tambo International Airport to the even busier takeaway outlets in the Cape Flats and Soweto every Friday at month’s end.

When asked to typify Johannesburg and Cape Town customers, the first thing we need to ask is which ones? Does the Sandton financial corporation share any consumer habits with a Soweto-based entrepreneur? Does the Loop Street lawyer do anything differently for lunch in Cape Town’s CBD to the call centre operator in St Georges Square?

Maybe, but what are they looking for? Quality, speed, affordability, convenience?

Jo’burgers are typically thought to know what they want and how to get it, fast. Capetonians know what they like, and will not be compromised into getting anything they don’t.

A tale of two customers 

Let’s consider the general stereotypes that are associated with the two cities:

Example 1: A Joburger in search of an outfit for an upcoming staff party.

Joburger: “Here’s my credit card, please get me an Elvis costume.”

Assistant: “But what if they don’t have any?”

Joburger: “Just get something that will make me look boss.”

Example 2: A Capetonian in search of vegan breakfast bars finds his favourite vegan shop is closed.

Friend: The store doesn’t open until 12:00.

Capetonian: “I’ll wait, thanks.”

Friend: “Are you sure?”

Capetonian: “It’s fine, thank you.”

One more example? Uber is set to ‘Black’ in Johannesburg. A Mercedes C-Class will drop the finance guy at five meetings a day at close to two hundred bucks a pop. The Capetonian creative will pay R30.50 to catch the train around The Mountain and ‘Uber X’ to their favourite coffee shop in Bree St at eleven a.m. on Tuesday, for their third cappuccino of the day and first meeting of the week. Do you get the picture?

Customer discovery

While we can talk about the “fickleness” of the Cape Town clique and the “energy” of the Jozi hustler, in reality, these stereotypes only frame the smaller picture, in pencil nogal! At New Ventures Studio, we believe in training our entrepreneurs to think differently and “get out of the building” – exploring the bigger picture with people whose issues you are trying to solve.

Our business model generation is based on Lean Startup methodologies and in particular “customer discovery” – whether or not there are enough people with identifiable pain points that can be solved with your particular product or service.

Don’t believe what you read in opinion pieces. There are fifty-three million people in South Africa and over six billion in the world – so there are certainly opportunities in both Cape Town and Johannesburg. And in the digital age, you can reach both at the touch of a button without having to relocate your operation. The reality in fact, is that you only need to reach a minute portion for a sustained period of value transactions to make a success of your company. So get out there and talk to them, whoever they are, before someone else does.

About the author: Matt Fisher is the Incubator Manager for New Ventures Studio, a Young Entrepreneur Accelerator in Cape Town. For more visit 

Get Weekly 5-Minutes Business Advice

Subscribe to receive actionable business tips and resources.

Subscription Form (#66)

Feeling Stuck?