Here’s How These 5 Startups Won 2017 By Putting The Customer First #SMESABestOf2017

Here’s How These 5 2017 Startups Won By Putting The Customer First

Finchatbot co-founders Romain Diaz (left) and Antoine Paillusseau (right), and Richard Marsden, founder of Envision Risk (center).

“Good techpreneurs build good solutions; great techpreneurs improve people’s lives,” says Tshepo Moloi, founder and CEO of stokvel platform, Stokfella. Moloi is one of many startup founders who have found success by focussing on customer needs, rather than just the product or service.

In 2017 we continued to see startups use technology to make the lives of customers easier, whether it’s by offering greater convenience, a wider range of services, or simply giving the customer what they want, when they want it.

Technology makes this all the more possible. Local examples include meal delivery services like Zulzi and OrderIn; and globally, we have ride-sharing platform Uber and Peer-to-peer property rental accommodation platform Airbnb.

To find out how the tech trend is translating in South Africa we take a look at how 5, still relatively new, tech startups are catering to the needs of their customers, and are finding success because of it.


How These Startups Launched In 2017 Are Catering To Their Customers' Needs

Benji Coetzee, founder of EmptyTrips.


EmptyTrips is an online logistics platform founded by Benji Coetzee in April this year.

Coetzee, who previously worked in management consulting, says in an interview with SME South Africa that her company, EmptyTrips, was inspired after hearing complaints from clients about how expensive transport costs were eating into their profit margins.

EmptyTrips hopes to provide an affordable alternative. It is an open marketplace and uses smart algorithms to match and connect spare capacity on delivery vehicles with users who need goods transported.



How These Startups Launched In 2017 Are Catering To Their Customers' Needs

Finchatbot co-founders Romain Diaz (left) and Antoine Paillusseau (right), and Richard Marsden, founder of Envision Risk (center).


Startup FinChatBot, co-founded by Antoine Paillusseau and Romain Diaz, is making it possible for customers to get service from finance and insurance companies 24/7.

“From 40 minutes with a call centre agent, you can reduce that to five minutes with a chatbot, getting access to the exact same information with much better user experience. In five minutes you can have access to a proper quote [for] car insurance, for example,” co-founder Antoine Paillusseau says in an interview with SME South Africa.

Their chatbot Holly, for example, provides automated information to customers via messaging apps.



How These Startups Launched In 2017 Are Catering To Their Customers' Needs

Patrick Schofield, COO of Uprise.Africa. Image: Twitter/upriseafrica


Uprise.Africa is the country’s first equity crowdfunding platform. Their goal is to help entrepreneurs bridge the funding gap by allowing everyone to invest in startups, not just professional investors.

The company was founded by Tabassum Qadir (CEO) and Patrick Schofield, COO and founder of crowdfunding platform Thundafund.

One of the biggest challenges SMEs face is access to funding, says Uprise.Africa CTO Inge Prins in an interview with SME South Africa. Prins adds that access to the right people can be quite challenging and it’s hard work for entrepreneurs to get access to funding. This is where a platform like Uprise.Africa comes in.

The platform is built on accessibility for both the investor and entrepreneur. “[We aim for] trust and transparency, how the deal is setup, making sure all parties are protected through the legal and compliance aspects.”

The platform also serves as a space for small business owners to receive feedback from investors, get help reaching their target market, and test the viability of their offering.


How These Startups Launched In 2017 Are Catering To Their Customers' Needs

Jaiprakash Sewram, co-founder and CTO of Tapsnapp. Image:


Tapsnapp serves as a marketplace for travellers and holiday makers looking for professional photographers. They also offer lessons on how they can take great photos themselves.

Tapsnapp makes it easier for travellers and professional photographers to find each other. The platform provides a list of experiences with over 400 professional photographers in both South Africa and Africa.

The process for booking a photographer is also simple. Users select the type of photo shoot they want to book a photographer for, the date, time and location, and the website offers a list of photographers available.  



How These Startups Launched In 2017 Are Catering To Their Customers' Needs

Tim Strang, co-founder and CEO of Spazapp. Image:


Spazapp is a free, money-saving android application that connects informal traders directly to big FMCG brands including Unilever and Tiger Brands.

The platform aims to help spaza shop owners who often do not have access to formal markets and payment systems.

Spazapp is collaborating with payment and tech company Mastercard to bring secure, seamless and convenient mobile payments to thousands of spaza shop owners in SA.

Using Spazapp, traders can order a wide variety of products at competitive prices, and use Mastercard’s digital wallet Masterpass to pay for stock and accept cashless payments from their customers with their mobile phones.

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Michelle Strydom
Michelle Strydom
I'm a journalist for online publication, SME South Africa. I'm a BA journalism graduate from the University of Johannesburg. My areas of focus when it comes to writing are entrepreneurs, startups, marketing and funding. I also enjoy creative writing and proofreading.

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