UPDATE: This article was originally published in December 2020 as ‘South African Tech Startups that Disrupted 2020’, but due to its popularity it was updated with brand new information on 13 December 2021.
In 2020 we saw South African tech startups continue to innovate and launch solutions in response to a myriad of challenges, including COVID-19.
An example of this is tech startup Sweep South which expanded its services beyond domestic cleaning. They now provide outdoor cleaning, caregiving, heavy lifting and maintenance services.
In response to COVID-19, Sweep South also partnered with Airbnb, the global home rental platform, to ensure that Airbnb hosts meet COVID-19 requirements and standards of cleaning protocol for hosts in South Africa.
In 2021, we saw many South African startups collaborate with big brands and retailers to expand their reach of clientele – Pargo Pickup Points is one of these companies to do so. We also saw startups that are innovatively making a difference and creating impact in various communities, being recognised.
Here is a list of South African tech startups that successfully secured investment, received international and local recognition or expanded globally in 2021:
Ambani Africa app was the winner of multiple awards at the MTN 2021 Business App of the Year Awards. The ed-tech company, Ambani, won in the categories for Best Gaming Solution, Best Educational, and Best South African Solution, as well as the overall award for Best App of the Year. Ambani works in Augmented Reality (AR), users can learn up to six African languages, and features games, series and songs for learning African languages. You can also book a tutoring class to learn isiZulu, isiXhosa, Setswana, Sepedi, Tshivenda, or English.
According to IOL News, Mukundi Lambani, founder of Ambani Africa, said she noticed that Ambani Africa had become the “go-to” app for many South Africans living abroad. “As the app and games were created with foundation-level learners in mind, we are finding that first-time language learners at universities are also using the app. Older and even retired people who have relocated and now want to interact with their new community members are regular users.”
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Pargo, a smart logistics company, has a partnership with online and omni-channel businesses in SA. This year, the company expanded its network from 2,500 to over 3 000 click-and-collect pickup points in South Africa, offering online shoppers the ability to easily collect their orders, reported IT Web.
The new pickup points include several franchises, including Clicks Pharmacy, FreshStop at Caltex and Lewis stores, and other independent retailers.
In December, Bank Zero revealed it has teamed up with Pargo to assist with its bank card deliveries, according to Business Report Online. Another accolade in the bag that Pargo Pickup Points received this year is third place in the 2021 BCX Digital Innovation Awards for the SME category.
Tao Boyle, co-founder and COO of ed-tech startup FoondaMate, was honoured with the Young Entrepreneur Award by the 2021 AWIEF Awards earlier this month. Boyle and her business partner, Dacod Magagula, launched FoondaMate in August 2020 to help students who have limited internet access to study by using WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. According to Disrupt Africa, FoondaMate is growing at a rate of 600 new users per day on average. Over 200,000 students in more than 30 countries have been helped by the FoondaMate chatbot in over 10+ languages. FoondaMate allows you to download past exam papers, solve math equations, search the internet, and more.
Faith Mokgalaka, owner of Puno and also a computer science student at WITS University, recently received the National Rising Star Award at the 2021 South African Small Business Awards, hosted by NSBC.Africa. Puno, an online crowd investing platform, aims to connect farmers with investors, encouraging farmers to sell shares or a portion of their next harvests for funding. In September, Mokgalaka also won first prize at the Brand Development Challenge hosted by the 4IR Aquatech Accelerator and its cohorts.
The South African industry-leading SaaS mobile marketing platform has raised a $4 million pre-series A round. According to Tech in Africa, the investment was led by HAVAÍC and Futuregrowth Asset Management and drew participation from Allan Gray E-Squared Ventures, Launch Africa, CapaciTech, and Endeavor’s Harvest Fund. Mobiz wants to use the funding to deliver its self-service product to the United States.
Earlier this year, Baobab Insights recognised Mobiz as one of the top marketing startups to watch. Mobiz, a company that specialises in SMS Marketing has served 100+ leading brands and 3000+ campaigns per month.
Yoco, the fintech company that sells card machines and online payments services, announced in July that it raised $83 million in Series C funding backed by Dragoneer Investment Group. The investment was reported as the largest single investment raised by a small business-focused payments platform in the Middle East and Africa and the largest ever raised by a payments company in South Africa.
According to TechCrunch, Yoco serves 150,000 businesses and adds over 500 merchants per day. “The company claims to be processing more than $1 billion in card payments per year, and in its six years of existence, it has processed over $2 billion in card payments,” it was reported.
Yoco also offers many online marketing campaigns where they promote merchants who are using Yoco, and hosts networking meetups and online masterclasses for small business owners, it is called YocoMeets.
JobJack won the National Technology Award at the 2021 South African Small Business Awards hosted by the NSBC.Africa. JobJack is an online platform that connects entry-level job seekers with employers by using an automated recruitment process. The company that launched in 2018, has facilitated over 350,000 job seekers in creating their online profiles and exposing them to opportunities. According to NSBC.Africa, The JobJack team has increased the monthly amount of successfully placing job seekers into opportunities by 600%.
Gift Lubele, an innovator, co-founder and COO of Kudoti, recently won this year’s BRICS Young Innovator Prize competition. He walked away with $25 000 (R 378 203,75) in prize money.
The BRICS Young Innovator Prize forms part of the BRICS Young Scientists Forum. The forum recognises and rewards quality research and innovation, including the use of artificial intelligence, in environmental protection and materials science, according to IT Web.
Lubele’s Kudoti – which is Zulu for ‘in the trash’ – helps waste management and recycling companies optimise their operations through the use of data collection tools.
Fast Company South Africa named Kudoti one of the 25 Most Innovative Companies in the country.
Stokfella was named Best Financial Solution at the 2020 MTN Business App of the Year Awards.
The fintech enables stokvels to manage, consolidate, communicate, visualise and analyse their stokvel activity financials and any other related stokvel matters.
This year StokFella launched an initiative to help ensure the survival of small businesses through bulk buying opportunities. Dark City Meat & Chicken, a small butchery in Alexandra township, was one of the small businesses that received assistance.
“The butchery has opened a stokvel for the people of Alex. Groups, like families, can pool money together and stretch the value of their rands further through bulk buying,” CEO and founder Tshepo Moloi told Destiny Connect.
This local tech startup partnered with the University of Cape Town to create new technological ways to detect disease in livestock as early as possible.
3DIMO developed the Thola infrared imaging tool which helps small and medium scale farmers, who are at the most risk of losing their income, according to an article by Ventureburn.
According to their website, 3DIMO’s vision is to empower farmers globally with data insights that will help to monitor livestock health and welfare.
3DIMO does this through the provision of globally traceable animal biometric identity and the use of infra-red precision livestock imagery to provide actionable insights and convenient livestock management tools.
Machine learning specialists, Dataprophet, won the 2020 European Prescriptive for Autonomous Manufacturing Technology Innovation Leadership Award by Frost & Sullivan, an international research firm.
According to Ventureburn, the award recognises companies that are leaders in the development and successful introduction of high-tech solutions for customers. They received additional international recognition from CBInsights which announced them as one of the 100 Most Innovative Artificial Intelligence Startups in 2020.
Dataprophet also raised a $6-million Series-A funding round. The investment comes from investors Knife Capital, the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa (IDC) and Norican Group, a leading foundry engineering and equipment company.
Early this year the South African tech startup secured R431 million in funding from a US-based venture capital firm.
According to Business Insider, positive online reviews on third-party software websites attracted interest from Five Elms, which invests in B2B software companies.
Skynamo is a field sales platform used by manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers. Core services include tracking sales activity. Through the platform sales reps can also gain remote access to product and pricing information via their mobile phones.
Examsta won the Best Women in STEM award at the 2020 MTN Business App of the Year Awards.
The online learning platform enables learners to master all content for the SA National and IEB exams. They currently offer Life Sciences for Grade 10 to 12.
The app founder is former science and mathematics educator, Marie de Wet. Today she is now a freelance instructional designer and ed-tech consultant.
According to Heavy Chef, De Wet ran an online trial with over 500 learners between April and May this year. She collected feedback on its utility, user experience and content quality. De Wet self-funded the entire project.
7. Elenjical Solutions
The National Fintech Award Winner of the South African Small Business Awards for this year is Elenjical Solutions
The tech startup, founded by Tinu Elenjical, delivers technology and software to the African investment banking, asset management and insurance markets.
According to IT-Online, the company has seen revenue double year-on-year for the past four years and are forecasting a record turnover. This is despite the impact of COVID-19 and the strict lockdowns.
FinChatBot, creator of conversational AI solutions for the financial services industry, has attracted a $1.6 million investment. The investors include Saviu Ventures, a French investment holding company which focuses on African startups and Mauritius-based, Compass Venture Capital. South African venture capital firm, Kalon Venture Partners, are also investors.
Both Compass Venture Capital and Kalon Venture Partners are solidifying their positions, having previously invested in 2018.
The investment will be used to grow the team and expand into West Africa and Europe, they state in a press release.
The AI fintech company services over 20 top-tier financial service providers including banks and insurers. Clients include MTN Financial Services, Sanlam, Santam, Hollard, MiWay and Bidvest Insurance.
swiftVEE, the South African agri-tech startup, successfully raised a US$1.5 million in funding. Their plans are to expand into Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe and to expand its platform. The startup hopes to expand its use of AI.
The investment comes from Subtropico, an unlisted private company in the food industry.
According to Disrupt Africa, swiftVEE uses artificial intelligence (AI) to match buyers and sellers of livestock globally. They help buyers acquire livestock at the most optimal times. The startup has 125,000 farmers in its network.
On its website visitors can view live online auctions and buy and sell livestock.
10. Lulalend and Paycode
Lulalend is an online provider of business funding to SMEs and Paycode provides biometric digital identity and low-cost access to basic financial services in rural areas,
According to Ventureburn, the awards recognises the top 50 inclusive fintech startups across the globe that are making a concerted effort to provide financial services to underserved communities across the world.