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South African Tech Startups that Disrupted 2019

Posted on Dec 2nd, 2019
Articles Best of 2019 Entrepreneurs slideshow Tech
startup Zande Africa founders
Founders of Zande Africa Siya Ntutela (CEO) and Mdu Thabethe (COO).

In 2019 we saw startup Zande Africa, a retail platform, launch its first spaza hypermarket in Orange Farm to support the growth of the informal trading market. Zande was not the only tech startup to make news this year.

Here is a look at tech startups that successfully secured investment, received international recognition or expanded globally in 2019:

1. Pineapple

The South African insuretech startup was recognised internationally when it was announced winner of  VentureClash, an international fintech competition held in the United States. Pineapple, which was was the only African startup to reach the finals, competed against nine other startups, and took home $1.5-million (R22-million).

The startup’s founders – Matthew Elan Smith, Ndabenhle Junior Ngulube and Marnus van Heerden – said the prize money would be used to develop Pineapple’s motor insurance product that is in the works and is set to launch in six months. Pineapple also won the 2018 MTN App of The Year’s Best Consumer Solution. They have offices in South Africa and the United States.

2. uKheshe

South African app, uKheshe, together with Canada’s MindBridge Analytics, won the SA Reserve Bank’s 2019 Global Fintech Hackcelerator @Southern Africa competition.

Ukheshe is a smartphone app and QR code card that allows its users (informal merchants, traders, street vendors and casual labourers) to accept real-time digital payments from cardholders or different payment apps, without needing a bank account.

Founder, Jason Penton, in April announced that they had raised $500 000 in seed funding on a valuation of R100-million from FiTech Ventures and Ocean on 76.

3. Gannet

Gannet Pro Drones raised more than R1,4million in an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, this after releasing a range of waterproof consumer drones. The startup’s technology is used for fishing and search and rescue.

Gannet Pro drones are fully waterproof and allow anglers to drop bait or life-saving devices several hundred yards out in a matter of seconds.

The startup, which was founded in 2016, currently serves over 7,000 clients around the world.

4. ProfitShare Partners

ProfitShare Partners (PSP) had a good month in November – the Vumela Fund, managed by Edge Growth Ventures, announced that it would be forwarding a R25 million capital line to the fintech company.

CEO Andrew Maren, who started the company in December 2016, also received an award from the National Small Business Chamber – he was announced the 2019 National Small Business Champion.

The fintech company is a short-term capital partner to small business owners, it provides professional expertise and guidance to help SMEs deliver optimally and avoid common pitfalls that slow growth.

5. Sweepsouth

This tech startup made made news as the first tech startup to receive an R30-million investment from Naspers’ newly launched R1.4-billion venture capital (VC) fund, Naspers Foundry. Sweepsouth allows consumers to book domestic workers via an app. The startup has grown 26% since the announcement in June 2019 of the investment by Naspers Foundry.

SweepSouth, which was founded in 2014 by Aisha Pandor and Alen Ribic, had another investment injection shortly after the Naspers Foundry deal, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation invested $1 million (R14,5 million) into the company. Sweepsouth operates in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria

See also: A Guide to some of The Best Startup Talent in SA’s Hubs, Incubators and Accelerators

6. Rentoza

This startup was one of 11 that were chosen as the 11 best tech startups by Startupbootcamp (SBC) AfriTech and invited to attend a Pan-African accelerator.

Known as Africa’s first on-demand rental platform, Rentoza, has grown to over 2,000 users on the platform in the last three months, and had a 250 percent increase in web traffic. They have also successfully completed 167 transactions.

The startup was launched in 2018 to enable businesses and individuals to list their lazy assets, whilst giving customers access to these via a low-cost rental model.

7. Zande Africa

Zande Africa is one of three fintech startups that was awarded R23 million supplier development loans by Rand Merchant Investment Holdings’ incubation, acceleration and investment vehicle, together with Bright On Capital and Livestock Wealth.

Zande Africa, which was founded by Siya Ntutela, CEO and Mdu Thabethe, COO, to help spaza shops access crucial finance in 2017, now has a turnover of R17 million with 71 staff.  Zande Africa has signed up more than 1,400 spaza shops, helping them to obtain lines of credit to buy stock in bulk and take advantage of better pricing from manufacturers.

8. DigsConnect

The Cape Town based student accommodation marketplace, DigsConnect, announced in March that it had raised R12-million in investment from undisclosed investors. The startup pairs up registered students looking for a place to stay with homeowners in Cape Town that are looking to rent out their properties on a long-term basis.

DigsConnect was founded in 2017 by CEO, Alexandria Procter, head of technology, Brendan Ardagh and head of marketing, Greg Keal. According to UCT News, monthly growth on the DigsConnect site of over 60% for listings, and over 61% for users, has been recorded.

9. SmartBlade

The Cape Town based medtech startup, SmartBlade, wowed the South African hardware tech incubator, Savant, and received an R9.5-million investment from them in June this year.

SmartBlade has developed a device, which consists of a smartphone app that is linked to a video laryngoscope, which enables single operators of varied skill levels to intubate difficult airways in patients.

The funding is to be used as pre-revenue for the startup to acquire moulds to manufacture its devices and to attain certification, which includes US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) registration.

10. Voyc.ai

Cape Town based, but Dutch registered, startup Voyc.ai was part of the third class of the Google Launchpad Africa accelerator programme, which concluded in June. The startup is currently in the private beta stage and is testing its platform with Standard Bank.

According to Ventureburn, the startup has raised $230 000 (over R3-million) and now has a team of six. They generate a revenue of about $10 000 a month currently — with the aim of hitting $80 000 a month next year. Voyc.ai was founded by Lethabo Motsoaledi and fellow UCT geomatics engineering student, Matthew Westaway, in February last year.