The Mother City is well-recognised as a tech capital, attracting innovative thinkers and talented entrepreneurs. Their sometimes simple ideas, developed in coffee shops, student dorms, coworking spaces and at kitchen tables, have gone on to become influential movers and shakers in the tech startup world. To give you a taste of who’s done what and how they’ve gone on to disrupt their part of the commercial world, we’ve rounded up a few of Cape Town’s tech success stories. While accessing funding for tech ideas is notoriously difficult – some estimates suggest that around half of all startups fail within the first two years – the teams listed here are some of the city’s startup superstars. We’re immensely proud of their achievements and hope their stories will inspire others to go for their own version of gold in the race to become the next serious game-changer in their sector.
|22 Seven||22Seven was established in 2012 to enable users to manage their money better. The platform uses artificial intelligence to and smart technology to offer insights into how users can budget, plan, invest, save and spend their money more effectively. In 2021, the app had 400 000 registered users. It was acquired by Old Mutual in 2013.|
|Clickatell||Clickatell was born in Pieter de Villiers’ apartment, where he and his co-founders created an application programming interface between cell phones and computers. In just four lines of code, the team were able to offer brands an easy way to communicate with customers on their cellphones. Companies use Clickatell’s solutions across multiple industries to facilitate their customer service processes, as well as being able to acquire and retain customers, and offering commerce capabilities. Two decades later, Clickatell’s technology covers more than 220 territories, over 1000 networks and 90% of the world’s population, reaching around 7 billion users by SMS.|
|Food Supply Network||Food Supply Network streamlines the food trade supply chain through an online business-to-business platform that connects manufacturers, distributors and buyers of food products, streamlining the communication and buying processes between all parties. The integrated platform has three main functions for three different types of users:1) Manufacturers can list their products, 2)distributors can link their services, and 3) buyers (e.g. restaurants and retailers) can place orders.Food Supply Network raised US$1 million in funding from investors including homegrown media and tech company Naspers.|
|Fundamo||Headquartered in Cape Town, Fundamo has built one of the world’s most advanced and sophisticated mobile financial service platforms. The platform has been deployed in more than 34 countries across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, offering mobile financial services to unbanked and under-banked mobile subscribers including person-to-person payments, bill payments, wireless airtime top-up, and ticketing. Today Fundamo is one of the largest specialist providers of mobile financial services in the world. It has played a major role in the development of the mobile financial services industry since 2000. In June 2011, Fundamo was acquired by Visa for US$110 million.|
|GetSmarter||GetSmarter was established in Cape Town in 2008, offering its first online short course, Wine Evaluation, in partnership with the University of Stellenbosch. By 2013, around 30 000 working professionals had benefited from the GetSmarter model of providing online short courses with the backing of leading universities across the world. One of those universities, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) came on board in 2016, offering GetSmarter a significant global profile. In 2017, GetSmarter was acquired by US-based tech firm 2U in a deal valued at R1.4 billion. The team has a goal to graduate a million people from its short courses by 2030.|
|GoMetro||GoMetro is a mobile transit info app that offers transportation planning and updates to improve the commuting experience. |
GoMetro designs, deploys and operates flexible mobility platforms using proprietary technology that empowers city leaders, transport managers, corporates, retail centres, property developers, airports and downtown planners to introduce bold new mobility strategies. Their connected transport digital platform equips transport planners with the data needed to respond to the challenges of increased congestion, aged infrastructure, disruptive mobility players, self-driving vehicles and inadequate quality public transport services.
In May this year, GoMetro announced a seed investment of R16.3 million to accelerate growth into global markets. The company is also a recipient of funding through the CDI’s Design Innovation Seed Fund.
|Luno (crypto traders)||Luno started in 2013 as a cryptocurrency exchange, enabling ordinary people to trade in digital currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum through the Luno app. The business has since expanded its operations to nine countries, with a remaining base in Cape Town where it all started. It’s now headquartered in London, but we still claim Luno as an incredible made in Cape Town success story. In 2020 it was acquired by US-based blockchain investor, Digital Currency Group (DCG), enabling it to expand even further.|
|Mxit||When the tech world’s old favourite, Mxit, shut its doors in 2015, it had close to 100 million users. Considering that it was only launched in 2007, that kind of growth is certainly nothing to be sneezed at. At its peak it was held as a much-admired presence on the tech scene. What it didn’t have was the ability to keep up with the relentless rise of Facebook and WhatsApp, fuelled by the equally meteoric rise of smartphone technology. However, we’re still proud of its roots in Cape Town as one of the pioneers in the new exciting world of social networking.|
|Quicket||Quicket was started by three founders who recognised the power of events as a way to connect people with payments, helping organisers easily monetise and collect money for their events. In the first year of operation, 2011, Quicket sold R400m of tickets. Just 8 years later, with thousands of events on the platform every day, the cumulative value of ticket sales hit R1 billion. The company plans to expand operation out to Africa, which is a more complex proposition given the multiple different currencies active across the continent.|
|Revix||The team at Revix summarises their work as providing a “ladder of opportunity for wealth creation.” They do this by helping people invest easily in bundles of crypto currencies, in a simple, secure, accessible way. The company offers ordinary people automated technology, combined with behavioural intelligence and rewards programmes, that facilitates uncomplicated investments in alternative assets and traditional securities. Launched in Cape Town, Revix is backed by JSE-listed Sabvest.|
|Root||Root is an end-to-end digital insurance platform that enables developers to launch new products and digital engagement channels fast. The platform packages all the compliance, regulatory and reporting complexities behind easy-to-use application programme interfaces (APIs), allowing client teams to focus on building great customer experiences. The Root team is based in Green Point, Cape Town and is headed up by Louw Hopley. Root secured U$3 million in funding from a group of individual and corporate investors at the end of 2021.|
|Skynamo||Launched as Honeybee in 2012, Skynamo is on a mission to help manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors gain clarity and control of their field sales processes, with advanced reporting and automated tracking of sales activities. Skynamo’s mobile-specific cloud-based GPS tracking technology offers integrated access to pricing, customer details, orders and stock information, from wherever the customer’s sales team operates. The technology helps customers reduce costs, close more details and make more informed sales decisions. In 2020, Skynamo secured $30 million investment from Five Elms, US-based business-to-business software investors.|
|Stitch||Stitch is an API infrastructure company that enables simple, easy access to user financial accounts. Their mission is to make it easier for businesses across Africa to build, optimise and scale financial solutions. Using the Stitch API, businesses can more easily access their customers’ bank accounts to verify identity, view transaction and balance data, enable instant, fraud-free bank payments and more. Its payments and data infrastructure enables players across the fintech ecosystem — which is traditionally fragmented by technical, commercial and political barriers — to transact seamlessly, expand their revenue and growth potential, and significantly reduce conversion time and cost. Stitch was launched in South Africa in early 2021, and expanded to Nigeria in October 2021. In February 2022 the company announced US$21 million Series A funding, led by The Spruce House Partnership.|
|Superbalist||Superbalist started out life in 2011 as group-buying business CityMob, focusing on offering deals in time-limited sales. As the market for flash sales began to wane, in 2013, the business evolved into online fashion brand retailer, Superbalist. The brand took off as a leading retailer targeting millennial buyers with global fashion brands in South Africa’s fledgling online buying habits. |
In 2014, Superbalist was acquired in full by Takealot.
|SwiftVEE||SwiftVEE uses artificial intelligence to match buyers and sellers of livestock all over the world. With around 125 000 farmers on its network, at the time of writing, SwiftVEE’s mission is to improve efficiency in the agricultural sector to preserve food security, reduce trade vulnerability and address resource scarcity in a world where populations are growing and resources are ever-more in demand. The firm was created in Cape Town and has plans to expand to Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. It was shortlisted as one of the country’s top 100 most innovative companies and has since diversified into livestock insurance through its new venture, backed by Old Mutual, VeeSure, and online agricultural product sales, through PrysWys. In 2020, SwiftVee secured US$1.5 million in backed from food investors Suptropico. SwiftVEE was a recipient of funding through the CDI’s Design Innovation Seed Fund.|
|Thawte Consulting||Founded by Mark Shuttleworth, Thawte was the first certificate authority to issue SSL certificates to public entities outside of the United States, quickly growing to account for 40% of the global SSL market. |
In 1999, Thawte was acquired by Verisign and later by Symantec in 2000, becoming a key member of the Symantec family of trust brands. To date, Thawte has issued more than 945 000 SSL and code signing certificates since 1995, protecting identities and transactions in over 240 countries.
Fun fact: Mark Shuttleworth has gone on to build a reputation not only as a philanthropist, investor and entrepreneur but also as the first South African to travel to space as a space tourist.
|WooCommerce||WooCommerce was created in 2008 by Mark Forrester, Adii Pienaar, and Magnus Jepson, working as a remote team based in Cape Town and in Norway and the United Kingdom. Starting out life as a team of developers creating themes for WordPress websites, the business has since evolved into WooCommerce, the engine that powers over 30% of all online stores globally, fuelled by more than 150 employees based in 32 countries. In 2015, the company was acquired by WordPress owner Automattic in a transaction rumoured to be worth US$30 million.|
|Yoco||Yoco is the market leader for small business payments in Africa with its simple card machines and online payment tools. Today, 200 000 business owners use the technology to grow their businesses and contribute to the economy. Yoco makes it as simple as possible for small business owners to accept card payments, in-person and online. Starting out in 2014, the business now employs over 350 people and processes over US$2bn in transactions every year. |
Yoco has raised over US$100M in funding from some of the world’s leading technology investors.
|Yuppiechef||Yuppiechef was founded in 2006 by two good friends, selling just 32 kitchen products online, from a lounge in Plumstead. In their first four months they made only 11 sales and at the end of the first year, they had just 200 customers. Despite a slow start, since then the brand has built a following and reputation for quality products and quirky touches, like a hand-written note and a fridge magnet included in its delivery boxes, that enabled it to expand its range and staff base to around 200 people in 2021. It was acquired by Mr Price in 2021 for R460 million.|
|Zando||Zando was established in 2012 and today positions itself as South Africa’s premier online fashion shopping destination. |
With investors such as Rocket Internet AG, Milicom and MTN, Zando’s trajectory started with a €20 million investment by Summit Partners, an equity investor. Zando is a subsidiary to parent company, The Jumia Group, which operates as a fashion retailer and across numerous other vertical in various other African countries.
Are there any tech stars missing from this list? Let us know.