Everything you need to know about the South African startup ecosystem

By Jacques Coetzee: Staff Reporter on 21 September, 2015

Update: Are you a venture capitalist or an angel investor looking to invest in a company? Are you an entrepreneur looking for capital or other opportunities? Are you an aspiring startup owner looking for assistance? Well, you have come to the right place. Ventureburn presents an updated guide to South Africa’s startup scene.

This article is the most comprehensive guide for anyone who wants to get involved with, or have a better understanding of the country’s fast-growing startup space. It is a part of a series of articles we will pilot, which will also include the West African and East African startup space.

We have scoured South Africa’s entrepreneurial landscape and hand-picked some of the top players to get you started, looking at all sectors from education, investment (angel, venture capital, private equity), government, accelerators and incubators to media players (print and online).

Bookmark this one. The intention is for this article to be a living thing, that will grow into the ultimate resource for South African tech startups and entrepreneurs. Also, with your comments and suggestions we hope to create a clear overview of the people and organisations that influence and shape South Africa’s tech venture space.

Venture Capital

Venture capital is all about early-stage, high-potential, high-risk, growth startups.

For a comprehensive list of venture capital and private equity firms check out the South African Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (SAVCA). Our picks are known tech startup investors.

AngelHub Ventures started out as South Africa’s “first group of angel investors” that provides pool funding, expertise and networks to foster startup growth. Since 2014, angel investors ex-FNB head Michael Jordaan and Kevin Harris came on board and the firm upgraded to a VC. Under the leadership of Brett Commaille, the firm has been supporting startups like GoMetro, Snapplify and AmaLocker.

Founded by Michael Jordaan, MonteGray provides seed and growth capital, strategic advice and access to networks. The businesses it invests in are all focused on solving everyday problems. For instance, Snapplify is a digital publishing solution while Project Isizwe’s provides free WiFi in low-income communities.

4Di Capital prefers early-stage tech investments. Its Early-Stage Technology Fund 1 is aimed at startup investment opportunities with big growth potential at the seed and early stages in the mobile, enterprise software and web sectors. Some of the companies in its portfolio include HealthQ, SMEasy and Bloodhound.

Knife Capital is a growth equity fund manager with a specific focus on sustainable technology-enabled ventures. The company was named South Africa’s best VC in 2012. Some more recent achievements include the exit of radar startup iKubu to Garmin in 2015.

Business Partners funds startups in the clean energy, agri-processing, biotech and ICT sectors up to R25-million. Earlier this year, the firm launched a R250-million fund to support women in business.

Grovest Venture Capital Company (VCC) claims to be South Africa’s first VC company incorporated under Section 12J of the Income Tax Act — a new asset class in the country that has proven to be successful in the UK where VC companies are traded as venture capital trusts. The VC structure offers investors exposure to the VC sector while at the same time providing up to 40% tax relief on their investments. Grovest looks for technology-focused South African private companies. The company invested in SMEasy in 2015.

Invenfin is a seed and early-stage venture capital fund which looks at ventures across all industries. Some notable portfolio members include ArcAqua, Ad Dynamo and Boss Brands.

Silvertree Capital (also known as Silvertree Internet Holdings) supports and invests in startups targeting the South African and sub-Saharan African markets. Within the first half of 2015, the firm has invested R20-million and has enjoyed month-on-month revenue growth of over 10% across its portfolio.

eVentures Africa Fund was launched in 2010 by Vincent Kouwenhoven and Brian Hirman. The fund leverages capital and experience from Europe to invest in internet-related companies in Africa. Some of the firm’s notable investments include South Africa’s Nomanini and Nigeria-based MoboFree.

Clifftop Colony is described as an investment advisory firm focused on private and illiquid assets in emerging African markets. The firm focuses on developing and raising capital for private equity franchises, individual companies and venture projects. It usually invests in early-stage startups, preferring investments of R20-million and above.

Seedstars World, as the name suggests, is a global venture capital firm based in Switzerland. Startups from a growing number of emerging markets — including South Africa — are invited to pitch and take part in the international competition where they’ll stand a chance to win up to US$500 000 in equity investment.

Capria Acclerator is worth a mention too. Though not focusing on early-stage investment into startups directly, the programme acts as a global VC and accelerator for other VCs. It focuses on supporting fund managers in South Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America. It has a track record of raising over US$1.2-billion in India, and plans to expand beyond those borders.


A incubator brings in an outside team to manage an idea that was developed internally and takes a larger chunk of equity in the resulting company.

Founded in 2000, Raizcorp is the only unfunded for-profit business incubator in Africa. It has seven physical incubators in South Africa and one in Angola. To date, 900 companies have graduated from Raizcorp. Late 2014, the organisation partnered with the South African Communications Forum to help set up an initiative worth R10-million to support black-owned tech SMEs.

Forming part of CiTi (see networking organisations below) Bandwidth Barn has been in operation since 2000 and is today regarded as one of the leading ICT business incubators in the world. The initiative is also been behind the setting up of a Bitcoin hub as well as Virtual Reality community — both a first in South Africa. In 2015, the Bandwidth Barn also unveiled Barn Khayelitsha — a co-working support hub for entrepreneurs in the area.

The RLabs Innovation Incubator provides entrepreneurs with a shared space to develop their ideas with help from an experienced developer and entrepreneurship network. Ventures that have a social impact, are sustainable and show potential for growth are welcome.

JoziHub wants to transform the technology industry by connecting potential entrepreneurs and developers with the critical resources they need. It has backing from heavyweights such as Omidyar and Google.

The Shuttleworth Foundation looks for “amazing people”, give them a fellowship grant, and multiply the money they put into their projects by a factor of ten or more. Startups that receive fellowship grants get office space for a year during which their ideas are developed.

Impact Amplifier focuses on supporting entrepreneurs who tackle Africa’s socio-economic and environmental challenges. It acts as both an incubator for high-growth, high-impact businesses and as a consultant for big business.

The Awethu Project is pioneering a new approach to identifying talented entrepreneurs in under-resourced South African communities. Its applicants don’t need any minimum level of education, business experience, capital or even an investable idea. The only requirement is that an applicant comes from an under-resourced background and can prove that they have world-class entrepreneurial potential through Awethu’s Talent Identification Process.

Seed Academy offers a range of different support programmes for entrepreneurs. From its 10-week Think. Be. Do. programme to an incubation support programme that runs between six and 24 months, the organisation offers coaching, workshops, tools and more.

Standard Bank launched its Standard Bank Incubator Programme in 2015 to educate, create, empower and develop entrepreneurs in South Africa. The programme is accompanied by the incubator co-working space in Rosebank, Johannesburg.

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About Author

Jacques Coetzee grew up in Stellenbosch, South Africa. He also studied International Relations (BA) at Stellenbosch University with an interest in innovation and initiatives and how they could contribute to the benefit of society. I have always been interested in both politics and development and started becoming more and more…

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