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Forbes – Top 20 Startups in Africa

2012 February 9

The February 2012 edition of Forbes Africa contains their list of Top 20 Start-ups in Africa:

Checkout the list below, do you agree with the listed companies, do you think some were missed out? Let us know in the comments.

1. MXit

  • Founded: 2003
  • Country: South Africa
  • Description: MXit was one of the first Mobile Instant messaging services in the world and in Africa, and has a userbase of about 45m.
  • Website: http://www.mxit.co.za

2. Yola


  • Founded: 2007
  • Country: South Africa
  • Description: Yola is a simple website builder and hosting service, that allows anyone without any HTML skills to easily create websites.
  • Website: http://www.yola.com

3. Dropifi (Ghana)

  • Founded: 2011
  • Country: Ghana
  • Description: Dropifi assists businesses better respond to incoming messages via their website, and also includes analytics for website owners.
  • Website: http://www.dropifi.com/

4. Cobi Interactive

  • Founded: 2009
  • Country: South Africa
  • Description: Cobi interactive is a mobile software development company with clients
  • Website: http://www.cobiinteractive.com/

5. FloCash

  • Founded: 2010
  • Country: UK
  • Description: FloCash allows anyone with an email address and mobile number to send and receive money across Africa simply and easily.
  • Website: https://www.flocash.com

6. Obami

  • Founded: 2009
  • Country: South Africa
  • Description: Obami is a social network and learning management system for schools, teachers and students
  • Website: http://www.obami.com

7. Bandeka 

  • Founded: 2011
  • Country: Ghana/Nigeria
  • Description: Bandeka is an exclusive social network, for building relationships/dating.
  • Website: http://www.bandeka.com/

8. Jobberman 

  • Founded: 2009
  • Country: Nigeria
  • Description: Jobberman is west africa’s most popular job and placement website.
  • Website: http://www.jobberman.com/

9. Motribe

  • Founded: 2011
  • Country: South Africa
  • Description: Motribe is a mobile platform enabling users, brands, agencies and publishers across the world to build and manage their own mobile social communities.
  • Website: http://www.motribe.co.za

10. PesaPal

  • Founded: 2009
  • Country: Kenya
  • Description: PesaPal is a payment platform that enables Kenyans to buy and sell on the Internet using M-Pesa, Zap and Credit Cards.
  • Website: https://www.pesapal.com/

11. Synaq

  • Founded: 2004
  • Country: South Africa
  • Description: Synaq provides messaging and security products built around open source solutions.
  • Website: http://www.synaq.com/


12. Rupu

  • Founded: 2010
  • Country: Kenya
  • Description: Rupu is a daily deals website modeled on groupon.
  • Website: https://www.rupu.co.ke

13. BongoLive

14. Skyrove

  • Founded: 2006?
  • Country: South Africa
  • Description: Skyrove  is South Africa’s largest independent Wi-Fi hotspot network with over 600 Wi-Fi hotspots in South Africa.
  • Website: http://www.skyrove.com/

15. Njorku 

  • Founded: 2011
  • Country: Cameroon
  • Description: Njorku is a career and recruitment services platform focused on Africa.
  • Website: http://www.njorku.com/

16. Ushahidi 

  • Founded: 2007
  • Country: Kenya
  • Description: The only non profit on this list, ushahidi develops software for information collection, visualization and interactive mapping.
  • Website: http://ushahidi.com/


  • Founded: 2005
  • Country: Ghana
  • Description: SMSGh offers bulk SMS solutions, SMS Gateway solutions and mobile web solutions
  • Website: http://smsgh.com/

18. Hummba

  • Founded: 2011
  • Country: South Africa
  • Description: Hummba is a social and travel networking website that lets you download free audio travel guides and share travel experiences directly from your mobile phone.
  • Website: http://www.hummba.com/

19. 10Layer

  • Founded: 2011
  • Country: South Africa
  • Description: 10Layer is CMS system targeted specifically at news rooms.
  • Website: http://10layer.com/

20. Sembuse (Kenya)

  • Founded: 2009
  • Country: Kenya
  • Description: Sembuse is a mobile social network & instant messaging platform similar to Mxit
  • Website: http://www.sembuse.com/

South African Innovation Network – Breakfast Event

2012 February 8
by Ismail Dhorat

SAINE (South African Innovation Network) is an non profit organisation dedicated to encouraging innovation in South Africa.  The event will feature the board game “Superprenuer” 

SuperPrenuer is a board game that aim’s to use fun to teach and assist SMME entrepreneurs. The board game aims to encourage good business principals and values while at the same time discouraging behaviours that limit productivity. The ‘game’ takes approximately 2 hours to play, however it requires the use of facilitators who assist with your learnings.

You could learn quite a lot with the right board game, for example some argue monopoly teach quite a few principals that could assist any entrepreneur. While others argue that monopoly actually teach you bad economic principals.

What are your thoughts, would you consider playing a board game to learn?

Event Details

Date: 24 February 2012

Time: 9:00am—12:00 am

Venue: The intelliLAB at the University of Johannesburg

Cost: Free for SAINE members, R95 for non members


Angelhub Founders Dinner – Snappingly Good

2012 February 3
by Ismail Dhorat

Last night I attended the inaugural Angelhub founders dinner. Other than some amazing and inspiring stories from all of the founders there, i learnt quite quickly that including the word ‘snap’ seems to be very popular amongst South African entrepreneurs,  We previously wrote about snapplify , we also have snap-bill and snapt-ui.

I have to say the event was extremely useful, the entrepreneurs shared a whole lot of information they would not usually share in a large room with 50 people in it. Several times we heard :

“Don’t quote me on this”

I dont know if it was the small crowd, the intimate lighting but it worked.  Richard Dewing’s story was truly inspiring, how his first deal went horribly wrong, the ups and downs of his business.

Some interesting quotes from the night:

“I’m not telling dad his pension money is gone! We’re gonna do this!”

“Your customers may like your software for a completely different reason than you do.”

“Co-founders are not about having expertise, it’s about someone who’s with you when it gets dark!”

“Your projections are almost always wrong”

“It is up to us – the SA entrepreneurs – to turn things around in this country and catalyze growth”

Do your self a favour, and the next time this event comes around snap (see what i did there?) up a place as soon as you can. You will not regret it.

Some of the guys in attendance were:

I have tried to get everyone’s twitter handle, if i missed yours send me a tweet @ismail.

p.s I hear rumours of a new start-up called snap-tube, check back here for more.


* Shout out to slow in the city for hosting us and keeping the place open later then usual

* Pictures from Jaco Van Wyk & Brett Commaille



Startup Weekend- Nairobi Kenya!

2012 February 3
by Ismail Dhorat

Startup Weekends are 54-hour events where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products, and launch startups!

Startup Weekends are weekend-long, hands-on experiences where entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs can find out if startup ideas are viable. On average, half of Startup Weekend’s attendees have technical backgrounds, the other half have business backgrounds.

Beginning with open mic pitches on Friday, attendees are encouraged to bring their best ideas and inspire others to join their team. Over Saturday and Sunday teams design and develop business plans while constantly streamlining their startup vision. On Sunday evening teams demo their prototypes, listen to judges’ feedback and in some cities, win prizes.

Startup Weekends are specifically designed for entrepreneurs interested in receiving feedback on an idea, looking for a co-founder, or who want to learn a new skill. We also welcome anyone looking to test the entrepreneurial waters. Startup Weekends are risk-free environments where everyone is expected to roll up their sleeves and dive into the exhilarating world of startups.
Register at: http://nairobi.startupweekend.org

Beware of the Googly

2012 February 2
by Zaheer Cassim

In cricket, the googly is a ball that spins more than expected. It deceives batsman who are not paying attention, to the extended break of the wrist and can be a devastating weapon in the arson of a spin bowler. I don’t know if Mocality CEO Stefan Magdalinski plays cricket, but he knows how to play a googly. But let’s start with the bowler.

This week, Olga Arara-Kimani, Google’s country manager of Kenya left her job. Now no one knows if she left on her own account or that she was fired, but what is for sure is that is that she hasn’t been playing nice with the competition.

Mocality specialises in keeping a directory of thousands of Kenyan businesses, which are easily accessible via your cellphone. Businesses get to list for free and most of them were contacted directly by the Mocality team, meaning a lot of man hours. But because of this hard work, Mocality has a very valuable database, which they have collected over the last two years.

Then in September of 2011 Google launches Getting Kenyan Businesses Online (GKBO) and that’s when things strange things started to happen, explains CEO in a blog.

“Shortly after that launch, we started receiving some odd calls. One or two business owners were clearly getting confused because they wanted help with their website, and we don’t currently offer websites, only a listing. Initially, we didn’t think much of it, but the confusing calls continued through November,”

he writes.

The Mocality team then discover a reoccurring IP address with a very distinct user agent, not common to Kenyan browsers. This user agent was spending half its time looking at contact details for each individual business.

Magdalinski decides to setup an operation to find out what was going on. He reroutes some of his client’s telephone numbers and instead of calling a business registered on the site, the phone call goes through to a member of the Mocality team.

What he found out was that the user agent turned out to be from GKBO computers and that they were using his database to phone his clients, only to sell them Google products. More than that, these Google employees were lying to the business owners by telling them that Mocality and Google were working together and that Mocailty charges for its listings, a service which is free.

You can click on this transcript to see one of those phone calls.

Magdalinkski discusses the whole sting on his blog and concluded with this:

“Since October, Google’s GKBO appears to have been systematically accessing Mocality’s database and attempting to sell their competing product to our business owners. They have been telling untruths about their relationship with us, and about our business practices, in order to do so. As of January 11th, nearly 30% of our database has apparently been contacted.”

After the blog post, Google officially apologised to Mocality and acknowledged that they were using foul practices to steal clients away from the Kenyan company.

“We were mortified to learn that a team of people working on a Google project improperly used Mocality’s data and misrepresented our relationship with Mocality to encourage customers to create new websites,” said Nelson Mattos, Google’s vice president for product and engineering, Europe and emerging markets.
“We’ve already unreservedly apologized to Mocality. We’re still investigating exactly how this happened, and as soon as we have all the facts, we’ll be taking the appropriate action with the people involved,”

he said in a statement.

Youngbusiness Breakfast With Adrian Gore

2012 February 1
by Ismail Dhorat

YBSA and Discovery invite you to an exclusive business breakfast with Adrian Gore. Adrian wants to interact, debate and to exchange thoughts, ideas and opinions on a wide range of issues from success, leadership and entrepreneurship to international business and where South Africa is going.

This invitation is only open to registered YBSA members. Seats are extremely limited so RSVP today whereupon you will be given payment instructions. Your seat will only be confirmed once proof of payment has been received.

Event Details
Booking is essential
Date: Tuesday 07 February 2012
Time: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Venue: Discovery Head Office, 155 West Street, Sandton
Cost: YBSA Members: R100
RSVP:  info@innercoaching.co.za by Friday 3 February 2012


22Seven Launches with some controversy

2012 January 31
by Zaheer Cassim

Last week, South Africans got the first look at 22seven, a service that links up to your website and provides you with information on your spending habits. For R70 a month, after the initial trial free period, this website analyzes your bank account and tells you where you spending your money on in an easy to read format i.e. a pie chart with colourful balloons. Big balloon equals lots of money.

It’s a fun way to look at how you spend your cash and according to the founder of the company Christo Davel, it puts you in control of your finances.


With the launch of the site, big banks turned out to not so in favour of the program saying that it’s a risk to your banking security by using it. Absa, FNB, the South African Banking Risk Association, and even the the South African police warned users that it’s not their responsibility if your money goes missing. But that’s a smart move, it protects the banks if something does happen.

Absa issued a statement

It is absolutely imperative that Absa customers, and in fact customers of all banks, never divulge their sensitive personal information, such as PIN numbers, passwords and one-time passwords, to any parties – via websites, phishing emails, phone calls, SMSes or any other means.


Disclosing one’s sensitive information renders the customer completely liable for any losses that may occur due to phishing or other online fraud, as per Absa’s online banking terms and conditions disallowing customers from divulging their sensitive information to any third party.


Aside from these serious security concerns, customers should also note that forthcoming redevelopments to Absa’s online banking platform, set for release later in 2012, will include a variety of personal financial management (PFM) tools. These tools will enable our customers to consolidate information from various institutions, budget more effectively, create a visual dashboard view of their personal finances, and much more.


This rich array of personal financial management services will be integrated within the secure environment of Absa’s online banking interface, removing any of the security concerns present in third party PFM tools like 22seven.


This will be provided to our customers at no additional charge to the regular monthly subscription fee. 22seven charges R70 per month, on top of one’s existing online banking monthly subscription or bundled product fees.


Sites like 22seven conflict with the clear fraud awareness messaging sent out by all major banks, as well as the South African Banking Risk Association and the South African Police Force.

22seven could have involved the banks, though for some reason they did not. Possibly due to the fact that some banks were already building services like this, or the fear that they would have copied the idea.

Another option would have been for them to have built the service as a ‘whitebox’ solution, that could be integrated into an existing banks website.

The jury is still out on twitter. Some people are going to wait,while other are jumping in. Check out #22seven for yourself.

Personally, I am going to wait a bit until all the site is out of its beta stage and they’ve sorted out all the kinks. I am also not a fan of the monthly R70 subscription fee, I know it’s not a lot – three cappuccinos at Vida, but I am to use to the web being for fee.

On the upside, 22seven is using another company, Yodlee to do the interacting with the bank accounts. Yodlee has been around for more than 10 years and there hasn’t been too many complaints about this program.

Let us know what you think at http://www.facebook.com/startupafrica or in the comments below.



Snapplify – South African E-publishing iPad App

2012 January 30
by Ismail Dhorat

Snapplify, which bills itself as:

Snapplify is committed to offering a simple service to authors and publishers, giving them a full turnkey solution that transforms PDFs to Mobile Apps instantly. We take PDFs and convert these exact files into digital publications which are then placed in a company branded Mobile App which is free to download from the App Store. You can place multiple publications within a single App making it a perfect tool for magazines, newspapers and books.

It looks like a way for publishers/bloggers/magazine owners to quickly and easily launch e-publications. The App will be competing with existing frameworks such as Adobe Digital Editions.  The advantage of using Snapplify though, is the cost.

Unlike Adobe Digital Editions, it has zero up front costs. You can either choose a revenue share model for each paid download, or you pay about $ 20-30c per a download.

As expected, snapplify supports embedding several media types such as Audio, Video, Images, Google Maps. Grab the demo app and have a look, or take a look at the screenshots below. The app is already being used by a few publishers such as iMaverick which is part of daily maverick, and they have just announced signing of a deal at the Frankfurt Book Fair.



Angel Hub Launches Founders Dinner

2012 January 26
by Ismail Dhorat

In addition to periodic ‘deal pitching’ sessions, AngelHub is launching a monthly high-touch networking platform by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs in 2012. The events are targeted at getting founders (and prospective founders) of interesting high-growth ventures together for meaningful conversations on shared experiences.
Rather than a traditional networking event where one needs to delicately balance a drink and cocktail snacks in one hand while exchanging awkward handshakes and business cards with the other, Founders Dinners will take the form of, well… a casual dinner.

One experienced guest entrepreneur will join representatives of the AngelHub team, and then 10 seats are open around the table for other entrepreneurs to join in. These events will alternate between Johannesburg and Cape Town.
First Founders’ Dinner: Thursday 2nd February
Location: Johannesburg at SLOW in the City, Sandton (corner West and Rivonia, opposite Gautrain station.)
Guest entrepreneur: Richard Dewing – founder and CEO of business data backup software

Company: Cibecs (Pty) Ltd.

To book a seat at this dinner table and/or for more info please email: RSVP-at-angelhub.co.za.

When you do, please include a short paragraph telling us a bit about you as an entrepreneur. AngelHub is a Business Angel Investment Group that pools funding, expertise & networks from a diverse range of early-stage Angel Investors for investment in high-growth South African ventures to accelerate growth & create value.

Silicon Cape – VC Office Hours

2012 January 20
by Ismail Dhorat

Silicon Cape has just launched VC office hours, where you as a start-up entrepreneurs can sit for 30 minutes with a VC and bounce ideas off them, discuss your project etc.  I suspect #Johannesburg is going to loose the battle to be the technology hub of South Africa, unless similar projects are done soon here.

As part of Silicon Cape Initiatives’s goal of creating more and better start-ups we would like to announce a new monthly initiative: VC Office Hours. This is great opportunity for you to ask an investor specific questions about the funding process, how to apply for funding, or about a specific aspect of your business. This is so that when you do apply for funding your chances of getting a “YES” are more than one in a hundred.

We have a great line up of investment professionals who have generously volunteered their time to assist the Silicon Cape community. Even if some of them have said no to you in the past, they are here to answer your questions, so please treat them nicely.

The format of the sessions will be that 6 start-up teams will get a 30 min question slot on the first Friday of each month with a funder. Sign-up will be via the Links below on this page and once you have signed up you will get a confirmation email of the meeting time, venue and details of who you will be meeting with.

Please read the house rules before you apply as we will be strict to ensure that everyone gets a chance and our investors agree to participate again. Once you have signed up you will get a confirmation email of the meeting time, venue and details of who you will be meeting.

Spaces are limited and sessions will be filled on a first come, first served basis. Please read the house rules before you apply as we will be strict to ensure that everyone gets a chance and our investors agree to participate again.

Click HERE to book your slot.

House Rules:

1. Strictly no NDAs will be signed by any of the funds or in the advisor’s personal capacity. It is up to you to keep your IP confidential if it is not protected. If you are considering talking to an investor you should be able to describe the project in sufficient detail without disclosing your IP until detailed investigation.

2. This is not a pitching session and is not a formal application for funding, but rather an opportunity for you to get some valuable insight into what funders look for, what they would require or how you could improve a specific aspect of your business to increase your chances for funding.

3. Meetings will be kept strictly to 30min. If you are late, you miss out.

4. Keep it simple – you only have 30min which includes any set up time if you want to do a presentation. The suggested format is that you present and discuss one or two aspects of your business with the advisor.

5. Sign-up will be on a first come, first served basis and will be limit to one session for each start-up, every 2 months depending on demand.

6. If you participate in the session, please provide feedback (to VChrs[at]siliconcape.com) from your session so we can continue to provide a useful service to other entrepreneurs.


2012 Schedule (subject to change):

– Friday, 3 February 2012 with Andrea Bohmert (RSVP & Submit form by 5pm Monday, 30 January 2012)
– Friday, 2 March 2012 with 4Di Capital (RSVP & Submit form by 5pm Monday, 27 February 2012)
– Thursday, 5 April 2012 with Angel Hub (RSVP & Submit form by 5pm Monday, 2 April 2012)
– Friday, 4 May 2012 with Hasso Plattner Ventures Africa (RSVP & Submit form by 5pm Monday, 30 April 2012)
– Friday, 1 June 2012 with Powered by VC (RSVP & Submit form by 5pm Monday, 28 May 2012)
– Friday, 3 August 2012 with 4Di Capital (RSVP & Submit form by 5pm Monday, 30 July 2012)
– Friday, 7 September 2012 with Andrea Bohmert (RSVP & Submit form by 5pm Monday, 3 September 2012)
– Friday, 5 October 2012 with Angel Hub (RSVP & Submit form by 5pm Monday, 1 October 2012)
– Friday, 2 November 2012 with Invenfin (RSVP & Submit form by 5pm Monday, 30 Jan 2012)


Time slots are:

9:00 – 9:30am
9:30 – 10:00am
10:00 – 10:30am
10:15 – 10:45am
10:45 – 11:15am
11:15 – 11:45am
11:45- 12:15pm