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xx October 2022: Although South Africa’s start-up sector has taken a tangible knock over the past few years, the country has maintained its position as the only African country that ranks within the global top 50 start-up ecosystems. This is According to the 2022 Global Startup Ecosystem Index by StartupBlink.

This finding is testament to the resilience of South Africa’s budding community of entrepreneurs, many of whom are finding creative ways to harness rapid technological advancements to enable good business. These three South African start-ups should be on everyone’s watchlist:

  1. Valenture Institute

The closure of schools during the pandemic and the quantum leap that education took into the digital space opened eyes to the possibility of a different future for learning. Before the onset of COVID-19, home-schooling was viewed as an ‘outlier’ in the education landscape – a deviation from the norm, best suited to unconventional families. Now, in the ‘new normal,’ online home-schooling has taken off on local and international shores. For entrepreneurs in the realm of education, this trend represents an unmissable opportunity.

As a pioneering social enterprise, Valenture Institute has hit the ground running with a business model that offers fully-fledged online programmes for high-school learners and pre-college students. Valenture is the hyperscale start-up behind UCT’s Online High School and is on a mission to “transform physical limitations into digital possibilities.” It was founded in 2019 by Robert Paddock who was a co-founder of ground-breaking education platform, GetSmarter. For Paddock, the Valenture represents the furthering of a personal mission he shares with his entrepreneurial brother Sam, to improve one million lives by 2030.

  1. KHULA!

Agritech is one of the fastest growing, data-driven industries in the country and one of the few to show positive growth in an economic downturn. Innovations such as digital supply chain monitoring, automated irrigation and drone crop spraying are revolutionising the way that South African farmers grow and produce food products. Not only are developments in the agricultural sector vital to the food security of the nation but they play an instrumental role in supporting our growing food export sector.

KHULA! is a shining example of how technology can be used to uplift and empower local farmers using the power of data and technology. It is a digital platform aimed at providing a marketplace for farmers to buy resources such as fertiliser and seed at fair prices. Everything that farmers need is in one place, including products such as agro-chemicals and animal health products from local and international suppliers. With over 130 depots nationwide, KHULA! can deliver goods in every province, reaching under-served communities in outlying areas. KHULA! was founded by dynamic trio, Jackson Dyora, Karidas Tshintsholo and Matthew Piper who managed to raise just under US $3 million of business financing to take their SME to furthest reaches of South Africa.

  1. Zoie Health

With the global move towards building more inclusive and accessible economies, an increasing number of entrepreneurs are taking up the mantle of women empowerment and providing services that cater to their unique needs. Furthermore, the pandemic gave rise to an African healthcare start-up boom, with investment and growth rates reaching record levels. This, coupled with the entry of the mainstream medicine and healthcare services industries into the digital space, was the perfect combination for Thato Schermer and Dr Nonie Sitole.

Their start-up, Zoie, is Africa’s first digital health clinic for women, providing a holistic portal for support and advice on important issues such as family planning, maternity, fertility and prenatal health. Using the Zoie app, women can consult virtually and have their questions answered without the need to leave their homes. This technology is particularly important for rural communities of women who have previously had little to no access to healthcare facilities in major urban centres.

About the Author: Ben Bierman

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Ben Bierman has been our Managing Director since 2015. He joined our company in 1990 and has risen through the ranks occupying various positions ranging from being a management accountant, Head of Information Technology and Chief Financial Officer. Ben is an avid reader, enjoys classical music and being in the outdoors including for hunting trips. He is our go-to-spokesperson for our SME Confidence Index, SME sector policy and trend matters, and business leadership articles.