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  • Here are the five companies selected as SA’s Top 5 Most Exciting Startups

    The Heavy Chef Foundation last night announced the names of SA’s Top 5 Most Exciting Startups at an awards ceremony at Workshop 17, as part of Cape Town Startup Week 2019.

    It follows the announcement last week by the foundation, which is the research and fundraising arm of entrepreneurship learning platform Heavy Chef, of the 12 finalists shortlisted names, drawn from over 600 nominations (see this story).

    To be considered, entrants had to have firms that had operated for less than five years, have their own intellectual property (IP) and have the potential to scale.

    Explained Heavy Chef Foundation chairman Louis Janse van Rensburg: “‘Most exciting’ allows for a certain subjectivity on the part of the judges, as opposed to ‘best’ which would require full financial analysis and performance.

    SA’s Top 5 Most Exciting Startups were announced at Workshop 17, as part of Cape Town Startup Week 2019

    “We don’t take into account revenue targets and pitch decks, market size or investment. From past results, we’ve seen that the winners generally are the ones who have generated the most amount of buzz and excitement in investment circles — and the nominees that make it to the Top 5 are generally the ones that are telling the best story.

    “This award is meant to be cast a celebratory light on the sector as a whole, as well as give an insight into the breadth, depth and ‘good news stories’ of what’s happening out there,” he said.

    Without further ado, the five are and their respective founders are:

    • 3X4 Genetics (Dr Yael Joffe and Jason Haddock): A genetics-based foundational health company founded last year that combines advanced genetic testing, nutrigenomic education and a global network of accredited practitioners to help people listen to their bodies and make sound, daily choices to live longer, healthier and better lives.
    • DigsConnect (Alexandra Procter, Greg Keal and Brendan Ardagh): Student accommodation marketplace
    • Lula (Velani Mboweni and Xabiso Nodada): Crowd sources private shuttles, offering scheduled door-to-door rides that take commuters from home to work and back.
    • MamaMoney (Raphael Grojnowski and Mathieu Coquillon): A money-transfer service that provides a modern, safe and low-cost way for migrants to make international payments.
    • MyFanPark (Joy des Fountain, Dylan des Fountain, Wouter Lombard and Jean de Villiers): A platform that enables users to get a personalised video from their favourite celebrities.

    The seven other startups that were nominated were: Dorp, FinChatBot, Franc, Offerzen, Pineapple, Trusted Interns and Quicket.

    The seven judges that assessed the entries were: Fraser Consulting’s Alexandra Fraser, Knife Capital’s Keet van Zyl, Future Females’ Lauren Dallas, Glengarry Capital’s Louis Janse van Rensburg (pictured above), TMF Youth Hub’s Lukhanyo Neer, Workshop 17’s Paul Keursten and Startup Grind’s Sandras Phiri.

    Featured image: Quicket South Africa via Facebook

    The post Here are the five companies selected as SA’s Top 5 Most Exciting Startups appeared first on Ventureburn.

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  • Polish businessman’s tales of fear and loathing in Nigeria [Book review]

    Chasing Black Unicorns: How Building the Amazon of Africa put me on Interpol’s most wanted list by controversial Polish entrepreneur Marek Zmyslowski, is a thrilling read.

    The book is the English version of a new book in which he documents the Nigerian extradition saga he endured last year.

    The former founder of Nigerian startup HotelOga claims he fell victim to investors who were trying to extort $300 000 by using an extradition request issued through Interpol on 6 February 2018.

    The investors claimed he siphoned off tens of thousands of dollars in company funds into his private account, that he went behind their backs to make deals to sell the company and that he ran a secret Polish-registered entity where the hotel management software platform’s intellectual property (IP) was held.

    Zymslowski denied that he defrauded the investors. In May Interpol dropped its extradition request.

    At times ‘Chasing Black Unicorns’ comes off too wild to be true — a kind of ‘Shantaram’ for European entrepreneurs hitting Nigeria

    Today he may have a reputation of something of a playboy, but as unlikely as it seems, Zmyslowski claims growing up he was a fat spotty teenager who was often picked on.

    That is, before he took a job as a door-to-door insurance salesman in a small Polish city and found he was pretty good at convincing people to buy things.

    Barman at a gay club

    In the evenings he worked as a barman in a gay nightclub, where he proved to be very lucky with beautiful women (who came to the club because they felt they wouldn’t be fawned over by desperate men).

    Several days after resigning from the insurance job he chanced upon a guy in a coffee shop, tapping away on a laptop. The guy told him he built startups and that there was a lot of money to be made building stuff on the internet.

    This got him interested. After getting involved in a failed internet dating site, he set up an online platform to help members of the public who wanted to arrange funerals — a kind of online funeral parlour business.

    He then tried to convince funeral parlours, in an industry that was widely controlled by the mafia, why they had to pay to get listed on his platform. Despite landing an investment of 700 000 zlotys ($180 000 in today’s value) from investors, money sourced by a VC from an EU fund, the business never really took off.

    After successfully landing a job he applied for at Rocket Internet, to head the German venture builder’s new hotel platform called Jovago, he ditched a car-retailing startup he was involved in with another entrepreneur, and took off for Nigeria. It was the first time he was on a wide-body jet leaving Poland.

    In Africa in search of adventure

    He left in search of adventure — and to get away from the non-descript small town of Koszalin, where he was born.

    What he wasn’t prepared for was the heat (the air conditioning at the large house in the Lekki suburb of Lagos that Rocket Internet had prepared for him, regularly went down when the generator was switched off), the traffic (some in Lagos spent five hours a day travelling to work and another five hours back) and of course the regular bribes that police and traffic officials demanded.

    At the Lagos airport it was no different, where touts reigned supreme in the chaos and uniformed officers pushed for handsome cuts.

    Until that is, he met his very own Mr Fixit, a guy called Freddie, who would lead him through any delays and get him through more than a few hairy situations.

    There were often challenges. When he went to meet hotel owners, receptionists introduced him to their boss as “some white man”.

    Employees often held down two or three jobs at the same time, which he puts down to the country’s poor job market and low trust between employees and employers. One time he foolishly turned down the advice of his assistant and posted an online advert for 20 vacancies at Jovago — 10 000 people applied by the next morning.

    There was even the time a Polish woman, who had been “kidnapped” by an abusive Nigerian husband, contacted him asking for help to rescue her. He succeeded in freeing her in a bizarre twist that makes it sound like it was taken from a Frederick Forsyth blockbuster.

    Zmyslowski also details his version of the messy breakup that ensued when Rocket Internet decided to sideline him, by bringing in a small French executive to oversee a global version of Jovago, that would have control over his Nigerian operation.

    ‘White man in a black country’

    And then the extradition saga broke, after Zmyslowski took to Medium to write a post about how his Nigerian business partners were using the country’s corrupt police to extradite him, in an attempt to “blackmail” him.

    The move backfired.

    Writes Zmyslowski in the book: “Many people in Nigeria didn’t like my activity in their country. Many local tech entrepreneurs didn’t like the fact that a white person is promoting their own black country.

    “I was their competition for business, spotlight and money from foreign investors. Their negative experiences (often very valid) with racially-biased white people got channelled against me.”

    At times the book comes off too wild to be true — a kind of Shantaram for European entrepreneurs hitting Nigeria. Yet above all, it is the story of that once picked-on schoolboy who remained resolute in his quest to “show them” he could do it. And mostly he did. Along the way he even hooked up with a Miss Dominican Republic.

    It’s a good read for the beach, or when you’re stuck in a Lagos traffic jam. Just don’t get stuck on the odd typo.

    Read more: Marek Zmyslowski releases tell-all book after Interpol drops Nigerian extradition request
    Read more: Norwegian Håvar Bauck’s Kenyan startup HotelOnline announces it’s raised $320k [Updated]
    Read more: 
    Norwegian Håvar Bauck behind Cloud9xp merger in Kenya
    Read more: Who is Marek Zmysłowski, the Polish man Nigerian investors are after?
    Read more: Did Polish man accused of defrauding Nigerian investors lie about merger? [Updated]
    Read more: Did Polish tech entrepreneur Marek Zmyslowski defraud Nigerian investors?
    Read more: How it all went down: a timeline of the HotelOga, Marek Zmyslowski saga
    Read more: It’s a lie, says investor over Polish man’s Nigerian ‘Godfather’ blackmail claims
    Read more: How Nigerian business partner tried to bribe, take over my startup – Polish man

    To buy a copy of the book visit Zmyslowki’s website. Zmyslowski says he has dedicated 100% of the book revenue to a foundation he set up with his girlfriend Yaritza Reyes called the Maya Foundation.

    The post Polish businessman’s tales of fear and loathing in Nigeria [Book review] appeared first on Ventureburn.

    Posted:

  • SA startup Carry1st out to create Africa’s first ‘super app’ with $2m war chest

    One of the most interesting trends to have come out of the Asian tech startup scene, particularly Indonesia and China, is the emergence of the “super app”.

    A super app is one that offers users seamless access to a number of services, often across several verticals.

    The most popular to date have been Tencent’s WeChat — also available in South Africa — which bundles messaging, social media and mobile payments and Indonesia’s Gojeck which offers an array of services that inclue ride-hailing, food delivery, payments.

    Armed with a $2-million dollar war chest, Cape Town based startup Carry1st is looking to use games to build what could be Africa’s first super app.

    The startup was founded last year by Sierra Leonean Cordel Robbin-Coker — who has a background in finance in the US, is an active angel investor with about 20 investments in African tech startups and is a former vice president of The Carlyle Group‘s first Africa fund — and Lucy Parry who’s from the US.

    Carry1st claims its trivia game is nearing one million downloads in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria

    Carry1st launched its first game, Carry1st Trivia, in Nigeria in March.  The same game was recently launched in South Africa and Kenya. The startup claims the game is “quickly approaching” one million downloads across the three countries.

    It won the Best News and Entertainment Solution at the 2019 AppsAfrica Innovation Awards (see this story).

    Carry1st Trivia, Robbin-Coker explained in an interview last month, is a dual-mode quiz game with a range of topical questions and fun facts about local and international sports, business, politics, history and entertainment. He says the game has 250 000 monthly active users.

    The startup recently soft -launched Hyper Games, a multiplayer tournament of hyper-casual (or simple arcade-style) games.

    “In Hyper we users get to play a new game everyday, online or offline, and have a chance to compete against their friends and other users.  We have a few ideas we are developing for the next products, which will either be licensed or co-developed with third-parties,” says  Robbin-Coker.

    He insists Carry1st is not out to be a “AAA game studio” but is aiming to be the go-to conduit for “well-adapted titles” to the African continent.

    He believes gaming will take-off in Africa much like the way it has exploded around the world.

    “There is nothing fundamentally different about the African character – it will happen here as well. It’s a function of supply, well-adapted supply distributed through locally relevant channels, and we will see a lot of suppressed demand come to the fore.

    “We are trying to be that catalyst. And when global players see there is a real market here, they’ll come in droves — we’ll look to be their partner of choice,” he adds.

    The case for a super app

    Robbin-Coker believes that the smartphone is shaping up to be “the most effective and economical ” channel for many of the basic goods and services that African consumers need, namely entertainment, communication, commerce and transportation.

    “Our bet from observing similar global markets as well as our own across Africa, is that entertainment and communication are the most effective services to bringing people online en masse, drive digital literacy and act as a conduit to the broader global connected economy,” he says.

    He adds that at their most basic level, free-to-play games are digital economies which provide users the ability to earn and purchase currency which can be used for various in-app goods and services.

    Robbin-Coker points out that other companies that have made super app play off games include Tencent and Singapore’s Garena.

    ‘You must have a Nigeria strategy’

    Carry1st’s plan is to provide games, digital goods like airtime and data and original content.

    The startup also has marketing and payments services in the pipeline.

    Robbin-Coker says the startup’s target market is “all of Africa”. However, the company will first roll-out in English-speaking countries, then to Arabic-speaking and Francophone countries after that.

    He explains that Carry1st chose to launch in Nigeria, instead of South Africa where it is based, as it is “the largest and most difficult market” from a connectivity, distribution and payments perspective.

    “If you are going to be a pan African player you must have a Nigeria strategy and it might take a while before you crack it — both points led to starting there first,” he says.

    Seed round to close by year end

    Robbin-Coker says Carry1st has raised about $2-million to date from prominent angel investors in Africa and the US whom he didn’t name.

    The startup is in the middle of a seed round which it expects to close by year end. Robbin-Coker did not disclose the size of the round but said the funding will be used for licensing of its first third-party app, scaling Carry1st’s offline distribution, customer acquisition and to grow Carry1st’s product team.

    The startup is aiming for 1.2 million active users by the end of next year.

    Robbin-Coker says the startup has seen a 41% month-on-month growth rate in installs and 47% compounded monthly growth rate in revenue.

    Carry1st main operational challenges, he said, include the high price of data for users, the unreliability and fragmented nature of digital payments and distribution models which he said require “bespoke approaches”.

    “We’re building a platform to scale all of those challenges systematically, which forms our lasting competitive advantage –but if they didn’t exist, we could just make cool games.

    “A prominent founder recently told me that startups in Africa are hard because you have to create a startup multinational corporation — capital from the West and or East, inputs from all over the global, talent from all over and market across a range of incoherent geographies — I’d echo this,” he says.

    Carry1st is up against a few startups in the race to create Africa’s first locally-built all -encompassing super app.

    In August Singapore-registered ride-hailing startup Gozem, which operates in Benin and Togo, told Ventureburn it plans to launch a digital wallet product as well as a food and parcel delivery service next year (see this story).

    Earlier this week Egyptian startup Wasla, which raised $1-million in seed funding for its incentivised mobile browser, said it too intends to introduce new product verticals with a focus on financial inclusion next year (see this story).

    Other players with their hats in the ring include Nairobi-based startup CanGo and Kenya’s Cellulant with its payments super app Tingg which it launched in October.

    The question now is, which super app will rule them all? Who is your money on?

    Featured image: Carry1st co-founder and CEO Cordel Robbin-Coker (Supplied)

    The post SA startup Carry1st out to create Africa’s first ‘super app’ with $2m war chest appeared first on Ventureburn.

    Posted:

  • SA startup Carry1st out to create Africa’s first ‘super app’ with $2m war chest

    One of the most interesting trends to have come out of the Asian tech startup scene, particularly Indonesia and China, is the emergence of the “super app”.

    A super app is one that offers users seamless access to a number of services, often across several verticals.

    The most popular to date have been Tencent’s WeChat — also available in South Africa — which bundles messaging, social media and mobile payments and Indonesia’s Gojeck which offers an array of services that inclue ride-hailing, food delivery, payments.

    Armed with a $2-million dollar war chest, Cape Town based startup Carry1st is looking to use games to build what could be Africa’s first super app.

    The startup was founded last year by Sierra Leonean Cordel Robbin-Coker — who has a background in finance in the US, is an active angel investor with about 20 investments in African tech startups and is a former vice president of The Carlyle Group‘s first Africa fund — and Lucy Parry who’s from the US.

    Carry1st claims its trivia game is nearing one million downloads in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria

    Carry1st launched its first game, Carry1st Trivia, in Nigeria in March.  The same game was recently launched in South Africa and Kenya. The startup claims the game is “quickly approaching” one million downloads across the three countries.

    It won the Best News and Entertainment Solution at the 2019 AppsAfrica Innovation Awards (see this story).

    Carry1st Trivia, Robbin-Coker explained in an interview last month, is a dual-mode quiz game with a range of topical questions and fun facts about local and international sports, business, politics, history and entertainment. He says the game has 250 000 monthly active users.

    The startup recently soft -launched Hyper Games, a multiplayer tournament of hyper-casual (or simple arcade-style) games.

    “In Hyper we users get to play a new game everyday, online or offline, and have a chance to compete against their friends and other users.  We have a few ideas we are developing for the next products, which will either be licensed or co-developed with third-parties,” says  Robbin-Coker.

    He insists Carry1st is not out to be a “AAA game studio” but is aiming to be the go-to conduit for “well-adapted titles” to the African continent.

    He believes gaming will take-off in Africa much like the way it has exploded around the world.

    “There is nothing fundamentally different about the African character – it will happen here as well. It’s a function of supply, well-adapted supply distributed through locally relevant channels, and we will see a lot of suppressed demand come to the fore.

    “We are trying to be that catalyst. And when global players see there is a real market here, they’ll come in droves — we’ll look to be their partner of choice,” he adds.

    The case for a super app

    Robbin-Coker believes that the smartphone is shaping up to be “the most effective and economical ” channel for many of the basic goods and services that African consumers need, namely entertainment, communication, commerce and transportation.

    “Our bet from observing similar global markets as well as our own across Africa, is that entertainment and communication are the most effective services to bringing people online en masse, drive digital literacy and act as a conduit to the broader global connected economy,” he says.

    He adds that at their most basic level, free-to-play games are digital economies which provide users the ability to earn and purchase currency which can be used for various in-app goods and services.

    Robbin-Coker points out that other companies that have made super app play off games include Tencent and Singapore’s Garena.

    ‘You must have a Nigeria strategy’

    Carry1st’s plan is to provide games, digital goods like airtime and data and original content.

    The startup also has marketing and payments services in the pipeline.

    Robbin-Coker says the startup’s target market is “all of Africa”. However, the company will first roll-out in English-speaking countries, then to Arabic-speaking and Francophone countries after that.

    He explains that Carry1st chose to launch in Nigeria, instead of South Africa where it is based, as it is “the largest and most difficult market” from a connectivity, distribution and payments perspective.

    “If you are going to be a pan African player you must have a Nigeria strategy and it might take a while before you crack it — both points led to starting there first,” he says.

    Seed round to close by year end

    Robbin-Coker says Carry1st has raised about $2-million to date from prominent angel investors in Africa and the US whom he didn’t name.

    The startup is in the middle of a seed round which it expects to close by year end. Robbin-Coker did not disclose the size of the round but said the funding will be used for licensing of its first third-party app, scaling Carry1st’s offline distribution, customer acquisition and to grow Carry1st’s product team.

    The startup is aiming for 1.2 million active users by the end of next year.

    Robbin-Coker says the startup has seen a 41% month-on-month growth rate in installs and 47% compounded monthly growth rate in revenue.

    Carry1st main operational challenges, he said, include the high price of data for users, the unreliability and fragmented nature of digital payments and distribution models which he said require “bespoke approaches”.

    “We’re building a platform to scale all of those challenges systematically, which forms our lasting competitive advantage –but if they didn’t exist, we could just make cool games.

    “A prominent founder recently told me that startups in Africa are hard because you have to create a startup multinational corporation — capital from the West and or East, inputs from all over the global, talent from all over and market across a range of incoherent geographies — I’d echo this,” he says.

    Carry1st is up against a few startups in the race to create Africa’s first locally-built all -encompassing super app.

    In August Singapore-registered ride-hailing startup Gozem, which operates in Benin and Togo, told Ventureburn it plans to launch a digital wallet product as well as a food and parcel delivery service next year (see this story).

    Earlier this week Egyptian startup Wasla, which raised $1-million in seed funding for its incentivised mobile browser, said it too intends to introduce new product verticals with a focus on financial inclusion next year (see this story).

    Other players with their hats in the ring include Nairobi-based startup CanGo and Kenya’s Cellulant with its payments super app Tingg which it launched in October.

    The question now is, which super app will rule them all? Who is your money on?

    Featured image: Carry1st co-founder and CEO Cordel Robbin-Coker (Supplied)

    The post SA startup Carry1st out to create Africa’s first ‘super app’ with $2m war chest appeared first on Ventureburn.

    Posted:

  • Top startup events in South Africa, Africa you should know about this week [8/12/2019]

    In Johannesburg this week? Learn about the Factory 24 imitative with German businesses at the Entrepreneurs and Tech Developers Meet Up that will be hosted by impact venture Afrolynk in Rosebank on Thursday (12 December).

    Elsewhere on the continent, in Nairobi, Mettā in partnership with Jumia will hold a masterclass on pricing on, Tuesday (10 December), this while the Africa Future Summit tour heads to Ghana this Friday (13 December).

    This article is part of a weekly series that highlights all the top startup events, competitions, networking sessions, workshops and conferences in Africa.

    If you have any event recommendations for us to add to the list, or next week’s, please let us know in the comments below or send us an email.

    Not all the events are free and some will require booking in advance. Please click on the event names to find out more information.

    East London

    Startup Grind East London

    Join Startup Grind East London’s end-of-year party.

    Date: 12 December, 5.30pm to 9pm
    Location: Second Office, 6 Donald Road, East London

    Johannesburg

    Entrepreneurship and Tech Developer Network

    Join the Entrepreneurs and Tech Developers Meet Up under the auspices of Afrolynk in partnership with Deutschconnect, Ukhuhula and Abakhwezeli.

    The event will feature an introduction of the Factory 24 initiative as well as networking with leading German businesses as well as young and innovative entrepreneurs.

    Date: 12 December, 5pm to 7.30pm
    Location: WeWork 1F, 173 Oxford Road, Rosebank, Johannesburg

    Ghana

    Founder Institute Accra holiday party and startup mixer

    Join The Founder Institute as it celebrates with local entrepreneurs, CEOs, executives, investors, and startup enthusiasts.

    Date: 10 December, 6.30pm to 9pm
    Location: Impact Hub Accra, F343/4 Otswe Street, Accra

    Africa Future Summit

    Inspired by the success of Africa Tech Future Summit 2018, the Africa Future Tour 2019 aims to highlight the continent’s network of entrepreneurs, investors, pioneers, and creatives of tomorrow.

    The tour will teach fundamentals of frontier tech investments, startup development and ecosystem building via exclusive sessions with award winning local and international experts.

    Date: 13 December, 9am to 9pm
    Location: Accra, TBA

    National Startups Festival

    The National Startup Festival is a one-day event which will feature exhibitions, startup pitch competitions and workshops.

    Date: 14 December, 9am to 6pm
    Location: University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA), LBC Auditorium, Madina, Accra

    Kenya

    Pricing: How to determine your prices and drive sales

    Mettā in partnership with Jumia presents a masterclass on pricing for your business.

    Date: 10 December, 10am to 1pm
    Location: Mettā Nairobi, 14 Riverside Drive, Suite 6A, Nairobi

    Nigeria

    Startup Pitch Bootcamp

    Organised by The Founder Institute, this workshop features talks by leading startup founders and is designed to help attendees understand the key ingredients of a successful pitch.

    Date: 10 December, 6pm to 9pm
    Location: NG HUB, 8 Montgomery Rd, Sabo, Lagos

    Mozambique

    Startup Grind Maputo

    Startup Grind Maputo hosts Nadu Care CEO Nádia Machiana.

    Date: 12 December, 6pm to 8pm
    Location: Second Office, 6 Donald Road, East London

    Zambia

    How To Manage Your Time Effectively As An Entrepreneur

    Leaders of Tomorrow chairman Aaron Mashano will conduct this workshop on how entrepreneurs can effectively manage their time.

    Date: 11 December, 4pm to 6pm
    Location: BongoHive, Thabo Mbeki Road, Lusaka

    Zimbabwe

    Stanbic Incubation Programme Pitch Night

    Join Stanbic Bank Incubator Hub as it selects the first participants of its incubation programme.

    Date: 9 December, 5.45pm to 7.30pm
    Location: Celebration Ministries International, 162 Swan Drive Borrowdale Road, Borrowdale West, Harare

    Startup Grind Harare

    Join Startup Grind East London’s end-of-year party.

    Date: 12 December, 6pm to 9pm
    Location: Sabre Business World, 146 Enterprise Road, Harare

    Featured image: Heavy Chef via Facebook

    The post Top startup events in South Africa, Africa you should know about this week [8/12/2019] appeared first on Ventureburn.

    Posted:

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