The Local Tech Landscape for Start-Ups in South Africa

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Never before has there been such an opportune time in South Africa to be an entrepreneur in the technology industry. The landscape is flourishing, the opportunities are plentiful and the forecast is onwards and upwards for this particular industry sector.

So why launch a start-up now? And why tech?

To answer this accurately perhaps we should start by rewinding 10 years earlier to a time when start-ups like Clicks2Customers were trying to get started and get off the ground.  In a landscape that lacked incubator and accelerator programs, access to local funding, community support structures for budding entrepreneurs, pitching and networking events and general interest in and understanding of the value that local techrepreurs bring to the industry as a whole, it’s not surprising few local start-ups ever really achieved great success. Silicon Valley was seen as the global IT hub, so as a small start-up in a little town in South Africa your access to funding and support from angel investors was like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Forward to 2015, with a completely reformed local tech landscape. Currently local entrepreneurs have a plethora of local incubator programs across various industry sectors to aid in start-up growth. Some of the more popular tech incubators like Bandwidth Barn, CiTi, Innovation Hub and Google Umbono are but a few options available to entrepreneurs for guidance and support both from a business and technology side. Initiatives like Silicon Cape which is now 5 years down the line have done a great job of growing the technology industry specifically in the Western Cape. Bringing together developers, creatives, angel investors and VC’s alike and growing a community of likeminded passionate people who are working towards growing the start-up community.  Silicon Cape has also gone a long way to show that the tech skills, knowledge and experience found within the local community is easily on par with that in the Valley and that the only differentiator is not the level of skill but rather the difference in opportunity and the funding available to start-ups in the Valley as opposed to locally. In recent time Entrepreneur Traction has further placed it stamp in the industry as an organisation committed to nurturing tech entrepreneurs.

It has also become more and more attractive to become and angel investor or VC within the local tech space. The online community VC4Africa currently provides tools and support to entrepreneurs and VC’s alike across the continent and has dedicated times and resources to aid in building successful companies within the African landscape.  Communities like the this aid creating partnerships and cross pollution of organisation across various countries and which assists when start-ups want to launch into different economies.

The ever increasing platforms for start-ups to pitch on, network on and to gain access to angel investors and VC’s on have increased drastically too in the past few years. Pitching platforms like Pecha Kucha, Start-up Grind, DEMO Africa and more recently the popular TV show Dragons Den have put entrepreneurs in front of angel investors and VC’s in a way that wasn’t possible previously.

The current market is as favourable to scaleups as it is with accelerator programs like Grind Stone focused around growing and supporting the local SME market. If there were ever a time to be a tech entrepreneur South Africa and more so within Cape Town it is definitely now. The opportunities and support network are fully in place and if you are committed and take advantage of these the future opportunities are endless. Who knows you could end up with the likes of: Mxit, Yola or even Thawte.

“To any entrepreneur: if you want to do it, do it now. If you don’t, you’re going to regret it.” – Catherine Cook, co-founder of MyYearbook.


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