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Money

11 of SA’s biggest (and most exciting) tech startup investments of 2014

Money makes the world go round. And if you play your cards right, might just make your startup successful — putting a smile on shareholders faces.

In 2014, we’ve seen a lot of money being moved around in South Africa’s startup scene. So much so that we’ve decided to round up some of the investment rounds that really stood out to Ventureburn. From real estate, crowdsourced designs to a multi-million financial aid startup, these are some really exciting times.

Nomanini

One of South Africa’s much-talked about startup success stories, prepaid voucher enabler Nomanini, has raised a fat R20-million in February 2014 from Seychelles-based investment company Rockbridge Investments Limited.

Soon after, the company raised another R4.8-million from Industrial Development Corporation.

Both these rounds come after the Cape Town-based company secured US$600 000 (about R6.6-million) in 2012 from Netherlands based eVentures Africa Fund (eVA Fund) as well as Esther Dyson.

Most of the funds are said to be used for expansion into other markets. Launched in 2011, Nomanini is now active in South Africa, Kenya and Mozambique and currently expanding to Nigeria, Guinea and Somalia.

Ekaya

The startup that’s trying to fix the renting industry in South Africa scooped up a welcome sum of R1.4-million in September 2014 from Angels, Justin Stanford, Daniel Guasco, Wayne Gosling, Sebastian Stoddart and Guilherme Steinbruch.

Ekaya has developed a platform where you can list, find and rent a place from your phone and on the web. Landlords are then able to advertise, vett and collect rent among other things.

The new crop of investors joined Mark Heerden and the 88mph as investors, together with Gyft founder Vinny Lingham who’ve invested half-a-million on the entrepreneurial reality show Dragons’ Den South Africa.

The money will give Ekaya the resources and network required to continue development, enter the South African market and prepare for international expansion over the next 12 months.

Springleap

While not the largest sum we’ve seen this year, the local design startup has scooped up a nice R4.1-million from a group of investors from South Africa and the UK — Colenso Capital, Clearwater, Kevin Gaskell and Crystal Bay Capital.

Since launching in 2007 Springleap’s another Cape Town-based company that focuses on being a conduit for clients to access thousands of creatives for design, creative research and co-creation projects.

Again, the funds will be used to expand into other African countries.

Silicon Cape

The startup for startups, Silicon Cape, has raised over R3-million from local banking giant FNB.

Cape Town’s startup network was started by Venture Capitalist Justin Stanford and renowned entrepreneur Vinny Lingham in 2009. The injection will enable Silicon Cape to scale, hire more employees and so on.

ApexPeak

The South Africa and Singaporean-based financial startup has managed to raise a massive US$20-million (over R200 000) in July 2014.

ApexPeak allows SMEs who are cash-strapped to sell their invoices in return for money. In other words, it sets out to loan money faster and easier than traditional banks would allow.

Apart from the US$40 000 (nearly R500 000) cash injection it got from 88mph last year, ApexPeak has further closed two follow-on rounds totaling US$1.8-million (just shy of R20-million) from a group of Asian investors.

Graphflow

Another 88mph participant, WooThemes sidekick and big data ninja startup Graphflow received a round of investment from WooThemes and said accelerator. A nice R2.5-million in return for an undisclosed piece of equity.

Obsessed with big data and predictive analytics, the startup has developed a product recommendation plug-in that’s currently being used by thousands of ecommerce sites across the globe, including WooCommerce.

Apart from the cash, GraphFlow now sits very close to WooThemes, sharing skills, resources and mentorship.

Enter the Dragons

This year was also the year of the dragon. In South Africa at least, as the popular reality investment show Dragons’ Den series hit the country’s shores in full force.

While there were a couple of investments here and there, the two ones that stood out the most for Ventureburn was property management startup PropCare which secured R300 000 and 360 Mobile Salon which wooed the all five Dragons — Lignham, Gil Oved, Lebo Gunguluza, Vusi Thembekwayo and Polo Leteka Radebe — for R350 000 in return for a massive 50% share in equity.

PropCare is an app that provides a platform for property owners to find reliable, user-rated, locally-based property service providers. Together with the financial support, Lignham will also provide mentorship and skills in building the app.

360 Mobile Salon — which is like Uber for beauty clinics — is set to launch in Sandton, Johannesburg, with the hope of expanding across South Africa within the next year.

SA Florist

After appearing on Dragons’ Den SA, the ecommerce site raised a hefty R3.6-million. Together with a welcoming R600 000 employee equity fund, the Dragons munched up 50% of the company. All of them were on board.

Read more: Ventureburn goes behind the scenes on SA Florist’s Dragons’ Den deal

eShip

The last episode of Dragons’ Den SA took everyone by surprise with 18-year-old Emile McLennan securing R5-million for his eShip startup. In a nutshell, the online platform enables people to find competitive quotes for transporting goods but you can read all about it here. eShip will offer Vinny Lignham 30% equity in return for expertise and finance.

8bit

The startup that’s on a mission to empower South Africa’s independent publishers and beyond, secured a welcome R500 000 in investment at Net Prophet’s Sparkup Live from Wayne Gosling and Daniel Guasco of Groupon South Africa, Martin Diessner of investment company Evercape, as well as Sebastian Stoddart and Permjot Valia, both early-stage angel investors.

Also a fellow 88mph startup, 8bit Media has created among other things a suggestion tool which allows publishers tool boost impressions for their websites.

Soon after in August, 8Bit raised a total of US$110 000 (over R1.2-million) from a group of international and South African Angels including the likes of Ernst Hertzog of early stage angel fund Action Hero Ventures and Neil Emmerick of hotel booking platform Nightsbridge.

Crowdfunding wave

Since it started, local crowdfunding initiative Thundafund has given the platform where South African initiatives can raise money and awareness online. This last year was certainly its most successful. Of the R3,2-million it’s raised so far, over a third was made in September alone.

The initiative that made the most is definitely the Labia Theater which, although missing its bold goal of R2-million, raised just over half a million.

While R555 000 doesn’t seem that much, one has to take into account the fact that there was no equity given up, just time and marketing. Perhaps next year we’ll start seeing tech products getting funded on Thundafund?

Author Bio

Jacques Coetzee: staff reporter
Jacques 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... More