South Africa’s young tech innovators
Young South Africans, armed with tech skills, are innovating the world around them. Here’s to some of our finest young tech minds.
From Jozi to iKapa, and every dorp in between, Mzansi's youth are innovating and creating new businesses and solutions. When these smart young South Africans saw a gap or opportunity, they jumped at it, and built something amazing.
Here’s our pick of some of SA’s top young tech innovators under 35.
1. Kobus Ehlers, FireID, SnapScan
Kobus is the founder of SnapScan, the darling of SA’s app scene, and arguably our biggest success story. Like so many local apps, SnapScan emerged out of a tech incubator, FireID, before going on to win the MTN Business App of the Year Awards in 2013.
Next, the real victory: landing a huge investment deal with blue-chip corporate Standard Bank, and swiftly becoming a household name. They mainstreamed mobile payments (especially in Cape Town) better than internationals playing at the same game, bringing on around 25 000 merchants to date, and have been featured on BBC, CNN and in Timemagazine.
2. Imogen Wright, HyraxBioSciences
Imogen is a co-founder of and algorithm developer for Cape Town-based Hyrax BioSciences, a company that builds software solutions for analysing DNA sequences quickly, affordably and with a simple, intuitive interface.
Imogen qualified as both a software developer and bioinformatician, and previously worked at Amazon. She is also a finalist for the African Innovation Foundation’s 2016 award, for her work in developing software that helps health workers to analyse an HIV-positive patient’s responsiveness to ARV treatment.
3. Roy Borole, Wumdrop and Silicon Cape
Roy Borole and Simon Hartley (see below) co-founded WumDrop, a local delivery service that’s been called 'Uber for deliveries'. He is also on the executive committee (as co-head of startup relations) at Silicon Cape.
WumDrop started in Cape Town in 2014, when Roy and Simon were looking for a better delivery solution for the company they both then worked for. Cue the lightbulb moment.
4. Simon Hartley, Wumdrop
Simon, as we said, co-founded Wumdrop. After they launched in Cape Town, it quickly became clear that there was big demand for these kinds of micro-deliveries.
The other people who saw the potential were the judges of the 2015 App of the Year Awards, who gave WumDrop their top prize. They now operate in Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Pretoria, and Johannesburg, and the website says 'Durban #soon'.
5. Lauren Edwards, VoiceMap
Lauren co-founded VoiceMap with Iain Manley in 2014. This location-aware app delivers travel stories for compelling walking tours, written by journalists, writers, tour operators, and 'passionate locals'.
VoiceMap already offers stories for Joburg, Cape Town, Bangkok, Athens, Edinburgh and Rome. Their most recent coup was adding a tour of London’s theatre scene to the app, voiced by none other than Sir Ian McKellen – or, as his friends know him, 'Sir Gandalf Magneto'.
6. Lungisa Matshoba, Yoco
Lungisa is one of four founders of Yoco, another cool mobile payment solution that deserves some serious attention. Besides being on the founding team, Lungisa’s role is technology and product director.
Yoco are point-of-sale innovators, creating card readers and apps to help small businesses and lone vendors accept cashless payments right on their mobiles. Last month, Yoco announced their integration with Xero, a cloud-based accounting software-as-a-service (SaaS) tool. Today, Cape Town. Tomorrow, the world.
7. Devin de Vries, WhereIsMyTransport
Devin is a co-founder of WhereIsMyTransport, an integrated public transport app that just recently netted R12 million in funding and opened their London office.
Not bad for an app that grew out of Stellenbosch and has the Cape Town transport system as its inspiration. Evidently, that 2015 Knife Capital’s Grindstone accelerator inclusion really paid off. Oh, and they’re also a member of the Microsoft BizSpark Programme.
8. Siya Xusa, Rocket Scientist Galactic Energy Ventures
It’s been a remarkable journey for innovator Siyabulela Xuza, whose interest in science was first sparked as a young boy seeing a plane flying over his hometown of Mthatha for the first time. Today he is a Harvard-educated engineer, with the remarkable and virtually unique honour of having a minor planet – 23182Siyaxusa – named after him.
Today, Siya’s main focus is Galactic Energy Ventures, his investment holdings firm that invests in energy projects working towards cheaper, cleaner energy. He sees the solution to South Africa’s youth unemployment crisis in entrepreneurship.
9. Ashley Uys, Medical Diagnostech
Ashley’s company Medical Diagnostech manufacture high-quality, reliable home-testing kits for everything from malaria, the presence of drugs, the HI virus, and pregnancy. If that isn’t impressive enough, this is only one of this serial entrepreneur’s three medical innovation-related companies, and he is only 33 years old. In fact, Ashley founded his first company, Real World Diagnostics, in 2006 at just 24.
Image: Yoco co-founders – Bradley Wattrus, Katlego Maphai, Carl Wazen and Lungisa Matshoba.