Beautiful beaches and mountains isn't the only thing Cape Town has to offer, thanks to its design and startup scene.
After weeks of heat, some of them at a humid 40° C, some without ACs and cotton t-shirts clinging to our backs, Julien and I make it to the crisp winter of South Africa. Granted, this winter is by no means the European snow and ice, but every once in a while we like to complain to no one in particular how freezing 14° C are. Seedstars Africa has spoiled us and continues to do so with its last stop of the 2014 tour, #SSWCape Town.
The Wealth of the City
At first glance, Cape Town is a city of abundance. With lush vineyards, emerald forests, blue skies and seas and amazing food. I cannot stress that part enough, the variety and quality makes the Mother City a foodie haven. But it’s also the heart of a booming design scene that expresses itself in both the ICT and tangible goods space.
Yet there is also a flipside to the wealth one assumes of Cape Town. The city also has its own share of economic troubles, perhaps best exemplified by the fact that it is home to the world’s fourth largest slum, Khayelitsha. Immigration has also gotten a lot stricter, as South Africa has experienced large waves of lesser educated immigrants that are difficult to sustain economically. Some come from Kenya, some from Rwanda, some from Burundi. University level expats, however, enjoy a high standard of living as cost of living is very inexpensive. While we like to pretend that we live in a post-race society, many black Capetonians feel like they are subject to an ‘ebony’ ceiling, and that standard business opportunities are not as widely available to them as to white South Africans.
Take Your Pick
To offer better access to ICT education, hubs like RLabs have set up shop in the Cape Town flats. With coding skill and lots of hands on exercise, RLabs participants learn to build their own applications and later even businesses. Three such cases were even featured at Seedstars Cape Town: Ussi, a Linkedin for the unskilled, Cinemo, which offers movies for feature and smart phones, and third place winner Hoja, which allows you to create a mobile app and easily distribute it on Android, Mxit, iOS and HTML 5 platforms. Turn8, our event partner, is currently in discussions to invite the latter two to be part of their Dubai based accelerator platform. (This leaves us with the lesson and shameless plug: if you want to get great startups, look no further than Seedstars World!)
Further into the city you’ll find a range of co-working spaces, such as the Cape Town Garage and TwentyFifty. The incubator Bandwidth Barn is based out of the Woodstock Exchange and is also home to the Happiness University. Accelerator programs, such as the Google backed 88mph that operates out of CTG, regularly graduate excellent startups, like second place winner Peach Payments.
At Seedstars Cape Town, many of the startups excel through their team’s experience, however. Big5Boutique, an online safari booking platform, has a team with over 7 years’ experience in travel agencies, and an excellent track record in coding. Chatterly, a messenger that grants you control over the content you’ve already sent out (like backtracking and deleting messages via central servers) is made of ex-Shell VP and a coding Wunderkind that started building apps for Shell in high school.
Other startups certainly know how to deliver an excellent pitch. Hiifi, which allows you to log into wifi connections via social network, or Wumdrop (who coordinated pitch and outfit), a delivery service that guarantees everything you need in an hour.
As South Africa is getting more used to e-commerce, shop building services like Shopstar are flourishing. MobiSnap is tackling the problem of making mobile credit top ups easy, by scanning QR codes. Autel Africa provides business-to-business automotive maintenance solutions.
Khuesela’s fire alarm system, which also alerts neighboring buildings and fire station, is our top pick for Geneva. It was developed to protect densely populated areas, especially townships and slums, in case of fire emergencies. Not only is it a social enterprise that can turn a profit, but also has what it takes to become global. With fire and smoke detectors now deemed mandatory in many developed countries, a product like Khusela should be able to find success in the West as well. But honestly, I think the game was rigged. After all, Khusela was pitched by David Gluckman which is German for Lucky Man. Lucky indeed.
(Seedstars World Travel Team)
Nellie graduated from University of Mannheim with an Economics Major and has lived in the USA, Germany, and Spain. After part being of the Deutsche Bahn’s Investor Relations team, she specialized in Innovation Management. Nellie has gained expertise in many aspects of the R&D process, thanks to her multi-million euro project assistance at the Helmholtz Centre Berlin, co-authoring a publication on German cities’ innovative behavior at the Center for European Economic Research, and working at the pioneering SAP Innovation Labs. At Seedstars World, she will pair her financial experience with tech savvy while organizing the 2014 tour as one of our scouts!
Connect with Nellie or follow her on Twitter @Nellie_Horn