Something in the Water: Our top 10 on Entrepreneurship in South Africa

Posted on Jul 08, 2014 | Tags: Top 10, Cape Town, South Africa, Startup Ecosystems |

Building a successful Startup may be more difficult than climbing Lion's Head, but the views are similarly amazing.

We're back in Cape Town and loving it. Thanks to the nature, the wine, and off course, the South African startups, Julien and I are experience the Mother City in the best way possible. Read on for our lessons learned.


1. The Young and Restless

Many African cities have a young population, and Cape Town is no different. However, CT isn't suffering negative consequences for it. In 2011, almost 70% of Cape Town was aged between 15-64, with almost 25% being less than 15.How does this benefit entrepreneurship in South Africa? The energy and creativity of such a young, and also educated, population is a great Stimulus for any startup ecosystem.  I'll refrain from making a wine / maturity joke here, but feel free to add your own in the comments below.  


2. The Eye of the Beholder

You would think that Cape Town would not need to be any more beautiful than it already is. Located between beautiful mountains and the ocean, it's a stunning city. But look closer and you'll find striking architectural highlights, lovely design details, and evidence of art at every street corner. Capetonians love their city and its creative scene, as well as beautiful design. For startups, this means that design heavy projects can be experimented with here, and consumers will be more likely here to buy unique, but not necessarily status signifying, products


3. Power to the People

In the past, I've discussed several projects that focus on empowering ist community. JoBurg's Enterpriseroom is one example, with a majority of the company being owned by black women. Founder Leora Rajak is judging and speaking at our event on Thursday. Cape Town's RLab grew from teaching ex-addicts how to code to a blossiming Network over 20 hubs in 19 countries. Their startups are ICT heavy, with an eye on community support. International projects are taking note, such as TURN8, which will be joining us at Seedstars Cape Town.  


4. Where do I Sign Up?

In Rwanda, I can register my business for free and online within 6 hours. In Cape Town, however, that idea is almost utopian. Startups are actively advised to register their businesses as late as possible, as the process is torturously slow and burocratic. The solution of many is to hand over the responsibilities to specifically dedicated companies— perhaps there's an opportunity for the entrepreurs in South Africa?


5. No Claustrophobia

Cape Town has a space for everyone. There is Springlab, which features film studios for its inhouse ad agency and is currently reconstructing its meeting rooms, Bandwidth Barn with its many events and networking opportunities, Cape Town Garage, home of 88mph and Seedstars Cape Town, and TwentyFifty, which combines cultural activities with a laid-back co-working space. While it's not strictly a space, Silicon Cape also does an excellent job of building the community of entrepreneurship in Cape Town. Visit them if you need a great connection to the local startup scene.

6. Get Your Niche

We already spoke about the design excellence that prevails in CT. An outstanding food culture, quality of life and slow life products, and handmade products and crafts complete the scope of niche products one can find in Cape Town. If you're sick of Ikea or H&M, come to Cape Town.  


7. E-Commerce, but Different

With the above points, it is only consequential that e-commerce needs to reflect the diverse product offerings. One such shop is Presents in the Post, which, similar to Beauty boxes, ships you hand selected gifts on a regular basis. You'll also be able to find a boutique style online shop, with each category tailored to a specific local talent. 


8. An Island Isolated

Julien and I keep on hearing the same message: South Africa is not Africa, and Cape Town is not SA. What remains is a splendid isolation, not by policy, but by culture. Travelling to other African countries is very costly, which makes bridging the cultural gap very hard.


9. Wanderlust, Interrupted

South Africa vs the rest of the world: Pretoria is currently reworking its immigrations laws and become a lot more strict. In a move that happended almost overnight, lots of expat-led startups suddenly find themselves in a rock and a hard place, as founders are forced to leave the country.


10. Two Sides of a Medal

The highly regulated bank system may have saved it from the aftershock of the financial crisis, but entrepreneurship in South Africa suffers from the many pre-conditions Startups have to wrestle with. Loans are hard to get and the process requires a lot of patience. 


Bonus points go to the hiking trails. Cape Town is perfect for any nature fan, and easy hikes between vineyards, or harder ones up the surrounding mountains, are perfect complementaries to the cultural scene.  

Nellie Horn

(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

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