African Startups to Watch in 2018
Africa is undeniably fast becoming one of the most vital startup ecosystems worldwide. And while we are sure that the slower economic growth in most African countries this year will have a rather negative impact on Africa’s startup scene and its biggest hubs in Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya, we’re also sure that we’ll continue to see a decent amount of African tech success stories in the coming years, that will turn out to become truly global players.
In the beginning of this year we took a close look at the African startup scene with the goal to provide you with a list of 10 promising startups to watch in 2018. All of the startups we’re listing below were founded within the last two years and each one of them is -at least in our view- heading towards a successful future.
Launched in 2012, Egypt’s Instabug isn’t exactly new to the scene. However, 2016 saw the startup up its game, come out of a four-year beta phase, and make some serious waves.
Instabug allows users to offer feedback from within apps to report bugs and issues with the product. The app allows for in-app conversations, powerful crash reporting, advanced analytics, and there’s a range of other cool features too.
In February 2016, Instabug was selected to participate in the Silicon Valley-based Y Combinator accelerator; and announced it was coming out of beta testing at last (fair, seeing as the app was already running on 100 million devices at the time.
By June, the startup announced it had closed a US$1.7 million seed round led by Accel Partners, to allow it to expand its suite of tools to provide a comprehensive support kit for mobile apps.
Oh, and by the way, Instabug has been used to report 20 million bugs already… and counting.
2018 will be exciting for these guys.
Tunisia’s RoamSmart is something of a startup world veteran, also launched in 2012. But the startup is on a renewed push to take the world by storm, and we think they might just do it in 2018
RoamSmart’s solutions aim to assist mobile operators to manage their roaming businesses more efficiently; helping operators to optimise workflows and monetise existing roaming sources through an automated data reporting and analysis platform.
The startup has clocked up 29 clients, including Vodacom and Orange – they’re clearly tapping into operator demand. But RoamSmart has set itself high targets for the coming months: accelerated growth and surpassing 50 customers worldwide.
Initially funded through private funds and bank loans, RoamStart secured its first funding round in 2016 to help it on its way to world-domination. We’re excited to see what’s next in 2018, aren’t you?
For our third pick, we’ve gone with a very new candidate. Founded in January 2016, Egyptian ed-tech startup Tutorama spent most of the year in closed testing, working through technical kinks and refining its business model.
Tutorama is a platform connecting parents with top quality local tutors in their area. Parents can schedule and pay for sessions as well as monitor the progress of their child online.
It’s not only Disrupt Africa who thinks this startup has got what it takes to shake up the ed-tech space.
In April, Tutorama won first place in the ideas track of the MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition, securing US$50,000.
Hot on the heels of the startup’s first win, global startup pitching competition Seedstars World crowned Tutorama winner of the Egyptian edition of the contest. It will soon represent the country at the Seedstars global finals in Switzerland, standing the chance to win US$1 million funding. We think they have what it takes.
Kenyan career development startup Fuzu only launched in late 2015… but did this team hit the ground running or what?
Fuzu provides a one-stop career development platform, which aims to allow users to learn new skills and find jobs regardless of their levels of education.
The platform provides career counselling, learning solutions and information about open positions and industry updates, providing support and guidance at different stages of user’s career. For employers, it offers advanced search and recruitment solutions with competence evaluation and algorithm-based ranking to identify the best fitting candidates.
The startup immediately received backing from the Rockefeller Foundation and Accenture, and by December 2016, Fuzu announced it had raised US$1.88 million in funding to support its business development, and expansion from Kenya to other African countries as well as to Asia.
Kenya’s Flare app is a great example of a startup responding to a local pressing challenge.
Created by startup Capsule, Flare is a mobile solution that aggregates available ambulances onto a single system, and allows patients or hospitals to request emergency help via smartphone.
“Today, there is no well-functioning emergency response dispatch system like 911. In Nairobi, Kenya it takes up to two hours to get an ambulance. During an emergency, patients struggle to locate and connect to private ambulance companies through their individual dispatch phone numbers. They are often unaware of their options and waste critical time. Meanwhile, there are up to one hundred available ambulances sitting idly around Nairobi waiting for patients,” explains co-founder Caitlin Dolkart.
The app was under construction and testing with ambulance companies throughout 2016; with the startup raising funding (US$150,000, still open) in the last quarter of the year to enable a full-scale commercial launch.
We’re looking forward to seeing the emergency response space in Kenya thoroughly shaken up in 2018.
Tanzania’s Jamii is our next tip from East Africa.
Jamii offers a mobile micro-health insurance product for the low income and informal sector. The startup has built a mobile policy management platform that performs all the administration activities of an insurer, and allows users to access cheap insurance via USSD.
Launched in January 2015, the startup has racked up some impressive successes so far. It received backing from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and won the Tanzanian leg of Seedstars World – progressing to the global finals (just a reminder: up to US$1 million funding up for grabs).
Jamii has promised launches in Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa over 2018, and is raising funding. We’ll definitely be keeping a keen eye on this startup.
The bitcoin fad may well be ebbing worldwide; but this South African startup has found an innovative use for bitcoin and blockchain technology which we think is worth following.
South African startup Custos Media Technologies uses bitcoin bounties as a means of cracking down on piracy of digital media.
The startup embeds bitcoin bounties as watermarks within videos, which can still be watched normally. However, if the media passes out of the control of the intended recipient – usually a reviewer offered a pre-released version of the movie – there is a small bitcoin reward that can be collected by one downloader using a free tool.
Once someone has pocketed this bounty, Custos can see the transaction on the blockchain and informs the media owner, who can then take whatever action they see fit.
We’re not the only ones to have our interest piqued. Custos raised two funding rounds in 2016 – US$265,000 from a South African private investor and the New York-based Digital Currency Group in April, followed by US$420,000 from South Africa’s Technology Innovation Agency in August.
South Africa’s Cape – which rebranded from Asimmetric in November – had a very exciting 2016… and we think it’s just the beginning for this startup.
Cape operates a WiFi network and application quality monitoring tool. The Cape Sensor monitors WiFi network and application performance 24/7 by behaving like a real user and reporting issues in real-time before users complain. The Sensor includes features such as mobile connectivity and power backup. It works alongside a cloud-based Dashboard, which Cape says is the simplest WiFi monitoring dashboard available.
Launched in February 2015, Asimmetric (as it then was) became the first South African company to join the San Francisco-based hardware accelerator Highway1.
By April 2016, Asimmetric announced it had raised a seven-figure dollar funding round from three United States (US)-based early-stage hardware and Internet of Things (IoT) investment firms, allowing it to launch operations in San Francisco.
The startup launched an all-new edition of its product in November, coinciding with its rebranding to Cape… in preparation for great things this year, we’re certain.
Zimbabwe’s Dr CADx is a new kid on the African startups block, but we think these guys are worth keeping an eye on.
Founded in August 2016, the startup is developing a computer-aided diagnostic system to help doctors diagnose medical images more accurately, and to provide pervasive radiology diagnostics in regions which currently do not have radiologists.
Designed to be used by medical professionals on existing computers and tablets, the solution is able to diagnose most diseases if it is supplied with the sufficient training data, although the startup’s initial focus is on lung diseases such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and lung cancer, as well as head injuries and breast cancer.
In September 2016 Dr CADx’s prototype achieved an accuracy of 82 per cent in distinguishing between chest X-rays of healthy people from X-rays of patients with TB and those with lung cancer.
The startup was named winner of the Zimbabwean edition of Seedstars World, and is heading to the finals to compete for that US$1 million prize to help make trials of the tool possible in 2018, with a view to a full launch of the solution also in 2018.
The CityMarketing Leaflet & Flyer Distribution Service is a division of SkillPatron that shares flyers. It specializes in the highway & hand to hand distribution of leaflets, flyers, brochures and most promotional materials across Nigeria’s biggest cities.
As the pioneers of flyer distribution GPS tracking in Nigeria, along with other quality control measures, this year, SkillPatron continues to work with hundreds of the biggest blue-chip firms in Nigeria to keep flyer & leaflet deliveries running smoothly. Using uniquely sophisticated GPS route logging devices SkillPatron keeps photo tracks of the delivery of every distribution to give their clients complete peace of mind that your job has been fully delivered. They don’t just share flyers. They also send you reports after the distribution. The company’s leaflet distribution business is simple. Hire fit, committed skaters to deliver leaflets fast. Supervise deliveries to ensure they’re carried out in full and on time. Pay good wages and make the business appealing to new recruits. Then take on the competition with quicker delivery times and a more reliable service.
Having just finished its entered its second year, SkillPatron now has a turnover of millions of Naira monthly, 120 skaters and back-up staff, and more than 500 clients, including big players such as Samsung Nigeria, Kodak Nigeria, Dominoes, iRokoTV, Uber, Cars45, Vlisco, several major banks, online betting companies and all cinema outlets in Nigeria.
Nigeria’s SpacePointe develops products geared towards small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with a particular focus on retailers. The startup has been busy over the past couple of years; making waves at the DEMO Africa event in 2014 – following which it was selected to pitch at DEMO Fall in Silicon Valley-, and launching extensive pilots in 2015.
But 2016 was its strongest year to date. In June, SpacePointe announced it had raised US$1.2 million in funding from multiple investors, enabling it to launch two in-store business management and point of sale (PoS) applications into the market.
The first, CommercePointe, integrates in-store business management and PoS applications with a marketplace platform working off the same inventory, designed for the informal sector.
PointePay is a mobile application with multiple payment options acceptance options, including cash, e-wallet, and debit or credit card. It allows retailers to manage product and inventory, as well as employees and customers, while also offering value added service such as the ability to sell wireless top-up and perform mobile wallet loads.
The startup is busy pushing its products out to as many customers as possible, and we’re eager to watch uptake soar in 2018.
Ghanaian startup Tress showed us it means business by going straight for a global launch in February 2016, having been incubated at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST).
Tress is a social haircare app primarily for black women, which allows women to discover new hairstyles, find out detailed information about hairstyles such as the exact products used, the name of the stylist, and the price range, and share their favourite hairstyles and receive compliments and haircare secrets from the community.
Only four months after launching, Tress was selected to join the Y Combinator Fellowship Programme in Silicon Valley, and took part in the eight-week programme complete with US$20,000 in funding.
With the global black haircare industry valued at over US$500 billion, we’re eager to see how much of the market Tress will dominate this year.
So there you have it, our list of African Startups to watch in 2018.