Six ocean-minded startups in SA

Ocean Voyages Institute’s marine plastic recovery vessel broke a world record on 2 July of the most waste collected out of our oceans, measuring at 103 tons in fishing nets and consumer plastics.

Over 48 days, the vessel travelled through the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone, commonly known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or Gyre. It has been recorded as the largest at sea clean up in the Gyre to date.

Plastic Free July has kicked off at the start of the month and highlights the importance of reducing single-use plastic and its overall impact on the environment and our oceans.

These six startups aim to make a positive impact on the restoration and preservation of our oceans

Reports indicate that nearly eight-million pieces of plastic make it into our oceans each day, causing irreparable damage to the marine ecosystem. With more than 100 000 marine animals dying from plastic pollution each year, it requires efforts of those both in the private and public sectors to make a concerted difference in reducing plastic waste.

Oceanhub Africa, a Cape Town-based impact accelerator (see this story) that aims to support ocean-minded start-ups through its programme has selected six startups that are working diligently to a sustainable and eco-conscious future for our oceans.

The selected projects were chosen by the esteemed committee at Oceanhub and will be accelerated over the next six months. These startups will be provided tailored mentorship, scientific expertise, and access to market leads.

In bringing attention to the current plastic pandemic, we have decided to highlight six ocean-minded startups in South Africa who have employed the use of technology to protect our marine environment.

Ocean-minded startups

SharkSafe Barrier

SharkSafe Barrier has developed an ecofriendly alternative to shark nets and baited drum lines. The current shark nets used along are detrimental to the environment.

Developed to mimic the visual effects of a kelp forest along used in hand with magnetic shark deterrents, the technology both ensure the safety of beachgoers while protecting the ocean’s biodiversity. The barrier affects only large sharks while other marine life including seals and various fish can swim through it similarly that they utilize the natural kelp forest for refuge.


Aimed at creating a lasting and positive impact on the global food system, Inseco utilises advanced engineering technology, entomology, and biomimicry to provide effective solutions to reduce the use of fish-based meals used in livestock farming and aquaculture.

Utilizing onsite waste management technology converts organic waste into cost-effective protein an alternative to what is currently used. This innovative technology can help reduce over-fishing and greenhouse gas emissions.

Captain Fanplastic

Through the use of edtech which has been implemented in gaming, Captain Fanplastic hopes to educate users with a #NoTrashButTreasure minds. The gamified environmental literacy program has been designed using behavioral science, e-learning, and one-on-one modules. This startup is tackling a global issue of education around plastic waste by providing a long-lasting solution that is bound to yield long term positive results

Children aged between 10 to 12 years of age can become environmentally literate and adopt a lifestyle that aims to protect the environment through the reduced use of plastic.

MeanSea level

MeanSea level has developed and is currently constructing an operational 1,000 kW Wave Energy Converter which will supply electricity to shore-based industries and municipalities. This renewable source of energy is created through a process that does not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions as it harnesses wave power as the main resource.

Impact-Free Water

Through the use of pump harvesting wave’s potential energy ImpactFree Water can convert it into pressurized seawater for use in the aquaculture industry and for shore-based industries along with municipalities to produce fresh water. The use of wave power as a renewable source means that the overall production reduced greenhouse gas emissions.


Symbytech’s multi-purpose drone has an extraction and filtration system which can inspect and clean boat hulls. Not only does it clean boat hulls but it is able to filter the water and neutralise biofouling allowing clean water to be returned.

Overall the technology employed at this startup will reduce the fuel consumption of boats.

Read more: OceanHub Africa opens accelerator call to startups looking to protect ocean
Read more: Kudoti crowned SA’s startup champion for 2020
Read more: LifeQ announces it’s working with B-Secur to develop tech solution

Featured image: Free-Photos via Pixabay 

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Kudoti crowned SA’s startup champion for 2020

Kudoti, a waste tech startup has won the prestigious Aim Virtual Startup Pitch Competition for 2020 and will head to Dubai to compete at Aim Startup National Champions League, later this year.

The Aim Virtual Startup Pitch Competition South Africa forms part of a bigger competition that will have over 80 countries going head to head for the winning title.

Organised by the Annual Investment Meeting (Aim) Organising Committee and the Startup Mzansi Foundation, the SA focused competition had some stellar entries.

Kudoti will head to Dubai to compete in the Aim Startup National Champions League

Several South Africa’s business leaders attended the event, including the likes of Allon Raiz, Vusi Thembekwayo, Dikatso Sephoti, Dr. Audrey Verhaeghe, Dr. Jerry Gule, Dr. Sumarie Roodt, and H.E. Prof. Dr. Ambassador Tal Edgars. These experts in the industry evaluated the four startups who presented their pitches.

Founder of the Startup Mzansi Foundation, Sandile Shabangu, who was the host of the event emphasized the importance of startups in global economic development.

He shared that it will be the entrepreneurs, startups, creative thinkers, leaders, and crazy ones who will change the current global status.


Co-founded by Gift Lubele, a former research engineer, Kudoti utilises hardware and software technology to enhance recycling rates and increase efficiency in the waste industry. Using IoT sensors, Kudoti collects data which is then combined with their developed software solutions to improve waste logistics and processing.

During their virtual pitch, Lubele shared that he believes that waste is an untapped resource that Africa can get at the forefront of.

“I believe in a world where waste is valued and I strongly believe that the African continent can be the next leader when it comes to the circular economy.”

Within the pitch, Lubele shared that the main challenges that the waste industry in Africa is facing are twofold; a high level of inefficiency caused by paper-based processes and resources are wasted by manual services whereas these services could be easily automated.

The two main issues collide together to result in very low margins among key waste stakeholders.

In response to these challenges, Kudoti has streamlined the processes and digitization essentially eliminating all unnecessary processes in waste management companies,  increasing  efficiency through optimization of existing resources available and lastly improve performance and analytics through measurements of key activities in the waste industry.

Watch the virutal pitch below:

The platform has been enabled to be suitable for recycling SME’s in the informal sector and large waste management companies.

Kudoti will go on to compete in the Aim later this year held in Dubai with an all-expenses-paid trip valued at  over R100 000 (see this story) to compete in the global competition.

The South African champion will have to compete against startups from 80 other countries across the globe.

Read more: SA startups called on to apply for Annual Investment Meeting Virtual Pitch Competition

Read more: SA Fintech Mama Money expands globally

Read more: Graduates of Africa’s first drone accelerator programme announced

Featured image: Gift Lubele, co-founder and director of Kudoti (Supplied)

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OPay finally drops super app ambition; restructures model

Techpoint Africa

This article is brought to you as part of a new partnership between two of Africa’s foremost news and information platforms for African tech startups, Ventureburn and Techpoint Africa.

Opera-backed Nigerian fintech startup, OPay has reportedly shut down all its business operations in Nigeria following a letter issued by its foreign investors.

A report claims that all verticals of the startup, including ride hailing, ORide and OTrike — which were still active in other states aside Lagos; the recently launched B2B and B2C eCommerce platforms, OMall and OTrade; OExpress for logistics; and food delivery feature, OFood will be closed down.

OPay reportedly shuts down all of its business operations in Nigeria

It added that all motorcycles initially redirected into logistics earlier in the year will be retrieved.

Conversely, based on an official statement from OPay, this bears only a few truths.

A Statement From OPay.

— OPay (@OPay_NG) July 2, 2020


“We can confirm that some of our business units including the ride-hailing services, ORide, OCar, as well as our logistics service OExpress will be put on pause. This is largely due to the harsh business conditions which have affected many Nigerian companies, including ours, during this COVID-19 pandemic, the lockdown, and government ban,” the statement reads.

It goes ahead to say verticals like OMall, OTrade and other services remain unaffected.

Attesting to this in part, a source close to the matter says all OPay businesses have shut down except for OKash and OWallet.

Perhaps, this explains OPay’s comment that it will now focus on rendering only financial services.

While insisting that its main focus is fintech, OPay claims that its mobile money and digital payment services have been profitable so far. However, the statement further maintains that this restructuring has only a little influence on the startup’s profitability.

To an extent, this recent development confirms a reliable source’s suspicions shared two months ago that there is a new wave of layoffs in the future.

As maintained in a counter statement by OPay concerning the layoffs, it seems the startup may not be able to absorb more employees into the limited verticals remaining, compared to 14 that were previously available.

One thing that the startup has largely admitted to is the economic impact the pandemic has had on the business.

Also, in this article, we speculated that the inclusion of more verticals may be suspended while the startup makes effort to survive.

Meanwhile, in an earlier discussion with Iniabasi Akpan, OPay’s country manager, Techpoint Africa gathered that the idea behind the introduction of new verticals was to increase financial inclusion.

However, he submitted that B2B and B2C marketplace in the country is still underdeveloped.

Consequently, it appears that OPay’s focus will continue to be on its payment platform to push mobile money, lending, and investment services while waiting for the new eCommerce platform to find its feet.

As we have noticed while chronicling the journey of the Chinese-backed startup since launch, the past six months have been a pretty rough ride: from Okada and Tricycle ban in its major market, Lagos to taking down OKash, its money lending feature from the mobile app on alleged violation of Google services.

Along with the recent closing down of some of its services while unavoidably laying off employees as a result.

Regardless, the startup maintains that it is hugely funded and has remained highly profitable.

It remains to be seen how OPay would fare in the coming months as it moves into its third year of servicing the Nigerian market.

The original version of this article appeared on Techpoint Africa on 2 July. See it here.

Featured image: Supplied

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How South African startup, Voyc, is taking its AI-backed contact centre software beyond Africa

Techpoint Africa

This article is brought to you as part of a new partnership between two of Africa’s foremost news and information platforms for African tech startups, Ventureburn and Techpoint Africa.

Have you ever called a call centre and heard “this call may be recorded for training and quality purposes”? It’s a phrase most of us have heard when calling a company or an organisation.

These call centres listen to our calls and use the data or metrics derived to improve their customer experience. The problem is that most of them do it manually or with cranky software.

A call centre that has about 50 call agents who make calls for five hours every day will have to process 250 hours of calls a day, 1 750 hours of calls a week, and 7 000 hours of calls a month.

It is a large number for a call centre to manage without good software. Consequently, most calls are never monitored and the company misses valuable insights from such calls.

Voyc is an AI software developed to monitor contact center interactions for valuable insight.

This is why Lethabo Motsoaledi and Matthew Westaway decided to build Voyc, an AI software that monitors contact centre interactions and provides valuable insights.

These insights range from identifying potential risks from callers, improving agent performance, and ensuring companies and customers are treated fairly.

Voyc assists quality assurance personnel

Motsoaledi tells Techpoint Africa that this isn’t the first time the pair has co-founded a startup. In fact, it is the third time after working together as entrepreneurs for about five years.

According to her, Voyc never started as a company or product to monitor call centre conversations. In 2016 and for part of 2017, the duo were looking for software that could help them analyse interviews using speech-to-text technology and natural language processing. Failing to find any, they set out to build theirs and sell it in the process.

“That was what we went to market with,” she says.

Instead of buying their technology, some of the companies they engaged suggested that they were not the right customers to use their technology: it was the call centres.

Listening to their customers, Motsoaledi and Westaway went back to their drawing board. Targeting call centres was a big deal in South Africa because Voyc was going up against big incumbents in the call recording space, most of which had been in the game for more than ten years.

According to Motsoaledi, some of these big players do up to two-million recordings a month and initially they only stored calls. But seeing that they can’t depend solely on call recordings, they are diversifying into speech analytics, Voyc’s main forte.

While this was an intial concern, their fears were allayed when they started engaging with these call centres.

Motsoaledi says they began to understand that the way these big players approached speech analytics was complex and time-consuming. For some, she added, it takes more than six months before a company starts to make sense of the analytics provided.

“More than 95% of the time if something goes wrong with the customers, the company only finds out later when such a customer complains. What we’re doing is listening to 100% of these calls using AI and machine learning, and then flagging the calls with mistreatments and problems.”

As the chief technological officer (CTO) of the startup, Motsoaledi explains how Voyc uses AI and machine learning.

Firstly, Voyc transcribes call to text. During the transcription, the software identifies any anomalies in a call, for example; a threat from a caller.

The software then analyses the emotions of call agents and customers ranging from politeness and frustration to anger and sadness. Through this process, Voyc finds out which agent frustrated a customer, for instance, by forcing them to buy a product they didn’t want.

Even more impressive than its AI and machine learning prowess is how quickly Voyc processes these calls.

“With Voyc, 250 hours worth of calls a day are processed in some minutes. A company is able to see which calls didn’t meet the script, which ones need attention, and which customers need a callback.

It’s impossible for a team of quality assurance personnel to do this manually. But we constantly do that for hours and hours of calls and that’s how our machine learning comes into play,” Motsoaledi says.

Africa is not Voyc’s ideal market

In 2018 the pair went all-in with Voyc but Motsoaledi says it took a year and some months to reach product-market fit.

Initially, Voyc got involved with companies in different industries that had call centre services. This included banks, telcos, insurance companies, and retail etc. But to achieve product-market fit, a company needs to stick to what works even if it means adjusting its business model.

The business of insurance is typically conducted over the phone and it is hard to walk into an insurance company to buy insurance in most developed countries.

Additionally, they have a team of quality assurance (QA) people that listen to calls. Most insurance companies have set aside an existing budget for the QA team.  It is a no-brainer that Voyc’s main clients are insurance companies.

However, the problem is that in most parts of Africa, insurance is still a fledgling industry which means there are a few companies that Voyc can work with.

“The problem we are trying to solve for the financial and insurance industry in Africa is not set up the same way across different markets. The South African market is a unique one and there are a few other cases like Malawi and Nigeria. But a majority of the African population don’t buy insurance and operate over the call centre in that way,” Motsoaledi says.

Even if Africans buy insurance, there exists yet another problem for Voyc: the minimum wage of call agents. At first, the South African startup was charging clients per hour but it changed that revenue model to charging per agent. This proved detrimental to its operations in Africa.

According to Motsoaledi, the price they charged per agent per hour was higher than the minimum wage of agents per hour so some clients found it difficult to pay.

International markets and expansion

What do you do as an African startup that isn’t solving a continental problem? You solve a global one and tread international waters.

Voyc had tried to break into the African market but with its rebranding, it’s focusing on international expansion with the UK, Australia, and US markets in its sights.

Motsoaledi says the insurance space in these countries is quite similar to the one in South Africa. She attributes this to the fact that a particular insurance company can be present in two of the four countries.

With this mindset, Voyc has been able to secure a dozen clients including names like 1Life Insurance, Bryte Insurance, Momentum, and Stangen Insurance, etc. The amount charged per enterprise starts at $2 000 per month or $25 000 per year.

To increase its foothold in the international market, the South African startup has established its headquarters in Amsterdam, the capital of Netherlands with offices in South Africa.

Motsoaledi says the proximity of the Netherlands to its target markets was key in making the decision.

Diversity, online customer acquisition, and rebranding

When the company came onto the scene, it had a short stint in Nigeria via the Google Launchpad network in early 2019. Though the startup was in conversation with telecom operator, MTN and a few other companies, none of the talks yielded any result.

However, through Standard Bank, one of its clients in South Africa, Voyc got access to its affiliate in Kenya.

In short, they did not approach the market as a free-serving company and this inhibited their ability to scale fast. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, it became even more imperative for the startup to be able to acquire customers online.

“The big players don’t offer cloud software but we do. Our easy-to-set-up software means we can now get customers online and they can immediately plug into the call centre software.”

Asides the challenges posed by the big players in the sense that they’re almost providing software for any insurance company in South Africa, one challenge Motsoaledi says Voyc is trying to overcome is diversity.

As a black female founder in South Africa, Motsoaledi understands why this is important.

“Diversity is one of the biggest challenges we’ve had to overcome. We try to hire not only black engineers but also black females. We’re still trying to overcome but we’ll figure out how best to do it and we’re standing our ground saying this is the approach we’re going to take.”

So far, Voyc has been able to raise a significant amount of capital from angel investors and seed accelerator, Techstars. The company isn’t big on announcing its funding but it is when it comes to announcing a rebranding.

Motsoaledi says that since 2018 when Voyc entered the market it hasn’t built up a brand which has been deliberate as the past two years have been all about preparations.

“We started Voyc in 2018 and since then, we’ve been in Techstars and Google Launchpad. We’ve also spent time building up our product and achieving product-market fit.

Now, we realise it’s a good time to rebrand and relaunch. But you wouldn’t really call it that if you never really launched a specific brand that speaks to exactly what you’re doing in the first place,” she says enthusiastically.

In all, Motsoaledi affirms that while Voyc is rebranding, what the startup is trying to achieve is to ensure the fair treatment of companies and customers, not just in Africa, but around the world.

The original version of this article appeared on Techpoint Africa on 2 July. See it here.

Featured image: Lethabo Motsoaledi, Co-founder and CTO, Voyc (standing in the middle), Matthew Westaway Co-founder and CEO, Voyc (pictured on the right (Supplied)




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SA crypto exchange which has raised $1.3m introduces quick buy and sell feature for traders

ChainEX, a cryptocurrency exchange in South Africa, has introduced its quick buy and sell feature for all crypto traders on their platform.

The startup — which is based in Jeffrey’s Bay near Port Elizabeth and has raised $1.3-million in rounds in 2017 and 2018 — made the announcement in a statement last week.

The startup said the new feature provides instant execution. Prices are immediately matched, allowing traders the chance to execute orders faster, it said.

It claims that it has simplified the trading process, allowing traders to execute trades even faster.

SA crypto exchange ChainEx has raised $1.3-million in rounds in 2017 and 2018

The startup claims that it is pioneering the industry with new features and innovations. These include a zero-percent maker fee, a knowledge base, dedicated ticket-based support, BTCV markets, and referral programs. Any trader can begin with ZAR and then diversify with thousands of cryptocurrencies.

In an email to Ventureburn, the startup said it has over a thousand users, the majority of them being South Africans and that it recently started generating revenue, but is as yet not profitable.

The startup was founded in 2017 by Ryno Mathee, Otto Lessing (who serves as CEO) and Martin de Bruin.

Mattheee is an entrepreneur with a software development background, while Lessing was admitted as a lawyer in 2001 and has been involved in multiple ventures before becoming involved with ChainEX.

De Bruin is a financial manager at one of the largest dairy farms in South Africa.

Featured image: ChainEx CEO and co-founder Otto Lessing (LinkedIn)

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The Great Stack: Paystack is building an army of exceptional execs

Techpoint Africa

This article is brought to you as part of a new partnership between two of Africa’s foremost news and information platforms for African tech startups, Ventureburn and Techpoint Africa.

Paystack, the second Nigerian startup to be backed by Y Combinator, debuted in the country’s fintech space in 2015 and has since experienced tremendous growth.

Currently operating in Nigeria and Ghana, the Delaware company raised $11.7 million from five rounds between 2016 and 2018.

Gradually, Paystack grew to become one of the most prominent payment platforms in Nigeria. With co-founders Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi at the top of the organogram as CEO and CTO respectively, the startup currently employs 112 people.

This team is comprised of a mix of expats and Nigerians taking up roles across different units including operations, growth, design, engineering, product, and business. Notably, like most startups aiming for gender representation, women make up 31.9% of the team.

The startup raised a 1.3 million seed fund in December 2016 which was to be invested in building its engineering team, growing sales and marketing operations, accelerating product development, and customer onboarding. The current team reflects this. In fact, Emmanuel Quartey, the head of growth, was hired in 2017.


In 2020, the composition of the Paystack team reflects a focus on growing sales and a solid engineering base.

Perhaps this is why the startup can claim to serve over 60 000 companies in Nigeria and why it recently launched a Commerce platform integrated with a popular eCommerce site builder, Wix.

After its Series A investment in 2018, there was a huge increase in new appointments in 2019 — as deduced from the information on the current team. The increase in the number of employee’s was recorded at nearly 140% increase, most of which are software engineers and growth specialists.

Paystack’s record of success within the five years is not something that happened by mere chance. A recent survey by Techpoint Africa reveals that the team is strategically made up of experienced individuals who had previously held roles in notable local and foreign firms as well as startup ex-founders.

This list of 12 exceptional individuals provides a glimpse of the talent Paystack can leverage for future growth.

Bankole Oluwafemi

Bankole Oluwafemi is the founder of Big Cabal Media, the parent company of news publication and content platforms, TechCabal and Zikoko. He surprisingly exited the company in January 2020 as the editor-at-large, but still holds a stake within the company.

Before founding TechCabal in 2013, Oluwafemi was co-CEO of Idea Media and a social media consultant at The Bridge IVF Clinic.

Reports indicate that  Oluwafemi joined the Paystack team after this move in February. The survey revealed that some key additions to the team took place very early in the year.

Given his background, it is not hard to have guessed and our investigation confirms that he’s on Paystack’s media team.

Kuassi Kumako

Kuassi Kumako is the co-founder of CoinAfrique Annonces (translated as CoinAfrique Ads), a classified platform where buyers meet sellers, operating in 12 francophone African countries. Kumako has actively held his post for a reported six years at CoinAfrique Annonces.

Simultaneously, Kumako managed DevEngineLabs, a startup management company, until 2018. Our investigation into his employment found that there is no indication that he left CoinAfrique before joining Paystack.

Prior to joining Paystack in January 2020, he was the consultant in finance, competitiveness, and innovation at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a sister organisation of the World Bank and member of the World Bank Group. As a result, Kumako is able to utilise his experience in consultancy to Paystack.

Amandine Lobelle

Amandine Lobelle has been the head of business operations at Paystack since June 2019. She replaced Oluwaseun Runsewe who joined OPay as the director of product in 2019. Although originally from Belgium, she lived and schooled in Nairobi, Cape Town, and New Delhi, but considers South Africa as home.

She joined IFC in 2015, and before she left in 2018, she served in a number of capacities including analyst and investment officer. Prior to her stint at IFC, she was an investment officer at Morgan Stanley, a global investment, banking, and research enterprise.

Wuraola Jegede

A University of Lagos alumnus and an ACA certified accountant, Wuraola Jegede started her career as an assistant account receivables officer. After practising for an estimated year and six months, she moved to Union Bank of Nigeria – one of Nigeria’s oldest banks. Jegede was employed as a financial analyst in 2013 at Union Bank of Nigeria.

She occupied this role for seven years until she was onboarded on the Paystack team. There is no clear definition of her role at Paystack.


Priscilla Ekhator

Priscilla Ekhator is a professional estate manager, and has been a facility manager for more than five years.

Between April 2016 and January 2019, she was the facilities coordinator at Andela and she took up the same role at Paystack a month after leaving. Ekhator manages and supervises Paystack’s exquisite office building in Lagos and other operational facilities in different locations.

Naomi Amobi

Taking care of Paystack’s legal concerns is Naomi Amobi. Amobi is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). She spent a short period of her professional life at the federal high court of Nigeria before moving to Aluko & Oyebode, a Lagos-based law firm, first as an associate, before rising to become a senior associate.

With more than seven years as a practising barrister, she became Paystack’s legal and regulatory counsel in February 2019.

Ita Okponung

Ita Okponung secures Paystack from fraud and risks associated with a payment gateway platform serving thousands of companies. He was hired in September 2018.

Interestingly, since 2010 Okponung has managed risk for a corporate firm and a startup, spending substantial years in both. First at Zenith Bank Plc for more than six years as a risk monitoring, compliance and reconciliation officer.

Just after his exit from this bank, he joined Wakanow, an online travel agency, in 2016 to keep chargebacks low and manage payment risks. From our survey, he was probably still on this job when he joined the Paystack team.

Mohini Ufeli

Mohini Ufeli is a trained journalist who has performed different roles in the media field including photography and research.

Between 2014 and 2018, Ufeli moved from being a documentarian to a media associate, and then from communication associate to communication coordinator in Andela, spending at least nine months on each role.

Still in line with her specialty, she joined Paystack in September 2018 to oversee the startup’s media production and documentation.

Fisayo Kolawole

According to a LinkedIn search, Fisayo Kolawole is in his 10th year at Interswitch Group. He joined as a senior business analyst and later became head IT telco media and insurance.

Kolawole is the head, merchant acquiring and business expansion at Paystack. With no clear understanding of how long he has been on the team, our guess is that he joined between 2017 and 2018.

Khadijah Abu

Abu has been Paystack’s product partnership lead since November 2017. She started her career as a product support specialist at Interswitch in 2008. With steady progress, she rose to the position of the head, Collections and Disbursement Product Management all within nine years before exiting the Interswitch

Emmanuel Quartey

After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from Yale University in 2012, Quartey tried his hand at jobs in sales and personal assistance before taking a career turn into communication and sales.

In 2014, he became the marketing and communications fellow at Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), an African startup incubator founded in Ghana. During that time, while he published articles on MEST’s blog, he also produced content on online publications like Quartz and African Business Central.

Taking up a higher role, he became the general manager of MEST Incubator, Accra, after holding the product lead position for one year and eleven months. Leaving MEST, he became Paystack’s head of growth in 2017.

Gbadebo Oyelakin

Gbadebo Oyelakin joined Paystack in May 2018 as the senior software engineer with a  reputation in this field that precedes him. Prior to this, Oyelakin was a web developer for nearly four years at Jobberman, the Nigerian-founded job search engine.

Two months after leaving Jobberman, he became the principal software engineer at, an online grocery shop, and soon secured the role of technology team lead, a position he held for three years and three months.

The original version of this article appeared on Techpoint Africa on 1 July. See it here.

Featured image: Paystack founders: Shola Akinlade (CEO) and Ezra Olubi (CTO), Supplied


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Graduates of Africa’s first drone accelerator programme announced

An accelerator programme has equipped 13 startups with the tools and skills needed to adopt the use of drone technology in South Africa along with the skills required to help this sector boost national employment.

The accelerator programme was developed and created by Mzansi Aerospace Technologies with funding from Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA).

Beginning in February 2020, the programme led to a Demo Day hosted on 26 June 2020 where participating startup founders virtually presented their pitch decks to a panel of judges, investors, and guest attendees.

Members of the judging panel included a host of representatives from Development Finance Institutions, Enterprise Supplier Developer funds, startup ecosystem providers such as The Innovation Hub, Wits Business School along with other accelerators, academic and venture capitalist investors.

Victor Radebe, Founder of Mzansi Aerospace Technologies, outlines that although COVID19 changed the initial programme of the accelerator it has resulted in a positive outcome.

“This has been a great learning journey for the start-ups, who were excited to pitch their ideas to investors who can help them scale their businesses. Because of the COVID-19 lockdown, start-ups weren’t able to test their solutions or do market validations with customers – a key part of the programme – but we improvised with the webinar pitches, which were very well presented. Ironically, with COVID-19 shifting the programme to an online platform, it has allowed us to expand our reach, and future programmes will adopt a dual approach that combines online and in-person engagement.”

The programme was developed to provide a solution to two main challenges; the fact that most startups fail due to lack of market demand for products and that out of 60 of the licensed drone operators in South Africa only one black-owned.

Not only was the programme aimed at providing help to startups to refine their innovations and gain traction in the market place, but it also aimed to promote a service that solves a specific challenge in various industries.

Startups to keep an eye on

Hosted in Ekurhuleni West TVET College in Katlehong and supported by corporate innovation partners that included Royal HaskoningDHV, these are the 13 startups who successfully graduated from the innovative programme :

Fade Communications & Video Services (Jim Nkoana): An established video services business that is seeking to integrate drone technology into filming and videography.

Ziyakhipha Projects & Services (Makabongwe & Kelebogile Ngceba): Maintenance of cell towers and looking to drone technology for inspections and maintenance.

Kurai (Clive Mathe and Samuel Mathekga): An agritech startup that deploys crop spraying drones.

Nafazi Za Angani (Shaun Msiza & Gift Kgadima): An established drone business in the built environment that offers surveying and mapping.

QP Drone Tech (Queen Ndlovu and Pumi Makatini): A drone hardware startup that is looking develop an all-weather drone prototype in partnership with Denel.

Rine Holdings (Lufuno Mulungwa): A security tech startup that plans to deploy drone technology for security and surveillance.

Shibus Constructions CC (Blandina Motswalo and Thandi Motswalo): A construction company that is looking to use drones for road and bridge inspections and to monitor construction projects.

KasieLabs (Siphokazi Nciza): A training startup that is accredited by the MICT Seta and plans to offer simulated drone training services.

Mgwambani Security & Projects (Mashako Mathebula): A security company that aims to deploy drone technology for security and surveillance.

Extol Jireh (Shardeon Marshall): An established filming and photography company that is looking to add drone services.

Africa Drone Kings (Vice Phiri, Vhengani Mudzielwana, Ntwanano Mushwana and Andrew Mokoto): The startup aims to offer drone hardware repairs and maintenance.

Gideon Treurnich, Strategic Business Development Manager at Royal HaskoningDHV South Africa, comments on the success of the programme.

“Despite the lockdown, we were still able to host training sessions for the start-ups, as planned, including a session on the use of drones in infrastructure asset management. We also included one of the start-ups in a client proposal to assist with drone photography in a factory setting. This inaugural programme was a massive success and we look forward to expanding our involvement in future programmes.”

The next Drone Accelerator Start-up Programme will be held in Limpopo, Vhembe District.

Mzansi Aerospace Technologies and Royal HaskoningDHV South Africa will again partner to make the event possible.

In addition, due to the success of the accelerator SEDA aims to roll out this programme into some of its incubators that are spread across South Africa.

Featured image: Immortal Producciones, Pixels

Read more: Meet the 13 startups selected for the Drone Startup-Up Accelerator Programme

Read more: Township entrepreneurship fund delayed, Seda funding cut as Covid-19 support prioritised

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SA Fintech Mama Money expands globally

Mama Money, a South African founded digital money transfer operator that is taking the world by storm has announced their recent partnership with Western Union.

Joining forces will allow Mama Money customers to transfer funds to their loved ones across the globe through Western Union’s Global Network. This new partnership will enable Mama Money to enter the international money transfer business sphere.

Founded by Mathieu Coquillon and Raphael Grojnowski, Mama Money uses mobile technology to allow its users to transfer funds safely. The company has grown in strides since 2015 with a mere six employees growing to 120 in 2017.

This strong growth is attributed to how the company has drastically reduced the cost of remittances through an easy-to-use mobile app that helps foreign nationals in South Africa send money home to their families.

Co-founder of Mama Money, Mathieu Coquillon comments on the impact of COVID19 on remittances.

“When the April lockdown hit, we saw a massive drop in remittances leaving South Africa due to the restrictions on movement to paying for money transfers and uncertainty. Remittance outflows for certain countries dropped by 90%. However, we’ve seen a very swift recovery since May as economic activities began to resume.”

Mama Money assists migrant workers in over 50 countries to send money to their loved ones with fees as low as 0.1%. The app is simple to use and is gaining traction across the world.

“Our average fee is around 3% but we have dynamic pricing which means if you send more per transaction the fees are reduced and can be as low as 0.1%,” explains Coquillon.

A global market

More than 500 000 users based in South Africa will be able to send monextfrom their phones for payout in over 200 countries around the world with the aid of Western Union’s extensive network.

The new partnership will enable cross-border money movement in a matter of minutes through the use of its core cross-border assets.

Coquillon comments on the new partnership.

“Western Union’s robust and reliable network, coupled with Mama Money’s easy-to-use and reliable digital service, is a highly strategic partnership with massive potential for tapping into a broader remittance market especially for the unbanked population .”

Mohamed Touhami El Ouazzani, Regional Vice President, Africa, Western Union says: “Innovative collaborations such as these will continue to shape global business models while enhancing customer experience and retaining their loyalty.”

“It is an integration of our strengths as we continue to drive connections by enabling enterprises to scale their business offerings worldwide, leveraging our money movement platform,” adds Ouazzani.

How does Mama Money work?

Mama Money’s mobile app was designed to make international money transfers easy. Customers can register by uploading a picture of their ID, passport, refugee status, or asylum documents. The approval process for customers usually takes about 24 hours and customers can start sending money as soon as they are given the green light.

To send money, customers can make payments directly from their bank account or pay for their order at any major retailer in South Africa such as, Pick n Pay, Boxer, Shoprite, Checkers, Cambridge, Boxer, Makro, and Game.

The Mama Money app is available for free download from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store. Another option that customers have is to send money via USSD by dialing *134*542#.

Featured image: Mathieu Coquillon, co-founder of Mama Money, Supplied 


Read more: Mama Money makes FICA simple: take a photo and a selfie

Read more: Meet Mama Money, the mobile social startup looking to break open the African remittance market

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LifeQ announces it’s working with B-Secur to develop tech solution

Biotech startup LifeQ has announced that it is working with Belfast based B-Secur to offer an advanced, integrated Electrocardiogram (ECG) and optical (PPG) based technology solution.

LifeQ was founded by South Africans Riaan Conradie (pictured above) and Laurie Olivier in 2014.

The announcement, made last week, comes just over three months after Ventureburn reported that LifeQ’s sister company  Stellenbosch based HealthQ would be shut down, as part of a restructuring involving LifeQ (see this story).

Last month tech publication Disrupt Africa reported in an article that LifeQ had carried out the commercial launch of VeoSens, a wearable-based, fully integrated insurance and health management solution developed in partnership with Samsung and Hannover Re.

LifeQ and B-Secur will work together to offer an advanced, integrated ECG and optical based tech solution

The publication said that LifeQ had partnered with 1Life, a leading direct life insurer in South Africa, to launch 1Life Pulse, utilising VeoSens.

In the announcement last week, LifeQ said the startup and B-Secur will work together to provide superior sensing capabilities from wearable devices.

They will also work to create advanced features for identification, wellness and health monitoring in next generation everyday devices.

LifeQ said its PPG signal conditioning technologies are used by leading consumer technology companies to boost accuracy for use in business and clinical applications.

Olivier said in the statement that the global biosensing market has grown exponentially in recent years.

“Events such as Covid-19 have further highlighted the importance of real time health monitoring and, specifically to make this available to everyone,” he added.

Alan Foreman, CEO of B-Secur, stated that many of the technology features that are on offer through an integrated B-Secur and LifeQ solution are currently only accessible in medical environments or by the fortunate few.

“We are very fortunate to find a partner in LifeQ that shares a common goal and we are confident that together we provide class-beating technologies” stated Foreman.

Read more: EXCLUSIVE: We’ve shut down SA startup HealthQ, confirms CEO

Featured image: LifeQ co-founder Riaan Conradie (Supplied)

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COVID19 causes 32% revenue decline in local startup sector

An investigation conducted by Atlas VPN found that 40% of startups globally experienced 40% and more revenue decline due to the COVID19 pandemic.

Atlas VPN Investigation gathered information from a study conducted by Startup Genome, a research and policy advisory company.

To gain insight into the effects of COVID19 on the startup sector, Startup Genome surveyed representatives from more than 2000 startups worldwide. This survey covered a range of startups from travel and tourism to Edtech and more.

There is no denying that the impacts of COVID19 have been far-reaching across the different industries.

The report found that a large number of startups lost more than 40% in revenue decline due to COVID19.

‘”Over 7 in 10 startups saw their income drop since the start of the pandemic. On average, startups saw their revenue diminish by 32%. As many as 4 in 10 startups saw their revenue decline by 40% or more.”

A decline in revenue can result in a a startup reaching the ‘red zone’.

“Decreased revenue is an issue for most startups since they are in a so-called “red zone”. Meaning, they will go bankrupt if they do not raise capital during the next three months, and their revenue stays the same or declines.”

South Africa

Globally the sector experienced and overall delcine in revenue. There was a difference in decline of income for startups varying from country to country.

Asia suffered the most with a 39% decline in overall income for startups. Following suit, startups in Africa saw an overall 36% crash in income.

“North America is close to the global average, with an average new company experiencing a decline of 31% in earnings. South Africa saw a similar decline, with a 32% drop in revenue.”

Startups based in Oceania and Europe faired the best against the impacts of COVID19. ”New projects in Europe experienced around 27% drop off in income, while those in Oceania suffered a 25% decline.”

Tech startups

The tech sector was not invincible to the pandemics impact but compare to other sectors, the revenue decline was notably less.

Overall, the report recorded the following:

  • Medtech and medical devices : 43% decline
  • Governmental tech : 42% decline
  • Edtech: 26% decline
  • Blockchain and crypto : 14% decline

Notably both Edtech and Blockchain and crypto had a significantly lower decline in income when compared to travel and tourism that experienced a 70% decline.

“In contrast, new projects in the blockchain and crypto industry held up the best, with an average decrease in revenue of 14%. Businesses in this market create products and services related to blockchain technology or cryptocurrencies.”

Read more: Covid-19: Do’s and don’ts for contact tracing by employers

Read more: Government interventions for entrepreneurs around Covid-19

Read more: Covid 19 funding available to SA small businesses [Infographic]

Featured image: Ibrahim Rifath, Unsplash

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