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Seven South African tech startups hoping to grab your attention

Last night, 88mph, the seed fund and three month accelerator programme operating out of Cape Town, Nairobi and soon to be Lagos, hosted an investor day in which its seven tech startups selected for the Cape Town programme pitched their businesses to investors.

How we made it in Africa met with these startups in March to learn more about their ideas, business plans and how they’re looking to solve problems in the local market.

1. Pet Heaven – delivery service for pet food

Courtenay Farquharson’s Pet Heaven is a scheduled pet food and treats delivery service through which customers can schedule orders to cater to their pets’ needs.

According to Farquharson, the service has potential in South Africa as pet food is something animal owners require every month, but which can be a hassle to get for various animals with different dietary needs.

“Pet food is also a very heavy product and often vet shops are not open. They are also often not conveniently located near your [supermarket],” said Farquharson, adding that there is potential to offer the service for other pet products too.

“We are starting with pet food because we feel that that is the first step in the door… but we can then go on to sell things like your accessories (your balls and toys); your treats is another market completely, and we can also move to pet insurance and pet grooming, and other veterinary services – all bolted on to our initial offering.”

2. Ekaya – matching quality landlords and tenants

Developed by Justin R Melville, Ruark Ferreira and Rudolf Vavruch, Ekaya is a property marketplace that matches good landlords with good tenants, making renting easier and more secure.

“We borrow a little bit from the online dating world, and blend it with the stuff like Gumtree and OLX, for a really cool way for people to find property and for guys who have property to find a better class of tenants,” explained Melville. “That is what we are focusing on; the better class of tenants.”

3. Diarize.me – hassle-free appointments

“For businesses we provide them with an online application to manage their clients, their appointments and their inventory. For customers they can use diarise.me to find recommended businesses and make appointments from anywhere with an internet connection… and our end goal is to make the paper-based appointment book a relic of the past,” explained founder Mark Raa.

The online application aims to take the hassle out of making and managing appointments. The startup makes money by charging businesses a monthly fee for using its software.

4. Catch – an event dating app

Catch is an app that shows users who is attending the same events as them, making it easier for people to connect before, during and after an event.

“We open up the attendee list for events so you can see who is going… and select who you would like to meet and, if the interest is mutual, we connect you. We are closing the loop that other online dating sites and apps… leave open, by positioning events and nightlife as a place to meet in real life,” explained founder Aidan Classe.

“Events also provide various benefits, such as [acting] as a natural filter, so you can meet people with whom you share similar interests and a similar social circle. They provide a natural context to a meeting, instead of matching with a complete stranger based on a profile.”

5. GraphFlow – product and content recommendations as a service

Nick Pentreath and Robert Elliot’s GraphFlow is a recommendation engine for mobile and e-commerce which matches users with the most relevant products and content, at the right time, across multiple channels.

“An example of what we do is Amazon… they were the first movers into this market, building the technology for their own store. So when you buy a book or you buy a DVD, at the bottom of that [webpage] you will see ‘people who bought this also bought that’ or ‘here are your personalised recommendations’. So they were ahead of the game – they developed the technology, the techniques, etc. around this, and spend a hell of a lot of money doing this. We are taking those techniques and we are wrapping it up in a service that we can provide to businesses in the retail space, but across multiple channels,” explained Elliot.

6. Byte Money – specialising in receipting and allocating funeral insurance policies

“Every month R2.5bn (US$238m) is collected and receipted in cash for the funeral industry in South Africa, using handwritten receipts and receipt books… 30%-35% of that is lost due to fraud, theft or bad administration,” said co-founder Juan-Marc Naude.

He and Craig Peacock developed Byte Money which specialises in the receipting and allocation of payments for the funeral insurance industry using a mobile POS (point of sale) terminal.

“We provide a solution that dramatically reduces that theft by deploying a highly scalable platform and handheld terminal which is basically an electronic receipt book. So we receipt the cash and allocate it to the insurance, back-end software instantaneously. So we solve that problem.”

7. 8Bit – connecting brands and independent publishers

8Bit, led by founder Tom Kennedy and CTO Rich Huth, is an advertising platform that connects brands with independent publishers, to create engaging return on investment focused campaigns.

According to Kennedy, he created this network to represent leading independent bloggers and help to connect them with brands looking to target an audience that had been formerly difficult to target. 8Bit has already gained traction, and has Mercedes on board.

“In the past four or five months since we formalised the structure we have done almost R500,000 ($47,600) in turnover… One of our goals was to build this informal industry up – get these guys formalising structures, get them growing because one of the problems was a lot of the blogs also hit a ceiling where they feel they can’t actually grow anymore. And we started developing tools to give to the sites to help them build,” highlighted Kennedy.

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