Inside SA; The One African Tech Nest For Globally Scalable Solutions?

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Some 4 months ago, news broke that Go1, a Brisbane-based edtech company with a South African founder, received the unlikely touch from Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank. 

As expected, the VC colossus' lead in the USD 200 Mn Series C hatched the unicorn in Go1 and geared it for the global game. Though the enterprise learning firm’s true local identity remains questionable, it is referred to as the first-ever tech unicorn to be born out of South Africa. 

In September 2021, Australia’s BNPL giant Zip acquired Payflex, the first and largest buy-now-pay-later company in South Africa to bring the buying-on-credit frenzy to the African continent. In the same month, African AI-driven financial inclusion tech firm, Finclusion, bought South Africa’s HelloHR—a payroll software startup. 

Before that (June 2021), FM: Systems—a Raleigh-based leading provider of digital workplace solutions worldwide, bought over South Africa’s WizzPass in a rare Cape Town-North Carolina deal. 

In July 2019, Apis Partners-backed DPO Group took over Payfast, a South African payments processor, making the buyer the largest payments provider in Southern Africa. With a few other purchased regional fintechs under its belt (including South Africa’s PayGate), Kenya’s DPO Group was altogether acquired in July 2020 by Network International—a digital commerce player in the Middle East and Africa. 

In May 2018, Uber’s delivery behemoth, Uber Eats, bought Cape Town-based, 1998-founded orderTalk—a restaurateur-focused provider of online ordering software—from South African venture capital firm Knife Capital. In March the same year, Hewlett Packard (HP) acquired 2013-founded Cape Networks, a Cape Town and San Francisco-based Saas and hardware startup. 

In 2013, software titan Oracle put in USD 110 Mn for Nimbula, a South African-born cloud computing startup founded in 2008. 2 years before that, WooThemes, a WordPress plugin and theme maker based in Cape Town, was bought by Automattic for a reported USD 30 Mn. America’s credit card giant, Visa, also bought Fundamo—a 2000-founded South African mobile financial services provider for USD 110 Mn back in June 2011. 

There is a decade-old saying that hitting it big in Silicon Valley is every South African tech entrepreneur’s dream, and there is enough evidence to show that this will not one day become a meaningless adage. 

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