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Digital allstars VB1

Digital All Stars 2015: 13 South African tech entrepreneurs on the rise

Digital All Stars is a new series of articles on Ventureburn and Memeburn, which recognises and celebrates the South African digitari in a variety of fields. In this first article, Ventureburn looks at the top 13 rising entrepreneurs in the South African tech space.

From impacts in the global healthcare-tech stage to finding innovative ways in which brands connect with smartphone users, these individuals are well on their way to becoming the tech industry’s next leaders and ultimate game-changers.

Ventureburn scrutinised the list below in order to make sure that those who made the grade are at the top of their fields. We feel that we have been rigorous in our selections, but encourage you to forward any suggestions on anyone you think we may have missed. You can do so by clicking here.

Andre Hugo: Co-founder, CEO at Money For Jam

Andre Hugo

Twitter: @maxrsa

When it comes to knowing your industry inside-out, Andre Hugo (pictured left) is probably the best guy to talk to. Hugo established a name for himself after climbing the ranks at Deloitte SA for 18 years, ultimately serving as the director of the conglomerate’s digital arm. In 2014, Hugo ended his corporate career and pursued his entrepreneurial dreams. Today, he is the co-founder and CEO of the fast-growing Money For Jam (M4JAM).

Within the last year, the micro-jobbing startup, M4JAM, has secured investment from WeChat Africa and recently acquired mobile crowdsourcing company Pondering Panda. It’s certainly showing now signs of slowing down.

M4JAM was founded by Hugo and Warren Venter (pictured right).

Alex Fourie: Founder and CEO at iFix

Alex Fourie

Image via Millennial Entrepreneurs

Twitter: @AlexFourie

Alex Fourie founded one of Africa’s largest specialist repair services at the young age of 20 while studying at Stellenbosch University.

Read more: The Rise of iFix: one of Africa’s largest specialist repair services

Today, iFix is South Africa’s go-to destination for Apple and Samsung smartphone repairs, and services over 10 000 products a month. The chain boasts 13 stores, with new ones opening soon. In an interview with Ventureburn, Fourie revealed that he was looking to expand into the rest of Africa.

Luke Jedeikin: Co-founder, MD at Superbalist

Twitter: @luke_jedi

Keen to scratch-up on your ecommerce ABC’s? Well, Luke Jedeikin is probably one of the best in the biz to speak to. Jedeikin is the co-founder and MD of one of South Africa’s most successful ecommerce ventures. Formerly known as CityMob, curated design shop Superbalist was founded in 2010, and in 2014 exited to major local ecommerce store Takealot.

While the Takealot acquisition was confirmed to be a 100% buy-out, Superbalist continues to grow under the same brand. Last year it announced clocking in more than one-million members on its platform.

Mike Sharman: Co-founder of Retroviral, co-founder of Webfluential

Mike Sharman

Twitter: @mikesharman

With a Bachelor of Arts in Marketing Communications from the University of Johannesburg, Mike Sharman boasts a plethora of experience in the agency and startup space.

After having working as accounts manager for the likes of Tribeca, Chameleon PR and Firefly Communications, Sharman co-founded the multi award-winning Retroviral Digital Communications in 2010. The digital communications agency walked away winning the Loeries Silver campaign in 2011, which was followed by a range of PRISA PRISM recognitions.

Sharman is also the co-founder of the online influencer match-making platform, Webfluential, together with Murray Legg and David Philip; with Kirsty Sharman at the helm as SA CEO. Mike was named one of the Mail & Guardian’s top 200 young (under 35) South Africans in 2013.

Elan Lohmann: Founder of SleekGeek


Twitter: @elanlohmann

From corporate to entrepreneur and motivational speaker. Elan Lohmann traded in his decade-odd career in South Africa’s online publishing and agency space for health fitness and entrepreneurship. Since 2012, Lohmann’s new-found passion and business SleekGeek has grown to become South Africa’s biggest community to help people find a healthier lifestyle.

Today, the initiative aims to help 100 000 South Africans become fit and lose weight, with the Facebook page alone reaching over 20 000 likes.

Kobus Ehlers: Co-founder of SnapScan

Kobus pic

Image by Johan Wilke, Stellenbosch Visio

Twitter: @kobusehlers

Kobus Ehlers started off as a researcher and lecturer at Stellenbosch University, after which he worked as a consultant for NimbleMind. He then got involved with mobile payments through technology incubator FireID. In 2013, the entrepreneur co-founded mobile payment platform SnapScan, which went on to be awarded the 2013 MTN App of the Year Awards with the technology later bought by Standard Bank.

Read more: SnapScan’s Kobus Ehlers on keeping up with SA’s ever-changing payments landscape

The company has gone on to become one of the most innovative startups in South Africa’s payment gateway space.

David Glass: Co-founder of Electrum Payments

David Glass is director and co-founder at Electrum Payments before which he applied his knowledge in information systems at the likes of IQ Business Group, Standard Bank, Touch Networks, S1 Corporation and ACI Worldwide.

Founded in 2012, Electrum Payments provides customised banking and payments software to banks, payment processors, retailers and so on. The company has also this year entered the Knife Capital’s Grindstone accelerator programme.

Aaron Marshall: Founder and CEO at Over

Aaron Marshall

Twitter: @AaronMarshall

Aaron Marshall is a prime example of how an international company can successfully build itself out of South Africa. The American-born was involved in a number of tech and advertising companies over the years, from VP of sales and marketing at Media Marketers in 2006 to founder and consultant at TECHSMO in 2011. In 2010 Marshall founded Over, a mobile app that allows users to add text and image overlays onto photos.

In 2014, the startup won the international U-Start competition in Millan, Italy.

Walter Penfold: MD at Everlytic

Twitter: @walterpenfold

Having been working for reputable brands like Standard Bank, Liberty and Endeavour, Walter Penfold eventually pursued his career as an entrepreneur in 2003 when he co-founded Wetec — a landscape irrigation distributor. Today, Penfold is MD of South African digital communications outfit Everlytic.

In 2014, Everlytic recorded massive growth and was dubbed Deloitte’s third fastest-growing company in Africa.

Christiaan Brand: Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Entersekt


Twitter: @christiaanbrand

After finishing his Master’s Degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering at Stellenbosch University, Christiaan Brand became a lecturer at the university and soon set out to follow his entrepreneurial passions. Today, he is the co-founder of Entersekt, a globally-recognised authentication transaction service, with Schalk Nolte as CEO.

In 2013, Entersekt was awarded the Frost & Sullivan Award as South Africa’s leading innovation. Currently CTO of the fast-growing business, Brand also leads the company’s expansion into North America.

Bevan Ducasse: Founder and CEO at WiGroup

Twitter: @BevanDucasse

Backed by a Bachelor of Commerce in Financial Analysis from Stellenbosch, Bevan Ducasse founded one of South Africa’s first mobile wallet solutions at the age of 24. Soon after realising the technology is too early for the local market, he pivoted WiGroup to adopt a B2B model which today acts as a facilitator between various mobile payment players and retailers.

Read more: From startup to fintech empire: WiGroup sells stake to Investec for ‘R400m’

In 2014, the seven-year-old outfit was named South Africa’s top emerging company by PwC’s Vision to Reality Awards programme and went on to win the international awards of the same name. The fintech company has more recently secured a massive backing from Investec Management Group.

Devin de Vries: Co-founder and CEO at WhereIsMyTransport

Where is my Transport

Twitter: @devindevries

Devin de Vries started his own business when he was 16, building websites for other small companies. After graduating in Information Systems from the University of Cape Town, De Vries worked at payments processor company eCentric Switch. In 2008, he went on to find the public transport app, WhereIsMyTransport.

Today, WhereIsMyTransport is participating in Knife Capital’s prestigious Grindstone Accelerator and has raised R12-million in funding to help realise its international expansion.

Riaan Conradie: Co-founder and CEO at HealthQ, co-founder and Chief Operations Officer at LifeQ

Riaan Conradie

Twitter: @riaanconradie

Health technology is very sexy in today’s world of fitness trackers and smartwatches. And South African talent isn’t shying away from this exciting, fast-growing sector.

After completing his PhD in Biochemistry at Stellenbosch University, Riaan Conradie furthered his passion in finding powerful solutions to battle disease by combining science and technology. The entrepreneur then co-founded HealthQ Technologies in 2007, which later became responsible for the world’s first open-source metabolic chamber which can track and monitor people’s physical activities.

Over the next few years, HealthQ went on to industrialise the biological-tracking technology, LifeQ. Focusing on wearable technologies — such as fitness trackers — LifeQ officially launched at one of the world’s biggest tech events in 2015.

LifeQ is backed by the likes of former Microsoft executive Dean Hachamovitch and former VP of Nike Running, among many other prominent figures.

Digital All Stars is a series of 24 articles which aims to celebrate the best of South African digital. The articles, which will appear on Memeburn and Ventureburn, recognise and celebrate the country’s digerati in a variety of fields. Business people, politicians, and entrepreneurs will appear alongside the South African artists, comedians, and media professionals who are doing awesome things with digital. For more articles, visit the Digital All Stars hub.

Author Bio

Jacques Coetzee: Staff Reporter
Jacques grew up in Stellenbosch, South Africa. He also studied International Relations (BA) at Stellenbosch University with an interest in innovation and initiatives and how they could contribute to the benefit of society. I have always been interested in both politics and development and started becoming more and more... More
  • Anne Pao

    all dudes. 10 out of 10. where is the diversity in the digital entrepreneurial space that no women are profiled here? there have to be female led startups (SweepSouth as an example) but not profiled here?

    • http://www.tunesa.co.za/ Bruce Ungersbock

      Why profile people just becasue they are women? i hate this equality crap when it being done just for the sake of equality. If they deserve to be here then cool. Otherwise, i don’t care what you have between your legs

      • Heidi Custers

        Wow. Angry, much? Yes, only 6% of SA Startups are founded by women, but I can think of 2 right off the bat that really deserve to be on this list. In fact, both have been profiled by Ventureburn and Forbes as powerful women tech founders; Barbara Mallinson and Annette Muller both deserve to be here, and not just because they are female. If you compare Obami or DotNxt to any of these businesses, they are as interesting and influential.

        • http://www.tunesa.co.za/ Bruce Ungersbock

          Of course im angry…South Africa is full of people getting acknowledged for the sake of their physical appearance (BEE and equality)

          If you deserve it then im not phased by what you look like…but dont promote people just because they are female…dont attack someone becasue “where is the diversity in the digital entrepreneurial space that no women are profiled here”

          If every person on the list was a woman then that’s would be fine…but dont attack someone becasue they havent included any women just becasue you are feminist. Which the person who made the first comment clearly is.

          This is not me being angry becasue people want women to be highlighted…This is me being angry becasue people want women to be highlight just becasue they are women.

      • Mary

        “If they deserve to be here”?? Really?! Yeah, sound like you really do hate equality ” just for the sake of equality ” Bruce. FYI we don’t care what you have betweenbetween your legs either…

        • http://www.tunesa.co.za/ Bruce Ungersbock

          Did I say that they dont deserve to be here? No…i didnt

          • Mary

            So then, back to Anne’s question… Why aren’t they being profiled here?

          • http://www.tunesa.co.za/ Bruce Ungersbock

            they clearly arnt on the same level as the people that were profiled :) these are all pioneers in their field…if they were on the same level they would be in here :) this is a 2015 list…these are the top 13 entrepreneurial tech pioneers in 2015, in South Africa…full stop (they just so happen to all be men)

            No ones fault…dont attack the writer…

  • Anne Pao

    okay Bruce, no need to get hectic. I am not saying to just include women because they are women. what i am saying is perhaps when writing this article should think broadly about whether this is a representation of entrepreneurship in the digital space in SA. Sweepsouth was the only SA startup to make it into esteemed 500 Startups incubator so it is not just because she is a female (and as you put what she has between her legs) but rather what the team of founders has created. isnt’this article supposed to be highlighting. Your comment is exactly the type of comment responsible for what is known and proven in research to be a gap in gender equality representation in entrepreneurship. maybe do some research is all i am suggesting.