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South Africa’s top five most exciting start-ups announced

Walk Fresh CEO Lethabo Mokoena and friend holding up Walk Fresh’s winner certificate. Picture: Supplied.

Walk Fresh CEO Lethabo Mokoena and friend holding up Walk Fresh’s winner certificate. Picture: Supplied.

Published Dec 8, 2021

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Heavy Chef, a South African non-profit entrepreneurial education company, announced the country’s top five start-ups for 2021.

Chief Executive Officer of the organisation Fred Roed said with the Covid-19 pandemic affecting businesses, this year's entries were packed with social impact organisations that are making a marked impact in the entrepreneur sector.

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“The five winners were well deserved, but it must be stressed that the judging was tight. In the end, to see a company such as Walk Fresh lined up next to FCB.ai and Valenture speaks volumes for South Africa's diversity of talent. In a year of darkness, thanks to load shedding, lockdowns, and gloomy news, the spread of entrepreneurial strength is a beam of brightness,” said Roed.

The 2021 Top 5 South African start-up Finalists are:

Livestock Wealth: A technology crowd farming start-up founded by Ntuthuko Shezi in 2015. It connects investors with farmers that require funding by using cattle as a type of investment.

“Creating Livestock Wealth has been a difficult endeavour that has consumed an entire six years of research and development with hardly any funding. The singular goal is to say, how can agricultural assets be used to store and trade value in the 21st-century as they did for centuries in the past,” said Shezi.

Valenture Institute: A private high school created by Robert Paddock in 2019. It offers a rich academic learning experience online and on-campus. The curriculum is designed to enable students with the skills required to build a sustainable future.

“There’s the adage that talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. When we think about our country and our continent and the fact that 45% of the world’s youth population will be on this continent by 2030, if we’re not thinking of an innovative way to enable the intellectual capacity of this incredible youth population, our prospects are rather dire,” said Paddock.

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Kusini Water: A social enterprise founded by Murendi Mafuno in 2016 whose nanotechnology and macadamia nut innovation aim to provide safe drinking water to communities in need.

“This is beyond imagination for me,” said Mafumo. “This award is amazing! Thanks for believing in us and our mission to increase access to safe drinking water on our continent.”

FCB.ai: An AI-powered chatbot to help financial service providers acquire and retain customers. It was founded in 2016 by Antoine Paillusseau.

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“We have a beautiful team based in South Africa that services our European customers - so it’s not only Europe that can solve Africa’s problems, but Africa can solve Europe’s problems, and we’re so excited about that,” said Paillusseau.

Walk Fresh: A boutique sneaker cleaning and shoe-care start-up that offers refurbishing, maintenance, shoe-shining, and repairing services for all kinds of footwear. It was founded in 2015 by Lethabo Mokoena.

“This is for all the kids in the township who are cleaning sneakers for a living. I don’t think South Africa needs jobs; South Africa needs more employers. It’s our responsibility to train more employers, which is why Heavy Chef is so important to the ecosystem,” said Mokoena.

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