SA’s ‘Silicon Valley’: Tech startups are revolutionising the SME landscape

Photo: Matthew Jordaan

Photo: Matthew Jordaan

Published Feb 20, 2022


THE notion of tech start-ups became synonymous with California’s Silicon Valley. Tech giants such asApple, HP and eBay, have their headquarters in what has become known as the world’s number one tech hub.

Silicon Valley was formed by a Stanford University community of incubators, venture capitalists and angel investors. The estimated worth of Silicon Valley’s most successful startups exceeds $2 trillion (R30 trillion).

An exciting and encouraging development is that South Africa is applying some of the lessons from Silicon Valley.

South African entrepreneurs are leading the charge in innovation and towards building our own Silicon Valley in Cape Town – an environment that enables the growth and development of tech start-ups.

Cape Town is one of the world’s fastest-growing regions in terms of foreign investment, according to a report from fDi Intelligence, a data division of the Financial Times group.

Two years ago, the number of tech start-ups in the city stood at 550, employing more than 40 000 people. A similar “tech wave” is taking shape in Johannesburg, changing the game in the banking, financial services, entertainment and property sectors.

The tech start-ups are an integral pillar of the small and medium enterprise sector, because of their contribution to GDP, their role in decreasing unemployment and their ability to put South Africa on the global stage. Our country has the potential to become a global incubator for innovation, because adversity tends to breed innovation. Two examples of how start-ups have positively impacted the country:


As the recipient of multiple awards, including Best Small Company in the 2018 Savca Industry Awards, SweepSouth is an app-based cleaning service that was founded by young entrepreneur Aisha Pandor in 2014. The app connects a home and office cleaners with the people who require their services. It has been the source of more than 15 000 jobs.

It addresses the need for reliable and trustworthy cleaners, the on-demand availability of cleaners and the payment of a fair wage for a community of workers who have been historically exploited.


If you’ve visited a coffee shop or interacted with a market vendor, you probably used a compact-looking, card machine to complete your transaction. The company responsible for distributing the machines, while also offering an online payment service, is Yoco – a fintech company that began as a start-up and grew to serve more than 150 000 businesses. TechCrunch says Yoco has processed more than $2 billion (about R30bn) in card payments since it was founded six years ago.

The company brand is youthful, energetic and witty – a breath of fresh air in a financial services environment that could do with more relatability.

In a recent round of Series C funding, backed by Dragoneer Investment Group, Yoco raised $83 million – the largest single investment raised by an SME-focused payments platform in the Middle East and Africa.

The ideas were born out of necessity and have thrived because they offer a solution to a mass problem.

There are many more similar opportunities in our developing market, for those brave enough to take the first step.

Funding will be attainable for entrepreneurs who are able to present a well-thought-out business plan that answers a market need.

Ben Bierman is a managing director at Business Partners Limited.

*The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites.


Related Topics:

Cape TownGDP