Located between Africa’s most southern tip and the picturesque Table Mountain, Cape Town has no shortage of activities for those who like the outdoors. This makes the city home to more entrepreneurs and innovators than Johannesburg, the country’s corporate magnet. Stellenbosch University and the University of Cape Town are Africa’s premier technical universities and produce excellent talent, such as the central team responsible for developing an integral part of Amazon Web Services. The Silicon Cape Initiative, a local NGO, has gained significant traction in recent years for its efforts to connect investors, entrepreneurs, and hosting events startups in Cape Town. The recent merger of Takealot and Kalahari into one eCommerce powerhouse shows that eCommerce in Cape Town is definitely one of the city’s strong suits, despite the country’s challenging logistics. However, the risk averse nature of South Africans and the subsequent lack of capital as startups scale create hurdles in the Cape Town ecosystem.
These businesses offer industry expertise and are a source of startup talent and potential customers. They help fuel the local startup community.
Acquired for $110m by
Up and coming startup
Up and coming startup
Acquired for $575m by
Justin Stanford is an entrepreneur, investor and central figure in Cape Town’s startup ecosystem. He co-founded and heads the 4Di Group and 4Di Capital, major sources of capital for the city’s startups. 4Di maintains a partnership with the Silicon Cape Initiative, which Stanford co-founded in 2009.
Lianne du Toit is a strong supporter of the country’s startup community. Her current work at U-Start focuses on connecting startups with capital. She helps build Cape Town’s entrepreneurial community through her work with #GovHackSA and Silicon Cape.
Vinny Lingham currently serves as Co-Founder and CEO at Gyft, a gift card aggregator. In addition to his entrepreneurial ventures, Lingham is also a major figure in the Cape Town startup community, having co-founded the Silicon Cape Initiative in 2009 to develop the ecosystem. He also founded incuBeta and Clicks2Customers, both Cape Town startups.
Mark Shuttleworth is a philanthropist and entrepreneur who founded Thawte, an internet security firm that was acquired by Verisign. He currently leads Canonical, which provides support for Ubuntu, a Linux OS that he helped develop. Shuttleworth is a major figure among entrepreneurs, having also founded HBD Venture Capital.
Adii Pienaar is an entrepreneur who co-founded WooThemes in 2008. The web design firm’s success helped anchor Cape Town as a major startup center. He currently leads Receiptful, an email marketing firm. He frequently comments on South African entrepreneurship, including through his blog, Making New Mistakes.
Willem van Biljon currently helps lead Takealot, a South African online retailer. Willem also co-founded Mosaic Software as well as Nimbula and helped lead Amazon’s cloud services. His extensive experience as an entrepreneur and skills as an engineer make him an expert in tech entrepreneurship.
Guillaume De Smedt is the founder of joojooberry and s-bubble. As Director of Startup Grind’s Cape Town branch since 2013, Guillaume leads the organization’s efforts to build a cohesive entrepreneurial network in the city and the region, as a partner of the broader Silicon Cape Initiative.
Eben van Heerden is a longtime investor who co-founded Knife Capital in 2010. In addition to his role as CEO of Knife, van Heerden has also served as Chief Financial Officer of African Dawn Capital following its purchase of Knife Capital in 2014.
Mark Forrester co-founded WooThemes, a WordPress design startup established in 2008 and major Cape Town success story. In addition to speaking frequently on entrepreneurship and design, Forrester is also an active mentor, providing his guidance through venues like Lean Startup Machine.
Kresten Buch is an entrepreneur who founded 88MPH, one of Africa’s biggest accelerators. Though it was established in Nairobi in 2011, it quickly expanded to Cape Town with support from Google. As such, Buch has unique insight into how a startup can succeed in Cape Town, and across Africa.
The National Empowerment Fund was set up to provide capital for black economic empowerment. Ever since its inception, the government agency has served as a driver and leader in promoting business development and entrepreneurial activates.1998
Thawte was a major exit that put Cape Town on the map for tech. It established founder Mark Shuttleworth, who later went on to found Ubuntu, as a key individual in the local ecosystem.December 1999
Led by developer Willem Van Biljon, the Amazon team in Cape Town develops the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), an integral part of Amazon Web Services suite.2006
A nonprofit devoted to increasing the number of startups in Cape Town and the amount of capital available to entrepreneurs in the Western Cape, the Silicon Cape Initiative launches.2009
Knife Capital is a equity fund that manages Mark Shuttleworth's HBD Venture Capital's South African investments. Its notable exits include Fundamo, CSense, Click2Customers, and redFIVELabs.2010
Visa acquires Fundamo as part of its aggressive expansion into mobile payments in developing nations.June 2011
Startup Weekend brings its iconic innovation machine to Cape Town. Their decision to come to Cape Town marks a milestone in the entrepreneurial culture of Cape Town.June 2011
88mph brings its expertise and experience of building successful startups to Cape Town with the help of Google, which provides mentoring, speaker programs and workshops for 88mph's Cape Town accelerator.October 2012
This investment from the Nairobi based Savannah fund is a testament to the Pan-African linkages developing across the continent. These cross-national linkages will only continue to strengthen and grow as time goes on.July 2014
Featured teams across the country brainstormed ways to market Cape Town as an off-season tourism destination on Facebook.October 2014