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South African start-ups could use more original ideas

November 20, 2009  »  BusinessNo Comment


South Africa needs to part ways with the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ ideal. In SA, everyone who is web savvy either knows of ITWeb and MXit. Interesting, these two successful endeavors represent the two categories of start-up. ITWeb, a technology news site targeting the latest developments in SA, took a general idea that is popular across the globe and limited its scope to a single nation.

On the other hand, MXit, a social SMS platform, formed a new platform for communication. Irregardless of whether the site’s concept is entirely original, all ventures require insightful business practices and should not be judged on originality.

As evidenced by this list, the South African market is very self-selecting. Twenty-one months later, only six of the ‘top 10 web start-ups to watch’ are still active. What happened to the four unlucky projects? They succumbed to the lack of an audience in a nation where broadband subscription is relatively low in respect to ICT acumen.

The following South African start-ups were found using the aforementioned site in collaboration with the SASI Top 30 from Business Report. In general, the findings suggest that South Africans enjoy the same types of sites as Americans and Europeans but may feel lost in a larger (global) platform. Therefore, proven ideas that cater to a niche audience are a relatively safe and easy bet. In order for South Africa (or any developing nation) to stand out, however, entrepreneurs need to push the envelope and think outside the box. The potential benefits from a completely innovative start-up are higher, but can only be achieved if the public is ready.

Unique across the Internet:

  1. ChessCube. A popular online chess gaming platform with members from 230 countries.
  2. Skyrove. Earn money by sharing your wireless connection with your neighbors or community.

Not original, but targeted to South African users:

  1. Zoopy. A photo and video sharing site similar to YouTube or Vimeo. Many videos are from South African users, but a fair share are from the United States.
  2. Muti. Very similar to Reddit or Delicious.
  3. Afrigator. A social media/blog aggregator, similar to Technorati.
  4. Ad Dynamo. A PPC advertising network, similar to Google AdWords.
  5. Vottle. Classifieds. Similar to Craigslist.
  6. Springleap. A T-shirt site where you can also submit your designs. The South African Threadless.
  7. MyGenius. A community of South African business professionals. Similar groups exist on Ning and Linkedin.
  8. MyVideo. Similar to Zoopy. The market for online video sites is quite large.
  9. ModelBase. Social networking for models. A small-scale ModelMayhem.
  10. ZoopedUp. An automotive social network/online community.
  11. Student Village. If Facebook had never opened to the public.
  12. Freelancecentral. A South African directory of freelancers and projects. Less global than iFreelance, GetAFreelancer, or oDesk.

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