Johannesburg, 8 November23: Right off the bat of the Springbok’s historic fourth Rugby World Cup victory in October, Nike beat all brands to the podium minutes after the final whistle with an ad showing the team huddled and a single line above its iconic swoosh that read: “Our belief remains unbeatable.” This line — as well as the Boks — represents so much of the spirit and resilience of a nation that, on every level, fights the odds every single day. The same ‘gees’ could be said for another of our country’s increasingly-lauded and respected exports: South African start-ups. Despite facing a myriad of challenges, including tougher access to funding and investment, there are some that are bootstrapping their way to creating R100M+ businesses and, cue Nike, are doing it, brilliantly. Beyond “just business”, they’re changing the rules, the game; even entire industries. They are benchmarks of excellence and symbols of another true line etched in our South African story and soul: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
Stand Up, Start Ups: The Ideas Revolution
As uniquely classic as Mrs Balls Chutney, the flavour of South African entrepreneurship is a special kind of sauce. With ingredients including tenacity, ambition, innovation, a lot of heat, white knuckles, guts and a dash of grace, it’s a recipe that’s been perfected as a result of necessity – and is testament to the best creations and innovations coming out of a real need for something better. Apart from revenue creation and economic growth, South African start-ups create jobs, impact lives and bring about sizeable societal shifts through game-changing ideas that not only disrupt industries but also create new ones.
Helping to position South Africa as a hub for ingenuity, here are a few exemplary businesses that have expanded their offering and, despite countless challenges, taken their excellence off-shore.
- Founded in 2014, SweepSouth began its journey as a platform connecting domestic workers with homeowners to create an on-demand home cleaning service — with impact. Today, with 15,000+ “SweepStars”, SweepSouth has expanded into gardening, heavy lifting and commercial sanitisation and operates in major South African cities as well as in Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana.
- Yoco kicked off in 2015, driven by a vision to bridge the digital divide for SMEs in Africa. Their solution addressed the challenge many small business owners faced: access to payment systems. Yoco now serves over 150,000 businesses in South Africa and has integrated lending solutions, dispersing R2BN worth of capital to SMEs to date. It operates in South Africa, the UK, and USA.
- A vision to use drones and AI to help farmers optimise operations and analyse tree health and crop yield led to the launch of Aerobotics in 2014 by. What began as an idea on a farm in Stellenbosch has grown to a company with head offices in California and SA, business in 18+ countries, 100+ drone pilots, and over 100 million+ trees captured aerially, and counting.
Adding TheSALT to the Game
South African online platform and influencer agency, TheSALT, is another local trailblazer making international waves. Tapping into two booming trends — nano-influencer marketing (the fastest-growing category within influencer marketing) and the side-hustle economy — TheSALT uses state-of-the-art technology (think of it as “software as a service”) to enable and empower a community of side hustlers and creators to earn an income, and, based on this community and people working with them, to enable brands to run content and activity campaigns that build both influence and sales.
Offering a nifty solution to earning extra income at a time when cost of living is at its peak, TheSALT helps put money into ordinary people’s pockets without them needing to be an influencer and, at the same time, assists brands in reaching real customers, authentically and affordably, to help grow their business.
With a local database of 370,000 subscribers, TheSALT has further developed its technology to deploy crowdsourcing via the platform and act as a resource business, which allows for extra earning opportunities for individuals.
In 2023, the company launched in New Zealand, allowing everyday Kiwis to earn cash (starting at $50 per post) from posting about brands that they know, use and love, including McDonalds, Netflix, Toyota and Uber Eats. The nano-influencers have great earning potential considering the company has paid out more than R100 million since its launch in South Africa in 2016.
While the company’s international expansion is still in its infancy, New Zealand is TheSALT’s latest dropped pin in an ever-increasing global portfolio. The company now has offices in South Africa, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, with pipeline plans to expand into Jamaica, India, America and Australia.
Internationally, TheSALT has worked with big-name advertisers, including Audi, Captain Morgan, Dell, Durex, Mentos, Powerade, Uber Eats and Xbox and is yet another example of how, when it comes to South African ingenuity, innovation and success, there are no limits for businesses that possess vision, ambition and heart. Luckily, as South Africans, we have those qualities coded into our DNA.
TheSALT uses in-depth lifestyle information to connect businesses and brands to the right influencers for their objectives. With more than ten years of experience in the industry, it has amassed a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to connecting brands with real people who will create and distribute content that results in positive and meaningful brand conversations. For marketers, the platform’s dashboard enables the effortless creation, management and tracking of campaigns in real-time, while influencers are equipped with the tools they need to market themselves to brands, and monetise their online activity.
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