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Category: ENTREPRENEURSHIP, The Entrepreneur

South Africa internet start-up success stories
Written by Rowan Govender
12 November 2012

South Africa is the birthplace of many great IT entrepreneurs, such as the great Mark Shuttleworth, the mind behind Thawte and Ubuntu Linux. With such an inspiring success story, how many other South African companies are following his lead?



MXit was one of the first apps to see widespread success across South Africa in 2003. MXit allows users to send text, multimedia messages or files to specific individuals or users in chat rooms. Mxit has grown to include a virtual store which can be used to buy music, videos, games and wallpaper. It also functions as a digital wallet, which allows users to buy various items without carrying cash or a card on them.  For added versatility, Mxit can also connect to other instant messaging networks such as MSN or ICQ. As of February this year, MXit had 50 million registered users.

MXit recently added Motribe, the mobility communication specialists, to their team and received a R100 million investment from shareholders. This should see the already strong social network grow even further.



2go is a South African social networking app that is developed by 2go Interactive. Registered 2Go users can send messages, and share files and pictures, without being charged anything by the 2go developers. 2Go users only have to pay data costs, which will differ depending on the cellular service provider. Whatever the costs involved for sending a message are, they are usually far less than sending an SMS.

2go is one of the few app success stories that doesn't revolve around a smartphone app. The app was originally developed for feature phones which are still incredibly popular in Africa due to their low cost. Feature phones have much slower hardware when compared to smartphones, which initially presented the 2go team with some difficult technical challenges. They managed to work around these problems and 2go now boasts 20 million user registrations across Africa, with 10 million of them being consistently active on the service.

It was recently announced that 2go is being developed for Android, Blackberry and iOS smartphones.



Snapt is a company that specialises in using and developing more advanced software tools, based on existing tools that are part of the open-source software movement. Many companies have resisted moving across to open-source because they believed that licensed software was worth the huge price tag associated with their products. Licensed software was believed to offer a better experience and greater customer support. As described on their website:

“Snapt takes open-source software to the next level with affordable and accessible snap-on user interfaces, complete with the reporting capacity and expert support you’d expect from commercial software packages.”  

Snapt offers various software applications for server and network management, such as it's web accelerator (Snap Accelerator) or web cache (Snapt Cache) to a variety of companies, including NASA. It manages to offer the same level of service, for a fraction of the cost. Dave Blakey, the CEO and founder of Snapt, comments on one of the benefits of using free and open source software (FOSS):

“We’re looking at selling a 100Mbit/s load balancer for around $4 000,” says Blakey. “Many of our competitors’ offerings are easily in the $50 000 or more range”.)

The majority of Snapt's business comes from international clients, highlighting how important it is for your business to be online.



Toodu is a lifesaver for anyone who has a million things to do, but not enough time to do it in. You can simply head on over to their website, register, and create a list of things that you need done. You can then take a break, come back later and find a list of companies, along with quotes and other important information, that want to help you. You can then choose a company to tackle the problem from the list of available options that Toodu has sourced for you. Toodu offers a very strict screening process to ensure that only professional, top quality companies are registered on their system.

Trudon, the publishers of the Yellow Pages, saw the obvious potential in Toodu and recently made moves to acquire the business.

“The new company is complementary to our business offering, an engagement aspect which allows a great synergy through the sharing of best practice within our industries” says Thabo Seopa, managing director of Trudon.


Woza Online

Google, in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Vodacom and the Human Resources Development Council (HRDC), recently launched Woza Online. This is a website that allows you to quickly and easily create a website for your small business. It also offers a free Woza Online sub-domain, free hosting and free training materials and workshops. If you want to, you can choose to pay and have your website moved over to your own .co.za domain name.

Woza Online is part of a global program by Google to help small businesses create their own websites in order to help them grow. The program was first launched in Nigeria and Kenya last year, with the South African launch taking place in January this year. Woza Online has become home for 11 200 South African business websites in the two months since its launch.

Woza Online has 4 videos demonstrating how various individuals, varying from caterers to musicians, have taken advantage of their platform or other online tools to help them grow.

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