The Western Cape may long have been held as the most popular region in South Africa in which to run a tech start-up, but it seems this is no more, reveals a new survey. But despite this, tech start-ups in the Western Cape are still more successful than those in Gauteng.
Among its other key findings, the survey uncovered that:
- In all, 36% of Western Cape start-ups report turning a profit or generating significant revenue, compared to 22% in Gauteng.
- The percentage of black tech start-ups has risen from 26% in 2015, to 56% this year.
- Just seven percent of black tech start-ups turn a profit, versus 15% of their white counterparts.
- Over a quarter of start-ups plan to raise angel or VC funding, but only eight percent receive such funding.
- Successful start-up founders are most likely to be white males from the Western Cape.
- Half of all start-ups surveyed were from three sectors, namely: Software as a Service (SaaS) (19%), fintech and insurtech (18%) and the media, advertising and marketing sector (13%).
The Western Cape may long have been held as the most popular region in South Africa in which to run a tech startup, but it seems this is no more. Gauteng has emerged as the most popular province to run a tech start-up in the 2018 Ventureburn Tech Start-up Survey powered by Telkom Futuremakers.
But going on this year’s findings and those from Ventureburn’s 2017 survey, Western Cape start-ups are still more successful – with a higher percentage reporting having turned a profit or generated significant revenue, than tech start-ups based in Gauteng.
In the survey – which was released today – 55% of the 153 founders quizzed in an online survey run last month (October 2017) said they operated in Gauteng. The percentage is up from 44% in a 2017 Ventureburn survey of 260 founders and 29% in a 2015 Ventureburn survey of 197 founders.
This year, 37% of founders said they operated in the Western Cape. This is down from just less than the 47% in last year’s survey and 59% in 2015.
Driving the rise in Gauteng tech startups is the increasing number of tech entrepreneurs who are black (black African, coloured, Indian or Chinese South African) – who now make up 56% or over half of the country’s tech start-ups, up from 46% in 2017 and 26% in 2015.
The majority of black start-ups, or 62% (2017: 53%) list Gauteng as their base, while 27% (2017:42%) say the Western Cape is their home. The remainder are based in the country’s seven other provinces.
Of the 153 founders quizzed, 41% list themselves as white (down from 52% in 2017 and 66% in 2015), while four percent again chose not to reveal their race (eight percent in 2015).
Success higher in Western Cape
Yet the Western Cape is still the place to run a start-up if you want to be successful.
A higher percentage of tech start-ups in the Western Cape report making a profit or generating significant revenue than those based in Gauteng. The figure is 23% of Gauteng tech startups (2017: 22%), compared to 36% (2017: 32%) of start-up founders in the Western Cape.
Across all participants that took part in the survey, 27% said they were either profitable or making significant revenue. Just 10% of start-ups said they were making a profit.
The majority were either not making any revenue or were generating a very small revenue. In all, 40% (2017: 45%) said they were not generating any revenue, while 33% (2017: 28%) said they were making an insignificant amount of revenue.
Just 21% (2017: 19%) of those surveyed said their startup was turning over R1-million a year. The remainder of firms, or 27% (2017: 18%), generate between R100 000 and R1-million a year.
SaaS, fintech, insurtech sectors dominate
The majority of those start-ups Ventureburn surveyed are run and founded by males aged between 25 and 50.
In all, 41% of those surveyed have one founder, while 27% have two founders and 22% have three founders. The remaining percent have four or more founders.
Males run 65% of those start-ups surveyed, while 19% have both male and female founders and 16% were founded by females only.
Half of those surveyed operate in just three verticals – Software as a Service (SaaS) (19%), fintech and insurtech (18%) and the media, advertising and marketing sector (13%).
About a third of respondents founded their start-up in the last year. Likely because of this, only a quarter say they operate from offices. The majority work either from home or remotely.
Half of those surveyed own their own product or intellectual property (IP), while 38% are a service-orientated business (such as an agency or software development house). The remainder of startups are e-commerce businesses (8%) or license or use another’s product or IP (3%).
Most of the surveyed founders are aiming to service or are servicing, either the SA market only (40%) or the entire African market (41%). The remainder list the entire world as their market.
In all, 71% of founders (2017: 67%) surveyed said they had been involved in running a start-up before, with most of those having been involved in either running one or two business previously (56% of all founders surveyed).
Most founders said they founded a start-up to become a pioneer or innovate (15%) or after seeing an opportunity (13%). Only four percent said they started a business to make big money.
Of the founders, 76% (2017: 73%) reported having worked in a corporate previous to starting their business.
In line with Ventureburn’s 2017 survey, over half of start-up founders again listed raising or accessing funds as their biggest challenge (52%), followed by a lack of skilled staff (10%).
Connected to this, most founders said incubation programmes could add the most value in helping them to source funding (28%) and open up market access to participants (26%), rather than assist with commercialisation (21%), business training (17%) or idea generation (8%).
Related: 21 Steps To Start-Up Success
Black start-ups still struggling
Black start-ups may have grown in number, but they are still struggling.
While 15% of SA tech start-ups founded by white entrepreneurs are turning a profit, a mere seven percent of black owned tech start-ups are making a profit.
In addition, black start-ups are in a worse financial position that their white counterparts. Of white founders, 28% say they have three or fewer months left of funds left to operate on – significantly lower than black founders, where 51% say they will run out of funds in three months’ time.
It’s clear to see why. Over half or 51% of black start-ups surveyed (2017: 61%) generate no revenue at all – because they are still working on their concept or are in the seed stage. Just 20% of white start-ups say they are yet to make money (2017: 30%).
In addition, while 39% of white startups (2017: 29%) bring in a revenue of over R1-million, just 14% of black startups do so (2017: 9%). Almost two-thirds of black start-ups (2017: 75%) generate no revenue at all or less than R100 000 a year — compared to 37% of white start-up founders who make under R100 000.
When it comes to access funding, more white founders (11%) have had angel funding than black start-ups (six percent), while white founders accounted for 50% of all those start-ups that reported having tapped angel (2017: 59%) funding.
It suggests better resourced white start-up founders who often have access to more capital, skills and experience and better networks are able to out-perform black startups.
When asked how they plan to raise funding in the future, 46% of white founders say they will do so by securing a private equity, VC or angel investment, versus 37% of black start-ups.
There are some further clues as to why white start-ups are generating more revenue than their black counterparts
One may be because more white founders say they run a business in which they have developed their own intellectual property (IP).
Added to this, more white startups operate in the more lucrative business to business (B2B) space (over business to consumers or B2C), compared to 46% of black start-ups.
Furthermore, a far higher percentage of white start-ups operate in the money-spinning sectors of fintech and insurtech sector and Software as a Service (SaaS) than do black start-ups.
The experience of age (which often also brings with it more accumulated capital, work experience and more contacts) could also make a difference. White founders are older than their black counterparts – 48% are over the age of 35, compared to 36% of black founders.
Out of touch in getting angel, VC funding
When it comes to funding, the survey reveals that over a quarter of founders or 29% of SA tech start-ups believe that they will grow their business by securing venture capital (VC) or funding from angel investors – yet the reality is that only about 11% report having been able to secure such funding, the survey reveals.
Are start-up founders then out of touch with reality?
South Africa has seen an explosion in venture capital (VC) deals – with a recent Southern African Venture Capital Association (Savca) report finding that funds had invested over R1-billion in start-ups and early-stage companies last year (with the number of reported VC deals having risen rose from 114 deals in 2016 to 159 last year).
In addition, angel investors invested approximately R73-million, compared to R44-million invested in 2016.
Yet such funding still remains beyond the reach of most local tech startups. Ventureburn’s survey confirms this (see the below graphs).
The majority of SA tech start-ups or 38%, use their own cash to fund the business (2017: 40%), followed by loans and grants from friends and family at 22% (2017: 23%).
When they are able to get funding, most start-ups tap very little. Only 20% (2017: 16%) received R1-million or more (the value at which angel investors and VC funding usually starts at).
In all, 37% (2017: 42%) of start-ups reported getting less than R50 000. The remainder 43% (2017: 42%) received between R50 000 and R1-million.
Over a quarter or 27% of founders said they aim to raise between R1-million and R5-million over the next three years (2017: 30%), while 42% (2017: 31%) want to raise funding of over R5-million and 18% want to access less than R1-million (2017: 21%). A further 14% (2017: 17%) are not looking to raise any funding.
White founders in the Western Cape most successful
So, who then run the most successful start-ups (defined as those that make a profit and are growing)?
Interestingly the survey reveals that a higher percent of startups founded by both male and female founders (41%) report turning a profit or generating significant revenue, than start-ups run only by males (25%) or only by females (20%).
And more white founders than black founders report being successful – in all, 59% of startups that report turning a profit or generating significant revenue are run white-owned firms (2017: 65%).
Taken by race group – 40% (2017: 36%) of white founders report being successful, compared to just 19% of black startups (2017: 13%) (and just 13% of black-African founders, however this is up from 10% in 2017).
About 36% (2017: 32%) of start-up founders in the Western Cape say they are successful – compared to 23% (2017: 22%) who are in Gauteng who list themselves as successful.
Most are over the age of 40 or between 30 and 35 years old – 38% of start-up founders in these ages groups say they are successful (2017:36%). And most of those who say they are successful, run a fintech or insurtech or a SaaS start-up.
Those that are successful are also more likely to have a business partner and a start-up that is already over two years old (55% over two years old say they are successful versus just 11% under two years old).
They will likely also tap the North American or European market instead of only the SA or African market.
And they will likely service other businesses, rather than consumers, as 32% of those running B2B firms say they are successful versus 23% of B2Cs.
Finally – are you more likely to be successful if you have run other start-ups before? In short, not necessarily.
Data from the survey reveals that 28% (2017: 33%) of founders who have run one or more start-ups previously, report being successful with their current business – not overly different from the 25% (2017: 30%) who have never run a business before and say they are successful.
However there appears to be some correlation with the number of start-ups a founder has run as a predictor of success. Fifty percent of those who have run five or more start-ups report that they are successful with their current firm – compared to 29% of those that have run one to four start-ups before.
Gauteng’s rapid rise as the new centre for tech start-ups bodes well for the country’s burgeoning tech startup ecosystem, but more will need to be done to boost black entrepreneurs in the sector.
*Note on the methodology the survey used: In all there were 169 respondents to the survey which was conducted using an online questionnaire, by data analytics firm Qurio. Of this number, 14 respondents were found to be employees of start-ups (rather than founders) and were excluded. The survey therefore sampled 153 start-up founders. To ensure the integrity of the data, PwC will be involved to perform specified procedures, the results of which will be included in a report that will be available for inspection upon request.
3 Stealthy Tax Hikes Payroll Managers And Employees Need To Take Note Of
By Rob Cooper, tax expert at Sage, and chairman of the Payroll Authors Group of South Africa
“Dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t.”
The adage summarises the difficult decisions government and the Finance Minister faced when balancing the country’s books, rescuing state-owned enterprises, and reviving the growth of our economy. Given the economic pressure that most taxpayers are facing, government ideally needed to achieve all of that without direct increases to personal income tax in the most recent Budget Speech.
Personal income tax has comprised at least a third of South Africa’s total tax revenue in recent tax years, despite growing unemployment. The 2019 Budget, presented in February, forecasts that personal income tax will account for nearly 39% of tax collected during the upcoming (2019/20) tax year. Given that we are in an election year and that the tax base is fragile, it’s not surprising that the Finance Minister and the National Treasury avoided direct increases to the statutory tax tables used to calculate PAYE for employees in the budget.
Nonetheless, government has made inflation work in its favour to impose some tax increases by stealth. Here are three ways government is raising more revenue without direct tax increases:
1. Bracket creep
The statutory tax tables used by payrolls and employers have not been changed for 2019/20, nor have the brackets been adjusted for inflation. This effectively amounts to an indirect tax increase that will yield a revenue saving of approximately R12.8 billion for government’s coffers.
It is not unusual for government to use ‘bracket creep’ to effectively raise more revenue. But unlike previous tax years, even low- and middle-income earners are not getting much relief. Rebates and the tax threshold are being increased by small amounts to allow some relief, but many people this year will feel the pain as inflationary salary increases push them into a higher tax bracket.
2. Medical aid credit not adjusted for inflation
As proposed in the 2018 Budget, the Finance Minister did not apply an inflationary increase to the Medical Tax Credit, which allowed him to raise an extra R1 billion in revenue for the year. Surprisingly, these funds will be allocated to general tax revenue rather than ring-fenced for healthcare. In previous tax years, revenue generated from below-inflation increases on medical scheme credits was used to fund National Health Insurance (NHI) pilot projects.
There is still no clarity on how the NHI is going to be funded except for a general statement that the funding model is a problem for the National Treasury to solve, and that the principles of cross-subsidisation will apply. One wonders if any real progress will be made soon, given the fiscal constraints government faces.
3. Business travel deduction left untouched
The Budget leaves the per-kilometre cost rates used to determine tax deductions for business travel untouched. By not increasing travel rates to account for inflation, government effectively increases income tax collection at the cost of the taxpayer. This will be a blow for people who need to claim from their employers for business travel in their personal vehicles. This change has slipped through largely unnoticed and the budget does not provide numbers for the expected increase in tax revenue.
Amid political turmoil and uncertainty, the Finance Minister presented a balanced budget for 2019/20 that offers hope for the future along with some tough love. With government taking steps to accelerate economic growth and improve revenue collection, we should hopefully see a steady improvement in government finances, which will translate into less pressure on the taxpayer in future years.
SMEs: Staying On The Right Side Of The Taxman
Remaining SARS compliant can be a constant challenge for small- to medium-enterprises (SMEs), especially when they are trying to focus on growing their businesses and streamlining their operations.
EasyBiz Managing Director, Gary Epstein, says submitting taxes can be a seamless process that does not have to take up more time than is necessary. “If business owners understand what is required of them and they put a few processes into place to deal with their tax submissions properly, their lives will be so much easier.”
What are the top three considerations for SMEs when submitting tax returns?
“Firstly,” says Epstein, “SARS returns must be accurate and submitted in terms of the relevant Act. Secondly, returns should be submitted and paid on time to avoid unnecessary penalties and interest, and thirdly, business owners must follow up on queries issued by SARS. “Do not ignore these queries, act on them as soon as possible”.
What are the major SARS submission deadlines for SMEs?
Epstein points out that small business owners need to adhere to various tax deadlines, each with their own particular dates for submission. “It is important that business owners diarise the dates (and set advance reminders for themselves) and/or enlist the services of an accountant or financial adviser to help them keep abreast of requirements.”
Value-added tax (VAT)
VAT payments need to be submitted in the VAT period allocated to the business, according to various categories and ending on the last day of a calendar month. This may mean making payments once a month, once every two months, once every six months or annually, depending on the category.
Provisional tax should be submitted at the end of August (first provisional) and at the end of February (second provisional) – for February year-end companies.
In addition to submitting an annual reconciliation (EMP501) for the period 1 March to end of February for Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE), Skills Development Levy (SDL) and Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), employee tax, in the form of an EMP201 return, needs to be submitted by the seventh of every month.
When can SMEs get extensions and is it worth it?
Epstein says SMEs can apply for various extensions, but these are subject to the Income Tax Act and Tax Administration Act.
“It is best for SMEs to consult their tax professionals to get advice regarding extensions for their businesses.”
What is SARS not flexible about?
SARS is not flexible when it comes to late returns and late payments.
“I cannot stress enough how important it is for SME owners to ensure their tax returns are submitted on time. In this way, they will avoid the inconvenience and expense of additional fines and interest,” notes Epstein.
What skills do SMEs need in their organisations to be able to submit to SARS efficiently?
Business owners often don’t have the time or expertise to deal with tax submissions throughout the year. If the business cannot afford to employ a full-time accountant or financial services expert, it would do well to outsource its tax requirements to a registered tax practitioner.
“I would recommend that even if they are not submitting the tax returns themselves, business owners should have a broad understanding of the tax regulations and what is expected of them. There is a lot of helpful information on the various Acts and tax requirements on SARS’ website,” says Epstein.
How does the right software help SMEs remain SARS compliant?
SME’s (and their accountants’) jobs can be made easier by using reliable accounting software to calculate accurate VAT reports. These reports are only as accurate as the data entered into them, which means care needs to be taken when inputting data into the accounting programme. Epstein says a good accounting software package must be reliable, easy to use and functional.
“SMEs need to check that the software has thorough reporting capabilities and can interface with other software solutions. Of course, it is also important to find out whether the software is locally supported by the vendor or not.”
4 Dangers Of Business Under-insurance
A common short-term insurance peril that many SMEs face when submitting a claim following an insured event is the risk of being underinsured.
Malesela Maupa, Head of Products and Insurer Relationships at FNB Insurance Brokers says, many small business owners mistakenly believe that by merely having a short-term insurance policy in place they are adequately protected against unforeseen events.
“This is technically correct provided that the business is covered for the full replacement value of the items insured. However, in circumstances where the sum insured does not cover the full replacement value or material loss of the item insured, the business is underinsured,” explains Maupa, as he unpacks the dangers of business underinsurance:
1. Financial loss
The most common risk is financial loss on the part of the business. If the business is underinsured or the indemnity period understated, the short-term insurance policy will only pay out the sum insured for the stated indemnity period as stated in the schedule, with the business owner having to provide for the shortfall. This often leads to cash flow challenges, impacting profit margins or rendering it difficult for the business to recover following the financial loss.
2. Reputational damage
Should an underinsured business not have sufficient funds to replace a key business activity or critical component following a loss, this may impact its ability to fulfil its contractual obligations, leading to a loss of business or market share, and irreparable reputational damage in the worst-case scenario.
3. Legal action
A small business also faces the risk of customers or clients taking legal action against it, should it fail to deliver on goods and services following a loss or be unable to honour its financial commitments that they committed to prior to the loss.
4. Survival of the business
A catastrophic event such as fire, which could result in the loss of stock or company equipment and documentation, could threaten the survival of a small business that is not yet fully established, if the business assets are not adequately insured.
Working with an experienced short-term insurance broker or insurer is essential when taking up short-term insurance to ensure that business contents are covered for their full replacement value.
Furthermore, depending on the nature of the business or item insured, the policy should be reviewed on a regular basis to avoid underinsurance as the value of items often change overtime due to fluctuations in economic activity. Where it’s necessary, evaluation certificates need to be kept up to date.
“Lastly, SMEs should ensure that the sum insured does not exceed the replacement value, which would lead to over insurance. Should a business submit a claim following a loss, the insurer would only pay out the replacement value, regardless of the higher sum insured,” concludes Maupa.
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