The Western Cape might still be the most popular region in South Africa in which to run a tech startup, but the province is losing ground to the country’s richest province – Gauteng, reveals a new survey. In addition, the number of black tech startups is on the rise.
In the 2017 Ventureburn Tech Start-up Survey powered by Telkom Futuremakers – which was released yesterday – 44% of the 260 founders surveyed said they operated in Gauteng (see below graph), behind the Western Cape’s 47%.
Among its other key findings the survey uncovered that:
- The percentage of black start-ups has risen from 26% in 2015, to 50% this year.
- Just three percent of black tech start-ups turn a profit, versus 16% of their white counterparts.
- Over a quarter of start-ups plan to raise angel or VC funding, but only eight percent receive such funding.
- Almost a third say they pay market-related salaries, but pay is the top reason for employees leaving.
- Successful start-up founders are most likely to be white males from the Western Cape.
The percentage is up from 29% in a 2015 Ventureburn survey of 197 founders (see below graph) and is just behind the 47% who reported in the latest survey that they operate in the Western Cape (59% in 2015).
The rise in Gauteng tech start-ups appears to be driven by the increasing number of tech entrepreneurs who are black (black African, coloured, Indian or Chinese South African) – and who now make up half (50%) of the country’s tech start-up founders, up from 26% in the 2015 survey.
In addition, the majority of black start-ups (53%) list Gauteng as their base, with 42% saying Western Cape is their home.
Of the 260 founders quizzed in the latest survey, 46% list themselves as white, down from 66% in 2015 (see above and below graphs). Four percent chose not to reveal their race (eight percent in 2015).
The survey also reveals that while South Africa may have seen an explosion in venture capital (VC) deals of recent – with the value of such deals having increased by 134% in 2016 over 2015 (see this story) – just 10% of tech startups are turning a profit. This is down from 17% in in 2015.
Black startups struggling
Black tech start-ups in particular are struggling. While 16% of start-ups founded by white entrepreneurs are turning a profit, a mere four percent of black-owned tech start-ups are doing the same.
Most worrying is that 61% of black start-ups have yet to generate an income – because they are still working on their concept or are still in the seed stage – compared to 30% of white start-ups.
Furthermore, just nine percent of black-owned startups (and four percent of black African start-ups) generate a revenue of above R1-million – compared to 29% of their white counterparts. Three quarters (75%) of black start-ups generate under R100 000 (and 78% of black African start-ups).
In all, white start-ups accounted for 59% of all those startups that reported having tapped angel funding, while 24% of white start-ups reported having raised R1-million or more to fund their businesses, compared to just eight percent of black start-ups (and 2.5% of black African founders).
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 start-ups.
The survey also reveals that white start-up founders are significantly older than black founders. Over a quarter (26%) of white founders are 40 years or older, compared to just 13% of black founders. Almost three quarters of black founders are aged 35 and younger, compared to 62% of white founders located in this age band.
This raises various questions as to what is driving more middle-aged white founders to start-up their own business and whether employment equity is behind this or not.
In addition, it might also explain why so few black start-ups are making a profit compared to white start-ups. Older founders are usually more experienced, better networked and have more capital than younger entrepreneurs.
Out of touch in getting angel, VC funding
But back to angel and VC funding, where it seems start-up founders are out of touch with reality.
Over a quarter (27%) of all SA tech start-up founders believe they will grow their business by securing VC or funding from angel investors – yet only about eight percent report ever having been able to secure such funding, a new survey reveals (see the below graphs).
In a further hint that start-up founders need a reality check, just nine percent of those looking for angel investing and just 20% seeking VC funding have firms that are growing or turning a profit.
The majority of SA tech start-ups use their own cash to fund the business (40%), followed by loans and grants from friends and family (23%).
Findings from the survey also put into question whether South African tech start-up founders really pay employees as well as they claim to. Close to one third (31%) that took part in the survey claim they pay their employees market-related salaries.
Yet the same founders list remuneration as the top reason for employees leaving their employ – 21% of founders list remuneration as the top reason employees leave.
This raises the question of whether start-ups are really in touch with market-related salaries or whether a good number of fibbing – particularly as 63% of founders surveyed said their start-up generated less than R100 000 a year.
White founders in the Western Cape most successful
While just 10% of start-ups report making a profit, in all, 27% of start-ups can be termed “successful”, in that they are generating a profit or are growing.
So, who then runs the most successful start-ups (defined as those that make a profit and are growing)? Well, most are run by men. While 27% of start-ups run by men say they are successful, just 18% of start-ups run by women can say the same.
More white founders report being successful, with about two thirds of start-ups who say they are successful being white-owned firms. Taken by race group, 36% of white founders report being successful, compared to just 13% of black start-ups (and just 10% of black-African founders).
About 32% of start-up founders in the Western Cape say they are successful – compared to 22% who are in Gauteng who list themselves as successful.
Most are over the age of 40 or between 30 and 35 years old (36% of startup founders in these ages groups say they are successful) and run a fintech or insurtech or a startup in the advertising and media business.
Those with a business partner and who have a start-up that is already over two years old employing more than 10 people are also more likely to report being successful. B2B start-ups – those that serves other businesses (rather than consumers) and that tap the North American or European market.
Related: How To Raise Working Capital Finance
Finally, are you more likely to be successful if you’ve run other start-ups before? In short, not necessarily.
Data from the survey reveals that 33% of founders who have run one or more start-ups previously report being successful with their current business – not overly different from the 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.
Though start-up founders were not quizzed on whether their past firms had been a success, 50% of those who have run five or more startups report that they are successful with their current firm – compared to 29% of those that have run one to four start-ups before.
It may suggest that as the country’s tech start-up ecosystem matures, the level of those reporting success is likely to increase. More critical however, will be to close the gap between less successful black tech start-ups and their white counterparts – this will not be easy.
*Note on the methodology the survey used: In all there were 298 respondents to the survey which was conducted using an online questionnaire, by data analytics firm Qurio. Of this number, 38 respondents were found to be employees of startups (rather than founders) and were excluded. The survey therefore sampled 260 start-up founders.
Top Sectors For SMEs In 2019
“As such, SMEs in the construction, communications and electrical fields are all likely to benefit from supply and sub-contracting agreements over the coming years.”
While the South African economy has been underperforming for a number of years, the first positive signs of turnaround started to become visible by the second quarter of 2018, and by the end of the third quarter, data supplied by Statistics South Africa showed that the economy had indeed grown by 2.2 percent, compared to the previous quarter. This uptick is expected to have a positive effect on business confidence in 2019.
This is according to Jeremy Lang, regional general manager at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), who says that certain business sectors have already seen an increase in opportunities for small businesses and start-ups.
“While these sectors will not be without challenges, the following four industries are likely to offer the best opportunities for small and medium enterprise (SME) owners to grow their enterprises in the coming year.”
The World Travel and Tourism report 2018, revealed that the direct contribution of the travel and tourism sector to South Africa’s GDP has been projected to rise from R136bn in 2016 to R197.9bn by 2028 – set to make up a total of 3.3 percent of the country’s total GDP, says Lang.
“Although this sector experienced some setbacks in 2018, such as the drought in the Western Cape and stricter visa regulations for children entering the country, both the water restrictions and visa regulations have been relaxed and the sector is once again poised for growth,” he says.
Statistics South Africa has credited this industry with being the biggest driver of growth in the country’s GDP, having expanded by 7.5 percent in September 2018, says Lang. “To bolster this, Government has made a concerted effort to stimulate small business growth in this area with initiatives such as the Black Industrialist Programme and the SA Automotive Masterplan.”
He adds that businesses in the manufacturing sphere could therefore likely see significant opportunities in the form of outsourcing contracts and new partnerships with large corporates.
“The debate around land expropriation has occupied most of the discussions surrounding the agricultural sector in 2018, with some questioning growth prospects of this sector. However, this industry has a lot of growth ahead of it, as demonstrated by its 6.5 percent growth over the last three months of 2018,” explains Lang.
“Further to this, the industry is also already taking significant advantage of seven climatic regions in South Africa, with the export of a wide variety of high quality fruit and vegetables increasing substantially,” he points out. The recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease that has resulted in the suspension of the country’s FMD-free status will however significantly impact meat exporters.
In terms of opportunities for SMEs, he says that these may most likely be found in the rural and underdeveloped regions, where the need for resources like efficient transport, state-of-the-art cold storage, better irrigation and private power generation will be key to making agriculture projects more productive and competitive in the export market.
Data and information technology
Connectivity and information technology infrastructure are both crucial to business and employment growth in South Africa, says Lang.
“With many municipalities and the Western Cape government committing to providing all of its residents with free data as part of a plan to expand public Wi-Fi network access, it is clear that this is also becoming a high priority on a state level.”
It has also been reported that South Africa is awaiting the arrival of three international data centres, and large players in the communications sphere, including Vodacom, Telkom and Vumatel, are making huge strides in drastically growing the country’s fibre optic backbone, he adds. “As such, SMEs in the construction, communications and electrical fields are all likely to benefit from supply and sub-contracting agreements over the coming years.”
In conclusion, Lang says that as South Africa’s economic growth has started to turn around, business owners should keep their ears to the ground as 2019 is highly likely to be a year of opportunity.
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SME Insurance Checklist For New Year
Malesela Maupa, Head of Product and Insurer Relationships at FNB Insurance Brokers, advises SMEs to consider the following factors when reviewing their policies.
Business owners who are planning for the year ahead should not overlook the importance of reviewing their insurance policies to ensure they are adequately covered against insurable risks.
Malesela Maupa, Head of Product and Insurer Relationships at FNB Insurance Brokers says, every year businesses face unique challenges ranging from credit and market risks, technological disruptions, compliance, operational and regulatory risks, amongst others. As a matter of precaution, insurance policies should at least be reviewed or updated once a year.
He advises SMEs to consider the following factors when reviewing their policies:
- Employee movements – if there are any employees who have left or joined the company, ensure that your policy is updated accordingly.
This type of cover normally depends on the role and contribution of the employee to the business. For instance, directors may be covered for Key Person Insurance and Directors & Officers Liability insurance.
- Protest Actions – this year is the national election year and leading up to elections we can expect to see an increase in the frequency and severity of protest actions, riots and strikes. Thus, it is essential to ensure that adequate special risks cover is in place from the South African Special Risks Insurance Association (SASRIA).
SASRIA provides cover to both individuals and businesses against special risks like civil commotion, public disorder, strikes, riots and terrorism at affordable premiums.
- Cyber risks – it is essential to communicate with your insurer or broker and find out if there are any new risks that your business should be protected against. Cyber incidents continue to be a major risk for businesses especially in the SME sector. Over the last couple of years there has been a major increase in the number of reported cyber incidences.
More businesses are now facing increased cyber threats due to their increased dependency on technology, relating to their internal and customer data being compromised by fraudsters. It is therefore essential to have some form of cyber risk insurance cover and/or enhancement of data security protocols.
- Regulatory changes – every year there are a number of regulatory changes that impact businesses directly or indirectly, which may result in fines and penalties for non-compliance.
- Natural catastrophes – the increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather conditions, coupled with intensifying natural catastrophes will continue to have a significant impact on businesses.
Businesses should ensure they are adequately protected against these risks to avoid incurring sever financial losses.
- Business changes – should a business consider moving to a new location, purchasing new premises or venture into new business activities, these types of changes could have a major impact on its risks profile. As a result, the policy needs to be updated accordingly.
- New and Enhanced products – An innovative culture has taken over the insurance industry and ever so often we see the introduction of new products or the enhancement of existing products. Get in touch with you broker to advise you on any new products that might add value to your existing insurance portfolio.
“Reviewing your policy regularly gives you peace of mind knowing that you can focus on running your business effectively, without worrying about unforeseen risks,” concludes Maupa.
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