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The Number Of Black Tech Start-ups Is On The Rise According To Ventureburn’s Start-up Survey 2017

Surge in black entrepreneurs, Gauteng challenges Silicon Cape as the country’s start-up capital, according to Ventureburn’s start-up survey 2017.





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).


Related: 4 Things Your Start-Up Needs When It Opens An Office

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.

Related: 3 Dangerous Entrepreneurial Myths You Need To Ignore

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. 

Have a look through the infographic for more.

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Entrepreneur Today

Win 1 Of 50 Free Tickets To This Exclusive Event With Entrepreneur And Matt Brown Media

Calling start-up business owners or aspiring entrepreneurs 25 years old and under. Win a free ticket to this life-changing event with Entrepreneur Magazine, Matt Brown Media and South African entrepreneur Max Lichaba.





Are you a young, start-up or aspiring entrepreneur looking for inspiration from someone who started with nothing and built a R120 million business?

You could be one of 50 lucky, young start-ups and aspiring entrepreneurs to join Lichaba Creations, Kwa Lichaba, Lichaba Custom Rides and Lichaba Refinery owner Max Lichaba on Tuesday 20 March 2018 for an exclusive two-hour lunch and in-person interview brimming with entrepreneurial insights.

Enter to win this once in a lifetime opportunity

If you’re 25 years old and under, and looking for business advice to help you build a successful start-up, then don’t miss this opportunity to receive access to the event, which will be held at Kwa Lichaba in Soweto.

50 exclusive seats up for grabs!

Your prize will include:

1. First-hand insights from successful South African entrepreneur Max Lichaba.


2. A free Brand ID workshop with Vega on ‘How to Develop and Launch Your Brand’.

The workshop focuses on the importance of reflection and self-belief when offering your own personal brand and products to the world. You will be encouraged to explore your own values, meaning and purpose, and guided as to how to create an identity that will capture the unique individual that is “brand YOU”. The workshop will be hosted in Soweto or at Vega’s campus in Randburg, and the date is still to be determined


  1. FREE access to the premier Kwa Lichaba venue.
  2. FREE lunch included in the event.

How to enter the competition

You must be under 25 years old to enter the competition:

  1. Send an email to Entrepreneur Magazine at
  2. Give us your full name and ID number.
  3. Tell us in your email why you should win a free ticket to this premier event.

What you will learn from Max Lichaba

Max finished school with a Grade 10 education, and was expected to become a miner like most of the men in his community. Instead, he focused on becoming a business owner. It’s been a long, hard road, full of challenges, but today he heads up a R120 million business. Share in his journey as Matt Brown interviews him in person, and unpacks his journey, the hardships he’s faced, and the lessons his learnt in overcoming those obstacles, including:

  • Wanting more out of life than being a miner in his hometown, like his peers and seeking alternative opportunities to make money and uplift his community.
  • The power of persevering even in the face of closed doors – they eventually opened up because he pushed through for long enough.
  • The importance of starting, even if you start small, by initially focusing on breaking even before buying into the fancy additions to presumably make business faster and easier.
  • Banking on a new business and losing it all, with the added responsibility of paying employees’ salaries and pension packages with money he didn’t have

Max will join a list of some of South Africa’s most successful billionaires, entrepreneurs and the CEOs hosted on The Matt Brown Show, on Tuesday morning. Matt’s 20 years’ experience in business strategy, technology and marketing communications and over a dozen local and international awards make this a discussion worth participating in.

Don’t miss out – enter the competition to win your ticket

  1. Send an email to Entrepreneur Magazine at
  2. Give us your full name and ID number.
  3. Tell us why you should win a free ticket to this premier event.


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Entrepreneur Today

Franchising Sector Ready To Lend A Hand

How business can use franchising to improve jobs and support entrepreneurship throughout South Africa.





“We are at a moment in the history of our nation when the people, through their determination, have started to turn the country around.
Now is the time to lend a hand…
Now is the time for each of us to say ‘send me’…
Now is the time for all of us to work together, in honour of Nelson Mandela, to build a new, better South Africa for all.”
Cyril Ramaphosa, SONA 2018

The Presidents commitment to small business

The SONA speech by President Cyril Ramaphosa and his commitment to supporting small business and entrepreneurship has been welcomed by Tony Da Fonseca, the Franchise Association of South Africa’s Chairman, who in 2017 had already met with the chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Trade & Industry to pave the way for greater co-operation between government and the franchise sector.

“We are encouraged by the President’s promise to increase co-operation with business and look at ways to encourage entrepreneurship, youth training and job creation” says Tony Da Fonseca.

“We are confident that the franchise sector can play a pivotal role through innovations like the development of social and micro franchising which hold enormous and largely untapped potential for the development of the economy and improve service delivery.”

Confirming that the growth of the economy will be sustained by small businesses, “as is the case in many countries”, President Ramaphosa confirmed that government would honour its undertaking to set aside at least 30 percent of public procurement to SMMEs, co-operatives and township and rural enterprises and would continue to invest in small business incubation. “It is our shared responsibility to grow this vital sector of the economy.”

Franchising is ready to play a larger role


As a sector that already contributes 13, 3% to the country’s GDP generating an estimated R587 billion through its 845 franchise systems, 40 528 franchisees and employing 343 319 people, franchising is perfectly poised to play an even bigger role in furthering small business development, skills transfer and job creation.

“As a successful businessman and former franchise owner himself, Cyril Ramaphosa is familiar with the far-reaching potential that franchising has in small business development, skills development and job creation, says FASA Chairman Tony Da Fonseca.

“We are hopeful that he will look to us in the franchise sector to assist in building that ‘small business support ecosystem that assists, nourishes and promotes entrepreneurs’ that he referred to in his SONA speech.”

That, together with the welcome measures by government to reduce the regulatory barriers for small business and the introduction of an innovation fund targeted at start-ups and small suppliers that could become supply chains to the franchise sector, will go a long way to opening the doors to small business expansion and the benefits to the economy that will flow from that.

Related: Multi-Unit Franchising Growing In South Africa

The Franchise Association of South Africa (FASA) has always been a proponent of small business incubation and has, over the years, embarked on various public/private initiatives to grow the franchise sector. Their efforts have included youth cadet schemes through the Jobs Fund, developing micro businesses to become franchise-ready through the Department of Small Business Development’s Micro Franchisor Development Project and through various private initiatives with funders and franchise members.

The franchise sector to stimulate entrepreneurship and jobs

According to Tony Da Fonseca, much more can be done in the public/private development space. “The opportunities to transform government services, such as health care, water delivery, education and in many other areas, through the social franchise format, are enormous. Both locally and internationally, pilot projects in social franchising that operate on commercial principles, making enough profit to sustain operations and re-investing surplus profits into the community they serve, have proved to be viable.”

According to Tony Da Fonseca, the franchise sector is well-positioned to come together in a concerted effort to stimulate entrepreneurship and create much-needed jobs.

Franchising in South Africa currently services around 17 business sectors – way behind countries such as Australia, Europe, Canada and the USA who boast between 25 and over 70 business categories.

Related: Key Franchising Trends To Consider For 2018

“The opportunities to expand into many more sectors and particularly in the social and services sectors of the economy are endless. We welcome the opportunity to work with government in creating an entrepreneurial environment that will grow investment confidence, introduce new small business concepts via the franchise system, accelerate BEE and enterprise opportunities, giving training to the youth and above all create those much needed jobs.”

Mr President, the franchising sector is ready and able to take on the opportunities for ‘renewal and revitalisation, and for progress to build the fair, just and decent society to which Nelson Mandela dedicated his life.’

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Business Model

How To Pick The Business Model That Works For You

So, you’ve picked your lane.  You’ve decided what you want to do and why you want to do it.  You’ve picked something you’re good at.  You’re convinced the world needs and values it.  You now need to decide how to make money.  That’s where business model design comes in. 

Anthony Miller




There are plenty of business model options for the same idea.  For example, let’s say your idea is to offer historic tours of Cape Town.  You could either do it yourself or hire professional guides to do it.  Or you could use mobile technology to provide DIY walking tours.  You could charge per tour or you could charge a membership fee.  There are so many options.  How do you pick the model that works for you?

The Lean Canvas is a great tool for entrepreneurs who are faced with this question. Adapted from The Business Model Canvas, it provides a simple, one page framework for brainstorming possible business models, prioritising where to start, and tracking ongoing learning.  It walks the entrepreneur through the business model process logically and ensures the key elements of a successful business are considered.

Related: Business Model Design – Picking The Business Model That Works For You

My co-founders and I have used the Canvas extensively at Simply – for designing our business model, and for communicating it to partners and investors. The only thing you know with certainty when you start a business is that it’s not going to turn out as you expect it to.  The Canvas evolves as you go – it was, and continues to be, a very useful guide in our journey.

Recognising an opportunity for disruption

We figured there was an opportunity to do something disruptive in the SA life insurance space.  It was clear to us that lots of people were either not covered or getting a rough deal.  Guided by the Canvas, we defined our first Customer Segment as adult South Africans, aged between 25 and 45 and earning between R5k and R30k monthly.

We then identified the 3 big Problems – specific to that segment – that needed solving:

  1. Most of the people in our segment have some form of funeral cover, but very few have life or disability cover.
  2. The cover they do have is often expensive relative to the benefits provided (i.e. a very small % of the premium goes towards the risk costs).
  3. There is no simple, intuitive way to buy good value life, disability and funeral cover online.

Developing a value proposition

Next came the Value Proposition.  We believed we could use technology, digital marketing and human-centred product design to deliver simple, online life, disability and funeral insurance at a great price.  We felt we could be for life insurance in South Africa what Takealot has been for retail.

We thought the world was moving far faster than incumbents realised; that millennials were ready to buy life insurance online; that we could build for the digital world and be in the right place at the right time.

And the rest flowed from there.  I don’t have the time or the space to walk you through the other elements of the Canvas here, but you can probably fill in the blanks.  Suffice to say, the process was invaluable and enabled us to build our business around a clearly considered business model.  It’s early days, but the signs are good – we’re making a positive impact, having fun and keeping our investors happy.

Creating a Lean Canvas

So, how should you go about sketching your own Lean Canvas?  The team at suggest the following approach:

  1. Sketch a canvas in one sitting. While a business plan can take weeks or months to write, your initial canvas should be sketched quickly.
  2. It’s okay to leave sections blank. Rather than trying to research or debate the “right” answers, put something down quickly or leave it blank and come back to it later.
  3. Think in the present. Business plans try too hard to predict the future which is impossible. Instead, write your canvas with a ‘getting things done’ attitude.
  4. Use a customer-centric approach.  You may need to sketch one Canvas per customer segment.  Start with the Customer Segment and go in sequence.

The Canvas has brought clarity and a common language to our business model design process.  It’s enabled us to agree upon and communicate our business model effectively – both internally and externally.  It’s also allowed us to tune and adjust our model as our story has unfolded – an inevitability for entrepreneurs.  I highly recommend the Lean Canvas as a tool for designing your business model.  Give it a try – I think you’ll like it.

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