South Africa has produced many exceptional, and famous, tech entrepreneurs, like Mark Shuttleworth, Vinny Lingham, and Elon Musk.
The entrepreneurial spirit in SA’s tech space remains strong, despite the political and economic challenges in the country.
While most media coverage focuses on Internet companies aiming to be the next unicorn, the country has many companies doing exceptional work.
These companies may not be working on self-driving cars or rockets to Mars, but they do provide top tech products and create employment opportunities for IT professionals.
Below are nine of South Africa’s small-to-medium-sized tech companies that are doing great work.
Axxess (Port Elizabeth)
Founder: Franco Barbalich
CEO: Andrew Simpson
Revenue: Around R250 million
Axxess was started in November 1997 after Franco Barbalich could not find a company to provide his former employer with an easy way to get a website and Internet access.
He started Axxess without any investment and grew it to one of the largest ISPs in South Africa.
The company’s business philosophy is to make “getting connected” easy and seamless, allowing anyone to access the Web.
redPanda Software (Cape Town)
Founders: Gareth Hawkey and Bob Hall
CEO: Gareth Hawkey
Revenue: Not disclosed
redPanda Software was started in 2009 to provide companies with software they control, and without any licence fees.
Hawkey saw a disconnect between what was offered in the market and what companies wanted, and founded redPanda to solve this problem.
Its business philosophy is to “always build good software”, whether profitable or not, with a big investment in people as a core ingredient to make it possible.
Wantitall + Parcelninja (Johannesburg)
Founders: Terence Murphy, Ryan Drennan, Justin Drennan
CEO: Justin Drennan
Revenue: R50+ million
Wantitall was started in 2006 to make it easy for South Africans to purchase products from the US. The company received investments from David Frankel and Ronnie Apteker, among others, soon after it was founded.
Over the years, the company changed significantly and now offers a wide range of outsourced eCommerce services, including Parcelninja.
Wanitall has a simple business philosophy: “Always be willing to try new things. Happy to fail, as long as we learn.”
Founders: Jonathan Mason and James Grcic
CEO: Jonathan Mason
Revenue: R100+ million
CipherWave was started in 2011 without any outside funding, with the desire to build a company that delivers a better customer experience.
The company showed strong growth over the last six years by focusing on being the preferred cloud computing and connectivity provider in the country.
It now operates its own local network infrastructure and data centre, and continues to develop new products for its growing client base.
OfferZen (Cape Town)
Founders: Malan Joubert and Philip Joubert
CEO: Malan Joubert
Revenue: Not disclosed. Places over 2 developers per day.
OfferZen was founded in November 2015 to make it easy for developers to find great job opportunities.
The business was funded by the founders, without outside investors. The company believes building an awesome team is core to their success, and they spend a lot of time recruiting the right people.
Cool Ideas (Johannesburg)
Founders and co-CEOs: Andre Jooste and Paul Butschi
Revenue: R100+ million
Cool Ideas was started without any outside investment to offer customised IT solutions to SMEs in South Africa.
When it realised that connectivity was a big bottleneck for smaller businesses, its started to invest in last-mile connectivity.
Its first DFA link went live in 2011, and it quickly grew its ISP business after the launch of FTTH in 2014. Today it is serving thousands of customers.
Cybersmart + Lightspeed (Cape Town)
Founders: Laurie Fialkov, Shaun Courtney, Zaid Bester, Dave Johnstone
CEO: Andrew Forssman
Revenue: Not disclosed
Laurie Fialkov started Cybersmart as an Internet café, without any outside investors, to give his brother a job as manager.
Since then, the company has grown into one of South Africa’s largest ISPs, offering a wide range of connectivity products.
Fialkov’s personal business philosophy is “make it work and don’t f*ck it up”, while the company aims to “provide a world of information and connectivity to a multitude of clients in Lightspeed”.
Raru (Cape Town)
Founders: Neil Smith, Waine Smith, Jose Pereira
CEO: The company is run by consensus.
Raru was founded in February 2014 by the former owners of Take2 with their own money.
“Since eCommerce is what we know best to do, it seemed like a good idea to embrace the challenge and excitement of starting a business from scratch, again,” said Smith.
Raru is popular among tech-savvy South Africans, and the company plans to expand its range of tech, media, and geek products. Smith said they believe in operating as lean and efficiently as possible.
Founders: Gian Visser, Brendan Armstrong, and Peter Meintjes
CEO: Gian Visser
Afrihost was started in 2000 by Visser, Armstrong, and Meintjes, who loved the Internet, but thought the price of domains and web hosting was too high.
They saw an opportunity, and at the same time avoided getting real jobs, to do something they loved.
The company has grown from a small hosting provider run from Visser’s mother’s home, to one of South Africa’s largest ISPs. The company’s business philosophy is to give real value and a great experience to its clients, and provide a great environment for its employees.