The South Africans who have taken the global tech industry by storm

South Africa is already the technology hub of the continent, but several South Africans feel the need to move overseas to extend their tech influence on a global scale.

The country’s most notable export of this variety is undoubtedly Elon Musk.

However, he is far from the only success story to come out of South Africa.

We listed a number of South Africa’s most influential tech leaders who have made waves internationally below.


Elon Musk

Elon Musk is undoubtedly South Africa’s biggest technology success story and is among the most well-known tech figures alive today.

However, while he may be known as the brains behind Tesla, this is far from his only successful technology venture.

His first company, which he founded with his brother Kimbal in 1995, was web software company Zip2.

The company was acquired by Compaq for $307 million in 1999, of which Musk received $22 million.

He then founded X.com, which was an online financial services and email payment company.

The company merged with what would soon become PayPal a year later, and Musk remained with the new company until it was acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion. Musk earned $165 million from this acquisition.

Musk is now known for being the face of several high-profile companies and organisations including SpaceX, Tesla, OpenAI, Neuralink, The Boring Company, and Hyperloop.

As of 18 August, Musk was reportedly the fourth richest person in the world with a net fortune of $84.8 billion.

Elon Musk


Vinny Lingham

Vinny Lingham is a highly successful Internet entrepreneur who is originally from East London.

Lingham’s first major business was global digital marketing performance group Incubeta, which works with the likes of Google, Disney, Amazon, and Netflix.

In the same year, he founded Yola, which is a web development platform that received over $25 million in funding from the Reinet Fund.

His 2012 venture, Gyft, is a mobile gift card company that offers gift cards from over 200 retailers including Lowe’s, Walmart, eBay, Uber, and Starbucks.

Within two years, Gyft was acquired by First Data Corporation for over $54 million.

Lingham is now the co-founder and CEO of Civic, which is a digital wallet for both money and cryptocurrency.

Lingham also serves as a board member on the Bitcoin foundation.

Vinny Lingham


Mark Shuttleworth

Mark Shuttleworth may be known as the first South African to enter space, but he is also an incredibly successful tech leader.

His first big venture was Thawte, which specialises in online security – particularly SSL certificates – which he launched in 1995.

He sold this company four years later to VeriSign for $575 million.

In 2000, he formed Here Be Dragons (HBD) Venture Capital, which is a privately-owned emerging market investment group.

Perhaps most famously, however, he founded Canonical Ltd in 2004, which focuses on open source software products.

Most notably, Canonical is behind the Ubuntu distro of the Linux operating system.

Shuttleworth now lives in the Isle of Man.

Mark Shuttleworth


Roelof Botha

Roelof Botha, the grandson of former South African foreign minister Pik Botha, is a qualified actuary and tech investor who has sat on the boards of some of the biggest tech companies in the world.

In 2000, Botha became the director of corporate development for PayPal, before eventually becoming CFO the next year.

In 2003, after PayPal was acquired by eBay, Botha joined Sequoia Capital.

Botha has since become one of the top venture capital professionals in the US, having managed the firm’s investments in tech giants such as YouTube, Instagram, and Square.

He currently serves as a board member for 23andMe, MongoDB, Square, Unity, Natera, Eventbrite, Evernote, Inside.com, and Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

Roelof Botha


Pieter de Villiers

Pieter de Villiers is the co-founder and CEO of Clickatell.

Clickatell was founded in 2000 in Cape Town and created the first-ever API between cellphones and computers – allowing users to send an SMS from the Internet to a recipient’s cellphone.

The company soon moved to Silicon Valley, where its headquarters remain, although it also has offices in Cape Town, Lagos, and Toronto.

Clickatell’s solutions now allow users to interact with businesses through SMS, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger, and the company says it covers 85% of the world’s population.

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The South Africans who have taken the global tech industry by storm