Heavy Chef names top innovative start-ups of 2023

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 05 Dec 2023
Dean McCoubrey, founder of edtech firm MySociaLife, one of the 2023 top five.
Dean McCoubrey, founder of edtech firm MySociaLife, one of the 2023 top five.

Entrepreneur training academy Heavy Chef has announced its top five most innovative start-ups in SA for 2023.

The annual awards acknowledge and celebrate creative and innovative small businesses that are driving the country's economy forward, providing employment and growth.

Introduced in 2017, the Heavy Chef Top Five start-up awards are now held as a collaboration between Heavy Chef, Xero, xneelo and Workshop17, with support from LinkedIn, Backsberg, Happy Culture, Sir Fruit, Global Citizen, Whipping The Cat, Youth Capital and Now Boarding.

According to Heavy Chef, the five winning start-ups for 2023 were selected from over 120 finalists nominated by their communities, and exemplified passion, a sensitivity to sustainability, social need, as well as wholehearted embrace of current technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI).

Zinhle Novazi, competition judge and Heavy Chef Foundation board member, comments: “The winning criteria were not so much about ‘the best-performing’ or ‘biggest fundraise’, but rather as judges we looked for ‘the most exciting’ start-up. We asked ourselves: ‘Does this start-up stir my soul?’ And soul we found in spades.”

Previous Heavy Chef start-up winners include Yoco, SweepSouth, Easy Equities, Aerobotics, Franc Livestock Wealth and Zoie − all of which are now entrenched in SA’s digital economy.

Heavy Chef CEO Fred Roed points out that among the key attributes of the 2023 finalists is the role played by AI in their business or offerings.

“AI is clearly becoming increasingly relevant in the role start-ups play in society. This is exciting and illustrates that the technology being incorporated in South African businesses is world-class.

“This annual celebration showcases amazing small businesses that are driving the economy forward, providing employment opportunities and proving that small business development is one of the most important drivers of growth,” says Roed.

Dean McCoubrey, founder of edtech firm MySociaLife, one of the 2023 top five, tells ITWeb: “The winning prize really is the credibility that comes from Heavy Chef and the entrepreneurial community. Many people understand that Heavy Chef really is an ambassador for entrepreneurs in South Africa.

“MySociaLife will be launching a new AI-based parenting product in January 2024, in response to the rapid advancements in AI, social media and virtual reality.”

MySociaLife offers a programme that educates teens, pre-teens, teachers, parents, clinical psychologists and school counsellors about online safety and the invisible complexity of online life.

The 2023 five winning Heavy Chef start-ups are:

Botlhale AI: Leverages AI to creatively solve the continent's intricate communication challenges through overcoming language barriers.

Everlectric: Helps businesses transition to electric fleets, prioritising simplicity and sustainability for clients.

Jem: Helps companies digitise HR and payroll processes, providing instant employee information, using messaging platforms like WhatsApp.

MySocialLife: Educational online safety, media literacy and privacy learning programme for teens and pre-teens.

Strove: Offers in-app meditation programmes and well-being surveys, encompassing stress, sleep, work and mental indicators.