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AlphaCode awards R16m to eight fintech start-ups

Read time 3min 10sec
The winners of the AlphaCode Incubate initiative.
The winners of the AlphaCode Incubate initiative.

Eight high-potential fintech start-ups have been awarded R2 million each in entrepreneurial packages by the AlphaCode Incubate initiative.

The start-ups each won R1 million in cash and R1 million worth of mentorship. The winners were announced last week at an event during which they had to pitch their businesses as part of the selection process.

The winning firms are under two years old and at least 51% owned by black South Africans.

AlphaCode is an incubation and investment vehicle for early-stage financial services businesses, powered by Rand Merchant Investment and Royal Bafokeng Holdings.

The programme, which began four years ago, identifies and rewards high-potential, innovative entrepreneurs, to boost the development of fintech and financial services in SA.

The winning start-ups are:

  • Spoon Money, a group-based micro-working capital finance platform for female informal traders.
  • Budgie, a free interactive application that facilitates and assists spending based on a user’s created budget.
  • okGo.live, on-demand vehicle insurance targeted at out-of-warranty vehicle owners.
  • Olova, which offers a single payment platform for public transport systems.
  • Mari, a digitised layby platform which allows for digital payments and savings.
  • GetVanced, an income advancing platform based on employees’ earned income.
  • IsiDuli, a credit product for the development of backyard rental stock in townships.
  • Oyi Medical Card, a payments technology integrated into a prepaid card for restricted medical spend only.

More than 200 start-ups applied to participate in the initiative. Of these, 12 made it to the final pitch evening, where contestants had three minutes to pitch their businesses, and eight recipients were selected.

A panel of judges asked the contestants questions ranging from the viability of their business idea, to how they intend generating revenue.

The judges included Dominique Collett, head of AlphaCode; Barry Swartzberg, co-founder of Discovery and CEO of Vitality; Danie Mathee, CEO of OUTsurance; Mary Vilakazi, COO of Firstrand; Katlego Kobue, Royal Bafokeng Holdings account investment manager; and Raymond Ndlovu, investments executive at Remgro.

Collett says the initiative has seen a notable improvement in the quality of applications each year, which shows AlphaCode is making an impact on the maturing of the fintech ecosystem.

“We want to identify, partner and grow the future of financial services in South Africa.”

This year, the programme included a selection boot camp to help judges get a better understanding of the entrepreneurs and their ideas prior to selecting the finalists.

Royal Bafokeng CEO Albertinah Kekana says it is encouraging to see a number of the businesses solving problems in the township economy; issues that were generally ignored by corporates.

“Participants are part of those communities and deeply understand the financial issues these communities face,” she notes.

Tamsanqa Ngalo, founder of Oyi Medical Card, says: “I will spend the money to hire people who will help market our product.”

IsiDuli co-founder Lunga Nodliwa says: “I will re-invest the money into the business. We already have customers who are waiting in line for credit.”

Last year's winners included Prospa, a mobile savings wallet for low-income earners, and Nisa Finance, an invoice financing platform. 

According to the Disrupt Africa Tech Start-ups Funding Report 2018, African tech start-ups smashed funding records in 2018, as 210 start-ups secured $334.5 million worth of investment.

The report shows Nigeria emerged as the premier investment destination on the continent in 2018, with 58 start-ups raising a total of $94 912 000. South Africa fell behind, with 40 businesses raising $59 971 000, while Kenya ranked third.

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