SA startup space remains upbeat despite sluggish growth

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South Africa-based entrepreneurs remain optimistic and resourceful even as the country enjoys one of its toughest economic periods, though they would like to access more support in order to grow.

This is according to the findings of the fifth annual State of Entrepreneurship in South Africa survey released by Seed Academy, which is based on feedback from more than 1,000 entrepreneurs across the country. 

It found that the entrepreneurial ecosystem is sluggish, with revenues not increasing significantly enough and many challenges remaining the same over the past five years. Yet entrepreneurs are still optimistic for the future.

“The positivity of entrepreneurs is encouraging, and we have seen that when they are supported, they acquire skills that give them a much better chance of succeeding. The granularity of our survey results combined with our in-depth understanding of the ecosystem allows for this study to be one of the most highly quoted reports with respect to findings on entrepreneurship in South Africa,” said Donna Rachelson, director of Seed Academy.

She said the South African entrepreneurial ecosystem is tough to navigate, with several entrepreneurs reporting that they did not know how to access available support. The survey found key factors to success for entrepreneurs were strong personal networks, proper business planning, access to business support services, and the ability to present for new market opportunities.

Key challenges have featured in the research findings each year for five years. They include finding customers, inability to raise funds, wearing too many hats followed by lack of guidance, slow sales, customers paying late, and the unpredictability of business conditions.

“Our experience at Seed Academy highlights that business focus is key to success,” Rachelson said. “An interesting finding of the research is that 47 per cent of businesses are engaged in business to business products and services, business to consumer and business to government at the same time – thus making market focus very difficult.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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