Our 12 startups to watch in 2019 – how did we do?


Back at the start of the year, Disrupt Africa unveiled its 12 African startups to watch in 2019. How did we get on with our predictions?

Egyptian e-health startup Shezlong 

We said: “Shezlong ticks the disruption and impact boxes, with its mission to address the stigma in North Africa surrounding mental health issues.”

What actually happened: Selected to take part in the MiSK Growth Accelerator, gaining access to US$100,000 in funding and a developmental programme, and saw strong growth.

Verdict: Hit

Egyptian virtual assistant app Elves 

We said: “Elves has opened an office in Los Angeles with an initial team of six, which is focused exclusively on conquering the US market.  We look forward to updates.”

What actually happened: Now has over 650,000 users across the world and is looking to close another seed round.

Verdict: Hit

Egyptian ride-hailing and on-demand logistics startup Halan

We said: “The startup secured a “multi-million dollar” funding round in 2018, with a view to pressing on with expansion to further markets.  We’re excited to see the progress Halan makes over the coming year.”

What actually happened: Has already facilitated over 20 million rides, expanded to Sudan, and launched a growing food delivery vertical for clients such as McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut. In the process of raising a Series B funding round as it prepares to launch in Ethiopia, and hopes to grow into a “super app”. 

Verdict: Hit

Tanzanian mobile money application Nala

We said: “Beginning life as a Stanford University student’s side-project, and moving to on-the-ground research and operations in Tanzania in 2017, the past year has seen Nala’s progress accelerate quickly.”

What actually happened: Became the first East African startup to take part in the Silicon Valley-based Y Combinator accelerator, with all the validation that offers, and also expanded to Uganda. Approaching one million transactions and ranked number one finance app in Tanzania.

Verdict: Hit

Kenyan agri-tech startup Taimba

We said: “Launched mid-2017, the startup has already caught people’s attention – named one of three winners of the Food+City Challenge Prize hosted by SXSW; and winning the inaugural Disrupt Africa Live Pitch Competition. 2019 is sure to hold more developments for Taimba.”

What actually happened: On-boarded over 2,000 smallholder farmers from across Kenya, through which it serves 320 B2B customers each week. Expanded its distribution fleet, grew the size of its sales team to cover more markets, and installed cold storage integrated with cold truck for sourcing to cut wastage due to high temperatures. Raised a total of  US$380,000 in funding, including this, and is currently working on Series A.

Verdict: Hit

Kenyan artificial intelligence startup UTU 

We said: “Caught our (and investors’) attention in 2018, and we foresee big things ahead in the coming year.”

What actually happened: Greatly extended its capabilities and secured IP protection for its technology. Has grown its waiting list to more than 30 companies across more than 15 countries on four continents for access to our trust infrastructure services, and won a host of awards. Became the first African project to announce an IDO on Binance DEX, of which it promises news shortly, but also secured US$500,000 in more traditional funding. Has also established a co-working space, UTU House.

Verdict: Hit

South African financial services chatbot developer FinChatBot

We said: “Although the early plan was to expand to multiple markets at once – with resellers on the ground in Morocco and Kenya, the startup this year decided to focus more on its home market of South Africa – and has had a strong year as a result.”

What actually happened: Picked to showcase at the Africa Early Stage Investor Summit in Cape Town ahead of a raise planned for next year. Also selected for the INV Fintech virtual accelerator, and reports generally strong growth.

Verdict: Hit

Angolan healthcare startup Appy Saude

We said: “Angolan startup Appy Saude is transforming access to healthcare in the country, through its healthcare database app. The startup has been busy rolling out new features throughout 2018, and has also partnered with the country’s largest mobile operator. While the startup has been working under the radar for the past year or so, given the pace at which the team is working we expect big announcements in 2019.”

What actually happened: Selected to pitch at Africa Startup Summit in Kigali back in February, Appy has since launched a proof of concept with a local partner in Rwanda ahead of a formal launch there in 2020. Has added a bunch of new features, including allowing users to book appointments with doctors and an insurance module, and won a handful of awards (like this and this). 

Verdict: Hit

South African AI for property startup Vizibiliti Insight

We said: “In November, the startup was chosen to take part in Knife Capital’s fourth Grindstone Accelerator programme, which helps businesses become more investable, sustainable and exit-ready.  So we look forward to hearing what’s next.”

What actually happened: Completed Grindstone, was named in the top five at the Santam insurtech event, and is now performing alternative credit scoring analysis to over 1.5 million South Africans. Also launched a couple of new platforms.

Verdict: Hit

Nigerian fintech startup CowryWise

We said: “Nigerian fintech startup CowryWise launched in 2017, and has been catching people’s attention since then both within Africa and over in Silicon Valley.”

What actually happened: Launched a host of new products, including the first Mutual Fund marketplace, which enables the average Nigerian to invest as little as NGN100 in mutual funds with just a few clicks. Has so far enlisted 13 different mutual funds, in line with increasing retail access to legitimate investment opportunities to 10 million Nigerians by 2025. Also launched a dollar-denominated fund on Cowrywise, enabling investment diversification for the mass market. 

Verdict: Hit

Ghanaian agri-tech startup CowTribe

We said: “Ghana’s CowTribe has been around for a couple of years, but things ramped up for the startup in 2018 and we expect to see more from it in 2019.”

What actually happened: Successfully scaled to the commercial segment, and now serves over 200 large poultry farmers in Ghana. Has launched fulfilment centres in three locations, and secured over US$2 million in institutional contracts. Selected for Techstars Impact accelerator.

Verdict: Hit

Ghanaian retail-tech platform KudiGO

We said: “After a year in public beta, the startup officially launched in 2018, and hit the ground running. Not only is KudiGO already expanding to more African markets, but in November the startup said it was closing in on a US$300,000 funding round to facilitate further expansion, while also securing all-important partnerships.”

What actually happened: Raised US$450,000 in seed funding and is now expanding into Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda ahead of a further raise early next year.

Verdict: Hit

> Overall total <

12 Hits

0 Misses

A clean sweep of success stories! Turns out we’re pretty good at this! Keep an eye out over the next few days for our 12 African tech startups to watch in 2020. A very happy new year to all.


About Author

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.

Comments are closed.