Our 12 startups to watch in 2021 – how did we do?


Twelve months ago, Disrupt Africa unveiled its 12 African startups to watch in 2021. How did we get on with our predictions?

Egyptian investtech startup Thndr

We said: “Thndr is already making waves, despite only formally launching in 2020. We’re certain we’ll be seeing exciting developments over the next 12 months (and beyond).”

What actually happened: More than 300k downloads later, Thndr has had demonstrable impact and will be announcing a new funding round soon. The investment will be used to add new products and services, and expand regionally.

Verdict: Hit

Egyptian food delivery startup Ordera

We said: “With the startup saying it witnessed an uptick in the number of users and orders as well as the number of restaurants and outlets listed on its platform since the COVID-19 pandemic, we think Ordera will be one of the big positive news stories emerging from the tribulations of 2020.”

What actually happened: Still going strong, with solid growth.

Verdict: Hit

Tunisian customer experience startup Onboard

We said: “2020 saw a private beta, the launch of a 1.0 version of the platform, and the announcement of plans for European expansion – we’ll sit back and watch for what 2021 has in store.”

What actually happened: A decent year, culminating with a rebrand

Verdict: Hit

Kenyan retail-tech startup MarketForce

We said: “In December, the startup introduced a new B2B e-commerce marketplace, with plans to scale it up to new locations in 2021, and add new services to its offering.  We can’t wait to see the action.”

What actually happened: Raised over US$2 million in pre-Series A funding and expanded into Nigeria. Participated in the SOSV ‘21 Accelerator and was one of the 50 startups to receive non-dilutive funding from the Google Black Founders Fund Africa. Tripled its team size, and announced plans to launch operations in five more countries in 2022.

Verdict: Hit

Ugandan fintech startup Eversend 

We said: “Eversend has been gaining momentum for a couple of years with its multi-currency e-wallet, but in 2020 it hit the headlines with the only notable crowdfunding round of the year. We think 2021 has big things in store for this startup.”

What actually happened: Thousands of users, and processing millions of dollars worth of transactions each month. Has developed B2B Business Banking and API products for which it says it has a strong pipeline. 

Verdict: Hit

Kenyan logistics startup Amitruck

We said: “We’ve seen impressive growth in the startup’s first year; with its customer-side mobile app downloaded more than 10,000 times, and revenues growing by 300 per cent over 12 months. We’re betting on these guys to have a great 2021.”

What actually happened: Business grew 10X, headcount increased from 12 to 50, and Amitruck is expanding into East Africa. Took part in a couple of accelerator programmes and also secured grant capital from Google. Promising “even more exciting news” in 2022.

Verdict: Hit

South African prop-tech startup reOS

We said: “In the pipeline for three years, proptech startup finally launched to the public towards the end of 2020, with backing from heavyweight local angels including Bill Paladino and Mark Forrester. Step one for reOS is to thoroughly shake-up the South African real estate space with its task automation tool for rental professionals, following which the startup has plans to disrupt international markets.”

What actually happened: Doubled team headcount, saw huge customer growth, launched a financial services offering, and secured an undisclosed capital investment. Says it will announce more exciting partnerships early this year.

Verdict: Hit

Zambian micro-lending platform PremierCredit 

We said: “The startup – which offers micro-loans to Zambian entrepreneurs and small scale traders, primarily women – has already launched operations in Zimbabwe in partnership with a local bank, providing affordable bicycles, smartphones and solar equipment on a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) basis.”

What actually happened: Developed a peer-to-peer lending platform that connects investors to borrowers, regulated under the Regulatory Sandbox of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Also opened four new branches.

Verdict: Hit

South African ed-tech startup The Gradient Boost

We said: “Arguably the wildcard of our list for 2021, South African startup The Gradient Boost launched its online mentor-guided data science school in May, seeking to make digital learning more efficient by combining its data science modules with guidance from experienced mentors. We think this is definitely an ed-tech startup worth keeping a keen eye on in 2021.”

What actually happened: Trained close to 200 students, and in doing so gained new insights and tweaked its model. The startup now allows users to learn technical skills through building mentor-guided real world projects. Is “aggressively” fundraising.

Verdict: Hit

Togolese mobility startup Gozem

We said: “Our eyes are firmly following Gozem, which hit the ground running at the end of 2018 and has been speeding towards its goal of becoming a regional all-inclusive “super-app”. The startup won’t be slowing down in 2021, and we’re looking forward to seeing the next steps in the race to be West Africa’s first super-app.”

What actually happened: Lots. Launched a vehicle financing solution, established operations in Gabon and Cameroon, banked a US$5 million Series A round, and doubled its team size to 280. 

Verdict: Hit

Nigerian dating startup Vybe

We said: “With Africans having access to less than 40 per cent of the world’s top 10 dating apps, Vybe has decided to take matters into their own hands. With the world more in need of online networks to forge connections than ever before, we’re excited to see what’s up next for Vybe in 2021.”

What actually happened: Grew user base by 325 per cent, started generating revenue, and secured its first external funding. Launched in Kenya, and had the first confirmed wedding of a couple that met on Vybe. 

Verdict: Hit

Nigerian e-health startup WellaHealth

We said: “Initially an e-health startup focusing on pharmacy automation, WellaHealth has pivoted towards fintech, and now offers affordable healthcare coverage to protect families from the financial shock that comes from unexpected health emergencies. We think this pivot might have been just what WellaHealth needed to see great growth in 2021.”

What actually happened: Raised a seed round, grew revenues by 10X, and served over 40,000 people. Says 2022 is set to be an even bigger year, with partnerships with a large Nigerian bank and telecoms firm set to go live.

Verdict: Hit

> Overall total <

12 Hits

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 2022. A very happy new year to all.

While you’re at it, check out our picks for 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. And here’s how our 2020 selection got on!


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.

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