We are a South African based startup and we have just survived our first year in the market *queue applause*. Our journey to date has been full of the usual twists and turns, stress and constant uncertainty. And we F*#king LOVE it!
We launched Versofy into the South African market in April 2016 and although we could talk about the lessons we have learned along the way: that startups are HARD and statistically destined to fail, that you have to “do things that don’t scale” and use fancy buzz words like MVP, Pivot and Growth Hacking. We would rather talk about the things that you can’t necessarily find through a simple Google search – The South African startup scene.
We’ve never been to Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv or any of the other “Tech Centers” so we don’t really have any frame of reference, but we have been engaging with the Johannesburg startup ecosystem and the energy is palpable. Serviced and co-working spaces are popping up all over the place, competitions and network events fill the news feeds of anyone who shows the slightest bit of enthusiasm. There is no shortage of interest when chatting about your idea or startup in the Johannesburg social circles.
This may come down to the fact that smartphones are readily available and people from all ages and backgrounds are experiencing the benefits and joy that these devices – and the internet – bring. Or it may be because of the unthinkable valuations that tech based companies are fetching on Wall Street and beyond, sparking a rapid growth in innovative thinking. It doesn’t matter that everyone is trying to build the “Uber” of this or the “AirBnB” of that. What matters is that South Africans have cottoned on to the fact that innovating using technology can lead to a better, more efficient lifestyle for those that take up the offering. Even if this is something as simple as getting booze for your braai after hours.
We have met some incredibly talented, intelligent and ambitious people over the past year who are actively engaged in the startup ecosystem. All of which have taken the leap of faith into the land of statistical failure and are fighting on the front line, clearing a path for those who are coming behind. (and believe us, there are plenty coming). We applaud anyone and everyone who has taken this leap as it is what is necessary to move our country forward.
So, what can you do to help?
We have learned that user feedback is the single most important thing that can help startups succeed. We (the early stage startups) are looking for a group of users to give our product a try. Whether it is an app for mobile a social alarm clock such as Rooster, or an on demand tutoring service like Tuta-Me, all we ask is that you give it a try and give us your feedback. 99% of all the South African products you find will be free or offer a free trial of some sort. Sure we are looking to make money with our startup ideas – who isn’t – but that is the long term goal. All we need in the short term are people who are willing to try something new. So, download that app *excuse the bugs* and give it a go. Who knows? You may just become an integral part in creating a product that improves your way of life and the lives of the thousands like you. Or, worst case, you help startups realize their idea isn’t that good and save them spending unnecessary time and money creating a product that no-one wants.
Although no one knows exactly what the future will bring, what we do know is that we, along with a bucket load of other South Africans are doing all that we can to leverage off technology and move our country and continent forward. And we F@#king Love It!