TOP: 10 South African entrepreneurs under 35


Ashley Uys, founder of Medical Diagnostech

(By Marnus Broodryk)

Facebook must be the most well-known example. Founded by (now) 28 year old Mark Zuckerberg, this company has literally changed the world, the way we communicate and do business.

Gone are the days where you need millions to start a business. The biggest marketplace is now available to anyone who has an internet connection – and what a marketplace – billions and billions of consumers! American kids as young as 10 are starting online businesses generating 5 and 6 figure incomes.

And in South Africa it is no different. With a sky high unemployment rate young South African entrepreneurs are now creating jobs for themselves and are making their mark both within the continent and across the globe.

Ludwick Marishane, “the best student entrepreneur in the world”

Ludwick Marishane (22) – @theheadboy
According to the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation, Ludwick Marishane is the best student entrepreneur in the world. Ludwick started businesses as a teenager in Limpopo. Many failed, like his own brand of biodiesel, healthy cigarettes and a security magazine. He then started HeadBoy Industries, a business that designs and commercialises new products and services in South Africa. One of its products, DryBath, is the world’s first bath-substituting solution. It is easy to use and needs minimal water. It moisturises the skin, kills germs, and leaves the user smelling fresh. If that is not enough, Ludwick was also named by Google among the 12 most intelligent young brains in the universe.

Rupert Bryant (25) – @waroop
Rupert Bryant is the chief operating officer (COO) and a director at Web Africa, one of South Africa’s most successful Internet Service Providers (ISPs). His involvement in the company started at the age of 16 when Matthew Tagg needed a partner for his new venture, and Rupert was a perfect choice. Rupert was running his own web development company from the age of 14, and when Web Africa started as a hosting provider it was a logical choice for Matthew to join forces with Rupert to build his new web hosting company. They started Web Africa with virtually no capital, and over the last decade have grown it into a company which generates well in excess of R130-million annually and employs 130 people.

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Justin Stanford (28) – @JustinStanford
This South African-born entrepreneur is a software industrialist and venture capitalist. It all started for Justin at the age of 13 when he bought raw apple juice and sold it to his classmates for a profit. A few years later he dropped out of school to pursue his entrepreneurial career. But success didn’t come easy and he had two failed businesses under his belt by the time he was 21. Justin fought on and his perseverance paid off when he came across Slovakian anti-virus software package called ESET; he negotiated with its manufacturers and begun its distribution in South Africa. Today, ESET in South Africa sells ESET’s assortment of internet protection products in about 20 sub-Saharan countries, making it an enormously flourishing internet business and Justin heads up the 4D Innovations Group, which includes the venture capital firm, 4Di Capital.

Adii Pienaar (28) – @adii
In my opinion, Adii is one of the most successful young tech entrepreneurs in South Africa. He is a co-founder of WooThemes, a business which has had great success – in an international sense – with millions of dollars in revenue annually. On his website, he describes himself as an entrepreneur, husband and very new father. Following him on Twitter, it is evident that this youngster is well respected in tech circles all over the world. Today, WooThemes is four years old, with 25 employees. The company had no funding and was 100% bootstrapped.

Vinny Lingham (34) – @VinnyLingham
Vinny Lingham is a South African Internet entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Yola Inc., a San Francisco-based Web 2.0 start-up that provides free website building, publishing and hosting services to more than three million active consumers all over the world. The company has grossed over $30-million (R300-million) in venture capital financing from institutional investors such as Columbus Venture Capital owned by SA’s Johann Rupert’s Richemont Group. He also developed CIick2Customers, a massively flourishing search engine marketing company housed in Cape Town, London and Los Angeles.

Vusi Thembekwayo (27) – @VusiSpeaker
Not only is he among the most outstanding keynote and motivational speakers in the world but he is also a formidable businessman. At the age of 17, Vusi was ranked 1st in Africa for public speaking. At 21 he ran his own successful consulting firm (then South Africa’s only black-owned Forensic Marketing agency). By 23, Vusi was an executive at one of the largest consumer goods businesses in Africa. At 25 years-old he was the youngest director of a multi-national turning over R17bn a year, where he served on the operations board. And today at 27, he is the Managing Director of MOTIV8 Advisory – a specialist consulting and services agency & serves on the board of international consulting firm Black Sheep Advisory as well as the founding Partner of Speakers BootCamp (SA).

Yossi Hasson (30) – @yossihasson
I heard Yossi speak for the first time about a year ago and was inspired by his story. Yossi is the co-founder and Managing Director of SYNAQ, a company he started in 2004 with an old school friend. When I was doing research on Yossi for this article, I found many interviews and stories. All telling how successful he is at a young age, but when he told his own story, it wasn’t always an easy ride. They struggled as a service business, had to make difficult decisions and transformed the business into one selling products. Since then it has become a prominent company and attracted the attention of big players in the ISP market with Internet Solutions acquiring 50% of the business in 2011. SYNAQ was also ranked as the 6th fastest growing company in South Africa by AllWordNetwork in 2011. Definitely a tech entrepreneur to look out for!

Jonathan Liebmann (28)
His name might not ring a bell, but if you are from Johannesburg, then you will definitely know of the Maboneng Precinct, a thriving cultural district in the east side of Johannesburg’s CBD. Jonathan is the man behind this project. He is a South African real estate developer and CEO of Propertuity. Propertuity is a South African real estate development company and the brains behind the construction of the Maboneng Precinct. Once a neglected and deteriorating neighborhood housing abandoned industrial complexes, Jonathan transformed Maboneng into a vibrant urban mixed-use community complete with art galleries, retail spaces, offices and artist studios. An entrepreneur who has changed the biggest city in Africa, forever!

Ashley Uys (29) – @AshleyTUys
Ashley is the founder of Medical Diagnostech, a company that develops and markets affordable and reliable medical test kits for malaria, pregnancy, syphilis, malaria and HIV/Aids for Africa’s rural poor. The company’s malaria test kit can reportedly detect all strains of malaria and indicate within 30 minutes whether the malaria treatment provided is effective. Far more significant is that each test kit costs R4, effectively bringing reliable malaria diagnosis into the hands of millions of people for whom living with the threat of the illness is an everyday reality. There is no doubt that this company is set for huge success.

Brent Kairuz (33)
I met Brent back in 2011 when they had just done a deal with Famous Brands. Even then it was clear that Brent isn’t your ordinary businessman. Most of the entrepreneurs featured in this article are in the tech industry but when I was reading up on Brent, I couldn’t find a single profile of him on the net, couldn’t find him on Twitter or Facebook, nothing. This man just does business without all the fuss going around and a living example that there are still massive opportunities outside of cyberspace. Today, Brent is the Managing Executive of Creative Coffee Franchising. Brent started his career by founding a company called Kairuz Corporation in 1998 (later became known as Kairuz Holdings). In 2011, Famous Brands and Kairuz Holdings formed a new joint venture partnership under a new company, Creative Coffee Franchising, which controls all the Kairuz Cafés, Coffee Couture, Juicy Lucy and House of Coffees franchised brands. Don’t know how to keep an eye on this guy, but if you can, you’ll be amazed.

There is no doubt that these and other South African entrepreneurs are making a massive change in South Africa. With our very high unemployment rate, entrepreneurs will be a vital ingredient for the future of this country.

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