Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Tag: synthasite

Representing African Technology to the World

Vinny Lingham 2007Vinny Lingham has had two big hits in the last couple weeks. Just a week ago, in the midst of this down economy where web apps are dying every day, he managed to pull out a second round of funding for Synthasite worth $20 million. That’s a lot of money in a good economy, in a down one it’s huge.

Today, he was announced as one of the World Economic Forum – Young Global Leaders for this year. The others joining him from the Bay Area include the likes of Zuckerberg (Facebook). There have been others from Africa (full list), and it’s quite a group to be associated with.

Vinny is proving to be a great example of the type of tech entrepreneur that Africa creates. My hope is that he continues to be a resounding success in the global market, thereby bringing more investors and businesses hunting for real investment opportunities, not just looking to give handouts.

South African Tech: A Tale of Two Success Stories

There are a number of technology companies from South Africa that have had no small amount of success. I want to take a minute to highlight two of them though, because I think they show something important.

The decision you have to make when deciding to create a technology business, a web or mobile application in Africa, is whether it’s something for the local market or international. Very few companies are solving for both. In my examples you’ll see Mxit, a company solving for a local problem, and Synthasite, a company solving for an international problem.

For those who don’t know, Mxit created a java-enabled chat application for mobile phones that decreases the cost per message compared by ~90% of a normal SMS message. They have over 7.5 million users after just a few years in action, and are the staple communication system for young mobile users in South Africa. It’s a phenomenon, and they’re looking to expand internationally.

Mxit Users in South Africa

Synthasite is the free web site creator and publishing platform, designed and created in the mold of any Web 2.0 app coming out of the Silicon Valley. Vinny, the founder, tells me that they have over 70k users and are increasing that by 1000 each day – which puts them as one of the top 3 services like this in the world. They have just moved 1/3 of their operations to San Francisco, with 2/3 of the company still in Cape Town.


Both of these companies had completely different strategies: local and global. These companies serve to prove that any developer in Africa with a good idea that solves a problem, and has the drive to see it through, can be incredibly successful. It’s inspiring, and I hope that more of Africa’s web developers will see the opportunities all around them.

[Image courtesy of Rafiq via Flickr]

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