Picture: 123RF/DOTSHOCK
Picture: 123RF/DOTSHOCK

Given all the hype, you would be forgiven for thinking start-ups have only become a thing in the last 20 years. The reality is that they have existed since the beginning of time. Some have failed and some are the big companies we know today.

But it’s different now. And the reason is because this new wave of entrepreneurship is bigger than ever before, and it’s been driven by the internet revolution. In the past it was unheard of that young university graduates would go on to create billion-dollar companies.

It’s because of the very nature of the internet: its disintermediation model has smashed traditional business models and provided better ways to transact, communicate, market and distribute. The low barrier-to-entry of the internet means start-ups can spring up with very little capital, using open source software and work-from-home developers, and often without needing to build physical structures in the world.

A whole lot of new buzzwords have arrived in the past few years representing a raft of new start-up categories, including fintech, edtech, insurtech, healthtech, legaltech, proptech, retailtech, mediatech and agritech. Each of these categories of start-ups are disrupting traditional business sectors and even remodelling the way they do business.

In the edtech space we have the online courses company Getsmarter, recently sold for a whopping $100m, which offers a new way to study online. Then there is Paper Video, which uses QR codes innovatively, offering past exam papers and subject maps with step-by-step video lessons.

In the fintech sector there is the well-known WiGroup, in which Investec took a stake for R400m. Led by the impressive Bevan Ducasse, WiGroup is a leader in mobile loyalty, rewards and mCommerce. ThisIsMe is another impressive fintech start-up to watch, playing in the identity theft and credit monitoring game.

The zero-fee money app Wala is on a “mission to support customers on their path to financial freedom”. It believes financial systems are broken due to high fees, bad experiences and inaccessibility. Its mobile financial platform uses blockchain technology to enable zero-fee, instant borderless micropayments for consumers in emerging markets. There is also former FNB boss Michael Jordaan’s BankZero, and then iPay and Jumo, which are fintech start-ups to watch in the future.

In the healthtech space we have disruptive companies that are changing the way we approach health. Some worth mentioning are LifeQ, Sancreed, HearX, EMguidance and Vula Mobile.

EM Guidance, a 2018 Seedstars best healthtech winner, developed an app to help doctors source more reliable information on treatment guidelines and medication dosages. Vula Mobile is a referral platform that links health workers to specialists in tertiary hospitals.

LifeQ uses computational systems, biology and continuous body monitoring to gather data from which users can draw insights about their personal health. Sancreed’s health platform, Guidepost, helps facilitate support for type-2 diabetes sufferers. The multi-award winning HearX Group has developed a suite of clinical smartphone hearing health solutions.

In the insurtech space, Pineapple claims to be the world’s first flexible, scalable and decentralised peer-to-peer insurer that provides coverage to its members. Local Groupon founder Daniel Guasco’s Click2Sure positions itself as a “fullstack digital insurance platform” enabling retailers, service providers, distributors and brokers to bolt on more than 20 custom insurance products at point of sale.

Other insurance start-ups are leveraging social media platforms to “growth-hack” their products by using the social graph to gain customers and use information online to make assessments on client risk profiles to give them better deals.

In the Agritech space, Aerobotics has developed a technology called Aeroview, a data-analytics platform that uses satellites, drones and artificial intelligence to help farmers optimise crop performance and reduce input costs.

In the legaltech sector there is Libryo, Portable Lawyer and Nuvalaw. Libryo is a legal platform enabling companies to understand their legal obligations. Portable Lawyer is a start-up allowing for easy, affordable access to more than 30 critical contracts, real-time on-demand legal support, digital signatures, and contract management. NuvaLaw creates interparty negotiation and adjudication platforms that bring together smart technology, processes and services to reduce the time and cost of legal information exchange and dispute settlement.

In the edtech space there is Snapplify, a company that concentrates on content distribution and mobile publishing for digital education. And in the mediatech space is IONO.fm, a funded Cape Town start-up that is a modern podcast platform for large radio stations to solo podcasters.

The secret ingredient to all these start-ups is simple: find a traditional business sector then add the revolutionary features of the internet to it, and the result is a disruptive business that could be worth millions.

• Buckland is an investor and entrepreneur, and founder of Ventureburn.com

Correction: October 23 2018
This article was corrected to reflect the proper spelling of Jumo.