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Get inspired by SA’s top 5 most exciting startups

January 10, 2023

SMEs, startups and entrepreneurs are the lifeforce of the South African economy, accounting for 68.3% of job creation. As a business enabler, xneelo is a proud supporter of the Heavy Chef Top 5 Most Exciting Startups Awards and all the brave individuals who take that huge step to start their own business. 

We asked the recipients of the Top 5 Most Exciting Startups awards for their advice on starting and running your own business to get you motivated for the year ahead. 

What advice would you give those who haven’t taken that first step?

“Don’t be afraid to talk about it to as many people as possible, find a mentor and network like crazy.” Joshua Raphael, Founder of Parket

Thato Schermer, Co-founder & CEO of Zoie Health
Trust yourself and take the leap. Oftentimes people can get stuck in the planning and ideation for so long when in actual fact most of the learning happens in action. And it doesn’t have to be a grand and complicated start in the beginning. It can be a pilot or a proof of concept. 

Sebastian Patel, Co-founder of Franc
Try validating your idea as much as possible by talking to potential customers and by using solutions that can quickly show whether you have something that people want without spending tons of time and money building an MVP. There are a lot of free tools one can use these days to create something (even if it’s stuck together with sticky tape in the background!).

Simon Ward, Founder and CEO of Floatpays
My advice. Just start – take that first step. If you never take the opportunity in front of you, you will never know if you could have solved the problem or need.


Joshua Raphael, Founder of Parket
I think a lot of research can be done before taking the leap. You’d be surprised how many people say they have an amazing idea but they have not “googled” it to see if anyone has or is doing it. Once a lot of research has been done I think there are cost effective ways to test if there is at least a small early adopter market for it. Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore is a good book on how to find this market and The Lean Startup is a good book on how to build cost effectively. I think once you get  repeat transactions from strangers that is a good place to then decide on jumping onto it full time. Don’t be afraid to talk about it to as many people as possible, find a mentor and network like crazy.

Mark Jones Co-founder and director of Curbon
There are three things you should value the most – being physically active, emotionally stable and mentally healthy. If you can do all three, you are in a very happy, stable state which is crucially important as a founder when it comes to communicating with others. When you are stable, you’re able to calm down and have the energy to solve what is in front of you. No one is going to tell you, “now is a good time”. You need to tell yourself this and start – don’t expect it to happen in a flash. Spend a couple hours a day on your idea and don’t listen to the “what ifs”. Once you start working on it, you’ll love it even more.

What has been your biggest learning so far?

“Adapt to what arises along your journey.” Mark Jones Co-Founder and director of Curbon

Thato Schermer, Co-founder and CEO of Zoie Health
People are the key to building a venture so working with those who are aligned in values, mission, work ethic and dedication is extremely important.

Sebastian Patel, Co-founder of Franc
There is no silver bullet for most big, important problems that startups face – you just have to keep going and be consistent and hope you get lucky along the way.

Simon Ward, Founder and CEO of Floatpays
I adapted a quote by Joshua J. Marine – “Life’s problems are what makes startup life interesting to be part of, creating solutions people love is what makes your startup life meaningful.”


Joshua Raphael, Founder of Parket
In entrepreneurship I would say perseverance. In one line I heard one of the best pieces of advice from a Y Combinator founder interview: “The best way to keep your startup alive is to just not die”. I also like Paul Graham’s “Rather work on finding 100 users that love you than 1000 users that like you” and lastly Jeff Bezos’s philosophy of “Gradatim ferociter”.

Mark Jones Co-founder and director of Curbon
Adaption is key. Be flexible, be agile and adapt to what arises along your journey. Make sure you are open to what life has to offer you – it’s got more to offer you than what you want to take from it.

Did you like this article? Learn what last year’s winners had to say here.

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