Here are five SA hardware startups making waves in 2019

Here are five SA hardware startups making waves in 2019

By Daniel Mpala 18 October 2019

More than many other kinds of businesses, startups that develop hardware solutions arguably face more challenges bringing their solution to market.

The sheer amount of time and money spent on research and development of these solutions, and in some instances issues with regulation, are a few of the reasons it takes hardware products longer to launch than that of their software-only counterparts.

It goes without saying that establishing, raising funding and running such companies is no easy feat.

In light of this, Ventureburn has identified five SA hardware startups that have made waves this year.

We didn’t include Cape Town startup Yoco in the five, but the fintech is worth a mention. Last month it announced that with the launch of new point-of-sale device, it’s looking to double its customer base from 50 000 to 100 000 in the next year ahead of a further fundraising round (see this story from TechCentral).


Pretoria-based IoT.nxt focuses on delivering innovative IoT software and hardware solutions. The startup is led by CEO Nico Steyn (pictured above) who founded the company in 2015 with Terje Moen and Bertus Jacobs.

IoT.nxt’s open platform network enables users of the platform to carry out rapid software development and integration.

The startup is also partnering with tech giant Dell to develop an IoT-in-a-box solution using IoT.nxt’s Raptor Device.

In May, mobile network operator Vodacom acquired 51% of the startup for an undisclosed amount (see this story). The deal was approved by the Competition Commission in August (see this story).

In September last year the startup set up a US office in Dallas. This followed the opening of an office in The Hague, in the Netherlands in February last year and a partnership the startup secured with listed Dutch company ICT Group NV.

In September last year, the startup set up a US office in Dallas. This followed the opening of an office in The Hague, in the Netherlands in July 2017 and a partnership the startup secured with listed Dutch company ICT Group NV.

Previously the startup raised R120-million in two rounds — from Talent10, a Midrand-based asset management company which at the time of the Vodacom deal held a 30% stake in the startup.

About 70% of the startup’s revenue last year came from SA businesses based in 16 different verticals including the mining, banking, ports and telecommunication among others. The remainder came from US customers.

The startup has seen massive growth — at least if employee growth is anything to go by. The company has grown to about 150 employees, after having started in late 2015 with just five people, adding about 40 jobs since the end of last year.

IoT.nxt expects to double its staff numbers by the end of this year, mostly through new local hires.


Cape Town based smart solar geyser startup Plentify was founded in 2017 by Jon Kornik (pictured above).

Earlier this month the startup won the SA finals of the EDF Pulse Africa innovation contest (see this story).

Plentify has developed a solution which turns turns water heaters into grid-connected thermal batteries which intelligently “recharge” when electricity is abundant on the grid.

By doing so, Plentify improves reliability, decreasing reliance on dirty, expensive generation, which saves households more than 50% of their water heating costs.

The startup does this with an easy-to-install Internet of Things (IoT) controller, a user friendly mobile application and a cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI) engine which turns each water heater on or off, based on the needs of the user and the grid.

Plentify will now participate in the grand finale of the contest which will be held in Paris next month where it stands to receive grants ranging from €5000 to €15 000.

Read more: Ventureburn



The State of IIoT


Today, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is ushering in a new era of productivity and efficiency for industries across the globe. Yet, despite decades of use among some industrial players, IIoT can still seem like an emerging technology.

As is often the case with the adoption of new technologies, the road to acceptance has been long. However, while some challenges continue to exist for engineers, the number of IIoT deployments is steadily growing. So, where does that leave IIoT and what does the future hold for IoT systems overall?


A slow start to adoption

Given its revolutionary impact on manufacturing, IIoT was initially anticipated to be rapidly adopted within the industrial space. In 2015, industry analysts predicted that come 2020, the market for connected devices would be anywhere between 50 billion and 100 billion units. Today, the forecast has fallen to a more conservative 20 billion or 30 billion units. The drop in expectations comes, in part, as one of IIoT’s prime uses – predictive maintenance – has proved much harder to scale than manufacturers initially expected.

Manufacturers struggled to integrate the new technology into their existing operational systems. As a result, in 2018, a survey of more than 600 high-tech executives by Bain & Company revealed that industrial clients were less enthused about predictive maintenance than they were just two years ago.

This kind of levelling of expectations is nothing new in the world of emerging technologies, but with 90% of businesses still in the planning phase, early predictions appear to have really missed the mark.

Current expectations and the future of IIoT

Despite initial growing pains, most industry analysts and pundits alike remain optimistic about the future of IIoT adoption. In particular, Gartner, Inc. forecasts that the enterprise and automotive IoT market will grow 21% to 5.8 billion endpoints in 2020. While by the end of 2019, it will be up 21.5%, with 4.8 billion endpoints expected to be in use.

According to the report, building automation will be the segment with the largest growth rate in 2020 (42%), followed by the automotive and healthcare sectors (31% and 29% respectively).

So far, their predictions appear to be holding true. IoT.nxt’s Terje Moen, having overseen the implementation of our unique technology solution across multiple verticals, notes that Smart Buildings solutions – to facilitate effective, efficient building management – stands out as the most in-demand amongst client ecosystems.

But, what exactly is an ‘endpoint’?

What is an IoT endpoint?

Essentially, an endpoint is a physical computing device that performs a task as an integral part of the interconnected ecosystem. These can be simple sensors or embedded devices within more complex environments. So, in the case of IoT, endpoints are the things that are connected to each other.

Examples of endpoints could include:

  • Wearables
  • Sensors
  • Smart Meters
  • Machinery, e.g. washing machine

The challenges facing IIoT adoption today

Ultimately, IoT extends beyond the commercial applications we talk about so frequently, or the smart devices changing the way we live. The technology being rolled out has huge potential and is set to change where and how businesses function in the future. So why isn’t it being adopted quicker? It comes down to a number of challenges, but what truly stands in the way of IoT adoption – particularly within the industrial space – are these five key factors:

1. Complexity of the technology

As is the case with the internet itself, IoT can be difficult to comprehend given it’s flattening effect. So, while the technology may be alluring for manufacturers it is so broad in scope that it can be hard for many companies to utilise at scale. Consequently, navigating the intricacies of IoT is holding some enterprises back in the planning phase of deployment. With roughly 3,000 IoT startups globally, it can also be difficult for manufacturers to choose an appropriate solution provider.

2. Lack of standards leading to ‘too many’

A lack of clearly defined standards has lead to the development of too many. Currently, there are over 400 standards – and growing. When you look across different vertical markets, this list grows even more as applications become increasingly more niche. For manufacturers, this serves to only generate confusion and take up more time in the initial development phase of implementation.

3. Security and privacy implications

Arguably one of the greatest concerns among customers is security and privacy. Increased connectivity and data sharing can give way to network vulnerabilities, cyber-crime and data breaches. So, since IoT devices communicate automatically, security as well as privacy are core concerns among manufacturers.

4. Expense and ROI concerns

Implementing IoT infrastructure is typically expensive, making ROI crucial for most corporations. For businesses, the cost of buying, installing and maintaining a robust IoT solution can be hard to justify. Especially since, in most instances, IoT solutions take years to fully establish. Companies want to know they will get good returns from such a huge investment and that in itself can be difficult to determine.

5. System integration and data overload

Many IIoT solutions are custom made or vendor-defined, this can pose a challenge for manufacturers as the data being collected may not be easily accessible or understandable. For data insights to be effective, the information collected by IIoT needs to be relevant to the customer and not overload them with unnecessary information.

Breaking barriers with bespoke IIoT solutions

IoT.nxt’s bespoke RaptorTM software offers smart solutions to the problems currently hindering the widespread adoption of IIoT technologies. From enabling smart control at the edge to activating true interoperability throughout your ecosystem, RaptorTM offers a unique solution to many of the issues manufacturers associate with IIoT technologies.

A true end-to-end provider

IoT.nxt understands the complexities manufacturers face in establishing IIoT technologies within their existing systems and procedures. So, we work directly with your business to develop strategies and implementation roadmaps that align with your business goals. No two businesses are the same and we’re focused on solving the unique industry challenges of individual clients.

No rip and replace

A lack of standards in the IIoT market has left many corporations cautious of IoT integration for fear it will waste time ripping and replacing their existing systems. Yet, IoT.nxt overlays it’s solution onto any device, process, or system to ensure seamless integration. Better still, our agnostic technology reduces unnecessary downtime by integrating seamlessly with current legacy systems.

Customised implementations

Since the IoT.nxt solutions exist concurrently with existing systems, the cost and implementation time typically associated with IIoT technologies does not apply. We can reduce associated costs by implementing our solution in slices, with little to no disruption to existing systems. Whether it’s a building, farm or base station, our RaptorTM software is geared towards rapid deployment.

Ensured data security

With IoT.nxt, manufacturers don’t have to turn away from smart IIoT technology due to security concerns. We protect what isn’t seen, granting peace of mind while simultaneously monitoring and collecting data to optimise connected assets.

As our Solution Design Engineer, Zahir Mamoojee, says “The RaptorTM enables these benefits by acting as a single gateway to the IoT cloud. By gearing security efforts towards that single gateway, it is possible to secure your information that has been transmitted to the cloud.”

Bespoke data generation

RaptorTM was designed with a specific set of protocol to only generate relevant data insights applicable to you and your systems. Our solution will set thresholds to alert you when there are anomalies, instead of just offering endless streams of data. No matter how rugged or remote the landscape, we can action change where it matters most to your business.

The best of IIoT with IoT.nxt solutions

While the technology landscape will always be blurry, companies that make IIoT a corporate initiative today can start moving toward greater successes in the near future. From schools to base stations, the IoT.nxt solution unlocks real-time, condition-based monitoring, predictive maintenance and self-healing system design. Optimise every corner of your ecosystem and opt for a true end-to-end provider.

Speak with our expert team today to see how we could help your operations.

IoT.nxt recognized as ISV Partner of the Year

ISV Partner of the Year


Centurion, South Africa. 2 October 2019. IoT technology innovator, IoT.nxt, was awarded the best Independent Software Vendor (ISV) partner award at the 2019 Microsoft Partner of the Year Awards presented in Johannesburg. The awards project recognizes Microsoft South Africa partners demonstrating excellence in innovation and the implementation of customer solutions based on Microsoft technology.

“This is testament to the dedication of our team who tirelessly strive for excellence in the pursuit and development of innovative, industry changing IoT solutions for our customers. As IoT.nxt’s global expansion picks up pace, accelerated by the partner investment from Vodafone’s South African subsidiary Vodacom, this accolade presents further endorsement of our ability to enter new markets, diverse industries and geographies,” says Nico Steyn, CEO.

“To be counted among some of the top established Microsoft partners driving disruptive innovation is a humbling feeling and the award is acknowledgement of our fantastic team for their hours of unwavering commitment, hard work and belief in our vision.”

The ISV award, a strategic category for which the winner is selected by the leadership team of Microsoft, is awarded to the partner that has added new customers to Microsoft Cloud by driving usage of Enterprise Commercial, Public Sector and Corporate Commercial via a repeatable, scalable and packaged solution.

“We partnered with Microsoft when we launched IoT.nxt in late 2015 and were awarded Gold Partner status for our data platform in 2017 as well as our cloud platform in 2018, joining select companies from around the globe in the Gold Partner network,” Steyn added.

“Our partners have delivered a true “master class” on how to bring technology to life and bring real-world, bottom-line value to customers, not just locally, but globally,” Lionel Moyal, Commercial Partner Director of Microsoft South Africa, said at the award presentation.


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