The Diamonds In Botswana's Startup Ecosystem: 3 Early-stage Botswana Startups You Should Know About

For most people residing outside the landlocked southern African country, when they think of Botswana, the thought of diamonds, and not tech startups, comes to mind. But several startups in the country are on an innovation trajectory that could spur the country towards a tech startup ecosystem that is as notable as its diamonds.

One of those is Seriti Insights, an artificial intelligence (AI) startup that, according to co-founder Kagiso Mpa in an interview, “seeks to bring analytics and data together for better insights in order to give clients an advantage in the market”. They recently launched a martech media intelligence and social media listening tool called which seeks to make it easy for African marketers to track, monitor, and analyse consumer sentiments about brands on social media.

Co-founder and CEO Nomsa Makgabenyana states that “for the first time ever, a digital media listening tool is able to capture and understand the large volumes of sentiments of African consumers and sense the emotion behind social media posts about a particular product or service, delivering them to users of in a sleek and user-friendly dashboard.”

In a continent where social media is a vital driver of growth for brands, both big and small, Seriti Insights might be onto something with which allows marketers to process social media posts written in Setswana, English, Swahili and several other African languages. The startup has an interest in expanding into East Africa and according to Makgabenyana, it is looking to close a $350 000 seed round to fund those ambitions.

Vantage Properties is another Botswana-based startup worthy of note. To address the problem of expensive real estate property valuation in the country, which can cost upwards of 2000 pula (about $200) and take days without no certainty of the accuracy of the paid-for valuation, the prop-tech startup has developed GoSmartValue, a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) product which leverages on artificial intelligence and machine learning to offer instant property valuations at a fraction of the usual market price. 

According to founder and CEO Sethebe Manake, through GoSmartValue, Vantage Properties seeks to use technology “to inform decision-making in real estate”. The prop-tech startup has been on an impressive trajectory over the last year and a half, winning a “Most Innovative Real Estate Analytics Company” award at the 2020 Wealth & Finance Artificial Intelligence Awards, and raising an angel investment round

Vantage Properties is currently in the process of raising venture funding in the next 12 to 18 months and plans to use the capital to expand business and product development in order to penetrate and compete in the burgeoning African prop-tech scene.

Another Botswana startup currently making waves is AlphaDirect Insurtech. Initially a traditional insurance company, the startup has since transformed itself into  “a technology company that develops insurance products based on customer needs”, according to co-founder and CEO Arun Iyer.  To that end, they have built an in-house proprietary platform called “Graphite®” which “leverages on cutting-edge web & mobile technologies, with online registration, including AI-enabled chatbots, to deliver a seamless, fully-digital insurance experience”.

AlphaDirect Insurtech is currently in the process of raising $5 million in venture funding to fuel an expansion drive into neighbouring Zambia and South Africa as well as into other African markets where the insurance products industry is valued at over $70 billion.  

The startup has been doing well since its conception in 2019, raising undisclosed amounts of capital from venture firms in Singapore where it was reincorporated as well as winning several awards including “Innovation Of The Year” at the 2020 African Insurance Awards.

The current administration of President Mokgweetsi Masisi has set out an agenda to transform the country from a “resource-based” to a “knowledge-based” economy and a vibrant startup ecosystem will be an influential driver of that agenda. The aforementioned startups show the capability that the country’s innovators have in using technology to tackle the country’s most pressing socio-economic issues while also competing both regionally and continentally.

With an internet penetration rate of 61%, 164% mobile device penetration rate as well as a relatively stable political and regulatory climate, Botswana has most of the prerequisites needed to create a vibrant tech startup ecosystem and it seems like its only a matter of time before such an ecosystem gains momentum.

Although venture capital has not quite become ubiquitous in the country and funding rounds announcements are yet to become an every-other-day norm, enabling environment creating regulatory initiatives such as the recent enactment of the Botswana Data Protection Act, the launch of the Botswana National E-Commerce Strategy as well hosting of high-profile events such as the recent Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit Africa, look likely to stoke investor interest in the country’s tech startup scene.

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