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10 start-ups to watch in 2015

Companies set to disrupt industries in the coming year.

Some are barely out of their teething phase and are already starting to upend their predecessors, some are more established but finally gaining momentum in the industry, some are just unstoppable. Regardless, they’re all startups you should be looking at closely as they set to take on 2015. Here’s Moneyweb’s list of companies to watch:

Xiaomi, China

The four-year-old, Beijing-based, smartphone company upped its previous valuation of $10 billion to $45 billion following another round of funding late last year, making it the world’s most valuable technology start-up and the third largest smartphone supplier behind Samsung and Apple. What’s worth noting about Xiaomi is the organisation’s rapid growth trajectory: to date it’s the world’s fastest growing phone maker, selling 61 million devices and tripling its shipments in less than 12 months. Watch out for Xiaomi’s IPO early this year.

Fusion Media, USA

Last year we saw star journalists-turned-entrepreneurs team up with big tech backers (think Bezos, Omidyar, Hughes, Andreesen) to launch a range of next generation media brands set to challenge the established order of legacy media, including Vox, FiveThirtyEight, First Look and Fusion. The last one on the list is generating some major buzz in media circles, and has been touted as a new millennial platform answer to juggernaut networks like Fox and CNN. The new joint venture by Univision and Disney/ABC is just over a year old and while they’ve kept mum on the funding and valuation details the company has managed to poach some of the most dynamic brand journalists, like Alexis Madrigal (The Atlantic), Felix Salmon (Reuters), Kevin Roose (New York Magazine) and Kashmir Hill (Forbes).

WumDrop, Cape Town

Called the ‘Uber for deliveries’ by Tech Central, Cape Town-based courier start-up WumDrop aims to take the hack and hassle caused by South Africa’s delivery services and beleaguered postal system by matching drivers and customers through a mobile app request system similar to that of the ride-sharing company. WumDrop is not yet a year old and already has a fleet of drivers in both Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Telegram, Russia

Following the Sony hack and celebrity photo-leak scandals of 2014, cyber security and privacy are set to be huge preoccupation for both companies and citizens going forward. Enter Telegram, the Russian-based equivalent of Whatsapp, which is pretty much identical before you consider some impressive security features that include an advanced end-to-end encryption system and self-destructing messaging service. The founders have also put a $200.00 Bitcoin bounty for hackers who are able to crack their encryption protocol, which no one has been able to do so far. Not yet 18 months old, Telegram is already experiencing an astounding growing rate of a million users each week and 1 billion messages sent every day. This start-up could be a serious contender in the instant messaging world in 2015.

Stripe, San Francisco

When Twitter, Facebook and Apple needed an online payment system partner to back their e-commerce rollouts late last year, they all turned to new San Francisco-based startup Stripe, not Paypal, to do the job. Arguably the king of online payments at the moment, Stripe also provides the backbone payment infrastructure behind dozens of established tech companies, and in return enjoy 2.9% cut + a $0.30 transaction fee for their services. Stripe raised its valuation to $3.5 billion this year and is now fully operational in over 18 countries (although sadly, not yet in South Africa).

Rainfin, South Africa

Peer-to-peer lending, like Bitcoin, is a rising trend that has been met with equal parts excitement and apprehension from the consuming public. Barclay’s, however, had very few misgivings when the company purchased a 49% stake in Rainfin last year. Rainfin is a South African personal loans marketplace that connects everyday borrowers and lenders who are interested in investing in each other. According to founder Sean Emery (pictured), only 5% of loans have defaulted over the past two years of operations, with the site receiving an average of 350 daily signups. Whether you’re for or against peer lending, it’s going to be an interesting space to watch in 2015.

Slack, San Francisco

Slack is the workplace communications app you can’t work without, you just don’t know it yet. That’s the idea that got the barely-a-year-old start-up a $1.1 billion valuation, and we admit it’s a pretty awesome tool. Slack allows co-workers to send messages, share documents, join chats and assign roles all in one conducive one-stop-shop for collaborative work and communication. It’s pretty impressive that in a year dominated by cloud and mobile computing and project management darlings like Trello and Basecamp, Slack has emerged as one of the fastest growing collaborative platforms on the market since it launched in February 2014. It’s certainly worth an office test drive.

HealthQ Technologies, Stellenbosch

Based in Stellenbosch, the pioneering health technology company (and creator of the world’s first open-source metabolic chamber) has been quietly working on developing new wearable technology that will go beyond your basic exercise tracking functionality to allow users to personally monitor and optimise all vitals of the human body, including metabolic and neurological processes. No word on when the technology will be fully developed and on the market, but HealthQ’s journey into wearable tech echoes interesting development trends in the start-up ecosystem and, if executed correctly, could help reimagine the way we approach training, nutrition, health insurance and the world medicine entirely.

Mellowcabs, Cape Town

A mellowcab, designed by local entrepreneur Neil du Preez, is the rickshaw for next generation urban commuting and, if du Preez has his way, will help create considerably cheaper and more sustainable transport for the developing world. The three-wheel vehicle is entirely electrical, and relies on an advertising-based revenue model to survive while reducing the costs of service, meaning that low- income commuters can access transport more freely and at cheaper rates. Expect to see Mellowcabs on Cape Town roads in early 2015, and expect to see rapid expansion into Africa in the not-so-distant future.

Uber, San Francisco

Of course, Uber isn’t exactly new, but after a mammoth year of lawsuits, bizarre political alliances, a whopping 40 billion dollar valuation – and a myriad other controversies – the reigning ride-sharing service is undoubtedly going to be the most heavily scrutinised startup of 2015 as the public waits to see what uncharted territory CEO Travis Kalanick and his team will conquer next. 


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