Four Of South Africa's Top Student Startups On How They're Changing The World

On Thursday 2 May at Workshop17 Watershed, Heavy Chef invited Alexandria Procter of DigsConnect, Mvelo Hlophe of Zaio, Xabiso Lombo of Guardian Gabriel and Tamir Shklaz of Quillo to present their fast growing enterprises to an enthralled Cape Town audience. What do these four startups have in common? They were all formulated in the dorm rooms of one of South Africa’s top universities.

Alexandria Procter, CEO DigsConnect is South Africa's largest student accommodation marketplace. is the place where students find their digs, and landlords find their tenants. In just over a year they've grown from being in one location, to being in eleven; and from having 300 beds listed on the site, to over 50 000. Alexandria is from the Eastern Cape, and moved to Cape Town to study Biology and Philosophy at UCT. During her third year, she was elected to the Students' Representative Council and had the portfolio which included off-campus housing for students. It was this experience which led to her start as a way to place UCT students in off-campus accommodation that was being offered by landlords looking for student tenants.

Mvelo Hlophe, CEO Zaio

Mvelo Hlophe is currently in final year at UCT studying BCom Politics, Philosophy and Economics. Mvelo is a student entrepreneur, founder and CEO of Zaio which is a platform that helps student developers land their dream job through a gamified process while studying. Students are upskilled through courses, coding challenges and tasked with real world projects from startups. Mvelo is also co-founder of a security tech company called Rydwith where he now sits as an adviser. "I believe in the power of self-assurance no matter your age or any other circumstance you may find yourself in."

Xabiso Lombo, CEO Guardian Gabriel

Xabiso is a highly presentable, energetic and enthusiastic young CEO. Using her theatrical background, Xabiso projects a strong presence on the Heavy Chef stage. Her company, Guardian Gabriel, creates a wearable, state-of-the-art panic button that operates entirely without the victim’s use of a smartphone. Xabiso says: “This idea came up in 2017 and our team has been working to bring it into fruition ever since. We are a team of four, with diverse and complementary skills. Our aim is to harness the power of the community and earn security.”

Tamir Shklaz, CEO Quillo

“I am a final year electrical and computer engineering student at UCT with a passion for banging against a keyboard until something useful pops out. I am passionate about the intersection of tech and education.” says Tamir Shklaz, CEO of Quillo. Tamir plans on dedicating his work towards bringing tertiary education into the 21st century and making it more meaningful and useful to its students. Quillo is a digital marketplace for second-hand university textbooks. Tamir says: “We make it cheaper (on average 70% cheaper), more convenient and safer to buy and sell second-hand textbooks. We currently serve 7500 students with plans to rapidly expand across South Africa. However, in the long run, Quillo is to be more than just a textbook marketplace. We exist to democratize information and resources at universities to make it more meaningful. Thus we plan to expand into other business models in order to revolutionize tertiary education in South Africa and Africa.”

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