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South Africa's Top 5 Most Exciting Startups Awards

The Premier Startup Awards in Southern Africa. 
Brought to you by Heavy Chef, PayFast, Workshop17, xneelo and Xero. 


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2022 Winners
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The 2022 Winners:
SA's Top 5 Most Exciting Startups

Congratulations to these fine companies. Selected from over 500 entries and adjudicated by a world-class panel of judges, here are South Africa's Top 5 Most Exciting Startups for 2022:

Curbon: E-commerce offsetting made simple. Curbon is an e-commerce plugin that effortlessly offsets their clients’ carbon footprint with each sale. Floatpays: Unlock the power of financial wellness at work through on-demand earned wage access, paycheck linked savings, financial education and practical tools. Franc: Smart investing for everyone through a simple and easy-to-use app that'll have you investing like a pro in minutes. Parket: The world's first turnkey digital access parking management system to provide cashless and ticketless public parking. Zoie Health: Zoie is an all-in-one women’s digital healthcare app.


Nominations are currently closed. Nominations South Africa's Top 5 Most Exciting Startups 2023 will open in September 2023. Tell your colleagues n' friends. For enquiries about the awards or the event, fill in the form below

* Book Your Seats: Avoid the mad rush, reserve your tickets now. Click here to buy now (or, if you're a Heavy Chef member, email us to get your free tickets). 

2022 Top 5 Startups Panel Of Judges

Robyn Smith, Founder, Faithful To Nature. Rob Paddock, Founder, Valenture Institute. Carla Thiele, Head of Marketing, Xero SA. Colleen Harrison, Head of Marketing, PayFast. Khanya Mncwabe, Founder, Matawi Mead. Zinhle Novazi, Director, Heavy Chef Foundation. Lukhanyo Neer, Director, Heavy Chef Foundation. Mark Peddle, Marketing Strategist, xneelo. 

SA's Top 5 Most Exciting Startups Awards brought to you by the following fine organisations:

With support from the following entrepreneur-focused organisations:

It's time to celebrate our heroes.

Every year, the South African entrepreneur ecosystem celebrates the amazing businesses that are driving the economy forward.

How Are The Startups Nominated? 
Heavy Chef puts out a call for entries in September each year. Nominations are collected on this page. 

When And Where Are The Winners Announced? 
The Top 5 Most Exciting Startups are announced at Workshop17 Watershed, at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town: 6pm 7th December 2022. Tickets are available via Heavy Chef here 

How Are The Startups Evaluated? 
The three main criteria are: 1) innovation, 2) scalability, 3) must have their own IP. 

Most of all, we're looking for 'exciting' startups. We're looking for startups that are changing the world in some way. 

What Are The Eligibility Criteria? 
These are the parameters that qualify startups for consideration:

  • Startups must have been trading for less than seven years. 
  • Startups must be registered as businesses in South Africa. 
  • Startups must have at least one South African founder. 

Note: we're not looking at financial results. However, it helps if you've come out of the gates strong. It also helps if you've attained a strong measure of recognition, media attention and publicity. Previous winners are not eligible. 

Who Are The Judges? 
Each year Top 5 Startups appoints eight highly-qualified persons to evaluate the nominations. Here are 2022's judges: 

  • Robyn Smith, Faithful to Nature.
  • Nokukhanya Mncwabe, Matawi.
  • Rob Paddock, Valenture Institute.
  • Colleen Harrison, PayFast.
  • Carla Thiele, Xero.
  • Mark Peddle, xneelo.
  • Zinhle Novazi, Heavy Chef (Judge Chairperson). 
  • Lukhanyo Neer, Heavy Chef.

When Are The Top 5 Named? 

Heavy Chef hosts a gala event at the beginning of December. Book your seats here.  

Previous Winners:
2017: Jumo, SweepSouth, Wala, Yoco, Zoona.
2018: Aerobotics, DataProphet, LifeCheq, LifeQ, Thursdays.
2019: 3x4 Genetics, DigsConnect, Lula, Mama Money, MyFanPark.
2020: Bathu, Carry1st, EasyEquities, MatchKit, Yebo Fresh. 
2021: FCB. ai. Kusini Water. Livestock Wealth. Valenture Institute. WalkFresh. 
2022: Curbon. Franc. Parket. Floatpays. Zoie. 

Who Are The Organisations Behind The Awards? 
The Top 5 Startups awards are proudly supported by PayFast and Xero (Premium Partners), in collaboration with Heavy Chef, xneelo and Workshop17. 

When Do Entries Close? 
Early Sep: Nominations open. 
End Oct: Final deadline for nominations. 
Early Nov: First round of judging starts. 
Mid Nov: Top 12 shortlist of startups named. 
End Nov: Final round of judging begins. 
Early Dec: SA's Top 5 Most Exciting Startups named at Workshop17 Watershed venue, Cape Town.

What Are Some Tips For Entries? 

  • Keep your entries short. 
  • Judges don't have time to read essays. 
  • Get to your point of distinction quickly. 
  • Entries are not judged on number of nominations (but it does help!)

South Africa's Premier Startup Awards Evening


2023 Partners
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2023 Judges

Book Your Tickets To The Final Awards Evening

6pm Thursday December 7th 2023.17 Dock Road. Workshop17 Watershed. V&A Waterfront, Cape Town 8002.