Three Kenyans Among Ten African Internet Millionaires To Watch
Africa may not yet have an Internet billionaire, but there are a handful of savvy African entrepreneurs who’ve built 7- and 8-figure fortunes by identifying and taking advantage of the opportunities on the continent’s web space.
Here’s a basic truth: In the next five to seven years, there’ll be an unprecedented explosion of Internet millionaires. A billionaire or two may even crop up. You never know. The signs are there. Massive broadband fiber optic cables are being laid everywhere from the West cost to the East, North and the South. Hungry techies everywhere from Nigeria to Ghana, Kenya and South Africa are building web-based companies providing simple solutions for some of our most daunting challenges and inconveniences. Some of the world’s most important investors are taking notice, and making huge bets. New York-based hedge fund Tiger Global Management, Swedish investment firm Kinnevik and Australia’s Seek.com.au have each made multi-million dollarinvestments in the continent’s Internet space, reinforcing the notion that the next gold mine could be Africa’s tech space.
A few people have gotten an early jumpstart on this, and they’ve made millions in the process. Here are ten people you should watch closely:
Abasiama Idaresit, Nigerian
Source: digital marketing
Idaresit, a Nigerian-born digital marketing expert, is the founder and CEO of Wild Fusion, one of Africa’s leading digital marketing agencies. Idaresit founded Wild Fusion in 2010 with no external funding and with a bootstrapped budget, transforming the company into a $6 million (annual revenues) digital marketing firm offering Internet marketing and digital strategy solutions to some of the largest international corporations operating in in sub-Saharan Africa. Wild Fusion’s clients include Visa V +0.49%, Vodafone VOD +0.04%, Samsung and Unilever UN +1.79% as well as several large Pan-African corporations. Wild Fusion, which is on track to make $10 million in revenues this year, also has operations in Kenya and Ghana. Wild Fusion was also Google’s first Adwords certified partner in West Africa.
Justin Clarke & Carey Eaton, South African, Kenyan
Source: One Africa Media
Justin Clarke and Carey Eaton co-founded One Africa Media (OAM), Africa’s largest online classifieds group. OAM owns some of Africa’s most prestigious and lucrative online properties, including PrivateProperty.co.za, South Africa’s leading property website; Jobberman.com, West Africa’s leading job website; Cheki.com,West and East Africa’s largest online auto marketplace; and SafariNow, South Africa’s leading travel and accommodation booking website. In June 2013, Seek, Australia’s largest recruitment portal, acquired a 25% stake in OAM for $20 million, valuing the company at $80 million. OAM’s three major shareholders are Justin Clarke, Carey Eaton and Tiger Global Management, a New York-based hedge fund.
Jason Njoku, Nigerian
Source: Nigerian movies
Jason Njoku is the founder of iRokoTV, the world’s largest distributor of Nigerian movies, which has been dubbed the ‘Netflix of Africa’. iRokoTV operates a service that streams Nigerian and Ghanaian movies online for free, while users who want to gain access to newer content have to pay a monthly subscription fee of $5. The service has been successful so far and iRoko has over 500,000 registered subscribers. iRokoTV has raised over $10 million in venture funding from Tiger Global Management, a New York-based private equity and hedge fund run by billionaire Chase Coleman, and $2 million from Swedish investment firm Kinnevik.
Herman Heunis, Namibian
Source: messaging services
Heunis was the original founder of MXit, Africa’s largest social network and the continent’s first mobile instant messenger. About 20 million people in more than 120 countries across the world now use MXit. The service runs on multiple mobile and computing platforms. In September 2011, World Of Avatar, an investmentcompany founded by South African millionaire Alan Knott Graig Jr., acquired MXit from Herman Heunis for over $50 million.
Adii Pienaar, South African
Source: WordPress Themes
Adii Pienaar, 28, is the founder of Woothemes, a company that designs and develops customizable commercial themes and plugins for WordPress. Adii built the business with a bootstrap budget, and the company today generates over $3 million in annual revenues from the sale of its themes. Woothemes also develops and sells themes for other content management systems, including Tumblr. He is now working on PublicBeta, a service that allows very successful entrepreneurs to transfer knowledge to new startups.
Ronnie Apteker, South African
Source: Internet services
The 45 year-old South African entrepreneur founded Internet Solutions, South Africa’s first Internet service provider, in 1993 shortly after the end of apartheid. The company provides its services to more than 70% of the companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. In 1997, Apteker sold Internet Solutions to Dimension Data Holdings, an Internet, communications and telecom services provider, for roughly $65 million. Apteker is currently an investor in South African Internet startups such as Randgo.com, which offers benefits such as discounts, preferential treatment and access to stock offerings from South Africa’s leading brands. He is also a movie producer and writer.
Gary Levitt, South African
Source: Email marketing
In 2008, the South African-born entrepreneur founded Mad Mimi, an email service that allows users create, send, share and track simple, scalable communications such as branded emails and newsletters online. Mad Mimi boasts over 150,000 corporate users and sends over 1 billion messages every month. The company has over 20 employees and annual revenues of about $6 million. Levitt is the controlling shareholder of the company.
Ayisi Makatiani, Kenyan
Source: Internet services
Makatiani made his first fortune by co-founding Africa Online, one of the earliest Internet service providers in Africa. He founded the company in 1994, and Africa Online provided dial-up, leased line and wireless connectivity services in Kenya and around East Africa. In 2000, Makatiani sold a significant chunk of his shareholding in the company to African Lakes Corporation PLC of Britain, retaining a minority stake reportedly valued at $10 million. He now runs Fanisi Capital, an African-focused private equity and venture capital fund.
Njeri Rionge, Kenyan
Source: Internet Services
Rionge now runs Ignite Consulting, a successful business consultancy based in Nairobi, but she earned her first fortune from co-founding Wananchi Online, an Internet service provider which is now East Africa’s leading cable, broadband and IP (internet-based) phone company. In 2011, Emerging Capital Partners, an American private equity firm, acquired a 50% stake in the company for $26 million.