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Over 40 South African Tech Business Ideas That Require Little To No Capital
Technology businesses have become the darlings of the modern world, we marvel at these rags to riches stories and how small scale garage businesses moved on to become a worldwide phenomenon. Big names like Amazon, Google, Apple, Disney, Facebook are a few examples that become the templates for success with so many aspiring entrepreneurs looking to follow in their footsteps.
South Africa mind you are no different, the tech scene has begun to catch fire over the last five years with tech startups popping up all over Cape Town, Johannesburg and even Durban.
Picking your niche
The magic of the tech startup is in the fact that it can run with little to no investment, turn a profit that can be reinvested and begin to scale the company. The key is to start small, the same way many of the tech giants that are successful today did. South Africa has a unique economic climate with the ability to scale not as large or as rapid as more established markets; this means that businesses need to remain as lean and as agile for as long as possible if they aim to be around for a long time.
If you’re keen to start a low-cost tech business but not sure where to begin then here are a few ideas for tech businesses that you can start with little or no money.
1. Smartphone Repair
Smartphones are a massive market with new devices coming into the market each year. Consumers are beginning to depend on their device more and more and cannot live without it for too long, these devices may be robust, but they are by no means indestructible and will need to be repaired from time to time. There are definite needs and massive demand for Smartphone for repair services.
You can start a business where you have people bring in or send you their devices so you can fix various issues or even collect devices and make sure they are repaired on a busy customers behalf, providing an added layer of convenience.
2. Smartphone Accessory Manufacturing
As I've mentioned previously, the mobile market, especially in South Africa, its proliferation across the country gives rise to some interesting ancillary opportunities. Importing and selling a range of mobile phone accessories is one option. However, if you have the skill and guile, you should consider creating mobile phone accessories with a local twist preferably with locally sourced material. You can start with covers and sleeves and then expand to manufacture different accessories to go with smartphones, like charging cords, covers speakers and lenses, mountings and more.
3. Refurbished Device Sales
Manufacturing physical computers and smartphones can be a more massive scale operation. But you can still have a business where you sell those devices by restoring older models with new and improved parts. Buying up second-hand goods or accepting donated goods can be a great source of cheap spare parts, and from it, you can rebuild items and resell them at a hefty markup.
4. Computer Parts Manufacturing
You might also consider manufacturing different computer parts, especially if you can narrow down a specific niche. Your services could range from designing custom computer boxes, laptop sleeves and covers, keyboard wrapping or PC customisation.
5. Social Media Consulting
Social media continues to be a favourite marketing medium and businesses in many areas require a constant social presence. You can offer to manage various companies social media accounts not only from a marketing perspective but from a community management service too, handling questions and queries or directly engaging with their audience. You can also use your expertise in social media to start a consulting business where you help brands create strategies and content for various platforms.
For more on social media, management roles check out the following posts
6. Search Marketing Specialist (SEO or PPC)
Search marketing has become a fundamental need for businesses, showing up in Google for various searches stands out as the number one source of converting traffic over any other source and is the reason why search marketers have become so sort after. PPC and SEO specialists help businesses, and online publishers optimise their ads or online content for search engines.
For more on types of SEO's check out the following post - What is an SEO and what types of SEO's are there?
7. Digital Marketing Consulting
If you are a jack of all trades, you can offer a range of marketing services to businesses. You can consult or manage a range of marketing channels remotely such as SEO, PPC, Email and social media marketing. You can also focus more generally on online marketing for business clients, helping them with everything from advertising to content marketing giving them more coverage and you may get a bigger budget spread across channels to get the best leads.
8. Online Dating Site
They've been around for years and will continue to stick around; online dating sites will never die. Don't think because Tinder and Bumble are popular that you can't create your dating site. Pick a niche in your country or region and create a dating site aimed at connecting people of similar interests, you can then monetise your platform with ads or additional matchmaking services or premium subscriptions.
9. Web Design Service
If you have a knack for design why not offer your services and spruce up websites look and feel for not only their site but their social media, emails and even offline material. You can use your tech-savvy design skills, to design and develop websites for businesses and other clients. Remember many businesses don't have sites, or they do but do not update them, a 5 or 10-year-old site is due for an upgrade, so there's plenty of work in this space.
10. Software Development Service
If you're more of a coding professional, then you may be one of those sitting on a potential gold mine. Having skills like website development makes you sort after asset, and you can be requested on various projects to build custom website features, integration and more.
11. App Development Service
Mobile apps are also becoming increasingly important for businesses and creating, maintaining and even updating these apps can be a lucrative little niche for developers. Many companies buy off the shelf app templates, and you can help by managing and altering the app to fit their business goals and needs.
12. Mobile App Sales
Instead of building bespoke apps or updating apps, you could develop your mobile app templates instead of working with clients. Then you can make money by charging for the apps or offering in-app purchases.
13. Info-Tech Shop
If you’re interested in starting a retail business, you could open up a one-stop-shop where people can purchase tech items or bring in their gadgets for repairs. An all-around tech shop makes for various sources of income and keeps customers much longer than a store that has only one purpose.
14. IT Equipment Service
Technology is not full proof, and systems fail or become buggy over time. You could work with businesses by offering to repair or maintain various types of IT equipment like servers, charge them a monthly maintenance fee or bill when they call you out for running repairs.
15. IT Equipment Sales
Consumers and businesses require computers and various IT equipment so if you're someone who knows their computers you could source and sell that equipment to businesses and others who need it. You can also offer packages or work out deals based on client budgets to help them source the ideal machines in their price range.
16. Internet Cafe
Cafes are becoming more popular for freelancers and others looking for a comfortable place to use WiFi and get a good cup of coffee and a snack. You can set up a small coffee shop or coworking space where you offer internet access and offer other tech amenities at an additional fee like conference rooms or admin services.
17. Online School
If you’re an expert in a certain field why not share your knowledge on a particular topic, you could set up a website or online education platform where you offer course material directly to students. There are plenty of sites like Patreon and Udemy that will allow you to host paywall content and sell your courses online with limited technical know-how.
You can also set up a site or platform where people can access or rent various digital educational materials like PDFs, eBooks and reviews of various content.
19. Online Book Store
You could sell eBooks on your website, either your titles or eBooks that you license from other authors. Sites like Amazon allow you to sell eBooks via their affiliate program, so you don't have to worry about the technology and rake in the affiliate sales, this is a great option for book lovers looking to generate an income doing what they love.
20. Ebook Writing
If you are an expert wordsmith, you might also consider writing an ebook yourself and then offering those for sale on platforms like Amazon.
21. Digital Product Sales
You can also sell other digital products online, like printables, access to membership sites, gift cards or even online videos. You can source these various digital products curate them on your site and sell your picks to your audience.
22. E-commerce Platform
To help other entrepreneurs make a living online, you can create a platform where sellers can upload products to list for sales. You can connect buyers with sellers in a specific niche and take a commission or try monetising your platform with ads and promotional services.
23. Tech Blog
If you have a keen interested in technology or you enjoy writing about various tech, such as speculation, tips, hacks, product reviews then this could be a business opportunity. You can start your blog about the subject and make money through ads or sponsored content. You can write about the products you like or products you would like to see, the possibility for content is endless and content collaborations are premium in the tech industry, so you could be getting some freebies too.
24. Tech Podcast
Similarly, if you're not a fan of writing and like to talk you could start a podcast where you talk about new gadgets or innovations in the tech industry.
25. Tech Video Channel
If you want to diversify your content production, then it would be a good idea to opt for both podcasting and vlogging. You could also opt for creating only video content about technology, using a platform like YouTube to earn revenue through their in house ad monetising system.
26. Live streaming Influencer
Live streaming has become a popular way for people to communicate online. You can build up a following on platforms like Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Snapchat, VimmTV, Twitch and Periscope. You can broadcast on these various channels and build an audience who are more than willing to donate and interact with you, or you could make a living off ad revenue and branded content.
27. Live Streaming Service
You could even start your very own live streaming service that other people can use to share their thoughts and connect with followers in a certain niche. Creating a web show where you interact and give your feedback on your viewer's comments and ideas.
28. Online Video Platform
Similarly, you can start a website or app where people can share video content related to a particular topic or niche. You can use YouTube as the platform but your site as an additional curation method for added traffic and ad space selling.
29. Online Podcasting Platform
Similar to vlogging you could do the same with an audio platform where people can upload their podcasting content to share with potential listeners.
30. Tech Gadget Rentals
If you can purchase tech gadgets or refurbish gadgets that people might want to rent for specific situations, like projectors for presentations or cameras for photo shoots, you could start a business where you let customers rent those items.
31. Tech Consultant
If you have some general tech experience you can offer advice to business clients, you could start a consulting business where you help them make decisions about new device purchases and software implementation.
32. Remote IT Service
You could also start a business from your home where you provide insights and answer questions for people having IT issues for a set fee or for consulting hours. You can even log in to users PC's remote to fix problems they may have and charge them for your time.
33. Computer Setup Service
The majority of computer owners are not tech-savvy individuals and don't want the complications on getting a device up and running. Such is the pain of setting up a device that many are willing to skip the pain by paying someone else to do it for them. You can offer to help individuals who don’t want to go through the lengthy computer setup process on their own; you could charge a small fee to handle that task for them.
34. Computer Training Service
Alternatively, you could teach others how to get the most out of their new devices by offering workshops or one-on-one training sessions. A good idea would be to offer both setup and training services that way you have two sources of income.
35. Online Research Service
If you’re skilled with online researching tools and know-how to source information you could use your expertise to perform research for businesses and clients that need specific insights.
36. Live Chat Service
Live chat is becoming more prevalent for businesses and website owners that need a way to communicate with customers in real-time. So you could offer a plugin or platform to offer to those entities or a live chat management service and filter out queries for businesses, so they only spend time on the highest quality leads.
37. Chatbot Creator
You could also build a chatbot that uses AI to communicate with people and then offer it to business clients. There is a range of free chatbot templates on Github you can pick up and customise to client specifications.
38. Analytics Service
Company data has become increasingly important for spotting trends and pain points, and many businesses don't have the resources to crunch the numbers or spot insights. You could also create an online platform for businesses or website owners to gather analytical data about website performance, customer interactions or other online functions.
Alternatively, if you cannot build a platform, you can offer to analyse their business data for them and provide various business insights.
39. Influencer Marketing Platform
Influencer marketing is becoming a huge part of online marketing for a lot of businesses. So if you're a social media and personal branding expert, you could use your influence and audience and sell brands on content collaborations or paid content. If you're not an influencer what you can do is create an agency for influencers and get them to sign up with you, you will match influencers with brands and take a commission if brands work with your influencers.
40. 3D Printing Manufacturing
3D printing is another significant tech trend and will be one for the next ten years or more as we continue to explore its various applications. If you can design small parts or other products that can be 3D printed, you can start a small manufacturing operation.
41. UX Service
Online businesses are always looking to improve their conversion rates; even the slightest percentage increase can have a significant effect on revenue especially as businesses scale. If you have a background in user experience, you could quickly turn this trade into a profitable business with various revenue streams. You could offer to analyse website conversion and test multiple implementations, you could design new user flows to improve customer experience, you could conduct user experience research and user testing for businesses, you could do frameworks and design work for sites to implement and more.
42. Copywriting, blogging or ghostwriting services
If you're a wordsmith why not put that talent to good use and earn some money in the process. Start a blog in your favourite niche, approach your favourite businesses and ask if you could collaborate with them, or work for them as a freelancer for blogs or a ghostwriter for website copy, PR pieces or product pages.
Tell us your small business story
Have you started a small tech business? What type of business is it? Are you considering starting a small tech business? Let us know in the comments below; we would love to hear more about what South African entrepreneurs and hustlers are doing.
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