Seedstars World is a Geneva-based company that holds competitions for startups around the world. Their list of competition winners from the last year includes 19 emerging market companies that are innovating products and services with some exceptional promise.

We believe that disruption (and therefore, innovation) comes from the edges. These edges might be at the edge of an industry, an economy or geography. The interesting thing about the 19 firms listed by Seedstars is that they’re beginning to focus their attention on taking their offerings into established markets. With access to crowdfunding and venture capitalists who are starting to look beyond established markets in order to get higher returns, these companies may be hugely successful. But more than just looking at them, they’re a symbol of the change in mindset of business leaders around the world. Emerging markets should not be ignored.

Elizabeth MacBride, a writer for Forbes magazine took the list and categorised it helpfully as follows:

Financing infrastructure is being constructed fast and at the cutting edge.

    • Accra, Ghana-based Kitawa is building a Bitcoin-based online payments platform.

    •, based in Kampala, Uganda, enables people from all over the world to transfer money to mobile wallets in Africa.

Emerging markets may have an edge in mobile.

Six of the companies are in the Consumer Web/Mobile space or have a strong mobile element. MacBride comments: “What’s interesting here is that emerging markets startups are evolving after mobile is already a huge part of the software equation. There are entire educational and business infrastructures being built in emerging markets that will incorporate mobile from the beginning.”

    • Blocks, which won the competition in Tehran before relocating its headquarters to the UK, is a modular smartwatch built on open software and hardware.

    • ChannelKit. The Moscow-based startup is a Pinterest for links.

    • Manads. The Baku, Azerbaijan startup is creating mobile phone advertising on after-scall screens

    • OkHi. The Nairobi-based company is “giving every smartphone a physical address” to counter bad physical infrastructure.

    • Washbox24, in Bangkok has a combined locker and software solution for laundry.

    • StudyPact. The Tokyo-based startup pays you for studying, but charges when you don’t meet your study goals.

    • Krowdpop. The Seoul-based company is a crowdfunding platform for Korean pop music.

Emerging markets entrepreneurs are working on world-class problems. These four companies are tackling big global problems. Their solutions, because they are born in emerging markets in an absence of older, less effective technology that already has a hold on the market, could have an edge, even globally.

    • Cape Town-based Khusela is building a low-cost fire detection device designed for slum environments.

    • Dubai-based KinTrans is working on a system that allows the hearing impaired to communicate by translating sign language into voice and text in real time.

    • Casablanca-based myVLE is an SasS online learning platform.

    • Lagos, Nigeria-based Green Energy is working on a process to convert municipal solid waste to petroleum and electrical energy.

E-commerce is an early wave. Six of the companies on the list were in e-commerce. E-commerce infrastructure may be an especially good bet in emerging markets, with fast-growing economies based on young people who will both want to buy and go into business.

    World map• Istanbul-based Prisync is a B2B company offering online price tracking and analytics

    • Triip, a Ho Chi Minh-based startup, is a crowdsourced platform for tours.

    • Bangalore-based Scandid. It’s a barcode-based product comparison app.

    • Amman-based Feesheh, which I wrote about before, is a online shopping site for musicial instruments.

    • Dakar-based Poeyek is building a tablet management device for small and informal businesses.

    • Kigali, Rwanda-based TorQue Workspace is an software that helps manage distribution for wholesalers.

I’m sometimes asked why I moved my family back from London to Johannesburg. It’s the energy and creativity inherent in emerging markets that’s a big part of the answer to that question.

Do you have any great examples of world class, globally focussed, emerging market businesses? Please share with us.

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