South Africa’s startup iKubu exits to GPS giant Garmin – Read what makes this deal special

The year starts off with a bang as Garmin, a pioneer in GPS navigation, announces it has acquired the assets of South African based iKubu, a privately-held designer of computer vision and radar systems for the cycling market. Keet van Zyl of KnifeCap, member of the VC4Africa Investor Network, shares why this deal is special to him. 

With the news breaking yesterday that Garmin acquired South African radar startup iKubu, the excitement in SiliconCape can almost be touched. It has been a real privilege being part of the deal team, but here are some of my reasons why this deal is extra special to me:

– Franz, Nolan and Denho are some of the nicest guys in the ecosystem;

– Another proof point that South African technology innovation is world class;

– Garmin is setting iKubu up to establish a research and development centre in Stellenbosch, South Africa;

– Validation of the impact a Business Accelerator [Grindstone] can make;

– Validation that Accelerators can be viable business models if done right;

– Corporates are in-sourcing innovation worldwide, and South Africa is ideally positioned for this;

– This is a relatively small scale-up with amazing tech and team. South Africa has many more of those!;

– It is the third NASDAQ exit by South African scale-ups that the KnifeCap team has been involved in (the CSense exit to General Electric, the Fundamo exit to Visa, the iKubu exit to Garmin);

– The right partnerships are key for high-growth companies;

– Exits happen;

– Everybody wins!

Huge congrats to the team! May your amazing corporate culture infect Garmin, and I hope the story inspires other entrepreneurs to punch above their weight!


Most of the former employees of iKubu will become employees of Garmin’s existing subsidiary in South Africa and will continue to operate primarily as a research and development center based in Stellenbosch. Financial terms of the acquisition have not beeen released.

iKubu was in the final stages of developing the Backtracker low-energy bike radar, a device that provides unparalleled situational awareness by giving the cyclist the speed and distance of vehicles that are approaching from behind. The road is scanned by a rear-facing radar module that also doubles as a dynamically flashing caution light, and the information is sent wirelessly to a handlebar-mounted head unit.

Cliff Pemble, Garmin’s president and CEO explains,’iKubu has found a way to implement short-range radar into a low-power system that addresses a common concern among cyclists – identifying potential hazards that are approaching them from behind. We are delighted to add this technology to the Garmin portfolio.’

Expanding on the new partnership Franz Struwig, the managing director of iKubu, explains, ‘Garmin is a technological leader among cyclists, and we are looking forward to integrating our technology and expertise into their outstanding products.’ And tapping into the infrastructure of a global company, he adds,’Garmin gives us the resources to develop, bring to market, and showcase our products that we otherwise would not have.’

The next exit on the road to a great 2015 for the African innovation space!