22 ON SLOANE partners with Fortress REIT Limited

22 On Sloane partners with Fortress Reit Limited to award r50k grants to 25 start-ups

GEN AFRICA | NOVEMBER 19, 2018

In its ongoing drive to support communities and stimulate business growth and development, Fortress REIT Limited partnered with 22 ON SLOANE to fund the next wave of emerging entrepreneurs across South Africa.

Earlier this year, some 87 eager start-ups were selected for 22 ON SLOANE’s Residency Programme. 22 ON SLOANE entered into a new and exciting partnership with Fortress REIT Limited to help South African start-ups scale, which includes awarding seed grants and access to additional technical support to the new intake for 2019. Since 2018, start-up residents at the campus have relished the opportunity to engage with various in-house support teams, build and polish their products, network and access various markets.

Of the initial 87 selected, 67 remain, boasting combined revenue of over USD7million and employing around 250 staff.

Jodie Ellinor-Dreyer, from Fortress REIT Limited, said “This is just the start. We hope to drive change and support more emerging businesses and the youth in their quest to grow. We look forward to a long and sustainable partnership with 22 ON SLOANE.”

The current 67 startups operate in diverse sectors with 70% of them leading great technology initiatives that spans across various sectors. Twenty-five of the current 67 residents from diverse economic sectors were selected to receive a seed grant of up to R50 000 each from Fortress REIT Limited. They received this grant during the much-anticipated Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW),that took place from the 12 to 18 November 2018. The annual GEW is a highlight on any entrepreneur’s calendar. It’s a celebration of innovators and job creators who launch start-ups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare. The week-long event held every November, inspires people everywhere through local, national and global activities, designed to help them explore their potential as self-starters and innovators. These activities range from large-scale competitions and events to intimate network gatherings, which connect participants to potential collaborators, mentors and even investors – introducing them to new possibilities and exciting opportunities.

GEW is supported by dozens of world leaders and a network of more than 15 000 partner organizations. Over nine million people participate in GEW activities globally. The Global Entrepreneurship Network Africa encourages various ecosystem partners to host GEW events in their communities and cities and seek partnerships from public and private sector stakeholders to support their activities.

This year, various South Africa ecosystem role players hosted more than 200 events across the country with a combined attendance of more than 20,000 people and 22 ON SLOANE also hosted its own activities.

Kizito Okechukwu, co-Chair of GEN Africa, thanked all partners for supporting 22 ON SLOANE, as well as those that champion other events within the entrepreneurial ecosystem. “For us, developing and supporting start-ups should remain our lifeblood; we should celebrate GEW every day and we urge other stakeholders to do the same”, he said.

 

For the 2019 Residency Programme, start-ups in the following sectors are encouraged to apply for residency:

Agriculture/agro-processing, E-commerce, Edu-tech, Fin-tech, Gaming, Health, Renewable Energy, Robotics, Transport and Manufacturing.

For applications, please visit www.22onsloane.co/residency-programme/

 

CLICK HERE TO VIEW the list of the 25 Startups that received R50k seed grants

 

  Name & Surname Business name Sector Description
1  Muralli Naidu Autoadviser Auto-Tech Using AI technology, Auto Advisor empowers consumers in the automotive space to make more informed decisions on car purchases, dealership choices and maintenance costs and to promote choice by allowing consumers to voice and share their experiences on a trusted community-based platform.
2 Simphiwe Nkula Khamzimla IT Solutions Fin-Tech Khazimla IT Solutions (Pty) Ltd is information, communications and technology company that focuses on providing integrated, mobile point of sale solutions, order management and cashless pay solutions for stakeholders within the informal trade sector. (the product is Info Trade App)
3  Taher Moosa Anylytical Technologies ICT The company use modern frameworks, tools and agile methodologies to deliver cutting edge solutions with minimal technical debts. They develop bespoke software solutions, offer advice on what technical route to follow, verify how stable and maintainable your code is, architecture review and software process review.
4  Warren Fritz BMC Firm Health-Tech Health Advisor is an app – based solution for the medical aid market which improves the healthcare plan buying and management process for consumers and enhances the customer relationship management between medical aid customers and their advisor/broker.
5  Tumelo Monyai Ndiza Aviation Solutions Aviation Ndiza Aviation Solutions is a provider of world class aviation solutions, tailored to meet the unique requirements of the aviation industry. They specialise in Aviation Cartography, Flight Procedure Design, Aeronautical Survey and Geographical Information System.
6  Banele Lukhele LukArts Education Luk Arts specializes in designing and rolling out creative arts based programmes to teach content, mainly in Mathematics, Science and English. Each programme is designed to be a fit for the client’s needs, looking specifically at learning styles, subject choices and resources available.

 

7 Mqondisi Mhlanzi Prime Time Studios Media-Tech As an internet based broadcasting company, Primetime Studios offers premium television content to paying subscribers across the country and the African continent. The channel aims to focus on Sports Lifestyle Content, Popular Culture, Travel, Current Affairs, Films, and Documentaries all from an African perspective.
8  Golden Hlongwane Magumuza Foods Food and Beverage Magumuza focuses on manufacturing food ingredients (spices, sauces) and the supply of food products to retail entities.
9  Melusi Ngwenya Dlloyd Creative Enterprise Digital services Dlloyd is a startup that provides bar-coding, labelling and digital printing services.
10  Moabelo Nzimande African Make Manufacturing African Make designs, supplies and rents unique and niche furnishings made from scrap tyres. These tyres offer comfort safety and pure relaxation in residential and commercial areas.
11  Sandile Mtshiki Phola Table Manufacturing Auto table has a versatile vehicle accessory that is both ideal and appropriate for motorists to utilise outdoors.
12  Koketsi Molefi Thaga Engineering Engineering Thaga Engineering renders engineering, construction, maintenance and consulting services to the power and petro-chemical Industry.
13  George Sindane Galattica Technologies ICT Galattica Technologies is a startup that focuses on ICT support for small and medium sized businesses.
14  Bontle Moeng BizNiz Africa Media BizNis is a startup independent online trade and investment news website that focuses on Africa’s 3 major business economic sectors such as: ICT, Mining, Energy.
15  Siphokazi Magcoba Sweet Gift Catering Food and Beverage Sweet Gift is a startup food and beverage company which focuses on providing catering services for small and medium businesses. Sweet Gift company was contracted in January 2018 as the in-house caterer for 22 on Sloane for a period of one year.
16  Francis Mande Rejanala Farms Agro-processing A rural based agri-business entity with a mission to enhance food security, create the much needed sustainable jobs for the marginalised and build rural economies into mainstream economies.
17  Nokwazi Mzobe Matoyana Consulting Education Matoyana is a boutique business consultancy agency with the single minded focus of enabling South Africa’s growing entrepreneurship economy. Targeting startups, small and medium enterprises, Matoyana’s business training and toolkit and expertise is all about promoting a culture of entrepreneurship, innovative thinking and sustainable business.
18  Maletuma Maile Basotho Heart Food and Beverage Manufacturing of home-style, non-alcoholic ginger beer that draws from the health benefits of the ginger root.
19  John Golden Digital Display Technologies Digital services Provides indoor and outdoor digital signage solutions for marketing and communication purposes.
20  Napo Mopeli Setsumi Agency & Trading Enterprises Renewable Energy Setsumi Agency and Trading Enterprise (Pty) Ltd t/a SAT Enterprise use primary agricultural produce and by-products to produce green energy and processed products like, cooking oil, juice, peanut butter, animal feed, etc.
21  Tebogo Mashego Ditsogo Projects Manufacturing and Engineering Ditsogo Projects specializes in metal fabrication and steel engineering services. They specialise in; Metal fabrication, Steel Engineering Services, Rolling Stock-underground material and explosive cars, Structural steelwork- carports, fencing, hopper & chutes, Conveyor structures- idlers, rollers, stairways, floor gratings, handrails, Supply of steel tubing and gratings

 

Add-On Services: Hydraulic and Pneumatic Cylinder repairs, CNC Turning, Sleeves-Diff housing, taper, cradle, trunnion, bucket Pulleys-Air-con, idler, tensioner, Pins and Bushes-Articulation, link, steering, Repairs and maintenance of Excavators, Front end loaders, TLB, Plant Hire and Transport.

 

22  Blessing Ngorima Aero 247 Drone Tech Aero 247 offers professional and world class drones engineering, training in manufacturing, design, modelling, analysis, coding, embedded systems, MATLAB, CATIA, CFD, repair, maintenance & operations of drones through a certificate and diploma course and industry relevant seminars & workshop
23  Whitney Jacobs Employ Me HR-Tech EmployMe South Africa (employmesa.com) is a web application that aims to reduce the cost of attending interviews by giving jobseekers the opportunity to upload a short video to accompany their online profile so that employers can get an idea of their personality, which is an important factor in assessing their cultural fit.
24  Lethabo Mashamaite Arnot Ash Manufacturing Arnot Ash is established with the objective of buying / acquiring Flying Ash to sell to the market for profit. Fly Ash is a by-product of the coal combustion process, derived from burning pulverized coal in electric power generating plants. When mixed with cement and water, Fly Ash becomes cementitious, which improves long-term strength of concrete.
25 Jonathan Maphosa Maphosa Attorneys Legal-Tech Maphosa Attorneys is a Law Firm with unique legal technology interests backed up by a research and development team comprised of lawyers, data analysts and software developers that specialise in Artificial intelligence (AI) and its legal practice applications. They have developed various legal toolkits that make  use of AI in legal research, legal documentation mining in discovery and due diligence, automated machine responses to routine legal queries, case law and data  analysis to predict case outcomes and smart contract drafting are just a few examples of our research and development areas in the realm of legal AI with the objective of establishing more efficient, faster and cheaper access to justice and legal services by making use of their intelligent software.

 

 

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Microsoft launches Head Start

MICROSOFT LAUNCHES HEAD-START: AN END-TO-END PROGRAM BUILD TO HELP TECH START-UPS GROW

FLEISHMAN | NOVEMBER 14, 2018

Microsoft launches Head Start: an end-to-end program built to help tech startups grow

 To win, you have to begin. Microsoft offers technology, community, and go-to-market benefits to help startups grow.

 Monday, 12 November 2018, Johannesburg – Microsoft launches Head Start: an end-to-end program built to help tech startups grow– Microsoft South Africa today launches Head Start – a support program that boosts tech startups by giving them open access to wide-ranging skills development resources, coaches and mentors, a fully-fledged customer network, and the platform on which to build their products and services.

Head Start is a complete program that will help tech startups innovate in the most trusted cloud – Azure – while strengthening the local startup system and preparing them to sell to global marketplace. South Africans who want to take their tech business to the next level can register and join the Microsoft South Africa Head Start programme here.

 

“As a company whose mission it is to empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more, we get how critical entrepreneurship is, especially in the South African context where job creation is vital if we are to improve our economy,” says Lionel Moyal, Commercial Partners Lead at Microsoft South Africa.

The Economic Impact of IT and Microsoft in South Africa Report Microsoft recently undertook with IDC shows how IT job opportunities are growing three-times faster than national job opportunities. “We want to give as much support to tech startups as we can to make South Africa more globally competitive, and create jobs, but, if we don’t have skilled South Africans to fill these jobs it will be at a loss. Many of these amazing opportunities run the risk of being lost in the country due to the current skills gap that exists, which we’re working hard to close,” he says.

The report shows how cloud computing is driving massive growth in IT[1]. Over the next five years – between 2017 and 2022 – the adoption of cloud services will generate nearly 112,000 net new jobs in South Africa, of which Microsoft will contribute to 44% of the available opportunities, offering 53,000 net new jobs in South Africa. In today’s economic environment, that’s substantial.

To succeed, tech startups need three specific doors to open: the Technology door, the Business Development door and the Compliance, Regulation and Legal door. “A key differentiator of the Head Start program is the direct access to coaches and mentors that candidates have to guide them through these three key areas, with over 50 Microsoft South Africa staff volunteering to mentor. Candidates just need to schedule an hour meeting with various business experts from multiple fields across the business, and they’ll get one-to-one expert advice straight from those in the know,” says Moyal.

The three mentoring categories are defined as follows:

  • Technology: App development, Data and AI, DevOps, Cloud Platform, Security, Business Apps, Modern Workplace
  • Business: Marketing, HR, Finance, Business Development
  • Legal: GDPR, Security, Compliance and Legal

The business benefits for tech startups are multiple and immediate. When candidates join the Microsoft Partner Network, they instantly become part of a global community that connects them to the relationships, insights, tools, resources, and programs needed to amaze customers and drive growth. Signing up to Head Start means direct access to digital coaching and training, live events, and more. With all types of internationally-recognised qualifications and certifications offered by Microsoft Head Start, tech startups can vastly improve their knowledge and boost their organisation’s trajectory.

Moyal explains that through Head Start, Microsoft South Africa can help grow tech startup businesses by opening the right doors at every stage of the journey. And with over ten high-level partners involved in Head Start, the added value proposition is hard to resist. Candidates can look up the partners on the Head Start website.

“When we talk about empowerment, we simply mean that with the right tools, anyone can become anything. By connecting tech startups with a worldwide network of customers, cloud architects, business development experts, and the latest cloud technologies, Microsoft wants to nurture and evolve these startups into fully-fledged Microsoft partners themselves. The ecosystem itself is far bigger than Microsoft, but by backing the bold entrepreneurial spirit of the brave tech startup, we can bring real change to the future of the country and the continent. There’s no better investment,” concludes Moyal.

The launch of Microsoft Head Start coincides with Global Entrepreneurship Week (12 – 18 November 2018), where millions are inspired to unleash their ideas, start and scale new businesses, and connect to potential collaborators, policymakers, researchers, mentors and even investors.

 
 
 

 

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Global Entrepreneurship Week 2018 kicks off strong

GLOBAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP WEEK KICKS OFF STRONG

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | NOVEMBER 12, 2018

This year’s Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) got off to a flying start yesterday with the South Africa launch taking place at the 22 on Sloane start-up campus in Bryanston.

The eagerly-awaited event attracted over 500 entrepreneurial ecosystem stakeholders which included start-ups, investors, policymakers and various incubator and accelerator networks. Lindiwe Zulu, the Minister of Small Business Development, officially launched the week and welcomed all to what is set to be a jam-packed and dynamic cauldron of vibrant entrepreneurial energy. The minister also participated in the panel discussion that focused on how technology can be a vital enabler to help solve the burgeoning youth unemployment crisis.

 
The Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) is the world’s largest celebration of innovators and job creators who launch start-ups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare. During one week each November, GEW inspires people everywhere through local, national and global activities designed to help them explore their potential as self-starters and innovators. These activities range from large-scale competitions and events to intimate network gatherings, which connect participants to potential collaborators, mentors and even investors – introducing them to new possibilities and exciting opportunities.

 

GEW is more than just an awareness campaign, it is a global platform for connection and collaboration, engaging all players in the entrepreneurship spectrum and strengthening international ecosystems, supported and endorsed by dozens of world leaders. GEN Africa encourages various ecosystem partners to host events in their communities and cities and seek partnerships from big and small businesses to support their activities.

 

I have strongly stated that over the years, many, if not most of the start-ups that have managed to scale were inspired by the GEW’s strong ethos and contagious spirit. It continues to inspire many to do so by supporting, understanding, celebrating and connecting the entire entrepreneurship ecosystem. Last year’s GEW statistics were absolutely phenomenal. Over 167 countries participated with 17 000 partners, 39 000 events, eight million people and a whopping USD$159million in play. In South Africa alone, more than 60 events were held with some 15 000 people participating. Invaluable testimony to the event’s global staying power.

 

This year, South Africa will host around 100 events. These include a full week of activities at 22 on Sloane with each day having its own theme. Taking place tomorrow (Wednesday) is the Microsoft Tech day – definitely a highlight not to be missed, which will incorporate the launch of the Microsoft HeadStart programme. This focuses on supporting tech start-ups in South Africa and will help:

 

  • Improve your knowledge and your organization’s trajectory with all types of training and certifications offered by Microsoft HeadStart.
  • Open the right doors at every stage of your journey by connecting you with a worldwide network of customers, cloud architects, business development experts and the latest cloud technologies.
  • Build the right solution with expert support.
  • Grow your customer base by introducing you to its extensive worldwide network of enterprises, governments and other start-ups from around the world.
  • Ensure compliance, regulation and assistance with business-based legal matters.
  • Grow and evolve your tech start-up into a fully-fledged Microsoft partner.

The Microsoft Tech Day will also offer sessions on Cloud Computing, Artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, to name a few, which includes building an AI station from scratch on the day.

Included in the programme is a Youth and Social Entrepreneurship Day, which will be led by SAB Foundation on Thursday and a Funding Day on Friday, which will be led by the Industrial Development Corporation and various Venture Capitalists.

 

To find activities happening in your community/city, visit: https://genglobal.org/south-africa

To attend GEW events at 22 on Sloane, visit: https://www.22onsloane.co/gew/

Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

 
 
 

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22 On Sloane to launch its Startup Residency programme at the GEW

22 oN sLOANE to launch startup residency programme at the global entrepreneurship week

GEN AFRICA | NOVEMBER 5, 2018

The Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa 22 on Sloane has launched its 2019 Startup residency programme which aims to attract over 100 startups to join its startup campus in Bryanston. This will mark the second year of its residency programme.

The Global Entrepreneurship Network operates a platform of programmes in 173 nations aimed to encourage the start and scale of new and young businesses. The 2019 applications will focus mainly on inviting Tech-based start-ups from the AgriTech; E-Commerce, EduTech, EnergyTech, FinTech, Gaming, HealthTech, Robotics and TransportTech sectors. In addition, start-ups from the agro-processing and large scale manufacturing sectors are also invited to apply. 22 on Sloane will be enlisting additional mentors and programme managers with technical expertise to support 100 of the start-ups which qualify for the 2019 residency programme. This year saw the appointment of the former Statistician General, Pali Lehohla, as a resident Research Advisor at 22 on Sloane and a few more appointments of learned and technical colleagues will be made over the next few months.

In 2018, 22 on Sloane selected 87 startups that joined its 2018 programme and have made a cash and kind investment to start-ups from its 2018 programme. Over 1000 applications were received in 2017 and 87 start-ups were selected for 2018 residency. The current number of resident start-ups is now at 60 with a combined revenue of over USD$7million, employing over 200 staff.

 

During the Global Entrepreneurship Week which takes place from 12-16 November at 22 on Sloane, startups will get the opportunity to pitch to a panel of judges for an opportunity to join the residency programme. During one week every November, thousands of events and competitions in more than 170 countries inspire millions to engage in entrepreneurial activity, while connecting them to potential collaborators, mentors and even investors. Powered by the Kauffman Foundation, the initiative is supported by dozens of world leaders and a network of more than 15 000 partner organizations.

 

The Global Entrepreneurship Week in South Africa will also offer various exciting sessions, masterclasses and networking sessions for entrepreneurs. The programme of the week will include:

 

  • Monday 12 November 2018 – The Global Entrepreneurship Launch and Policy Day to be led by the Department of Small Business Development
  • Tuesday 13 November 2018 – Agro-Processing and Manufacturing Day to be led by the Industrial Development Corporation and Nestle
  • Wednesday 14 November 2018 – Technology Day to be led by Microsoft. Microsoft will launch its HeadStart programme for Tech startups in South Africa
  • Thursday 15 November – Social Entrepreneurship Day to be led by SAB Foundation and Industrial Development Corporation
  • Friday 16 November – Funding Day to be led by various Venture Capitals, and Development Financial Institutions.

Microsoft’s HeadStart programme aims to support ten tech-based start-ups by providing access to customers, mentors and the platform to build their products and services. These chosen few will be selected from 22 on Sloane’s annual call for 2019 residency at its campus, which attracts over 100 start-ups.

 

The HeadStart programme will help start-ups to innovate in the most trusted cloud, prepare them to sell to global firms, use any development tool/language and connect with their local community. The most challenging part of an entrepreneur’s life is opening doors. Through this programme Microsoft South Africa aims to help startups grow their business by opening the right door at every stage of your journey – by connecting them with worldwide network of customers, cloud architects, business development experts and latest and most innovative cloud technologies.

 

For more information on attending the Global Entrepreneurship Week, visit: https://www.22onsloane.co/gew/

 

For more information to apply for the startup residency programme, visit: https://www.22onsloane.co/residency-programme/

 

 

 

 

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Opportunities for startups from the South Africa Investment Conference

OPPORTUNITIES FOR STARTUPS FROM THE SOUTH AFRICA INVESTMENT CONFERENCE

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | OCTOBER 29, 2018

Last week, I was honoured to be invited to the now much-talked about Investment Conference, hosted by the South African Government. As I mingled among the various captains of industry, entrepreneurs, ministers and deputy ministers, premiers and members of civil society, there was a tangible aura of excitement in an environment abuzz with positivity.

A few weeks prior to attending the conference, my team and I were also afforded the invaluable opportunity to work with the organisers to look more closely at the start-up landscape in South Africa.

This included sending invites to the 15 accelerator networks in the country, urging them to make sure their start-ups stood a chance of participating in the conference.

Just the mere fact that this proposal of involving startups at the conference was heard was encouraging.

 
I also participated in the Impact Investment summit, which took place at the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) the day before the investment conference. This focused on devising more efficient and effective ways to fast-track the deployment of capital to ensure social, environmental and financial returns. I strongly made the point to the panel that, over the years, capital deployment has been far too biased towards financial returns. An impactful investment looks beyond that and analyses the social and environmental impact of the investments made.

Back to the investment summit! The majority of the speakers were in unison about the importance of investing in South Africa and the great economic potential it possesses. This included the eager, work-hungry youth, the country’s gateway status to the continent and the keen understanding South Africa has regarding the value of partnerships and collaboration.

During the conference, many significant short/long term commitments and pledges were made. The President announced that the total investment raised at the conference is at R290bn, while the envoys have also received pledges of R400bn from various global institutions. The next step is signing on the dotted line and bringing these commitments back home.

For startups, I see the conference as a great opportunity. Here are some of the key investments I think are worth noting and some opportunities for startups to tap into:

Sappi R7.7bn ; Mondi R8bn: Vedanta Resources R21bn;Bushveld Minerals R2.5bn;

Anglo American R71.5bn; Rain R1bn; Mercedes Benz R10bn; Sumitono Rubber R970m

Sanral R9.5bn; Naamsa (the national group of car manufacturers) R40bn; Nestlé R663m; P&G R300m; McDonald’s R3bn; Aspen R3.3bn; Vodacom R50bn; Aqua Power R28.7bn; BRICS Development Bank R29bn; Multichoice R1bn; Tokio Marine R1.3bn and Green Climate Fund R1.3bn. Within all these, there are opportunities for startups to analyse value chains of these companies and explore potential collaboration with them.

 

 The other notable investments with direct benefits to the startups include:

 IDC R3.6bn: these funds are earmarked specifically to support entrepreneurs

  • Amazon: The Company has committed to build the AWS cloud computing regional centre in (Cape Town) South Africa – significant as it allows start-ups to build on their platform.
  • Mara R1.5bn: This is one of the most impressive investments. Ashish Thakkar Founder of Mara announced that he will be manufacturing cell phones from South Africa, making it one of the first African-made mobile devices.
  • Naspers R6bn: Also impressive, as they have committed half of their investments to fund Tech start-ups.

 

Many, if not most of the investing company’s executives were quick to stress the importance of involving the communities in which they operate and to ensure that start-ups and small businesses are also prioritised and given more opportunity to benefit from these investments. Even Jack Ma dared everyone during the conference dinner not to underestimate startups.

It will be interesting to see if all these lucrative funding initiatives actually do in fact present small businesses with opportunities (I’m quietly confident they will). But I say this because any economy that leaves its start-ups in a cold, frustrating place does so at its peril.

In this regard, thriving economies like Germany and France are extremely important case studies for South Africa. Countries such as these are the industrial heartbeats, the banking bedrock of Europe at large, thanks to the abundance of SMEs in their value chains, which continue to help drive the economy of both their country and their continent and keep both sustainable.

We’ll all concur that the recently concluded investment conference is a big step in the right direction. Perhaps the next discussions should borrow from Europe and focus on how we build our own capable, strong and diversified SMEs that can support, boost and strengthen the economy.

Many of our start-ups have proven their economic worth and market viability. Now they’re champing at the bit to get off to a flying start with funding injections so they can fully commit to reaching their long term goals, those of their investors and substantiate their economic significance.

While they wait, I can almost hear them humming to The Rolling Stones classic, “If you start me up, I’ll never stop, never stop…”

Kizito Okechukwu is the co-chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

 
 
 

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Kigali to Host GEC+Africa, Plans to Be Announced during GEW

kigali to host gec+africa, plans to be announced during global entrepreneurship week

GEN AFRICA | OCTOBER 22, 2018

GEN Africa, which operates pan-African projects as part of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), announced today that it has selected Kigali to host its first GEC+Africa event, to be held 7-8 August 2019 at the Kigali Convention Centre.

GEC+Africa, a new initiative of GEN Africa that was launched in 2017 at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) in Johannesburg, will gather investors, startups, accelerators and other entrepreneurial support organizations from across the continent.

The announcement followed a visit to Rwanda where a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between GEN Africa, led by Kizito Okechukwu, and the CEO of the Rwandan Convention Bureau, Denise Omany.

“After meeting with ministers, CEOs and most importantly young students, I am even more confident that Rwanda is an ideal place to convene entrepreneurs and those backing them seeking to scale Africa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and performance,” said Okechukwu.  “I have experienced both the warm hospitality and determination of Rwanda’s leaders in securing the rights to host this important event in Rwanda.”

GEC+Africa is aligned with the African Union Agenda 2063 “The Africa We Want,” which aims to create an Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth. This GEC+Africa will focus on six key sectors – agriculture, education, energy, e-commerce, finance, health, technology, and transportation.

 

Rwanda Convention Bureau Chief Executive Officer Mrs Denise B. Omany said that, “As MICE tourism destination, we are thrilled to be hosting a progressive event like GEC + Africa for the 1st time. This event is expected to bring in 1000+ International delegates to participate in the event, any efforts to inspire and educate budding entrepreneurs is certainly encouraged here in Rwanda.

Post event, as Global Entrepreneurship Network are working on creating one global entrepreneurial ecosystem, we were pleased to learn that GEN in partnership with the Government of Rwanda will be opening the doors of their Rwanda branch, which will act as a HUB advancing research and creating new and innovative startups.”

Rwanda is a vibrant economy with energetic and motivated young people. The economy grew at 6.7% in the last quarter and recorded an unemployment rate of 16%. The government’s ambition to reshape and empower its youth after the 1994 genocide, is evident in the refurbished infrastructure and the various support and educational programmes that are in place. The country is also driving tourism and has made it a key focus area over the next few years.

 

GEC+Africa will also welcome African ministers – a vital missing link in the support system for entrepreneurs – who will discuss reforms for policies that continue to hinder the development of startups. The GEC+Africa ministerial meeting – held as part of the global Startup Nations Ministerial process – will be chaired by Vincent Munyeshyaka, Rwandan Minister of Trade and Industry. It will be co-hosted by Rosemary Mbabazi, Rwandan Minister of Youth, and Jean de Dieu Rurangirwa, Rwandan Minister of Information Technology and Communications and about other 25 Ministers from the rest of the African continent.

As part of the road to this important event, Rwandans will celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week from the 9th – 16th of November, 2018 during which further details about GEC+Africa will be announced.

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About the Global Entrepreneurship Network

The Global Entrepreneurship Network operates a platform of programmes in 170 nations aimed at making it easier for anyone, anywhere to start and scale a viable business. GEN helps celebrate, understand, support and connect entrepreneurs and those who champion them.

GEN Africa brings together a broad collection of start-up ecosystem leaders throughout the continent to power the next generation of entrepreneurs in Africa. Its vision is to transform and scale the entrepreneurial landscape with customized support and development programs, connecting African startups – and the organizations that support them – to a global network that can help drive innovation and economic growth.

 

 

 

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Investing in start-ups should be our collateral beauty.

investing in start-ups should be our collateral beauty

GEN AFRICA | OCTOBER 15, 2018

Over the past weekend, I watched a movie called Collateral Beauty starring Will Smith. He plays a successful New York advertising executive who suffers a great tragedy when his family dies. This made him instantly retreat from work, which compromised his business, seeing him lose both his clients and staff.

Will sought answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death on why this unfortunate event took place. His letters received ‘answers’ and he began to understand how these three constants interlock in a life fully lived and how even the deepest loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.

To set the premise for this article, collateral damage is defined as the damage left after an incident or tragedy to the unintended ‘victim’ or other persons, while collateral beauty is the positive or beauty of what comes after an incident or tragedy.

 
 

From an African experience perspective, our collateral damage is the continent’s high and rising unemployment rate, lack of risk appetite to invest in our start-ups and the severe absence of commitment from our leaders to improve the welfare of their citizens, especially the frustrated, market-hungry youth.

At this stage in our development, our experiences should be shaped on the collateral beauty that exists. The power, knowledge and opportunity that many of our youth present to us is undoubtedly a blessing for the continent, but why do we constantly turn a blind eye and not leverage their capabilities?

Every day, I meet many young bright sparks with brilliant concepts and I wish we could implement just 5% of their initiatives. Yet, nine times out of ten, their frustrations and the ever-present stumbling blocks force them to cower away and become just another nine-to-fiver, trying desperately to climb the never-ending corporate ladder.

Most governments try hard to offer big businesses incentives to create jobs. But the fact of the matter is they do not understand that big business cannot just create jobs, pull them out of thin air, so to speak. New jobs are needs-based according to the company’s business plan and must be budgeted for, no matter how rewarding the incentive is.

Last week, I spoke to several large corporate executives and many told me that it’s easier to pay R10 – 50 million to their advertising and marketing agencies than to create a single, entry level job for a low- or mid-skilled worker. Creating just one job is wrapped in red tape and requires memo after memo and signature after signature to justify it only for consideration.

 

But for small business owners, it’s a different scenario. Once they realise the need for additional human resources, they’re able to post the position immediately, justifying my opinion further that government needs to invest more in startups to help them grow, which in turn helps them to kick-start youth employment from the ground up.

Recently, one of our start-ups needed funding. She went through various DFI and government channels, yet was met constantly with the dreaded ‘F-word’. Frustration.

This stems from the fact that most in charge of funding and approvals do not actually even understand a business plan or a turnover forecast, as they have never run a business. I sit in boardrooms and often hear “that we have outsourced our most prized possession of investment capital to people that have no clue about what is going on”. Our start-up then chose the private capital route and boom, she got the funding she needed (and deservedly so I might add!) to take her business to the next level.

In his piece over the weekend, Andile Khumalo mentioned that the recently concluded jobs summit dilly-dallied over so many issues and lacked the strategy to advance long term benefit for the economy.

Minister Naledi Pandor in her published interview over the weekend also highlighted that platforms like the Jobs Summit are great and it’s good to talk about these things but talk should be followed by key actions and implementation. She also shared a story on how her kids took the courage to venture into starting their own businesses and are now doing pretty well. I believe entrepreneurship and investment in startups is that bold action that we can take. I argue that our strategy should be centred on the kind of economy we want to create. It should be centred on meeting real needs and also on the tangible power we possess as a nation and a continent. If we fail to strategically build our economy around our youth and start-ups, we will fail to make any difference. Those that come after us and take over in the next 50 to 100 years will judge us harshly and think we have failed them. This is definitely not the legacy we want to leave behind.

This is the time to embrace our collateral beauty from the collateral damage we suffered decades ago. The time for lip service is over. It’s time to invest in long-term, realistic strategies that will focus on building and creating new micro and macro economies – new giants – that will shape and secure Africa’s future. Many of our startups are doing amazing things from Agro-processing to Games Development, Mobile Development and all other sorts of industries. What they need is the belief and support to scale.

We must not be scared of the risk to invest in them. We must nurture, support and believe in our start-ups to reinvigorate our economy and mutually reap the benefits as one nation and continent.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “There is nothing to fear, but fear itself”.

 

Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) – 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

 

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Minister Zulu to launch Global Entrepreneurship Week South Africa 2018

MINISTER ZULU TO LAUNCH GLOBAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP WEEK SOUTH AFRICA 2018

GEN AFRICA – 22 ON SLOANE | OCTOBER 1, 2018

 

GEW South Africa Launch

JOHANNESBURG – The Minister of Small Business Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu will officially open South Africa’s Global Entrepreneurship Week on 12 November 2018.

The Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) is a celebration of innovators and job creators who launch start-ups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare. During one week each November, GEW inspires people everywhere through local, national and global activities designed to help them explore their potential as self-starters and innovators. These activities range from large-scale competitions and events to intimate network gatherings, which connect participants to potential collaborators, mentors and even investors – introducing them to new possibilities and exciting opportunities.

GEW is more than just an awareness campaign, it is a platform for connection and collaboration, engaging all players in the entrepreneurship spectrum and strengthening ecosystems around the world. The initiative is supported by dozens of world leaders and a network of more than 15 000 partner organizations. Over 9 million people participate in GEW activities globally. GEN Africa encourages various ecosystem partners to host events in their communities and cities and seek partnerships from big and small businesses to support their activities.

The Department of Small Business Development (DSBD) in partnership with GEN Africa and various other private and public sector partners, will launch the 2018 GEW activities on Monday 12th November 2018 at the 22 on Sloane start-up campus. The event aims to attract start-ups, accelerator support network and policymakers. A combined total of around 4000 – 5000 delegates are expected to attend the week-long celebration.

The schedule for the week is as follows:

  • Monday 12 November – Launch and Policy day
  • Tuesday 13 November – Manufacturing and Agro-processing day
  • Wednesday 14 November – Tech day
  • Thursday 15 November – Social Entrepreneurship day
  • Friday 16 November – Funding day

Minister Zulu said that “In the first 11 years of celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week, we learned a great deal about the potential of entrepreneurs and the ability of our societies to work together and create great value. Through broad support from the government of South Africa and the rest of the African continent, as well as private sector leaders, we hope to shape a community of promising entrepreneurs and connect them to the resources they need to succeed”. The Minister will also participate in other GEW events in various cities and townships across the country.

The GEW South Africa will also see pitching sessions of over 300 tech start-ups, in which 100 will be selected for residency at the 22 on Sloane start-up campus in January 2019.

 

To register for the Global Entrepreneurship Week South Africa.

Visit: https://www.22onsloane.co/gew

To apply for the 2019 residency programme.

Visit: https://www.22onsloane.co/residency-programme

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Tilling the land can be a thriving environment to boost start-ups.

Tilling the land can be a thriving environment to boost start-ups.

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | SEPTEMBER 27, 2018

Land expropriation in South Africa is quickly becoming a reality, as the majority of the country’s people have realised that historical injustices need to be undone. As one with absolutely no political affiliation, I do, however, hope a fair, democratic and inclusive approach for all will be used.

Just to get a broader perspective on this major issue, let’s go back in time. The Natives Land Act of 1913 forced millions of black South Africans from productive farms across the country, when their cattle, their homes, their crops and their possessions, were taken from them. It also prohibited the establishment of new farming operations and was thankfully abolished in 1991.

I think myself and some of our youth today might not really understand, or even know about, the gravitas of that heinous land Act, which deprived their forefathers of a sustainable, often thriving existence.

The recurring fact of the matter is that blacks still do not own land proportionately to whites. On a much more positive note, President Cyril Ramaphosa has established a dedicated ten-strong team to address this as an urgent matter of national importance. This has been widely welcomed across the country.

Yet to resolve the land issue amicably, South Africans of all races and creeds need to unify and collaborate, with the economic betterment of our country as the predominant end-goal, and our youth as the real winners. This is my key take-away point.

Amidst this, agriculture, being obviously land-based, is undeniably one of the sectors that can transform Africa’s economy – especially by helping to eradicate the saddening scourge of youth unemployment by creating an abundance of job opportunities. In President Cyril Ramaphosa’s newly proposed stimulus package, he also emphasised that agriculture, which will ultimately go hand-in-hand with the proposed land reforms, has massive potential for job creation in the immediate and long term, so more good news.

Recently, the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), the continent’s most influential gathering around Africa’s largest economic sector, concluded its meetings in Kigali with ambitious commitments to deliver billions of dollars in new investments to African farms and agribusinesses, triple agriculture trade between African countries and forge new partnerships with a cast of development partners from China, India, Brazil, and Israel.

The aspirations for a thriving agricultural economy on the continent are at an all-time high and more focus is being shifted towards this, which is very encouraging. South Africa cannot afford to be left behind in this process.

During my visit to Abidjan and Kigali last week, I met a few science students and agri entrepreneurs who proved to me that many young people are keen to play a role in agricultural production on the continent.

As President Ramaphosa was announcing the team panel on land expropriation, the headlines in the Kigali Times read “President Kagame urges Youth to participate in Agriculture”. In Rwanda, agriculture contributes some 32% to the GDP of the country.

Yet surprisingly, agriculture currently only contributes 3% to the GDP of South Africa. This also stems from the fact that South Africa’s economy is more diversified. This presents an opportunity to scale this sector into a lucrative one by ploughing more investments into it and engaging the youth. In the past few years, the Nigerian economy felt the brunt of overdependence on crude oil. The country is currently diversifying its economy with Agriculture acting as a leading sector now. Agriculture even in a small scale should be the new buzz word in South Africa. More homes and families should be encouraged to plant in their backyard and gardens. I for one have a lemon tree and also grow some vegetables in my small garden.

The stimulus package led by the President is a very positive step towards realizing this goal, but implementation of it will be key, as stressed by Pravin Gordhan, Minister of Public Enterprises.

Now back to the land issue. How can South Africa resolve this in collaboration with all key stakeholders?

  1. Youth Investment: More young people should be informed and made aware of the exciting potential of the agricultural sector in order to grow a keen interest in it. This can include developing new technologies (specifically from aspirant local start-ups) to modernize and advance the sector.
  2. On-the-job Mentorship & Land Ownership and Leasing: Unproductive land should be distributed to aspiring young farmers. Instead of expropriation without compensation on productive lands, why not merge young black farmers with existing white farmers in a 50/50 partnership with on-the-job mentoring? White farmers can give 50% equity of their farm to the emerging black farmer, while the land is leased for 99 years with the black farmer taking full ownership of the land after the term.
  3. Make young farmers permanent farers: To ensure a fair process, it should be mandatory that all young black farmers are paired with knowledgeable and experienced black and white farmers to learn the trade and become permanent farmers on that land. This will ensure that the right people become beneficiaries of the land.

In today’s economic environment, young black farmers cannot simply be expected to work the land. A transition process towards owning equity should be developed to be seamless, sustainable and mutually beneficial for all parties. Working the land and running it as a business are two different things and young people should be guided through this process with education, mentorship and partnerships.

All-in-all, land reform is a challenging issue for any country to get right first time. It needs due process, due diligence, open-mindedness and an immense collaborative effort from all South Africans. Having spoken to many of my peers in South Africa, there is no doubt that land like language is dignity and shapes identity just like Busani Ngcaweni put it in his recent piece “The Land is our heritage, let’s share it”.

 

Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa; 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

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Suppliers of Money in Africa: Time to show our start-ups the money

Suppliers of Money in Africa: Time to show our start-ups the money

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | SEPTEMBER 18, 2018

As the old cliché goes, money makes the world go round. But for many an innovative start-up, lack of it brings their entrepreneurial world to a grinding and severely frustrating halt. Any fledgling business needs money of some amount to jump-start and fuel their growth. In capitalist markets, there are two stakeholders; the suppliers of money and the users of money. I use the lurid word ‘money’ in this article just to drive home the key point I want to make and that is there’s no separating money (liquid cash) from business success.

Commercial banks are an important source of funds for any business and also for small businesses, as these don’t often have ready access to the long term securities market, so bank credit is the only practical source of new capital funds, i.e. intermediate-term financing.

Besides commercial banks, there are various other sources of business funding. These include grants from private, NGO or public sectors, angel investors, venture capitalists and fund managers of private or public sector funds, among others.

The suppliers of money quite literally hold the future or failure of many small businesses in the palms of their hands, even if they can prove sustainability. The immense power they yield inevitably decides which ones get developed and also how much they, as an investor, can benefit from it. There’s a popular saying in the Igbo tradition that ‘whoever has the money has the key’.

Recently, three African start-ups, two Nigerian ones and a South African one, secured huge investment deals in the same week.

Yet something left me quite gobsmacked. Not a single African money supplier played any part in these deals or led these deals. There were probably more deals made that week and deals continue to be made each day, but I want to focus on three specific ones, given that I have associated with some of the beneficiaries of these highly lucrative and game-changing deals.

Tizeti received an investment of US$ 3 million

The company was established to tackle poor internet connectivity, not only in Nigeria, but on the continent at large, by developing a cost-effective solution from inception to delivery, for reliable and uncapped internet access for potentially millions of Africans.

Using solar-powered base stations, Tizeti is able to reduce operating costs, which allow the company to be hyper-competitive when it comes to subscription packages (a Wifi.com.ng unlimited plan in Nigeria currently costs just $30 per month). This, coupled with the company’s extensive coverage reach, has given Tizeti a competitive edge in the ISP sector, establishing the young company as an ICT and tech infrastructure leader.

4DX ventures, a New York-based venture capital company that focuses on Africa, led the US$3 million in investments. I first met the Tizeti team last year and, although I saw not much opportunity for them in South Africa, I firmly believed that their product is world-class and a no-brainer for any investor seeking opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Paga received an investment of US$10 million

Paga, a mobile payment platform, was founded in Nigeria in 2009 by Tayo Oviosu and publicly launched in 2011. Today it has over nine million customers and allows its users to transfer money and make payments through their mobile devices. Paga acts as a mobile wallet where any user equipped with a mobile device can conduct transactional activities using their device. The Global Innovation Fund, which is both Washington and London-based, led the investment deal.

Yoco received an investment of US$16 million

Yoco, a fintech start-up, was founded in 2015 and is a South African-based point-of-sale payments provider that builds tools and services to help small businesses get paid, run their business better and grow.

In just its first year, Yoco processed some R13 million, not an insignificant amount for a fintech start-up in South Africa, which has the most sophisticated financial services industry in Africa and is well served by several major banks that regularly receive global awards for innovation and excellence.

Yoco was also named one of the “250 top private companies changing the face of financial services around the world” in the Fintech 250 report by researchers CB Insight. One of only five African start-ups to make the prestigious list, the report praised Yoco for its “powerful business portal”. Last year, I attended their stakeholder session where they shared their vision for growing the company beyond the shores of South Africa.

Partech, a global investment firm based in San Francisco, led the investment.

Just these few examples are solid proof that African start-up innovation can proudly compete with the best on the planet. Yet many of us wish that our Africa institutions and suppliers of money will recognise the power in our young ‘up-and-comers’ and give them the monetary muscle to scale and take their rightful place alongside their international peers.

I have met many of our African investors (banks, angels, VCs, fund institutions, etc). It seems they expect a start-up to have a grey hair, have worked for many years and so much other frustrating criteria. Africa is abundant with fantastic initiatives, which global investors are quickly realising, but sadly many of the money suppliers in Africa are not and most times it takes them so much time and a lot of convincing to believe in African startups.

The global investment community believes in our youth and this is evident through my recent interaction with a group of UK investors from the Department of International Trade whom I met last week during their visit to our 22 on Sloane campus. Startups are pivotal in securing a positive economic future for our country and it would be great if our African funders too, would start quickly coming to the party.

I think for every aspirant start-up with proven sustainability, the words of Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr. in the 1996 hit movie Jerry Maguire ring true. “Show me the money!”

Kizito Okechukwu is the co-chair of Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa; 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

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SA can beat technical recession with support To & From startups

SA Can Beat Technical Recession With Support To & From startups

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | SEPTEMBER 11, 2018

I really do not know which economist coined the phrase, but it’s largely accepted that a technical recession is when a country have two quarters in a row of economic contraction. I’m not an economist, but I recall that in school we were taught the simpler definition (the nuts and bolts version) that a recession is a significant decline in economic activity, evident in less income, less sales, less production and less employment.

One of my lecturers in my MBA class, some seven years ago, quoted Ronald Reagan as saying that “recession is when your neighbour loses his job, depression is when you lose yours and recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his”. The moral of the story is that a recession, technical or otherwise, is not good for any country.

But it’s not all bleak, especially for start-ups…

According to Forbes Opinion, start-ups, with their inherent agility, can take advantage of a weaker economy and come out on top. From day one start-ups operate an inherently lean business model, while maximizing value for customers.

While economic uncertainty is never a desirable situation, some of the world’s greatest businesses have started during a downturn or recession. Importantly, many reports suggest start-ups are some of developed country’s greatest employers, as they scale to become big companies in their own right.

Recessions create problems. They also slow investment in innovation down. Consumers and businesses are looking for solutions to problems which present opportunities for start-ups to solve. A start-up built during the tough times is designed from the ground up to be a lean, mean, efficiency machine – whether they’ve bootstrapped or not. These habits should stay with them when the market recovers, giving them higher profit margins since they’ll be able to lift prices once consumers and clients are spending again. If one can build and grow a business when consumer confidence is down and businesses are tightening their belts, then the business will be bullet-proof when things improve.

UNIDO’s Youth and Women Entrepreneurship project (YoWep), designed under the PCP framework, aims to support the country’s industrialization process both by building the capacity of the government implementing agencies and crafting a guiding strategy/framework (NES) for aligning various initiatives and actors on entrepreneurship development. This strategy, moreover, envisages structural transformation enhancing job creation, and leading to economic empowerment of youth and women MSMEs in the PCP priority sectors.

As a country, South Africa can also lessen the impact of a recession by focusing more on its local start-up environment, with initiatives such as:

  1. High impact investment in Agri start-ups. There are many start-ups and small businesses that are conducting great, sustainable farming initiatives. Our country needs to help scale these farms by investing capital in them to enable exports and increase job creation.
  2. Define what products/services are being consumed. Our resident Research Advisor Dr Pali Lehohla is a huge advocate of consumption and production. His famous quote is that “no country will ever be successful if the country does not understand in detail what is being consumed, who consumes this and who produces this”. By taking heed, South Africa has a high chance of expanding production opportunities into these industries, thereby increasing manufacturing and job creation. China’s understanding of the production and consumption model will be a great lesson for South Africa.
  3. Invest in technology. Technology is the key driver in nearly every industry imaginable. Investment is the primary enabler to get our tech start-ups with proven sustainability up and running quickly to scale. Most of our Tech startups in South Africa need as much help and support from government and private sector to scale.
  4. Help SME’s to participate more in the mainstream economy. SME’s may be small in size, but they’re big in impacting our economy. Most studies conducted in various developed countries prove that 40% of a country’s total job creation comes from small businesses. South Africa too, will not survive without them. Government should start channelling a far larger portion of its supply chain contracts to SMEs. The fact remains that big business even with more sales/production scares away from creating additional jobs in their companies.
  5. Help citizens to be more productive. How can our labour system be more flexible to allow people to have two jobs? This is the case in many developed countries, where people work flexible hours and have two jobs to help make ends meet. Employees are feeling the brunt of staying in one regular 9 to 5 job that doesn’t pay great – and can also be done in half the time – creating an opportunity to move on to their second job. Some might argue that the unemployed would gladly be a nine-to-fiver, but that’s not the point here. This challenge is that we’re not producing as much as we could with the skills we have. So how can the skilled be used wisely to produce more?

 

Any type of recession presents a complicated economic landscape, which ultimately affects every South African in some way. For start-ups, there are a lot of reasons it might be a great time. Smart start-ups should begin taking advantage of new opportunities and unique needs presented by the economic downturn. And with the country’s fiscal help, which is crucial, small businesses can definitely help turn the economic tide for the better.

Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa; 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

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Info Trade’s proof of staying power secures R250k seed grant to scale.

Info Trade’s proof of staying power secures R250k seed grant to scale.

KIZITO OKECHUKWU | SEPTEMBER 03, 2018

Pictured Above: Simphiwe Nkula founder of Info Trade

The Tyler Perry-produced movie Acrimony, which was released this year, received mixed reactions. Many questioned the script and some just blew it off as a bloated drama. However, I’m not here to give my two cents worth as a movie critic. Rather, I’d like to lift a lesson out of the movie’s premise, regarding the start-up entrepreneurship ecosystem. And this is adversity, which every start-up is guaranteed to face.

Although Lyriq Bent was unfaithful to his wife, played by Taraji Henson, he remained passionate about his idea of creating a self-charging battery. Yes, his concept was great, but not many people believed in him. After a period of total financial frustration, during which he lost lots of money, his wife also lost faith in him and his business idea. Yet, he persevered, soon banked a big investor and became a multimillionaire.

The major adversity faced by start-ups remains access to both funding and markets. Even though there is an abundance of solid and potentially sustainable business ideas out there, only a few will ever make it to market. There are also numerous processes that need to be undertaken to get an idea to commercialization, these include testing, validation and prototyping.

Start-ups face many financial challenges in their initial phase of existence, such as using money from friends and/or family. This can often lead to broken relationships because the funds may soon dry up without immediate and tangible returns.

Another is explaining to investors why they should invest in the start-up and then to convince them that they will get their money back. Always difficult, as most want (if not demand) a quick ROI. Last, is accessing markets, which at most times depends on a lucky break or being in the right place at the right time.

Info Trade is a start-up founded by Simphiwe Nkula, which offers cashless payments, order management and retail audits. It was selected by GEN Africa’s 22 on Sloane start-up campus to join its residency programme. Recently, Info Trade finalized the research on its initiative and did an initial proof of concept (POC). This has just resulted in the start-up receiving a R250 000 grant from the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) to re-validate its pre POC and get ready for commercialization, scheduled for early 2019.

The lesson here is simple. It’s all about belief, in both yourself and your idea. One cannot succeed without the other and it’s never going to be easy. I recall that after Uber became a global brand, one of my friends pitched an idea similar to Uber to a few investors on the continent in 2013. They dismissed the idea immediately, saying Uber is already doing it.

Now very importantly, the key thing here is not about Uber doing it first, it’s about if there’s a market that needs the product (albeit it a similar one), what are the chances of accessing this market?

Later on, beep-beep, coming through! Taxify launched, now worth millions of dollars and Ola India based, now worth over US$3 billion.

Many funding entities are quick to dismiss start-up concepts, based on the fact that some US or European company is already doing it. Yet, I believe that there is an opportunity to support start-ups, fund and launch them to compete in the market towards global reach. The key here is startups should not always be subjected to invent but rather be innovative coupled with a business minded, savvy entrepreneurial skill. Seed grants are a fundamental foundation to support many young people to test their concepts and give them the chance to see the light of day.

Let’s not be our own worst enemy and remember, as the classic rock song goes by Journey, “Don’t stop believin”…

Kizito Okechukwu is the co-chair of Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa; 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

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