Diamonds In The Rough- StartUp Tshwane Unearthed Innovation In Pretoria

StartUp Tshwane

The first rollout of StartUp Weekend in Tshwane, ‘StartUp Tshwane’ took place from 28th to 30th November in Ga-Rankuwa. A collaboration between The Innovation Hub, South African Black Entrepreneurs Forum (SABEF) and Tshwane Youth Business Council (TYBC) to mobilise entrepreneurs in the local townships inorder to assist them to commercialise their business ideas. The event was held at the Arts and Crafts Centre where eKasi Labs was launched earlier on this year. eKasi Labs is an initiative by The Innovation Hub in partnership with the City of Tshwane that seeks to empower young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, by giving them a platform to address some of the issues they face in their communities and helps them solve these problems by exposure to this facility and also offering them entrepreneurial mentorship. This initiative not only offers the youth of Tshwane much needed skills development but also assists them by imparting knowledge about how to commercialize their innovations.

image22 participants hailing from different parts of the Capital City got together on Friday to start working on their ideas. Many not knowing what to expect, they got there with hopes of having their business ideas picked and winning the incubation with the Maxum Business incubator programme from The Innovation Hub at the end of the 3 day course. Upon arrival participants were introduced to the workshop and what it entails by Business Incubation specialist from the Innovation Hub, Gary Bannatyne. The participants immediately got to work by preparing for the first pitching session of the weekend.

Subsequent to the initial pitches by the participants, they were guided and mentored by industry experts and entrepreneurs that were present, namely Tina Magondo (WIBC), Neo Hutiri (GenWye), Mixo Ngoveni (Geekulcha), and Mmbodi Nesengani (IDC/StartUp Nations). The participants worked on their initial pitches based on the feedback they got, and got a chance to work on their business canvas which would help them structure a model for their businesses. On the third and final day the nervous entrepreneurs took to the stand and presented their ideas to a panel of judges. The judges for StartUp Tshwane were individuals who are well-versed in their respective fields of expertise, CEO of The Innovation Hub McLean Sibanda, Tiyani Mobile Developer at Geekulcha, Mmbodi Nesengani who is the Senior Innovation Manager at the IDC, Executive Director at SABEF Matsi Modise and a recipient of the previous StartUp Weekend Desmond Mongwe.

Hercules inventor of Finger Mate, winner of StartUp Tshwane
Hercules of Finger Mate, winner of StartUp Tshwane

The winner was picked based on (amongst other things) the viability and competitive advantage of their concept, the judges gave in their scores and deliberated on which entrepreneur they felt deserved this opportunity. Five of the best innovations were picked amongst the group, and the overall winner was Hercules who invented Finger Mate, a patented shopping bag carrier. Hercules and the runner ups all get incubation from the Maxum Business incubator at The Innovation Hub.

“In general because of the technology and the channels we use right now, it allows even the guys in those environments to interact in a global space. The ideas that came have an international objective. So that means having a platform like StartUp Weekend allows them to connect with the rest of the world. StartUp Tshwane is allowing the entrepreneurs to place their content on a structured platform with the potential of competing in a global space,” says Desmond Mongwe (guest judge), who is now an incubatee at Maxum.

Overall this was a successful workshop and seeks to further address the unemployment crisis we have in South Africa, significantly in the townships. Such initiatives echo the growth target for GDP stated by the Government in the NDP for 2030 by improving on inclusive economic growth. Entrepreneurs have the potential to contribute significantly to the GDP and assisting them commercialise their innovations is a good way of doing this. Locals should keep their ears on the ground about the next StartUp Weekend and how they can participate.