Startup Weekend, Revitalising The Alexandra Economy


54 Hours, Hungry Entrepreneurs, Dedicated Mentors, Prizes To Be Won, Let’s Go….

startup alex- fredell and david
Fredell Jacobs (left) and David Dube (right) Photo Cred: Mixo Ngoveni

Startup Weekend Alex (or Startup Alex) kicked off on March 27, 2015 at the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) Auditorium. Subsequent to the highly successful Startup Tshwane (held in Ga-Rankuwa), the team was good and ready for the budding entrepreneurs of Alexandra. Alexandra (also known as Alex) is a township that is a stone throw away from one of the richest neighbourhoods in South Africa, Sandton.

An initiative by Startup Nations, with founding partners The Innovation Hub, Wits Business School and the Industrial Development Corporation, Startup Weekend is a global movement that seeks to empower entrepreneurs and offers support in building their startups in just 54 hours. Startup Nations collaborated with the Economic Development Department (EDD), City of Johannesburg (COJ), Maxum Business Incubator and Greater Alexandra Chamber of Commerce (Galxcoc) to bring this to life. It is without any doubt that in the deep and dark townships of South Africa, where the smell of poverty is hard to miss, there is a wealth of ideas and business potential, which are lost due to lack of resources and guidance.

A shuttle pulled up in the parking lot with 30 enthusiasts from Alexandra, all excited to come and gain knowledge and also hopefully receive the biggest prize of the weekend, which is incubation for their businesses. The night kicked off with an official welcome by Fredell Jacobs the General Manager of Enterprise and Skills Development at The Innovation Hub. This was followed by a formal introduction of the crew that was organising and facilitating Startup Alex, a fine mix of educated, young and innovative individuals representing various companies. Business Incubation Specialist Gary Bannatyne representing Maxum Business Incubator (The Innovation Hub) then took the entrepreneurs through their business idea pitches and introduced them to the Business Model Canvas. The remainder of the 54 hours that the entrepreneurs would spend at Startup Alex were dedicated to working on these business ideas in preparation for the final pitching session that would take place on Sunday March 29, 2015 in front of a panel of judges.

The participants were judged on Market Potential, Team and Skills, Innovation and Entrepreneurial Edge (amongst other things) based on the scoring sheet that was handed to the judges. Five of the best pitches were picked to be a part of the Maxum Business Incubation programme at The Innovation Hub, which will offer support to the entrepreneurs in further developing their businesses. The entrepreneurs who were involved had some interesting businesses that they are already running, however some came with businesses that are still in concept phase which was not a disadvantage at all. The overall winner of Startup Alex 2015 was David Dube representing ‘A Plus Electricians’, a company that offers solutions for electrical emergencies.

Initiatives such as these support the mandate of the newly implemented Ministry of Small Business Development led by Honourable Ms. Lindiwe Zulu, that is to mobilize small businesses in acknowledgement of their contribution to economic growth. Local businesses have the potential to grow a community by offering skills development to the residents and also increasing employment opportunities.

“The intention of Startup Weekend in Alex, is to take what we do as The Innovation Hub to 80% of the underserved community which is in Alex and part of the Startup Nations movement around that part of Gauteng,” says Gary Bannatyne.

He continued to say:

There were some really competitive ideas that came through, the challenge is creating an incentive based environment for all entrepreneurs to look up to those entrepreneurs who are doing very well in Alex, and that’s going to be the challenge going forward.

startup alex- crew
StartUp Alex Crew Photo Cred: Mixo Ngoveni

Salute to the team who were involved in Startup Alex, who do this volunteeringly, dedicating their time and efforts to make this happen; Ayesha Patel (Think Team), Conny Phaswana (TIH), Elena Gaffurini (Startup Nations), Fredell Jacobs (TIH), Gary Bannatyne (TIH), Mixo Ngoveni (Geekulcha), Mmbodi Rambau-Nesengani (IDC), Mtheza Mtyopo (IDC), Mxolisi Mngomezulu (Galxcoc), Nathi Dlomo (AdReach Foundation), Pholile Mhlanga (independent facilitator), Phumela Salela (EDD), Sicelo Mayiyane (COJ), Tasneem Mohamed (Think Team), Tina Magondo (WIBC), and Vuyelwa Mthembu (TIH).

Participants who were not part of the Top 5 do not go home empty handed, their take away is a wealth of knowledge and business mentorship that will give them an advantage over their competitors in their community. It goes without saying that small businesses have given birth to some of the greatest innovations of our time, and it is really exciting to see such initiatives take place in our country. Township Economy Revitalisation is a crucial part of inclusive growth and we cannot continue to overlook the potential that we have in our townships. We patiently wait in anticipation for the next Startup Weekend and how it will impact the next community that it will be held at.