Western Cape Premier Helen Zille calledit “an historical event”. Dr Mamphela Ramphele, Chair of the TechnologyInnovation Agency, believed that the day would be “forever marked in thecalendar of South Africa’s innovation as ‘the beginning’.”
They were addressing over 500 people atthe launch of the Silicon Cape Initiative. The brainchild of two of SouthAfrica’s brightest young entrepreneurial stars, it seeks to position Cape Townas Africa’s hub for venture capital, entrepreneurship and world-class IP. Silicon Cape is not owned by anyone orcontrolled by any single entity. “It is as much about a place as it is aboutthe people in it – it’s a living community. We wanted to start a conversation,to plant a seed in people’s minds about the idea and to position the WesternCape as the emerging Silicon Valley of Africa,” says Lingham. Cape Town has a lot of the naturalingredients that have made Silicon Valley what it is today – beautiful naturalscenery, great universities, personality and culture, a vibrant entrepreneurialcommunity, and a willingness from local government to support entrepreneurs.
Lingham and Stanford have a knack formaking things happen and attracting the right kind of attention. In addition toZille and Ramphele, the likes of Matthew Buckland, Dr Johan Rupert and LaurenceOlivier – all keynote speakers at the launch event – have put their weightbehind the Silicon Cape Initiative. Less than a month after launchingLingham and Stanford met with the Minister of Science and Technology NalediPandor. “She is keen to find out how she can engage with her colleagues innational government to help us in first rapidly unblocking the regulatory obstaclesthat make it hard for the ecosystem to develop, and then looking at possibleincentives to further grow it. This is very encouraging,” writes Stanford aboutthe meeting. They are realistic about the manyobstacles that the establishment of such an ecosystem presents, including lackof access to venture capital and angel investor funding, sub-standard bandwidthavailability and legislation that hinders the development of start-ups.
But they believe solving these problemsis critical, not only for the development of the Silicon Cape Initiative, butfor the country’s global competitiveness. “If we don’t become exporters of IP,we will become exporters of talent,” says Stanford. He and Lingham aredetermined to prevent that from happening, and to place the Cape on the globalentrepreneurial map. If the success they have achieved individually inlaunching global businesses is anything to go by, they have the vision, thecontacts, the drive and the energy to make it happen.