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Seeding The Change

Disrupting markets, one business at a time.

Juliet Pitman




“It’s the most stimulating environment I can imagine. There’s no copy and paste formula for start-ups. You’re always creating, always learning. I live for this,” says Marc Elias, talking about what drives him in his role as ‘chief disrupter’ at start-up accelerator, Seed Engine.

Not an incubator, nor a venture capital firm, as a business accelerator Seed Engine sits somewhere inbetween.

It was while working in the venture capital environment that Elias realised the South African entrepreneurial landscape needed something to act as a bridge between start-ups in incubation and the venture capital they so desperately needed.

The accelerator model had been tried and tested elsewhere in the world — on notable businesses such as Dropbox — and offered an elegant solution.

“In my time in venture capital, I never saw a single meeting arise between a venture capitalist and an incubator SME. VCs are looking for high-growth businesses that offer high returns and there was a mismatch between the incubator businesses applying for VC funding, and what the VC investors were looking for,” he explains.

After consulting US and European accelerators, Elias adapted the model for the South African entrepreneurial market.

“One of the big things we identified was the need to develop leadership. Venture capitalists are not just looking for investable ideas — they’re looking for investable leaders, visionary entrepreneurs who are able to execute.”

Seed Engine works with ideas-stage start-ups, providing them with R100 000 seed capital and an intense 12-week programme to put the right business, leadership and go-to-market foundations in place. “Our entrepreneurs have access to mentorship, office space, capital and networking. At the end of the course, they pitch to a room of venture capitalists and angel investors,” Elias explains.

The first 2013 intake pitched to a room of 140 investors and every one is currently in advanced negotiations with investors. Unsurprisingly, word has got out and the demand to get into the programme has seen a dramatic increase.

“We launched in September 2012 and between September and December received 350 applications. We’ve now just received 1 500 for our next intake in February 2014,” says Elias.

But from those, only seven businesses have been selected. The programme is small, focused and highly effective. You’ll be hearing more about this one in the years ahead.

Success Lesson:

Seed Engine found a gap as SA’s first accelerator, putting high-growth potential businesses in touch with real investment opportunities.


Company Posts

Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect




Vital Stats

It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.


“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

Live free of the opinion of other, but always in service, is one of the key principles Pat Pillai lives by.






Pat Pillai, is a social entrepreneur who after being a national news anchor for 15 years, is founder and CEO of LifeCo UnLtd SA, which invests in impact entrepreneurs and impact enterprises. LifeCo UnLtd SA has benefited over 112 000 beneficiaries in SA (5000 are young entrepreneurs; 124 are established adult entrepreneurs, of those 76 are impact/social entrepreneurs).

Related: Mike Sharman Talks About Retroviral’s Successful Campaigns And The Importance Of Social Media In Marketing

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How Mark van Diggelen Pivoted To Create A Global Gaming Platform

“The day you stop getting enquiries about your product, you’re know you’re on the wrong track,” says Mark van Diggelen, CEO of GameZBoost.






Mark van Diggelen is the CEO of GameZBoost, they created a white label mobile gaming platform that is currently deployed in 45 countries around the world. In addition, Mark’s mobile gaming tournaments have taken the industry by storm.


Related: Eben Uys Shares His Concept Behind Mad Giant Brewery And How You Can Make Your Business Stand Out In A Crowd


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