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Are You the Next Microsoft BizSpark Champ?

Microsoft brings the BizSpark programme to Tech Entrepreneurs in SA.

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With unemployment breaking past 26% in South Africa, the need for job creation to stem the tide of poverty has become a stark reality. The reality being that out of 36 million employable South Africans, only 15.5 million have a job.

Related: Why pitching is like dating

According to statistics for 2014 compiled by Good Governance Africa (GGA), South Africa has the highest levels of youth unemployment on the continent. The problem is, 40% of young South Africans fear starting a business.

Tech pioneers

Considering almost half the country now has access to the continent’s most advanced digital economy, in 2011, Microsoft recognised the need to develop entrepreneurial pioneers in the tech space.

Microsoft, through its BizSpark programme, has now opened up a world of untapped opportunities for over 1600 South African start-ups, who have in turn created over 300 jobs.

Managing Director at Microsoft SA, Zoaib Hoosen says: “Our hope is that by providing the crucial technology and business support tools needed at this early stage, we will help prepare the next generation of start-ups in South Africa to become leaders in exporting technology IP, and also, in turn, help drive South Africa’s growth.”

The next BizSpark

Microsoft’s BizSpark programme provides early-stage tech start-ups with the opportunity to join a vast local and global network of entrepreneurs, partners and advisors.

It does this by providing start-ups with access to Microsoft software development tools and training, connecting them with key industry players (customers and investors), and giving them the marketing visibility they need to grow, especially in early-stage development.

Microsoft’s BizSpark programme provides early-stage tech start-ups with the opportunity to join a vast local and global network of entrepreneurs, partners and advisors.

It does this by providing start-ups with complimentary access to Microsoft software development tools and training, connecting them with key industry players (customers and investors), and giving them the marketing visibility they need to grow, especially in early-stage development.

Increasing job creation

The BizSpark programme can be found all over the world but Hoosen says that the South African wing differs from its global counterparts.

The difference being that the South African programme has ties with government, namely, the government’s Jobs Fund – an initiative that aims to co-finance projects by public, private and non-governmental organisations to significantly increase job creation.

“We all know the state of the country when it comes to unemployment. It’s very real, and we need to deal with it,” says Hoosen.

“This is why it is more important than ever for private and public organisations to come together for a common goal – a stronger, healthier and more robust nation capable of competing on the international stage.”

What’s the criteria?

The only criteria that start-ups need to join the BizSpark programme are:

  • Their businesses need to be less than five years old
  • They must be developing a software product or ‘app’
  • Their business must be privately held
  • They must be generating less than R5 million in annual turnover.

“That’s it,” says Hoosen. “If the start-up fulfils those criteria, they only need to sign up for the programme, join our network, and enjoy the benefits of our development tools and support – all for mahala.”

Present your big idea

All a start-up needs is a big idea and Microsoft will help them understand that idea and how technology can enable a solution. Next, the idea needs to take form, integrating it into a business model that provides a unique technical solution.

Once the idea is solid, the programme moves onto development – developing the product with enough core features to be deployed for early adopters.

Related: Pitch Your Idea or Business to Potential Funders

Next comes acceleration, where Microsoft BizSpark helps the start-up optimise all its resources to reach its full potential. Once maximum acceleration has been achieved, the idea is to grow the business, giving it time to scale on the back of its already proven business model.

“The best part about BizSpark is that start-ups can enter at any point in the cycle,” says Hoosen. “We believe that the greatest ideas, the ones that can change the world, can be found anywhere, from anyone. You just need to know where to look.”

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Top Sectors For SMEs In 2019

“As such, SMEs in the construction, communications and electrical fields are all likely to benefit from supply and sub-contracting agreements over the coming years.”

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While the South African economy has been underperforming for a number of years, the first positive signs of turnaround started to become visible by the second quarter of 2018, and by the end of the third quarter, data supplied by Statistics South Africa showed that the economy had indeed grown by 2.2 percent, compared to the previous quarter. This uptick is expected to have a positive effect on business confidence in 2019.

This is according to Jeremy Lang, regional general manager at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), who says that certain business sectors have already seen an increase in opportunities for small businesses and start-ups.

“While these sectors will not be without challenges, the following four industries are likely to offer the best opportunities for small and medium enterprise (SME) owners to grow their enterprises in the coming year.”

Tourism

The World Travel and Tourism report 2018, revealed that the direct contribution of the travel and tourism sector to South Africa’s GDP has been projected to rise from R136bn in 2016 to R197.9bn by 2028 – set to make up a total of 3.3 percent of the country’s total GDP, says Lang.

“Although this sector experienced some setbacks in 2018, such as the drought in the Western Cape and stricter visa regulations for children entering the country, both the water restrictions and visa regulations  have been relaxed and the sector is once again poised for growth,” he says.

Related: Government Funding And Grants For Small Businesses

Manufacturing

Statistics South Africa has credited this industry with being the biggest driver of growth in the country’s GDP, having expanded by 7.5 percent in September 2018, says Lang. “To bolster this, Government has made a concerted effort to stimulate small business growth in this area with initiatives such as the Black Industrialist Programme and the SA Automotive Masterplan.”

He adds that businesses in the manufacturing sphere could therefore likely see significant opportunities in the form of outsourcing contracts and new partnerships with large corporates.

Agriculture

“The debate around land expropriation has occupied most of the discussions surrounding the agricultural sector in 2018, with some questioning growth prospects of this sector. However, this industry has a lot of growth ahead of it, as demonstrated by its 6.5 percent growth over the last three months of 2018,” explains Lang.

“Further to this, the industry is also already taking significant advantage of seven climatic regions in South Africa, with the export of a wide variety of high quality fruit and vegetables increasing substantially,” he points out. The recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease that has resulted in the suspension of the country’s FMD-free status will however significantly impact meat exporters.

In terms of opportunities for SMEs, he says that these may most likely be found in the rural and underdeveloped regions, where the need for resources like efficient transport, state-of-the-art cold storage, better irrigation and private power generation will be key to making agriculture projects more productive and competitive in the export market.

Data and information technology

Connectivity and information technology infrastructure are both crucial to business and employment growth in South Africa, says Lang.

“With many municipalities and the Western Cape government committing to providing all of its residents with free data as part of a plan to expand public Wi-Fi network access, it is clear that this is also becoming a high priority on a state level.” 

Related: 9 Ways To Elevate Your Small Business To The Next Level

It has also been reported that South Africa is awaiting the arrival of three international data centres, and large players in the communications sphere, including Vodacom, Telkom and Vumatel, are making huge strides in drastically growing the country’s fibre optic backbone, he adds. “As such, SMEs in the construction, communications and electrical fields are all likely to benefit from supply and sub-contracting agreements over the coming years.”

In conclusion, Lang says that as South Africa’s economic growth has started to turn around, business owners should keep their ears to the ground as 2019 is highly likely to be a year of opportunity.

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Herman Mashaba To Talk On City Of Jo’burg Job Creation Initiative

Herman Mashaba to talk on City of Jo’burg job creation initiative at 2019 Business Day TV SME Summit.

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Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, and one of South Africa’s most successful entrepreneurs, Herman Mashaba, will be one of the presenters at the 2019 Business Day TV SME Summit which will be taking place at The Empire Venue in Parktown on 7 March 2019.
Now in its third year, the Business Day TV SME Summit provides an opportunity for small business owners, entrepreneurs, incubators, franchisors, investors, as well as suppliers to the SME sector to come together and engage with experts in the business, technology, marketing and investment fields.
Having founded the now iconic hair-care brand, Black Like Me, more than thirty years ago during the apartheid era and on the back of a R30,000 loan from a friend, Mashaba’s experience in establishing an entrepreneurial enterprise holds great value for small and medium-sized business owners in South Africa. Mashaba will also be highlighting the City of Johannesburg’s innovative drive to stimulate inner city opportunities and job creation.
a-panel-discussion-from-the-2018-business-day-tv-sme-summit
Managing finances and obtaining funding and expansion capital are challenges many entrepreneurial businesses face as they look to grow their footprint in the market. Darren Segal, Personal and Business Banking Innovation executive at Standard Bank – one of the partners of the SME Summit – will present advice on negotiating funding and finance, to ensure effective cash flow management.
Complex tax issues will also be covered by a representative from the office of the Tax Ombudsman.
Taryn Westoby, Head of Tiso Blackstar Events which manages the SME Summit and curates the speaker line-up says: “We work alongside Business Day TV to meet the requirements of those engaged in the SME sector, so that the content of the Summit aligns to some of their most pressing concerns and needs. The line-up of speakers includes experts in the fields of business scaling, marketing strategy, intellectual property (IP) rights, and risk mitigation.”
As such, Graham Mitchell from GROW has been engaged to share insights into the leadership required to scale a winning management team.  Vishen Pillay, partner at Adams & Adams and an authority on copyright, patents, and trademarks, will provide guidance on protecting IP. Therusha Bhagarette of Credit Guarantee Insurance Corporation of Africa Ltd will expound further on the do’s and don’ts of risk management. The full line-up of expert speakers and topics will be published on www.smesummit.co.za.

International perspective

An international perspective to entrepreneurship will also be provided through Business Day TV’s The Big Small Business Show and a pre-recorded session with Uri Levine: renowned serial entrepreneur and founder of Waze.  Levine was recently in South Africa as a guest of Tiso Blackstar to deliver the keynote presentation at the prestigious Sunday Times Top 100 Companies Awards to an audience of CEOs from the top-performing companies on the JSE.

Leading organisations at the SME Summit

Once again, leading organisations have committed their participation at the Business Day TV SME Summit, recognising it as one of the most effective platforms for SMEs to engage professional insights and facilitate knowledge-sharing in support of much needed entrepreneurial development in SA.
This year’s headline partners are Credit Guarantee Insurance Corporation of Africa Limited, SAICA, and Standard Bank. Other partners include BDO, Adams & Adams, Liberty, Payfast, GROW, The Tax Ombudsman, W&R Seta, Telkom, Santam and The Little Green Number.
For sponsorship and exhibition opportunities:  Stephen Horszowski – stephen@tisoblackstar.co.za
Delegates who wish to purchase tickets for the full day event (07h00 – 15h00) at R995:  Lucy Johnson – johnsonl@tisoblackstar.co.za or visit  www.smesummit.co.za

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SME Insurance Checklist For New Year

Malesela Maupa, Head of Product and Insurer Relationships at FNB Insurance Brokers, advises SMEs to consider the following factors when reviewing their policies.

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SME Insurance

Business owners who are planning for the year ahead should not overlook the importance of reviewing their insurance policies to ensure they are adequately covered against insurable risks.

Malesela Maupa, Head of Product and Insurer Relationships at FNB Insurance Brokers says, every year businesses face unique challenges ranging from credit and market risks, technological disruptions, compliance, operational and regulatory risks, amongst others. As a matter of precaution, insurance policies should at least be reviewed or updated once a year.

He advises SMEs to consider the following factors when reviewing their policies:

  • Employee movements – if there are any employees who have left or joined the company, ensure that your policy is updated accordingly.

This type of cover normally depends on the role and contribution of the employee to the business. For instance, directors may be covered for Key Person Insurance and Directors & Officers Liability insurance.

  • Protest Actions – this year is the national election year and leading up to elections we can expect to see an increase in the frequency and severity of protest actions, riots and strikes. Thus, it is essential to ensure that adequate special risks cover is in place from the South African Special Risks Insurance Association (SASRIA).

SASRIA provides cover to both individuals and businesses against special risks like civil commotion, public disorder, strikes, riots and terrorism at affordable premiums.

  • Cyber risks – it is essential to communicate with your insurer or broker and find out if there are any new risks that your business should be protected against. Cyber incidents continue to be a major risk for businesses especially in the SME sector. Over the last couple of years there has been a major increase in the number of reported cyber incidences.

Related: I would like to start an insurance business. What are the basic guidelines?

More businesses are now facing increased cyber threats due to their increased dependency on technology, relating to their internal and customer data being compromised by fraudsters. It is therefore essential to have some form of cyber risk insurance cover and/or enhancement of data security protocols.

  • Regulatory changes – every year there are a number of regulatory changes that impact businesses directly or indirectly, which may result in fines and penalties for non-compliance.
  • Natural catastrophes – the increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather conditions, coupled with intensifying natural catastrophes will continue to have a significant impact on businesses.

Businesses should ensure they are adequately protected against these risks to avoid incurring sever financial losses.

  • Business changes – should a business consider moving to a new location, purchasing new premises or venture into new business activities, these types of changes could have a major impact on its risks profile. As a result, the policy needs to be updated accordingly.
  • New and Enhanced products – An innovative culture has taken over the insurance industry and ever so often we see the introduction of new products or the enhancement of existing products. Get in touch with you broker to advise you on any new products that might add value to your existing insurance portfolio.

“Reviewing your policy regularly gives you peace of mind knowing that you can focus on running your business effectively, without worrying about unforeseen risks,” concludes Maupa.

Related: Insurance For Small Businesses: What Should Be Covered?

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