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InnoTech Set To Boost More Tech Start-Ups This Year

Applications are now open for the 2016 Telkom FutureMakers InnoTech intake, starting in June 2016.

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InnoTech, the highly successful incubator programme for ICT start-ups in Telkom’s Cape Town FutureHub, is in its second year at the Woodstock Bandwidth Barn and is looking to turbo-charge the next intake of applicants into the market place.

Says Michelle Matthews, Head of ED and Innovation at the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi), “This programme is geared towards entrepreneurially minded developers and tech savvy entrepreneurs. What they will find is in-depth business support that will help them reach product viability, backed with a sound business skill-set that will keep them successful after launch. We also provide these entrepreneurs with the infrastructure and connectivity they need to support them while they develop their idea into a market-ready product.”

The Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi), based in the Woodstock Bandwidth Barn, has a legacy of successful entrepreneurs graduating through its various programmes, and InnoTech is its flagship ‘germinator’ programme, taking businesses ‘from concept to market’.

Related: Attention Black Entrepreneurs: Start-Up Funding From Government Grants & Funds

InnoTech is funded by Telkom FutureMakers, an enterprise development programme that aims to deliver real value by supporting small business development and growth in South Africa, while creating jobs and contributing to technology uptake through increased use of technology solutions by small businesses.

The InnoTech programme takes entrepreneurs at the concept or early prototype stages of their product into an eight-week ‘Pitch Deck Journey’, from which half are selected to continue into a 12-week process receiving business and technical support to launch an MVP into the market.

“Fifteen black-owned businesses came through the programme in 2015,” continues Matthews, “arriving with raw ideas that have become pitchable products. InnoTech contributes to CiTi’s mandate to support tech-based entrepreneurs in Cape Town, foster innovation and create a vibrant, thriving ecosystem in the IT and tech space.”

InnoTech boasts inspiring stories such as Nathier Abrahams’ Tutorfy. Abrahams developed a tutor app due to the rising demand from parents for qualified tutors for their children.

“I knew there was a huge market for parents to source reputable tutors who have been screened and vetted, and who have the right credentials, and for university students who need to supplement their income through tutoring. The website makes all of this possible, and now the input from FutureMakers InnoTech means my business can go to the next level,” says Abrahams.

“Not only is the access to content and mentorship beneficial to growing my business and brand, but the office space creates networking opportunities with other start-ups, and keeps me focused on the task at hand. The brain thinks differently in an office than it does while working at home.”

Says Ian Merrington, CEO of CiTi, “We are thrilled at the continued success this incubator programme is showing. We are driven to see tech improve the lives of ordinary people across all walks of life. The need to think out of the box to create tech solutions for the very real challenges facing education, government and healthcare make South Africa a hot house for solutions-driven tech development. I get excited when I see how our support brings these dreams and solutions to life.”

Coders and developers who are developing a B2B solution of any type, an e-commerce platform, gaming and media, or fintech, healthtech, edtech and govtech can apply to join this robust and prestigious programme to take them from ‘concept to market’.

Related: New Ways SMEs Can Find Funding

“It’s not for those who pursue growth half-heartedly,” says Dlova (21) and Mtshokotsha (22), entrepreneurs from Gugulethu who developed MuniWard, an app designed to help ward councillors better track requests and complaints from the community.

“It’s a 10-hour a week commitment that will stretch you to your limits through an MVP boot camp and more, but will see you grow like never before through personal business mentorship and hearing how other successful local entrepreneurs got it right.”

“There’s no other place in Cape Town where you will find a more robust, hard-working programme for entrepreneurs in ICT,” says Matthews, “We can’t wait to see the next intake of entrepreneurs flourish in InnoTech.”

Tech or tech-enabled businesses that are 51% black-owned and based in Cape Town can find out more and apply at: http://www.citi.org.za/innotech/

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Entrepreneur Today

South African Students Win R50 000 In The Universities Business Challenge

Students from Mangosuthu University of Technology beat 500 students from 13 different universities across South Africa.

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The Overlings from Mangosuthu University of Technology are the 2018 winners of Cognity Advisory’s Universities Business Challenge (UBC), sponsored by General Electric (GE). The winning team of four students are walking away with R50,000 to turn their business idea into reality.

Launched in July this year, the UBC has seen 500 students from 13 different universities across South Africa participate in a business simulation competition designed to develop entrepreneurship skills.

When the competition launched, all teams were challenged to form virtual companies and to virtually manufacture and sell bicycles.

The final 10 teams were from the University of Limpopo, Mangosuthu University of Technology, Vaal University of Technology, University of KwaZulu-Natal and North-West University.

During the two-day final, the teams played six rounds of simulations. Each simulation gave the teams a chance to re-evaluate their progress and better certain areas that needed improving. The winning team realised during one of their simulations that in order to maximise profits they would need to introduce two new products and market it differently from their initial product. They paid special attention to their customer’s needs. 

The aim of the UBC was designed to tackle South Africa’s high level of youth unemployment. Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) announced that South Africa’s official unemployment rate increased by 0.3 of a percentage point to 27.5% in the third quarter of 2018.

Nkosinathi Sokhulu from the winning team said, “Even though we didn’t have a great presentation we made the most profit. This experience taught us a lot about ourselves and business. Most of the decisions that we made came from serious debates. We learnt that market research is crucial when starting a business. We learnt that marketing starts and ends with the customer.”

Related: 20 South African Side-Hustles You Can Start This Weekend

“Based on this market research information we realised that it was important for us to introduce two new products and this, in addition to the main product we were selling, helped us to maximise profits. We saw an opportunity to add more products and it paid off” said Mbali Tshozi.

Tope Toogun, development advisor and CEO of Cognity Advisory said, “All the teams showed tremendous promise and I was very impressed by their levels of engagement with one another and their tenacity.”

“We really want to ensure that students are equipped with the necessary skills to not only start a business but to run it effectively. While we have selected one winner, our hope is that each team has benefitted by having learned the skills needed in the workplace.”

“The competition is designed to develop the ‘soft skills’ that are important for those wanting to set up their own business or simply be successful at work. With rising unemployment and ongoing talent shortages, having these skills is crucial for those wanting to get a job.”

The UBC, now in its second year in South Africa, will continue into its third year in 2019 and will run as the Africa Enterprise Challenge (AEC).

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Use The December Shutdown Period To Do Just That: Shut Down

by Greg Morris, CEO, Sebata Holdings

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Most businesses – retail and entertainment excluded – resemble ghost towns during the first and last weeks of the year. Energy levels are low in December, and employees daydream about cocktails on the beach. Come January, it takes a few days to get back into the swing of things. Before we know it, South Africa takes another extended holiday in April.

We’re accused of having a “holiday culture” in South Africa. That’s a fair comment. We get 12 public holidays a year, which is more than most countries. And many people use their annual leave strategically in April and December to maximise their time off. As a result, we only really work for 10 months of the year, while other countries work for 11 months.

There’s no doubt that public holidays affect the economy. One extra public holiday in 2011 resulted in an estimated R7 billion loss in turnover. But there’s also a lot to be said for taking time off. And when we know the holidays are coming, we can prepare for them, so employees make the most of their downtime and start the new year on a strong footing.

Burnout is not good for business…

Productivity and motivation are like fuel tanks. While driving, the fuel dries up. At some point, we need to fill up, otherwise we’ll break down. People are the same; we can’t run on empty. Weekends are one thing, but in our culture of always-connected busyness, we don’t get a chance to recharge over weekends. That’s why we need the longer break in December.

A Pulse Institute study found that, when employees are not rested, they experience:

  • 23% reduced concentration
  • 18% reduced memory function
  • 9% increased difficulty in performing tasks

Fatigue-related productivity losses amount to R26,000 per employee per year. Sleeplessness can also result in mistakes and increased absenteeism, accidents, or injury.

Well-rested employees, however, are happier and more creative, engaged, and productive. They get more done in less time than their sleep-deprived, low-energy colleagues.

Related: Year-End Doesn’t Have To Be A Pain For Your Business

… but if you’re going to burn the midnight oil…

Businesses often think of December as a slow period that will harm the bottom line. Yes, it can be disruptive and there will be financial impacts. But if you’re going to keep the doors open til the end, this is the perfect time for internal housekeeping. Even the most efficient and streamlined businesses can improve some internal projects or processes.

Allow teams to be inwardly focused during this time, so that you start the new year with less to worry about. Whether that’s planning for 2019, reflecting on what worked and what didn’t in 2018, cleaning up databases, servicing air cons and office machines, connecting with customers over coffee, updating your website, or creating new marketing campaigns, employees can achieve a lot when they’re not focused on the day-to-day grind.

Our best ideas come to us when we’re relaxed and not thinking about them. (If you’ve ever scrawled on the steamed-up shower door, you’ve experienced downtime creativity.)

Make the most of skeleton staff time in December. Host fun creativity sessions that have nothing to do with work. Pay for your people to complete short online courses that will give them skills and motivation boosts. When they do go on holiday, perhaps their new knowledge will result in a major ‘a-ha moment’ around the family braai.

Gone fishing

My best advice for businesses that are shutting down in a few weeks is this: shut down. Since the business is not generating income, everything that’s left running – that one employee watching the phone that never rings; that one light left on – hurts the bottom line.

Encourage teams to disconnect. Don’t expect them to answer mails and don’t contact them about work while they’re on holiday – unless it’s an emergency. Block access to mails if you have to, Volkswagen style. Give your people time to think, reflect, and sleep.

When we respect employees’ time and give them freedom to work when they’re most productive, we develop motivated, positive workforces who are enthusiastic about achieving the business’s goals. They work harder to get the job done and, in our experience, actually finish projects ahead of deadline because they want to be able to switch off and go fishing.

Related: Year-End Reviews Are Not Always A Positive Experience

Power down

Downtime is often seen as wasted time. We don’t take breaks, we eat lunch at our desks, and we work when we’re sick and should be at home. But working longer hours doesn’t mean that we’ll get more done. In fact, it can be enormously counter-productive.

Neuroscientist David Levitin cautions against the “false break”, when we feel guilty for taking time off and compulsively check emails. Napping, daydreaming, and “taking true vacations without work”, he says, is biologically restorative and essential for rebooting cognitive energy. So, if you’re going to shut down, do it properly. The same business challenges will be there when you get back. But you could solve some of them while you’re sleeping.

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Seasonal SMEs: Don’t Spend Your Extra Cash All At Once

Save a portion of festive season profits for an emergency fund.

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The festive season is a time when many seasonal small and medium enterprises (SMEs) reap the rewards of increased consumer spending, such as additional sales and accommodation bookings from the influx of holiday makers and festive season shoppers. This spike in earnings offers the ideal opportunity for these businesses to save some of the extra money that they make for an emergency fund.

This is according to Jeremy Lang, regional general manager at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), who says that a major risk faced by many businesses is their vulnerability to an unexpected financially-draining mishap such as a big client loss, a lawsuit, or any accident that is not covered by insurance.

“Despite this, few SME owners have an emergency fund in place to deal with such unforeseen events,” he says.

“This is understandable since a growing business tends to require a lot of cash to move forward. Another likely reason for this is because most SME owners are more focused on the immediate practicalities of building their business, rather than on vague risk assessments and planning. By nature, entrepreneurs also tend to be chronically optimistic about the future good luck of their business,” adds Lang.

“However, considering South Africa’s underperforming economy and rising consumer price inflation, it is essential that all SME owners save for a rainy day. Those that have boosted seasonal business have an advantage and should capitalise on this by putting aside a portion of their seasonal profits,” he explains.

Related: 5 Small Business Money-Saving Myths

When saving towards an emergency fund, it is key to set a goal, Lang points out. “A good rule of thumb is to have three to six months’ worth of overheads set aside, but even just one month’s expenses are better than nothing.”

The next step is to decide what constitutes an emergency, he says. “If an emergency fund can be dipped into every time you want to avoid an awkward phone call to the landlord to say that the rent will be slightly late this month, it won’t last long. A true emergency is one that threatens the survival of the business.”

With this in mind, thinking through and writing down a list of possible emergencies that would justify the use of the fund is a good risk-assessment exercise for any business, suggests Lang.

Finally, some thought needs to be given to where an emergency fund should be kept, he says.

“Gambling with the money on the stock exchange defeats the purpose. A money-market account is a better option, but it may be worth considering an account where the funds aren’t too easily accessible, so there’s no temptation to dip into it on a whim. On the other hand, it should not be so inaccessible that you cannot access it fairly soon when an emergency does strike.”

As such, Lang recommends a set of notice deposit accounts with varying notice periods so that a limited amount can be accessed immediately, and some a little later, which allows for some interest to accrue while the money, hopefully, will not be used any time soon.

“However, ultimately the will on the part of the business owner to attain these savings is critically important. The cash demands in a business are so constant that any vague or half-hearted attempt to establish an emergency fund will fail. It will have to be a conscious and disciplined effort by the business owner,” Lang concludes.

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