Cape Town on its way to becoming tech hub

Technical advances happen at lightning speed and often it feels like the next big thing must have happened when we blinked.

Spectators at Pitch Vinny, an event in Cape Town on August 17, will be keeping their eyes open in the hope of seeing a little bit of tech history in the making when four local start-ups pitch their ideas to Silicon Cape founder Vinny Lingham for funding.

Each of the four will have 15 minutes to pitch to Lingham, one of South Africa’s best-known technology entrepreneurs. One or all of these start-ups could walk away from the event at the V&A Waterfront with R50,000 in cash.

Next up at Monday’s event is a presentation about SweepSouth, the cleaning service that recently became the first South African company to win a place in 500 Startups, a prestigious four-month accelerator programme that comes with $125,000 (R1,6-million) in funding.

The Pitch Vinny event is being organised by Silicon Cape, an initiative that is working to turn Cape Town into a technology hub.

Silicon Cape vice chairperson Lianne du Toit said by inviting people to buy a ticket to watch the event they were hoping to inspire others.

“We want to encourage start-ups to learn from other start-ups pitching, as well as what investors are looking for,” she said.

Lingham, co-founder of a string of successful tech start-ups including Clicks2Customers, TrafficSynergy, Synthasite/Yola and Gyft, will also give feedback on the pitches.

He lives in San Francisco now but maintains close ties with South Africa, including starring in the South African edition of Dragon’s Den.

Lingham co-founded Newtown Partners, an angel and venture capital firm in Cape Town, and has raised more than R500m in venture funding in South Africa and the US.

Llew Claasen, Lingham’s co-founder at Newtown Partners, said: “We believe that entrepreneurs should get a shot at a dream. A dream that is big and bold and unexpected. South Africa’s problems will not be overcome if the dreamers don’t dream bigger dreams and if the start-up ecosystem doesn’t support the dreamers.

“We want to be a part of that change, so we’re giving one of these entrepreneurs a kick-start with R50k in cash. Think big or collect a paycheck, there is no middle ground worth occupying,” Claasen added.

Start-ups vying to catch Lingham’s eye on Monday will want to pay attention to the presentation about SweepSouth, among only a handful of African companies to win a place in 500 Startups’ programme. Only two percent of the thousands of applicants to the Silicon Valley-based venture capital fund and start-up accelerator are successful.

In the past five years, 500 Startups, which is led by Silicon Valley veteran Dave McClure, has invested in over a 1,000 companies and backed a number of companies such as TaskRabbit, Twilio and Gyft.

Alen Ribic, SweepSouth’s chief technical officer, who is currently working with 500 Startups at their San Francisco offices, said: “We are meeting some of the smartest people in the industry who understand and have experience in taking a company like SweepSouth from thousands of transactions a month to hundreds of thousands.”

Through its Uber-style online booking platform, cleaning service SweepSouth has completed thousands of bookings in homes and offices in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria using an advanced matching and rating algorithm. Launched last year, the company has seen double-digit growth since its launch, and its inclusion in this accelerator programme looks set to turbo boost that.

“We hope that the experiences and international backing we have from the 500 Startups team and our local investors will set SweepSouth for a very prosperous future and help us further contribute to our country’s economy,” Aisha Pandor, chief executive officer of SweepSouth, said.

Silicon Cape chairperson Dan Guasco said: “SweepSouth’s acceptance into 500 Startups validates the quality and global recognition African start-ups are starting to receive, and hopefully motivates more to follow. In the words of President Obama’s recent speech in Kenya, ‘It is indeed the young who must take the lead and there is no need to look overseas to realise your dreams.”

Source: Africa News Agency

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