Mzansi’s next tech hero to be crowned soon

1GIANTleap’s startup program is in full swing, with only 3 more weeks to go. On Wednesday August 16 the final event takes place in Johannesburg, hosted by Edge Growth at the stunning Exclusive Books in Hyde Park.

1 giant leap

During this event, the startups will pitch their businesses to a judging panel of successful entrepreneurs, specialists and investors.  Amongst the panelists are Llew Claasen (Partner at Newtown Partners), Clive Butkow (CEO at Kalon Venture Partners), Professor Barry Dwolatzky (Founder at Tshimologong), and Stephen Newton (ex Head of Google). The event will be attended by many respected players in the tech, startup, and investment space. The top two winners may have great prizes to look forward to.

The current “South Africa’s next tech hero” program was launched on June 8 in Johannesburg. Entrepreneurs from both Johannesburg and Cape Town were invited to pitch “a tech idea that will disrupt the African continent”. After a rigorous selection process, both on-and offline, the eight entrepreneur the “Tech Heroes”, were cherry-picked for their promising business acumen, resilient entrepreneurial spirit and savvy technical insight.

Amongst the Tech Heroes are: Alex Gabriels and Jade Venter from Spritzed: “The Airbnb for office space”, Patrick Machekera from Ispani: “A brand activation agency focused on township communities”, Aubrey Nyaguse from Skills Gorilla: “A talent matchmaking platform”, Anthony Bruce from Flippen Clever: “A textbook rental service for students”, Tannon Balanco from Bazinga Services: “On demand transportation services”, Thomas Hart from Rover: “A personalized travel platform”, and Ntando Shabalala from Graft House: “Tinder for job seekers”.

The purpose of the program is for the startups to take their wild idea to validated business model, with their prototype created and their first customers onboarded. The focus is on lean and agile: how to onboard your customers, which can usually take over a year, in the space of just 12 weeks while not spending any money?

1GIANTleap has a secret recipe for this:

It offers a combination of weekly Bootcamps by our mentors who are highly successful entrepreneurs and investors, field trips to partner organizations such as Facebook Africa and IBM Research, weekly one-on-one mentorship by both business and tech experts, as well as product development.

While incubators all over the world are generally playing a ‘numbers game’, 1GIANTleap takes the opposite approach: a human-centered approach.

“The word ‘business incubator’ suggests a nurturing approach to growing startups, but it’s still quite rare to run a business in a nurturing way. 1GIANTleap is a “conscious incubator”; our philosophy is to focus on building people, so that their businesses will be built. We do this by providing an opportunity to get up close and personal with successful entrepreneurs and investors, who – besides sharing their entrepreneurial insights and achievements – share their mistakes and personal struggles in an honest way. This human-centered approach creates an open environment for people to connect and learn, and that’s where the magic happens”, says 1GIANTleap Head Moniek van Erven.

Moniek van Erven continues to explain: “1GIANTleap aims to create the job of the future for Africa; those that are still relevant in say 10 or 20 years as they haven’t been made redundant by automation. We believe that technology is the answer to this.”

1GIANTleap’s technology partner VSpace adds to this: “We support the entrepreneurs with building quick and cost-effective tech products that they can use to get feedback from potential customers. Creativity and speed are key in this process, as we often offer an unusual way of testing these solutions on their customers” says Vinu Nair, CEO at VSpace.

1GIANTleap’s unconventional approach is further emphasized by its choice of Bootcamp topics: where else could you learn about “Mental health for startup founders” from an Innovation expert? Or how to “Use Artificial Intelligence to boost your business” from IBM Research experts?

As one of our Tech Heroes so aptly put it: “Bootcamps are intense, fast and without fluff”.

Our list of mentors, just to name a few, includes Justin Drennan (Founder at Parcel Ninja), Davis Cook (CEO at RIIS), Gavin Symanowitz (Founder at Feedback Rocket), Matthew Barclay (MD at Meltwater Africa), and Llew Claasen (Partner at Newtown Partners).

“We’ve gathered a whole lot of great minds within this program who are genuinely motivated to help the Tech Heroes to succeed. All that the Tech Heroes need to do is to tap into that knowledge; to use that brain power to their advantage. Our mentors had to find out everything they know today by trial and error: our Tech Heroes can save themselves a lot of time by learning from the mentors’ mistakes and insights”, says van Erven.

Tech Hero Patrick Machekera, Founder at Ispani, has this to say about the mentors: “The mentors are definitively a highlight for me. All of them are brilliant and non-conventional. I had originally thought that it would just be a quick meet and greets because they are such busy and successful entrepreneurs, but they truly took an interest in me as a startup entrepreneur, making an effort to fully understand my business and my purpose and, ultimately, connect me to the right people to roll out my business on a large scale!”

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