Enter the dragon: Six SA start-ups pitched to investors at Expo 2020 and are reaping the benefits

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One of the selected MultiChoice Accelerator Programme companies — IT Thynk. (Image: Supplied)
One of the selected MultiChoice Accelerator Programme companies — IT Thynk. (Image: Supplied)

A recent report suggested that for entrepreneurs to flourish in South Africa “the solutions range from strengthening, to aligning learning, mentorship and support for entrepreneurs. It also includes providing entrepreneurial education for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and the digital economy.” MultiChoice Group is leading the way with its MultiChoice Accelerator Programme, the final leg of which took place earlier this month, which has already facilitated global investment opportunities for the participating businesses.

The report, Igniting startups for economic growth and social change, compiled byGlobal Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), made up of a consortium of teams from top academic institutions around the world, found in 2019 that South Africa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem was among the most challenging globally, ranking 49th out of 54 economies. This means programmes such as the MultiChoice Accelerator Programme become paramount in helping entrepreneurs succeed in a challenging environment. Similarly, collaborating with businesses globally can help entrepreneurs across the spectrum share experiences and develop support networks for future success.  

For the final leg of the MultiChoice Accelerator Programme six start-up and scaling businesses were selected, all six tapping into the digital future to create exciting new businesses. These businesses were invited to pitch to the global start-up investment community as part of the programme’s participation in World Expo 2020 on January 10.

The programme ­­­­– a collaboration with the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (dtic), Galelo Africa and Companies Creating Change (C3) ­­– forms part of the MultiChoice Innovation Fund (MIF) and supports the growth and development of SMMEs in South Africa. It also aims to connect them with global investors to unlock business opportunities that will enrich their lives, the communities they function in and the South African economy at large. Already, a mere two weeks after the pitching event, a number of the six start-ups have already had call backs from interested investors.

The global investors that participated on the panel comprised of representation from some of the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) leading investor and venture capital firms including Middle East Venture Partners and WAMDA Capital, among others.

“As MultiChoice we are excited to be able to create such a platform for up and coming South African entrepreneurs to raise more funding for their businesses as a result creating more opportunities for others. With unemployment rates so high in our country this is important for MultiChoice as we understand that the SMME sector is critical to create opportunities in South Africa,” said Collen Dlamini, Group Executive of Corporate Affairs at MultiChoice.

The leading African video entertainment company has invested R52m made up of grants, resources, and business support towards the shortlisted companies ahead of their final pitch to the global investor panel.

The selected companies are as follows:

EM Guidance: a digital healthcare platform providing access to the largest, up-to-date database of country-specific medicine information in South Africa.

Lightbulb: a learning management systems provider that enables virtual learning and training.

Swypa: a township consumer delivery service.

Whoosh: a fintech company providing end-to-end payment technologies.

Wetility: a hybrid solar solutions provider.

IT Thynk: an information and communications technology (ICT) services and gaming technologies provider.

The six finalists were chosen from a cohort of 20 South African start-ups who were part of the programme since September 2021, representing sectors across Healthtech, Fintech, EduTech, Circular Economy and the Creative Industries. The selected finalists have undergone an intensive virtual bootcamp programme, which was followed by the live pitch day to industry experts and investors. The keynote addresses was given by Expo Live Senior Vice President, Yousuf Caires and South African Minister of Small Business Development, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

As part of the programme, the initial 20 start-ups had to attend 26 hours of training which saw them receive guidance on critical business fundamentals and exposure to expansion and fundraising opportunities that will come in handy for each start-up as they continue their journeys. The programme which is facilitated by C3 - a United Arab Emirates (UAE) based social enterprise with a footprint in 17 countries across the Middle East and Africa - has enabled the start-ups to access a network of experts and trainers within the international start-up community that have put the entrepreneurs through a rigorous Investor Readiness (IR) programme that will see that they are prepared and fit for the final stretch.

Medea Nocentini, C3 Founder, said, “I am deeply inspired by the six founders that were selected for the final stage of the accelerator: they all have come a long way since the start of the programme with their dedication, perseverance and passion towards their businesses and the impact they are creating.  We are excited to see the levels that they have reached and their readiness to meet C3 experts and investors and to explore new opportunities stemming from the UAE.”In partnering with MultiChoice, Galelo Africa - a black-owned South African financial advisory firm, that is also a former benefactor of the MultiChoice Innovation Fund and currently manages the fund - came in a supportive role to assist the companies in developing their business cases (product and business development) as well as financial management.

As part of Team South Africa’s investment drive at Expo 2020 Dubai, MultiChoice as broadcast partner along with official news partner, Newzroom Afrika, will be broadcasting excerpts of the bootcamp programme along with each start-up’s journey throughout the programme as part of the television series, My Start-Up Accelerated, airing Sundays until 6 February 2022 on DStv’s channel 405.

This post is sponsored by MultiChoice and produced by BrandStudio24 for News24.

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