Following last year's successful Idea Auction, which resulted in the launch of 12 student start-ups, Upstarts is back this year with a new theme: re-educating education.
Students from across the UCT campus were invited to create multidisciplinary teams and participate in the programme to help them become social entrepreneurs.
The 12-week social innovation curriculum is a joint initiative between the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UCT's Graduate School of Business, Super Stage and the Office of the Vice-Chancellor.
Students attend two lunchtime coaching sessions on Monday and Thursday as passengers aboard a double-decker bus on upper campus.
Prince is known for arriving at each Upstarts session with a briefcase in hand, dressed in semi-formal office attire.
“Technically, because I'm a 'student', I work and I study at the same time,” chuckles Prince. “I also believe in the philosophy that if you look smart, you do smart, and you exude what you want to become.”
Pay it forward
Prince appreciates that the programme brings together a diverse group of people from different disciplines. He is currently a third-year economics student, while the members of his team – Sylvan Morris, Musa Mlangeni and Nelsie Mtsweni – are from the engineering and sciences faculties.
Prince joined the Upstarts programme to hone his entrepreneurial skills.
“I feel I could have manifested whatever entrepreneurial flare was in me through working with different individuals from different academic and schooling backgrounds,” says Prince.
The team's idea is an online tutoring system they call Lwazi, which is the Xhosa word for knowledge.
“It's very nuanced in its approach because it's live tutoring – it's tutoring on demand as you need it, when you need it,” explains Prince.
The idea is simple. Students log onto an online platform when they need tutoring. An available tutor responds to the request and they go into a live tutoring session. Students buy airtime to pay for their tutoring session, and the tutor gets paid a portion of that money.
“The cool thing about this for us is the fact that it's not just about making money; it's about paying it forward,” explains Prince.
Tutors are compelled to tutor people from lower income brackets and disadvantaged areas for free. In exchange they gain credits to claim against their next airtime purchase.
“This shows our commitment to helping to enable and enhance education, and that is one of the small ways we are creating social impact with our idea,” says Prince.
The Upstarts idea launch will take place on 8 September 2016. Prince and his team are excited because of the opportunities that exist around the idea launch.
“We're working tirelessly to ensure that we have a viable product that will lure potential investors into partnering into the vision we have” says Prince.
Prince already has a thriving business of his own, SBS Research, which he co-founded last year with fellow finance student, Ntando Shezi.
“It's been an amazing learning curve. We've made mistakes along the path, but far more importantly I think we have been able to solidify and learn from our mistakes. We've made significant strides since then,” says Prince.
SBS Research conducts research for academics and corporates in a number of different markets, but currently they focus on the low income sector and students.
“The South African survivor market is generally very misunderstood. The interesting thing about it is the size of the market, which is valued at R600 billion,” explains Prince.
“The challenge now is that corporates have started to see the importance of this market in the context of South Africa, but they don't know how to create nuanced strategies that can actually communicate to this market because they don't have any data or understanding of their purchasing patterns.”
SBS Research is also in the process of building a platform that can be scaled across Africa. They are planning on launching it not only in South Africa, but also in Kenya and Nigeria.
Africa needs to be changed by ordinary people on the ground
Prince grew up in Queenstown and matriculated from Queens College in 2013. He admits to finding the jump from high school to varsity a bit of a challenge, but he soon found his feet.
“I've grown far more confident and have been developed by the UCT environment,” he explains. “Whether it is racism, discrimination, fees must fall or economic inequality, I think UCT has created an open space for engagement both inside and outside the classroom. And I think that is something that has impacted on my life personally, not being afraid to talk about anything at any point in time.”
His passion for economics comes from wanting to change the African continent. Prince believes that although there are a lot of challenges, they can only be changed by ordinary people on the ground.
“For me one of the biggest mechanisms by which we can functionally begin to drive change in society is through entrepreneurship,” he says.
“I think it's critical that we recognise, particularly as this generation, that we have an inherent responsibility to create a better tomorrow. And we cannot afford to abdicate that responsibility to any other institution or person. That responsibility lies solely on our shoulders and the recognition of that needs to manifest in our day-to-day actions,” says Prince.
In closing, Prince reflects on the state of unhappiness many feel concerning the current state of Africa.
“I think we just need a bit of faith,” he says.
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