R1.5 million for student social entrepreneurs

22 May 2018 | Story Supplied. Photo Robyn Walker. Read time 4 min.
UCT student entrepreneurs stand to benefit from a R1.5 million tranche of seed funding donated by the SAB Foundation to the Bertha Centre Student Seed Fund
UCT student entrepreneurs stand to benefit from a R1.5 million tranche of seed funding donated by the SAB Foundation to the Bertha Centre Student Seed Fund

All social entrepreneurs registered at UCT have until 24 June to apply for a share of a new R1.5 million tranche of seed funding from the SAB Foundation, made to the Bertha Centre Student Seed Fund.

The Student Seed Fund is an initiative of the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, a specialised unit at UCT’s Graduate School of Business.

The latest donation follows an initial grant of R1 million from the SAB Foundation in 2015, which the Bertha Centre managed and allocated to 26 early stage student ventures. This year the Student Fund will be awarding up to R20 000 to students who have ideas and up to R100 000 to students who have new social ventures and can show clear budget/financial projections.

The Bertha Centre is committed to growing the ecosystem of support for social enterprises. Given that South Africa faces a wide range of social problems – such as unemployment, lack of financial inclusion and quality education – resources such as the Bertha Centre’s Student Seed Fund are critical in mobilising innovative and impactful solutions, says the centre’s project manager, Bakang Moetse.

The fund has supported new innovations within various sectors, including educational technology, financial inclusion, township economy revitalisation, last-mile product and service delivery, and agro-processing.

Prototypes, pilots and products

During its first two years, with an allocation of R1 million, the Student Seed Fund provided pure grant funding to early stage social enterprises ranging from R10 000 to R50 000, depending on their lifecycle stage. This allowed the fund to offer small amounts of seed capital to innovative ventures at the ideation phase for market feasibility testing, or to offer larger amounts to those at a slightly later stage looking to develop their prototypes, pilots, or launch minimum viable products.

With a success rate (defined as the proportion of total ventures funded still in operation) of 92% to date, the Bertha Centre believes that the fund’s two core application evaluation metrics, namely the demonstration of high potential for social impact and the potential for commercial viability and sustainability, are the key to its performance.

In addition to achieving a high funded-venture success rate, funded ventures have, in aggregate, created over 280 income-generating opportunities in the local economy. These ventures have also managed to attract an aggregated R7 million in follow-on funding, attesting to the quality of selected applicants.

New funding possibilities

In the upcoming phase of the Student Seed Fund, the Bertha Centre plans to increase the fund’s support to these enterprises through mentorship and skills development. It hopes to expand the type of funding instruments offered. Based on these successes, the centre is also exploring other funding opportunities.

“We are incredibly excited about the opportunities this new funding presents to growing and encouraging the student community to take responsibility for solving social problems through innovative business models,” says Moetse.

“We believe that social entrepreneurship and innovation hold the keys to South Africa’s development, and we hope that other institutions around the country will join us on this journey.”

Read more about the Bertha Centre Student Seed Fund...

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