Solution Space entrepreneurs take off

18 December 2018 | Story Supplied. Photos Supplied. Read time 4 min.
In partnership with MTN, the Solution Space at the Graduate School of Business is providing a strong platform for start-ups to test their business models.
In partnership with MTN, the Solution Space at the Graduate School of Business is providing a strong platform for start-ups to test their business models.

Entrepreneurs participating in the latest Venture Incubation Programme at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Graduate School of Business’s Solution Space are reporting solid early successes.

The Solution Space, in partnership with the MTN Group, hosted the Venture Incubation Programme (VIP) Winter School Demo Day recently. The VIP Winter School cohort comprised six start-ups, operating in diverse sectors. The sold-out event was attended by 120 people, including the group general manager for ecosystem development at MTN, Eero Tarjanne.

The Demo Day is the culmination of a 12-week journey of testing and validating new business models.

Despite all being early development stage start-ups, the teams participating in the programme have already notched up some notable achievements and milestones during the 12 weeks.

Diverse successes

Motorcycle ride-hailing service OK Motto has raised US$10 000 funding; Opencharge, which has developed an innovative device-charging system, is launching its first official pilot in partnership with popular co-working space Workshop17 and is continuing discussions for another pilot with MTN South Africa; and the taste-tech start-up, Ask-Jean, came first in Winetechʼs recent Wine Industry Innovation Challenge.

Start-ups presenting on the night included Petal & Post, an online posy delivery service offering reliable same-day delivery by an in-house, all-female delivery team. A weekly flower subscription service is also available.

Collocation is developing an aggregated data hub, building application programming interfaces (APIs) with accessible dashboards and geospatial maps, to formulate models to predict future trends.

Go.Explore is a digital social platform that provides explorers with a simple and convenient way to find, book and pay for purposeful travel experiences.

Ask-Jean is a taste-tech start-up that helps customers find wines, whiskies and other drinks to match their personal taste preferences. Think Spotify, Tinder and Pokémon-Go for a fun interaction, and for its advanced algorithm to learn what the consumers’ preferences are. Ask-Jean enables producers to discover new markets, gain deeper data-driven insights into customers and to sell their product directly to consumers.

OK Motto is a Cameroon-based mobile and web application that allows the public to safely and conveniently hail motorcycle rides. The fleet of motorbikes is also used for courier deliveries.

Opencharge has developed an internet-of-things platform that transforms everyday surfaces into an interactive content channel that engages consumers while customers take advantage of convenient wireless power charging capabilities.

New generation of entrepreneurs

Other start-ups that have graduated from the VIP are also making waves.

Prospa, a mobile savings wallet for low-income households, has raised R2 million in grant funding; Chat2Brand, which has developed a WhatsApp-based business communication tool, has achieved a turnover of R18 million with just 15 employees in two years; Nu Nanny, an on-demand babysitting service, achieved R40 000 in turnover within the first month after launching; and the MyStylist app has had over 10 000 downloads with users from different parts of the world.

Sarah-Anne Alman, manager of Solution Space, said: “Every year we’re inspired by the innovative ideas that are introduced to the Venture Incubation Programme. We designed the programme to challenge the teams and to interrogate their ideas to ensure they graduate with a viable, market-tested business model.

“Our mission is to build a new generation of entrepreneurs, and we are confident that the new breed of businesses emerging from the Solution Space each form a unique building block that will help us do that.”

Tarjanne said: “As a proud partner of the Solution Space, MTN sees this partnership as a key component in our widespread activities within the start-up ecosystem across Africa and Middle East.”

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