28 November 2013 Volume :1 Issue :13

Startup Visa Canada Initiative Assists Entrepreneurs

Startup Visa Canada Initiative Assists Entrepreneurs
GSB&L academics and students with representatives from GrowLab.

Local entrepreneurs got an opportunity to explore international sources of finance available to support startup businesses during the Startup Visa Canada programme hosted by the Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB&L).  

The innovative programme reinforced the School’s vision of playing a critical role in developing a vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem and also allowed the GSB&L to host the largest startup weekend ever in Africa in September.  

The Startup Visa Canada initiative was facilitated by Vancouver-based startup accelerator organisation, GrowLab.  

For the South African leg of the trip, GrowLab’s executive team of Mr Mike Edwards and Mr Jonathan Bixby accompanied by South African tech entrepreneur Mr Gary Boddington interviewed entrepreneurs in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.  

Edwards, the Executive Director of GrowLab, said it was important for accelerator organisations to build a relationship with universities as that was where future entrepreneurs were moulded.  

‘We need universities such as this one to host us because we get exposed to talent and great ideas. As a retired entrepreneur I am interested in building ecosystems involving university Professors and entrepreneurs who will be exposed to our community and build a bridge between countries,’ he said.  

Boddington of Durban is Chief Executive Officer of Fodio, a company that provides financial, transactional and technology services.  He shared his story of how as an entrepreneur he struggled to penetrate the international market when he relocated to Canada and why initiatives such as the Startup Visa Canada programme were crucial for a thriving startup culture.  

‘When I started my business in Durban things such as a startup visa did not exist and it was a long process to get into Canada. That is why these sort of programmes are important as they give entrepreneurs who want to get their foot into the European market a starting point.  

‘Through relationships with universities such as UKZN we are able to give entrepreneurs the support they need for their startups. We interviewed 10 people during the event and we were very impressed by the high calibre of ideas and we cannot wait to develop them further,’ said Boddington.  

At the networking session, aspiring entrepreneurs got the opportunity to pose their questions to the experts about venture creation, capital needed to start a business and technology entrepreneurship.

Overall winners, Mr Anieto Anthony and Mr Pfano Mashau, spoke about the progress they had made in launching their innovative concept named Reminder – a micro-chip product which alerts owners if they have forgotten their valuables.  

They shared their challenges about the technology aspect of the process and received enlightening and practical solutions from the panel on the way forward.  

Anthony and Mashau will get an opportunity to expand their business into the international market with GrowLab giving them a free Canadian visa, seed funding, mentorship and a collaborative workspace for three months.  

GSB&L’s Dean and Head, Professor Stephen Migiro, thanked Edwards, Bixby and Boddington for their valuable input and discussed future collaborations with them which could benefit GSB&L students.

-     Thandiwe Jumo

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