UKZN Hosts the Largest Ever Startup Weekend in SA
The Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB&L) put KwaZulu-Natal on the map when it hosted the first ever Startup Weekend event in Durban from 27 to 29 September.
Mr Julian Parr of Startup Weekend Global described the event as the largest of its kind in Africa.
Startup Weekend, a creative global entrepreneurial initiative aimed at nurturing local aspiring entrepreneurs, provided a platform for aspirant entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas, form teams, build offerings and launch start-ups.
The hosting of Startup Weekend Durban was championed by Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at the GSB & L, Professor Shahida Cassim, who is a firm believer in the generation of innovation as a key stimulant to growing local economies and in particular in KwaZulu-Natal.
Welcoming the participants on Friday Cassim said: ‘We want to see the University playing a critical role in developing a vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem located in an equally vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem.’
The event attracted more than 100 aspiring entrepreneurs from Durban and surrounding areas who were given a platform to workshop and showcase their innovative ideas. They had the opportunity to network and to be coached by established local entrepreneurs.
Owner and CEO of International Bank Vaults (IBV), Mr Ashok Sewnarain, delivered an inspirational address to the participants and shared his personal journey to success as a property entrepreneur at the age of 29.
However, not satisfied with his success in one venture, he identified a gap and an opportunity for bank vaults in the banking sector. With sheer determination and courage, he established IBV in Durban and later in Johannesburg. This successful venture has plans to expand to Cape Town and internationally.
Sewnarain emphasised the importance of knowledge, conviction and perseverance, encouraging aspirant entrepreneurs to invest time researching their concepts in order to be better prepared to deal with the challenges associated with starting a business.
After two days of developing, reviewing and pivoting their business concepts, teams of participants presented their Startups to a panel of judges and potential investors. The concepts were aimed at addressing real consumer problems with many creative business concepts presented including data management solutions for informal traders; secured on-line document vaults; financial products; educational services and products; and eco-friendly goods and services. The presentations covered various aspects of the business model canvas the entrepreneurs had learned to develop.
After considerable deliberation by the panel of judges, Mr Anieto Anthony and Mr Pfano Mashau were declared the overall winners of the event for their concept named Reminder – a micro-chip product which alerts owners if they have forgotten their valuables. Their idea was described by the judges as innovative.
They won R20 000 and a 12-month premium membership to a procurement portal from Absa as well as a three- month free membership to Virtual Office courtesy of BizFarm. Four other teams won prizes valued at over R100 000.
A Computer Science student from UKZN, Mr Thabo Kwenati, enjoyed participating in a team with high school learners from Umlazi saying: ‘I was removed from my comfort zone and it was great to be exposed to different perspectives.’
Startup Weekend Durban demonstrated a true partnership between academia and industry. Partners in the event included the eThekwini Municipality, Absa, Sigma International, Technology Innovation Agency, and Shanduka Black Umbrellas.
Cassim noted that Startup Weekend was one of a range of innovation and entrepreneurship events that aimed to develop a generation of young leaders with an entrepreneurial mindset and the right attitudes and attributes to promote innovation in the South African economy.
Sponsor Mr Akash Singh of Sigma International commended the GSB & L and suggested the weekend become a permanent feature on the Durban Calendar of business events.
- Hazel Langa