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This article was published on June 25, 2012

    How Silicon Cape is fostering a supportive ecosystem for startups in South Africa

    How Silicon Cape is fostering a supportive ecosystem for startups in South Africa
    Tefo Mohapi
    Story by

    Tefo Mohapi

    Tefo Mohapi is the founder and CEO of iAfrikan news. He is based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Tweet him on Twitter, visit his personal web Tefo Mohapi is the founder and CEO of iAfrikan news. He is based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Tweet him on Twitter, visit his personal website or add him on Google+.

    The Silicon Cape Initiative has grown to become a champion for technology startups in South Africa since its launch on October 8, 2009 in Cape Town.

    Founded by two South African tech entrepreneurs, Justin Stanford and Vinny Lingham, Silicon Cape is an ecosystem for technology startups based in the Western Cape of South Africa. It aims to attract investors while promising to foster the creation and growth of world-class startup companies.

    The initiative aims to create an environment that can easily compete with other similar hubs around the world, including the Silicon Valley, by planting a seed to promote the concept of the Silicon Cape as the up-and-coming ‘Silicon Valley of Africa’.

    Speaking to HumanIPO, Tim Lind, a member of the Silicon Cape initiative, said they have been successful in raising awareness of the initiative. “In South Africa where our name is well known, favourable tax and grant incentives for software development now exist.”

    He went on to elaborate on the impact that Silicon Cape has created with its various activities. Lind said that the initiative was “quoted” as a primary reason for Google launching its first-ever startup accelerator in South Africa named Umbono.

    In addition to pioneering a number of initiatives including the Venture Capital (VC) office hours programme, where VCs offer their time one day a month to meet with any entrepreneurs for advise on entrepreneurship, they have also produced successful businesses out of their ecosystem such as Yola, Fundamo, MXit and 2go.

    This is welcome news for South Africa and Africa as a whole, as entrepreneurs play an integral part in economic growth.

    Outside interest

    Also, having the likes of Elon Musk, Mark Shuttleworth, Roelof Botha and the team that created the Amazon EC2 infrastructure come out of South Africa, provides much-needed inspiration for up-and-coming technology entrepreneurs.

    As Tim explained, interest has grown recently in the Silicon Cape with several people and companies moving down to Cape Town to be part of the startup ecosystem. They have come from other parts of South Africa, and as far afield as London and Silicon Valley.

    Tim said: “We have had interests from some of the top influencers in the US and UK who recognize Cape Town as a hub for technology in Africa. The Bandwidth Barn hosted a startup competition recently (named LaunchCT) with some international mentors coming down and leaving while impressed. South Africa hosts the Tech4Africa contest which introduced a startup competition last year.”

    In terms of government involvement and funding, it seems more can still be done as government institutions have become involved in only funding projects like ICT incubators. More funding and participation by government institutions is however still necessary.

    Funding is a hurdle for many technology startups in South Africa and Africa as a whole, and Tim concurred by saying: “Funding is a hurdle, but there have been several additions to the funding environment recently and so momentum is building up – this includes Umbono and Angelhub at the seed capital level and Knife Capital creating VC fund.”

    In parting, Tim had this to say: ‘We need more competition in the funding landscape here, the African VC layer isn’t receiving the money it should, and the seed layer has been very bare.”

    Image credit: Coda

    This story originally featured on HumanIPO.