There are many ways we might be able to repair South Africa’s economy, with entrepreneurship being right at the top of the ‘likely’ pile. But it’s not as easy as simply coming up with a nifty idea, putting it into action and immediately succeeding. Entrepreneurship, like any other pursuit, requires knowledge and skill.
If we want our youth to ‘create their job, rather than find one’, they need all the help they can get, and we have the requisite skills and knowledge they will be searching for one day, right now.
Every year Stellenbosch University, Innovus and The LaunchLab use the resources we’ve acquired over the years to do just that, across a few different events, right across Stellenbosch.
Fintechathon: Along with Capitech and Entersekt, who sponsored, assisted with and judged the event, we challenged our students to fix real-world issues using technology… in two days.
View more photos here.
The idea was fairly simple: how can we solve old problems using new ideas? After all, isn’t that the entire point of technology? This year’s theme this year was ‘Cashless solutions for a mobile world’, the solution to which will benefit both the financial institutions, reaching for new markets, but also the communities those markets are made up of.
Our first ever hackathon took place on the weekend of the 17th August. Nine student teams from a variety of faculties, were drawn in with food, free coffee, no sleep and the challenge of creating a working, viable and realistic prototype in very little time.
Both partner companies supplied their own devs to work with and mentor the students, helping them over hurdles and suggesting left-of-centre approaches. They also provided the hardware and software which the teams could use to test their solutions on. These included Amazon’s Alexa speech API, Bluetooth beacons, QR and barcode scanners and NFC tech.
It was a very heavy two days (and nights) but the results were worth it. From the students’ point of view, the winners took home R15 000 (and R5000 for both runners up) on top of stronger coding skills and a fresh outlook on how to better develop solutions innovatively to solve society’s current problems. For the sponsors, they had access to the insights of completely fresh brains, and the possibility of new hireable talent (after these brains finish their studies).
This hackathon is the first one we’ve run but, based on its success, it will not be the last. Expect a new challenge this time next year, as the hackathon becomes an annual fixture in the Innovus calendar!
Entrepreneurship Bootcamp: A ‘bootcamp’ is where, traditionally, you go to have the basics drilled into you. Our entrepreneurial bootcamp was no different. It was designed to ensure that our youth understand the fundamentals of business-building, and how to apply them effectively.
On the 10th and 11th September 50 students from the Faculty of Engineering, Science, Arts, Economic Management, Medicine and Health Sciences and the Military School came together for a 2-day workshop, hosted by some very experienced gentlemen. Anton Pretorius from www.sologix.co.za and JD Nel co-facilitated the bootcamp, as they ran the entrepreneurs-to-be through two of the key success tools, the Business Model Canvas and the Growth Wheel. Rather than let this information remain theoretical, the students were divided into teams and given actual business examples to work through as they learned how to create a value proposition, identify customers and market their products to these customers.
fTo further bolster their learning, the students were exposed to a line-up of internal and external speakers, all of whom have their own insights to share: Tonia Overmeyer, Prof Eugene Cloete, and Dr Albert Streve spoke on leadership and entrepreneurship and, on the start-up side, Fred Lutz from Custos and Dr Mauritz Venter from Arzagen shared their lessons on the life and challenges of growing something out of nothing.
Making entrepreneurship matter:
There were a number of other events that took place across Stellenbosch, run by our friends at The LaunchLab. These ranged from start-up and spin-out talks, pitching competitions, masterclasses on cryptocurrencies (driven by SU students), a Neelsie ‘open mic’ event, where students pitched their ideas to hundreds of student and a panel of judges, and the SU IdeaSmash, which saw 6 winning teams receive R10 000 in cash each.
Entrepreneurship isn’t a destination, it is a continuous journey that is often as rough and challenging as it is rewarding. Innovus, The LaunchLab and the University are doing all we can to ensure that our future business leaders are as prepared as possible for what is ahead.
If you have a concept you think is worthy of sharing, please remember that Innovus hosts Pitching Sessions on the last Friday of every month. Come and throw your idea up in front of us, and let’s see what sticks!
Innovus, Stellenbosch University
15 De Beer Street
PO Box 3135
t +27 (0) 21 808 3826