Virtual Firehouse wins Startup Weekend Cape Town 2012

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Virtual Firehouse walked away with the honours from this year’s Startup Weekend Cape Town following a frenetic 54 hours in which entrepreneurs and innovators gathered to pitch and develop their business ideas in the hope of creating the next big thing.

Startup Weekend is a global initiative which started in 2007 in Colorado, USA and over 500 events have been held in 90 countries to date. It was hosted in Cape Town for the second year running. Winners in the competition are provided with support from mentors, funders and industry giants such as Microsoft and Google.

This year’s event took place over the past weekend at the Bandwidth Barn’s new space in Woodstock, with 39 participants pitching an initial 29 ideas on Friday night. These were whittled down to nine teams by Saturday morning, and the challenge was to develop their concepts over the next two days, culminating in the pitching of their ideas to a judging panel on Sunday evening.

“We feel that it’s vital to the entrepreneurial ecosystem to hold events like Start-Up Weekend, which give participants a taste of what building a business entails and allows them to network with other entrepreneurs”, said Alex Fraser, Business Development Manager for Invenfin. Invenfin was a proud sponsor of the event, with Alex providing mentoring to participants while Invenfin’s Executive Director Stuart Gast sat on the judging panel.

The event has grown in popularity since last year when 26 people participated in the inaugural Startup Weekend Cape Town competition, with six teams pitching to the judges.

Virtual Firehouse’s winning idea is the brainchild of Brandon Wilson, an emergency services veteran who has experienced the inadequacies of current solutions first hand. The system aims to overcome the management and reporting challenges that emergency services teams face due to outdated systems.

The second-placed entrant, WiselyDone, aims to provide an employment portal for retired individuals to leverage their experience and skills.

“The winning solution addresses a clear need in the market, and despite the impressive output and creativity displayed by all teams, the judges were pleased with their final decision” commented Gast.

The top two teams won mentorship and support from Microsoft BizSpark, which will also send them to attend Demo Africa taking place in Nairobi, Kenya in October this year.

The kick-start given by this initiative is reflected by the good progress made since last year by the 2011 winner, Cable & Grain, which sells tech-friendly African handcrafts, and is now scaling up to launch internationally.

“We were very impressed with the quality of the pitches this past weekend and Invenfin is excited to be part of an initiative which provides this type of opportunity for budding entrepreneurs,” said Gast.

*Photo credit to Mark Koekemoer, Silicon Cape

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