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‘Joburg 10XE accelerator helped me add 50 employees in nine months’

Entrepreneur Michael Roberts has been able to grow his software company from 90 to 140 people in just nine months, thanks to the Johannesburg-based accelerator 10XE.

“(The accelerator) teaches you to move beyond the typical entrepreneur mindset of working long hours for seven days a week,” says Roberts, whose four-year old company Khonology has been on the 18-month programme for the last eight months.

He says the accelerator — which was launched in December last year by founding director of Edge Growth Jason Goldberg– helped him put more efficient systems in place and impress upon him the need to hire more skilled and competent individuals.

The biggest impact 10XE has had on his company, he says, is that it helped the company to become more focused on the work the company does. This, he says, has helped Khonology grow. “This has been the busiest December ever” he says.

The 10XE accelerator teaches you to move beyond the typical entrepreneur mindset of working long hours for seven days a week, says entrepreneur

Since its inception the accelerator has worked with 16 companies. These include firms like SweepsouthSpark Schools and Solar Biotech.

“These are all businesses that at this point you can no longer call them technology businesses, but you can call them technology-enabled businesses,” says Goldberg.

“That’s something that happens to all disruptive startups — that is, technology moves from being the main thing to a part of the picture.”

The accelerator, which is a subsidiary of the Edge Growth Group, has access to five sources of capital under the group including the Vumela Fund as well as to Goldberg’s extensive networks in the South African venture capital system.

However, as its stringent criteria will reflect, this is not an accelerator for the average startup.

The programme is open only to scale-ups that have at least 10 employees and that generate over R10-million in revenue per year. The accelerator however, also considers applications from social enterprises.

The programme is priced at R32 000 a month. Companies also have the option to pay for the programme by offering an equity stake to the accelerator.

There are two intakes a year, one in February and another in August — with the third cohort currently under way.

Participants are assigned coaches who have built and scaled a similar business as the entrepreneurs. In addition, participants get to attend a series of 15 bootcamps on scaling up. Topics covered in these bootcamps include recruitment, culture and strategy.

Goldberg called the accelerator’s programme “transformative and critical in the process of scaling a business”.

“Almost all entrepreneurs who are going to scale a company for the first time just don’t have anything in their background that’s prepared them for this,” he says. He added that scaling a business requires a different mindset and skillset than that of starting a business.

“Things like hiring, because you’ve never had to hire strangers that are going to head up important functions they are going to build for your business, which if they don’t succeed, you know will break your company and probably destroy all your equity value in the business,” he says.

He says there are a number of critical issues that founders need to think about when scaling up, which he says are not as important as when you’re running a startup. These he says include: recruiting, team structures, performance management, remuneration and marketing system.

‘Tools, skills to scale’

SAIL founder and managing director Vimala Ariyan came to the accelerator five months ago after realising that the kind of internal process and systems she had been employing in her training institute were not going to help her business to grow.

“I realised that a scaling business will require me to possess another level of knowledge and expertise on business development. If I didn’t focus on the key growth activities which will move the business forward in a strategic way – I realised that I will be doomed to stagnate,” says Ariyan.

She says the 10XE programme has provided her with the tools and skill-set to scale successfully and to attain sustainable growth. This has helped her to change the institute’s recruitment process as well as its strategic focus and led her to revamp her IT system and learner management system.

Says Ariyan: “Our revamped sales and marketing strategy is more data driven and is forcing us to research and understand our potential clients as well as our existing ones”.

Featured image: Khonology founder Michael Roberts

Author Bio

Daniel Mpala
Daniel's focus is on the African tech startup ecosytem. Besides that, he is passionate about online security, privacy and international affairs. He studied International Relations and Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand. More

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