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Q&A: Zuma relative, business consultant now heads Startup Grind Pretoria

A 34-year-old businessman and business consultant who counts former president Jacob Zuma as his great uncle, now runs Startup Grind Pretoria.

Startup Grind is a global movement which hosts regular talks with entrepreneurs. Pretoria is one of 13 cities in South Africa that have chapters.

“The question about JZ is one I get just about daily,” says Monde Zuma (pictured above with mLab Southern Africa CEO Derrick Kotze), who adds that he is accustomed to call the former president “grandfather”.

He took over from Guillaume De Smedt in November, when De Smidt (who also ran the Cape Town chapters for some years) moved to focus more on Startup Grind’s global office.

The question about JZ is one I get asked about daily, says Zuma relative who now heads Startup Grind Pretoria

“The mood is of positivity and people believing there is some hope for the South African economy and that businesses will strive in the waves of confidence taking place.

“However, I do not see how JZ resigning will help an entrepreneur in Mamelodi who is in a good mood that he (Jacob Zuma) is gone, yet his business is still struggling with revenue not increasing and still awaiting to get some government fund or grant, but this is a topic for another day,” says Zuma, who also runs Mamelodibiz, a township entrepreneurship platform.

In response to a number of emailed questions from Ventureburn, Zuma detailed how he became involved with Startup Grind, his views on entrepreneurship and comments on the rising numbers of black tech entrepreneurs in Pretoria.

Ventureburn: Can you tell us a bit about where you come from?

Monde Zuma: I am a 34-year-old unashamed Christian and a father of two boys Thobile and Njabulo. I studied business computing and business management and entrepreneurship at Varsity College. I am also a former basketball and soccer player.

I had a great stint in politics and community activism serving in several structures in my earlier years. I also have a solid corporate experience of more than 10 years mainly in banking, risk management, education and event and entertainment management, having worked in various roles in management for over six years.

I have also had several businesses dating back to 2005 — from artist management, event management, a recording label, graphic design, a debt collection call centre and catering. Now days I run a business management consulting firm (focusing on entrepreneurship development in townships).

Mamelodibiz (which I run) is a township entrepreneurship platform that is also a business and IT company based in Mamelodi, specialising in delivering innovative and disruptive SME business solutions to township businesses.

VB: How did you get involved with Startup Grind?

MZ: I attended the inaugural Startup Grind Pretoria event just over a year ago with a complimentary ticket and as I did not believe in freebies I asked to volunteer so that I could earn my place in the event.

After the second event, it troubled me that Startup Grind Pretoria was being ran by a person who is not Pretoria-based (De Smedt is formerly from Pretoria, but at the time had moved to Cape Town – Ed). I then enquired how I can run the Pretoria chapter.

I remember being told by Mohamed (Chohan) who runs the Durban chapter that it is a long process that is done online, but he said I can try my luck.

Ever since that night and with the coming of G (Guillaume De Smedt), I started learning how I could run a successful chapter. With Master G mentoring me to takeover I got to learn about Startup Grind, but having had extensive years in event management it was not an issue, but I had to learn the Startup Grind way.

The biggest thing that made me want to be part of Startup Grind Pretoria was the lack of entrepreneurial events that are prominent and accessible to just about everyone.

I also saw an opportunity to bring Mamelodibiz into the fold which has worked out nicely that has benefited not only me and Mamelodibiz, but the entrepreneurs from Mamelodi on the platform who have had the opportunity to network, learn and get some business deals from attending the events.

VB: Why are you interested in entrepreneurship and what do you see as some of the biggest challenges that face SA entrepreneurs?

MZ: The ability to change lives through job creation and providing solutions is the biggest reason why I am an entrepreneur.

Coming from politics and community activism one was reliant on others to effect change, yet in business one can actually do things without waiting for government — with almost full control my destiny.

VB: What speakers have you had so far and what has the attendance been like? 

MZ: Recent speakers have been mLab’s Kotze, Bindzu Smart Entrepreneur founder Gift Nkuna, Vanwanti Business Investments founder Noughty Maluleke and Project Isizwe founder Alan Knott-Craig. The attendance has been good with an average of 60 people. There has been a great surge of black entrepreneurs and drop from fellow white counterparts *sad face*.

VB: Are you going to be having more black entrepreneurs speak at the event? 

MZ: I would love to have more black entrepreneurs speakers and in fact the next speaker is a black person, Sizwe Snail (Founder of Snail Attorneys & Lex-Informatica).

We are working on bringing more female entrepreneurs to the event, but as we have not received confirmation we cannot disclose names as yet but will keep you posted.

VB: Ventureburn’s 2017 Startup Survey revealed a significant increase in the percentage of tech entrepreneurs that operate from Gauteng. Is Pretoria showing some muscle now?

MZ: There is indeed an increase and we are seeing more black tech entrepreneurs coming from Pretoria. This we can credit the Gauteng government with entities like The Innovation Hub championing and fostering a tech or smart industries ecosystem.

The various tech or innovation competition and programmes in the province run by both government and the private sector has given black people the opportunity to harness and sharpen their tech skills and this is ripping rewards with the rise of the black tech entrepreneurs.

The eKasiLab for example is giving township based black entrepreneurs the skills, mentoring and facilities that have an atmosphere of tech and innovation in our communities.

The free Wifi rollout has also played a major role which has challenged entrepreneurs to come up with products and solutions that the free Wi-Fi opportunities bring.

Featured image: Startup Grind Pretoria chapter head Monde Zuma (right) with mLab Southern Africa CEO Derrick Kotze (Supplied)