Google announces Umbono winners

Google’s startup incubator, Umbono, has officially launched with the announcement of its first set of winning teams. The pilot programme based in Cape Town, South Africa presented the teams in their new office space at an event on 1 November.

The programme, a Google first worldwide, is being tested in Cape Town, South Africa which was chosen because Google believes the city is in “the process of positioning itself as a hub for innovation and technology”.

Google’s vice president of engineering, Nelson Mattos said that the Umbono project is part of Google’s effort to grow its ecosystem in Africa. “We are very excited about the programme, it has been very successful so far. We hope big success stories come out of it with the chosen teams. The four teams that have been chosen show a lot of talent and promise,” says Mattos.

The winners will enjoy free office space and bandwidth for six months, in addition to the US$25 000 to US$50 000 in funding they’ll receive from Umbono’s panel of angel investors, which consist of five private investors including Andrea Bohmert, former Director and Co-Managing Partner, Hasso Plattner Ventures.

“As investors we went through a very long short list and all five us had to be happy with the chosen teams and these four were the top and we think they have some very interesting ideas,” says Bohmert.

The four teams that were chosen out of the hundreds that applied focus on different areas of technological innovation:

  • Starburst Games is a mobile games development startup. The company claims it has “the most addictive mobile games on the market”.
  • Localsort is an online concierge service aimed at hotels to help them recommend better locations and activities for their guests. The company hopes to “help businesses connect with each other and create an open and easy to use network and marketplace”.
  • TaxTim is a web-based service that helps individuals manage their tax returns. “Tim simplifies your returns in and question and answer format, making filing your returns easier,” says the company.
  • SampleBoard is a design-focused website that digitizes the “sampling process for design”. The site enables designers to share visual ideas with clients from the start of a project in order to manage expectations.

To sustain the programme, Google has partnered with corporations such has mobile network provider, Cell C to provide free internet connections for the winning teams as well the registration fees for “The Hub” where the teams will be housed.

“A project like this has not been undertaken in South Africa before, which is why Cell C joined forces with Google to make this a reality. Because innovation is a key value within cell C as an organisation, it makes sense that we put our efforts behind a project that encourages new idea,” says Simon Camerer, Cell C executive head of marketing.

Other partners include Ogilvy Cape Town, who will help the team with branding as well as The Hub, Cape Town, who will provide the space for the teams.

“We are very proud to be a partner to Google Umbono in this inspiring, entrepreneurial venture. While we will be playing a mentoring role in the spheres of branding and marketing, I have no doubt we will be doing a whole lot of learning too,” says Ogilvy Cape Town MD, Gavin Levinsohn.



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