Microsoft, university, VC network team up to give SA startups a fighting chance

A new partnership between Microsoft’s BizSpark initiative and Find-Make-Grow-Realise (FMGR), a startup investment programme offered by the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business and local VC network AngelHub, will give startups in Johannesburg technological support, business know-how, and access to potential investors and business networks.

While BizSpark provides access to software development tools, connecting the member entrepreneurs with key industry players, and providing the marketing visibility which these high growth potential startups will need, FMGR will build their business skills and network connections.

BizSpark is available to more than 50 000 members in 100 countries and offers technical support, business training and a network of over 2 000 partners to connect members with incubators, investors, advisors, government agencies and hosters. The programme includes access to the Windows Azure cloud platforms.

Surviving as an early-stage startup in South Africa is challenging, but the hope is that the partnership will dramatically increase entrepreneurial success in the country by giving local startups the tools they need to develop into large, sustainable businesses

The programme is also a key pillar in AngelHub’s ‘Startup Cultivator’ designed to teach business-building skills, create relevant business networks, provide access to funding and enable startups of the angel investment group to take advantage of market access opportunities.

AngelHub’s Brett Commaille says that truly successful startups, tech and high growth eco-systems are built on cooperation and the spirit of sharing, especially in terms of knowledge and experience.

“The phrase ‘Give before you get’ is one you often hear bandied around Silicon Valley,” he says. “It involves those with experience and resources giving back and sharing the knowledge they have with those who are keen to learn.”

“BizSpark and the Find-Make-Grow-Realise programme have the combined resources and experience needed by many young high-growth potential business entrepreneurs who are keen to learn and use the tools available to accelerate their growth while avoiding the many pitfalls that hinder them from reaching their real potential.”

FMGR is a two-day programme that was launched earlier this year by the UCT GSB in association with AngelHub and growth equity fund manager Knife Capital to promote the development of early-stage, high growth entrepreneurial activity in South Africa. Designed to plug the gap between entrepreneurs and investors, blending the research rigour of the business school with practical investment thinking, the programme brings them together under one roof to share the classroom and aims to provide them with in-depth insight and understanding of the entrepreneurial landscape in the country.

The course teaches investing ins and outs, says Commaille, but it also teaches entrepreneurs what it takes to build a company into a high growth business.

“Young companies often struggle with a lack of business expertise and experience, as well as resources, as they try to turn a small product or innovation into a fully-fledged self-sustaining business,” says Commaille. “The partnership will now ensure that they get the technological resource support, business acumen and the opportunity to find suitable investors they need for their business to be successful.”

“With the FMGR course established, it seemed logical to partner with BizSpark, whose programme is at the forefront of best practice in well-developed startup eco-systems, to strengthen both offerings,” says Commaille.

The FMGR programme will be on offer in Johannesburg on 16 and 17 April and in Cape Town on 4 and 5 June. For more information contact Joanne Boulton on 021 406 1431.



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