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Microsoft South Africa has partnered with the Government’s JobsFund to further help drive the creation of up to 600 technology start-ups over the next three years by dramatically expanding its BizSpark programme, which supports small software developer entrepreneurs.
Although the BizSpark initiative has launched a while ago, the partnership with SA’s JobsFund will use funding from the Government’s Jobs Fund and Microsoft’s own 4Afrika initiative. This will give qualifying local software development startups access to development tools, business support through accelerators and incubators and connect them with key industry players.
The programme will offer technical support, business training and exposure to a network of more than 2 000 partners to connect small businesses with incubators, investors, advisors, government agencies and hosters.
One of the key challenges local startups face today is creating sustainable businesses by finding paying customers. This is one of the key areas BisSpark will focus on.
As the programme grows, Nyati believes, the initiative will focus more on specific areas such as education and healthcare, to support national priorities. “Ultimately, we want to establish South Africa as an exporter, rather than an importer, of intellectual property,” said Nyati.
Mteto Nyati, Microsoft SA’s managing director, said the announcement cements Microsoft’s commitment to work closely with government to solve key national issues such as unemployment by developing enterprises:
“The BizSpark programme has been the breeding ground for some incredible start-up entrepreneurs and small software businesses. But we can do a lot more for this community by partnering with Government and local incubators to provide additional benefits to our start-ups, improving their success and that of the broader ICT industry. This will grow the industry and ultimately provide more people with employment.”
Dumisa Hlatshwayo, JobsFund’s chief investment officer, said entrepreneurship and innovation were critical elements in driving a nation’s economy, and that technology startups had the potential to breathe new life into the local software development sector:
“Entrepreneurs who start small businesses are the real job creators in South Africa. But it’s not just up to the government to provide support and incentives for SMBs. When big business and SMBs collaborate, they help drive an entire new wave of business and innovation in our country.”
To qualify for the local BizSpark programme, a start-up must be developing software; privately held; generating less than R5 million in annual revenue; and less than five years old.