The Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi) is one of South Africa’s oldest initiatives dedicated to boost local innovation. Founded in 1998, CiTi has established itself as one of the most renowned hubs for entrepreneurs in Africa by fostering through skills development and incubation services.
At the helm of this initiative today is Ian Merrington, who brings with him a wealth of experience in advertising and consulting services. Before joining CiTi, he was Group Financial Director of BBDO SA, a director of Gloo Digital Design and later COO for iKineo, a leading Pan-African customer engagement firm.
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For the third edition of our A Day in the Life of… series, we’re following Merrington through his day-to-day as CEO of one of the startup ecosystem’s key players in South Africa.
A Day in the Life of CiTi’s Ian Merrington
At 6am the alarm goes off. It’s summer so Merrington’s already awake. After getting up and taking a shower, he has some fruit while overlooking the sea from his balcony. Living in Camps Bay has its advantages. He goes on to scan the first page of Business Day.
Then it’s time to head through to The Woodstock Exchange where CiTi’s offices are. But before hitting the desk, he checks in at Rosetta Roastery — one of the Cape’s top coffee joints. The barista pours Merrington his first brew, a Gayo from Sumatra in Indonesia. And after slurping down the hot beverage and conversing with Jonno about the day’s playlist, he heads up stairs to his office.
It’s now around 8am on a Thursday which means it’s time to have a weekly exco meeting. The team always starts with one round of what went well with everyone, just to get the positive vibes going.
“It’s a great forum for us to hear what each of us is up to, check that we are aligned with CiTi and The Barn and each other’s strategic objectives and celebrate our success of the week,” says Merrington.
There’s so much going on in the innovation and incubation space, and the team decides on what to spend their energy on, and what to leave alone. Today, the top priorities are funding and strategic partnerships.
After about two hours of strategy and operations talk, Merrington meets up with Wesgro and the team from Barclays Africa Innovation. The meeting is on how local government and corporate can work together to drive regional innovation and lead global companies on this path into Africa. Exciting times!
Once that’s over and done with, he joins yet another session on driving brand awareness for Cape Town as an innovation hub. The session flaunts a great turnout which includes the likes of Tim Harris from Wesgro, Lance Grayling and Faith Kolala from the City’s economic development arm, Enrico Girolo who is intimately involved in the City’s brand positioning, as well as Alex Fraser from Batstone.
He calls lunch at 12:30pm and heads down to Ocean Jewels, where Jules prepares him some fresh tuna. The meal is followed by another quick stop at Rosetta — the second and last coffee of the day. Never more than two, ever.
Next up, he welcomes the new Africa head of innovation for Thomson Reuters at the The Barn and discuss inclusive innovation on the continent.
At around 2:30, it’s time to chat bitcoins and blockchains with Sonya Kuhnel from the Bitcoin Academy. The pair discuss the upcoming Bitcoin Conference, where Merrington will be MC.
Some time after 3pm he heads to his desk. He scrolls through Business Day once more and contemplates attending the Money 20/20 conference in Europe in April. Cape Town is proving itself to be the fintech capital of Africa, he believes, and CiTi’s ability to add value to that is important. “Maybe the exchange rate will improve,” he ponders. “Maybe I should have bought more bitcoin?”
At 4:30pm he meets up with the CapaCiTi team to further discuss an innovation skills development proposal to the national Jobs Fund.
An hour later, he quickly checks in with the chairman of The Bandwidth Barn, Joshin Raghubar, to catch up on virtual innovation clusters and travel tech ideas.
Merrington heads back home at around 6pm. After his powered through the traffic, he goes for a relaxing stroll in the Table Mountain Reserve, which is conveniently also his back garden. He fires up the weber and has a relaxed supper with his wife Sal. He hits the hay by 10pm — it’s a school night.