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The first day of the Ventureburn Pitching Den at the 2016 Innovation Summit in Johannesburg has come to an end. It was a day of intense pitching, fumbles, and astonishment. We recap the 23 interesting pitches and what they were about.
All of the contestants were pitching for a chance to take part in the Startup World Cup in 2017, which will be filled with intriguing prizes.
The entrepreneurs in the competition had six minutes to pitch their startups, which was followed by several minutes of Q&A from the judges and audience. Though these did run a little longer than intended.
While the overall theme was centred on the Global Cleantech Innovation Programme (GCIP), which looks at clean technology solutions, what really stood out was the legality these businesses had behind them. Almost every single pitch either had a patent or trademark in their back pocket for their pitch. It was an interesting observation, and one that’s not present at many SA pitching competitions.
While 26 startups were supposed to pitch on the day, only 23 were actually present, with Team Arcban, Vanzyl Gas Turbine Team, and Nzabela Technologies not able to attend the event for various reasons.
The event was split into four sessions, where several startups would pitch their ideas, followed by a short break or lunch.
The actual pitches
Kicking off the pitches was Joshua Palfreman for Tycycler. This startup focused on recycling steel bead from used tyres in order to cut down on potential health risks and pollution. The metal was extracted using a manual device. The extracted material could then be sold off to generate profit, while the tyres could be crumbed for other uses. Tycycler proposed having their extraction devices in petrol stations in order to maximise staff usage.
Next up was Amahlathieco, which is a product for geysers. This device would divert the heat from the element to sections of any geyser. This process, they said, would allow the heating of only specific areas of water for a shower, or to wash the dishes. As speaker for the startup, Sandiswa Qayi said, “Would you boil an entire kettle of water just for one cup of tea?”
Thevia had a concept not often seen in pitching competitions: roof tiles. Not just any roof tiles, but rather tiles created from sustainable waste products. These tiles are 1/3 lighter than normal concrete ones, and while they are more expensive, the overall expenses (such as wear and tear) make them cheaper in the long-run.
After the tiles came SanAqua HCD, a solution for water treatment and purification. The idea was to target a wide range of markets with the product.
Then we had Mxolisi Thobela speaking for Thobela Industries. This startup had a solution for storing energy generated from renewable sources, such as turbine power. It was an idea that didn’t necessarily try and innovate, but rather latch onto an already established market of renewable energy products.
Lovell Emslie from Pegasus Engineered Green Mobility was tapping into the vehicle market, more specifically trucks, with the ability to make them run green. Well, the commercial vehicles can be retrofitted with a device in order to utilise both diesel and natural gas. When asked about competition, Emslie said, “Elon Musk has yet to start making trucks.”
Rounding off the first session was Khepri Biosciences. This startup is able to capture waste, and using flies, can turn the unwanted globs into feed and fertiliser. The system has the potential to lower the price of feed for farmers and is a modular system.
The second session kicks off
The second session had something a little different with Sizwe Mnamatha of Zuka creating an organic two-in-one pesticide and fertiliser. When jokingly asked by the judges if the substance was drinkable (it was in a container reminiscent of a cool drink bottle) he said it’s perfectly fine for consumption.
Being one of the few pitches to bring in a prototype of their product, Jonny Harris of Isidima Design and Development had a toilet on stage. This wasn’t just any toilet and according to Harris, it was able to flush away waste with only two litres of water using a special vortex system. It also included a patented p-trap design – the pun may or may not be intended.
Grey Water Gel is a product that’s able to turn grey water into a gel. This process alleviates harmful run-off in rural areas and can apparently be used as fertiliser and a slow-release for water. It’s a by-product of the petroleum industry.
Corinne Greyling of Coco’s Solutions had one of the grander solutions. Their idea is to develop and sell a specialised coating to the energy industry for power lines and the likes. The coatings would be anti-icing and anti-pollution as well.
The next startup, Power4all, uses kinetic and hydro energy to generate excess energy. It is a mini low-head hydroelectric system and grid and is apparently able to generate more energy than any other low-head system on the market.
Blessing Mncube from TOBE says their product is able to remove 99.995% of waste and bacteria from water. It will be used to save, re-use, and recycle water. It was one of several water solutions during the day’s pitching sessions.
Car-based startup Ducere Holdings has a Hydraulic Hybrid Transmission system for vehicles. It is able to not only able to save up to 70% of fuel usage, but reduces CO2 emissions as well.
The final pitch of round two was toilet-based startup, Savvy Loo. They had a product that is able to separate urine from faeces in the system, and the bio waste can be used to generate energy.
The third session at the Innovation Summit saw a drop in numbers, but some interesting pitches anyway
From session three onwards is where the startups began to decline in number.
The first of this session, Baoberry, had a product called Wetbox. According to designer Yolandi Schoeman, it is a “wetland in a box” which is a natural solution for water filtration. The Wetbox can harvest rain and grey water, as well as harvest them.
Another vehicle-based startup, Boost Mechanics creates exhaust systems and fittings and improves the fuel efficiency, emissions, and output of the vehicle it’s attached to.
Green Fence had a solution to use recycled plastic fencing to keep animals away from crops. This is done with an embedded wire in the plastic, the ability to clip onto things, and to only use solar power. While an interesting concept, the judges were skeptical that it would actually be strong enough to deter livestock.
Togethercare Community Support was the mic-drop startup of the day. Vusumzi Mahlatshana was visibly unprepared for the pitch (due to personal reasons) and began to lose the audience as he tried to get his idea across. He was able to do something with prickly pear leaves, but the audience was somewhat unsure what that was, until he pulled out a brick. Mahlatsha claims he can create three bricks from a single prickly pear leaf and that they’re stronger and more water resistant that standard bricks. The audience was shocked and everyone had to take a look at the final product.
Rounding off the third pitching session was The P.E.A.C.E. (Planning, Education, Agriculture, Cooperatives and Enviroment). Eliot Chisango planned to formalise informal waste management in rural areas, as well as create a system of sorting the waste and using donkeys for transport.
The final session
And then came the last pitching session of the day, which only consisted of three startups.
The first of these was Clear Drinking Water, which had a very on-the-nose name. The pitcher, Bryan Mayhew, made the very bold statement that most water purification products don’t work, but his does. Water is purified by manually forcing it — with the use of a hand pump — through nano fibre filters and that no electricity was needed.
The second last pitch was a food-based one, Mashesha Stove, pitched by Louise Williamson. Targeting informal settlements, this startup creates outdoor wood-burning stoves which use half the amount of fuel as traditional ones.
And finally we reached the last pitch of the day. The Greeners, presented by Pakiso Mofokeng, is a solution for solar panels to dissipate heat. Solar panels can lose up to 20% of their generation capacity when hot, and this product removes that heat for more effective generation.
That’s all for the first day of the Ventureburn Pitching Den at the 2016 Innovation Summit. Be sure to check out the second day, which will be filled with more pitches.