‘SA corporates now more keen to back initiatives like Startupbootcamp’

Corporates in South Africa are now more keen on sponsoring open innovation than they were some three years ago believes Startupbootcamp Cape Town founder and managing director Marc Wesselink.

Dutch-born Wesselink (pictured right) spoke to Ventureburn ahead of the announcement in Cape Town on 8 August of the 10 startups that will be selected for Startupbootcamp Cape Town.

Read more: Startupbootcamp receives 518 applications for first Cape accelerator

Wesselink says corporates are now more keen to sponsor a programme like Startupbootcamp than they were three and half years ago when he had the initial idea to launch the accelerator in Africa.

Startupbootcamp Cape Town has secured six sponsors to cover the costs of the programme — Old Mutual, RCS (part of the BNP Paribas group), Nedbank, Woolworths Financial Services and PwC.

Startupbootcamp has worked with African startups before. In 2014 two African startups Creditable and M-Changa were part of the 10 teams taking part in the 2014 Startupbootcamp fintech programme. Why is the accelerator only launching a programme in Africa now?

Read more: Global accelerator Startupbootcamp announces its top 10 FinTech finalists

“The Startupbootcamp Cape Town programme only came to fruition by having great partners like (American) Philip Kiracofe (pictured left) and Zachariah George, but also by the development of the ecosystem and most importantly the fact that corporate partners are more open now than three years ago to support innovation,” says Wesselink.

Corporates have grown up says Startupbootcamp Cape Town founder

Corporates have “become more adult” and grown up, he says, while lamenting how most Africa-based companies had previously been closed to the idea of open innovation and collaboration.

“You’ve seen that a company like General Electric, over 150 years old and one of the biggest companies in the world, has created an open innovation platform for the internet of things. They have seen large banks supporting open innovation, because living in a global economy, you can’t focus on closed innovation it’s a waste of time,” said Wesselink.

‘Innovative culture’

Wesselink said Startupbootcamp had chosen Cape Town as the base of the accelerators operations because of its innovative culture.

“Two years ago Cape Town was the creative capital of the world and that alone says a lot. I think Cape Town has a very vibrant and creative community and since the Silicon Cape initiative we’ve seen more and more international tech companies like Amazon put their headquarters over here. So there is a very promising future here,” he said.

FastTrack it

Wesselink however emphasised that Startupbootcamp would be using Cape Town as a stepping stone towards other countries in Africa through initiatives like its FastTrack tour which saw the Startupbootcamp team tour west and east Africa networking with and mentoring African startups.

Wesselink said he had come up with the idea of the FastTrack tours as they were a more powerful in getting startups than merely waiting for people to apply.

On average three quarters of those startups that had gone through the programme are still active having raised between €700 000 and €800 000 in different stages, he said. The accelerator is now active in 15 countries, with another programme having been launched yesterday in Melbourne.

Three mistakes startups make

Wesselink believes it is crucial to have seasoned entrepreneurs challenge and mentor startups and adds that startups usually make the same three mistakes.

“Every entrepreneur has three diseases, the first one is being way too optimistic, the second one is not being able to say no and the third is every entrepreneur falls in love with his own solution.

“Everyone thinks they are capable of acquiring customers in a very short amount of time, but then you soon run out of money and you have your back against the wall. It is not a lethal disease but it’s a very common disease,” he says.

For Wesselink, the first three years are the most difficult ones for any startup — as the entrepreneur has to make “something out of nothing”.

Featured image: From left to right, Philip Kiracofe, Marc Wesselink

Daniel Mpala


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