Here’s what you need to know before you apply to Propella’s incubator programme

Are you running a tech startup in or near Port Elizabeth? Looking to get into an incubation programme? Here’s what you need to know about the Propella’s business incubator programme.

Propella was launched in 2015 through a partnership by business support company Engeli Enterprise Development and Nelson Mandela University owned commercial company Innovolve in an effort to develop tech startups in Nelson Mandela Bay.

Propella provides support for startups working in ICT, renewable energy, smart city solutions, energy efficiency and advanced manufacturing sectors

Grant Minnie, the senior industrial advisor at Propella, told Ventureburn that startups interested in joining the accelerator need to be aware of the incubator’s scope, approval processes, the costs of incubation and when they are expected to exit from the programme.

Propella focuses on the following sectors: ICT, renewable energy, energy efficiency, smart city solutions and advanced manufacturing.

The incubator also works with three other incubators in the city that specialise in ICT and creative arts.

Applications to the incubator are considered on a case-by-case basis. The incubator encourages entrepreneurs to consider the following questions before applying:

  • Is your business or idea unique or are there many competitors in the market already?
  • Can the idea, process or widget be protected in terms of copyright or a patent?
  • Have you tested the idea in the market?
  • Do you have an existing product that will grow sales if you have access to other regions or countries?
  • Does your existing business require expert advice or technical assistance?

After applying, a panel decides on and approves potential incubatees. Once accepted into the programme, the incubatees are expected to exit after 12 months while startups in the manufacturing sector are expected to leave after three years.

Companies accepted into Propella’s incubation programme have to undergo an assessment to find out what their needs are before they can sign a development contract.

In addition, the contract that startups sign stipulates development milestones, commitments and anticipated graduation dates. The incubator provides startups with access to markets, technical support, finance, business support and mentorship. Incubatees also get office space and internet access.

As part of its post-incubation support, Propella helps startups that have graduated from its incubator to apply for funding and to raise capital.

Tuse, an infrastructure-as-a-service company that allows people living in places with no signal to get connected through wireless mesh networks, is one of the first startups to have passed through the incubator.

Thulisile Volwana, who co-founded Tuse in 2015, told Ventureburn that the incubator has been instrumental in helping the startup refine its technology and business case.

“We are back in research and development with the help of the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and are working on rolling out a more scalable version of Tuse,” said Volwana.

She advised potential incubatees to at least have a minimum viable product before applying to join the incubator.

“Some early clients would be great and a clear business and use case. Be willing to work hard and never be scared to ask if you don’t know anything,” added Volwana.

Featured image: Mark Hesseltine via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0, resized)

Daniel Mpala


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