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While Cape Town has long been held as SA’s startup capital and Gauteng has recently emerged as a strong contender, a Durban-based organisation is now looking to turn the beach city into the country’s next tech hub.
But Lindani Mkhize, (pictured above) who founded Silicon Durbs in May last year as a non-profit company, says his organisation’s number one priority is not to compete with Cape Town and Johannesburg — but to rather work alongside the two cities.
Currently membership is free and the initiative so far has 250 members, who include both entrepreneurs and those from the corporate sector.
“When looking at Cape Town and Johannesburg we (Durban) are far behind and we believe that we have to learn from them and use their experiences to shape Silicon Durbs,” Mkhize told Ventureburn in an email last week.
Silicon Durbs plans to work with Cape Town, Joburg groups to turn city into tech hub
He says his organisation — which is open to all in the tech sector, including entrepreneurs and corporate employees — has started to work with Silicon Cape, for example in getting the Cape Town initiative to share its success and failures with Silicon Durbs.
But he says the city’s startups currently lack a voice, don’t collaborate with one other and have limited or no access to investors.
“On the flip side investors are finding it a challenge to find promising startups and talent. The lack of female recognition in the tech industry and the lack of educating people about the technology tools and how they can be applied to solve real world problems is still a great challenge,” he added.
Membership is free for now, but Mkhize said the organisation plans to introduce a “small commitment fee” of R600 a year. The goal, he said, is to fund the initiative through sponsorship and projects.
He said the organisation has started hosting monthly events that act as a knowledge sharing and a networking platform for members.
“We have formed strategic partnerships with organisations like Innovate Durban, the Black IT Forum, AI Expo Africa, and have engaged in partnership conversations with the Durban Chamber of Commerce and other Durban based innovation-driven organisations and corporates.
He said his organisation also plans to host a series of events every two months working with Innovate Durban.
“The purpose of the event is to take ideas to market using innovative methodologies like lean startup and design thinking,” he added.
The organising committee includes Mkhize as CEO; Sihle Majola, the founder of Durban based online art market place of Wezart; and Jack Kotze, the founder of Merge Media a Durban based software development house.
Mkhize said he has roped in industry player to advise the organisation, as there is currently no board of directors in place.
He believes Durban has one clear advantage. “Unlike Cape Town and Joburg, Durban startups have access to really diverse cultures, this will soon be a driver to innovations that will shape and share Durban capabilities with the world,” he argues.
Featured image: Silicon Durbs founder Lindani Mkhize (Supplied)