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SA logistics startup Cloudline and its founder Spencer Horne (pictured above) has had a busy month. Earlier this month the startup — which uses autonomous airships to transport goods — was selected as one of eight finalists to compete in the finals of Season 3 of the Santam Safety Ideas Challenge in August (see here).
And yesterday Horne arrived in Israel to take part in the MassChallenge Israel 2019 accelerator cohort in Jerusalem, where he has the chance of securing up to $138 000 in zero-equity funding.
It comes after MassChallenge Israel earlier this month revealed the names of the 52 startups selected for its 2019 cohort, in an announcement. The accelerator said the startups were selected from nearly 500 candidates in Israel and more than 40 countries around the world. Cloudline is the only African participant.
Cloudline was founded by Spencer Horne in 2017 and uses autonomous airships as a new mode of unmanned-aerial-vehicle (UAVs)
The cohort runs for three months and will end on July 30 with announcement of up to 10 prize winners. Prizes include a curated all expenses paid business trip to Boston and New York City as well up to 500 000 Israeli shekels in zero-equity cash prize.
Horne — who founded the Cape Town based startup in 2017 (then called Cargonaught) through his own savings — told Ventureburn in an email yesterday that he will spend some time back in SA in the middle of the programme, to attend to the business.
He said he applied to the accelerator mainly to gain access expertise in Israel’s unmanned aerial tech sector and to prepare Cloudline for raising a seed round.
Horne, who holds a Harvard University degree in mechanical engineering, told Ventureburn earlier this month that he’s always had an “entrepreneurial itch to scratch” in the form of solving real-world problems.
He says it’s while working in East Africa in 2015 that he first became “truly aware” of the scale and impact of inadequate transport infrastructure on the economic growth and wellbeing of communities outside the major cities. His other trigger, he points out, was his passion for aerospace technologies.
In 2017, the startup won the Airbus BizLab AEROmobility pitching competition (see this Ventureburn article). The startup has also worked with the World Food Programme’s Munich-based innovation accelerator as part of Singularity U’s Global Impact Challenge.
The startup has yet to commence commercial operation and is currently in the tech development phase, with the aim of getting commercial licensing and running a pilot project with its first customer this year. But all the same, Cloudline looks to be a startup to watch.
Said Horne yesterday: “We are currently working toward some opportunities for a paid pilot. Up to now we have focused on the early tech development and have a prototype that carries 5kg with an endurance of an hour. (The) useful payload can be traded off for more batteries, taking us potentially beyond 12 hours of endurance.”
*Ventureburn writer Daniel Mpala also contributed to this article
Featured image: Cloudline founder Spencer Horne pitching in 2017 at the Airbus BizLab AEROmobility pitching competition in Cape Town