Graduates of Africa’s first drone accelerator programme announced

An accelerator programme has equipped 13 startups with the tools and skills needed to adopt the use of drone technology in South Africa along with the skills required to help this sector boost national employment.

The accelerator programme was developed and created by Mzansi Aerospace Technologies with funding from Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA).

Beginning in February 2020, the programme led to a Demo Day hosted on 26 June 2020 where participating startup founders virtually presented their pitch decks to a panel of judges, investors, and guest attendees.

Members of the judging panel included a host of representatives from Development Finance Institutions, Enterprise Supplier Developer funds, startup ecosystem providers such as The Innovation Hub, Wits Business School along with other accelerators, academic and venture capitalist investors.

Victor Radebe, Founder of Mzansi Aerospace Technologies, outlines that although COVID19 changed the initial programme of the accelerator it has resulted in a positive outcome.

“This has been a great learning journey for the start-ups, who were excited to pitch their ideas to investors who can help them scale their businesses. Because of the COVID-19 lockdown, start-ups weren’t able to test their solutions or do market validations with customers – a key part of the programme – but we improvised with the webinar pitches, which were very well presented. Ironically, with COVID-19 shifting the programme to an online platform, it has allowed us to expand our reach, and future programmes will adopt a dual approach that combines online and in-person engagement.”

The programme was developed to provide a solution to two main challenges; the fact that most startups fail due to lack of market demand for products and that out of 60 of the licensed drone operators in South Africa only one black-owned.

Not only was the programme aimed at providing help to startups to refine their innovations and gain traction in the market place, but it also aimed to promote a service that solves a specific challenge in various industries.

Startups to keep an eye on

Hosted in Ekurhuleni West TVET College in Katlehong and supported by corporate innovation partners that included Royal HaskoningDHV, these are the 13 startups who successfully graduated from the innovative programme :

Fade Communications & Video Services (Jim Nkoana): An established video services business that is seeking to integrate drone technology into filming and videography.

Ziyakhipha Projects & Services (Makabongwe & Kelebogile Ngceba): Maintenance of cell towers and looking to drone technology for inspections and maintenance.

Kurai (Clive Mathe and Samuel Mathekga): An agritech startup that deploys crop spraying drones.

Nafazi Za Angani (Shaun Msiza & Gift Kgadima): An established drone business in the built environment that offers surveying and mapping.

QP Drone Tech (Queen Ndlovu and Pumi Makatini): A drone hardware startup that is looking develop an all-weather drone prototype in partnership with Denel.

Rine Holdings (Lufuno Mulungwa): A security tech startup that plans to deploy drone technology for security and surveillance.

Shibus Constructions CC (Blandina Motswalo and Thandi Motswalo): A construction company that is looking to use drones for road and bridge inspections and to monitor construction projects.

KasieLabs (Siphokazi Nciza): A training startup that is accredited by the MICT Seta and plans to offer simulated drone training services.

Mgwambani Security & Projects (Mashako Mathebula): A security company that aims to deploy drone technology for security and surveillance.

Extol Jireh (Shardeon Marshall): An established filming and photography company that is looking to add drone services.

Africa Drone Kings (Vice Phiri, Vhengani Mudzielwana, Ntwanano Mushwana and Andrew Mokoto): The startup aims to offer drone hardware repairs and maintenance.

Gideon Treurnich, Strategic Business Development Manager at Royal HaskoningDHV South Africa, comments on the success of the programme.

“Despite the lockdown, we were still able to host training sessions for the start-ups, as planned, including a session on the use of drones in infrastructure asset management. We also included one of the start-ups in a client proposal to assist with drone photography in a factory setting. This inaugural programme was a massive success and we look forward to expanding our involvement in future programmes.”

The next Drone Accelerator Start-up Programme will be held in Limpopo, Vhembe District.

Mzansi Aerospace Technologies and Royal HaskoningDHV South Africa will again partner to make the event possible.

In addition, due to the success of the accelerator SEDA aims to roll out this programme into some of its incubators that are spread across South Africa.

Read more: Meet the 13 startups selected for the Drone Startup-Up Accelerator Programme

Read more: Township entrepreneurship fund delayed, Seda funding cut as Covid-19 support prioritised

Featured image: Immortal Producciones  via Pixels 



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