Billed as Africa’s first conversational AI, Botlhale AI is among the 25 high-growth start-ups that were hand-picked for a year-long programme by Grindstone, a Cape Town-based accelerator.
Grindstone is a sought-after programme which takes South African start-ups with proven traction through a review of their strategies while also providing them with the support to become more investable, sustainable, marketable and exit-ready.
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The accelerator is jointly owned by venture capital investment company Knife Capital and African ecosystem player Thinkroom Consulting, which develops SMEs across Africa. Partners Andrea Böhmert, Catherine Young, Keet van Zyl and programme director Will Green are leading the team of business-building experts.
“With our AI, language barriers are a thing of the past,” vows Botlhale AI on its website. The three-year-old artificial intelligence start-up provides a text and speech-based toolkit for creating conversational AI in African languages.
Founded by Sange Maxaku, Thapelo Nthite and Xolisani Nkwentsha, Botlhale AI is making waves across Africa. As an earlier winner of DataHack4Fi hosted in Rwanda, the start-up already won $25 000 in seed funding.
Botlhale AI seeks to change the fact that speech-based human-computer interactions is mostly available in English. The founders believe this causes people who speak African languages to miss out on new technologies that could aid and simplify their daily lives – a reality which inspired their multilingual voice enabled, no-code, conversational AI bot builder for customers.
Grindstone top 10 companies
Besides Botlhale AI, Grindstone has also selected the following start-ups:
- Ollie App: This start-up provides mental health credits for remote teams. Ollie is the first healthcare benefits currency that allows employees to book live sessions from anywhere they work in the world using credits.
- 123tutors: A web-based peer-to-peer learning platform with the most efficient student-tutor matching system and the most extensive database of vetted tutors and experts.
- Upstream Money: A machine-learning consulting firm that uses AI to enable our customers to make better decisions. The start-up aims to develop a solution that allows for debit order financing.
- Sticitt: A payment platform built for the education niche with a clear vision to ultimately launch a youth banking alternative.
- LawyeredUp: A legal consultancy company looking to revolutionise legal in technology.
- Beeline Learn: A science-backed learning platform designed to remove barriers to effective learning and assist people in achieving their learning goals.
- AfricaInc: An “always learning” media company that gives entrepreneurs and leaders everything they need to start, run and grow a successful business in Africa.
- Fleet IT: This start-up helps fleet owners and managers measure and increase their fleet profitability by turning fleet information and costs in actionable insights.
- Deep Learning Café: It assists companies in closing the gap between their ever-growing data and the ongoing critical decisions needed to promote growth. The start-up’s AI redefines how companies operate, innovate and make decisions.
- Cartrun: It uses a dark-store online retail model and is an app for grocery deliveries.
The Grindstone programme prioritises access to knowledge, networks, funding and markets for start-ups. Over the course of the programme, selected start-ups will undergo an intensive review of their strategies and be provided with coaching from top global resources, including some of the Grindstone alumni companies who have successfully scaled their businesses before.
In total, Grindstone will assist 25 companies to gain new skills, overcome obstacles and access market opportunities.
Alumni of the programme have included radar cycling hardware company iKubu, ticketing solutions provider Quicket, tax solutions company TaxTim, fintech payment company PayFast, mobility start-up WhereIsMyTransport, augmented reality, animation and gaming company SeaMonster, custom fit cloud-based delivery platform Loop, Ccber security solution TakeNote IT, AI-social media screening company Farosian and pre-owned luxury goods business Luxity.