Johannesburg accelerator chief urges venture capitalists to be more visible

Better education for young innovators and venture capitalists marketing themselves more effectively are the keys to awakening the entrepreneur scene in South Africa, according to the founder of a new accelerator.

There is currently a severe lack of advertised accelerator projects in South Africa compared to the scenes in Kenya and Nigeria, but Marc Elias, founder of Seed Engine based in Johannesburg, told HumanIPO the ideas for feasible and sustainable start-ups are out there.

He said: “I think the problem up until very recently in South Africa is venture capitalists had become no true venture capitalists.

“They weren’t organisations which were working from the ground up. The mindsets had been developed from the minds of bankers.

“Real venture capitalists need to take a stand and say we are here and we are looking for start-ups. A lot of venture capitalists do their marketing through a successful business they have helped rather than marketing themselves.”

Seed Engine is the only accelerator programme based in Johannesburg and they are currently receiving their first round of applications with the deadline Sunday, December 9.

The accelerator and start-up scene in Cape Town is more developed, but Elias is more than happy to be Johannesburg.

He added: “We have not suffered with idea flow. There is no shortage of ideas out there, there is a shortage of places to develop them.

“We see it as an opportunity to be here. I think there will be many more Angel investors in Johannesburg than anywhere else and to be able to bring the big corporates in properly to support start-ups we are well placed.”

Applicants to the Seed Engine accelerator programme will be whittled down to ten lucky start-ups which will be awarded R100,000 (US$11,400) and a place on a 13 week boot camp where office space, facilities and mentoring will be available.

Elias added he thought were further grass roots explanations for why the entrepreneur scene has been slow to take off in the country.

He added: “It starts with general education. Unfortunately in South Africa there has been a lack of entrepreneurship for the past 10 to 15 years.

“From a personal perspective South Africa seems to be very much aligned to the need to develop people and ideas, but from our side we not seeing the innovation. We are seeing a lot of copy and paste of things that have been before.”

Posted in: Startups

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