The IdeaStart Garage desk space. Image courtesy of UFS.
The University of the Free State (UFS) is to open its first co-working space as part of establishing an on-campus accelerator, offering South African student entrepreneurs an area of development.
In the process of establishing its own IdeaStart Accelerator, the UFS is helping students to build their businesses while balancing it with their studies.
Linking with the university’s student ideas and tech transfer offices, the programme accentuates the importance of goal setting and action planning.
Aiming to assist students with business support and seed funding to kickstart startups, the IdeaStart Garage will provide entrepreneurs with a Wi-Fi-enabled co-working space.
The space will be able to accommodate 15 students with five computers, as well as presentation and printing facilities.
The Garage will also host workshops, business plan competitions and other community events to grow the startup community in a sustainable way.
“We want to create an environment where young entrepreneurs can develop their potential and start small businesses, creating a better future for not just themselves but those around them,” IdeaStart said in a statement.
Speaking to HumanIPO, business consultant at the UFS student ideas office Johnathan Smit said: “It’s not only about creating successful startups, but developing entrepreneurs for the future.”
UFS and Central University of Technology (CUT) students from all academic fields are eligible to apply for startup assistance, receiving business coaching and sharing experience with other entrepreneurs, though one of the founders is required to be a registered UFS student.
“One of the goals of the programme is to encourage an entrepreneurial mind-set, especially amongst non-business related students,” Smit said.
The first group of 10 UFS students to be incubated by IdeaStart has recently obtained ZAR1.2 million (US$ 121,462) investment from the International Labour Organisation EnterPRIZE Job Creation Challenge.
The UFS Business School has also opened its certificate courses to the accelerator for attendees to benefit from exposure to other entrepreneurs and researchers working oncommercialisation projects at the university with sponsors on board such as the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA).
“We do have a lot of exciting projects at the university at the moment, both in the accelerator and research projects that are being commercialised via the technology transfer office,” Smit said.
He said more regional and national institutional collaborations are planned to include more innovators and founders in the Free State.
“The accelerator and co-working space will form part of bigger regional development plans to promote science, innovation and entrepreneurship in the Free State region,” Smit said.
IdeaStart aims to become a leader in the African acceleration space, “putting Bloemfontein and the UFS at the centre of the African startup map”.