Funding for six tech startups, but “door still open” at Johannesburg accelerator

Despite investing in six startups two weeks ago Marc Elias, founder of Seed Engine, has told HumanIPO the door remains open for another four deals if the companies are right.

Seed Engine, based in Johannesburg, closed applications to its accelerator programme in December and its intense 13 week course began on Monday, February 4.

Each of the six startups will receive a R100,000 (US$11,400) investment, as well as office space, mentoring and access to a new extensive network of contact.

Asked by HumanIPO why Seed Engine had only invested in six companies when it previously advertised 10 spaces, Elias said each investment had to be judged on its own merit.

He said: “There were a lot of great applications. There were a lot of fantastic things companies we have continued to work with a view of getting them ready for acceleration.

“The philosophy is to keep the door open. We weren’t looking for 10, we were looking for a maximum of 10. Each decision we make has to be an investment decision.”

On whether he was disappointed by only finding six suitable startups, Elias added: “It (accelerator programme) is a new model in the South African context. It will take a while to generate that sort of culture. It has to be a national culture and not one consigned to hubs.”

The six startups selected by Seed Engine are all technology based and include basic education network AfterClass, takeaway order platform ChowHub and file storage mobile app Zehoone.

Elias said he was delighted with how the startups have worked and progressed in the first two weeks of the programme.

“The guys are stressed out of their heads, but worked effectively. Everyone is in the office at 7am and still there come 11.30pm. It is a real pleasure to see people finally here with us and to work with them every day.

“There is an incredible camaraderie. They are competitive and there is that element of wanting to come out on top at the end of the programme, but right now they are all helping each other.”

Elias also revealed Seed Engine will work with “friendly competitors” and Cape Town-based accelerator 88mph.

88mph, founded by Kresten Buch, also launched its Cape Town programme at the start of February and the two accelerators have agreed to share space in the two cities when appropriate.

Elias said: “The nature of the relationship is we are two very small hubs, but similar hubs. We speak to the same market.

“I guess you can call us friendly competitors, but we are here to accelerate the success of all the startups.”

The informal agreement will allow both sets of startups to use the respective office space in both cities when travelling for sales and investor meetings.

Posted in: Startups

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