We are seeing this more and more, as the Garden Route evolves from a sleepy holiday destination into a serious player in the economy, manufacturing everything from aircraft to furniture to electronics, and everything in between.
Combining this with a serious skills base we have a highly credible business destination.
The ICT sector is particularly active, with well over 100 ICT companies operating from George and surrounds alone. These includes a mix of software, hardware, training and consultancy, providing a nice mix any startup would need in order to succeed. Regular industry get togethers like geek breakfasts result in a well connected network of entrepreneurs.
In a previous post I laid out the case for a local ICT incubator, based in the Garden Route. In the last 6 months this idea has flourished, with committed support from SEDA, provincial and local government, as well as the local industry. We are on roll and plan on opening the doors to a permanent incubation / innovation hub in the coming weeks.
Some of the existing successful startups that have their roots firmly in the Garden Route includes AppCRAFT, PlotMyRide, Micket and MiMiles. AppCRAFT and PlotMyRide are both award winning startups, the latter having turned down Google investor funding to rather pursue a more owner influenced route.
The success and number of startups in the region is an indication of the enormous talent pool in the area. This combined with lots of highly experienced semi-retired business skills available in the local economy makes it the ideal breeding ground for startups.
Creating a physical space where entrepreneurs can mingle and grow their businesses will further increase our ability to create the businesses of tomorrow. This space will not only be a technology hub, but also a business mentoring and collaborative marketing space. This will be combined with various training and marketing programs that will enable startups to grow and expand their ideas and operations.
Silicon Cape’s Startup Academy aims to connect startup’s with those that can offer sound advice re finance and getting a business off the ground, based on experience and lessons learnt. We will be introducing something similar, regular startup coffee sessions where local startups can quiz those that are further down the road, and can bounce ideas of experienced business brains. We will also be connecting potential VC’s to promising startups.
Towards the second half of the year we will be hosting a Garden Route technology expo, which will also include a startup competition, with potential prizes including seed funding, business mentoring and marketing exposure. The competition will be along a similar format to the innovation competition currently being run by The Hub Johannesburg. Several VC’s have already indicated interested in coming to the region to participate in this exciting event.
We want innovative ideas, great prototypes and awesome pitches. Anything less belong in the big cities. Some of the unique strengths of our region lies in the tourism and agri sectors, where innovative high tech startups have a wide open playing field.
The local infrastructure is well evolved and includes a first rate airport, stable power supply, fast reliable fibre connectivity, backed by high speed wireless networks even in the remotest parts of the region. Plans are underfoot to cover George with free wifi, just as Stellenbosch has done. We have a stable and committed local government and business chamber that is actively participating in growing the region as a technology destination. Initiatives are underway that will make it much easier for new startups to do business with local government, regional business and beyond.
All this offerred in a super environment, abundant natural beauty, significantly less crime that the big cities, no traffic congestion, etc. The list goes on and on.
With all this going for the region we expect some formidable startups to emerge and operate from within the Garden Route in the next few years.