The Garden Route has a significant collection of great ICT talent. The Garden Route IT Consortium has been working at unifying the local industry but, this has had limited success due to the economic difficulty most local ICT startups face in growing a sustainable business in this region.
Now it is time to take it one step further. By creating an ICT incubator we can use economies of scale to help these startups get their products designed and developed for less, get to market easier, etc. Collective design, manufacturing, procurement, marketing, and admin makes great economical sense.
Combining this with the idea of actually establishing an ICT nucleus of excellence in the region means it not only makes economical sense, it now also makes sense from a training and sustainability level. The region has the experts to do the training, a large student base to be trained, and the enablers to facilitate, fund, employ and grow the ICT startups that pass through the incubator’s doors.
The idea is rather simple, and as follows:
- Create a facility where ICT players can share space, equipment and knowledge.
- Appoint a board of visionaries and industry to leaders to oversee the process.
- Provide mentorship to help these startups grow and prosper.
- Identify and train new members form the local communities.
- The partners provide projects which not only fund the training, it allows the trainees to actually become strartups themselves, by delivering real services back to the funders.
A simplistic example would be as follows
- The George municipality wants to make it easier for SMME’s to do business with local government.
- The ICT incubator identifies and scopes the project and identifies one or more potential entrepreneurs or an existing startup.
- The entrepreneur develops a solution (a straight forward web database in this case) with the support and mentorship of the ICT incubator.
- Once the system is completed the entrepreneur ends up running the project as his own long term startup.
- Local government wins, it gets a service and it creates a new skilled job at the same time.
- The entrepreneur wins, as he/she now has a viable business model, backed by a group of business and technical mentors.
- The region wins as the the local ICT skills base is increased, more jobs are created and work stays within the region.
We have the infrastructure, the people, political will and the ability to make it happen.
The Bandwidth Barn in Cape Town is a successful model that can be adapted for our regional situation.
Already on Board
The following partners have already indicated there willingness to support this initiative:
- SEDA is well positioned to assist the incubator with mentoring, funding and partnership initiation. SEDA has the experience of getting several incubators off the ground at a national level, and have shown keen willingness to be part of this process.
- George Municipality is aiming to get George marketed as a business investment destination. The municipality’s LED department is ready to get involved in this incubator, and will be a key enabler.
- The George Chamber of Business understands the importance of repositioning the region as a business investment destination. It is already facilitating meetings between government and local business to make this happen.
- The Garden Route IT Consortium is leading the way in bringing the local IT industry together and joining forces with local, regional and provincial government to market the region as a technology destination. The IT Consortium is attracting new technology business to the region by allowing multiple local companies to pitch for national business as a cohesive unit.
- Digital Village is creating the next generation wireless backbone that will service the entire region and enable innovation and entrepreneurship to flourish. As a non profit section 21 company it is already connecting the region’s schools and communities to the Garden Route’s ever growing wireless network.
- Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) is not only able to supply potential recruits, but also strong mentoring and support. NMMU is committed to growing the region as an educational centre, which strengthens the potential recruitment base.
Other potential key players
- The LED department of Eden district Municipality will be able to assist on a regional level, ensuring training and empowerment happens at a larger scale.
- Western Cape Provincial Government‘s Economic Development department is already working with the Garden Route IT Consortium to explore various initiatives that will promote and strengthen the region’s technology focus.
- The newly formed Economic Development Agency is tasked with re-aligning the Western Cape’s business landscape. The Garden Route has been neglected to date, now is the time to bring much needed energy and vision to the region.
- The Department of Science and Technology has a key role to play in economic development and regional and national competitiveness.
Update: Had further discussions with various parties, including MEC Winde from WC Govt, Prof Fabricius from NMMU, Paul Hoffman from SEDA, Carli Venter from George LED.
Now have real momentum and real backing. This is our chance to make a real, meaningful and permanent difference to the business landscape in George.