SA startups eye investment jackpot

2015-07-01 09:07 - Duncan Alfreds
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Marcello Schermer of Seedstars World says that supporting local start-ups is key to success. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

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Cape Town - A South African startup stands to hit the jackpot in a competition to find new technology businesses in the country.

Ten startups pitched their business ideas to Seedstars World in Cape Town on Tuesday in a bid to win a place on the platform to showcase their firms to a global audience.

"The idea behind it is that good ideas and good innovations happen anywhere in the world and what they need is a network; a platform to launch to the rest of the world," Marcello Schermer regional manager for Africa at Seedstars World told Fin24.

The network has travelled through 52 African countries searching for startups as part of a focus on emerging markets.

Beyond the investment cash that companies can win, Seedstars aims to showcase startups in Switzerland as well.

Mentor help

"There's up to $1.5m that companies can win when we go to Geneva; we connect them to our network because by doing all these competitions, we build up a really interesting network in all these countries," Schermer said.

Seedstars World aims to give local apps a global investor platform. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Some of the companies that made their pitches include mySOS which helps people in an emergency, The RedFish group which uses social tools to connect tradesmen with jobs, and Pushmoney which is a mobile ordering application focused on retailer platforms.

Mobile e-commerce startups have also proved popular in the competition.

In 2013, SimplePay from Nigeria won $500 000 in the competition and the company is preparing to expand its mobile payment platform to both Latin America and South East Asia.

All startups that win investment have access to mentors, but Schermer rejected suggestions that mentors take control away from founders.

"Actually it's the other way round: We started out as a company builder so we have experience in building, running, scaling companies.

"When we invest in the companies, it's not just 'Take the money; we'll sell you after a couple of months or a year,' but we put people on the ground with these companies to work with them.

"The way we see it is the founder is the person with the idea; the founder is the person with the vision, so we don’t want to change that."

The investment platform is sponsored in SA by Standard Bank and once short-listed businesses have been identified, they will compete in a final South African round in Johannesburg on 17 July.


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