Design Innovation Seed Fund offers Western Cape startups $35k grants

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The Cape Craft and Design Institute (CCDI) has announced the second round of the Design Innovation Seed Fund (DISF), which allows designers, inventors, entrepreneurs and product developers to apply for grants of up to ZAR500,000 (US$35,000).

The DISF, for which applications are open until November 4, is run by the CCDI with investment and management funds respectively provided by the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism.

The first round saw a total of ZAR6.5 million (US$560,000) awarded to develop 12 innovative ideas in the province in February of last year, and Western Cape individuals and SMMEs with pre-revenue innovative technologies and tech-enabled ideas and products have now been invited to apply for a second round of grants.

Erica Elk, executive director of the CCDI, said the DISF has shown that the right funding at the right time put to the right use can have a tremendous impact on small businesses and help them turn ideas into reality.

“Ideas are a dime a dozen; everyone has them. But it’s a whole other story to be able to bring your ideas to life. It takes time and resources – not just money. It is a process that is full of twists, turns and challenges, and you need to be passionate, resilient and tenacious,” she said.

“The seed fund has given these innovators and entrepreneurs a little bit of breathing space and an opportunity to flex their muscles – which is all they really needed to take their next steps.”

Aside from the grant money, the DSIF also offers ongoing mentorship and support to chosen innovators over the following two years.

The DISF is open to Western Cape-based early-stage startups and entrepreneurs that are pre-revenue, with applicants needing to show evidence of innovation in design, technology, market appetite, and a strong management team able to drive the process.

Strong preference will be given to businesses with at least 25 per cent black ownership and good job creation potential. Entrepreneurs must match 20 per cent of the funding in cash or in-kind contributions.

Saberi Marais, head of seed funding at TIA, said the DISF has made a significant impact on the local early stage funding landscape.

“Seed funding such as the DISF assists recipients to inform their opportunities by building prototypes and validating their assumptions around the technical and market-related challenges. Entrepreneurs at this stage have traditionally faced challenges when it comes to access to funding. The other challenge that DISF helps recipients overcome is that of non-financial support and mentorship – this has also proven to be of great help to recipients,” said Marais.

Alan Winde, Western Cape provincial minister of economic opportunities, said innovation was a key economic enabler.

“As the fourth industrial revolution starts to shake up the world, we need to embrace innovation in our approach. That is why we support initiatives like this fund. Some of the businesses and ideas developed through the first DISF have the potential to go global,” he said.

“We have an ecosystem taking shape here at the southern tip of Africa because of programmes like this, because of the environment we are in, and because of the mindset of young people coming into the system. I encourage every person with an innovative idea in the focus areas to apply. This is an excellent platform to take your idea or business to a new level.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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