Proof of Concept launched for Bandwidth Barn Khayelitsha

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The Cape IT Initiative (CiTi) has launched the Proof of Concept phase for the planned rollout of the Bandwidth Barn incubator in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, and will spend the next few months testing models that may suit a community environment and support the local community’s needs.

Alan Winde, Western Cape minister of finance, economic development and tourism, announced the rollout of The Barn – which originally launched in Cape Town in 2000 – to Khayelitsha in September 2013.

The Proof of Concept phase is now underway, with the new incubator planning a strong focus on youth development and women in business by offering IT skills, development and mentorship to young students and women.

“We are starting this model with no preconceived format in mind. On the contrary, we are solely dependant on the community’s engagement, feedback and support for this concept to succeed,” said Chris Vermeulen, head of the CiTi’s Enterprise Development programme. “This is a community-based incubator, and the only way we can achieve a sustainable model is when the incubator is supported by the community it is in.”

Ian Merrington, chief operating officer (COO) of the CiTi, said: “Going forward we aim to be able to replicate this model in other communities, and thus support and develop entrepreneurs in less-developed areas throughout South Africa.”

Vermeulen said a real challenge with the Bandwidth Barn’s youth development programme in Khayelitsha is transport.

“We have invited students with a desire to learn at our lab facilities to come to the Barn after school, but if there’s no transport, there’s no learning,” he said. “We are looking at sponsors to purchase a vehicle and, in so doing, support our youth development programme.”

The Barn Khayelitsha recently hosted Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), which it said was well supported by local entrepreneurs and women in business.

“Our aim with celebrating and supporting women in business is not just a once-a-year thing, but rather that women in business get the support and mentorship that they need to succeed on a continuous basis,” said Baratang Miya, business development manager of Barn Khayelitsha. “That is the real need for our community, and I believe we have the solution.”

The incubator offers the infrastructure and facilities needed for startups and entrepreneurs, with desk space available on a day-to-day basis or for monthly rental, as well as internet and meeting rooms.

“This space is based largely on the Garage model at the Bandwidth Barn in Woodstock,” said Vermeulen.

“With the physical structures in place, we will focus on providing the practical skills training, business and entrepreneur training needed to give these entrepreneurs the best possible chance of survival and success in the marketplace,” said Merrington.

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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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