South African startup accelerator programme Sw7, which formed earlier this year, is hoping to raise a fund in the second half of next year in order to invest in companies.
Launched in July of this year, Sw7 is a nine-week, part-time mentor-led programme for technology businesses, and has run programmes in both Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The programme – supported by the Microsoft BizSpark initiative – has over 60 high-level mentors assisting during a structured curriculum, focused on creating and then executing a startups strategy.
Co-founder Keith Jones told Disrupt Africa Sw7 was a “work in progress” but improving all the time, and was looking to add more key sponsors next year and raise a fund.
“We are in the process of setting up a funding vehicle, and hope to be able to fund in the latter half of 2015,” he said. “We are building a strong network of funders though, and we will actively matchmake and take people to the places where we think they will get funded when they are ready.”
Jones said he was pleased with how the programmes had gone so far.
“There is amazing chemistry that happens in the group and with the mentors, where there is a strong focus on pragmatism and doing deals,” he said.
“Sw7 is all about building a community of people to help them make connections and figure out what they need to do to succeed, and give them the tools to focus on what they need to do to get the job done.”
He said Sw7 was South Africa’s only technology acceleration programme available nationally, with 40 companies having been put through the programme so far.
“The plan is to work less with ideation stage businesses in 2015. We have secured support from Microsoft BizSpark to run four intakes in 2015, which will equate to 80 startups coming through the programme. The programme content will also be available online shortly for self study. 2015 is going to be a very busy and exciting year.”
Jones said it was a very exciting time in the South African tech space.
“We are at a very exciting time, the market is quickly becoming a hype market,” he said.
“South Africa has a very exciting role to play in Africa. We have access to resources and skills, are a problem-solving culture and have a very strong B2B economy. We should be the innovation powerhouse on the continent.”
To make this a reality, he said key players needed to work together.
“The innovation market is not transient, so if we get it right, it will set us up for the next 20 or even 50 years. We are the ‘dark’ continent, from a technology and connectivity point of view, and the next 50 years will bring explosive growth. We need to lead the charge, but for South Africa to take on the likes of Nigeria and Kenya, we need to act together.”