#Hack.Jozi Challenge picks 50 finalists to compete for $440k in prizes

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The #Hack.Jozi Challenge, which is looking to find digital solutions to turn Johannesburg into a better place to live, has whittled down the 144 applications it received to 50 finalists, with the selected startups now set to compete for mentorship and ZAR5 million (US$438,000) in prizes.

Disrupt Africa reported in January South Africa’s City of Johannesburg and the Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) at Witwatersrand (Wits) University had launched the #Hack.Jozi Challenge, inviting applications from tech entrepreneurs providing digital solutions to community problems.

The finalists include ideas ranging from mobile banking applications and social interactive applications to online game applications promoting South African culture. They will now take place in a month-long process run by Seed Academy, which will be followed by a demo day at which the winners will be required to demonstrate their business value proposition.

Winning startups will receive membership and technical support at the new Tshimologong Precinct digital hub, as well as one-year free hosting credit for their business applications from IBM.

Zolani Matebese, the head of broadband at the City of Johannesburg, said the #Hack.Jozi Challenge is a bootcamp for startup entrepreneurs.

“It was a grueling task to go through all the applications to select our final group, but it was worth it. Our aim is to contribute towards fostering skills, innovation and entrepreneurship in the broad area of digital technology by helping startups at the pre-seed stage,” he said.

“We are doing this because ICT is central to improved productivity, economic growth and job creation. We have excellent business and research capacity which, combined with the fact that we are a young City with a young population, create the perfect environment for us to develop advanced ICT products and services,” said Ravi Naidoo, executive director for economic development at the City of Johannesburg.

Lara Rosmarin, chief executive officer (CEO) of Seed Academy, said the opportunity for people to start their own businesses and employ additional people is integral to South Africa’s growth.

“We believe that entrepreneurship is going to shape this country and we’ve seen exceptional ideas put forward in the #Hack.Jozi Challenge. We are so excited to help empower entrepreneurs through this process to think laterally, ignite their magic and move their business ideas to the next level,” she said.

Meanwhile, the City of Johannesburg today also held an induction ceremony for the first 250 digital interns of the 1,000 it plans to train this year under its Joburg Educating Digital Interns (JEDI) programme.

Launched last month, JEDI courses run over 10 months, offering four months of bootcamp-style technical training and six months in-service training within the City of Johannesburg and some of the country’s leading digital enterprises. The intention is to run the programmes every quarter over the next 16 months.

Matebese said the city’s investment is significant not only in terms of financial outlay, but also the significant potential it has to transform the lives of the interns and lives of people in Johannesburg.

“We are about enriching the lives of the people who live in Joburg. Mayor Tau was clear that the City of Joburg would give particular attention to those economic activities and sectors that will position Joburg as a global city of the future. These first 250 interns represent tangible action to back this up. The leadership and innovation training has begun and the students have high levels of energy and appreciation to be on the largest learnership programme the City of Johannesburg have embarked on,” said Matebese.

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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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