New co-working space Workshop17 officially opened its doors at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront last night, dedicated to enabling and showcasing tech solutions for Africa.
Disrupt Africa reported in April on the planned launch of Workshop17, which will be managed on behalf of the V&A Waterfront by collaborative city workspaces firm OPEN. OPEN launched its first South African space in Maboneng in 2012 and is also opening spaces in Braamfontein and Mamelodi this year.
The V&A Waterfront said it had long recognised the importance of the shared economy, with Workshop17 born of the desire to support startups and experienced companies, profit and non-profit entities, in their efforts to create a better future.
Workshop17 has “possibly the fastest internet available to end users in South Africa”, with 1Gbps of unshaped internet capacity. OPEN said the new co-working space will provide a technologically rich environment for innovators, entrepreneurs, professionals, academics and policymakers to work, meet, showcase and host events.
Housed on the upper level of the Watershed, the space is home to over 130 tenants so far. Resident member businesses, startups and freelancers share a collaborative working environment as they work to develop their businesses, products and ideas in the long-term.
Workshop17 has eight fully-equipped meeting, teaching and function rooms, as well as “creative spaces” for idea generation, creative brainstorming, and relaxing. With views over the dry dock towards Table Mountain, the space has been designed to accommodate its vision of collaboration and modern working.
“Given the V&A Waterfront’s location and diverse visitorship, the Workshop17 platform will provide small entities with the best opportunities,” said David Green, chief executive officer (CEO) of the V&A Waterfront.
“Workshop17 was a seed of an idea six years ago when we recognised that we could use our resources to foster small business through an innovation hub. Today, the result is a working space with a clear vision that has a very different kind of potential that extends far beyond the walls of Workshop17. We look forward to seeing cutting-edge ideas, plans, developments and solutions that we are certain will come out of this revitalised space.”
The new innovation hub will have a strong technology and entrepreneurial focus, with Nigerian-born, US-based Julius Akinyemi a founding member of the advisory board. Based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the former global director of emerging technologies for PepsiCo, Akinyemi will be the hub’s first entrepreneur in residence.
The space itself is home to a coding academy – codeX – and a growing number of small businesses.
“Workshop17 is both inspirational and aspirational for our coders who are just kicking off their careers in tech. Every day, they have the opportunity to interact with all the other the talented innovators who work there and pass through, and participate in events and programmes of a world class tech hub. We could not be better situated to grow Africa’s digital leaders of tomorrow,” said Elizabeth Gould, CEO and co-founder of codeX.
mLab Southern Africa and Silicon Cape are other key residents of Workshop17, chosen by the V&A Waterfront because their programmes create a highly inclusive, innovative and productive environment, with a focus on growing existing and new technology businesses.
“The Waterfront’s support enables us to provide a free platform for emerging coders and entrepreneurs who are often excluded from the buzzing tech ecosystem purely because they are based in townships and lower income communities. Workshop17 will create a truly inclusive environment for this talent to thrive,” said Derrick Kotze, CEO of mLab Southern Africa.
With financial support of the V&A Waterfront, Workshop17 and these residents will work to promote and build an entrepreneurial and tech ecosystem in Cape Town and ensure access to Workshop17 for talented, emerging coders and entrepreneurs.
“The V&A Waterfront’s investment in Workshop17 is intended for positive social impact, and illustrative of our goal of always investing in a responsible, impactful manner. This is an investment in people and ideas, and not one focused entirely on commercial return,” said Green.