Start-up spirit is alive and well in Africa

There is an unwritten rule “the further you are from Silicon Valley, the less likely it is that your Start-up will get funding or succeed”

Last time I checked South Africa is quiet a distance from Silicon Valley – so does that mean that all our Start-ups are destined to failure ?

Not if last night’s event is anything to go by !

Mobile Monday Joburg

Last night (28th March 2011), I attended Mobile Monday Joburg ( This even is held once a month on a Monday evening where Techies, Marketers, Mobile geeks & Non-geeks get together to drink, chat, discuss Mobile technology and network.

Last night’s event was slightly different. Instead of a guest speaker, there were numerous start-ups with their elevator pitch. Instead of being seated, we were ushered table to table to meet these start-up (at least the drinks were constant so that wasn’t too bad).  The evening was dedicated to start-ups and a new venture set up by Google.

It is called Google umbono (

This is no ordinary “come and pitch your idea and we will give you cash” but umbono is a 6 month mentorship program that teaches startups everything they need to know about business, finance and launching their product.  Typically the start-up would make an “elevator pitch” to the umbono committee – no business plan required. Based on the idea, if the start-up is selected, they would get $25 000 – $50 000, an office space, mentorship etc. etc. Traditional incubator style Smile

Sounds awesome  and I applaud Google for the initiative !


There is a slight “catch” – not the 10% that you have to give away in your start-up – the is very acceptable. The catch is that you have to either be living in Cape Town or have to relocate to Cape Town as it is house out of the Bandwidth Barn in Cape Town. Whilst I fully understand that you need to have everyone in located in one place to build the team, be a real business vs. out of a garage etc. The move to Cape Town, I am afraid will put a lot of people off. Relocating your life is fine if you are single, in university and jobless. However, there are a lot of start-ups (in my experience) are created by married people (some with kids), where the entrepreneur is currently employed whilst working on their ideas late at night and on weekends. So a relocation is not going to happen.

Nonetheless, I fully support the idea and the venture.  The program looks amazing and the networking oppurtunites are fantastic. Its n MBA course dedicated to making your business work – wow ! Having the Google name behind you cant hurt either !

Lets hope that it will reinvigorate start-ups feeling in SA which was squashed after the DotCom days !

What is interesting to see is that last night’s start-ups had fully working products. They quoted impressive statistics on the amount of users, number of downloads etc.

Yes, we are thousands of kilometres from Silicon Valley but there is this thing called the Internet which is making the world tiny. Heck, we drive with our windows closed, live with electric fencing, laugh at mugging, have capped and shaped ADSL and 11 official languages.

We are tough, we can adapt.Even on the tip of Africa we can compete with anyone around the world…and dare I say it…be better at it !

ok my bru/ china/ maat/ mngane –

Bring on the statups !

Bret presenting umbonoSpringfishermoPlacesMobiCash

Add your comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.