702 and Cape Talk Business Accelerator

The Business Accelerator with radio station 702 is back.  This year the organisers companies that demonstrate innovation and / or  are able to create employment or improve skills for employees.   The value of being profiled on 702 or Cape Talk can have a huge imapct. Pavlo Phitidis says it all in a recent Twitter exchange I had with him.

Act quickly because as Pavlo Phitidis says when I asked about a closing date:


702 Cape Talk Promo
The criteria for entry are as follows:


You know that you’ve got what it takes for Business Accelerator.
But just to make sure, please read through the criteria to ensure we’re all on the same page.


Your business must be a registered CC or Pty.


Your business must have been trading for a minimum of 24 months or more.


If your business is not growing, you are declining. Growth is the ultimate evidence that you are meeting the needs of a customer in a way that competitors aren’t.
If you believe that your business has great opportunity ahead of it and you need some support to make it happen, this campaign is relevant to you. Imagine hundreds of thousands of people made up of the consumers, businesses and government that you sell to everyday hearing about what you have to offer.
Being profiled on this radio station will change the course of your business into the future!



What do you do differently? Innovation speaks to what is special about your business and how it sets you apart from your competitors. It speaks to what your customers see as valuable in your product or service.


What are the prospects of job creation in your business on one of two levels? Either that you will be able to generate many jobs going forward and/or that you will generate excellent skills in your employees going forward.

Entrepreneur Expo

The Entrepreneur Expo provides an important platform to business owners to showcase what they are doing, and receive training and thought leadership from other entrepreneurs. The Entrepreneur Expo includes and exhibition and a conference. Pricing for tickets to attend the exhibition is R 50-00, and to attend the conference costs R 900-00. The conference speakers include Carl Lotter and Guy Harris – both small business activists, who know their stuff.
The organisers provide some context:

The fifth annual Entrepreneur Expo will once again showcase why Cape Town is the entrepreneurial capital of South Africa. Taking place 18 – 19 November at the The River Club, the Expo brings together entrepreneurs from all over the City of Cape Town.
Entrepreneurs are the dynamic visionaries who push the known boundaries, and through taking the risk of setting up a business, create what is needed most in South Africa – a larger economy and more jobs.
Now that we know what needs to be done, we can put in the hard work to make it happen.
The 2014 Entrepreneur Expo is a platform for those that support Cape Town’s entrepreneurs through products and services to showcase their offerings and engage directly with both existing and future entrepreneurs.
The Entrepreneur Expo will also include a dedicated area that focusses on existing small businesses who are successful and sustainable, as well as include an area for up and coming entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurship is the lifeblood of an economy. The Entrepreneur Expo and Conference exist to give entrepreneurship the support and encouragement that is needed.


Small Business Champions Award

The National Small Business Council is calling for entries for its Small Business Champions Award in five categories. These are:

  1. National Small Business Champion of the Year : Annual turnover less than 35 million per annum.
  2. National Entrepreneur Champion of the Year : Owners that show entrepreneurial excellence.
  3. Woman in Business Champion of the Year : Those special ladies who believe that they have what it takes to reach the top of the game as a successful business owner / entrepreneur.
  4. Young Entrepreneur Champion of the Year: Those special young entrepreneurs (under 25) who believe that they have what it takes to reach the top of the game as a successful entrepreneur..
  5. Exporter Champion of the Year: Annual turnover less than 35 million per annum.

The entry forms and additional information can be found by clicking this link. 

Startup Knight

Startup Knight 2014 has a theme of “Technology that Enables”. Specifically, they are looking for concepts and startups that support the SMME sector.

The theme is framed as “concepts and startups that are focused on innovations that enable SMEs to operate more efficiently, more competitively or achieve scalability”. Think SnapScan, Freshbooks, Dropbox, Uber – startups that have have made it possible for various SMEs to operate more efficiently, be more competitive and achieve scalability.

The competition has two streams:

  1. Concept Stream: The concepts need to be original and the entrants are required to demonstrate feasibility, viability, commercialisation prospects and market impact
  2. Startup Stream: Startup entries on the other hand need to be post prototype and already in pilot or revenue generating.

There are prizes for each of these streams. The opportunity is significant, although particapants in the concept stream should note:

The winning concept agrees that all intellectual property of the concept will be transferred over to Byte Orbit upon winning the R100 000. After completion of the competition Byte Orbit and their partnering companies may decide to engage the winner of the concept to work with them to develop the concept. – See more at: http://startupknight.co.za/terms_and_conditions

The total value of prizes is in excess of R 500 000-00.  Prizes will be awarded as follows:

  • Concept Stream: This year the overall winner of the concept stream will win R 100,000. First runner-up will not walk away empty handed and will receive a prize of R 35,000, and the second runner-up will receive R25,000.
  • Startup Stream: The overall winner of the startup stream will win R 150,000 worth of Software development and R 100,000 in PR. The Runner-up will win a total of R 50,000 in PR or Software development.

For more information on the competition, please visit Startup Knight by clicking this link.
The organiser have provided the following overview of their aims and the competition:

The purpose of the competition is to promulgate, support and embrace tech startups in South Africa. Although there are many startup competitions hosted in South Africa, Startup Knight is differentiated through the partnerships created to build and commercialise the winning innovations. Experience has taught us that it takes more than money to turn an idea or innovation into a viable growing business. Therefore we leverage experience, expertise and partnerships to create our winning formula on top of the financial commitment.
The winner of Startup Knight in 2012 excelled and received additional funding at Google Umbono and Startup Knight is proud to boast that our platform was the stepping stone for their success.
In 2013 we introduced the concept phase of the competition. The winning concept, Air Taxi, was incubated for commercialisation by Standard Bank. The winning Startup, Micket, benefited from mentoring, development and PR. The mentoring resulted in a pivot in the startup’s business model and Micket will be handling the guest list and invites for Startup Knight this year. Also in 2013 Startup Knight produced a record setting 80 entries.
In 2014 we will be increasing the stakes to make this year’s competition the biggest best Startup Knight yet. In order to achieve this we have appointed an award winning PR team to increase awareness of the competition and we have also increased the entry period from four weeks to six weeks. Our main sponsor – Standard Bank – has assisted us with increasing the value of the prizes which is now stands in excess of R 500,000 and provides us with the opportunity to create more winners. We have also added more structure to the entry process in order to increase the quality of the entries.

Spark Changemakers Program for Social Entrepreneurs

Social entrepreneurs have a fantastic opportunity to be part of an accelerator programme.  The Spark Changemakers Programme offers an accelerator programme, a support network and access to connections. The programme is looking for entrepreneurs who have:

  • An existing social business
  • Wanting to scale the business and have an impact on poverty.

Applications close on the 5 November 2014. Further information on the program and application form can be found by clicking this link.
The details of this opportunity are noted below:

The Spark* Changemakers Program is a powerful opportunity for passionate South Africans who are at the early stages of building social businesses and organisations that exist to make a difference for people living in poverty. If you are successful in your application you: 

–  ATTEND THE CHANGEMAKERS ACCELERATOR – An intensive five day live-in workshop in Johannesburg where you join a small group of Spark* Changemakers and access world class social entrepreneurship training designed to help you focus your non-profit or business and accelerate the growth of your venture.

– ACCESS THE CHANGMAKERS SUPPORT NETWORK – Beyond the accelerator you receive ongoing training and support from Spark* International and we connect you to experts and professionals who can help you as you launch and grow your non-profit or social business. Specifically we provide you with two years of access to graphic designers, website creators, business coaches, mentors, research assistants, lawyers and accountants (all super helpful for you as a social entrepreneur working to grow your venture). You also have the opportunity to continually apply for small grants (approximately 2000 – 2500 rand) to help you overcome barriers and test ideas to grow the impact or sustainability of your venture.

– ACCESS POWERFUL CONNECTIONS – Spark* is an official pipeline partner with a number of powerful organisations that can help you scale a proven social enterprise including Ashoka, Echoing Green and the Unreasonable Institute as well as impact investors to help you raise capital if you are a social enterprise. We can prepare you for these opportunities and make connections for you.

We are looking for South African social entrepreneurs who:
– Have already launched a social enterprise that is already making a difference in the lives of tens of people living in poverty.
– Want to scale their social enterprise to impact many more people living in poverty.

CGCSA Summit to focus on small businesses

The Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGSA) will be hosting its annual summit from the 28-30 October 2014. The summit includes a focus on smaller businesses. The topics to be covered include:

  1. The Rise of SMMEs and Informal Traders;
  2. Wholesale &Retail SETA’s role in engaging with big and established business to assist in elevating SMMEs;
  3. Operating in a world of increased consumer expectation of transparency, quality and value;
  4. The social media impact on managing consumer /shopper expectations and
  5. Case study view of how to engage and respond.

CGCSA CEO, Gwarega Mangozhe, says that

Our government believes in the capacity of our SMMEs to create jobs, grow the economy and eradicate poverty. At the Summit, we want to build thriving SMMEs in order to create a better South Africa for all.

In addition to the summit, there is an opportunity to exhibit products and services.
The CGSA has an SMME rate of R4 500 excl VAT. (An SMME is defined as a business employing less than 5 people, with an annual turnover of less than R1.5-million per annum.)

Doing Business in Africa: What Are The Pitfalls & Opportunities

The Congress for Business and Economics is hosting Michael Lalor, Lead Partner and Head of Ernst and Young Africa Business Centre, will talk on “Doing Business in Africa: What Are The Pitfalls & Opportunities”. The event includes dinner.

Michael is a partner responsible for Ernst & Young’s Africa Business Center. He has a background in political science, economics, and literary studies, and uses this wide frame of reference to bring a fresh perspective to more conventional business thinking.
Michael’s areas of focus include strategy and business development. Using a combination of facilitation and qualitative analysis he has assisted clients across a range of sectors in projects ranging from business concept feasibility studies to developing processes for innovation to developing blue-sky growth strategies.
He is also responsible for the firm’s thought leadership initiatives on Africa, including our flagship Africa Attractiveness publication. He is currently working with a number of the firm’s client’s from various countries and across a range of sectors to assist them in developing, stress-testing and executing their Africa growth strategies.

SA’s phantom ‘efficient laager’ skews thinking

THE “efficient laager” is my description of big business’s role in South Africa’s discussions on economic policy.
The central feature of this hypothesis is that it defines business — particular big business — as a bastion of efficiency, neglecting to tackle the core questions of economic concentration.
The stance is insulated and defensive. You and I are probably not welcome in this laager.
About 60 business leaders were polled on their perceptions of the South African economy for the World Competitiveness Report, and substantiate the dominance of the “efficient laager” mentality. Two responses in particular highlight a worrying perspective among business leaders.
First, respondents were asked about the intensity of local competition. The respondents rated South Africa at 36 out of 144 countries. In other words, in this perspective South Africa’s market economy is seen as competitive by international standards. However, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, the established business ownership rate is only at 2.5% -among the lowest in the world — which hardly suggests a high level of local competition.
Second, respondents were asked about value chain breadth, with a lower ranking suggesting that companies are not involved across the entire value chain. Respondents to the survey ranked South Africa 68 out of the 144 countries surveyed. Yet the South African economy is highly concentrated as cases presented to the Competition Commission have shown over the years.
Industries as diverse as steel and bread all reflect a highly concentrated ownership structures. Importantly, the price structure and dominance of value chains by very large companies is one of the biggest challenges we face in democratising the economy. Again, the perception of respondents can be questioned as much higher entrepreneurship rates are evident in countries ranked much lower on this measure than South Africa.
If the private sector is seen as excellent by respondents, the government is viewed as completely bad.
Let us be clear, the public service in South Africa requires extensive reform to combat rising patronage. The interpretation by private sector analysts is, however, hysterical, and offers scant solutions.
Two examples show this. First is the hyperbolic comparison. At a recent event hosted by the Wits School of Governance, a leading private sector commentator argued that “children under the Taliban receive a better education than children in South Africa”. It is pure sensationalism, partly because the Taliban does not rule Afghanistan. The fact-checking website Africa Check and academic Nic Spaull show that business leaders have a much more negative perception of our education system than international benchmark data supports.
The second common warning is that South Africa risks becoming a “failed state”.
Let us be clear again, the worrying signs of rising patronage must be countered.
However, it is not merely a problem for the government; it resides in the large companies. Listed companies on the JSE that have participated in black economic empowerment transactions invariably do deals, not with smaller companies in their sectors, but rather with companies that have strong political connections.
This is part and parcel of the worrying system of patronage emerging in South Africa. Patronage politics resides inside the largesse of the government, but also is deeply rooted in South Africa’s private sector.
The creation of this phantom “efficient laager” has huge implications. It reflects the duality of income and asset holdings in our society, with the so-called top 1% not merely disconnecting, but taking up a posture that paralyses them.
After all, if all the problems reside in the government, there is little a senior executive can do, except bemoan the rise of the patronage politics and premise investment decisions on this perception of South Africa.
Every so often, some business leaders offer a welcome counter perspective, showing that a more realistic assessment of South Africa and its challenges is possible. These voices are, however, in the minority.
Consequently, a dominant discourse is entrenching itself and big businesses are retreating further into a set of orthodox positions based on conservative perspective of market based reforms.
It venerates economic growth and deregulation, without tackling questions of equity. It hysterically criticises patronage, while participating in it.
A further retreat into what I am calling the “efficient laager hypothesis” would not merely widen the gap between the government and business, but would also reframe the debate in ways that take us further away from solutions. Smaller businesses should take note, because they should not join the chorus of big business, but rather challenge this perspective.
This article was first published in Sunday Times: Business Times