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Standard Bank unveils incubator accelerators

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As part of Standard Bank’s commitment to developing entrepreneurs and ensuring the sustainability of their businesses, the bank has added two accelerator programmes, SW7 Tech Accelerator and Ignitor Bootcamp to its business incubator in Rosebank – both dedicated to equipping SMEs with practical tools, knowledge, advice and skills that are essential for their growth.

Both initiatives provide businessmen and women with access to networks, markets, respected mentors and technical applications, but SW7 is focused on companies with established products and client bases, while Ignitor is geared towards start-ups.

Jayshree Naidoo, Standard Banks Incubator Head, says the addition of these accelerator programmes to the business incubator in Rosebank, follows the recent launch (16 April) of Standard Bank’s two incubators in Johannesburg, virtual incubators in Cape Town, Free State, Limpopo, and KwaZulu-Natal, all aimed at educating, creating, empowering and developing entrepreneurs in South Africa.

“With the addition of SW7 and Ignitor, Standard Bank further demonstrates its commitment to serving SMEs by providing them with practical solutions for dealing with daily challenges, thus proving its dedication to bringing innovative solutions to market,” says Ms Naidoo.

“To become a world class economy, entrepreneurship must form the basis of our country’s formal industry to stimulate job creation and thus economic and social development. Very often, entrepreneurs approach organisations like Standard Bank for funding, but to become successful, they really need access to technical and development resources. This is where SW7 and Ignitor come in.”

The accelerator programmes

Standard Bank partnered with the largest mentor-led tech innovator in Africa, Start with 7, founded by Odette and Keith Jones, and Paul Smith and Justin Coetsee of Ignitor, a startup acceleration programme.

“SW7 is not just about the structure and concepts you need to launch and run a business,” says Mr Jones. “It is actually about using our contacts and networks to get businesses to market – which, in this case, are large corporates – and showing them what to do once they get there. We’re also about connecting the smart people in South Africa, leading to more business being done more effectively.”

On the other hand, the goal of Ignitor is to help entrepreneurs create a better world from an economic contribution point of view, according to cofounder Paul Smith.

“Entrepreneurs have a profound impact on social development, particularly tech entrepreneurs,” says Mr Smith. “For this reason, we want to take them from the idea stage and help them create profitable, growing businesses. To do this, we expose them to Lean StartUp, a scientific method to build and manage startups, and then get products to targeted consumers as fast as possible with as little risk as possible. The second thing is to introduce them to the right mentors.”

Just like SW7, Ignitor uses practical workshops, peer collaboration and coaching from other successful entrepreneurs to inspire programme attendees.

“The people who mentor for us have developed their own tech product businesses. No consultants, no academics – you have to have done it before,” says Mr Jones.

Views from entrepreneurs

While most entrepreneurs say they are looking for business development support and access to markets, Rudzani Matshatshe, founder of One Cloud Internet, a company that brings affordable, high-speed internet to homes and businesses in Gauteng using fibre optics, says “If we can have exposure to and network with businesses – that would absolutely help us greatly.”

His partner, Warren Dickerson, agrees, “Networking and learning from other SMEs would be a huge advantage to us.”

Ms Naidoo says though Standard Bank and its partners aim to help entrepreneurs find success and prosperity through the business incubation system, ultimately that is not their only objective.

“Countries with a high number of small businesses report strong increases in job opportunities, technological and research development and, of course, economic growth. All this has direct and indirect positive consequences on other industries and living conditions – so supporting, cultivating and forming working relationships with SMEs aligns with the bank’s – and the nation’s – goal to keep South Africa competitive on a global scale.”

“Standard Bank is passionate about being the bank for entrepreneurs. We see Africa as our home and we are keen to make a difference to South Africa. By growing entrepreneurs, we know it will have a direct impact on job creation, social and economic upliftment and our country’s effectiveness on the international stage,” concludes Naidoo.