Business incubator, the Bandwidth Barn, has launched a programme which is geared to support IT entrepreneurs throughout the early stages of their business development.
The Accel Enterprise Development Programme is designed to give small businesses a boost, and hopes to increase their chances for survival in a competitive marketplace.
According to Chris Vermeulen, GM of the Bandwidth Barn, 80% of small businesses fail in their first year, and fewer than 1,3% survive beyond three and a half years. The Accel Enterprise Development Programme aims to improve these statistics.
The programme, sponsored by the Western Cape Provincial Government and the City of Cape Town and facilitated by Cape Venture Partners and Peerpower, combines three quality coaching and mentoring initiatives: VeloCITI, My Business Groups and My Mentor.
"While the Bandwidth Barn has offered these courses to IT entrepreneurs before, they have always been run on a project basis," says Vermeulen. "The result is that the companies benefit for the duration of the programme – usually six to eight months – but after that they are on their own.
"The idea with the Accel Enterprise Development Programme is that they are nurtured right through the first part of their development. As a start-up they would participate in the VeloCITI programme, and then graduate to My Business Groups and then to My Mentor. By adopting this approach, we are hoping to get a more holistic view of the businesses, support them in a deeper and more sustainable way and therefore help them to succeed.
"After all, we are not necessarily going to identify the next Mark Shuttleworth or Vinny Lingham in a six month intervention," quips Vermeulen. "We need longer to understand the businesses and identify ways to enable them to maximise their potential."
VeloCITI aims to support entrepreneurs of early stage ICT-related businesses by providing business skills training via structured content sessions, together with entrepreneurial coaching services. The programme runs for a period of eight months, and modules are focused on finance and general business skills, including sales and marketing, people development and negotiations. The end result is a comprehensive business plan.
In addition to these content sessions, each participant also receives two hours of one-on-one coaching a month for a six month period, provided by an experienced business mentor who has an entrepreneurial background. In addition, all participants are invited to regular networking sessions, where high-level guest speakers share their experiences.
VeloCITI is also focused on supporting entrepreneurs from previously disadvantaged backgrounds.
My Business Group is a peer advisory board. Eight to 10 non-competing IT business owners with diverse skills and experience are guided through a strategic thinking process over a period of six months. Groups meet for two hours twice a month under the guidance of a skilled facilitator. During these sessions, each business owner is inspired to generate a plan to take his/her business to the next level, and the group supports that person and holds him/her accountable for delivering on that plan.
These meetings are complemented by a monthly networking evening where people can meet members of other groups and where relationships are built. Special interest workshops are also held, where experienced business people are invited to share their wisdom.
My Mentor is suited to the more mature entrepreneur who has been in business for two to three years, with 24 companies participating in the six-month programme this year. Each company has a one-on-one, two-hour session every month with a high-powered business mentor, and six mentors will work with the entpreneurs. In addition, every two weeks the group gets together to listen to a guest speaker and network with each other.