Author: Abu Cassim
4 January 2019 (revised)
In this blog, we review the Jo’burg startup ecosystem prior to the global events of 2020-2022. At the time, a Venture Burn survey found that most tech startups were based in Gauteng (55%), followed by the Western Cape (37%). A more recent desktop review in 2022, however, revealed that many of the innovation centres (incubators, accelerators and co-working spaces) listed below are no longer operating.
Innovation hubs with no fixed location
A social initiative birthed to harness the creativity of young entrepreneurs in making a difference within communities. It’s a moving incubator, hosted in different cities, including Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.
Red Bull Basement
Red Bull Basement offers a platform for the improvement of urban spaces and city life using technology based solution. It’s on this platform that research is conducted and knowledge produced through creative collaboration. Red Bull Basement host hatch events and offer residency. Hatch events are one-day events that aim to expose entrepreneurs to industry experts, and other key stakeholders in the field, who on that day impart knowledge through lectures. The residency is a two-month long programme where people from five selected projects receive support, mentorship, knowledge from experts, and other tools to help develop their ideas and projects.
National Gazelles is a Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) and Department of Small Business Development (DSBD) funded initiative aimed at identifying, supporting and accelerating small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) in ten industry sectors aligned with the National Development Plan (NDP) and SEDA SME strategy. The National Gazelles provide support guided by a detailed business diagnostic and growth strategy. The acceleration process aims to increase a business’ potential through business skills development, productivity, business advice, and access to finances.
OPEN offers a next generation, diverse and collaborative working environment that inspires networking, collaboration and innovation between and among creatives and professionals. OPEN is located in Maboneng Precinct and Sandton.
In a variety of locations, including Rosebank, Parktown, Fourways and Sandton, Regus offers flexible, cost-effective co-working spaces.
“Innovating with the science of where.” Esri offers a three-year startup programme that helps startups build mapping and location intelligence into their products and businesses using ArcGIS. The programme provides access to Esri online services, software, development tools, ready-to-use content, training, support, and co-marketing opportunities.
The Standard Bank incubator not only offers physical facilities, but guidance and support through exposure to partners with expertise useful for the development of solid enterprises. The incubator is located in Rosebank with virtual incubators spread in different provinces.
“Let’s build your business into an asset of value” is a phrase that describes the work done by Aurik. Aurik is a non-equity, fee-based business accelerator based in Rosebank. Through personal, relevant and impactful business growth programmes, Aurik provides tailor-made mentoring, coaching and facilitation to accelerate enterprises into Assets of Value based on unique circumstances and resources. Aurik works best with businesses that have passed the startup point and are generating annual revenues of between eight and 200 million Rands.
Based in Rosebank, Impact Hub Johannesburg is connected to the world’s largest network of innovative co-working spaces, as well as incubation programmes and a vibrant community of like-minded people.
A world class innovation centre established in 2016, GE offers a vibrant environment for immersion in the innovation space. They utilise competitive innovations, practices and methodologies to foster learning, ideation and co-creation for accelerated growth and sustainable development. The innovation centre is located in Melrose.
Travail offers a high performance, nomadic workspace suited to mobile and progressive professionals. Located in the beautiful Melrose Arch Precinct, Travail offers a calm environment where modern professionals can focus on the task at hand undisturbed. Alternatively, they can meet, hang-out, strategise, and innovate.
JOHANNESBURG (Braamfontein, Constitutional Hill and Maboneng)
A platform for connecting entrepreneurs, corporates and investors.The Awethu Project incubator aims to elevate disadvantaged entrepreneurs whose entrepreneurial potential is assessed through the Awethu Talent Identification Process.There is no requirement for academic or business experience. The incubator is located at the Constitutional Hills Human Rights Precinct.
Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct
Just a short distance from the University of the Witwatersand’s (Wits) Braamfontein campus, Tshimologong is a product of the Wits Jo’burg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) initiative aimed at promoting the commercialisation of research and development of high-level digital skills to forge successful Information and Communications Technology (ICT) startups. Tshimologong is an incubator, accelerator and co-working space.
At the heart of Johannesburg, Founder Institute is an early startup accelerator that channels the expertise of 20 to 40 seasoned tech-preneurs per semester to aid in the development and acceleration of early startups. Through weekly training sessions, mentors impart valuable knowledge based upon their experiences and knowledge of the latest tactics. Furthermore, they not only provide critical feedback on the progress of startups, but also introduce graduates to a global launch network to aid in the success of their own startups.
A catalyst for creative entrepreneurs in Braamfontein, the J&B Hive offers an inspirational co-working environment where entrepreneurs can blossom by way of workshops, masterclasses, and access to business specialist through networking and collaboration. The Hive also offers business support through accelerator programmes.
Founders Factory Africa is a spin-off from Founders Factory in the UK. They plan to build and scale 100 technology startups across Africa over the next five years. They source entrepreneurs, IP, investment, talent, from across the world to deliver value to over 800 million people in 49 sub-Saharan countries.
An incubation centre established by the collaboration of New Generation Mindset, Microsoft Bizspark Network and the City of Ekurhuleni. Bizspark centre offers 60 individuals and SMMEs an opportunity to undergo an incubation process for one year and three year programme for individual entrepreneurs and SMMEs respectively. The focus of the incubation process is to provide mentorship and training in technology, software, programming and business, links to the global Bizspark community, and capital. It supports approximately 1 665 SMMEs.
SANDTON, RIVONIA & BRYANSTON
A Sandton-based home for fintech entrepreneurs, Alpha Code offers the ultimate working and collaboration environment to facilitate informal mentorship by some of the brightest minds in the industry; as well as networking opportunities at the facilitated networking events the host. Alpha Code houses a fast-growing community of entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, industry experts, and thought leaders.
With 18 years of experience, Raizcorp offers opportunity to entrepreneurs of exceptional potential to gain lessons and guidance in the art of practical business success. Raizcorp has several incubators in South Africa, with the Jo’burg incubator located in Sandton.
Seed academy is based in Sandton, where entrepreneurs undergo a high-impact incubation process to ensure ultimate marketability and trade-worthiness of early-stage startups. Entrepreneurs undergo extensive personal and professional skills development, which is met with access to markets and high levels of transparency and accountability to achieve real ROI. Seed academy provides high-impact business development support to transform early-stage startups from ideation to growth and ultimately to scale.
I’m In accelerator is based in Sandton where high-growth, black-owned tech enterprises are launched into the South African ICT sector through the provision of limited resources for technically apt entrepreneurs. I’m In facilitates the acceleration of enterprises with viable commercial products through access to seed funding by way of early stage equity, as well as mentorship programmes and business development support.
A non-profit incubation organisation partnered with the private sector, government and civil society to develop low-level entrepreneurs and 100% owned black enterprises through economic guidance — especially in the first three years of their existence. The provision of nationwide incubators aims to address the high failure rate of 100% black owned businesses. Located in Rivonia.
In Rivonia lies the largest accelerator in Africa, with over 200 tech businesses accelerated with the help of over a 100 tech-founder, CEO mentors. SW7 harnesses the expertise of a host of mentors to aid startups in becoming deal and investor ready.
A luxurious space in Rivonia with a modern touch, Slow in the City is equipped with technology to accommodate both formal and informal meetings and events. They offer an environment that facilitates the productivity of professionals.
Africa’s largest startup campus, launched about a year ago by Sir Richard Branson, is located at 22 on Sloane, Bryanston. The aim of the campus is to nurture the entrepreneurial mindset, ensure business sustainability, and contribute to the development of new industries and jobs through turnkey solutions for scaling, funding and access to markets.The campus is supported by a cohort of experienced mentors, entrepreneurs, scientists, managers, CEOs and funders.
A hub partnered with prominent organisations, Omidyar and Google, JoziHub aims to create a sustainable future for Africa through social and technological movements. JoziHub offers a co-creation space to foster technology related entrepreneurship, innovation, growth, learning and access to resources for entrepreneurs through workshops, talks and learning sessions. JoziHub is located in the Milpark area.
With three years in operation, Riversands Incubation Hub has achieved 170 businesses on campus and 2 750 jobs created. The large-scale Riversand Incubation Hub is located in Midrand, established through the collaboration of Century Development Properties and National Treasury’s Job Funds. The incubator aims to cultivate committed and talented entrepreneurs through the provision of business support and links to corporate South Africa.
Softstart BTI is a Midrand based incubator, funded by the SEDA technology programme. Their purpose is to foster tech-business development by addressing areas such as technology, operations, market and business through mentorships, coaching and training. Softstart BTI also aims to connect tech-preneurs with government and private sector. They offer a great working environment.
A product of Vumela and Edge Growth, 10X-e offers bootcamps, workshops and other 10X tools to help small scale enterprises to evade No Man’s Land — the Bermuda triangle of growth and scale up against the odds. 10X-e is located in Hyde Park.
Through research, lean startup systems, design thinking and new ways of working, Ignitor serves to help startups and corporates build better products faster. Ignitor utilises a host of seasoned entrepreneurs, who have product development experience to offer training, to coach and mentor early tech-preneurs and corporates. Ignitor has worked with over 150 startups from a variety of industries and it is located in Randburg.
Located in the lovely suburb of Parkhurst, Nomads & Co. offers a flexible drop-in workspace where creatives, freelancers, solo entrepreneurs, and small businesses can work, network, collaborate and utilise support, resources and mentorship opportunities to create a meaningful work-life and means to sustainable businesses.
The Grovest Fund provides financial support through growth capital, for small and medium enterprises that are already producing revenue and have a defensible market position and high potential for rapid growth. Grovest invests anything between R3 million and R6 million in an enterprise led by teams with meaningful equity stakes in the business.
A leading Venture Capital Fund for disruptive technology. Kalon VP is led by a dynamic and veteran team dedicated to achieving smart returns through notable investments in the creation of both non-financial and financial value. Kalon VP invests growth capital (equity-based) in high growth technology companies, with innovative business plans, geared to existing and/or emerging markets.
Edge Growth prides itself in its unique, tailor-made solutions to the growth constraints facing SMEs. Edge Growth is responsible for three funds that provide financial support to encourage the rapid growth of SMEs. The funds focus on different aspects of enterprise and supplier development.
Seedstars World provides a platform for startups to pitch their ideas to a variety of stakeholders including investors. Seedstars World runs local competitions to identify leading startups within the disruptive technology sector. Winning startups are also exposed to inspirational discussions and the opportunity to mingle with investors, corporates, incubators, accelerators and other stakeholders at the regional and Seedstars summits. 10-20 winning startups are also put through the virtual growth program which offers a $50k investment and a chance for follow-on investment.
TriVest is a leading provider of financial capital for equity, middle market corporate acquisitions and recapitalizations. TriVest focuses on small to medium sized enterprises with notable growth potential within existing, fragmented and/or emerging markets. TriVest’s main aim is to provide support for the growth of South African enterprises and see them scale through expansion within Africa.
Open Window was established to take advantage of the substantial tax incentive provided for in the Income Tax Act. Open Window focuses investment on equity opportunities of fast growing SMEs through equity capitalization and strategy enhancement. Open Window maximises value creation by investing in sectors in which the investment team is well versed and can provide a leading customer service experience that promotes faster growth and reach.
The role of the NEF is to support broad-based black economic empowerment. The NEF is a leading promoter and facilitator of black economic participation through the provision of financial and non-financial support to black empowered enterprises. The NEF also aims to promote the savings and investment culture amongst black people.
SEFA recognises that the biggest hurdle faced by small enterprises is financial capital. It is for this reason that SEFA offers asset finance, bridging loans, term loans, structures finance solutions, the credit guarantee scheme and land reform empowerment fund. SEFA helps small business become sustainable through the best service and expertise.
Capital Eye invests in both startups and mature revenue generating companies in both established and emerging markets to create value growth.Capital Eye delivers superior returns on technology and associated assets through goal alignment achieved by co-investment between partners, shareholders and management.
Convergence Partners is a seasoned pan-African private equity player with a focus on developing businesses while underpinning African development through an offering of skills, experience and capital to accelerate communications access and ICT infrastructure development on the Continent, focusing on initiatives that increase availability of communications, broadband services and new technology offerings to the people of Africa.
LeapFrog invests in extraordinary businesses in Africa and Asia to achieve leaps of growth, profitability and impact. With far-reaching investee companies in over 33 emerging markets, LeapFrog reaches hundreds of millions of consumers to whom insurance, savings, pensions, credit and healthcare have been made accessible for the first time.
To eliminate the dichotomy between business and social responsibility, the Omidyar Network aims to invest in enterprises that forge social change whilst generating a return on capital Through a flexible capital model, Omidyar Network infuses early-stage startups with much needed financial and human capital, time and resources to test the market viability and social impact of the startup’s business model. E² E² is an impact investment partner contributing financial capital and business support to value-aligned entrepreneurs to create and scale responsible businesses with a positive impact. They offer tailor-made solutions to ensure the growth and sustainability of businesses they invest in.
LifeCo UnLtd South Africa is a successful impact business that invests in other impact enterprises to deliver social, environmental, economic and financial gains. They focus their investment on high growth potential enterprises that deliver significant, positive financial and social outcomes. In addition, they run a programme to elicit critical thinking and understanding of business principles to foster a culture of entrepreneurship among the youth.
With over 4000 members, Startup Grind Johannesburg is part of a global startup community, hosting monthly events to nurture the Johannesburg startup ecosystem through actively educating, inspiring and connecting a multitude of entrepreneurs in different chapters within the ecosystem.
In just 54 hours, meet and Connect with people driven to innovate. Discover your position in the entrepreneurship journey. Learn what it takes to start a company. Start!
With over 5000 members, Venture Network is a diverse startup community aimed at powering innovation and entrepreneurial networks through exclusive events whereby self-starters are provided with a platform to showcase their work, develop new networks and entice influential investors.
The aim is to have an active, vibrant, well-networked and economically active tribe of 1 million startup businesses across the African continent by 2020. Through, networking, pitching sessions, dynamic talks; marketplace opportunities to access networks in the various countries through live-streaming and use of digital tools, The Hookup Dinner provides a platform for entrepreneurs to engage and contribute to each others success.
The Startup Foundation
The Startup Foundation is a non-profit company supporting innovative youth entrepreneurship in South Africa.
Meetup.com is a website that facilitates events. A number of startup groups organise their events through this portal. It’s a great site to find out what happening in your area.