Seven out of the 10 initial UUNET Bandwidth Barn Launchpad companies, which started the black ICT entrepreneur development program in August last year, graduated Tuesday as financially stable and viable businesses, able to survive outside the program.
This is in contrast to local statistics, which show that up to 70 per cent of South Africa businesses fail in the first two years of operation.
The Western Cape’s ICT sector generates the largest number of new job opportunities after tourism, but potential for the IT sector to confront issues such as poverty and empowerment has never been fully exploited. To address this, CITI, the Western Cape Provincial Government and UUNET launched the pilot Launchpad program in 2004. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report, factors limiting the success of small businesses in SA are finance, education, culture and entrepreneurial capacity.
Masedi Molosiwa, executive director of CITi, says the success of Launchpad is primarily because the program was run out of the UUNET Bandwidth Barn, which provided a practical learning space that minimized, and, in some cases, neutralized the four factors. “Starting a business is terrifying enough, especially when having to do it on your own. It is no wonder so many companies fail early on when one looks at the isolation in which many work. The Bandwidth Barn is a haven for small companies and when you add a structured and managed business skills course which includes coaches, mentors and trainers there is even greater chance of success,” he adds.
Thembinkosi Semwayo, MD of Knowledge Crucible, one of the graduating companies, says: “When we started all we had was a good idea and passion, but no idea how to make it happen. Launchpad gave us support, guidance and motivation, turning our idea into reality.”
All participants felt that coaching and mentoring were important to the program’s success.
“It helped us turn theory into practical steps,” says Semwayo. “The business coach taught us how to take full responsibility for setting and [achieving] our goals, while our mentor advised us on how things were done in the real world. While we still made mistakes, they were fewer and less disastrous, because of the strong network of support.”
The seven graduating Launchpad companies are:
* Delta Computer Solutions: Data recovery services;
* iDJ: Provider of video jukeboxes to taverns and shebeens;
* JT IT Solutions: Web site design and software development;
* Knowledge Crucible: Knowledge management software products and services;
* Rylurx IT: Football domain development;
* Ubhedu Business Solutions: Business solutions: IT support services;
* UniNet: Wireless Internet Service Provider (ISP).