New incubators go beyond business training to provide market access and prototyping support, ensuring the sustainability of business ventures.
As a major contributor to the South African economy, it has never been more important for Standard Bank to support business and entrepreneurs. In line with this objective, and to keep up with the rapid pace of innovative products and services, the bank launched two incubators on the 16 April 2015 with the aim to educate, create, empower and develop entrepreneurs.
The new incubators are Standard Bank-owned brick-and-mortar facilities where entrepreneurs can test, develop, and deploy their innovations with personal guidance from the bank’s innovation and enterprise development partners. The support provided includes business development, acceleration and help with design and prototyping of products, which is normally a major barrier to entry for entrepreneurs.
Jayshree Naidoo, Standard Banks’s Incubator Head, says that “the two incubators in Johannesburg, virtual incubators in Cape Town, Free State, Limpopo, and KwaZulu-Natal are a tangible expression of the bank’s strategic objective to help entrepreneurs grow.
“While traditional business development in the form of courses, access to information on how to run a business, coaching, and mentoring are essential to give entrepreneurs vital survival tools, there’s a great deal more to be done,” she says.
“Innovation is the new business currency. Being a successful business, large or small, depends on how efficiently you can bring new ideas to market, or convert existing products and services in such a way as to create new markets.
“Value chains are in urgent need of individual members who can refresh the way they function or what they have to offer. However, new ideas have to prove themselves to be accepted and that carries a price tag. So, training innovators in business skills is one part of a much bigger need for funding, access to resources, and market access. Our incubators are focused on providing the full spectrum of assistance.”
Breaking into established value chains is challenging. Via its incubators, Standard Bank can provide entrepreneurs with access to its own corporate network. At the same time, the network will provide input as to what new skills, products, and services are needed to strengthen value chains.
Standard Bank is also in a position to assist incubated entrepreneurs with access to funding that would be difficult to secure without proven products and services.
The Business Incubator in Rosebank, Johannesburg, South Africa is a co-working space for entrepreneurs. It will provide mentoring, coaching, and access to training in enterprise development and content delivery for corporates. Entrepreneurs will also have access to thought leadership and content, specific to their areas of interest. A separate space will be occupied by companies that will support entrepreneurs with innovation, branding, and growth strategies.
The Technical Incubator, housed in Resolution Circle Towers, in collaboration with the University of Johannesburg is fully funded by Standard Bank. This facility will provide entrepreneurs with access to technical support on manufacturing, design, 3D printing, patenting, and design support and new technologies thereby enabling rapid prototyping.
One Virtual Incubator will provide entrepreneurship co-working space at Workshop 17 in the Watershed, Cape Town, and offer access to development opportunities.
Three other Virtual Incubators run by Standard Bank partner LifeCo will support social entrepreneurs operating in the Free State, Limpopo, and KwaZulu-Natal.
Once an innovator has completed a programme at one of the incubators, the Standard Bank Incubation team will monitor his or her business for the next twelve months, measuring the growth of the business’s bottom line, its ability to build an asset of value and create employment. Where additional mentorship is required, it will be supplied.
The team expects up to 350 innovators – some of them Standard Bank employees who have or want to start a business that will not interfere with their work at the bank – to pass through the incubators each year.
“Because we will focus on the sustainability of innovative businesses, the incubators have the potential to add 350 thriving businesses to the economy annually,” Ms Naidoo says. “And, because the businesses will be fundamentally innovative, they will help lay a foundation for an extremely competitive, producer economy that will attract investment for South African ideas.”
This article was written by NICOLLE KAIRUZ