Country’s top startups go head-to-head at UCT

Lebone Mano
By Lebone Mano, junior journalist
Johannesburg, 22 Sept 2020

UCT’s Graduate School of Business Solution Space recently announced the nine startups progressing to the final stage of its venture accelerator.

Solution Space’s e-Track Programme, held in partnership with MTN, aims to build high-impact, scalable tech businesses. The nine startups have all made it through the programme’s previous phases, “venture launch” and “venture exploitation”, which saw them examine if their solution would address the problem they’d identified.

The selection was made following 12 weeks of acceleration and a demo day pitch in front of the judges and industry experts. 

While only two or three startups are usually selected for the final stage – “venture scaling”, MTN’s ecosystem development GM and one of the programme’s judges Eero Tarjanne, says the quality of this cohort's pitches were ‘exceptionally high’.

The startups which go through to the final phase are:

  • LittleFish, an e-commerce platform connecting SMMEs and consumers, allowing small businesses to participate in the digital economy.
  • Futures Academy, an independent online high school that offers a flexible learning solution for grades 7–12.
  • FynRoot Productions sells potted fynbos plants and empowers individuals with the knowledge to grow fynbos plants sustainably.
  • Activity Hub, an online marketplace for tours and activities which offers real-time availability and secure payments.
  • CiTTA, a sustainable development data and expert resourcing and networking platform.
  • Go Themba, an eco-friendly mobile car wash app.
  • Guardian Health, a booking system for local clinics and community health workers to provide better resource planning.
  • iAfrika, an African language platform for content and digital skills development.
  • Ikhaya Space, a credit provider to high net-worth individuals and businesses.

Guardian Health and LittleFish made it into the programme as part of their MTN Ayoba hack prizes earlier this year, finishing in first and second place.

Guardian Health’s co-founder Tino Manhema says e-Track has helped him and his partner, Tsitsi Marote, consider problems they hadn’t thought of before.

“When we started the programme, we didn’t think we could make a business of our solution, and we didn’t have the skills to do that either. Joining has given us access to mentors and people working in health so we’ve been able to reposition our app’s initial offering to meet healthcare worker and patient needs.

“We were shown how to protect intellectual property, access funding and approach investors. Now I feel equipped to succeed in whatever ventures I go for in future.”

LittleFish was chosen as the cohort’s most advanced startup, with the greatest potential to scale. This won the e-commerce platform a R50 000 bonus, as well as tech and business support to launch the app on instant messenger Ayoba. There are plans to leverage the relationships with UCT GSB Solution Space and MTN to launch a new e-commerce platform and scale into markets across the continent.

LittleFish’s founders, Brandon Roberts and Davith Kahwa, are optimistic about their new ventures, and predict that by 2024 the platform will be the e-commerce medium of choice for over 10 000 SMMEs.