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GrindstoneX accelerator supports top female ‘techpreneurs’

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 15 May 2024
Grindstone, in collaboration with Naspers Labs, has supported the growth and development of 19 female founders.
Grindstone, in collaboration with Naspers Labs, has supported the growth and development of 19 female founders.

Nine female-led tech start-ups from GrindstoneX have graduated from a six-month accelerator programme funded by Naspers Labs.

Grindstone is a structured entrepreneurship development programme that assists high-growth innovation-driven companies to get the fundamental building blocks in place to scale quickly and become sustainable and fundable.

The GrindstoneX programme promotes the inclusion of women in the tech sector and addresses the critical funding and skills development gap that often hinders the growth of female-led and innovation-driven businesses.

According to a statement, Grindstone, in collaboration with Naspers Labs, has supported the growth and development of 19 female founders over two cohorts since October 2022.

“It has been inspiring to witness the progress and success of the GrindstoneX entrepreneurs, demonstrating the importance of nurturing home-grown start-ups and local talent,” comments Ashika Kirpal, director of transformation and Naspers Labs at Naspers.

“Furthermore, supporting women entrepreneurs helps to break down barriers and create more opportunities for women in STEM fields, contributing to a more equitable and balanced economic landscape. Their success not only contributes to South Africa’s economic growth, but also to our dynamic tech sector as a whole.”

Nine technology and technology-enabled businesses participated in the second cohort, representing various industries, including agritech, e-commerce, artificial intelligence and edtech.

Across all nine participating businesses, the cohort saw a R3 million increase in funding, R665 000 revenue increase, 7% compound annual growth rate, as well as a total of 13 new jobs created during the course of the programme, notes Grindstone.

With all the cohort’s beneficiaries being 100% black and female-founded start-ups, the programme contributed towards improving diversity and inclusion in the entrepreneurial tech ecosystem while creating jobs, it says.

Founders developed their business skills by completing the Thinkubate online training academy, and received one-on-one coaching tailored to closing the skills and knowledge gaps identified through a rigorous assessment.

Each start-up benefited from expert design to boost their online presence, a PR and social media campaign course, and other opportunities beyond the programme.

Bertha Kgokong is founder of MobileGPT, a WhatsApp-based generative artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot that utilises the power of AI to help users with AI conversations on their mobiles.

She shared the company’s progression: “At the beginning of the programme, we were mostly focused on the consumer.

“As I attended conferences, engaged with clients, and even spoke at the AI Expo 2023, I discovered a new business-to-business potential revenue stream. Businesses were interested in using mobile chatbot technology as an additional channel to reach their clients. Since then, we have secured two clients for whom we built custom AI chatbots.”

Naspers Labs contributed a total of R350 000 in cash prizes, with R100 000 for first place, R80 000 for second place and R60 000 for third place.

The other six companies in the cohort each received just over R18 000 and an additional R10 000 incentive sponsored by Thinkroom, totalling over R28 000 per start-up.

“The partnership with Naspers Labs has enabled exponential growth and learning for 19 female-founded businesses and paved the way for other females to be inspired, learn and grow,” states Catherine Young, managing partner of Grindstone and Grindstone Ventures.

“We have seen phenomenal traction across the different sectors represented and look forward to continue growing the GrindstoneX brand.”

The start-ups and female techpreneurs that graduated from the Grindstone accelerator are:

  • HYHarvest: Zandile Kumalo
  • RealPPE Marketplace: Lebogang Mashaba
  • Binase Corporation: Nabo Binase
  • African Distribution Technologies: Vani Jolly
  • Featherlinx: Meagan Chauke Adonis
  • Ambani Africa: Mukundi Lambani
  • inJoin: Naledi Sithole
  • Makhoba Professional Services: Thabile Makhoba
  • MobileGPT: Bertha Kgokong