R16m injection for disruptive fintech start-ups

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 16 May 2019
Last year's winners of the AlphaCode Incubate programme.
Last year's winners of the AlphaCode Incubate programme.

AlphaCode, an incubation and investment vehicle for early-stage financial services businesses, powered by Rand Merchant Investment, is looking for start-ups or ideas that could change the face of financial services.

The organisation is inviting applications for its AlphaCode Incubate programme, which seeks to identify and reward high potential, innovative entrepreneurs to boost the development of fintech and financial services in SA.

The year-long start-up support initiative of Rand Merchant Investment (RMI), Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Royal Bafokeng is offering a total of R16 million in prizes to the final eight businesses selected: a package valued at R2 million for each winning team, including R1 million in grant funding and R1 million in support services.

This includes mentorship, monthly expert-led sessions, exclusive office space in Sandton, marketing, legal and other business support services, as well as access to like-minded entrepreneurs, RMI's network of thought leaders, potential clients and capital.

Andile Maseko, head of ecosystem development at AlphaCode, says: "Whilst the initial attraction is the money, we have had our previous participants say they value the top-rate mentorship and learnings they get even more.

"We've showcased key learning modules, such as regulation in financial services, digital marketing basics and growth hacking with speakers from the Reserve Bank and Luno."

The programme, which began four years ago, has disbursed R21 million in funding to 23 black-owned financial services businesses since its inception, according to AlphaCode.

It is targeted at highly motivated South African entrepreneurs and those with potential for entrepreneurship, who want to change the face of financial services. Each business needs to be at least 51% black-owned and operating in the financial services space.

"You could have a business or idea focusing on insurtech, data analytics, lending, savings and investments, blockchain or any other area of financial services.

"AlphaCode looks for strong entrepreneurial teams of two or more people with tech or financial services understanding and a business idea or model that they've validated a business case for, at least through some potential customer engagements. AlphaCode will also consider whether it can invest in this business over the longer term," notes AlphaCode.

Last year, more than 200 start-ups applied to participate; of those, 16 made it to the final pitch evening and eight recipients were selected.

The winners last year included Yalu, a self-service credit life insurance platform which replaces a customer's current policy with a more affordable, simpler and rewarding policy, and Akiba Digital, a gamified savings tool that allows users to save towards their lifestyle goals and get rewarded for it.

Adrian Taylor, founder of Jamii Cities, a current participant on the Incubate programme, comments: "The best part of Incubate is the access to some of the sharpest minds that challenged our thinking about fintech.

"We're getting the chance to build our business and learn things that would have taken us years to discover. I would leave a corporate to do the programme; whether you succeed or fail, it will give you perspectives very few jobs can."

For more information on how to apply, visit the AlphaCode Web site. Applications close on 18 June.