Telkom FutureMakers has announced the first national cohort for its Township Innovation Incubator Programme.
The 13 SMMEs were selected by Telkom’s enterprise and supplier development initiative, after the 12-month programme was scaled across SA, following a successful trial of the Township Innovation Incubator Programme in Soweto, Gauteng.
The new participants hail from the Northwest, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Western Cape.
According to Telkom, the nationwide programme is a culmination of a year-long search for high-calibre entrepreneurs who have developed tech products or services that seek to make difference in society.
Launched in 2015, Telkom FutureMakers seeks to support ICT social entrepreneurs by turning their innovative digital ideas into commercially viable, scalable and investable solutions that can help address social issues in their communities and broader markets.
Telkom FutureMakers says since inception, it has trained over 2 500 previously disadvantaged SMMEs.
In 2020, it launched the Township Innovation Incubator Programme to enhance market access opportunities, drive ICT innovation and foster inclusive participation for township-based ICT businesses.
“The Township Innovation Incubator gives young entrepreneurs access to skills, support and funding to turn their business ideas into reality,” said Dr Mmaki Jantjies, group executive for innovation and transformation at Telkom SA, speaking at an event held to welcome the new national cohort.
“The initiative was first piloted in Soweto, but we’re ready to support ICT-led entrepreneurs on a national level, based on the success of the pilot. We are proud to welcome a new national cohort of entrepreneurs that FutureMakers will support, to turn business ideas into viable and commercially-ready businesses.”
The selected SMMEs are: Absolute Converged Telecoms (connectivity), Geleza Tech (edtech), Gamers Territory (gaming), Capital Graft (cyber security), iMali Properties (proptech), Tombo Langa (virtual laboratory), Makeeda Hospitality (home-rental marketplace), Mansalema Enterprise (emergency app), Me2You (virtual food bank), Midi Media (youth employment app), Thuto Education Online (e-commerce), Thrift Online (e-commerce) and Pty Ltd (e-wallet).
According to Telkom, 30% of the SMMEs are at post-revenue stage, with the balance split between concept and pre-revenue stage.
The participants are put through rigorous virtual and in-person training programmes to enable them to build resilient businesses that address social needs, it says. The platform provides business idea validation and support, tech training, software development to help take their ideas to market, as well as access to funding.
Participants receive a “business in a box” solution, which includes an HP laptop, Philips external monitor and other devices to support their business operations, productivity and overall business performance.
According to Dr Jantjies, SMMEs are crucial for the economic growth and sustainable development of SA, employing over 60% of the country’s workforce, according to the Small Enterprise Development Agency. Despite this, up to 80% of small local businesses fail within five years, she noted.