Start-up Nation Challenge seeks SA tech innovators

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Christophe Viarnaud, founder and CEO of AfricArena.
Christophe Viarnaud, founder and CEO of AfricArena.

AfricArena has collaborated with the SA SME Fund to launch the SA Start-up Nation Challenge.

The challenge provides an opportunity for local tech start-up founders who have developed distinctive products and services using innovative technologies, to scale-up and commercialise their innovations.

The SA SME Fund was established by members of the CEO Initiative, a collaboration between government, labour and business aimed at addressing some of the most pressing challenges to the country’s economic growth, as an avenue of support for the SME sector.

SA-based AfricArena says it is the largest tech ecosystem accelerator in Africa, providing start-ups with high-exposure opportunities to showcase their businesses to investors. It is anchored and endorsed by global sponsors, including BNP Paribas, La French Tech, Silicon Cape, Vinci Energies, Methys, City of Cape Town, Wesgro, Proparco, RCS and Leroy Merlin.

AfricArena says its sourcing team will work closely with its network of partners to identify the country’s most promising entrepreneurs, who have created a viable technology product or service.

The top 12 selected start-ups will pitch at AfricArena tour events taking place in Cape Town on 3 September and Johannesburg on 10 September.

“We could not be more excited to work with the SA SME Fund team to enable more capital and market access for South African entrepreneurs, particularly black entrepreneurs who are still under-represented in the digital sector,” says Christophe Viarnaud, AfricArena founder and CEO.

“Our partnership with SA’s leading fund that supports tech start-ups, combined with our ability to provide access to international investors, corporates and events, will enable us to accelerate the success of South African entrepreneurs on the global stage. We look forward to running the SA Start-up Nation Challenge across the country and supporting high-potential entrepreneurs.”

The top five finalists will compete at the AfricArena Summit in November. This number will be narrowed down to the top three start-ups, which will then walk away with several prizes, including a trip to VivaTech in Paris in May 2020 to showcase their offerings at the European tech event.

VivaTech provides participants with the opportunity to present their solutions in front of investors, venture capital firms and business incubators.

Recognising that the fourth industrial revolution represents a major growth creation opportunity for SA, government has pledged its support for the SA SME Fund, established by 50 corporates listed on the JSE, says AfricArena.

“AfricArena has built a unique model by combining investor and corporate impact to accelerate the success of entrepreneurs in the tech sector at a Pan-African level and with a well-recognised international reputation,” says Ketso Gordhan, CEO of SA SME Fund.

“We are looking forward to using this SA-born platform to support the mission of the SA SME Fund, which is to power up the venture economy and identify tech business with the potential to scale-up into high growth businesses.”

Start-ups wishing to take part in the challenge can apply on the AfricArena Web site.

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