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Drone start-up accelerator programme launches in SA

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Mzansi Aerospace Technologies has launched a drone start-up accelerator programme to equip 13 start-ups with the tools and skills to drive the adoption of drone technology in South Africa, and harness its potential to boost employment.

Drone technology has gained traction in SA. There is an estimated 40 000 to 50 000 drones being operated in SA, according to the Rocketmine State of Drone Report 2018.

Now, participating start-ups in the accelerator programme will be supported in achieving ‘product-market-fit’ within 20 weeks. This, according to organisers, will be achieved using the lean start-up methodology which is behind some of the high-profile success stories in the tech industry.

The selected start-ups will be shown how to design a meaningful product and service that responds to the needs of a clearly defined market that has expressed interest in their offerings.

In addition to the business skills the entrepreneurs will learn in the accelerator programme, global engineering firm Royal HaskoningDHV will offer training and mentorship in data analytics and artificial intelligence that will enable them to deliver a complete service to future clients.

The programme is being hosted at the Centre for Entrepreneurship Rapid Incubator, at the Ekurhuleni West TVET College in Katlehong, and is supported by partners, including the Small Enterprise Development Agency, the City of Ekurhuleni, the National Youth Development Agency, United Drone Holdings and Royal HaskoningDHV.

Organisers says several of the businesses participating in the accelerator programme are already established in fields like security or construction, but their founders understand the potential that building a drone-based business has to grow their income, boost skills development and create jobs.

Commenting on the project, Victor Radebe, founder of Mzansi Aerospace Technologies, says: “Using ‘The Lean Start-up’ by Eric Ries, widely adopted by major global accelerators with exceptional results, will help our start-up clients build products that the market wants.

“One of its key tenets is that start-ups often fail because they ignore the voice of the customers and remain pre-occupied with their solutions. This programme not only boosts the start-ups’ business skills, it also introduces them to key customers, providing a platform for collaborative planning and development into the future,” he adds.

Mzwandile Masina, executive mayor of the City of Ekurhuleni, says: “It is an honour for the City of Ekurhuleni to be hosting this programme, as we are committed to contributing towards the success of the post-productivity economy that is shaping the developing world. The significance of this must be located in the context of the socio-economic realities of South Africa, and the opportunities it creates for entrepreneurship and employment in the fourth industrial revolution.”

Gideon Treurnich, leading professional for partners and governance at Royal HaskoningDHV in South Africa, says: “In many industries, drones enable us to break through new barriers in gathering and sharing real-time data, reducing costs, and increasing efficiency, safety and security.

“We’re keen to help these start-ups understand how to service their future customers as best as possible as we move into the fourth industrial revolution.”

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