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Grindstone takes 24 tech start-ups under its wing

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Cape Town-based accelerator Grindstone has announced its top 25 companies that will embark on a year-long programme to assist high-growth tech start-ups to become more investable, sustainable and exit-ready.

From funeral planning to online learning, fleet management to artificial intelligence (AI) insights, talent discovery to health promotion, high-growth potential and innovation is what sets these ambitious start-ups apart from traditional businesses, Grindstone says in a statement.

Grindstone Accelerator is a structured entrepreneurship development programme that assists innovation-driven companies to engineer high growth. It prioritises access to knowledge, networks, funding and markets.

According to the accelerator, over the course of the programme, the selected companies will undergo intensive review of their strategies and be provided with coaching from top global resources, including some of the Grindstone alumni companies that have successfully scaled their businesses before.

It says it will assist these 25 companies to gain new skills, overcome obstacles and access market opportunities – thereby enabling them to soar to new heights.

Grindstone is jointly owned by venture capital investment company Knife Capital and African ecosystem player Thinkroom Consulting, which develops SMEs across Africa.

Partners Andrea Böhmert, Catherine Young, Keet van Zyl and programme director Will Green are leading the team of business-building experts.

Proven track record

Green tells ITWeb the programme value per company is conservatively R360 000 for the year.

“Grindstone Ventures, the fund that invests in Grindstone companies should they want or need funding, will be a R100 million ($6.5 million) fund,” says Green.

However, he notes that not all companies receive funding. “So far, the fund has supported seven Grindstone companies, including two on this programme – Welo and Sticitt.”

“Grindstone’s winning structured approach to engineering growth for start-ups has been proven time and time again, with the last cohort graduating with an average of 88% revenue growth and creating 52 new jobs over a nine-month period,” says Ketso Gordhan from the SA SME Fund, which supports the business accelerator.

“The SA SME Fund continues to actively support this programme, as it undertakes to play a significant role in the growth of the start-up ecosystem and ultimately the economy at large.”

“This announcement celebrates an ecosystem effort, as many individuals have been involved at some stage of these entrepreneurs’ journey. I’ve directly worked with many of these founders for over two years and will continue to do so,” adds Green.

“2022 marks nine years of engineering growth for innovative founders and their scale-ups. To date, this will bring the tally of companies we have directly assisted to 115. This cohort is our largest with a total 25 companies: 14 from Gauteng, 10 from the Western Cape and one from KwaZulu-Natal.

“The South African venture capital industry is striving to entrench venture capital as a credible asset class and a key building block for a future-fit and globally relevant economy from South Africa to the world. We can’t do it alone and welcome additional partnerships to make this a reality.”

Alumni of the programme include radar cycling hardware company iKubu (exited to Garmin); ticketing solutions provider Quicket (funded by Knife Capital); tax solutions company TaxTim (exited to MMI); fintech payment company PayFast (exited to CPO); mobility start-up WhereIsMyTransport (funded by Google, Toyota and Naspers); augmented reality, animation and gaming company SeaMonster (funded by First Rand); custom fit cloud-based delivery platform Loop; cyber security solution TakeNote IT; AI-social media screening company Farosian; and pre-owned luxury goods business Luxity.

Grindstone 10 companies:

Ollie App: Provides mental health credits for remote teams. Ollie is the first healthcare benefits currency that allows employees to book live sessions from anywhere they work in the world using credits.

Botlhale AI: An AI start-up that provides a text and speech-based toolkit for creating conversational AI in African languages.

123tutors: A web-based peer-to-peer learning platform with a student-tutor matching system and a database of vetted tutors and experts.

Upstream Money: A machine-learning consulting firm that uses AI to enable customers to make better decisions. The start-up aims to develop a solution that allows for debit order financing.

Sticitt: A payment platform built for the education niche, with a vision to ultimately launch a youth banking alternative.

LawyeredUp: A legal consultancy company looking to revolutionise legal in technology.

Beeline Learn: A science-backed learning platform designed to remove barriers to effective learning and assist people in achieving their learning goals.

AfricaInc: An “always learning” media company that gives entrepreneurs and leaders what they need to start, run and grow a successful business in Africa.

Fleet IT: Helps fleet owners and managers measure and increase their fleet profitability by turning fleet information and costs into actionable insights.

Deep Learning Café: Assists companies in closing the gap between their ever-growing data and the ongoing critical decisions needed to promote growth.

Cartrun: Uses a dark-store online retail model and is an app for grocery deliveries.

Grindstone 11 companies:

Level Finance: An on-demand pay platform that allows employees to access a percentage of their earned but unpaid income to cover unexpected expenses and avoid expensive credit products.

Dark Pools: Develops machine learning-driven applications that are used in applied research, data, infrastructure and capital/finance management to create commercially-focused intellectual property, ethically responsible, globally competitive ML/AI-driven products and services.

Popping: A pop-up markets platform for small business stall bookings.

Creditais: Accurately credit scores first-time borrowers using alternative data and machine learning.

Melio AI: Helps companies commercialise their AI solution by developing and deploying machine learning solutions in the cloud.

Limu Lab: An online platform that provides for the learning of indigenous languages for young children.

Jobox: An early talent discovery ecosystem built to connect employers, students and universities, ensuring accurate job placements.

Sendoff: A mobile app digitising the funeral value chain.

Welo Health: A healthtech company providing at-home health services to consumers and corporates.

Blankett Tech: Africa's first interactive digital bookstore and e-library.

Virtual Drive: The first reversed automotive marketplace, driven by AI and chat.

Sugar: An insurtech start-up providing smart insurance products with a specific focus on customers living in townships, rural villages and informal settlements.

Ama Room: A mobile property app targeting township backrooms in SA. The app connects landlords and tenants for the mass market and has over 270 listed townships nationally.

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13 Aug
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