Google nurtures South African talent

South Africa’s IT gurus will ultimately get the opportunity to become a component of the worldwide technological community subsequent to Google unveiling the establishment of its cutting edge technology start-up incubator in Cape Town.

The world’s number one online company has asked tech innovators residing in South Africa to participate in their six-month Umbono programme, a new pilot programme for Google that will, if successful, be carried out in other countries.

The programme is going to act as a springboard when it comes to tech entrepreneurs, transforming their computer- or mobile-based creative ideas directly into business enterprises.

Umbono (isiZulu, meaning “vision” or “idea”) will give successful applicants with approximately R173 000 (US$25 000) and R346 000 ($50 000) in equity start up funds, in addition to free work space at Hub Cape Town, business training, free bandwidth, mentorship as well as the means to access expertise, networking and marketing events to assist the participant grow and develop.

As reported by a Google press release, the programme’s main focus is to encourage and support growth throughout the South African developer community. Google is at the same time attempting to make the internet available to a lot more people in Africa as a result of this programme.

The selected groups definitely will reap the benefits of a mentor base consisting of local and international industry professionals. Team members will have to be in a position to legally live and work in South Africa to be able to be eligible.

Umbono’s programme manager Johanna Kollar explained the mentor base is an essential component of the initiative. Industry professionals will offer assistance and guidance on subject areas including product design, commercialisation, legal incorporation and valuation.

Kollar added the fact that experts, whom she refers to as Googlers, are going to take part on a volunteer basis.

“Our Googlers coming from all over the world, who will be volunteering their time, are generally enthusiastic about technology in Africa and will also be in a position to give support to teams with the issues they encounter, whether it be relating to product, business or technical front,” she explained.

Cape Town is Africa’s technology capital

The Mother City ended up being selected as the incubator’s base of operations for the reason that it is quickly becoming Africa’s very own Silicon Valley. The city has, in the past few years, positioned itself as being a centre of innovation and technology as a consequence of projects most notably the Silicon Cape Foundation, an IT networking body which happens to be working together with Google in running Umbono.

Foundation board member Justin Spratt suggested the programme will provide technology enthusiasts the chance they require to learn and grow. “There quite a bit of natural talent and enthusiasm for technology in Cape Town, and several concepts only require that window of opportunity,” said Spratt.

Bandwidth Barn, a Cape Town-based business incubator, have also been brought on board. Together with the Silicon Cape Foundation, Bandwidth Barn is there to offer help and support to the chosen groups as well as to guarantee they make the most out of their six months.

Luke Mckend, Country Manager, Google South Africa

The city in addition boasts highly regarded tertiary institutes, particularly the University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University, which happen to have formidable IT courses adn programs.

For Kollar, Cape Town provides the ingredients that enable it to be the perfect environment to operate a tech-based company. She added that at this moment in time there are no plans to expand the incubator to other areas.

Making reference to local start-ups such as Yola, MXit and Twangoo, Google South Africa’s country manager Luke Mckend stated that this energetic tech scene applied not only to Cape Town, but also the entire country.

“Google’s latest investment with Umbono is an excellent expansion of our overall strategy in the region to bolster the web ecosystem,” stated McKend.

There is still have time to apply for up and coming tech gurus

The selection committee is going to consist of angel investors – those individuals that ordinarily invest their own personal money into start-ups – and Google employees, who will subsequently select the individuals based upon a variety of specifications and requirements including the feasiblility of the business idea, applicability and suitability to regional and global needs, as well as the ability to bring the idea from concept to execution.

The first round of application will be ending on the 15th of April. Having said that, the website is going to continu to accept applications past the deadline. Kollar stated that the application process will continue to remain open year-round for the reason that individuals always have good ideas.

She described the prospective successful applicants as enthusiastic and passionate when it comes to technology and dedicated to their business idea, explaining the fact that they needs to be prepared to see their idea through to the prototype and, thereafter, utilize their particular technical skills to drive the product to the next level.

“Beyond that, groups will need to have the vision to scale their prototype or product to a regional or global business,” she explained.

She revealed that Google intends to select a minimum of five teams for this year’s programme, however added that this number would be determined by the quality of the teams coupled with interest coming from the angel investors, who will acquire a 10% share in the business in return for their financial contribution.

According to the Google website, the programme prefers teams to apply despite the fact that individuals are allowed. Having said that, individuals are discouraged from making an application if they do not possess a computer programming prior experience, which happens to be one of many requirements.

Candidates are permitted to submit several ideas but are encouraged to submit one formidable idea instead simply because it will probably stand a better possibility of being successful.



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