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How SA Can Help Grow Artisan-Based Businesses [Opinion]

Supporting small, micro and medium enterprises (SMMEs) is key to economic growth and recovery but SMME’s in South Africa lag far behind their international counterparts when it comes to job creation.

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Supporting small, micro and medium enterprises (SMMEs) is key to economic growth and recovery but SMME’s in South Africa lag far behind their international counterparts when it comes to job creation.

Incubate dark horses – not the unicorns

According to the Small Business Institute, 98% of all formal businesses in the country are SMMEs, but they create only 28% of all jobs. Many more businesses operate informally, offering limited security for their owners and less so for their employees if there are any.

South Africa has over 150 incubators and business development service providers. A promising sector that is underserved by these organisations are artisan-based businesses: skilled trades such as building, plumbing or carpentry, dominated by SMMEs, characterised by stable market demand and with significant job creation potential.

Why it matters

This topic was recently discussed as part of the Artisan 4.0 insight Series by BluLever Education, a company focused on vocational and skills-based training for artisans.

“Fewer than 5% of incubators or business development organisations focus on artisan-based businesses,” said Jess Roussos, Co-founder of BluLever Education. “As much as two-thirds of these businesses are informal. There is a big opportunity for South Africa in supporting the formalisation, stability, and growth of these businesses – job creation, economic growth, and an increased tax base.”

“This is quite a cycle-resilient market, especially for those artisan-based businesses that serve homeowners or other small businesses. Fixes always need to be fixed, and it is even better to repair than to replace items during a downturn,” added Arjun Khoosal, Co-founder of Kandua.com, South Africa’s largest online home services marketplace. “Trades are one of the easiest entry points to self-employment and can provide a stable income and decent livelihood with the right support.”

“Supporting these kinds of businesses has broad societal benefits,” said Simphiwe Mntambo, Ventures Manager at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Endowment. “Who benefits when homes are safe and well looked after? When we have an ecosystem of small businesses that are doing well? Or when we have reliable service delivery and maintenance? The answer is that we all do.”

How to Incubate Artisan-Based Businesses

1. Access to market

“Artisan-based businesses have different development needs, one important one being access to market,” says Khoosal of Kandua. “The plumbers, electricians, and builders on our platform tell us all the time that the biggest barrier to their success is simple: finding new customers, which is what we facilitate through Kandua.com.”

This sentiment was echoed by Mark Mfikoe, National Director for the Electrical Contractors Association: “The oxygen in contracting is not cash, it is profitable jobs.”

2. Mentorship

Mentorship is widely acknowledged as an important aspect of entrepreneurship development but is something that is limited for artisans. “Matching the right mentors with the right mentees is critical: you want someone who understands the kind of business you are in, and who has also made a success of it,” added Mfikoe.

3. Business and soft skills

“Tradespeople cannot rely on their artisanal skills alone if they want to build a stable business,” echoed Khoosal. “Soft skills, business skills, tools, and resources for compliance and formalisation are the other side of the equation.

“Skills development programmes need to be short, flexible enough to accommodate artisans’ work schedules, and cannot require costly long-distance travel. Someone should not have to choose between earning a living and attending training,” added Roussos.

4. The right backers

Many people end up in trades out of necessity and many artisan-based businesses are survivalist entrepreneurs, which does not make them attractive to traditional investors and has often left the incubation of these businesses in the hands of the government. “It is unlikely that you’ll find the next tech unicorn or a disruptive innovation amongst these businesses, but that doesn’t make them any less impor

Mntambo at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Endowment emphasised the need for alternative incubation and investment models, and backers with a broader vision: “We need to measure more than the amount invested and the financial return. We need to look at jobs created, or community investment models, and we need supporters with an appetite for impact-creation.”

Carien Engelbrecht, Co-founder of the Aurik Group echoed the need to measure impact beyond financials and added that the ultimate goal needs to be to get these businesses to a state of fundability: “It is not about massive upfront investments, but rather access to bridging finance at critical times.

Many trade businesses aspire to serve the business to business market where deals are bigger, but payment terms tend to be much longer. When a business is operating in a stable way, has sufficiently increased its turnover and profits, and has the right spread of clients, then they can access a cash injection when they need it and take things to the next level.”

This article was written with collective contribution from Jess Roussos, Co-founder of BluLever Education, Arjun Khoosal, Co-founder of Kandua.com, Simphiwe Mntambo, Ventures Manager at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Endowment, Mark Mfikoe, National Director for the Electrical Contractors Association and Carien Engelbrecht, Co-founder of the Aurik Group.

Featured image: Arjun Khoosal, co-founder of BluLever Education (Supplied)

South Africa has over 150 incubators and business development service providers. A promising sector that is underserved by these organisations are artisan-based businesses: skilled trades such as building, plumbing or carpentry, dominated by SMMEs, characterised by stable market demand and with significant job creation potential.

Source: https://ventureburn.com/2020/12/how-sa-can-help-grow-artisan-based-businesses-opinion/

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Startup partners with Telkom to launch translation platform for SA languages

Telkom has partnered with SA startup Enlabeler to launch an AI platform that translates speech into text and provides transcription services for local languages.

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Telkom has partnered with South African startup Enlabeler to launch an AI platform that translates speech into text and provides transcription services for local languages.

The platform, called izwe.ai, was unveiled at the AI Expo Africa 2021. It is described as “a multi-lingual technology platform that transforms your audio and video data to text, captions or subtitles in your local languages”.

Telkom and Enlabeler collaborated to create the platform, with the aim of providing a way to bridge the language gap in a variety of industries.

“With Enlabeler, we have built a solution that can offer a seamless transcription experience with highly localised and reliable outputs, which help us deliver as a strategic partner for our clients,” Telkom Executive of Data Science Stefan Steffen said in a statement.

“Working with an agile startup like Enlabeler has helped us accelerate our long-term plans to unlock this market segment. ”

Enlabeler

Enlabeler is a data labelling and annotation solutions provider.

Founded in 2019, the company describes itself as Africa’s first remote data labelling community. It employs people around the country to augment and train the AI solutions and services provided by the company.

The company provides video and image annotation services, computer vision and object detection models, entity extraction from text datasets, as well as translation and transcription services.

The izwe.ai translation platform

According to Telkom, the izwe.ai platform has a unique ability to interpret South African accents. It also uses machine learning to constantly improve its translations.

The aim of the platform is to provide transcription and translation across a range of industries. These include education, academia, legal services, and media production.

“This technology can be a game-changer in business, as well as education, government, and healthcare delivery,” Telkom head of Innovation Dr Mmaki Jantjies said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Telkom Foundation CEO Sarah Mthintso highlighted the education benefits of the service.

“STEM subjects are the foundation for the careers of the future, but to truly drive digital transformation in South Africa, we need learners to be able to learn in their home language,” Mthintso said in a statement.

“That’s where AI-driven speech services are so important.”

Translation and transcription service launch

The service will be launched in a phased approach. The first phase includes the launch of izwe.ai and the collection of information from potential clients via survey.

The service is offering five hours of free machine transcription in exchange for the completion of the survey.

The second phase will include the release of the machine transcription model.

“In release 2 you will have access to a market-leading machine transcription model to transcribe your files with a click of a button,” the service says on its website.

The third phase will include the implementation of human input into automatic transcription outputs. Finally, phase four will include the launch of additional services.

You can find out more about the platform on the izwe.ai website.

Feature image: Ventureburn

Read more: Fairwork Project puts out call for Pledge supporters

Read more: African global business services sector to grow to $19.8 billion by 2023 – research

Source: https://ventureburn.com/2021/09/startup-partners-with-telkom-to-launch-translation-platform-for-sa-languages/

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South African startups helping to solve the global challenges

A new generation of entrepreneurs are not only incubating solid startups but are contributing to help solve some of the world’s greatest challenges

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South African entrepreneurs are known for many things: optimism in the face of adversity, thrifty creativity, the ability to pivot when circumstances change, and above all, their tremendous resilience.

Across the startup landscape, one finds these nimble thinkers who defy the odds. Now, a new generation of entrepreneurs are not only incubating solid startups but are contributing to help solve some of the world’s greatest challenges.

Hypernova Space Technologies

If you thought South Africa was not contributing to space exploration, think again. Cape Town-based Hypernova Space Technologies builds cutting-edge electric propulsion for small satellites. Their plasma thrusters are based on over a decade of research and development in vacuum arc thruster technology.

Founded by Jonathan Lun, who won a SingularityU research grant a few years ago, the company pioneered the world’s only commercial electric propulsion designed for in-situ resource utilization, that will see its first flight to space in 2022.

Hypernova’s breakthrough technology uses resources that are found in abundance throughout our solar system as fuel with the result that the company is now recognized by some of the space industry’s most forward-thinking players.

Resolute Robotics

The world is moving forward, and now more than ever we need to give future generations every opportunity to leverage the power of modern technology and thrive in the digital age.

Startup company Resolute Robotics has made it their mission to do exactly that. Students in schools (grades 1-12) and tertiary institutions can now complete their courses as part of their school curriculum, or as an extra mural, via their online academy.

They’ll get taught critical thinking, creative thinking, complex problem-solving skills and coordination with peers, as well as the three essential pillars of technology—engineering, data sciences, and computer sciences.

In this way, youth can get the foundation they need to pursue a career in coding and robotics.

DataProphet

While the world is becoming familiar with artificial intelligence in business, one South African startup is embracing the opportunity that this has for business.

DataProphet specializes in optimizing the complex manufacturing processes of key industrial verticals with state-of-the-art machine learning. Their AI-driven solutions leverage the existing data streams from your plant’s production line equipment to identify process efficiencies.

The startup identified the opportunity that high-impact adjustments can make and guarantee ROI in the first year of deployment. Their AI-driven prescriptions aim to help clients improve quality targets, reduce scrap and defects, and achieve manufacturing process optimization – ahead of real-time.

Longiveme

Addressing a more health-related challenge, aging is a phenomenon that humans grapple with every day on physical, aesthetic, mental, and emotional levels.

One South African doctor, Johannesburg-based Tamara Pheiffer, has realized that the solutions lie in unconventional thinking. She built her practice Longiveme to offer patients treatment based on precision medicine and biohacking.

Furthermore, this business is unlocking the potential of genetic testing to offer patients custom wellness solutions.

2021 SingularityU South Africa Summit

Leaders and founders from these companies will be speaking at the prestigious upcoming SingularityU South Africa Summit taking place online from 12 – 15 October 2021, where you can learn from their insights and expertise via various keynote talks, workshops, and discussion panels alongside global thought leaders.

Click here for more information or to book.

Read more: Innovation Edge calls for pitches for SA ventures focused on positive parenting by fathers

Read more: Kenyan tech startup secures $475 000

Featured image: Lagos Techie via Unsplash

Source: https://ventureburn.com/2021/08/south-african-startups-helping-to-solve-the-global-challenges/

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Naspers invests R120 million in Joburg-based insurtech startup Naked

Naspers has announced it has invested R120 million in Johannesburg-based insurtech startup Naked in a Series A funding round.

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Naspers has announced it has invested R120 million in Johannesburg-based insurtech startup Naked in a Series A funding round.

Announced on 4 August, the multinational company made the investment through its early-stage tech investment vehicle, Naspers Foundry.

The investment is the foundry’s second insurtech investment in the last month.

Launched in 2018, Naked is an AI-drive insurance app that provides users with coverage for their homes and cars.

It is also the foundry’s biggest investment to date.

The funding round raised R160 million in total with the balance contributed by other investors such as Yellowwoods and Hollard.

“We’re excited to support Naked in their journey of pioneering a new generation of insurance, giving consumers access to convenience, control, and savings with its end-to-end digital processes,” Naspers Foundry CEO, Fabian White, said in a statement.

“This fits in with our focus of backing purpose-driven technology businesses.”

In April, the foundry announced it had invested R34 million in local insurance advice app, Ctrl. It said it is committed to investing a total of R1.4 billion in South Africa’s early-stage tech ecosystem.

Naspers investment to help Naked reinvent insurance

Launched in 2018, Naked is an AI-drive insurance app that provides users with easy-access coverage.

Through the mobile and web apps, users can immediately receive a quote for their place of residence, its contents, and standalone items such as cars in a short amount of time.

The app also lets them switch and pause their coverage without having to engage with call agents.

“Our ambition is to build insurance that people love by offering an experience that is affordable, convenient, and transparent,” Naked Co-Founder, Alex Thomson said.

“We are excited to have an investor of Naspers Foundry’s calibre onboard to work with us as we expand our team, continue to invest in the technology that puts customers in control, meet the insurance needs of a growing portion of the SA market and enter into international markets.”

Read more: Catalyst Fund names Inclusive Fintech startups, three from Africa

Read more: SA agritech Khula! launches app after closing R20m funding round

Featured image: Luis Villasmil via Unsplash

Source: https://ventureburn.com/2021/08/naspers-invests-r120-million-in-joburg-based-insurtech-startup-naked/

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