Google launches Africa tech incubator

23 March 2011

Internet giant Google has announced the launch of Umbono, a Cape Town-based technology incubator that will provide qualifying internet and mobile technology entrepreneurs with seed capital, mentorship and six months’ office space and free bandwidth.

By bringing together seed capital, Google mentorship, “angel investors”, local tech stars, entrepreneurs and business leaders, the Umbono programme aims to help selected internet or mobile-focused start-up teams to transform their ideas into companies.

“As part of its goal to strengthen the web ecosystem across Africa, Google hopes that Umbono will further encourage the growth of the developer community and support the country’s already flourishing tech sector,” Google South Africa programme manager Johanna Kollar said in a statement this week.

Google said it had selected Cape Town to host the pilot of its new incubator concept because the city was in “the process of positioning itself as a hub for innovation and technology”.

Mentorship, office space, bandwidth

For a period of six months, qualifying teams will enjoy free office space and bandwidth, in addition to the US$25 000 to $50 000 (R175 000 to R350 000) in funding they’ll receive from Umbono’s panel of angel investors and Google.

Funding will be disbursed around milestones; a customized schedule will be drafted with each team upon programme induction, based on an anticipated development schedule. It is up to the recipients to decide how to use the funds.

Capital from ‘angel investors’ will be exchanged for equity (10%) and will be governed by standard terms of investment – the same terms for each team.

“Teams will not only benefit from local connections, but also from the extensive mentorship network of Google experts who can provide guidance on issues ranging from product design and commercialisation to legal incorporation and valuation,” Kollar said.

Working with local partners

Google is collaborating with the Silicon Cape Initiative and the Bandwidth Barn to ensure that Umbono’s teams are well positioned to succeed.

Umbono teams will have access to the Bandwidth Barn’s VeloCITI program. This program covers all business topics relevant to an emerging business, from business model definition to market segmentation and pricing strategies.

The 10 business modules and four additional financial modules are led by external topic experts and business leaders.

Applications are available on the Umbono website, open to all South African residents. The deadline for the first round applicants is April 15, but the website will continue to host applications for all interested candidates.

SAinfo reporter

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