15 October 2014
A three-year R1-million per annum partnership deal between First National Bank (FNB) and the Silicon Cape initiative will boost business activity and is a step forward in transforming Cape Town into the Digital City of Africa.
Alexander Fraser, the outgoing chairperson of Silicon Cape, said FNB’s endorsement was a vote of confidence for tech-entrepreneurs and every start-up business in the Western Cape as well as the rest of South Africa.
“Big business has a crucial role in ensuring that entrepreneurs have the necessary support to create jobs and boost economic growth. FNB’s backing will certainly bolster our efforts to build a better ecosystem for tech-entrepreneurs. This investment and long term commitment will enable Silicon Cape to scale and build additional value in our ecosystem,’ she said.
Silicon Cape initiative
The Silicon Cape initiative is a non-profit organisation that was started by Dragons Den entrepreneur Vinny Lingham and venture capitalist Justin Stanford in 2009. It aims to improve the ecosystem for tech businesses, by providing a platform for the community to collaborate, share resources and amplify tech innovation.
The initiative to date has been completely volunteer driven and includes tech- entrepreneurs, developers, angel investors and venture capitalists that are passionate about entrepreneurship in their community. Silicon Cape has over 8 500 registered members and is one of the largest entrepreneurial networks in Africa. The collaboration with FNB is Silicon Cape’s first long-term partnership since inception.
The partnership with Silicon Cape advances FNB’s contribution to creating an enabling environment for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in South Africa, said Stephan Claassen, FNB business provincial head for the Western Cape.
“Through its diverse membership, Silicon Cape has been at the forefront of efforts to minimise barriers in doing business among tech-entrepreneurs. The partnership will also enable us to share best practice and contribute towards better positioning of tech businesses to potential investors,’ said Claassen.
Sustainable tech ecosystem
FNB’s partnership with Silicon Cape will create a sustainable holistic tech ecosystem in a country where it is not easy to get started, according to Heather Lowe, head of Vumela Enterprise Fund at FNB.
She said the funding will be used to scale up tech-entrepreneurs and start-up businesses up. In addition, FNB will bring on board a full-time operations and marketing officer at the bank’s expense.
“Silicon Cape members will also have full access to the new FNB Portside building [the tallest green building in Africa], where they can use our slow lounges and work cafe for meetings, as well as our events facilities.’
Members will also have access to the Vumela Enterprise Fund and the bank will be able to give early stage equity funding for specific start-ups.
Digital City of Africa
City of Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille said the City was aiming to become a sophisticated digital city that had the infrastructure and environment for tech start- ups to thrive. “We want to become the Digital City of Africa. We can become a growing and thriving centre for our region, with multiplied effects for our economy,’ she said.
The City of Cape Town has so far rolled out over 350 kilometres of broadband fibre optic cable and aimed to increase that to 700 kilometres, a fundamental development in reaching that vision. De Lille said the City encourages and supports start-ups with digital ideas, something that requires by-in from organisations like Silicon Cape and the private sector.
“This means directly supporting those who need time and support to make their good ideas great and to add real value to our economy,’ she said. “These are just the building blocks for a long-term project.
“Our vision is to use the unique infrastructural assets of our city to create a new digital centre and, in so doing, we will make Cape Town one of the most important investment centres in Africa.’
The partnership was also welcomed by Tim Harris, the City of Cape Town’s Director of Trade and Investment. “This is an important collaboration between FNB and the tech sector in the city region. Cape Town is poised to become a leading technology hub in Africa, and partnerships like this will catalyse the growth of the sector helping to drive economic growth and create jobs in our city,’ he said.