The search for South Africa’s next Elon Musk

The Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda), an agency of the Department of Small Business Development, has teamed up with Cape Town incubator Savant, to find science and technology inventors who want to be entrepreneurs.

According to Savant, startups who exit the group – as fully-fledged businesses as percentage of total investment – amounts to 88.9%, while total revenue earned by Savant startups amounts to R2.51 billion.

As part of its work to facilitate economic growth through entrepreneurship, Seda – through the Seda Technology Programme (STP) – has aligned with a portfolio of high-impact partners including incubators, accelerators, academic institutions, and other development experts, to support small to medium business interests.

Hardware technology pioneers, Savant Technology Incubator, is Seda’s latest enterprise development partner. The partnership was established in 2015 to enable Savant NPC to focus on scaling-up operations and broaden the pipeline to include innovators in the broader Cape Town communities.

“While software has garnered much of the investment and attention in the tech space, hardware inventors are slowly gaining ground internationally. Instead of looking for the next Mark Zuckerberg, hardware technology incubators like Savant are looking for the creator and ultimately producer of the next Rooivlak, kreepy krawly, Tesla car and who knows, perhaps even the next Space X,” Seda said.

Savant is a highly specialised and commercially-focused hardware technology incubator founded in 2005 by CEO, Nick Allen.

The business model, which includes an equity stake in the incubatee enterprise, was designed to achieve the goal of nurturing South African start-ups in science and technology innovation – focusing on projects with global market appeal, strong intellectual property protection, as well as technology capable of meeting the requirements of the target market.

Since taking on its first incubation client, Savant said it has worked with 18 early stage technology projects. Of these, only one has not progressed from the R&D stage (due to lack of technical progress).

The company’s track record includes the following startups:

  • Leatt: high-performance protective gear for extreme athletes;
  • Formfoods: patented alginate based food processing systems;
  • Veggie Crisp: patented snack food processing system;
  • Balancell: battery management and cell balancing system;
  • Smartblade: low-cost tech that harnesses video and smartphone technology to provide guided laryngoscopy – a procedure that lets doctors examine the back of a patient’s throat, your voice box (larynx), and vocal cord.

“Our partnership with Savant is based on ensuring the survival and sustainability of new emerging entrepreneurs in the manufacturing sector, specifically technology-driven enterprises. This partnership has allowed Savant to gain value from additional Seda partnerships, including the TIA Seed Fund,” said Seda CEO, Mandisa Tshikwatamba.

“Savant is further supported by Seda’s incubation program, with access to well-packaged best practice guidelines and tools. Combined with the practical experience of SAVANT, the partnership seeks to meet the unique needs of the South African economic environment,”

Read: Cape Town startup embarks on major recruitment drive after R1.4 billion deal

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The search for South Africa’s next Elon Musk