Cape Town based iSpani, a brand activation agency focused on township communities, has been crowned “South Africa's next tech hero”. The team won a trip to Silicon Valley in San Francisco, USA, to meet tech experts and investors.
The judging panel was made up of entrepreneurs, specialists, and investors in the tech space, Llew Claasen (partner at Newtown Partners), Stephen Newton (president at Illuminate-Africa), Matthew Barclay (MD at Meltwater Africa), Clive Butkow (CEO at Kalon Venture Partners) and Professor Barry Dwolatzky (founder at Tshimologong).
Twenty-three-year-old final year UCT Accounting student, Patrick Machekera, describes iSpani as “A decentralised marketing and sales platform that connects brands seeking to enter unreached, informal, and underserved markets with an on-demand sales force that represents and assists them to expand their reach within the respective community in which the brand activator lives.”
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His business partners are, 22-year-old Prince Nwadeyi of Queenstown (BCom Economics and Marketing student at UCT) and Ntandoyenkosi Shezi, 22, (BSc Finance, from Port Shepstone KZN)
“Our business focuses on removing the extractive relationship that exists between consumers and brands by facilitating partnerships that do more than just create employment but rather enrich communities, which then creates brand loyalty as a result,” says Shezi.
iSpani joined the One Giant Leap programme, says Nwadeyi, because “We wanted to make a change in society, but we couldn’t alone. We were desperate, we needed structural assistance. We needed guidance in our business processes and help in managing finance and our business culture."
Comments from the judges
Van Erven says iSpani won because “They are firstly a great team with complimentary skills. Moreover, they are clever and have the advantage of youth which enables them to absorb knowledge quickly. They obviously have a profitable business model but they are not guided by money; they are driven to create a positive social impact, which gives them an authenticity that people connect with. We are incredibly proud of them.”
Said Meltwater’s Barclay: “I could feel iSpani’s passion and they were well prepared. They are also addressing a massive opportunity. I wasn’t only impressed that they have already made R150,000, I was impressed that they have already had repeat business.”
Newtown stated: “There is not a lot of data on the African market, yet there are more than a billion African consumers. I can’t imagine who wouldn’t want to use iSpani to get a pulse of what is happening on the ground. I also like the fact that you have a social upliftment aim of providing employment, it’s a great model and answers a specific need.”
The other six tech heroes are:
Alex Gabriels and Jade Venter from Spritzed: “The Airbnb for office space”,
Aubrey Nyaguse from Skills Gorilla: “A talent matchmaking platform”,
Anthony Bruce from Flippen Clever: “A textbook rental service for students”,
Tannon Balanco from Bazinga Services: “On demand transportation services”,
Thomas Hart from Rover: “A personalized travel platform” and
Ntando Shabalala from Graft House: “Tinder for job seekers”
Says Nair: “We have incubated 24 startups to date and we are excited to roll out this programme on a large scale, within South Africa as well as in other African countries”.
Tech entrepreneurs are invited to register for One Giant Leap’s next programme - starting in October - at www.1giantleapstartups.com
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