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#StartupStory: Unpacking software solutions with Skywalk Innovations

It was a brief encounter between two university students that lead to the start of Skywalk Innovations, a Cape Town-based software development organisation that develops bespoke software solutions for small to large corporates.

Today, Skywalk Innovations is made up of a team of qualified software engineers and developers that unpacks every problem to an innovative and efficient solution.

We chat to Tyrone Adams, co-founder of Skywalk Innovations, to find how a brief encounter while at university lead him to being listed in Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 list in the technology sector...

Could you tell us a bit about Skywalk Innovations?

Skywalk Innovations is a technological hub offering innovative and disruptive technological solutions to a global market. We specialise in three core areas startup/new business consultancy, end to end software engineering, business readiness/digital transformation assessments.

We focus on a variety of industries that either lack innovation or organisations that want to leverage technology to make more strategic business decisions focused on the business success factors.

Tyrone Adams, co-founder of Skywalk Innovations
Tyrone Adams, co-founder of Skywalk Innovations

When and how did Skywalk Innovations start?

My family was quite entrepreneurial, but it was more out of necessity than just by chance. Entrepreneurship was a way to a life where I could potentially have a real impact. I worked many years within my fathers business and realised the opportunities it afforded us as kids. We were given good schooling and the opportunity to pursue a career. It was not only that but the opportunity my dad created for others in terms of a job or getting access to growing themselves played a big part too. It left quite a mark on my younger self as I aspired to want to do the same one day.

However, in my third year at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) we were given the opportunity to get some industry experience via an internship. I was quite grateful for the experience, but I decided that after six months I knew enough to start something on my own (yes, the young naive me), but I knew my parents would advise otherwise. So, I convinced them I would be going back to complete my BTech.

To ensure them I was not going to fool around I took R3000 I had from my last month as an intern and paid for my registration fees. The remaining R2000 was set aside for sustaining me when I began building the business. At this point, I had no way of paying for the rest of my studies, but I was convinced starting a business was my best option at the time to feed my curiosity of wanting to start a business.

Siyabonga Tiwana and Tyrone Adams
Siyabonga Tiwana and Tyrone Adams

It was during this time at CPUT that myself and Siyabonga Tiwana, my current business partner, bumped into one another. I convinced Siya, like myself, to quit his internship and start a business with me. Without haste, we went to our research labs, researched a resignation letter and the rest was history.

What are some of the services you provide?

We offer three core services, each with an underlying value added to them:

  1. Startup/new business consultancy:
    - We provide consultancy sessions for early-stage companies, usually in the ideation phase to go from idea to ready to pitch. This is a 1 on 1 engagement and is quite demanding. It pushes entrepreneurs to think differently about building their startup using novel approaches.
    - We also provide discovery workshops for companies that are not yet ready to build out their product, but need to demonstrate an MVP for funders or people of interest. This is a 1-2 week engagement at a flat rate.
  2. End to end software engineering:
    - We focus on the production of software using our tried and tested methodologies and tech stacks. We use an agile approach focused on a team-based model to build a product for a client. A part of this involves skills transfer.
    - We provide DevOps strategies/consultation. This is for companies looking to improve their release times and overall quality of software.
    - We provide Data strategies/consultation. This is for companies that have an existing product that they would like to explore new revenue models or how to prepare for laws like GDPR and POPI
  3. Business readiness/digital transformation assessments:
    - We provide a readiness assessment that produces a roadmap for medium to large corporates that would like to embark on a digital transformation journey but are unaware of how to go about it.

What is the core function of Skywalk Innovations?

Our core is to be a technology partner to businesses looking to embark on a technical journey. We are a group of highly skilled problem solvers, with the skills and knowledge of how to operate in the new digital world.

We are currently in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. How has Skywalk Innovations embraced this fusion of new technologies?

The fourth industrial revolution is only beginning, it is in its infant years still. The challenge is that many people are jumping straight to the grand vision but are not paying attention to the fundamentals that need to be there for us to unlock the future value.

What we need to ask is, how are we enabling our SMEs that is a bulk of our countries GDP to be ready for this wave? How are we preparing our peers and youth coming through to have the skills needed to propel us into this grand future?

A lot of what we do at Skywalk is enabling businesses to have the right tools to capitalise on 4IR. The data required to drive future business is a big issue, so we are helping small to large companies build the infrastructure projects that will unlock this potential in the near future.

We are already in discussions with certain clients about how to unlock the products they have to improve inefficiencies. Some clients we are working with are still in the early days of their technology journey, but they have an established business already, so we help them by performing readiness assessments for to establish a roadmap and implementation plan to unlock that opportunity.

We are also focused on partnerships for the future, where we are in discussion with other technology companies that provide AI and IoT services to work on collaboration partnerships to address future needs. We believe in creating a shared value chain where each business plays a role.

What are some of the obstacles you've had to overcome since starting out?

We've had many obstacles, some of which include:

  • Giving up because of financial troubles, but kept coming back because we believed in the business.
  • A business dispute with a previous company we partnered with.
  • Convincing bigger companies we had the skill and experience to help them build their product.
  • Getting access to decision-makers or people that give the go-ahead, as our network didn’t exist so we had to go door to door.
  • Managing a business with no real business experience, which includes getting clients to pay on time, managing a team, and focusing on/or developing a strategy

.

What has been your proudest achievements thus far?

Our latest and biggest achievement was being named in the Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 list within the technology sector. Apart from this, we've won a hackathon in transport. We have been appointed as a software service provider to SARS/Interfront and the Limpopo Government.

What does the future of entrepreneurship look like to you?

Bright and exciting because many have walked the journey before us and many are willing to pay it forward to the next generation. It is exciting to see future companies in the world. Access to resources/information and tools have never been easier to come by, so, it's up to the future entrepreneurs to make the most of it.

What is the importance of startup accelerator/incubator programmes?

They all play their part. An important aspect for an entrepreneur is to know why they are entering these programmes. We entered them for the first four years of business because they offered us free office space, free snacks/meals, networking opportunities and some resources. For early/early-stage entrepreneurs they are only as good as what you make use of them.

What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

Stop focusing on building the technology in the beginning and pay attention to who your customer is. Spend your time going out and listening to your customer and understanding why they want to buy your product or service.

What do you believe are the traits an entrepreneur needs in order to succeed?

In order to succeed, I think an entrepreneur must have humility, be honest, be brave and have grit.

Why would you encourage someone to become an entrepreneur?

Entrepreneurship is a conduit to create an impact. Not many people are willing to walk this journey as it is quite challenging, so when you are able to make even a minor success of your business by hiring people the impact you have on their lives is immeasurable. When building a company that wants to provide opportunities to people, you are given the responsibility as a leader to make sure that you do what is right for those that follow you.

If you want to create an impact on people and a society then go for entrepreneurship. The by-product of doing well is some monetary gain. If you are only in it for the monetary gain, you can do it with less stress by getting a job.

Where would you like to see Skywalk Innovations in the next five years?

We would like to see Skywalk Innovations have five hubs spread across Africa. We would also like to be listed on the JSE. We want to also pay it forward by reskilling and redeploying the youth and elderly that are left out from the 4IR revolution and to top it off, we want to be voted as Africa's Best Technology Partner.


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