Dutch-backed incubator readies to assist SA start-ups

Orange Corners, an incubator programme and non-profit organisation launched by the Kingdom of the Netherlands in partnership with top-tier Dutch organisations, is calling for South African entrepreneurs to participate in their 2019 programme.

The programme represents a partnership between organisations such as Shell, Heineken, Vopak, Royal HaskoningDHV and Phillips.

The initiative can facilitate 30 "highest potential entrepreneurs" from South Africa, defined as those with the most potential for growth.

While potential candidates will be assessed in the online application and face-to-face interview, programme organisers have stipulated base line criteria to be: candidates must be South African citizens, to be based in Johannesburg, preferably at least 50% black owned, and must generate revenue of at least R120 000 per month.

Orange Corner says there are many challenges in the SME support space, chief amongst which is management skill and general psychology, both of which it aims to address in the short-term.

"Many entrepreneurs are able to get a product into the market and break-even, but can't scale (or) take businesses to any real size due to the lack of skills in building the businesses. For example, ability to hire and manage a team, put in systems that enable the business to grow (and) manage the increasing complexity of the businesses," the company states.

"Very few entrepreneurs have a support network to help solve new problems and lean on when things get tough...," it adds.

The shortage of readily available technical skills remains a headache for most businesses, especially smaller ventures.

"The reality is that small business cannot afford to be upskilling staff in the early stages - that is if they have less than 20 employees. However, as the business grows past that point, it should begin to invest in internship programmes and training programmes that enable them to develop and retain staff over the long term," Orange Corner continues.

The NPO advocates coding bootcamps as an effective means by which tech firms can attract top talent and upskill young developers at the same time.

Dutch Ambassador Marisa Gerards says: "Our mission is to establish an innovative support system for entrepreneurs and truly partner with them in their business journeys. A key element of the initiative is to link companies, individuals and knowledge institutes from South Africa and the Netherlands with each other, thereby not only combining our separate expertise for joint solutions but also strengthening the relationship between South Africa and the Netherlands".

The programme has been running for three years in South Africa and the 2019 group will be the third group of entrepreneurs attending.