From digital satellite solutions to waterless sanitation, marketing automation, and creative Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications, innovation is the common thread linking the 10 diverse enterprises selected for the first Johannesburg iteration of Knife Capital’s Grindstone Accelerator programme.
Grindstone is a structured entrepreneurship development programme, jointly owned by Knife Capital and Thinkroom Consulting, that assists high-growth innovation-driven SMEs to become sustainable and fundable. Knife Capital joined forces this year with the SA SME Fund and Deloitte to run the programme in Johannesburg.
“Johannesburg has many entrepreneurial programmes so we didn’t know what response we would get. Receiving more than 400 applications has definitely surprised us and the quality of the companies has by far exceeded our expectations,” says Andrea Bӧhmert, Co-Managing Partner at Knife Capital.
Ndumiso Khoza, Head of Digital Venturing Deloitte Africa, says the 30 businesses that passed the initial selection process – worthy in their own right – were invited to a day-long value-adding investment readiness workshop in the Deloitte Greenhouse, designed to whittle the shortlist down to the final 10 candidates. “One of the strengths of the Grindstone selection process is that it involves getting to know the candidates face-to-face and not just on paper.”
Ketso Gordhan, CEO of the SA SME Fund, says that it is a significant milestone for the Johannesburg startup ecosystem. “We are excited about the calibre of the first Johannesburg cohort and so grateful to Knife Capital and the other value-adding partners for making it happen.”
To add to the quality of the final 10 enterprises, says Gordhan, 70 per cent were majority black-owned and four were run by women. They employ an average of 7 people each, have been in business for 4 years and are growing at a rate of more than 40 per cent year-on-year. This in a South African economy that slumped sharply in the first three months of 2019, contracting by 3,2 per cent.
Grindstone will provide the 10 scale-up companies selected for the year-long programme with knowledge, networks and funding readiness through growth measurement, gap analysis and deep interventions designed to build a foundation for growth, transfer skills, create relevant business networks and enable these companies to take advantage of market access opportunities.
“And with partners like the SA SME Fund and Deloitte and the support of FNB Business Banking, Webber Wentzel, the BillyBo Group and AWS, we are confident that we will be able to assist our ten selected companies to address their growth challenges and make them the next South African entrepreneurial success stories. We have a proven model, committed partners, and great companies to work with, to once again prove that growth can be engineered,” says Bӧhmert.
The 10 successful candidates for the 2019 Grindstone Accelerator programme are:
- WizzPass, a seamless visitor and contractor management system focused on removing and improving upon insecure, outdated paper and manual systems.
- LeadRobot, a middle-of-the-funnel data analytics and marketing automation tool that uses AI to enrich, cleanse and predictively score incoming leads in real-time to empower sales and marketing teams.
- MSAT provides digital satellite and IP technology solutions to professional broadcasters.
- Marc1, an Internet of Things Point of Sale solution, providing physical retailers with some of the tools previously only available to their online peers.
- Liquid Gold, a company in the circular economy of sanitation with a unique waterless unisex urinal and nutrient recovery solution.
- Ashanti-AI, assists businesses in solving some of their biggest challenges using Data Engineering, Analytics, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence.
- Excel@Uni, apps and online tools that assist Universities and funders with student selection, fund disbursement, reporting, and successful interventions.
- Crayon, a talent-sourcing platform designed from the bottom up to reduce hiring mistakes via a standardised, transparent process that informs both the employer and candidate in a data-rich, yet fun, way.
- Lula, an app that connects corporate commuters to private shuttles on their way to work.
- Farosian, a specialist social media company that partners with businesses to better understand the complexities associated with social media, by generating social media screening reports.
Edited by Jenna Cook
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