Having just launched our Rebrand, we think it is only fitting to look back to the very beginning of our journey and pay homage to the incredible people and projects that have helped us along the way. One major player in our initial development was the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi), or more specifically the Bandwidth Barn – CiTi’s start-up and innovation eco-system and shared office space. Besides our two hot desks and beloved Ping-Pong table/ meeting arena, the Barn provided incredible opportunities for us two bright-eyed CAs launching our dream business: We laid the foundation of our network there, hosted our first workshops there and obtained our first clients from being in the space. In many ways, our relationship with the Barn resembles the start of our entrepreneurial journey. Later, one year in, getting our own office in the Barn and a second one soon after that was a great checkpoint. Being able to graduate from the incubation space into our own corporate offices in the CBD, with the Barn and their entrepreneurship development programs as a key partner and client, is a massive part of our pride and fulfillment.
CiTi, formerly known as the Cape IT Initiative, was founded as a nonprofit organisation in 1988 with the intention of developing Cape Town and the region as global technology role-player and a vibrant hub for innovation that is a significant contributor to economic growth.
The Bandwidth Barn, otherwise called the Barn, is an ecosystem for entrepreneurs to get support, training and a network. As part of CiTi, with mentorship structures and skills training the Barn provides a holistic support environment for entrepreneurs in growing their business. It’s different because everyone who works here actually cares about the entrepreneurs.
To best enable entrepreneurs, the Barn uses two concrete pillars: Entrepreneurial Development and Skills Development.
Entrepreneurial Development has three main programmes that are tailor-made depending on the stage an entrepreneur is in their journey. The first programme, VeloCiTi Y, is for anyone with an idea to test its resilience, innovate, solve challenges and build a proof of concept; the result is a viable product. Variations of this programme have included Telkom’s FutureMakers. The second programme, VeloCiTi, is for companies less than a year old. It is a fact that 82% of startups fail within the first year and this programme has been designed with a different approach and support technique to contest against this statistic. For companies who have succeeded their first year, the third programme, VeloCiTi S, is aimed at developing sustainability and scalability in the company. A successful three-year long version of this programme is the Innovator Trust, which has been geared to take companies to the next level.
Skills Development puts a focus on teaching in the tech space and graduates (aged 18 to30) are integrated into the working world with a six-month corporate internship that is generally promising of employment. With 300-400 students, this pillar has proven effective: providing training to individuals, and interns to companies.
With past experience ranging from small FMCGs to large corporates, Polish-born Michal Szymanski is the new Enterprise Development Manager at the Barn and is focusing his sights on these major entrepreneurial support programmes and building the Khayelitsha Barn. We sat with him to talk about CiTi, the Barn, OCFO, and South Africa.
What attracted you to work at the Bandwidth Barn?
There has to be something said for the fact that it is part of an NPO – the people here really care.
What do you love most about working for the Barn?
Similarly: the heart. Generally, people love coming here, the vibe is awesome and the work powerful.
What are the core principles of the Barn?
There are three: the first is to always do something good and the second is to, under the premise that we are adding value to the local economy and creating jobs, affect change. As custodians of tech clusters, the third principle is a mindset: one of innovation and technology.
What are the main challenges the Barn faces?
The first is growth, putting the right systems and procedures in place to enable solid development. In replicating our offering and expanding, our aim is to never lose the ethos and culture around innovation and technology.
What has inspired/ triggered that growth/ change/ success?
Good people have inspired this growth: people who are motivated for the right reasons, doing work because they want to, not because they have to; people who have the ability to deliver and the integrity to do what they say they will do and follow through; people with initiative, focusing on proactivity instead of reactivity. Take Ian Merrington as a great example.
What future plans do you see with the Barn?
Although we want 2-3 more incubators within the Western Cape, we are really looking to expand to different provinces and add value holistically. If we can build a model and solidify it, we can replicate it. There are incredible opportunities in the Northern Cape where technology can add serious value, for example in inspiring greater participation, effectiveness and development in farming.
How do you approach changing/ learning/ growing/ modifying?
We just don’t stop. All of the above are necessary to development. Programmes are being modified every 6-12 months and our hybrid system that balances the traditional structure of learning with the innovative vision and ambition of entrepreneurs is what drives us, and what sets us apart.
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