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Green Economy entrepreneurs and innovators make the pitch of a lifetime.

At the end of 2020, many green economy entrepreneurs and innovators entered GreenPitch Challenge 2021, a collaborative initiative between GreenCape, The Business Hub and Invest Cape Town. This platform provides innovators with the chance to pitch their economically viable green economy innovation business ideas to a panel of expert judges in a shark-tank style competition which could see them winning business support worth R60 000. The prize includes marketing assistance, business plan development, finance facilitation and access to business mentorship, skills training, and financial grants through GreenCape and City of Cape Town networks.

Close to 40 entrants were narrowed down to 10 finalists and on 10 February 2021, they will take the stage to make their

“The green economy has massive potential to attract investment that leads to job creation. This is why the City is proud to partner with and, through my Enterprise and Investment Department, fund GreenCape. Sustainability innovation reflects the next generation of economic development thinking,” said Alderman James Vos, Mayoral Committee member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management. “It combines environmentalism’s protection of natural systems with the notion of business innovation while delivering essential goods and services that serve the social and economic goals of the City of Cape Town. Key to the City’s Inclusive Economic Growth Strategy post the COVID-19 (pandemic) is to empower businesses and communities to innovate and take action to grow the green economy and thereby, creating jobs,” he added.

GreenCape offers free support to businesses and investors in the green economy with a goal to remove the barriers to establishing a business or idea and in turn, helping to grow and support local, provincial and national government to build a resilient green economy. The GreenPitch competition, now in its third year, has already helped many winners and runners-up get exposure and looks to continue the tradition, now more important than ever, of giving the next generation a launching platform.

GreenPitch 2019 winner, Nubrix, pitched their winning idea to use waste differently, by using waste paper to create building bricks that can help build affordable houses. We caught up with Elijah Djan to see where they are now and how their win changed their lives.

What made you enter?

I was excited to come across a business competition which is solely focused on the green economy. I entered so that I could gain invaluable feedback from the judging panel on how to grow and improve Nubrix. In addition, to meet the various participants and see what innovations other South Africans are working on, to network with potential partners and mentors and lastly, of course, the prize. In essence, the prize was not merely about the monetary value but the support provided to further develop the business and connect to the GreenCape ecosystem.

What has happened since winning?

By the grace of God, since winning in 2019 and using the feedback the judges gave, Nubrix has achieved so much:

  • 1st Place at a digital online pitching event by Ukiyo.
  • 1st Place at RoundTrip Africa’s Demo Day pitching event. RoundTrip Africa is a virtual talent accelerator for young Africans who want to become active participants in the African tech revolution.
  • 2nd Place at the Black Management Forum’s (BMF) Innovation and Invention program; a platform for innovators and inventors with novel ideas, products and services to improve their concepts using leading practice innovation methodologies.
  • Got accepted into Allan Gray’s Association’s Entrepreneurial Academy, a 6-month pre-accelerator programme with structured experimental learning and business support. Through this, we did a number of customer interviews and have received to date six letters of intent (LOI) from developers, architects and private individuals.
  • We are currently semi-finalists in the Global CleanTech Innovation Program.
  • We recently got accepted into ESquared’s pathways program, a partnered initiative with an impact investor which unlocks a bespoke supported process with access to business development support, funding and market entry support.
  • We’ve built a small braai area and had a braai on it using our bricks.
  • Three additional members have joined the Nubrix team.

On a personal note, I have completed my honours degree in Industrial Engineering and I’m also working on another startup around financial literacy.

Any advice for this year’s finalists when they step up in front of the judges?

  1. Practice. Practice. Practice your pitch in front of the mirror several times. Get your friends and family to listen to your pitch and use the feedback you are given.
  2. Be humble. Have an open and eager mindset. Take the feedback given by the judges seriously, whether you win or not it’s a free consultation session.
  3. Listen to the questions being asked. Don’t be too quick to answer. It’s okay to say you don’t know or you haven’t thought about that yet.
  4. Be calm, confident and have fun!
  5. Do not use too many words, ideally use pictures in your pitch deck.
  6. Network and learn. Engage with your fellow participants, judges and audience.

How has the GreenPitch experience changed your life?

The GreenPitch experience exposed me to the greater Green Economy ecosystem in South Africa and affirms that there is a move towards a greener economy in South Africa and that my dream of a greener world is valid.

What’s next?

This year our aim is to get the bricks certified by Agrément so that we can begin commercialisation and get our first commercial customer. We are seeking mentors and industry experts who may be willing to assist us to achieve this as well as funders willing to assist in the costly certification process. We are also working on other building materials we aim to bring to the market.

Watch Nubrix’s Elijah Djan make his winning pitch to the judges’ panel to see what’s in store for finalists on the day here.

Good luck to all the finalists as they make their final pitch and stay tuned to see who wins and who will be the next entrepreneur to watch

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