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The University of Cape Town (UCT) is a prestigious academic institution and one of Cape Town’s four top tertiary institutes. Students attending UCT got the opportunity to showcase and pitch their business start-up’s and new business ideas to a panel of four influential judges for the chance to win a share of R85 000 and mentorship programs at this year’s The Pitch UCT event.

The Pitch UCT is an annual entrepreneurial competition that encourages students attending the university to develop their entrepreneurial skills by creating concepts for new business ideas and a platform to showcase their current start-ups. This contest is run by the Academic Representatives’ Council, in partnership with the Office of the Vice-Chancellor, and the Residence Life Division at the Department of Student Affairs.

The event was held virtually this year on November 10 via Microsoft Teams. Students impressed the audience with their exceptional creativity and thinking. A total of 129 applications were received for this year’s competition where ten finalists were chosen and got the chance to pitch their ideas and products to the judges who then selected the three top innovations.

Pivot in the face of adversity.

Saheel Rajnarain and Petrus du Preez walked away with the first prize of R25 000 in seed funding, six-months’ business mentorship from the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, as well as R10 000 in travel and accommodation expenses for Rajnarain and du Preez to attend the 2021 Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Annual Jamboree.

Rajnarain and de Preez developed a secure code-based tipping app called Tipper, which allows users to tip and receive tips without handling cash while maintaining social distance.

Food for thought.

Julian Kanjere, representing FoodPrint, took home the second place of R20 000 and three-months’ business mentorship for the agritech digital food traceability platform. The FoodPrint app allows users to access information about selected produce by scanning a QR code. The platform aims to empower producers, agri-processors and consumers by bringing food traceability and transparency to food supply chains from farm-to-fork.

Improving lives

The third prize of R15 000 in cash and three months’ mentorship went to RaAzi, a company that uses drones for last-mile delivery of medicine to patients in the hard-to-reach areas of South Africa. The idea behind the concept is to improve medical compliance for patients in these hard-to-reach communities.

Innovation born out of necessity.

The students who developed the Tipper app believe that 78% of South Africans will continue to use contactless payment methods beyond the pandemic based on research that their team has done. Tipper makes generosity easy without the need to carry cash.

Rajnarain and du Preez’s aim is to partner with petrol stations to reach the more than 80 000 petrol attendants in the country.

The judges decided to honour three more ideas and business start-ups with each receiving R5 000 in seed funding and a series of mentorship and advisory sessions.

Supporting our young entrepreneurs.

Vuyolwethu Dubese, the founder of impact design studio InnovTel and speaker on behalf of the judges, said: “The potential of the ideas are amazing, and being part of this experience affirms how we lack, not in young people having the desire to become entrepreneurs or being entrepreneurially minded, but the nuanced support that they receive.”

The panel of judges was Melvyn Lubega, the founding executive and director of GO1; Thandeka Xaba, the co-founder and managing partner of Digital Africa Ventures; Eero Tarjanne, the general manager for ecosystem development at the MTN Group; Tsepo Ngwenyama, the project manager for business development at Fetola, and Dubese.

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation supports the competition, along with the Hasso Plattner School of Design Thinking at UCT (d-school), the MTN Solution Space at the Graduate School of Business, UCT Careers Service, and the Studentsʼ Representative Council.

An evening focused on inspiring minds.

The evening’s proceedings opened with Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Transformation Professor Loretta Feris.

Professor Phakeng spoke about the new world that COVID-19 had forced us all to adapt to, and how we do not have the option of going back to pre-COVID-19. She encouraged everyone to think differently and evolve to becoming more “antifragile”.

Professor Phakeng quoted from Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book Antifragile: Things that gain from disorder – “The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”

The evening’s keynote speaker was UCT alumnus and co-founder and chief executive of Startup School, Christopher Hosken.

He shared his entrepreneurial journey and the central role that UCT played in his success story. He paid tribute to Phakeng in recalling being capped by the vice-chancellor on the occasion of the conferral of his master’s degree.

Hosken suggested that entrepreneurs build antifragility by surrounding themselves with people who have different viewpoints and always to seek out diversity.

 Originally written by STEPHEN LANGTRY.

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