Sparkup! Live doubles in fun and profit

Net Prophet Sparkup! 2015

Sparkup!, the community oriented startup accelerator based in Cape Town has picked up speed after two successful years since adding the Live Investment piece to the Weekend Programme.

By Rebecca Maserow

Founded in 2011, Net Prophet’s Sparkup! Weekend Programme has grown exponentially, adding the Live Investment pitch in 2014 gave the Weekend Programme, sponsored by Saratoga, a rare opportunity for the local community to engage and make live commitments to fund the startups in exchange for equity.

Permjot Valia, Mentorcamp

Permjot Valia, Mentorcamp

For founders Permjot Valia of Mentorcamp and Rob Gilmour of RSAWeb, the idea behind Sparkup! was to provide intensive training, coaching and mentoring for entrepreneurs in the tech enabled startup world. The Weekend Programme is split into various modules covering everything from pitching to investors, gaining an online following, business model planning, financial forecasting to IP law and marketing on a shoestring budget.

The Weekend Programme received almost 100 applications with thirteen startups making the grade. Participating startups were Retail Acumen, Wanos, TyreNet, GoVarsity, Space Decode, GenBox by GenWye, Gummie, Erato, IntelWorld, Vula Mobile, FitKey, CodeRed Solutions, and iGrow Academy. Of the thirteen startups two were from Joburg, one from Pretoria and one from Uganda.

“They tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds.” – Mexican Proverb

The startups are given access to various mentors over the weekend who are experts in their fields. Their roles is to help guide the startups, acting as a sounding-board to their ideas. We’re aware of a number of offers that were made by mentors during these weekend sessions.

Permjot Valia was the connecting thread throughout the weekend, pushing the startup teams to their limits in order to get their pitches to be as seamless and as informative as possible. All the pitch training led to the Sunday evening where six judges, namely Nicholas Haralambous, Sylvia Gruber, Warren Larkan, Sheraan Amod, Marcello Schermer, and Rob Gilmour had to hand pick the five startups that they believed were the most primed for investment.

When the judges walked out of their boardroom, all conversation halted and all eyes were on them. While every startup had pitched brilliantly, the judges found that the five most likely to gain investment at this stage of their company’s growth were:

  • IntelWorld – an electronic wallet that allows users to pay with their smartphones and is geared towards underdeveloped countries in Africa.
  • Vula Mobile – a patient to specialist app that prevents blindness especially directed for rural areas.
  • Erato – an online genuine leather boutique that was voted in the top five of women’s fashion sites in South Africa.
  • Gummie – a curated travel website aimed at getting locals to be tourists in their own cities.
  • TyreNet – a mobile tyre replacement company.

The following night, Monday 11 May, 200 guests were bursting out of Cape Town’s oldest theatre at 22Seven. The crowd was made up of investors, entrepreneurs, the curious and other startup initiatives. The three angel investors on stage were Groupon SA‘s Wayne Gosling, Ernst Hertzog from Action Hero Ventures, and MIH Internet. While Wayne Gosling teetotaled and made no investments on the night, Paul Rutherford pledged $25,000 to Ugandan, Allan Rwakatungu of IntelWorld, spurring Silicon Cape Chairperson, Daniel Guasco to match from the audience. Matthew Bresler chimed in with an additional $10,000 bringing IntelWorld up to over R700,000.

Dylan Edwards of Vula Mobile broke Sparkup! Live history as Ernst Hertzog put up a whopping R450,000 which was matched by Brett Commaille of AngelHub Ventures from the audience. Vasili Sofiadellis brought the total investment in Vula Mobile up to R1mil with an additional R100,000. The non-pitching startups may not have received offers of investment but have been benefited from introductions and leads to local investors. Plus all Sparkup! startups have invited to apply to Seedstars World in June.

Tracy Gander, the organiser of the Weekend Programme and the Live Investment evening said on Monday, “The startup world is such an exciting place to be at the moment. For those who’re willing to get their hands dirty, there’s a lot of impact to be made in this space.” The 2014 event saw just under R1mil in investment offers to 8bit at R550,000, Ekaya at R300,000 and Shopstar at R100,000. Talks about 2016 are already underway and in the mean time, Sparkup! will be holding monthly workshops on the First Tuesday of each month at the UCT Graduate School of Business, open to anyone and designed to provide a platform for startups to engage with industry experts.