According to Johnny G. Mills, the programme manager of Innovation Collective, the main mandate of the initiative is to turn Cape Town into not only a regional or continental tech hub, but a global one.

The initiative is part of Innovation City in Cape Town, an invite & application-only ecosystem and physical hub hosting over 60 startups, corporates, and investors, all focused on technology and innovation in and outside of South Africa.

“Part of our greater vision is to be more inclusive. We know that Cape Town has a little bit of a challenging history, which has left a lot of communities disenfranchised and disadvantaged, and Innovation Collective is here to support the city’s ecosystem to outgrow those negative aspects,“ said Mills in an interview with TechCabal.

Innovation Collective fosters this inclusion through assisting founders nail down aspects of building a successful startup, such as sales, marketing, leadership, gaining market insight, building tech, and creating user experiences. Additionally, the initiative provides the 15 startups in each cohort with knowledge, tools, and networking opportunities to grow their business in the course of 11 weeks.

The initiative does not provide any funding as, according to Mills, this would limit the type of startups they can have in the programme.

“The moment we fund them, we also need a return. So in this way [without funding], we are more free to focus on what these entrepreneurs really need,” clarified Mills.

To identify disenfranchised founders, Innovation Collective employs its network of partners as well as its own marketing specialists. To apply, startups are required to have progressed past the idea phase and have  a viable product or tech, or have validated ‘willingness to buy’ in the market.

Going further, Mills alludes to the fact that much needs to be done to get Cape Town’s tech startup ecosystem to global hub levels.

“Compared to the west, the startup community here is a few years behind in terms of implementing structure, having clear methodologies, and being aware of certain terms and techniques. That said, I think that is an enormous opportunity to teach the current and upcoming startups and founders that they shouldn’t lose sight of what is truly important and that is serving the community,” added Mills.

To further expand its reach, Innovation Collective is currently in talks with various private and public sector players to get involved in the programme.

“We are always looking for more entrepreneurs as expert advisors to help support our programme. We’re also looking to talk with corporates and the government to see if they want to contribute to this vision and  make Cape Town the best tech hub in the world,” concluded Mills.

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