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CITI’s warm welcome for women in business

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The Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi), an incubator for local tech and tech-enabled entrepreneurs in Cape Town, launched its Women in Business programme and welcomed a group of 41 successful applicants. 

The Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi), an incubator for local tech and tech-enabled entrepreneurs in Cape Town, has recently launched its Women in Business programme.

CiTi welcomed a group of 41 successful applicants who own and operate a diverse mix of businesses across industry sectors, from agriculture and travel, to construction and IT.  The 10-week programme will provide valuable support through weekly meetings and networking, learning through story-telling, practical how-to’s, as well as exposure to tech tools that will help grow these businesses.

“We all know how difficult it is to launch and run a successful business in this economic climate,” says Phillipine Francke, an entrepreneur herself and one of the programme’s chief facilitators, “even with the support of government and top incubators like CiTi. However, female entrepreneurs often face hurdles unique to women that are seldom addressed. The topics covered in this programme will give women insight into some of the tools, apps and software available to them that could propel their businesses through tech.”

CiTi, a tech-focused incubator for entrepreneurs in Cape Town, has a clear vision for developing women through tech in business. “CiTi has always led the way in supporting the development of women in tech,” says Ian Merrington, CEO of CiTi, “with some of our participants, like WomEng, even reaching international success. The Women in Business programme is geared towards growing these promising businesses and setting them up for sustainable success.”

The Women in Business programme has been running for nine years and has seen more than 200 women pass through successfully. “As a Women in Business alumni,” says Dylan Kohlstädt, a successful entrepreneur and one of the chief facilitators of the programme, “I know how valuable this programme was to me when my ad agency was in its start-up phase. Back then, I was choc-full of determination, but light on strategy and tools. Not only did I make long-lasting connections with other entrepreneurs like me, I also learnt out about practical ways to improve my business operations and bottom line.”

The launch event saw keynote speaker Tracey Steyn, founder of Nomad Marketing and author of online tech publication, TechSalad, address the delegates. Tracey spoke on how to work smarter and build a better business through outsourcing and encouraged the delegates to get help with tasks they are probably not skilled with anyway. “It is a lot more productive to outsource work that is not revenue generating, but essential,” says Tracey.  She covered what tasks can and should be outsourced and gave some practical tech tips on what resources are available.

“We are very excited about this year’s mix of candidates,” says Michelle Matthews, head of innovation and enterprise development at CiTi, “especially those whose businesses can benefit from their interaction with the other business owners on our programmes, and their intersection with our traveltech and fintech innovation hubs.”

With businesses like EventRoom, Janine Binneman Jewellery Design, and The Almond Creamery in the mix, the engagement with the speaker was lively and animated. “I thoroughly enjoyed spending the morning with these awesome ladies,” says Tracey. “No matter how varied the businesses are, the key underpinning values and challenges faced by these – and other – female entrepreneurs are shared, binding us all together in a community that offers support.”

“Women have a great inborn capacity for building community and encouraging team play,” says Dylan Kohlstädt, “that is often pushed aside in our efforts to become successful in a man’s world. Instead of linking arms, women might feel they need to compete with one another; sort of as if there is a quota on the number of successful women allowed. We hope to turn this thinking around in South Africa and encourage a more collaborative and generous way of thinking.”

The ensuing nine sessions will see guest speakers cover topics such as Top Tech Tools for financial management and growing your business through direct and digital marketing. “I am so looking forward to getting to spend time with these amazing women, while learning how I can use these great tech tools to improve the impact of our organisation,” says Karen Brooks from Ispirato, another of the participants on the Women in Business programme.

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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