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Microsoft to help fund 600 tech start-ups in SA

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Microsoft South Africa has partnered with the Government’s JobsFund to help drive the creation of at up to 600 technology start-ups over the next three years by expanding its BizSpark programme, which supports small software developer entrepreneurs.

The initiative will use funding from the Government’s Jobs Fund and Microsoft’s own 4Afrika initiative to give qualifying local software development start-ups access to development tools, business support through accelerators and incubators and connect them with key industry players,.

Mteto Nyati, Microsoft SA’s managing director, said the announcement cements Microsoft’s commitment – made at its 4Afrika launch earlier this year – to work closely with Government to solve the key national issue of unemployment by developing enterprises.

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‚”The BizSpark programme has been the breeding ground for some incredible start-up entrepreneurs and small software businesses,‚” said Nyati. ‚”But we can do a lot more for this community by partnering with Government and local incubators to provide additional benefits to our start-ups, improving their success and that of the broader ICT industry. This will grow the industry and ultimately provide more people with employment.‚”

Nyati said the enhanced BizSpark programme would not only give small software developer start-ups a far greater ability to develop local solutions, but also the business acumen to take their software to market. The programme will offer technical support, business training and exposure to a network of more than 2 000 partners to connect small businesses with incubators, investors, advisors, government agencies and hosters.

As the programme grows, Nyati said the BizSpark network would be looking to recruit small software start-ups in specific areas, like education and healthcare, to support national priorities. ‚”Ultimately, we want to establish South Africa as an exporter, rather than an importer, of intellectual property,‚” said Nyati.

Speaking at the announcement in Bryanston today, Dumisa Hlatshwayo, Jobs Fund’s chief investment officer, said entrepreneurship and innovation were critical elements in driving a nation’s economy, and that technology start-ups had the potential to breathe new life into the local software development sector. The Jobs Fund is designed to challenge the public and private sector, as well as civil society organisations to commit their ideas and resources to innovative job creation programmes.

‚”Entrepreneurs who start small businesses are the real job creators in South Africa. But it’s not just up to the government to provide support and incentives for SMBs. When big business and SMBs collaborate, they help drive an entire new wave of business and innovation in our country,‚” said Hlatshwayo.

Nyati said the success of a start-up software company was dependent on getting paying customers. One of the priorities of the BizSpark initiative is to help start-ups get paying customers by driving the development of high-quality software and providing access to markets, both directly, and through Microsoft’s partner ecosystem.

To qualify for the local BizSpark programme, a start-up must be developing software: privately held: generating less than R5 million in annual revenue: and less than 5 years old.

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