For the very first time in its 13-year history, the SA Innovation Summit (SAIS) – the largest start-up event in Africa – will be taking place virtually on 30 September and 1 October 2020, connecting the start-up ecosystem across countries and continents.
The SAIS Virtual 365 Edition is set to be a space to share experiences, think, create, learn and do. At its heart is the tech entrepreneur and this is reflected by a programme packed with competitions, demo days, exhibitions, pitch battles, panel discussions, masterclasses and workshops. The Summit will also offer a Match and Invest platform to help start-ups meet with the most suitable new business partners – a crucial component for achieving the key event outcomes of deal flow and business growth. The platform allows businesses to profile themselves and ask for what they need in order to be matched with the right enabler, investor, corporate or entrepreneur to help them take their business forward. At last year’s Summit, one in four attendees saw a monetary gain, while more than 60% were able to expand or improve their business.
According to Giancarlo Bruno, Director of Intelligent Safe Technologies, “Attending the Summit was extremely rewarding; if it was only to hang around with like-minded people and listen to the inspiring speakers that would have been enough but taking part in, and winning, one of the pitching competitions was the cherry on the cake. The biggest impact that the Summit had on our business was having the opportunity to substantially accelerate our development with the prize money earned. Another benefit was being introduced to a range of people who would never have come across our product in their normal day-to-day activities.”
A cornerstone of this year’s Summit is the Start-Up to Scale-Up track – a deep dive into what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur, with key insights and practical tools to help young African start-ups wanting to grow and expand their business beyond borders. During panel discussions, fireside chats and think tanks, attendees will get to hear the first-hand experience of founders from across the continent who have built successful companies that are expanding their reach. Among them are Aisha Pandor, Co-Founder and CEO of SweepSouth; Onyeka Akumah, Founder and CEO of Farmcrowdy and Darlene Menzies, CEO of FinFind. For entrepreneurs, this is an opportunity to learn about what the customer wants, optimising marketing and sales, implementing tools that can make a business more efficient, strategizing business expansion, and optimising new technologies for their business. Plus, they’ll be equipped with practical toolkits.
Another key focus area is Tech on the Rise which will explore new technologies and how they are changing our world and our lives.
With the Summit being a celebration of innovation, it is also the perfect platform to shine a light on tech and tech-enabled start-ups from across the country and continent that are solving Africa’s problems:
The 29th of September will see 20 female-led start-ups pitching their business cases to potential investors during a Demo Day. These women are part of Fem-In-Tech – a female-focused entrepreneurship development programme for South African women facilitated by the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), in collaboration with the SA Innovation Summit, and run in the lead up to the event. Fem-In-Tech is aimed at empowering South African women in tech with the entrepreneurial and leadership skills to launch and grow their businesses.
Running parallel to the speaker programme on the first day of the Summit will be the SA/Swiss Pitch Battle during which 10 South African and 10 Swiss start-ups will battle it out for the chance to get into the final where one start-up from each country will go head to head to show off their nation’s leading solutions.
Twenty of the best innovations from across Africa will be featured in the Inventors Garage powered by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, which will be held on the second day of the Summit. Not only is this a chance for entrepreneurs with a working prototype or product to show off their solution, it is also an opportunity to gain access to funding, incubation, market exposure and/or business support.
A highlight of every Summit is the Africa Cup and this year will be no exception, with 12 start-ups disrupting traditional ways of doing business set to engage in an epic pitch battle in the Wizz Kids Pitching Den. The competition provides start-ups and early-stage companies in all tech-enabled sectors from around the world a space to compete for investment, showcase their products and services, gain market and media exposure, and secure support in the stages of scaling and growth.
The 2nd October will be the BOOST UP Africa Day, concentrating on the African ecosystem. BOOST UP is a programme by Connected Hubs for the Southern Africa Innovation Support Programme (SAIS 2) which strives to support early-stage start-ups using technology to solve societal challenges in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia. As part of this year’s Summit, South African participants in the BOOST UP programme will face off in a pitching competition.
SAIS Chairperson, Audrey Verhaeghe, says: “By pivoting our event and taking it online, we’ve had the opportunity to bring the global ecosystem together. To keep this going, we will be launching the SAIS Community, a platform offering year-long networking and matching, ongoing and regular virtual events and workshops, along with partner and start-up profiling as well as a marketplace.”