Last week, SqwidNet hosted the final pitch day of the 2020 IoT Entrepreneurship Programme (IoTEP). The third iteration of this programme, which kicked off in January this year, saw 30 entrepreneurs being taken on an 8-month journey of solution discovery, business, and technology training and mentorship as they created Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to solve real-world problems. This culminated in 8 entrepreneurs being given the opportunity to present their solutions virtually to a panel of judges and potential investors.

“We know that entrepreneurs are important to the South African economy,” says Phathizwe Malinga, managing director of SqwidNet. “Between forty and fifty percent of the workforce in developing countries are employed by SMEs that were started by entrepreneurs. We also know that technology is an enabler in solving real-world problems, which is why we started this programme. It is centred around helping entrepreneurs accelerate their businesses powered by sound business principles, business modelling and technology or IoT fundamentals, while growing their confidence to pitch their ideas to prospective judges,” he says “These entrepreneurs have been brave enough to step up, embrace technology, and come up with solutions that solve real problems. This is critical to address the unserved market and make a difference. This does not need to be limited to one vertical, but can cover anything from health, to agriculture, to basic services,” says Malinga. “The key is to focus on markets that are currently untapped and might not necessarily be able to afford mainstream solutions but are hungry for products that solve their everyday problems. Trust the technology – trust that it will enable you to satisfy that market.”

The panel of judges comprised of Christo Olwagen from Business Doctors, Gudani Luvhani from Sonke Telecom, Dominique Khumalo from Mbulase Group, Nthabiseng Mokone from MMCP Business Advisory Services & Wealth Management, and Nonku Komanyane from Digital Africa Ventures.

Technology solutions developed ranged from a bag handle that is a personal emergency and pre-tracking device, a smart health solution that uses technology pick up urinary tract infections early and manage the health of a pregnant woman and her baby, and a smart waste management solution that measures fill levels in waste receptacles to notify collection services when bins are ready to be emptied. Other solutions covered the management of the sales and replenishment of LPG gas, smart forecasting for precision farming, and a fire management solution that notifies authorities in the event of a fire.

“The pitch day was not about picking a winner for this programme,” says Ushal Moonsamy, chief solutions officer at SqwidNet. “It was about showcasing the unique ideas and concepts of the entrepreneurs, how far they have come in developing their solutions over the 8 months and starting conversations with potential investors. We were delighted to see how these entrepreneurs have embraced IoT as part of their solution development and believe they will continue developing solutions to solve real-world problems. They have successfully applied the concept of design-thinking, developed compelling business cases and embraced IoT, while putting their customers at the centre of their solution development.”

Several of the entrepreneurs have been invited to engage directly with the potential investors to determine how they can work together going forward.