A new short course that blends the best of theory and practice is giving early-stage, high growth entrepreneurs in South Africa blueprint for success.

Cape Town is brimming with high-growth potential, early-stage entrepreneurial activity but too many of these businesses don’t make it get past the initial business plan stage. 

Keet Van Zyl, partner at Knife Capital and co-founder of Business Angel Investment Group, AngelHub, believes this is largely due to the fact that the early-stage investment ecosystem in South Africais underdeveloped. “Entrepreneurs do not know where to begin when it comes to acquiring an investor for their idea and need assistance with packaging their concepts into sustainable business models,” he says.

To fix this, Van Zyl has teamed up with the UCT Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB) to launch a new executive education short course to promote the development of early-stage, high growth entrepreneurial activity in South Africa.

The initiative, the first of its kind to blend the research rigour of a business school with practical investment thinking, will boost innovation in the City of Cape Town– already recognised as the most entrepreneurial city in South Africa.

“There is a tremendous amount of momentum in the early stage entrepreneurial space in Cape Town,” says Van Zyl. “Between the universities, the number of core venture capitalists that are Cape Town-based, angel investment activity and startup community initiatives such as Silicon Cape, Cape Town arguably has the highest output of ideas in the country.”

But to capitalize on these ideas the gap between investors and entrepreneurs must be bridged, says Van Zyl. “Many investors want to support early-stage entrepreneurs, but prefer to collaborate when choosing the right opportunity. While the right networks exist to take advantage of deal referrals, more tools are needed to develop the area. This means that many opportunities are being wasted,” he says.

The GSB Executive Education course – dubbed FIND MAKE GROW REALISE – is designed to plug this gap. Van Zyl says that the programme is for entrepreneurs and investors alike and will provide delegates with the practical knowledge and a deep understanding of the high-growth investment process. It will also get entrepreneurs and investors into the same space – literally – as they share the classroom for the duration of the four-week programme. Lectures are held on Monday evening each week while the programme runs.

The new programme is part of a wider focus on social innovation and entrepreneurship at the GSB. Dr François Bonnici, Director of the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the school says that the course will dovetail with other programmes such as the Masters in Inclusive Innovation and the Social Innovation Lab which runs as part of the MBA programme.

“We know we need more creative and innovative solutions to be more efficient in delivering products and services and drive sustainable job creation and the GSB is investing a lot of energy into growing this space. This programme will play an intensely practical role in developing this,” he says.

Bonnici adds that what really differentiates this new programme is the fact that it’s presented by venture capitalists, people who are in the trenches when it comes to making investments, backed by entrepreneurship research from the GSB.

Guest lecturers will include entrepreneurs and investors who have been involved in successful high-growth ventures, and the course will provide valuable networking opportunities.  

As the name suggests the programme will focus on the four key stages of starting, growing and selling a high growth potential business.

  • FIND is about finding a lucrative early stage investment, understanding the landscape, identifying potential investments and what goes into the investor pitch.
  • MAKE is about the investment process itself, and includes due diligence exercises, valuation principles, legal disclosure and key legal terms – a simple necessity that is often overlooked.
  • GROW instructs on the growth strategies of a business, corporate governance, operational activities and strategies to scale a business.
  • REALISE is about the realisation of the growth strategy, and making a successful, profitable exit from the investment.

“The structure and price of the programme has been designed to ensure that it is as accessible as possible: we wanted to ensure that the course is able to have the widest possible impact on the developing entrepreneurial space,” says Bonnici.

“The programme is aimed at anyone who has a vested interest in entrepreneurship and business building in South Africa. On the one hand you have the investors who look at investing in early stage growth companies, and then on the other hand there are the entrepreneurs, who need to know what these investors are looking for – having the blueprint would benefit them tremendously,” says Van Zyl. 

FIND MAKE GROW REALISE is being run from the 6 May – 27 May. For more information or to apply for the programme, please contact Joanne Boulton on [email protected].