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UCT Upstarts Idea Auction rakes in over R1m in funding, resources

UCT Upstarts 2016 Idea Auction saw eight innovative student startups that are reimagining the educational landscape in South Africa, raise just over R1 million in cash and in-kind support at the live crowd-bidding event held at the Labia Theatre on Thursday, 8 September 2016.
UCT Upstarts Idea Auction rakes in over R1m in funding, resources
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What makes these start-ups remarkable is that they have all been initiated by students at the University of Cape Town who, rather than wait till after graduation, took their first steps towards becoming social entrepreneurs by participating in UCT Upstarts – a “pop-up” social innovation platform – now in its second year.

UCT Upstarts is the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Max Price’s Social Innovation Challenge, which this year tasked students to come up with ideas to “Re-educate Education”. Over 12 weeks from April to September 2016, students attended two lunchtime talkshops, workshops and do-shops a week aboard a double-decker bus hub on UCT’s Upper Campus.

The UCT Upstarts programme is a joint initiative between Super Stage (a social innovation platform for students), the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship (a specialised unit at the UCT Graduate School of Business) and the Office of the Vice Chancellor at UCT.

The programme introduced students to a diverse network of innovators, entrepreneurs, industry leaders and design-led innovation educators, such as the director of the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design Thinking at UCT (d-school) Richard Perez, founder Gidon Novick, Venezuelan architect Alfredo Brillembourg and trend specialist John Sanei to name a few. They shared their personal stories, gave practical and experimental workshops, and mentored the students through their process.

At the Idea Auction, eight teams of students pitched their ideas to a hand-picked audience of business leaders, tech entrepreneurs, investors, changemakers, creative innovators and education officials, who committed their expertise, resources, networks, incubation spaces, travel opportunities, media exposure and ‘moola’ to help launch them overnight from upstarts to start-ups.

Social entrepreneur Gina Levy, founder of Upstarts and Super Stage, hailed the Idea Auction as a great success. “We raised R97,050 in cash at the last count and just over R961,800 as value-in-kind,” she said. “We believe our currency is opportunity – that’s why Upstarts is creating businesses of the future now, ones that will challenge business as usual, influence new ways of thinking and improve the quality of thousands of people’s lives in SA and beyond.”

The eight start-ups launched at this year’s UCT Upstarts Idea Auction are:

  • PlugEd:

    a low-cost credit-card sized Raspberry Pi computer pre-loaded with grade-appropriate educational content that township school children can plug into their TV at home.
  • Lwazi:

    an online on-demand tutoring platform that matches students to peer tutors on campus either face to face or using live-streaming.
  • Dadewethu (“my sister” in isiZulu):

    sells and delivers pregnancy tests, sanitary products, condoms and lubricants to female students on campus, and runs an informational website and Whatsapp/phone line to educate women – and men –about female reproductive health.
  • Funda Fund:

    makes crowdfunding for university tuition more accessible to underprivileged high school students by helping them tell their stories and run strategic campaigns both on- and offline.
  • Pop Print:

    encourages intellectual development in schoolchildren by using POS (Point of Sale) receipt printers at participating supermarkets to generate locally relevant and affordable stories, puzzles and other resources.
  • FeedBack:

    an app that enables learners and peers to evaluate teacher performance and matches professional development opportunities to the teacher’s needs.
  • The Uniform Exchange:

    provides affordable second-hand school uniforms to children in underprivileged communities.
  • En Route:

    an educational agency that exposes school children to inspiring role models through motivational talks and career guidance days.

Sponsors and partners-in-kind include the Bertha Foundation, HPI d-school at UCT, SAB Foundation, Relate Bracelets, Standard Bank, Red Bull Amaphiko and City Sightseeing (Hop-On Hop-Off Bus).

Chemical engineering student Cassandra da Cruz, founder of Dadewethu, summed up the impact of the programme: “I didn’t think that something that started as a small idea from people feeling stigmatised could turn into something so big and that people would be so supportive and see the bigger picture. Because that’s what we wanted people to see: how many lives we can affect.”

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