Jonathan Naidoo, SmartXchange chief executive
Jonathan Naidoo, SmartXchange chief executive

Durban incubator scoops R120m in state funding

By Lyse Comins Time of article published Dec 12, 2019

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Durban - Durban’s SmartXchange business incubator has been awarded at least R120million by the Department of Small Business Development.

This will enable it to act as a funder to commercialise top innovations.

SmartXchange chief executive Jonathan Naidoo said the business incubator, which develops and promotes entrepreneurs in the media, information, communication and technology (MICT) sector had attracted attention when Small Business Development Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni visited the new KwaMashu incubator the hub is busy establishing.

He said the department with staff from the Small Enterprise Finance Agency and the Office of the Presidency visited SmartXchange in Durban and conducted a full due diligence on the organisation before announcing an initial award of R20million, making it the first incubator to be awarded such funding.

SmartXchange was recently named Global Challenge Winner 2019 - Ecosystem Best Practice at the recent International Telecoms Union World Telecoms Conference and was recognised as the best incubator in the country this year.

“They called me to Pretoria to explore giving us a further mindblowing number because we don’t have an investment angel community strong enough in the country,” Naidoo said.

He said entrepreneurs who had prototypes that were ready for market often became stuck and could not commercialise their innovations because of a lack of funding.

“We will now be awarded R120million to R130million for wholesale financing to commercialise your projects,” he told small business owners at the organisation’s annual awards ceremony recently.

Naidoo said the KwaMashu incubator was gaining “serious traction”, even though it had not yet been officially launched and the organisation planned to take its model to rural areas next.

“We hope to start with 10 new SMMEs in year one and towards the latter part of the year we will have 20 start-up companies,” Naidoo said.

He said SmartXchange had asked the city to lease it dilapidated municipal buildings in the township, such as clinics, a library or community hall that could be converted into “opportunity zones”.

Eight small businesses graduated from the incubator and several entrepreneurs were recognised for their innovations at the awards ceremony.

Gabhisa Khuluse, of Gabhisa TV, won the SMME of the Year award. Reshma Maharaj won the ICT Woman of the Year award and Yandisa Mdolo, of Black Cotton Marketing, scooped the Best Newcomer Award.

The Mercury

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