It’s taken me a bit of time to write about Silicon Cape at all, let alone on SA Rocks.
I do, however, feel that it’s about time that I gave this initiative its due on this blog.
Yesterday I was able to have a fairly long chat/debate with one Matthew Buckland (who Chaired the events at the Silicon Cape launch). He was able to talk me in to a firm supporter of Silicon cape.
Before I continue let me try to provide a brief overview of what Silicon Cape is, or is aiming to be:
The initiative is founded by Vinny Lingham and Justin Standford. But it is, at every turn, emphasized that the concept and organisation is owned and driven by the community of Cape Town. From SiliconCape.com:
The Silicon Cape vision is of an ecosystem in the Western Cape of South Africa, that serves to attract and bring together local and foreign investors, the brightest technical talent, and the most promising entrepreneurs, to foster the creation and growth of world-class IP start-up companies in an environment that competes with other similar hubs around the world against the backdrop of one of the most beautiful settings and pleasant places to live, work and play on the globe.
The concept of the Silicon Cape is not owned or controlled by any single entity. It is a living community and an organic, ever-developing concept in the hearts and minds of every participant, which endeavours to catalyse the local IP entrepreneurial community. As a community member, come and be a part of the genesis of turning the Silicon Cape into reality.
The initiative aims to start a conversation — to plant a seed and foster the concept of the Silicon Cape in people’s minds and on their lips around the world as the emerging Silicon Valley of Africa, and to create an environment and a perception of the area as a world-class location and destination that is not only capable of delivering but already is. This will in turn create real benefits for the Cape and it’s residents and stakeholders, and assist in attracting further foreign direct investment into South Africa.
I approached Matthew with a few concerns about the concept of Silicon Cape. I wanted to know why it wasn’t being pitched as “Silicon SA”, I wanted to let him know that Silicon Cape was othering Joburgers with this initiative and I wanted to know “what next?”. In fact let me go so far as to say that I felt completed isolated by the tech industry in Cape Town and pushed out and pushed away by Silicon Cape. All of this simply because I live in Johannesburg. I don’t feel that this is right. I think there is great value in the various other tech-hubs in South Africa and I think that Silicon Cape as an organisation should have reached out to the other areas of the country and the other techies out there to attend and take part and contribute to the concept.
I think these feelings are still somewhat justifiable. But the point is simply that investors and geeks alike are attracted as much to quality of life as they are to a good business plan. The hope for Silicon Cape is that the combination of Cape Town’s stunning setting and the entrepreneurial minds and start-ups in that region will attract enough Venture Capital to make Cape Town the start-up hub of Africa.
Now nothing is ever as simple and clear-cut as it initially appears to be so I would like to offer some feelings of support and quiet concern. Don’t let this idea rise up with enthusiasm and die out just as quickly due to lack of follow-through. This is a reality but people need to understand that Silicon Cape is an organisation that is trying to facilitate effective ways of growing and developing a VC culture in Cape Town and invariably the rest of SA and Africa.
Congratulations to all of those involved in Silicon Cape, to all of those who will benefit and to all of those who are taking this idea seriously and running with it. Our country needs precisely this sort of faith from successful entrepreneurs who are willing to return to SA and invest in the country’s people, companies and landscape.
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