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Innovation Summit 2021 Showcases SA’s Top Tech Entrepreneurs

  • 5 min read

The bar for tech innovation was set high last week, as investors, industry experts and entrepreneurs from all corners of the globe joined the Innovation Summit’s first-ever three-day hybrid event, held at the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town from 21 – 23 September. Embracing a new normal with some delegates, judges and speakers physically participating in panel discussions, pitch dens, and investors garage demo days at the hotel, with others clicking in and out of virtual meeting rooms to match and invest sessions, to attend a workshop, or listen to fire-side chats and masterclasses.   

The 2021 Innovation Summit is the biggest tech startup event of its kind in Africa. This year the Summit attracted over 150 local and global venture capital and angel investors as well as some 1500 early-stage entrepreneurs, serial entrepreneurs, professionals at leading corporations, and industry thought leaders and 48 industry expert speakers. 

Trends emerging at the Summit were notably women in tech, future technologies, and green innovation technology, with more entrepreneurs looking to make an impact in these spaces. From empowering women through virtual reality training, to using drones in the fight against rhino poaching, blockchain-enabled farm-to-fork supply chain platforms, 3D printing technology for biodegradable drinking cups, and a first-of-its-kind structure to support and incentivise funding to small green businesses – the Green Outcome Fund.  

Access to funding was another big topic that many speakers addressed, with SAP Africa’s Cathy Smith urging corporates to support startups in her opening address on Tuesday morning. She said that the common reasons for failure were misreading the market demand and running out of funding. Early stage startups are often not able to qualify for investment from angel investors or venture capitalists, which is why the masterclass on SAFE notes was very well received. It shed light on how startups without any trading history can access funding.  

“It’s been very encouraging to see that every year the deals are getting bigger with more investment coming from within the African continent. The deals are also happening more during the early stages of the tech startups’ journey which is when it’s very much needed. SAFE note investments are by far the most popular way our entrepreneurs at the Summit are getting funding. It’s such a good deal for both founders and investors, “says Audrey Verhaeghe, SAIS Chairperson.

Finalists went head-to-head at the Summit’s Pitching Den. Fem-in-Tech, Africa Cup and the Inventors Garage finalists showcased their pitches to investors and entrepreneurial enabling organisations. 

The winners are as follows:


  •  1st place- LiquidGold
  • 2nd place – CIRT Q-HOP
  • 3rd place- Brarmode Egypt


  • 1st place – Karma Science
  • 2nd place – VideoMed
  • 3rd place – Marula Charcoal
  • Inventors Garage Facebook Competition Winner  – MAFATS App


  •  The top 3 start-ups – Memeza Shout, Creditais, and Four Minute Knowledge
  • The recipient of the von Seidels prize will be communicated at a later stage.

The winners of all the competitions each received a brand audit and IP registrations to the value of R20,000 courtesy of Von Seidels as well as cash prizes of R120 000 to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses from the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition. The top 3 start-ups in the Africa Cup each won the full Financial Modelling for Entrepreneurs course series, as well as the Opportunity Assessment for Entrepreneurs and Innovators course from the Moolman Institute to the value of R6 100 each, with each finalist receiving a 50% discount on the course.

All Africa Cup Finalists also walked away with Ecommerce training of between 10 – 15 hours from the Creativity Development Centre in Lebanon. This includes business model and introduction to E-commerce, how to prepare posters and flyers for social media, how to manage websites, and finally how to prepare a campaign on social media. All competition winners and finalists also received access to Amazon Web Services startup programme called Activate with up to $5000 Activate Credits and two years and business and technical support of up to one year valued at $1500. The Activate program is designed for startups and early-stage entrepreneurs that provides AWS credits, AWS Support credits, training credits, exclusive offers, go-to-market support and more. 

Some of this year’s highlights included: 

  • Llew Claasen from Newton Partners moderated on a panel discussing corporate venture capital. The talk unpacked the lessons learnt by corporate VC funds.
  • Ilari Lindy, who is lead expert at the Southern African Innovation Support Programme (SAISP). His panel discussion was entitled ‘Expanding Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in the SADC Region’ followed by Budzanani Tacheba, Director of Innovation and Technology at the Botswana Innovation Hub looked at ‘Support Instruments for Expanding into New Markets’. 
  • Natalie Miller, who is the co-founder of XRGlobal. Her talk discussed ‘Re-Imagining Training Through Virtual Reality’. 
  • TypeDEV gave an interesting talk about ‘How to map the digital journey of your business’ and ensure that your website, platform or App attracts customers, keeps them and drives sales.

Other highlights were in the Founder’s toolkit stream, these include: 

Drones. A Billion Dollar Industry – Is South Africa Missing Out?; Transforming Africa Through Blockchain Technology; The SAFE Note – A Good Deal for Founders & Investors; Scaling to 100 Million – The Do’s & Don’ts; Set-up Your Venture to Scale; Conscious Exit Strategies; 8-Steps to Digital Marketing Success; Using AI To Build Inclusive Solutions; Steps to Take Before Entering the Market; India FinTech – Building for a Billion, and Beyond; Blockchain for Enterprises; Conscious sales for People Who Want to Sell More Without Feeling Awkward.

As they say it takes an ecosystem to raise a startup. Over three days, the ecosystem came together, made plans, networked, and supported each other. Entrepreneurs can continue the journey by becoming a member of the Innovation Summit Tech Tribe Community

To find out more about this year’s Summit and all the speakers and winner, please go to