Solar Turtle pitched by Lungi Tyali, was announced as the winner of the inaugural Nation Builder Social Innovation Challenge last night. They came out on top, chosen from ten outstanding ideas presented at the pitching final, hosted at the Stellenbosch University LaunchLab.
Out of over 180 entries received, the Top Ten finalists were:
“The judges were astounded by how all of these ideas, and particularly the winners, could really make an impact in improving the lives of people in South Africa, while also being financially viable,” said Almero Strauss, one of the judges, and a Mergon director.
The winning pitch, Solar Turtle, aims to empower micro-entrepreneurs in rural communities by providing an easy-to-use renewable energy source that provides a place to charge and sell electricity. Solar Turtle provides a solar-powered kiosk in a container that serves as a hub for renewable electricity. During the day, the solar panels are open to collect sunlight and at night they are enclosed and locked securely into the container.
The second place went to Indlu, pitched by Cobus Truter. Indlu is a mobile application aimed at making room rentals easier. With Indlu, tenants can find, pay for and manage their monthly rentals, all with one application. Homeowners can register their rooms, and prospective tenants are then able to bid for the room. Payment occurs via the app directly, or through pay points located at a nearby participating shop. Indlu is an innovative funding method that finances properties for proper upkeep and helps build confidence in low-income areas. The People’s Choice award, chosen from an audience sms voting poll, also went to Indlu.
In third place was Kuba, pitched by Jacques Sibomana. Kuba is a business platform that aims to empower small business owners in informal communities. Kuba works to address problems that many small business owners run into, such as lack of administrative and support services, which often prevents the growth of these businesses. Kuba’s software platform helps facilitate trading between the formal and informal markets, which includes the entire transaction to ensure a high standard of services and transparency.
“We found the winning idea to be an outstanding innovative self-sustainable business idea that addresses a pressing social issue,” said Shawn Theunissen, an executive and the head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Growthpoint Properties. “We were so impressed with the quality of all the ideas that we created a new category on the spot, and all the judges committed to contributing an amount form their own pockets, which will be matched by LaunchLab,” he added. The judges’ choice award went to Department of Coffee, pitched by Wongama Baleni.
Based out of Khayelitsha, The Department of Coffee is bringing the high-end coffee culture to townships. The Department of Coffee plans to grow the economy in townships through their coffee sales. The Department of Coffee also plans to expand through other commercial franchises and offer support to township-based coffee shops.
“We were so inspired by the creativity and passion of the Top Ten entrepreneurs, who are building and scaling sustainable businesses to have a real social impact in our nation. We are delighted that all the pitches were of such high quality that the judges spontaneously added a new category,” said Keri-Leigh Mac Donald, Executive Director of Nation Builder. “We look forward to having Solar Turtle speak at our In Good Company Conference in August.”
Social innovation experts, business leaders, entrepreneurs and media attended the pitching event. The #Innovate4Change hashtag trended on Twitter in South Africa.
“We are excited about the potential of the connections that the social entrepreneurs were able to make through this with potential partners, to scale their amazing ideas. We are privileged to partner with them through this Nation Builder and LaunchLab initiative, to see them continue to grow in doing business with purpose,” said Pieter Faure, CEO of Mergon.
These three winners will each receive their portion of R150 000 seed capital, as well as business incubation support from LaunchLab.
“Although social innovation is not an explicit focus of LaunchLab’s we have had a history of facilitating valuable connections for some awesome social businesses and social entrepreneurs. So this challenge has been a great opportunity to showcase these businesses and work with an innovative local partner like Nation Builder. We believe that socially-minded entrepreneurs can have a significant impact on some of our biggest social problems and look forward to helping these winners to do that,” said Philip Marais, LaunchLab CEO.
Solar Turtle will also be presenting at the Nation Builder In Good Company Conference, hosted on 21 August 2018 at Atterbury Theatre in Pretoria. In Good Company 2018 will explore how South African business is helping fix social problems with innovative social investment solutions.