JoziHub: Jo’burg to get own tech hub

A new collaboration and innovation space is set to open in Milpark in Johannesburg in the first quarter of 2013. By Craig Wilson.

Despite Johannesburg’s position as South Africa’s economic hub, Cape Town is often considered the country’s technology start-up capital. A new technology hub in the city of gold, called JoziHub, may help in starting to change that.

JoziHub, which will be launched in the first quarter of next year, is intended as a shared work and collaboration space for entrepreneurs and innovators who want to share ideas and resources and get access to mentors.

Funded by the Praekelt Foundation and Google for Entrepreneurs, the project is being managed by local engineering consultancy Venture Solutions.

According to its website, JoziHub wants to be Africa’s “leading technology and social business incubator” by 2015 and to be “recognised worldwide as a pioneer of and advocate for collaboration and innovation”.

Gert Louis van der Walt, a consultant at Venture Solutions, says his company has been asked to manage the process of getting JoziHub up and running.

“Johannesburg is the financial capital of South Africa, with plenty of money and plenty of people hungry for this sort of thing. But there’s nothing like it at the moment, even though there’s a big need for it,” Van der Walt says.

Situated at the 44 Stanley complex in Milpark, north-east of the central business district, JoziHub is based on a “co-creation concept” and will be “open to anybody”, he says. That’s not to say people can walk in off the street and set up shop in the hub. Initially, about 250 people will have access, but they’ll need to apply and be able to demonstrate what they intend working on. In due course, people will also be able to rent more permanent space in the venue.

“Shared services minimise the costs of start-ups,” says Van der Walt. JoziHub will offer high-speed Internet access, office services and “good coffee”. It’s hoped this will result in “cross-pollination between people from different disciplines”.

Van der Walt says various partnerships are being discussed to provide users of the hub with mentorship. “We’re also looking at sponsors to provide funding for businesses. There are talks underway with other stakeholders wanting to get involved, but we can’t disclose who those are yet.”

JoziHub will have an access control system so that approved users can get in whenever they want. There’ll be no cost to the base community to use the facilities, but those looking for more fixed arrangements will be able to rent a desk on a longer-term basis.

“If you want a spot, you have to apply for it and you’ll have to pitch you project to a panel for approval,” Van der Walt explains. “The panel wants to know you’re working on project that aligns with what we’re doing, whether it’s e-commerce, or transparency in government, or mobile solutions, or whatever.”

Technology hubs and business incubators have been springing up all over the African continent in recent years. JoziHub follows in the footsteps of the likes of the iHub in Kenya, the Dar es Salaam Innovation Space in Tanzania, and the Wennovation Hub in Lagos, Nigeria.  — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media

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