mLab Southern Africa, which provides incubation support to mobile developers and entrepreneurs, will establish a presence in SA in September when it opens its head office at The Innovation Hub in Pretoria.
Its aim is to provide subsidised office space with meeting rooms, allowing members to benefit from being part of a mobile start-up community. It will also offer training and accreditation on mobile technologies and entrepreneurship and offer business mentoring and coaching as well as access to market research information and other knowledge repositories.
The incubator will provide test bays for testing mobile applications and services and organise regular networking events. Additionally, mLab will assist members in accessing finance, be it in the form of grants, seed capital, angel investments or venture capital.
Interested start-ups must apply to mLab SA to take join the programme.
mLab SA, and the recently opened mLab East Africa in Nairobi, are the first of a number of mLabs to be launched around the world as part of the “Creating Sustainable Businesses in the Knowledge Economy” programme, supported by infoDev (World Bank), the government of Finland and Nokia. mLab SA is also supported by the department of science & technology.
While the head office will be in Pretoria, a number of satellite offices will be established throughout the region. A Cape Town satellite office is in the process of being established.
“Southern Africa was chosen as a region to locate an mLab because of the enormous potential of mobile technologies for supporting business development, social development and job creation in the region,” mLab says in a statement. “In SA, mobile penetration is around 100%, and 39% of urban South Africans are now browsing the internet on their phones. Mobile phones touch almost every aspect of peoples’ lives, and the potential for improving areas such as health care and education has already been successfully demonstrated.
But, it says, there are challenges to creating a sustainable business mobile. “Competition is stiff, the mobile landscape is highly uneven across different technologies, user groups and countries, and mobile developers are scarce and expensive. Added to that, a start-up business or organisation is very vulnerable. It needs business, technical and financial support, and can benefit greatly from acceleration and incubation.”
mLab SA offers three types of membership: “community”, which is free and which anyone can join, and “silver” and “gold”, for which interviews are necessary. Silver and gold members pay a fee to access the core services of mLab SA at the facility in The Innovation Hub and receive more structured support from the mLab SA team and its partners. Support services will either be delivered directly by mLab SA, or through external providers to which members will be pointed, such as the Bandwidth Barn’s business mentoring programme.
Applications can be submitted via the mLab SA website. — Staff reporter, TechCentral