In this month’s incubator focus, we travel to the technology incubator of Medo – short for the Micro Enterprise Development Organisation. We spoke to Noluthando Tutani, the project manager at Medo to learn more about the incubator’s services.
What is the name of your incubator?
The incubator is called the Micro Enterprise Development Organisation (Medo) Information Communication and Technology (ICT) Youth Incubator. Medo will be rolling out other incubators. All the incubators are project-specific and focused. This one is focused on ICT and internet TV broadcast.
How would you describe your focus?
The focus of the incubator is on the ICT sector. The specific location – the Mobaneng Precinct – has been chosen to leverage high speed fibre (FTTH) bandwidth connectivity to the internet as commended by Icasa. The incubator will also host an internet TV studio to facilitate IP (internet protocol) utilising high speed connectivity. The focus is on supporting young entrepreneurs.
Where are you based and from which areas do you recruit new incubatees?
We are based in Johannesburg and in Cape Town. Medo uses a mobile entrepreneurship incubator to engage with rural, township and urban communities all over South Africa. Trep is an acronym for the word “entrepreneur” – we call the mobile incubator “Treppie”. Treppie is equipped with 10 computer work stations with free wireless internet and a meeting area. Treppie has a team to assist community members with basic computer literacy skills. The community is invited to apply via the Medo website for future business training skills in their area.
Which businesses are best suited to join? For the ICT incubator, the best businesses to join are ICT businesses that use a lot of technology to deliver their craft. The incubator houses at least ten permanent ICT businesses and also provides virtual incubation.
How do they apply?
Entrepreneurs are invited to apply via our website at www.medo.co.za or via our mobile incubator when it’s in their area. They are also welcome to visit our incubator in the Maboneng Precinct.
How long do businesses stay in your programmes?
We house entrepreneurs for as long as they need assistance. We found that businesses need a lot of assistance from year one to two. After year two they don’t need that much help. However, we monitor the progress of businesses every three months. We found that as the businesses grow, they start to employ staff and can no longer operate from the incubator. They are then able to look for an office or a bigger space to operate from.
What are the two key elements of your support that sets you apart from other incubators?
Entrepreneurs will never pay for services rendered by Medo. We will never take equity in their companies – this is to ensure that they retain their predominately black ownership. Medo will assist entrepreneurs from the beginning in order to build sustainable businesses. We have Treppie, our mobile incubator which goes to rural communities where help is likely not to come.
How long have you been going?
Medo has been in operation since August 2011.
How many businesses have been incubated with your support and how many of them are still going today?
We have ten permanently in our ICT incubator and the rest of the entrepreneurs are in virtual incubation. We have just over 120 active businesses.
How many incubatees are now in your programme?
It depends on the number of applicants that applied for a specific programme. In a Foundation Business Skills Programme there are typically between 25 and 40 businesses in a programme at any one time.
What are your fees?
We don’t charge. We secure funds from corporate spend.
What commitments do incubatees make before they enter your programme? And what commitment do you make to them?
We ask the entrepreneurs to commit their time to the programme and that they are never late and that they attend all sessions.
They should also be respectful and assist their fellow entrepreneurs. Medo ICT incubator offer these services:
- Free internet access.
- Free telephony.
- Meeting rooms with audio visual equipment.
- Fully-equipped high definition studio with Cyclorama.
- Shared service facility.
- Mail post box services for incubatees.
- Shared reception services.
- Networking events.
What is the best thing you have heard someone say about your incubator?
The best thing said is the networking opportunities given to entrepreneurs.
And the worst?
I have not heard anything yet.
What was your biggest success thus far?
Our biggest success so far is our Medo/BT International Trade Programme, run for the first time in 2012, culminating in successful business linkages for trade between the UK and South Africa. The primary goal of the programme is to increase trade between small businesses in both countries. We have been able to achieve this thus far and more than half of the businesses we send to the UK come back with contracts and deals.
What is your biggest wish for improving support to entrepreneurs in South Africa?
My biggest wish for entrepreneurs is to get assistance in learning how to manage a business and finance before they can be given access to funding or can apply to any funding programmes.
- For a list of incubators, go to SmallBusinessConnect.co.za/lists