Linda Swart is an innovation and entrepreneurship enthusiast with a keen interest in global trends and technology. Passionate about supporting entrepreneurs and providing access to opportunities for start-up companies, Linda Swart believes in collaboration for change, openness for growth and thinking differently for mass impact.
Representing Standard Bank Incubator at the Global Seedstars Summit in Switzerland, where 70 startups from 65 countries compete for $1m in equity funding, she gained insights on the value of having a global network and collaborating with others.
Sharing her experience and inspiration, she says: “Arriving in Geneva, I realised very quickly why it is considered by many as one of the most innovative countries in the world. Everything works like clockwork.
The day before the final event, I went to the Swiss Tech Convention Centre for pre-event activities. There I was welcomed by a very energetic Seedstars team and a room full of nervous entrepreneurs, polishing their pitches and preparing for the grand finale where they would compete for $1million in equity funding.”
Excited and impressed by the winning participants, Linda acknowledges the recognition that comes with competing in general: “I’ve been involved in a number of pitching initiatives including demo days and global competitions and what I’ve noticed is that yes, the winners get a lot of PR recognition but often times the other participants would gain access to valuable networks and even investment opportunities. In the case of IDWorks, they didn’t make it to the top 12 but the connections they made were priceless.
Before the actual pitching event, the startups attend intense boot camps and pitching practice. It was clear that this had helped them to be at ease on such a large stage in front of an audience of a couple of thousands of people. The thousands cheered as a startup from Philippines, Acudeen, was announced the best startup.”
Even halfway across the world, in such a world-class space dedicated to innovation, South Africa made its mark and kept its spot in Linda’s mind, “Seedstars Summit took began and the room was buzzing. It took me back to 2016, when South African Startup Giraffe took the prize as the best startup whilst competing against over 60 other countries.
They have since gained enormous success and are working with Standard Bank’s Small Enterprise area and have more than 35000 users on their recruitment portal.”
Getting the most out of her trip, Linda explored other areas of innovation and entrepreneurship. “The next morning, I was on a very early train to Paris, it was my first time to experience what many call ‘the most beautiful city in the world’ and my trip took me to one of the busiest co-working spots in Paris, a place called NUMA.
The similar experience of progress, co-working spaces and drive for female entrepreneurship couldn’t be ignored as Linda found herself in a space that felt like a home away from home. “Similar to the Standard Bank Incubator space in Rosebank, it is completely free and open to entrepreneurs to use. It includes a quaint coffee shop run by a local entrepreneur, similar to Rosebank, where we have in-house coffee shop, Roast Re: public.
The next couple of floors were where the entrepreneurs were based that are part of their acceleration programmes and I was surprised to find a whole floor with female founders only. They had dedicated this floor to female-led startups and was running a technology accelerator of which they were participants of.”
After many trips, conversations and events, Linda shares what the key to success might be: “I have had the privilege to experience the journeys of many of South Africa’s successful business men and women in a fireside chat setting. What do most of these successful people have in common? They have travelled. Traveling abroad changes something inside a person. It made me realise that the world is full of opportunities and that many of us, are facing the same challenges. It made me realise that in working with people (instead of competing) you could get a lot further and solve similar challenges a lot quicker.”
We have partnered with Seedstars for yet another year and hosted the final of the South Africa competition in Rosebank, Johannesburg on 29 June 2017 where startups competed for a spot at the Seedstars Summit in 2018 in Switzerland.
For updates from the Standard Bank Incubator, follow #SBIncubator or follow her on Twitter @Linvlinder (https://twitter.com/LinVlinder ) where she shares more insights and experiences.