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March 23, 2011

Google invests in Cape Town as site for new tech pilot programme Umbono

Google Cape Town

Google believes Cape Town could be the next big hot spot for tech entrepreneurs

What drives innovation? How did Silicon Valley in San Francisco become the high-tech hub that it is today? Science writer Steven Johnson says connectivity and openness. Stanford University experts say a spirit of adventure, an exceptional workforce and a supportive environment. Whatever it is, Cape Town surely has it – the city is quickly emerging on the world stage as a fresh and colourful capital for entrepreneurs, inventors and brave ideas – affirmed recently when Google chose the Mother City as the pilot site for its new technology incubator, Umbono.

Umbono, which is isiZulu for “vision” or “idea”, is a platform and support structure for tech entrepreneurs. It will offer successful applicants office space, valuable business skills training – including a mentorship programme with Google – as well as financial support of up to $50 000 (just short of R350 000) in equity funding. If Umbono’s launch in Cape Town proves successful, the idea will be carried forward globally.

Google has publicly declared Cape Town a city “in the process of positioning itself as a hub for innovation and technology”, and this isn’t the first time the Mother City has been identified as having such potential: Business incubator the Bandwidth Barn was launched in Cape Town in 2000, while in 2009, local tech entrepreneurs Vinny Lingham and Justin Stanford founded the Silicon Cape Initiative, aimed at harnessing and promoting the Cape’s potential for technological innovation.

Applications for those interested in being a part of Umbono can be found online. Those wanting to follow Google’s lead and invest in Cape Town should get in touch with Wesgro – the Western Cape Investment and Trade Promotion Agency.

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