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Entrepreneurs present innovative business ideas at Lion’s Den 2020

  • November 26
  • Tags Our news, Entrepreneurship, events

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Entrepreneur Lohan Pieterse was named the overall winner at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) Lion’s Den event on Wednesday, 18 November 2020.

He is a current Masters student in Data Science at Stellenbosch University with a background in industrial engineering and five years of professional experience in the forestry industry. His business idea, GreenTweak Business Systems, aims to manage system implementations of proven new technologies for typically overlooked commercial enterprises.

GreenTweak USBHe says it is “absolutely amazing and a surreal feeling” being named the winner and says the insightful pitch training sessions done by Seraj Toefy (Custodian of Entrepreneurship at USB) was invaluable to take constructive criticism to heart and evolved the presentation into what it was ultimately.

On the idea he says: “The flagship product of the business is called TreeVIZ – a computer vision toolkit which is designed for the forestry industry to accurately determine biological asset values at a large scale.

“The problem that forestry companies are facing is that they only capture location data by manually sampling between 5 – 10% of a complete stand – this often leads to erroneous recordings skewing growth models. Biological assets usually account for billions of Rands and are tied directly to an organisation’s balance sheet – so extreme variances will negatively affect finances and influence projections. Next year, my data science master’s project will aim to collect precision measurements for all trees in a designated compartment,” he explains.

Pieterse says the potential is huge when considering the vast operational footprint of forestry in South Africa and the prospective customers that could use such a product in future. “What makes GreenTweak a key differentiator in this space is that it will be using ground-level video recordings for collecting accurate tree data – an online platform will then charge forest companies a fixed rate per hectare to have access to the processed information.”

He says he learned a lot throughout the competition and is very appreciative to have met the fellow aspiring entrepreneurs. “Expanding my professional network was a pleasant positive on top of it all too.”

Pieterse takes home R50 000 as well as an entry into the Virtual International Study Module on Entrepreneurship run by ESADE Business school in Spain.

“I intend to use the funds towards advancing my master’s project in 2021 through procuring the necessary equipment which will give the study a real significant boost. However, the true reward was having an opportunity to meet and present my business idea to all of the Lions – a panel of seasoned investors who assessed the potential pitches against one another. I am grateful for the chance to showcase my ambitions and I am excited for the prospects that will follow from winning this achievement.” he says.

“As a bonus, a fellowship programme presented by LaunchLab was also included in the prize which is very generous and this is giving me a lot of momentum to build up the business. Finding good co-founders for a start-up company is pivotal for success – especially during the early stages – and this collaboration will definitely complement my own shortcomings,” says Pieterse.

Civil engineering student Rinae Musekene was named the runner-up with his business RINAIBRA, a Maintenance Communication System (MCS) which replaces maintenance books, WhatsApp, and email. “We offer tracking of residence maintenance issues and a convenient communication system between the parties (student/tenant, and the maintenance administrator) involved,” says Musekene.

“The award means a lot for us as a young start-up that was started by final year students in a university residence. We are still in disbelief that our problem-solving skills have been transposed into such an exciting business opportunity. The biggest lesson that we have learned over the past few months is that individuals need to learn to earn their problems and understand that problems are not completely solved all at once.  Great organisations and businesses are not a mere pursuit of financial value but rather solving problems and in turn the money will follow,” he says.

Musekene received the second prize of R30 000 from SU LaunchLab and services from Centuro Global and O’Reilly Law. O’Reilly Law will assist the winner with company set-up and other legal considerations of a start-up, and Centuro Global will assist the winner to expand their business global when they are ready. “We are going to use the competition money to finance critical marketing operations and platform development to add features and to allow for support of more users.”

The other finalists were Alvira Fisher (CoShare), Jacquis Tolsma (Camradi) and Wynand Schutte (DwellSmart).

Facilitated by Seraj Toefy, Custodian of Entrepreneurship at USB, the Lion’s Den panel included Asma Bashir, Chair of Centuro Global, Miles Khubeka, Founder of Wakanda and Vuyos, Dr Jan Brinckmann, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy at ESADE Business School, Anita Nel, CEO of Innovus, Brandon Paschal, Director of Innovation at SU LaunchLab, Josh Romisher, CEO of SU LaunchLab, and Daniel Strauss, Director of Stocks & Strauss.

 

On advice they would like to share to entrepreneurs, the speakers shared the following:

“Get a good mentor. Being an entrepreneur can be quite lonely and sometimes you just need someone to talk to.”
– Asma Bashir, Chair of Centuro Global

“Don’t overthink it. Just start.”
– Miles Khubeka, Founder of Wakanda and Vuyos

“Don’t start companies; start projects and see where it takes you.”
– Dr Jan Brinckmann, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy at ESADE Business School

USB started Lion’s Den two years ago to encourage and support entrepreneurs and job creation in South Africa, supporting the thinking that business plays an increasing role in shifting society. That is why the prizes did not only consist of cash but also skills and mentorship.

USB would like to thank the following partners for their involvement in accelerating the vision of entrepreneurship with the substantial prizes to the participants:

  • SU LaunchLab
  • Centuro Global
  • O’Reilly Law

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