Support chapter for startups

Alan Straton

Platform for emerging businesses in Bay to link up with global network

Port Elizabeth is poised to join a global community of entrepreneurs in a support and development network when the Bay’s first chapter of global startup community Startup Grind stages its first event next month.

Startup Grind, which has been operating in South Africa since 2013, with Cape Town now among the biggest chapters in the world, is represented in 115 countries and in more than 300 cities.

With entrepreneurial businesses generally hallmarked by high energy, high hopes and high expectations, Startup Grind essentially provides a platform to leverage these attributes through networking, access to business expertise and experiences and the opportunity to learn from peers’ successes and failures.

“There is a lot of interest in participation from technology enterprises,” Port Elizabeth chapter director Alan Straton said.

“Beyond tech companies, an important membership focus for the Port Elizabeth chapter will be enterprises which have the genuine ability to create or generate jobs and to attract investment to the city.

“We feel the creation of jobs is a top priority for this region.”

Straton, who has long championed the development of the Bay and has extensive business experience through family enterprises in fields such as solar energy and building automation systems, launched the local chapter along with co-director Ramon Thomas and Rene Hicks, who will handle public relations for the chapter.

Straton said 68 entrepreneurs had already signed up for membership of the new chapter.

“Port Elizabeth offers many advantages to businesses – central location, institutional and private support, easy and quick accessibility within the city, a can-do mindset and friendly people willing to share insider knowledge and advice freely.

“Startup businesses in Port Elizabeth have access to many different flavours of entrepreneurial support to assist them to go from startup to global player.

“What is lacking, however, is a forum in which these entrepreneurs can gather to share their experiences, network and learn from each other.”

After a rigorous process to register the Bay chapter during December, the organisation is in the midst of a membership recruitment drive ahead of its first event, which Straton said was expected to take place early next month.

“The format of the monthly meet-ups starts with an hour-long networking, helping like-minded individuals to connect with each other, followed by a 45-minute fireside chat where a successful entrepreneur is interviewed to tell their business journey and any success and failure stories that formed part of it.

“The questions are structured in a way to inspire the entrepreneurs in the room on how to make their business a success.”

A 15-minute question-and-answer session, during which the audience can informally interview the main guest, is then followed by another networking opportunity to solidify relationships that have been established.

“Startup Grind is a natural progression for me, coming from a background of tirelessly promoting Port Elizabeth and Nelson Mandela Bay business and business excellence through various online publications, and dovetails perfectly with my philosophy of making friends, giving more than expected and helping others,” Straton said.

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