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Sir Richard Branson opens another campus for aspirant entrepreneurs

GLOBETTROTING ADVENTURER and Virgin Group mogul, Sir Richard Branson let slip just under 40 days of the upcoming ANC conference how late fellow elder, Nelson Mandela confided in him that his greatest regret was not rooting much for Cyril Ramaphosa, to succeed him as South Africa’s head of state.

Sir Richard Branson opens another campus for aspirant entrepreneurs

Business in good hands. Sir Richard Branson (extreme left) cutting the ribbon at the opening of 22 On Sloane, a start-up campus for aspirant African entrepreneurs in Bryanston. He’s accompanied by Gauteng Premier David Makhura and Small Business Dev Minister Lindiwe Zulu. Image JACOB MAWELA.

The white-maned power player ventured on this pending a fireside chat moments after having cut the ribbon to the official opening of 22 On Sloane, a start-up campus for aspirant African entrepreneurs in Bryanston –  whilst ruling party apparatchiks Premier David Makhura, Minister of Small Business Development and David van Rooyen looked and listened on from the front row of a packed marquee erected in the parking lot of the state-of-the-art address, for the launch and a subsequent 4-day conference celebrating the 10th year of Global Entrepreneurship Week.

With the Washington DC base Global Entrepreneurship Network president Jonathan Ortmans moderating an opening session introduced by enthusiastic programme director Ayanda Allie-Paine – the event was the culmination of behind-the-scenes manoeuvring chaperoned by Zulu after the country had hosted the GEW earlier on in March at the Sandton Convention Centre.

In seeking to demonstrate how seriously her ministry is about doing its bit with regard to entrepreneurship and black industrialists being at the forefront of the government’s expressed intent to see those sectors steering economic participation – it had taken all of seven months to manifest an idea into the unmissable address just off the major traffic node of William Nicol Drive.

Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa’s absence as one of the high profile figures who were supposed to be part of the pomp-injected launch, didn’t seem to bother hundreds of aspiring business people bidding to take advantage of adopting the imposing address as a base for their operations.

Slated by Gauteng Premier David Makhura, as a place to be used by comers from across the African continent, the facility is a source of passion for Nigerian executive head of research and development entity SEA Africa and GEN Africa co-chair Kizito Okechukwu – the very epitome of youthful exuberance.

The launch signalled the opening of Global Entrepreneurship Week – an effort to help anyone, anywhere start and scale a new business.  For one week each November, some 10 million participants partake in 35,000 activities and contests spread across more than 165 nations globally.

Said GEN president: “In the first 10 years of celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week, we learnt a great deal about the potential of entrepreneurs and the ability of societies to work together and create great value.”

Pending GEW, short-listed applicants were due to pitch for an opportunity to bag a 12-month residency at the campus.

The choice of the renowned happy-go-lucky Branson officially lending stamp of approval to the facility probably stems from his being an active supporter of GEW since 2008 – with him even hosting a start-up competition winner at his privately owned, Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands.

According to a media fact sheet made available as a guiding informative aid to the event, 22 On Sloane is the largest start-up campus of its kind in Africa, as well as being the first for the Global Entrepreneurship Network on the continent offering SME’s a complete turnkey solution to scale, starting from the initial idea, all the way to commercialisation, funding opportunities and access to markets.

Through simply visiting 22onsloane.it-em.co.za – enables you to go to Residence @22ONSLOANE to apply.

The fact sheet further state the criterion for selection to residency on the campus as candidates who propose financially viable  and scalable concepts which could be applied in sectors such as: Fintech, Information & Communication Tech, Manufacturing, Energy, Education, Health, Tourism, Transportation, Services, Water, Sanitation, Agriculture, Arts and Crafts – inter alia!

A monthly minimum fee of R975 [USD75] per resident subsidises access to: workstations, uncapped Wi-Fi, weekly programmes, access to ecosystem role-players and technical labs.

Resident companies with over 5 team members will receive a discount.  Striving to build the sort of ecosystem supportive and collaborative from incumbents, translate to a ready acceptance to accommodate the hosting of crazier and innovative concepts!

A media entourage which descended on the event was able to catch a glimpse of the will-‘o-the-wisp premises covering some 10 000 square meters with over 500 workstations and offices.

A large boardroom for over 20 staff complements 5 meeting boardrooms and is but a part of sections including 4 kitchens, 5 lounges, shower facilities, a fully-equipped gym, kids and adults play room and some 180 parking bays – at the disposal of residents.

A space named The Atrium occupies the heart of the Campus and leads to a restaurant meant to be self-sustainable.

With 22 On Sloane, Zulu and her Global Entrepreneurship Network partners seem to have initiated a sure-fire driver to fuel some of the continent’s economic developmental goals!

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