What does Silicon Cape do?
I’ve heard this question come up time and again, with everyone kinda liking the concept but not actually knowing what it does. This post is my personal perspective — not an official stance from the organisation. Please take it as such.
‘Silicon Cape’ doesn’t actually DO anything. It’s the community and exco that do.
The concept of Silicon Cape, at its core, is a brand. An identity. This manifests itself through online and offline platforms that help connect people. It builds a network and creates interactions to spark startups. The ‘Silicon Cape Initiative’ is the driving organisation behind the brand — it does stuff and acts as custodians of the brand.
It came into being when Vinny Lingham and Justin Stanford were over in Silicon Valley amongst all of the activity. The startups, the incubators, corporates needing innovation, government programs, training, events and investors. And they came to the realisation that in and around Cape Town we have all of these ingredients. We have the right stuff, but what was holding us back?
The conclusion that they came to is that although there was a fair bit of activity here, it’s all silo’ed. The different organisations and initiatives don’t engage properly. No one is working together. And thats where the Silicon Cape brand comes in.
To think that Silicon Cape it trying to be Silicon Valley is just ridiculous. (As I’ve said before.) Like many other startup hubs internationally, it plays on the “silicon” name to align itself with the identity of what Silicon Valley represents— an international hub of tech entrepreneurial activity.
As the entire concept is community driven from the ground up, the identity is a great method to break down the silos. It’s not affiliated to government or any particular funding mandates. It’s an identity that anyone can align to.
Silicon Cape vs the ‘initiative’
Having a brand is one thing, but its not going anywhere if you don’t have someone driving it. This is where the exco and the legal entity that is the ‘Silicon Cape Initiative Trust’ comes in. They’re a bunch of volunteers who are passionate enough about the ecosystem to actively drive initiatives and to act as custodians of the brand — to ensure it doesn’t get hijacked and change the agenda.
But what does it do?
A brand is an intangible thing, and the role of the Silicon Cape Initiative is to help the connections become real. It does this through the online website and social media platforms, through events (mostly promoting other people’s events) and the weekly digest, through connecting entrepreneurs to investors or international funders/entrepreneurs/companies to the local ecosystem.
The Silicon Cape
Success for the brand is when it becomes a pronoun and people start referring to “Silicon Cape Startups” or saying “I’m from the Silicon Cape”. It’s when the brand is what will associate the greater Cape Town region (including Stellenbosch) as an international tech hub with a supporting ecosystem. It’s when that identity helps startups grow faster and helps ensure their success.
We’re not there yet. Heck, we’re only about 4 years down a 25 year path. But already you can see the snowball growing with increasing exits, activity, incubators, and funders happening in the region every year.
How can I help?
Is another commonly asked question. The short answer is keep doing cool stuff and align it with the brand. The more people doing cool stuff and associating it with Silicon Cape the stronger the brand grows. “A rising tide raises all ships.”
If you still want to be more actively involved, start a meet-up or event, share more news or get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to help out on some of the exco’s initiatives.
The bottom line is that you’re already part of the Silicon Cape. The startups, government, investors, schools, incubators in this region are already part of it. A success for any of these is a success for the Silicon Cape. And by combining all these successes the ecosystem grows.
Personally I really believe that we have world class talent and companies here. There is little reason we can’t become an international tech hub. We just need to break down these silo’s and market ourselves better. #SiliconCape