Heavy Chef was lucky enough to get some of Ellen Fischat's time, the very first MD of Silicon Cape. Her story is fascinating, with roles around child protection and guidance, to discovering her passion for tech.
Ellen, you are the first MD of Silicon Cape, tell us what excited you about joining the team?
Who would not have wanted to join this remarkable organisation, globally renowned for their establishment and support of the startup ecosystem in the Western Cape. And in South Africa for that matter?!
Before coming to Cape Town, you grew up in the Netherlands and lived in P.E, with roles around child protection and child guidance, why the move to the techie, entrepreneur world?
I get asked that question a lot and I understand why. What most people don't know, is that Social Workers are trained to be problem solvers, improve and grow positive cohesion within groups or communities. And because there is never any budget for social development, you have to understand how to leverage scarce resources, negotiate, support and hustle!
Any startup techie or entrepreneur requires similar support when they set up their business. You need to understand where to seek support, how to communicate your value proposition and what problems you solve for others (customers). So I am still helping problem solve and getting things done, but in the fascinating world of technology.
What are the main functions of Silicon Cape?
Silicon Cape has many different functions. We offer non-financial business support to members. So we refer them to our specialized partners in the ecosystem. We create awareness for entrepreneurial opportunities through our newsletter and website and keep the community informed. We lobby for regulatory and policy reform so that setting up and growing a successful business is made easier for entrepreneurs and economic growth is stimulated, by job creation provided by these entrepreneurs. We make it our business to promote the startup community and technology industry, making it accessible to diverse groups in our population; so that includes women, people of colour, the youth, people who struggle with physical challenges and any other group that is not yet represented in tech.
What are the biggest challenges that Silicon Cape is currently facing?
Our biggest challenge is ensuring that we have sustainable resources to grow the organisation and accelerate support for technology startups. We can extend our support to the tech community through our partner programmes, but our global reach remains underutilized.
Silicon Cape have very credited founders such as Vinny Lingham and Justin Stanford, so are the original founders still involved? (And if so, in what capacity?)
The original founders are not directly involved in the strategic direction or operations of Silicon Cape. Their remote support however is always present.
What does the future hold for Silicon Cape?
Big things!! Spreading the successes and lessons learned with the rest of country and continent for that matter. Extending our reach and building a thriving tech entrepreneurial community countrywide. South Africa must continue to be the tech gateway to Africa.
You’ve been in the city for six months; what are the most exciting startups coming out of Cape Town that you’ve seen during your tenure?
I can't identify favourite startups- that would just get me into trouble! :) There are so many local, leading and exciting startups , solving world problems and being recognized globally. Some of the awesome startups I have met are Aerobotics, Xander, FOMO Travel, Timu, Hepstar, HouseMe , SweepSouth , Recomed, Intellicred and a whole lot more!
Why do you think startups are basing themselves in the Cape opposed to Johannesburg?
Because there is a true sense of community here. Many startups choose to collaborate instead of only compete with each other. The City is vibrant and we are surrounded by the most beautiful natural environment. The lifestyle attracts a diverse group of global citizens and there is a higher concentration of investment support and opportunity in Cape Town.
Does Silicon Cape help startups find investment, or is it purely to help promote startups and educate the community about these startups?
We refer startups to VC funds, SAVCA, financing institutions and our partners that provide specialized and expert support, like incubation and acceleration programmes. Our role is one of creating awareness and education and amplifying the work that our incredible partners do in this space.
To find out more about what Silicon Cape is up to, visit their website here: Silicon Cape.