Akro Accelerate is a venture builder that focuses on building and scaling high-growth startups. The business has recently partnered with the SA SME Fund to launch a new kind of accelerator programme.
The programme takes place in June, predominantly focusing on assisting promising black entrepreneurs build and scale their businesses. The CEO, Philani Sangweni joined Akro after returning from France where he completed his INSEAD Executive MBA. He is a previous Accenture senior manager and ex-COO of Fundi and will incorporate his big business background and consulting experience with the Akro team’s dynamic venture-building spirit.
Akro Accelerate will be working with successful entrepreneurs, angel investors, development houses and other key players in Cape Town’s entrepreneurial ecosystem to build scalable businesses through its programme including Rupert Sully (SnapScan’s Head of Business), Lungelo Gumede (Excel @ Uni Founder and UCT GSB Lecturer), Mushambi Mutuma (Co-founder Altivex Creative Foundry) and Jason Basel (Co-founder EduOne).
Heavy Chef had a chat with CEO of Akro Accelerate, Philani Sangweni to find out more about Akro Accelerate.
1. What do you look for when selecting a startup to participate in your accelerator?
We are looking for two primary things - great people, and a great idea. Startups can be post or pre-revenue, provided that they have a prototype or minimum viable product that can be developed into a production-ready version within two to five months. More than one founder as well as at least one technical co-founder per startup is preferable, however this is not a hard requirement.
2. What’s the biggest mistake you see young startup entrepreneurs consistently making?
There are quite a few mistakes, but one we have seen consistently is that startups tend to work on marketing, strategy and a slew of other things before they have a real product that demonstrates a true market need. There is a massive unwarranted focus on vanity metrics that do not help startups get from A to B, and the solution is often as simple as re-focusing on building a great product. Then put focus on other areas that we will also be assisting with such as building a culture, writing and reviewing code, system architecture, building financial models, etc.
3. There are many accelerators in SA at the moment, for a relatively small number of startups. What makes Akro different?
We think it’s a combination of 3 different important factors that make Akro unique, as most other programs that we know do not have this combination:
Hands-on venture building approach - each of our mentors are instructed to ‘work in the business’ for whatever period of time they are working with businesses. If there is a sales strategy to implement, we’ll make the calls alongside the founders. If there is code to be written, we’ll write and review code right next to them. This is the fundamental guiding principle upon which the entire program is built - we get deeply involved, helping the founders take action on their key activities;
Small, 8-startup cohorts - We are die-hard about working intensively alongside the companies, as we believe strongly in a hands-on approach as above. In order to enable much more engagement, we run smaller cohorts to maximise face time;
We aim to get you investment-ready and funded within five months. We provide you with access to our network of angel investors and funds that have already been set aside by the SA SME Fund to be deployed through their partner funds. We also believe that being backed by the SA SME Fund will provide our startups with unparalleled opportunities.
The criteria for selection is quite simple. Startups can be post or pre-revenue, provided that they have a prototype or minimum viable product that can be developed into a production-ready version within two to five months. More than one founder as well as at least one technical co-founder per startup is preferable, however this is not a hard requirement.
Applications for the first cohort is currently open, and founders have until the 15th of May to apply at www.akro.co.za. The programme for the first cohort will start on the 10th of June.