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University of KwaZulu-Natal Westville Campus, GSB&L Building

Westville Campus

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University Road

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Ever wondered what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

The professional and personal challenges, the high and lows, the failures and the success?

Startup Weekend is a global grassroots movement of active and empowered entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures. It is the largest community of passionate entrepreneurs with over 1800 past events in 120 countries around the world in 2014.

The non-profit organization is headquartered in Seattle, Washington but Startup Weekend organizers and facilitators can be found in over 200 cities around the world. From Mongolia to South Africa to London to Brazil, people around the globe are coming together for weekend long workshops to pitch ideas, form teams, and start companies.

All Startup Weekend events follow the same basic model: anyone is welcome to pitch their startup idea and receive feedback from their peers. Teams organically form around the top ideas (as determined by popular vote) and then it’s a 54 hour frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing, and market validation. The weekends culminate with presentations in front of local entrepreneurial leaders with another opportunity for critical feedback.

Whether entrepreneurs found companies, find a cofounder, meet someone new, or learn a skill far outside their usual 9-to-5, everyone is guaranteed to leave the event better prepared to navigate the chaotic but fun world of startups. If you want to put yourself in the shoes of an entrepreneur, register now for the best weekend of your life!

UKZN Hosts the Largest Ever Startup Weekend in SA


Caption: Aspiring entrepreneurs and participants of the first Startup Weekend event in Durban.

The Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB&L) put KwaZulu-Natal on the map when it hosted the first ever Startup Weekend event in Durban from 27 to 29 September.

Mr Julian Parr of Startup Weekend Global described the event as the largest of its kind in Africa.Startup Weekend, a creative global entrepreneurial initiative aimed at nurturing local aspiring entrepreneurs, provided a platform for aspirant entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas, form teams, build offerings and launch start-ups.

The hosting of Startup Weekend Durban was championed by Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at the GSB & L, Professor Shahida Cassim, who is a firm believer in the generation of innovation as a key stimulant to growing local economies and in particular in KwaZulu-Natal.

Welcoming the participants on Friday Cassim said: ‘We want to see the University playing a critical role in developing a vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem located in an equally vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem.’

The event attracted more than 100 aspiring entrepreneurs from Durban and surrounding areas who were given a platform to workshop and showcase their innovative ideas. They had the opportunity to network and to be coached by established local entrepreneurs.

Owner and CEO of International Bank Vaults (IBV), Mr Ashok Sewnarain, delivered an inspirational address to the participants and shared his personal journey to success as a property entrepreneur at the age of 29.

However, not satisfied with his success in one venture, he identified a gap and an opportunity for bank vaults in the banking sector. With sheer determination and courage, he established IBV in Durban and later in Johannesburg. This successful venture has plans to expand to Cape Town and internationally.

Sewnarain emphasised the importance of knowledge, conviction and perseverance, encouraging aspirant entrepreneurs to invest time researching their concepts in order to be better prepared to deal with the challenges associated with starting a business.

After two days of developing, reviewing and pivoting their business concepts, teams of participants presented their Startups to a panel of judges and potential investors. The concepts were aimed at addressing real consumer problems with many creative business concepts presented including data management solutions for informal traders; secured on-line document vaults; financial products; educational services and products; and eco-friendly goods and services. The presentations covered various aspects of the business model canvas the entrepreneurs had learned to develop.

After considerable deliberation by the panel of judges, Mr Anieto Anthony and Mr Pfano Mashau were declared the overall winners of the event for their concept named Reminder – a micro-chip product which alerts owners if they have forgotten their valuables. Their idea was described by the judges as innovative.

They won R20 000 and a 12-month premium membership to a procurement portal from Absa as well as a three- month free membership to Virtual Office courtesy of BizFarm. Four other teams won prizes valued at over R100 000.

A Computer Science student from UKZN, Mr Thabo Kwenati, enjoyed participating in a team with high school learners from Umlazi saying: ‘I was removed from my comfort zone and it was great to be exposed to different perspectives.’

Startup Weekend Durban demonstrated a true partnership between academia and industry. Partners in the event included the eThekwini Municipality, Absa, Sigma International, Technology Innovation Agency, and Shanduka Black Umbrellas.

Cassim noted that Startup Weekend was one of a range of innovation and entrepreneurship events that aimed to develop a generation of young leaders with an entrepreneurial mindset and the right attitudes and attributes to promote innovation in the South African economy.

Sponsor Mr Akash Singh of Sigma International commended the GSB & L and suggested the weekend become a permanent feature on the Durban Calendar of business events.


Images from the Event


Intellectual Property (IP)

by swdurban

IP essentially refers to creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs used […]



Sep 27
  • Registration Starts
  • Official opening and programme
  • Welcome & Speakers
  • Pitches Start
  • Attendees vote for the top ideas
  • Dinner & Networking
  • Teams start forming, discussing ideas, working together and planning
  • Start to formalize teams and take an inventory of skills. Be honest and direct about what resources and skills are needed for the weekend. You may stay and work as late as the venue will allow


Sep 28
  • Teams arrive, simple breakfast and coffee
  • Teams formed and setting up workspace for the weekend
  • Lunch
  • Call for needs & skills
  • Coaches help teams one-on-one. They are here to help!
  • Dinner
  • Mid weekend check-in, status reports, call for help
  • Finished for the day. You may stay and work as late as the venue will allow


Sep 29
  • Teams arrive, simple breakfast & coffee
  • Call for help (this is self motivated, so don't be shy)
  • Coaches arrive…ASK QUESTIONS
  • Gut check. Start prepping for presentations
  • Lunch
  • FINAL Presentations
  • Judging and Awards
  • Wrap up, programme closure, Light Snacks
  • Go home!
Shahida Cassim
Atul Padalkar

Akash Singh


Mr Akash Singh is a registered Chartered Accountant and has completed his MBA (in Strategic Planning). He is the Chief Executive Officer at Sigma International, a Global consulting business with offices in South Africa and the USA. He has been a member of the Board of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the last 8 years. This places Akash at the forefront of local (and global) economic development for small, medium and large businesses.

Akash has recently been appointed President of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Africa’s largest and oldest Metropolitan Chamber. He is also a member of the Board and Council of the South African Chambers of Commerce and Industry (SACCI). Akash is the Honorary Consulate to Republic of Philippines for Kwazulu Natal.

Prior to joining Sigma International, Akash was the General Manager: Product at Nedcor as well as General Manager: Finance at BoE Bank. Prior to banking, he was a Dispute Analysis and Investigations Manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers (Durban) where he had undertaken a series of investigations both in the private and public sector. Akash completed his articles at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Akash has extensive experience in business strategy, mentoring, coupled with strong commercial skills, particularly with regard to business turnarounds and capital restructuring. He has trained in excess of 4 000 small, medium and large businesses on various practical subjects. Akash has also been selected as a representative to PUM, a Netherlands government programme that provides global mentorship.


Jonathan Naidoo


Jonathan Naidoo is employed as the Chief Executive Officer at SmartXchange. Jonathan is an economics graduate with post graduate specialization in research methods, political and economic geography. Jonathan also holds certificate courses in Imports & Exports, Project Financing for Public Private Partnerships, Conflict Management, Program Management, Financial Modeling, an Estate Agents Diploma and an Education Diploma specializing in Mathematics. Jonathan also completed a “Trade Promotion for South Africa” course in Japan. Jonathan has extensive experience on trade and investment related activities, having led and accompanied a number of outward and inward business missions. Jonathan’s vast business experiences coupled with his connectivity both domestically and internationally has earned him a reputation of an astute “deal maker”.

Jonathan was previously the head of Economic Research, Policy and Lobbying at the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry and after restructuring he became the Team Leader of Trade & Investment, which also included the economic portfolio. Jonathan then went on to be the Chief Operations Officer at Trade and Investment KwaZulu Natal from 2004 to 2009 and thereafter became the Sales and Marketing Director for the Sub-Saharan Africa Region for the Austrian Tolling company, EFKON AG. Jonathan served as President of the Hibiscus Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as an Executive member of both the UGU District Council and the Port Shepstone Transitional Local Council. Jonathan is currently appointed onto the Hibiscus Coast Mayoral Economic Advisory Committee.

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