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Expats offer SA innovators global clout
5 September 2012, News

A bold new initiative has been started to promote and assist South African innovators to achieve global success, in the form of the SABLE Accelerator (South African Business Link to Experts).

The concept taps into the minds of well-positioned South African expatriates to help the country be more competitive in terms of innovation and entrepreneurship across both the private and public sectors.

Operating out of California’s Silicon Valley, the network of expats features an illustrious board of advisors and academic faculty of South African born loyalists with the goal of mentoring and assisting entrepreneurs, product innovators and universities with new venture growth, technology transfer and foreign market access.

The initiative was incepted by three ‘Saffers’ living in Silicon Valley and London, and features a core consulting team of influential expatriates holding senior positions at international technology, life science and agri-business companies; consulting and professional service firms; venture capital and private equity funds; as well as research and academic institutions, including the new venture spawning ground of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

During a recent trip to SA, Donovan Neale-May, one of the co-founders and managing partners of the SABLE Accelerator, said “We are building a trusted knowledge network of well-placed and highly connected Global South Africans who can make a meaningful difference to the country’s brand image and competitive position in world markets.”

Neale-May runs a global marketing consultancy and is executive director of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council, a worldwide membership group of 6000 corporate marketers controlling more than $300 billion in aggregated annual marketing spend. He is a graduate of Rhodes University and serves on the university’s board of governors.

“There is an amazing South African talent pool offshore that is eager and motivated to give back and contribute to socio-economic development in their country of origin,” added Nils Flaaten, CEO of WESGRO, The Western Cape Destination Marketing, Investment and Trade Promotion Agency.

Flaaten has joined the board of SABLE and will collaborate closely with its founding members and expert network worldwide. He noted that countries like India, Taiwan, Australia and Israel were highly advanced in forming expatriate support networks to fund and promote new venture starts and South Africa needed to mobilise its resource base as well.

SABLE members have already referred potential investors to the Western Cape agency and many of its early meetings and consultations have been with technology ventures based in Cape Town and surrounding areas.

In addition, academics from the technology transfer and innovation offices of both UCT and Stellenbosch serve on the faculty of the SABLE Accelerator. Other South African universities represented include Rhodes University and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

Earlier this year, SABLE members met separately in Silicon Valley with National Planning Minister Trevor Manuel and Deputy Minister of International Cooperation and Relations Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim. The meetings were hosted by South African academics at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business in Palo Alto. This included the Dean, Garth Saloner, and the Professor of Finance, Jonathan Berk.

South African-based innovators will also be able to register and post information about their intellectual property or new business models on the www.sablenetwork.com website with the aim of furthering links to experts and sources of funding and business development support worldwide.

They will also be able to search for compatible and relevant global experts to help them take their IP or business models to market, as well as provide advice, coaching, mentoring and introductions.


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