The Cape Information Technology Initiative (CITI) announced the Unysen Bandwidth Barn to the media end last week, a private/public sector partnership to incubate start-up IT companies in the Western Cape.
The Department of Trade and Industry contributed R1 million to the project, with Minister of Trade and Industry, Alec Erwin, stating, “The department will continue to look favourably on supporting similar projects by CITI and others in future.”
Contributions from the private sector included R500 000 and bandwidth donated by UUNet SA, development and implementation of a business plan by Synogic and a naming sponsorship from Unesyn.
The Barn itself is a four storey building located in Lower Long Street in Cape Town, offering floor space at R45/month per square meter, high-speed bandwidth donated by UUNet and shared facilities, such as reception. But most important, according to Judith Middleton, Marketing Manager of CITI, is the community within the Barn, allowing entrepreneurs to share and criticize ideas.
In fact, entrepreneurship is the only entrance criterion, as decided by CITI Executive Director Peter Frampton, and the six member executive committee.
Currently, the Barn is full-up, with 19 “incubytes” — companies ranging from one to seven members — occupying the premises. The intention is for incubytes to stay no longer than a year, says Middleton. Three companies have already moved on and were replaced “the same day,” thanks to a waiting list.
According to Middleton, full occupancy was already achieved in February. This demand has necessitated an investigation into leasing more property in the precinct. This will lead to the second phase of the project, the establishment of an IT precinct, hopefully realized within the next few months, says Middleton.
The Barn will also soon house an outreach program, focused on education and exposing historically disadvantaged individuals to IT. The Gateway Discovery Trust and International NGO Bridges.org will partner CITI in this project.