Stellenbosch LaunchLab: Top Challenger from Africa Connecting Incubation Matured Startups with Corporates

Every month we get several requests from corporate innovation teams, international MBA groups, local post-grads looking for research interviews and many other groups of people that simply want to come experience the Nedbank Stellenbosch University LaunchLab. What is it that makes this community of entrepreneurs so interesting that visitors from Europe, North America and Southeast Asia make a point to come and see what the LaunchLab community is all about?


The LaunchLab was initially set up to incubate Stellenbosch University spinout companies from research and to enable Stellenbosch University to service the broader entrepreneurship community. These plans were boosted when Nedbank came onboard as our key partner as fintech was becoming a buzzword. The stats now show that LaunchLab has enabled Stellenbosch University to not only incubate spinout companies but startups from the broader startup ecosystem as well, with university spin-outs at 15% of our 40 current incubatees, and the majority, 60%, are from the broader South African startup ecosystem, 22% being fintech related. Also, only 25% of our incubatees are undergraduate students. These are founders looking for a vibrant community where they can find access to market and funding. We have intentionally curated a diverse community of entrepreneurs across various industries to create a microcosm of a functioning economy, where we frequently see partnerships form between our startups and between our startups and other partners to add momentum to their growth.


We have startups spread across multiple industries including agritech, fintech, health, smart cities, safety, education and media.


Just less than half (48%) of our incubatees are validating their business model, while the majority are putting together their due diligence data rooms (an offering of one of our programmes) and actively looking to grow their customer base and find investors as needed.


The bulk of our programmes focus on developing “startup skills,” which was identified by the Global Entrepreneurship Development Institute in 2017 as THE KEY obstacle facing South African startups. Startup skills are the softer skills like leadership, emotional intelligence, self-awareness, empathy and similar intangible skills that help founders network, understand their customers, build and lead teams and close sales.


We are also home to a small group of (9) service providers that we specifically chose to be available for our incubatees. Resident with us are copywriters, digital marketers, accountants, photographers, videographers and a makerspace with resident prototyping engineer.


Our team consists of an ex venture-capital investor, 2 MBAs who have worked on startup teams, a professional business coach, and a strong support team that is the heart and soul of the community.


We also have several technology partnerships who have made their offerings available at a discount or given away free credits to our community to help them grow:

  • Internet Solutions: Our ISP providing our startups with free internet access
  • AWS Activate: Free cloud credits
  • Google Cloud: Free cloud credits
  • HubSpot: 90% discount on non-CRM products (CRM is already free)
  • RS Components: R300k donation of tools and components for making hardware and prototyping
  • Solidworks: Free licences to their 3D design software
  • SigFox: Access to free developer kits to create IoT solutions


What has this community accomplished since moving into the 1200m2 space on the edge of the Stellenbosch University Campus in early 2015?

  • 16 pilots projects with our corporate partners (corporate programmes started in 2016)
  • Raised more than R100m in risk capital (not all amounts have been disclosed publicly)
  • Acquired customers in 15 nations on 6 continents


Because of what these amazing humans have been able to accomplish, in 2018 LaunchLab was named the Top Challenger from Africa to make their list of top 20 university-linked incubators in the world.  There were no African incubators featured in the top 20, but we hope to be the first!


Are you a corporate interested in joining this world-class community? Find out more:


Or, do you have a solution that one of our corporate partners would be interested in? Apply here: