South African risk finance company, Business Partners, has announced that it will pay R400-million over the next five years to help brilliant ideas to be turned into businesses. Nazeem Martin, CEO of Business Partners, said that the absence of an effective venture capital system has cost the country dearly.
“Guys with bright ideas are getting impatient and going abroad. Sometimes they set up a business with the backing of local investors who, when it’s out of incubation, take it abroad and sell it on, as it were, to foreign venture capitalists who develop it. As a result we lose the technology, the patent, the bright idea and, most importantly, the bright young man or woman to another country.”
The R400-million venture fund will target businesses with the potential to grow beyond South Africa into Africa and the world. In many cases it will be used to help translate a brilliant scientific or technological idea, invention or bit of research into a business that will not only turn a handsome profit but make a developmental impact here in South Africa.
“There are wonderful people sitting on wonderful ideas. Most of them are at our universities. We’ve got some really bright people, we punch above our weight when it comes to PhDs, research papers being published, patents being registered- but how many of these have been turned into businesses? Not many. We want to work closely with them to help take those ideas to market, not only in South Africa but way beyond”, says Martin.
Business Partners was started 31 years ago by Rembrandt founder Anton Rupert as the Small Business Development Corporation. Since then it has financed 69000 mostly “lifestyle businesses” which employ on average between 15 and 25 people and are successful enough to afford the founders a comfortable lifestyle but don’t have the growth potential to expand much beyond their area of origin.