The CDI’s Design Innovation Seed Fund (DISF) is currently in its third round of funding and is supporting five local innovations – the grant funding has enabled these businesses to reach important development milestones and has helped them to unlock further investment from the private sector.
The DISF funds designers, inventors, entrepreneurs and product developers with pre-revenue innovative technologies and tech-enabled ideas and products. These businesses are not able to raise funds easily from traditional banks or funding agencies because of the risks involved. The seed funding assists recipients to understand their opportunities by designing and building prototypes; and validating their assumptions around the technical and market-related challenges.
The DISF is a project of the Craft and Design Institute (CDI) with investment and management funds respectively provided by the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism. The DISF is managed by CDI Capital, which was incorporated as a CDI subsidiary in 2016 to catalyse funding for SMEs.
swiftVEE (Livestock) is South Africa’s first livestock and agricultural trading platform. They have built a digital platform for the livestock industry which aims to solve a number of livestock trading inefficiencies, and they have been recognised internationally for their technology innovation. The platform assists livestock agencies and farmers sell more livestock and sell more efficiently.
It provides farmers with real-time information on both livestock trade and input purchases and provides third parties with real-time data throughout the value chain. Since receiving the funding support from the DISF they completed their final design and development; signed up 20 livestock agencies in pre-launch; collected a database of over 20 000 farmers; collected over R1 billion worth of livestock trade data; and employed four sales staff. This progress enabled them to secure a further R3m in private venture capital, and in 2019 they won a United Nations award for agri-tech sustainability, and a TT100 award for the best technology company providing sustainability through agri-tech in the small business category.
It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be recognised as a global technology leader. From humble beginnings, great things can happen, and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the CDI and TIA for its support. – Russel Luck, swiftVEE
Legal Connection is a Cape Town based technology start-up and aims to build a matter management platform on which legal work can take place. Their platform assists legal firms with referrals, networking, document sharing and communication between lawyers and with clients.
Thanks to the DISF grant, they were able to build a full working system that is robust enough to solve the needs of clients but also allows for those clients to invite other practitioners from within the legal and justice ecosystem. This means that the product is taking a life of its own as the lawyers invite their team members and members of their organisations. They are now live in a number of organisations and working on developing new features in reaction to client needs as they use the platform to scale up their own operations.
The project achieved all of the milestones we set out to achieve – we designed, built and deployed a working product and took it to market. What started as an idea has become a real product and we now have interest not only from within South Africa but from organisations around the world. We have both a small set of users and very big dreams for how to scale and innovate as we grow. The future is bright for Legal Connection and we’re looking to be the biggest and most useful legal technology product in the world. – Guy Stern, Legal Connection
Vula Mobile is a Cape Town based technology start-up. It’s a Professional Medical Network, which aims to improve healthcare by linking registered health workers with specialists via specialised apps and an online dashboard. Its objective is to develop a robust, automated and secure registration process for health workers both in South Africa and Internationally.
Vula continues to grow rapidly, with 9 100 registered health workers and 180 000 patients being helped, this is increasing at 10 doctors and 400 patients per day. They also launched their first national service: The National Vaccine Helpline; and they have been appointed as the national referral system by the National Department of Health. Vula has also entered into a two-year contract with a consortium of organisations called EPIC, who have licensed Vula as a referral system to connect their health workers with pharmacists on call. Vula won MTN’s Best Health App of the Year 2019.
They have had requests from several countries in Africa as well as two countries in Europe. They are completing their next DISF milestones, which includes the schematics for multi-national deployment.
The support from DISF has been incredible. It has been amazing to have them involved in our journey as we both commercialise and improve healthcare in South Africa and in the future beyond. – William Mapham, Vula Mobile
EveryChild is a mobile application which empowers township educare centres to run fund-raising campaigns by leveraging their families’ need for FMCG products. EveryChild provides parents with monthly FMCG product offers which, when purchased provide a retail reward which is allocated to the educare’s fund.
The EveryChild project is on track to achieve its milestones. They have created a platform that provides front-end functionality to allow educare owners to register their schools, initiate fundraising projects, invite parents to join the projects and track progress. The product also includes a back-end content management and administration system for the EveryChild team to control notifications/SMSs to parents, upload scanned receipts and edit/control all profiles.
They have commenced with the integration of a receipt scanner to the back-end portal to better automate the data collection and analysis process. They expect to complete this in December 2019, and this will unlock the primary revenue stream for the platform.
Thanks to the progress made to date with the DISF grant, the team has also recently unlocked funding from the private sector.
As a team, we cannot stress the value that the DISF grant has been able to unlock for our social innovation. The grant has given us the ability to test and validify both business and operational model assumptions in a real world setting with our beneficiaries. As a result, this process has ensured that our product provides a meaningful and relevant impact to its intended beneficiaries. Furthermore, the grant has already de-risked our business substantially as an investment opportunity which will yield tremendous impact into the future. EveryChild is deeply grateful to have received this opportunity. – Lauren Drake, EveryChild
GIS by BMEC Technologies
Grommets are used in the treatment of fluid build-up in the middle ear and consist of a small tube that is inserted into the eardrum to allow drainage of the middle ear. The GIS aims to drastically simplify the level of skill and equipment required for successful grommet insertion with the objective of transforming grommet insertion into a low-cost outpatient procedure. A provisional SA patent has been filed for the GIS and pre-clinical trials have shown that 58% of ENTs preferred the GIS to traditional techniques. The GIS has been successfully CE marked and is now available on the market for use in humans. BMEC is actively seeking a distribution partner for this innovative medical device.
Simply put, projects like this would not get off the ground without the support of the DISF fund and we look forward to the GIS delivering on the fund’s objective to create sustainable IP that contributes to the socioeconomic development of South Africa. – Raphael Smith, BMEC Technologies
The BinTag System is a low-cost yield mapping solution for hand-harvested fruits such as apples, pears and citrus. BinTag is a location-based tracking tool for fruit bins that collects data from the orchard to generate a yield map of its trees. This information is critical to precision farming.
BinTag has completed the hardware and software for the first field trial and the information collated in the trial will inform the next product revision, and a provisional SA patent application has been filed.