Nurturing South African entrepreneurs pays off

Thmprnt’s relationship with Esri South Africa began back in 2016 with our decision to enter the GeoJozi Developers Competition.  A joint initiative between the City of Joburg, Wits University’s Joburg Centre for Software Engineering and Esri South Africa, the developer challenge offered R300 000 in prizes to developers who could provide innovative solutions for identifying the city’s streets, buildings, stands and dwellings. We saw the competition as a solution to our start-up company’s cashflow problems, and decided to improve our odds of winning by entering the competition as individuals.

26 April 2018

While none of us won the competition, our start-up, Thmprnt, was invited to participate in Esri South Africa’s enterprise development programme which provides sponsored training to selected 100% black-owned start-up companies. Since 2017, our company has been a benefactor of the incubation programme and we have had the privilege of experiencing what it really means to be a part of the Esri South Africa family.

The first time we sat down to discuss the objectives of our incubation with Esri South Africa’s Managing Director, Patrick McKivergan, we were expecting to be told that the support on offer would simply involve access to Esri software. To our surprise, the assistance we were given went much further. McKivergan summed up the source of our problems and identified the solution to the question of whether or not we would live to code another day. It involved one word; cashflow.

After that initial meeting, Esri South Africa put our organisation to work. Over and above being provided with Esri software, we were also given project work which assisted us in two significant ways. We were paid for our labour as service providers enabling us to reach our financial goals of becoming an organisation capable of sustainable growth and profit generation, and we gained much needed experience and portfolio work from the largest mapping software organisation in the world.

Working closely with Verosha Naidoo, the SMME Account Manager at Esri South Africa, we began tackling the challenges put before us. Our tasks were to reskin the ArcGIS for Local Authorities out-of-the-box solution, to redevelop the educational mapping and GIS application for schools, FundaLula, and to organise a StartTech meeting. Our progress has been difficult at times, resulting in many sleepless nights, but we continually aim to improve the quality of our work and ourselves as professionals.

Esri South Africa has been a launchpad for us, enabling us to obtain work from other multinational corporations. Our portfolio of work carried out for Esri South Africa has resulted in us being taken more seriously in business boardrooms, where requests for past evidence of skill set are the norm. In addition, the cashflow support we have received from Esri South Africa has carried us through turbulent periods where our size and inexperience left us unable to effectively forecast client payment schedules and behaviours. These contributions have benefitted us immeasurably and we would not have been able to engage with some of the organisations we have worked with if it had not been for the mentorship provided by Esri South Africa’s enterprise development programme.

The programme has not only tested us as developers and as business owners, and stabilised us financially, it has also helped us to grow as individuals. It has been an invaluable experience to be part of this business incubation programme – to learn about running a business, to overcome development challenges, and to learn about each other as co-owners, colleagues, and as individuals. Through this processes we have managed to refine ourselves and our business model. We have pivoted where it has been necessary and we have taken hard decisions where needed. We have grown to be stronger entrepreneurs, stronger developers, and stronger people.