SOUTH AFRICA – Cell C Limited, a South African mobile company, has opened applications for an innovation challenge that offers tech startups access to interest-free loans and investment.

Cell C has partnered South Africa’s Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) to launch the Cell C Innovation Challenge, a challenge in which SMEs in the ICT sector will be able to pitch their ideas for a shot at accelerating the SME’s solutions.

The Cell C Innovation Challenge will give SMEs with great ideas a partnership opportunity that consists of interest-free loans, mentorship and the chance to work with Cell C as a supplier.

The challenge opened on Wednesday 9th October and, according to Cell C, there is no deadline to submit ideas. That having been said, the initial pitch days are scheduled for 30th and 31st October. Ideas submitted after this date could still be selected to present at pitch days in the future.

The network operator has also said that successful applicants will be contacted at least seven days before the pitch days in order to prepare. Those that submit pitches and don’t hear back from Cell C in 30 days should consider their initial entry unsuccessful.

“We believe in the exponential growth that technology-enabled services can bring to the world of work and play and want to be the catalyst that enables first-stage entrepreneurs to catapult their start up concepts into businesses,” said chief human capital development and transformation officer at Cell C, Juliet Mhango.

“This challenge not only provides support for up and coming businesses, but also sets the stage for technological revolution in the ICT sector, while providing a platform for meaningful transformation. There may be more than one successful SMME, so we are hoping that businesses will come out in numbers to provide compelling pitches to us.”

The operator is looking for innovative business ideas relevant to the ICT sector, with applicants’ products and solutions needing to be a digital, next generation, commercially viable and scalable utilising mobile technologies.

Selected startups will gain access to interest-free loans and have the opportunity to secure investment, while there is also the opportunity to become part of the Cell C supply chain. Ideas will be screened by an expert panel, with shortlisted startups taking part in pitching events at Cell C’s offices in Johannesburg.