The Savant 2023 Entrepreneurs in Residence programme (EIR) is officially underway. The programme aims to give proactive and ambitious individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit the opportunity to gain hands-on experience while working with a diverse group of early-stage technology businesses.
Investing in the future
Savant aims to provide bespoke business development support to hardware technology inventors on their start-up growth journey.
“Teamwork is integral to our approach” says Nick Allen, Savant’s CEO. “We believe that collaboration and networking are the cornerstones of any successful venture and are key factors to a strong entrepreneurship ecosystem. Our approach with our EIR’s is hands-on, and they are involved in all aspects of the business, from development and strategic business support to engagement with our portfolio of early-stage technology businesses. We are proud to partner with the Sibanye Stillwater iXS program to enable our EIRs to work with pioneering early-stage companies in the mining industry.”
In the hot seat
This year we onboarded three new EIRs: Kirshen Naidoo, Mthobisi Shandu and Steve Vey – all of whom bring a unique mix of experience and personality to the Savant team.
Originating from Durban, Kirshen Naidoo introduces himself as an innovative, out-of-the-box entrepreneur who is also a chemical engineer, MBA graduate and a Star Wars fan. With a passion for tech entrepreneurship, disruptive innovation and start-ups in the engineering space, Kirshen has also built his own tech start-up in the engineering gig economy, called Gig Engineer, so he is very familiar with many of the challenges founders face. We asked him, how his background and experience has equipped him for his role as an EIR at Savant?
“In my 15 years of executing projects across various engineering sectors and countries, I’ve learnt that building strong, quality relationships with those you work with is just as important as getting the job done. In today’s world, we need strong, agile leaders, pioneers and out-of-the-box thinkers to navigate tomorrow’s challenges – and this is where my strength lies.”
Of his new role at Savant, Kirshen comments; “Savant’s focus is on the engineering, science and technology space – and this is where my passion also lies. They have a great team that are results-driven, and this is a good culture fit for me. I enjoy working with disruptive start-ups that are changing the world for the better, which is exactly where Savant invests.”
Mthobisi Shandu has a BSc (Hons) Geology, MDP, is currently completing an MBA, and has several varied entrepreneurship stints under his belt. Mthobisi is passionate about working with start-ups, as this offers him the opportunity to be at the forefront of emerging technologies and to be involved in shaping the future of various industries. Mthobisi says; “I believe it is an exciting and rewarding experience to work alongside passionate and driven founders who are motivated to make a meaningful impact in their respective fields.”
When asked what drew him to want to work in venture capital (VC) and with start-ups, Mthobisi said, “Venture capital is an important aspect of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, providing start-ups with the funding they need to grow and scale their businesses. Innovation and technological progress are key drivers of economic growth, which is desperately needed in South Africa and in Africa. VC plays a crucial role in supporting and fuelling this progress. Being at Savant allows me the opportunity to work with some of the brightest minds in the industry, shaping the future of technology and innovation.”
The proud new dad of two puppies, Coco and Pop, Steve Vey studied a BSc in Chemical and Polymer Science at Stellenbosch University followed, by a postgrad and MBA at Stellenbosch Business School. Steve is an ‘ideas man’ and loves how a simple idea can become a company that changes the world. “I am always thinking about how a process can be improved, or why isn’t there a device that can do something more efficiently. I joined a start-up in 2019 and saw firsthand the passion and determination that drives founders, especially in Africa, but I also saw a knowledge gap in business and how great ideas can fail without guidance and mentorship. I want to fill that gap!”
I love ideas and how they can become companies that change the world. – Steve Vey; Savant EIR
With such varied experience, knowledge and expertise, we then wanted to know what each of our EIR’s were hoping to gain from their time at Savant and what being an Entrepreneur in Residence at Savant meant to them:
According to Kirshen, “Entrepreneurship is a journey not a destination. Being an EIR means applying your knowledge to some of the unique challenges facing start-ups, working with, and learning from others, supporting start-ups in a collaborative way to help them become successful, and to have the foresight to see opportunities.”
As someone who loves the start-up sector, Steve says that, “being an Entrepreneur in Residence at Savant means having the opportunity to immerse myself in a dynamic and innovative environment, where I can work alongside experienced entrepreneurs and seasoned investors to bring game-changing ideas to life. As EIRs, we are uniquely positioned to tap into the expertise of the Savant team to understand the VC ecosystem, and how it relates to getting start-ups from ideation to conception. Moreover, I have the chance to network with like-minded individuals, learn from their experiences, and build relationships that could potentially lead to future collaborations and partnerships.”
So, how have they found the Savant EIR journey so far? Mthobisi, responds, “Being at Savant has enabled me to have a better understanding of the inner workings of a venture capital firm, and I have had the opportunity to interact with many amazing founders within the Savant portfolio and in the broader ecosystem. This experience has already provided me with more insight into some of the activities happening in the coal face of the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”