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Vinny Lingham

Vinny Lingham

Advisory Board Member, SABLE Accelerator; Co-founder and CEO, Gyft; Founder and Board Member, Yola

Why are you involved with the SABLE Accelerator?

In my continuing efforts to give back to South Africa after moving to Silicon Valley in 2008, along with co-founding the Silicon Cape Initiative, I have also been involved with a number of other efforts to help build up the tech and entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region. Among these efforts are Endeavor and various other NGOs, including SABLE. The SABLE team members are a committed and motivated group with big ideas for the region. I like big ideas, and I love South Africa!

What role will you play?

Given my commitments to my other ventures (having founded and run Clicks2Customers, Yola, and now Gyft) along with angel investments in Personera, SkyRove, ChessCube, and RunwaySale (all in South Africa), my time is somewhat limited, but I still aim to play a high-level advisory role in SABLE and act as a connector of sorts, helping start-ups from South Africa reach the right contacts in the U.S. and global markets.

How do you see this benefitting South African startups, entrepreneurs, etc.?

One of the critical elements missing from South Africa is the lack of network density in terms of knowing the right people and companies to work with and seek investment from. "Smart money" is also lacking in South Africa (investment capital that comes along with the right value-add from investors, such as introductions, networks, and business development opportunities). Having already built three global companies with offices and employees in multiple countries, I can point out that there are many pitfalls for young South African companies that want to grow quickly in the global market. It's important to have mentors that can guide them in the process.

How will it logistically and operationally function?

The SABLE Expert Network includes a wide range of trusted, expatriate South African assets with domain expertise in venture funding, corporate financing, international trade, business development, accounting, tax, law, M&A, IP licensing, marketing, distribution, pricing, training, compliance, and governance. One of the most valuable dimensions of the SABLE initiative is the formation of a community of expert global South Africans with knowledge, expertise, influence, and access abroad. SABLE will use a platform to enable global South Africans to present credentials and their engagement levels to enable innovators, entrepreneurs, start-ups, academic institutions, and companies to (a) search for compatible and relevant experts to help them take their product, concept, or IP to market, as well as seek out mentors, coaches, introductions, and even potential board members, and (b) gain access and introductions to larger and established organizations and companies to assist them in achieving their goals and finding financing or markets.

How does SABLE Accelerator aim to work with universities and research centers?

SABLE hopes to collaborate closely with members of the South African Business Schools Association and universities to further entrepreneurship, curriculum development, and global knowledge transfer to benefit both students and faculty members. In addition, academics and research staff can affiliate, serve on our faculty board, or take part in SABLE thought-leadership initiatives. The Dean of Stanford University's Graduate School of Business and that pre-eminent business school's professors of finance, management, and statistics are all expatriate South Africans and involved in the SABLE Accelerator. In addition, leading educators and researchers from the universities of Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Rhodes, and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan also serve on the SABLE faculty board.

SABLE can assist the universities and research centers by:

  • Promoting and growing awareness and recognition of South African universities as world-class research facilities
  • Connecting and engaging them with sources of early-stage funding, including awareness and attractiveness of universities funds
  • Finding partners to develop and incubate technology development
  • Assisting in review of current and new technologies to determine market potential
  • Providing guidance on research and contract support
  • Identifying commercial partners to license, distribute, and commercialize IP, including funding to grow and partner in worldwide markets
  • Providing market entry support to businesses formed on university-developed technology
  • Allowing student and faculty access to our global South African network of volunteer mentors and coaches
  • Giving access to our Palo Alto offices to entrepreneurs needing guidance, knowledge transfer, and access to Silicon Valley funding
  • Introducing and facilitating university faculty and alumni to network with other influential global South Africans through our platform
  • Establishing a conduit for speaking engagements either at the university or by the university's faculty

How does SABLE aim to attract and targets these entrepreneurs and innovators?

SABLE will partner with governments and institutions that will expose our initiative to their portfolio companies, clients, alumni, and prospects and provide them with world-class connections, experience, mentoring, and services—all delivered by fellow South Africans who understand where they are coming from, what challenges they face, and how they think. Think of it as turning the brain drain into the brain gain.

What are your success metrics?

We base our success on meeting our goals and objectives, which are both qualitative and quantitative. We will do this initially by building a dynamic community of expert global South Africans and, through partnerships and outreach, be able to quickly identify, recognize, and bring to market South African innovations that have international appeal.

What are the medium- to long-term goals of the initiative?

Our goals are to improve South Africa's brand, image, and competitiveness; foster entrepreneurship; create wealth and jobs; successfully impact social economics; and make a difference.

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