Steve Vosloo, mLab Southern AfricaBy Staff Writer 14 October 2011 | Categories: interviews
With smartphones everywhere, the market for apps is exploding. mLab SA, a new regional lab for mobile technology entrepreneurs, application developers and innovators, was recently launched at The Innovation Hub, Pretoria. TechSmart talks to Steve Vosloo, mobile impact evangelist at mLab to discuss this excellent new initiative.
TechSmart (TS): Why the need to start an mLab here in SA?
Steve Vosloo (SV): While there exists an enormous mobile opportunity in the Southern Africa region, there are still challenges to creating a sustainable business in mobile and often the business model is not clear, thus requiring the services and support to be provided by an mLab.
TS: Who is providing the funding for this initiative?
SV: mLab SA and the recently opened mLab East Africa, in Nairobi, are the first of a number of mLabs to be launched around the world as part of the Creating Sustainable Businesses in the Knowledge Economy programme. This is supported by infoDev (World Bank), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Finland and Nokia. mLab SA is also generously supported by the South African Department of Science and Technology.
TS: What are the benefits of mLab for companies that form part of the project?
SV: Here are a few major benefits:
- Subsidised office space with meeting rooms and excellent internet connectivity.
- Training and accreditation on mobile technologies and entrepreneurship.
- Business mentoring and coaching, e.g. assistance with a business plan or mobile app monetisation strategy.
- Business intelligence, such as privileged access to market research information and knowledge repositories.
- Testing of mobile apps and services in dedicated test bays, which include handsets and virtual emulators, SDKs, training materials, etc.
- Certification of applications on key app stores.
- Access to finance: Linkages with funding instruments such as grants and seed capital, angel investors and venture capitalists.
- Shared services including reception, internet, test laboratories, etc.
TS: I am a developer, how do I sign up to become part of mLab?
SV: Go to www.mlab.co.za/membership. The mLab SA offers three types of membership: Community, which is free and which anyone can join, and Silver and Gold, for which members pay a fee to access the core services of the mLab SA facilities, and receive more structured support from the mLab SA team and its partners.
TS: Why the choice of the Innovation Hub in Pretoria? Would Johannesburg not be better suited?
SV: Last year organisations had to go through a bidding process to host the mLab Southern Africa. The successful bidding consortium consists of four organisations - CSIR Meraka Institute, the Innovation Hub, InnovationLab and Ungana-Afrika. Being based at the Innovation Hub was favourable for winning the bid as it supports the building of an ICT cluster in that space. Having said that, we know that the mobile community is distributed across South Africa and so we will have satellite offices in major centres, including Johannesburg.
This article first appeared in the October 2011 issue of TechSmart magazine.
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