SOUTH AFRICA – Grindstone Accelerator, a structured entrepreneurship development programme, has received a R25 million (US$1.5m) investment from the SA SME Fund and concluded partnership agreements with Google for Start-ups and Deloitte to extend its reach.

The accelerator will greatly increase activities by doubling intake numbers, digitising learning content and running annual programmes in both Cape Town and Johannesburg to add six cohorts of 10 scale-up companies each over the next three years.

The SA SME Fund was established by members of the CEO Initiative – a collaboration between government, labour and business to address some of the most pressing challenges to the country’s economic growth – as an avenue of support for the SME sector.

“The SA SME Fund is committed to developing world-class local entrepreneurs and Grindstone is a good fit as it has shown consistent results in supporting and growing successful South African high-growth SMEs,” Ketso Gordhan, CEO of the SA SME Fund, said.

The SA SME Fund is providing funding support to the next 60 Grindstone companies to enable them to close the initial growth gaps identified.

Further growth funding is also available on commercial terms to scale the companies through Knife Capital as well as other funding vehicles backed by the SA SME Fund.

“The accelerator programme was created by compressing the VC firm’s venture capital engagement model of aggressively growing a company for three to five years into an intense year-long programme,” Andrea Bӧhmert,co-managing partner at Knife Capital, said.

To manage the programmes and partnerships, Grindstone has appointed a new programme director, Will Green.

According to the accelerator, Green is an emerging market entrepreneur and advisor who brings over 19 years of business experience, networks and first-hand entrepreneurial knowledge to Grindstone and companies in the cohorts.

Green has worked with many start-ups, scale-ups and corporates across different industries within South Africa and abroad.

“I was fortunate to take part in the inaugural Grindstone programme and have been involved as an active alumni and mentor over the past four years. I’m extremely excited to be joining the Grindstone team and work with some of the region’s brightest people to advance the local entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Green.

Successful businesses that have completed the Grindstone programme include iKubu (subsequently acquired by Garmin), Payfast (acquired by DPO Group), SeaMonster Animation, Electrum Payments, Iono fm, Quicket (funded by Knife Capital), PICSA Finance, WhereIsMyTransport (recently raised a $7.5 million round from Google and Toyota), Locstat, Granite WMS (funded by Knife Capital) and OneCart.

Grindstone is a structured entrepreneurship development programme, jointly owned by venture capital firm Knife Capital and African ecosystem player Thinkroom Consulting, which assists high-growth innovation-driven SMEs to become sustainable and fundable.

Grindstone supplies each cohort in a year-long programme with knowledge, networks and funding readiness through growth measurement, gap analysis and interventions designed to build a foundation for growth, transfer skills, create relevant business networks and enable these companies to take advantage of market access opportunities.

The SA SME Fund supported the current Grindstone Five Johannesburg cohort, and confirmed another three-year partnership with its investment.

“The ‘Grindstone Google for Start-ups’ initiative will connect Grindstone to an elite group of the world’s top accelerators, allowing it to share information and leverage resources. Kevin O’Toole, Google’s global head of accelerator strategy, operations, partnerships and programmes said.