Global Startup Weekend Women Finals in Paris.

UKZN Alumnus Runner-Up in Global Techno Entrepreneurship Contest

Global Start-up Weekend Women (GSWW) South Africa winner, UKZN alumnus Ms Farnaaz Shaikjee was the runner-up at the global finals of the competition held in Paris.

Shaikjee holds an Honours degree in Accounting and was an academic trainee at UKZN’s School of Accounting, Economics and Finance. She presented her Beauty Butler app at the finals.

Celebrating entrepreneurship in women, the global event involved women from more than 20 countries showcasing their diverse, inclusive and daring technology ideas.

Addressing the finalists, French Secretary of State in Charge of Digital Affairs Mr Mounir Mahjoubi emphasised the importance of start-ups to any economy, especially in times of recession as entrepreneurs help build up an economy by providing jobs and decreasing poverty.

Mahjoubi also pointed out that initiatives like the GSWW contributed to making the world a better place as it gave aspiring entrepreneurs the courage to pursue their ideas.

After winning the South African edition held at UKZN’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership, Shaikjee said the experience of an ‘ordinary girl from Durban’ becoming a runner up in Paris was like a dream, especially as she had to compete with individuals from first world countries such as the United States, Australia and France.

Shaikjee said travelling to Paris and being part of the GSWW was an experience she would never forget. ‘I’ve been abroad before, but nothing compares to Paris. It is truly a magical city one can easily fall in love with. Parisian life seems to be all about good food and high fashion. The French are really friendly and even though my French was limited, they tried their best to communicate.

‘The finals in Paris were challenging as we had to pitch our business idea in four minutes compared with five minutes in the South African competition. It was really nerve wracking as I had no home ground advantage. Most of the judges did not speak English as their first language, I had a global audience and I was competing against representatives from over 20 countries,’ she said.

Looking to the future Shaikjee wants to get her Beauty Butler app up and running in order to create a platform that will maximise the convenience of consumers seeking beauty services.

Regional and Local Economic Development (RLED) academic Professor Shahida Cassim, who organised the GSWW Durban contest, believes the initiative was a success as it achieved its goal of nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit and contributing to a start-up culture, particularly for women in the region.

Algeria won the contest with their business idea Safe Sahara – a digital app designed to detect and locate camels by placing a GPS tracker on the animal, which would link to a web mapping service such as Google Maps.

Words: Sibonelo Shinga