Local businesses earn kudos for innovative ideas

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Last week, Digital marketplace BlueAvo was selected as a runner up, earning 10,000 (more than R172,000) in the process, while LignOrganic’s product Dissolv Bioplastic was shortlisted on the prestigious list.

Co-founder of BlueAvo, Indira Tsengiwe,  the first South African woman to be put on the list, said her company began after realising that opportunities in the creative economy are not equal.

“This is because access to opportunities has been based on who you know, and not what you know or your creative talent. Until now, creatives have had little access to a pipeline of commercial opportunity because they didn’t know the right people, while brands have had little access to talented African creatives that they could trust. So, despite the potential of this lucrative market the same people kept getting the same jobs,” Tsengiwe said.

Her solution with co-founder Isaac Tshiteta was to connect brands, startups, agencies and marketers to digital creatives across Africa effectively opening up the industry.

“BlueAvo is a web based solution which converts the African creative economy into an Internet-based marketplace. The platform handles the legal work (deals with IP transfer), we manage payment of the creatives in 50+ currencies to ensure that they do not need to chase after payment,” said Tsengiwe.

She said being chosen as a runner-up in the competition is an amazing achievement.

“To make it as a runner up was further validation of the idea that is BlueAvo and its importance to Africa. So being a runner up is motivation to continue working at building the dream that will change the lives of so many others.

“As an added bonus, we discovered that I (Indira) am also the first female South African to be shortlisted as a finalist for the prize. This achievement is an indication of what is possible when creativity and technology combine,” said Tsengiwe.

Tshepo Mangoele, founder of LignOrganic, made it onto the shortlist with his Dissolv Bioplastic product which has gained him much attention.

“This is a novel bioplastic made from waste plant material and nanotechnology, that is not only truly biodegradable and compostable but also dissolves in water at pre-determined rates,” he said.

This bioplastic can be used to make commercial products such as cutlery, straws, pot plants, food packaging and films.

“The key to the technology is our sulphur-free lignin derived from waste plants,” he said.

Mangoele said they started in 2019 on the research and development of the plastic with the assistance of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

“In 2020, the lockdown started and we had a huge delay in the project. We spent 6 or 7 months not working on that and later last year we started again working with the CSIR on the testing and development of the bioplastic. We are still finalising this because of Covid-19,” he said.

Mangoele said by 2027, they hope to publicly trade on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and want to see more of their products commercialised such as with a plant based makeup brand.

Dr Mike Masukume, CSIR principal technologist, said they were currently working on the project with Mangoele.

“Initial work was done in 2019, however the actual scale up of work commenced in September 2020 in the nano materials industrial development facility. The plastic is biodegradable and compostable,” Masukume said.

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