Lean coffee for new startups

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CLARIFICATION: The article “Lean coffee for new startups” (Grocott’s Mail 23 March 20, page 9) announced the appointment of tech transfer manager Suzanne Wolhuter at Rhodes University. For clarification, the mandate of the Tech Transfer office at Rhodes University is transferring the ability to commercialise IP that is generated within the university. Because Rhodes is a government subsidised institution, the IP will remain the full property of the government, Wolhuter clarified this week. The goal of the Tech Transfer office is to direct income back to the university as a way to supplement student fees and other subsidies.

Newly appointed Rhodes University tech transfer manager, Suzanne Wolhuter, is looking to bring new energy to Grahamstown’s entrepreneurial scene. With Rhodes proving itself to be a generator of Intellectual Property (IP), Wolhuter’s new role serves as a way to navigate the tricky waters of transferring IP rights to their respective founders. This process functions as a positive tool for young entrepreneurs and inventors to start their own business.

For the less tech savvy, an example of IP could be a new vaccine that students created in a Rhodes science lab. Should the students wish to take their new product to market, Wolhuter would assist in ensuring the students had full ownership over their product (or IP). “It’s alot of admin work”, she said, but rewarding to assist in the beginning of a startup.

Wolhuter has a background in health sciences as well as private consulting. Having recently moved to Grahamstown from Cape Town, she is excited to experience the startup dynamics of a “backwater town”. “Unite the platforms [and]unite the key players”, she stated. Rhodes is a huge resource for biotechnology and science, interested community members should be able to work in partnership with these innovation centres to increase production. Wolhuter emphasised that it must be “locally appropriate yet internationally viable”.

Every two weeks, Wolhuter hosts ‘Lean Coffee’ startup sessions. An idea that started in the US, ‘Lean Coffee’ startup is a programme that embraces the “fail fast idea, something South Africa isn’t good at”, stated Wolhuter. The programme is designed for budding entrepreneurs to take their product to market as quickly and efficiently as possible. ‘Lean Coffee’ connects like-minded people from different backgrounds and practises as a means to foster a resourceful and local entrepreneurial culture.

“You can’t keep being competitive in an ivory tower”, added Wolhuter. By sharing resources and ideas, startups can better succeed in the market. “It’s about creating a winning model!”

For those interested in attending Lean Coffee, the next session will be 5 April at 7pm at Oscar’s Cafe. For more information students and community members may contact Suzanne at suzanne.wolhuter@ru.ac.za .

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