Why have one birthday when you can have two? As PayFast celebrates its tenth birthday, Startup Grind is celebrating its fourth this month with a big bash on the 30th of August. However, as exciting as this event is, it’s also bittersweet as it sees our favourite host (and Startup Grind South Africa pioneer) Guillaume de Smedt (aka G) step down from Startup Grind Cape Town.
We caught up with G and picked his brain about his Startup Grind journey and what’s next.
It’s been 4 years for Startup Grind SA, what changes have you seen in the startup community since you started hosting these events?
I’ve seen far more cohesion of the startup ecosystem. There is more activity, more events, and a greater focus on the need for diversity with more frequent, notable and international large-scale exits.
What fuelled your passion for startups and supporting these communities in SA?
As a founder of a startup myself, I wanted to connect with other entrepreneurs, but I felt there weren’t that many quality opportunities to do so. I came across Startup Grind on Meetup.com and it looked interesting. Little did I know that it would change my life.
What’s next for Guillaume de Smedt?
I will continue working remotely in my full-time role for Startup Grind HQ in Silicon Valley managing the global community of 300 chapter directors worldwide. I will also continue to run the Pretoria chapter as I have been doing for the past 7 months.
(Phew, so he’s not disappearing entirely!)
Are we allowed to ask… who have you enjoyed hosting the most over these past 4 years?
This is almost impossible to answer as each guest on stage has brought something different of value for me and the audience. However, if I had to pick 3 of my favorites it would be Jessica Bonin (Lady Bonin’s Tea) for her energy on stage. Katlego Mapai (Yoco) for his very interesting insights into the growth phase of his business, and Rob Stokes (Quirk) for the entertainment and fun-factor we had on and off stage.
PayFast has been a sponsor of Startup Grind since the beginning. Are we a perfect pair/match made in heaven?
Yes. I would say PayFast is a match made in heaven. In fact, if it weren’t for PayFast’s support in the very early days when I was studying a full-time course in electronic engineering and running a young startup, I honestly don’t think Startup Grind Cape Town would have got off the ground. PayFast has been a sponsor almost from day 1.
Where do you see Startup Grind SA going in future?
Startup Grind is growing substantially at an international level, and I believe Startup Grind South Africa can only go from strength to strength with the strong team of local chapter directors and volunteers in place in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Bloemfontein, and Pretoria. At an international level, Startup Grind is soon to be launching a Startup Grind U programme which will be focusing on student-led on-campus events. I hope to see these take off in South Africa.
You always ask your guests this, but what is your advice for startups and entrepreneurs just starting out?
My advice is to “just do it”. When I hosted my first Startup Grind I had never interviewed anyone on stage before, had no budget for hosting the events, and had no experience in running events. I just jumped in and have found something I really love doing – connecting and educating entrepreneurs both locally and internationally. My passion is building communities.
Join G and the Startup Grind team on the 30th of August at Workshop 17 for their birthday bash. In the spirit of celebration, PayFast will be providing a perfect pairing of Gin and Tonics (on the house) to celebrate great partnerships, startups, entrepreneurs and a bright future going forward.