Meet The Woman Offering A Tour Of Cape Town's Startup Scene On Airbnb

What you need to know about Lianne Du Toit the "Start Up Saint''


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Lianne Du Toit hosts a tour of Cape Town's tech and entrepreneurship ecosystem. Image: Supplied

Along with cities like Santiago and Buenos Aires in South America, Cape Town is considered one of the world's rising global startup players. 

A recent Savills Tech Cities 2017 report named Cape Town as one of 22 global centres at the forefront of tech highlighting its thriving tech industry, home-grown startups and incubators. The city also tops global shopping lists for tech companies looking for space in which to locate.

Not surprisingly, this has lead to an increase in interest in the city's tech and entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Catering to this demand is Lianne Du Toit, known as Cape Town's own entrepreneurship evangelist. Du Toit launched an Airbnb's Experiences package called 'Start Up Saint' to give visitors a taste of what the city's startup ecosystem has to offer. 

"Guests get unprecedented access and insight into the entrepreneurship community that they would only get if they were a native"

Want to experience the Mother City's startup scene like a local? - Here's what you should know about Du Toit's 'Start Up Saint' tour. 


Airbnb launched their Experiences in 12 countries across the globe including Cape Town.

What Are Airbnb Experiences? 
Launched in 2016, Airbnb Experiences are essentially activities designed and led by a local who is an "expert" on a particular subject or activity.

Many of the experiences centre around food, fashion or physical activities. They also typically highlight a local specialty or attraction. For example, a Samurai Swordplay workshop in Tokyo or an immersive Samba dancing class in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

Who is Lianne Du Toit?
Du Toit is currently the business network director at YPO, a global networking platform for CEOs.

Because of her years of experience in Cape Town's startup ecosystem, Du Toit has extensive knowledge and access to all its stakeholders.

She is also the founder of Renegade Tech Events and has also worked with everyone from the Silicon Cape initiative (the startup, developer and investor community) and MTN Solutions Space Venture Lab, a pre-accelerator program for startups to test and validate new business models, to Get in The Ring, a global pitching competition and U-Start, an investment platform. 

Du Toit was also voted by Fast Company as one of the "Most Creative People In Business" in 2016. 

"I look at the startup Chile model and what a success it has been for Chile and the local economy. I would love to see something like that happening in Cape Town"

What's On The Tour?
The three-day tour, which is currently sold out, is designed to give individuals a first-hand understanding of the ecosystem's major players, the challenges, resources available and successes - and for those interested in launching a startup in the city, an outline of business opportunities available. 

Guests get unprecedented access and insight into the entrepreneurship community that they would only get if they were a native. 

"The startup space is it's own culture and sometimes not always easy to navigate," says Du Toit. 

"Through my own personal experiences of having the opportunity to collaborate across a spectrum of various startup eco-systems from the angel investor to the entrepreneur who is trying to make ends meet, I was hoping to be that conduit for people to connect and experience these different environments for themselves."

Future plans are to reduce the experience to one excursion, says Du Toit. 


Cape Town's V&A Waterfront. 

"We hope that we have done the [city's] startup story justice"

Cape Town As A Startup Capital?
Travellers are not only interested in the entrepreneurship ecosystem Du Toit says, but also in the city itself. 

"The cost of living is cheaper for the same lifestyle internationally - the weather, the people? The list goes on. 

However there is a challenge in getting visitors to launch businesses in the city after their initial visit, says Du Toit. 

"I think many people come and test the waters to see if they would like it, but when it comes to getting a visa they are scared away, which is a pity as so many foreigners have experience in creating jobs for locals. I look at the startup Chile model and what a success it has been for Chile and the local economy. I would love to see something like that happening in Cape Town."

Who Is Going On The Tours?
"So far, my guests have been female, solo entrepreneurs who were looking at their next big adventure in life," says Du Toit. 

"They came from a tech background and have been involved in various startups. What I really loved about the tours is the engagement with different entrepreneurs at each stop."


See Also: Airbnb Empowers Township-based Tourism Businesses

 

Where Do They Go?
"I based the locations on the places I hang out. I love the vibrancy of Philippi Village and was studying my masters at the UCT Graduate School of Business, and [am] often travelling to Open Workshop 17 for meetings, workshops and seminars," says Du Toit. 


Lianne Du Toit giving a tour of Phillippi Village. 
Image: Airbnb

Phillippi is one of the largest townships in Cape Town. Like many townships around the country, Phillippi faces numerous challenges including unemployment and poverty. 

"We have the diversity from Philippi Village entrepreneurs who gave us an education on real life entrepreneurship and what it takes to make it in this space along with the seasoned entrepreneur who has travelled the world and is well versed in how to buy and sell companies. Each experience is unique in it's own right as the dynamics are always different." 

"If people want to understand the local startup space it's important to highlight the extreme spectrums of entrepreneurship in Cape Town. I was hoping that this would be a mechanism to connect the different worlds of locals and travellers."

UCT's The Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship is the first academic centre in Africa dedicated to advancing social innovation and entrepreneurship. 


Open Workshop 17
Image: workshop17.co.za

Open Workshop 17 is a membership-based co-working space based at Cape Town's Waterfront.

"Workshop 17 is like a second home to me and where I would have most of my meetings in the day along with being a home to many startup events and small businesses."

The tour ends with a dinner at the restaurant, House of H. 

"I chose places that I and many of my startup friends go to. I wanted it to be a real experience and a day in the life of, rather than "let's showcase everything that we want you to know."

"We hope that we have done the startup story justice and not just highlighting one narrative," says Du Toit. 

The Response? 
Public reviews of the tours have largely been positive. 

A review by guest Melissa reads: "Her insight about the startup culture in Cape was 2nd (second) to none. She introduced me to many individuals working at amazing startups, participants of tech accelerator at Cape's Business School and some of her startup cohorts that happened to be in town. Beyond insight [into] Cape's start up culture, she is well informed on what's going on in the tech world, around the world."

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