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Friday, 15 January 2021

First prize for Aequorea at Ocean Innovation Africa start-up pitching competition

FOSTERING CONNECTION: Aequorea develops and manufactures ocean monitoring devices that can help provide advanced warning of climate-related and ecological phenomena, as well as illegal shipping and fishing activities. FOSTERING CONNECTION: Aequorea develops and manufactures ocean monitoring devices that can help provide advanced warning of climate-related and ecological phenomena, as well as illegal shipping and fishing activities.

Dr Revel Iyer, Director: Technology Transfer and Industry Linkages and interim CEO of Aequorea is gripped with joy after CPUT’s Aequorea won first place at Ocean Innovation Africa (OIA) start-up pitching competition.

Iyer says Aequorea is a spin-off company directed at commercialising a technology portfolio created at CPUT. The business was formally registered at the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission on 30 January 2020 with Aonyx Holdings as the sole shareholder of Aequorea. CPUT in turn is the sole shareholder of Aonxy Holdings.  “The founding vision of Aonyx Holdings is that the company will hold equity in companies created following a recommendation by CPUT. It is envisaged that the new companies will be predominantly in the form of technology spin-offs, however, it is conceivable that University carve outs may also be created,” he clarifies.

Iyer, representing Aequorea, was part of more than 500 people, including entrepreneurs, executives, investors, scientists, and government representatives from around the world who gathered online recently for the second edition of OIA. This is a platform dedicated to fostering connection, knowledge-sharing and discovery between leaders looking to make a positive impact on the continent’s oceans economy.

The two-day summit, organised by OceanHub Africa (OHA) and event specialist Catalyze, was sponsored by Wesgro, the City of Cape Town, 3DExperience Lab and the French Embassy in South Africa as well as supported by the V&A Waterfront, World Wildlife Fund South Africa, World Ocean Council and AWS Activate. The attendees engaged in a range of live panel discussions, pitching events and masterclasses with participants also being given the option of joining several networking, matchmaking, and film screening sessions spread throughout the proceedings.

The competition contenders exhibited their scalable solutions aimed at addressing climate change, pollution and overexploitation, with Aequorea being named as the winner, before walking away with a US$500 cash prize, mentoring sessions and US$3,000 worth of AWS-Activate credits. Aequorea develops and manufactures ocean measurement and monitoring systems that can help provide advanced warning of climate-related and ecological phenomena, as well as illegal shipping and fishing activities.

In his capacity as CEO of Aequorea, Iyer signed up for a virtual booth at the Ocean Innovation Africa event (https://ocean-innovation.africa/). He was then notified of the option to enter the African Start-up pitch competition, which required that their start-up is ocean-minded; it has a direct or indirect positive impact on the oceans, addresses climate change, pollution or overexploitation of the ocean.

As the company is still in its early stages, Grace Baloyi from the Technology Innovation Agency has volunteered to serve as Business Development Manager and the company receives technical support from the University, specifically, AMTL Technology Station under the leadership of Prof Oscar Philander.

“This has been a long journey. A key part of what we have achieved is due to the foundational structures for commercialisation created at the University,” a beaming Iyer says.

“Thus in this position I am very satisfied that Aequorea is moving forward to becoming the premier company in RSA offering Smartbuoy solutions.”

Concluding the summit, OHA announced that it will be opening applications in January 2021 for the second cohort of start-ups to be selected for its six-month acceleration programme.

Written by Aphiwe Boyce

Email: boyceap@cput.ac.za

Provides coverage for the Engineering and the Built Environment and Applied Sciences Faculties.