Port Elizabeth is rising as a software development city, where the quality of life matters, and a pipeline of graduates who are skilled in software development will accelerate to new opportunities.
"Software development is a global language that is not confined to a geographical space, and with the scarcity of skilled graduates in this sector, companies are actively engaging with us," says Prof Jean Greyling from NMMU’s computing sciences department.
The university’s business incubator, Propella, is part of an innovation ecosystem designed to build and support new businesses in Port Elizabeth and the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro. Its partnership with the Telkom Future Makers programme supports the development of information and communications technology entrepreneurs.
Mobility startup Tuse, a finalist in the 2016 SAB Social Innovation Awards and a member of the San Francisco-based Founders Space Accelerator Programme, was grown through Propella.
"One of our areas of specialisation is mobile coverage in areas where there is no signal," says Tuse CEO and one of the co-founders, Sabelo Sibanda, who is completing his MBA through the Edinburgh Business School.
The other co-founders are Thulisile Volwana, who has a National Diploma in Economics from NMMU, and Michael Kyazze, who is completing his PhD in computer science at NMMU.
"Tuse provides an infrastructure that allows third-party developers to build and use software with our technology wherever they are. Our voice and video infrastructure is very secure, and the call rates are attractive, so we are finding that even people in areas with good coverage are making use of our services," Sibanda says.
Another student startup and Virtual Incubatees of the Propella Business Incubator, Hello World Code, was founded in Port Elizabeth, and is run by NMMU students Brydon Leonard, Byron Batteson, and Keegan Crankshaw. Batteson and Leonard are NMMU computer science students and Crankshaw is an electrical and computer engineering student at the University of Cape Town.
One of the apps they have developed is Joggr, where users input how far they want to jog and the app generates a route for them. The team is designing a "friend-tracking" feature, where users can share a route with friends as a fun safety feature.
Another of its apps is Appetiser, which helps users around the world find places to eat in their city that are offering specials.
"We released it at the end of August and once it has proved to be successful, the income will come from places to eat — be they street stalls, takeaways or high-end restaurants — paying us a monthly fee to bring their specials straight to our client base," Leonard says.