Internet Solutions creates business incubator for Internet ideas


Entrepreneurs with ideas on how to improve the internet are being offered funding and mentoring by Internet Solutions in an effort to turn bright ideas into potential businesses.

The technology company has formed a new division, IS Labs, to incubate early-stage concepts that will make the Internet more user-friendly or more relevant to users. As well as providing funding to develop the ideas, the company will also offer access to its skilled engineers, technical facilities and its network of business contacts.

"We are trying to improve the Internet in South Africa," product development manager Jeff Fletcher said. "If you have an idea for something that will make the Internet better, come to us and we will give you the resources to get the idea to a prototype. Then we will decide if it's a business we want to invest in."

IS Labs will work in two ways: to support entrepreneurs with the potential to develop the idea themselves, and for less technically savvy people to describe their idea on a public forum for discussion. If an idea gets a lot of support and looks feasible, IS Labs will appoint someone to develop it.

The company is also encouraging its staff to be more innovative, so employees with an interesting plan will be given time and resources to develop it.

Internet Solutions is part of Johannesburg and London listed Dimension Data, but the IS Labs unit has been set up separately because it is investing in projects that may never make money.

Ideas could include new compression technology to transmit data more quickly, or a new website. If the idea attracts more local users, gives them a better experience or shifts more traffic to local sites and off expensive international bandwidth, Internet Solutions would benefit indirectly, Fletcher said.

The company expects to sponsor two developers for two months to develop their ideas. The entrepreneur will have to allow Internet Solutions to take a stake in the fledgling business if it is commercially viable, but if the company does not want to invest in the prototype it will help the entrepreneur find financial or technical support elsewhere so the idea survives.

Business Day