The UUNET Bandwidth Barn is rapidly becoming home to a burgeoning number of ICT start-ups, of strong international flavour. Among the tenants working from the Barn’s new premises in Strand Street, there is an international mix of start-ups from countries as far a field as the UK, US, Scandinavia, Sydney and the Netherlands.

Marketing Manager of The Cape Information Technology Initiative (CITI), Judith Middleton, said the Barn’s drive to attract a rich diversity of start-up companies, from across the globe, was starting to pay-off. Middleton said: "It is encouraging to see a large number of flagship IT companies, either using South Africa as a launch pad into markets in the US, Europe and Africa, or as a test site for locally produced products, destined for global markets."

Among the pool of international tenants located in the Barn is US company, Pangea Solutions, which creates cost saving solutions for labour-intensive, data-driven business. Founder of the company, Jesse Heitler, says South Africa is uniquely positioned for Pangea’s business model and has several competitive advantages in the global, Internet-driven market. "South Africa is one of the few countries with modern telecommunications infrastructure, sub-sea cable connectivity to the Internet and low cost labour," he said. "Pangea has benefited particularly from setting up shop in the UUNET Bandwidth Barn, where minimal outlay was required and strong infrastructure supported a quick entry into the market. The low cost of labour in South Africa has also given the company considerable advantage over its competitors in the States and Europe," he stressed.

Another company showing confidence in South Africa is NBI New Business South Africa, which set up office in South Africa in 2002, as the sister company to New Business Europe, based in the Netherlands. The company, which specialises in business strategy and development, saw that there was a huge opportunity to encourage foreign business development in South Africa, through providing the necessary support mechanisms for this. NBI’s main focus is to assist and advise European countries looking to partner with South African companies and visa versa.

"One of the biggest obstacles to business investment in South Africa is the lack of knowledge of the country and the fear of moving into unknown territory," said founder, Pieter Smits van Waesberghe. "We are able to provide an important service through supporting the development of foreign business in South Africa. We essentially act as the middleman supplying both parties with necessary information, preparing documents for European standards and demands, engineering and representing foreign projects being rolled out in South Africa. The idea of forging stronger business linkages between South Africa and Europe is immensely exciting and will bring enormous economic benefit to the country," he said.

Many of the local tenants in the barn are similarly using technology and the networking opportunities available to take their business offerings to international markets. BEE software development house, Application Junction, has doubled in number of employees since its inception in 2002 and recently landed two large UK corporate clients, which it successfully services with the support of superior IT infrastructure provided by UUNET. Similarly, marketing consultancy, Ikineo, has made huge inroads into the consumer brands-driven Asian market, and is now eyeing China and the UK.