Canadian tech start-up sets up shop in Cape Town, says global firms fight for SA talent

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)
  • Cape Town is attracting tech entrepreneurs, like one Canadian start-up, which recently opened its headquarters in the Mother City.
  • CostCertified, which provides cost estimating software for the residential construction industry, aims to hire at least 300 locals over the next two years.
  • The tech start-up’s founder says there’s a war for local talent and that South Africa’s most attractive resource for international businesses is its people.

A Canadian tech start-up that provides cost estimating software for the residential construction industry has just opened its global headquarters in Cape Town and says more global firms are fighting for South African talent.

Cape Town is Africa’s tech capital, according to tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape Wesgro, with employment in the sector already outpacing both Nairobi and Lagos.

Mature tech firms, like Amazon and Panasonic, have become more involved with Cape Town over the past few years. Amazon, which has had a presence in the city since 2004 through its Amazon Web Services division, aims to build its headquarters in Cape Town. Panasonic launched its South African headquarters in Cape Town in 2018.

Tech start-ups, both local and international, are also finding favour in Cape Town. The ‘Silicon Cape’ initiative – inspired by the high-tech hub in San Francisco – aims to draw tech entrepreneurs, developers, creatives, angel investors, and venture capitalists to the city.

CostCertified is one of the latest in this sector to set up shop in Cape Town. The Canadian company recently opened its headquarters in the city centre and aims to provide at least 300 jobs for locals over the next two years.

Most of these jobs are for entry-level and junior positions, with applicants not needing a robust sales background or years of experience, explained CostCertified founder and CEO Mike Bignold. That’s significant within the South African context, where unemployment levels, especially among the youth, are some of the worst in the world.

Bignold says that South Africa’s most attractive resource for international businesses is its people.

“South Africa offers a high-calibre, untapped talent pool for international businesses,” said Bignold in a statement, which added that to “win the war for local talent”, global businesses would need to “differentiate themselves from competing employers.”

“Between unemployed graduates and people who don’t have any formal qualifications, but have all the relevant soft skills and potential, it’s not difficult to build a strong and successful local team.”

Bignold added that their local hiring process began weeks before anybody from CostCertified set foot in South Africa and found that potential candidates were not used to the speed at which the tech start-up worked.

“We found that some of our candidates were apprehensive about the speed at which they received offers,” said Bignold

“CostCertified is a hypergrowth company, and once we decide someone is a good fit, we fast-track the employment process to get them started ASAP. For South Africans who are used to four-week-long hiring processes at huge firms, this can come as a surprise or seem questionable – but eventually, they come around.”

CostCertified, Bignold says, is not solely focused on the experience or education of candidates, but is more interested in job seekers that “show resilience, agility, and a competitive entrepreneurial spirit.”

“Our strategy is to hire for attitude first. Skills can be taught.”

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