What started off as an informal gathering among friends has developed into a serious networking platform exposing entrepreneurs and start-ups to a world of new investment possibilities.
Held on the first Friday of the month, The Hookup Dinner is about giving start-up entrepreneurs a voice by creating a platform from which they can network, learn from one another and increase their net worth through networking.
“I’ve spent so much time attending events, going in with the intention to network, and often I found that nothing came from them. I wanted to challenge the way people network and try formulate a more effective platform for start-ups to connect,” says founder and CEO Selebogo Molefe.
He likens The Hookup Dinners to alcoholics anonymous meetings. “I always say alcoholics go to AA, but where do entrepreneurs go? We wanted to create that space for entrepreneurs,” he says.
Entrepreneurs who attend the dinners have the opportunity to “test” their business idea in an audience-judged, three-minute elevator pitch. They also have access to experienced and influential mentors through the Entrepreneurs Organisation’s network as well as the likes of Virgin SA through the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship.
What makes the movement so unique, says Molefe, is its ability to connect male, female, black and white entrepreneurs.
“Black entrepreneurs have great ideas, but often they don’t have access to resources, funding or support structures to get their ideas off the ground. A lot of white entrepreneurs, on the other hand, have access to financing, but struggle to connect with black entrepreneurs to collaborate on business deals. The Hookup Dinner creates an environment that can connect the two,” he says.
Since its inception in August last year, the movement has attracted attention from big corporates and retail giants who recognise the potential housed in individuals attending the dinners. Some entrepreneurs have gone on to secure procurement contracts through the networking sessions, Molefe adds.
In August this year, the South African Breweries youth entrepreneurship programme, SAB KickStart, partnered with The Hookup Dinner to sponsor the final elevator pitch competition where monthly winners compete at the final dinner for prize money – R10 000 for the winner, R4000 for the runner-up and R2000 for the third place entrepreneur.
While keeping up with demand has been challenging, Molefe says it’s a good indication of the traction the movement has garnered in a short period of time.
Joburg dinners draw at least 1000 RSVPs, but there’s only capacity to accommodate 200 people per dinner on a first come, first served basis.
For this reason, Molefe says he’s considering splitting up the Joburg dinners according to locations to ensure that more entrepreneurs are connected. The movement has also subsequently been launched in Cape Town and Durban.
Molefe is currently in talks with other entrepreneurs in SADC countries and the idea is to expand the movement across African countries as a way of connecting entrepreneurs on the continent.
Those interested in attending a Hookup Dinner can visit the site at The Hookup Dinner.