South Africa’s Jayshree Naidoo on Supporting the Growth of Innovative and Tech-Driven Startups

South Africa’s Jayshree Naidoo on Supporting the Growth of Innovative and Tech-Driven Startups
5 min read

Jayshree Naidoo is considered a thought leader on Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the CEO of YIEDI, a company that focuses on Entrepreneurship Development and Innovation. She was recently identified as one of Fast Company SA’s most Creative People in Business for 2018 for “Putting Entrepreneurs First.”

Jayshree has developed several frameworks and models for innovation and incubation and has created several structured acceleration programmes for start-ups and growth-stage entrepreneurs as well as leadership programmes for corporates. Her company was recently appointed to deliver the IBM Techcale programme for emerging technology startups. Jayshree created a customised programme for the startups which includes development, mentorship, incubation and investor readiness as well as funding.

Jayshree is also a recipient of an Inspiring Fifty SA award, an initiative introduced in 2017 by former Dutch Consul General, Bonnie Horbach  to increase the visibility of successful women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in South Africa, by celebrating the diversity of the country’s Top 50 women in STEM annually.

Jayshree Naidoo

“I completed my high school at Glenover Secondary School. But I could not go on to study at a tertiary institution due to financial constraints.  My original plan was to study law.  However, after my dad was declined a bursary to help me pursue this, I decided to study Computer Science instead, opting to pay for my studies by doing sign writing part-time.”

  • When did you realise you had a passion for technology?

“Not being able to study law due to the financial constraints actually opened up a door into the world of science and technology.  As part of my computer science course, I was exposed to a totally new language; that of coding, and I remember how fascinated I was to see my first line of code rendered.  At the time, the language that was being taught was COBOL. I was really fascinated by the world of technology and what it could offer.  I went on to get positions in many large corporates but was always drawn to the innovation and technology space.  This passion saw me further my studies with computers and I went on to complete an MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) course as well an E-Commerce Management Qualification at an honors level through UNISA SBL.  My MBA research was also focused on the key drivers of innovation and entrepreneurship, with a major focus on the impact of technology. My studies and passion has allowed me to work with some amazing corporates, both locally and internationally, including but not limited to the DBA, Discovery, Absa, and Standard Bank.”

  • You are an Inspiring Fifty winner. How does this make you feel, and how has it influenced you to create an impact in South Africa?

“Its an amazing accomplishment, and I feel truly humbled to be a part of an amazing group of women in STEM fields.  The women who have been selected for this accolade have such wonderful profiles and track record.  As with many of the other women, I consider myself a thought leader on certain topics.  I have used my public profile to increase awareness in the space of entrepreneurship support and development, and I have tried to positively influence the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.”

  • What one accomplishment achieved are you most proud of, and why?

“I am most proud of being a mum.  It is one of life’s greatest blessings, and I feel truly privileged to have an amazing son and daughter.  One of the reasons I am so proud of them is that they are both creatives and they are both aspiring entrepreneurs.  I am so pleased that they have chosen paths that fulfil their dreams and are destined to be job creators in fields that are much needed. We need to raise more entrepreneurs in the creative space.”

  • An objective of technology is to make businesses run faster and smarter. We leverage technology to improve processes in business. Tell us about the projects you run at IBM to help tech businesses grow in South Africa.

“As a supplier for IBM, my company manages some of its Technology Development programmes like IBM Techscale and IBM Business in a Box. The programmes are designed to provide access to development support, technical mentoring and resources needed to grow and scale these businesses.  In addition, some of the beneficiaries of the programmes have managed to unlock grant funding and investment from IBM, as well as opportunities that extend beyond the normal structured programme, like being selected to attend the IBM Annual THINK conference, which will be held in San Fransisco during May this year.  My company has also been selected as a supplier to attend THINK2020, an opportunity we are really excited about.”

  • Do you think South Africa needs a female perspective in technology? Why/why not?

“I don’t think we need a female perspective. I think we need more female representation in the space of technology. I think we need more structured programmes and support mechanisms to encourage and incentivise women in the technology space.”