Gigi Ngcobo, 27, venture scale lead at Injini, is passionate about innovation and creating new technologies in South Africa. With more than 5 years of experience working with venture capitalists in the US, and as a venture builder and accelerator in South Africa, Gigi has gained experience in creating and scaling new technologies.
At Injini, Gigi ensures ed-tech startup founders scale their businesses so more children have access to quality education. Her love for entrepreneurship started when she founded an NGO at 16 that taught students in underprivileged communities about ethical leadership.
She founded a company while studying at the African Leadership Academy advocating for the LGBTQ+ community. Gigi was deputy mayor of Pietermaritzburg and a Mastercard Foundation Scholar, with a scholarship to Michigan State University in the US. While there, she created the MSU African Business Symposium, which explored innovation and venture capital in Africa.
BA in finance and media and communication, Michigan State University, US
- Co-founder, RoundTrip Afrika: Co-created an incubator program for young Africans to develop their entrepreneurial skills and launch successful startups, which resulted in the formation of three successful new businesses.
- Founder, Africa Business Symposium: raised R200 000 to organise the first conference focused on venture capital and innovation in Africa at Michigan State University.
- Founder, Imbali Youth Pioneers: established an NGO dedicated to leadership development in the Pietermaritzburg townships.
- Co-president, Women in Venture Capital and Private Equity: elected to lead a Michigan State University student organisation focused on supporting women interested in venture capital and private equity.
- Dean’s Scholar award for outstanding academic performance.
- Honors College Student: recognises students who demonstrate exceptional academic ability and achievement, as well as leadership potential and commitment to community service.
- Scholar, Mastercard Foundation: granted a full scholarship to attend Michigan State University in recognition of academic excellence and service.
A treasured childhood memory that has inspired my achievements is watching the movie The Secret with my mum when I was 10 years old. The room was filled with anticipation and wonder as we sat together, enraptured by the film’s profound message. An idea from the movie that has resonated deeply with me is that thoughts become things. This concept of the power of thoughts to shape reality left an indelible mark on my young mind. I became filled with awe and conviction, believing that I had the ability to create and manifest my ideal life through my own thoughts and actions. This memory, tinged with the warmth of my mother’s presence, has remained a guiding principle in my journey toward success and personal growth, painting a vivid picture of the limitless possibilities that lie before me.
If I could go back in time and share some advice with my younger self, I would emphasise the importance of embracing failure as a natural part of the growth process. Instead of letting it define you or shake your confidence, see it as an opportunity to learn and evolve. As author John C Maxwell once said, “Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward.” This powerful quote serves as a reminder that every failure brings us one step closer to success. By adopting this mindset, my younger self would have been better equipped to face challenges and setbacks with resilience and determination, ultimately emerging stronger and wiser from each experience. Embracing failure as a valuable teacher would have paved the way for a more fulfilling journey of self-discovery and personal growth.
In the next five years, my vision for South Africa is to become a leading hub of innovation and entrepreneurship, fuelling progress across various sectors and playing a significant role in alleviating poverty. I also aspire to create an environment where underrepresented entrepreneurs, such as women and black founders, receive ample support to start and grow social enterprises.
To ensure this vision becomes a reality, I have spent the majority of my early career contributing to the innovation ecosystem of South Africa. I have gained valuable experience in venture capital, worked for a venture builder and an ed-tech accelerator, and created an incubator for young Africans in the diaspora. This work has been directed towards assisting innovators in launching and expanding businesses that tackle some of the continent’s most pressing issues, including education and healthcare.
Overall, by concentrating on innovation, we can generate a multitude of job opportunities, stimulate economic growth and solve some of the country’s most urgent problems. Additionally, supporting underrepresented entrepreneurs will drive inclusive innovation, ensuring that the benefits of progress are equitably distributed among all South Africans. It will also foster unique perspectives and ideas, leading to more creative and effective solutions to South Africa’s challenges.