“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” — Steve Jobs. 

I have aimed to positively disrupt systems to achieve a better future across climate action, business, entrepreneurship and social innovation. Leaning on an academic approach and being an action-oriented operator, I believe in excellence and putting in the hours. Quite simply, I believe in hard work, sacrifice, resilience and resourcefulness to materialise great things. “Great things”, concretely, have looked different over the years. From partnering with Unicef to play my part in making education accessible, to smartly unlocking opportunities for communities across Africa and Europe impacting drug development and discovery for rare diseases and orphan medication, dedicating myself to financial inclusion and creating opportunities across capital market cities for South African entrepreneurs. My beliefs and work ethic are embedded in application, helping others play to win, and demanding the highest version of myself. I think this inspires, and influences others to do the same.




Ventures 54

Nicole Mountain, 27, is the lead for venture programmes and heads up building stakeholder relations in South Africa at Ventures 54, a venture capital investment and business consulting firm that helps build sustainable relations between Africa’s tech, startup, investment ecosystems and the rest of the world.

Nicole is responsible for mobilising deal flow across Southern Africa to tech-enabled early-stage businesses focused on health, climate, education and finance. 

To this end, she manages 50+ deal-flow partners and leads the sourcing, diligence and selection of high-growth companies. Nicole started her career in global corporate innovation at Barclays Africa, building venture communities between pan-African Fintech entrepreneurs and stakeholders. She has also designed educational programmes to demystify venture financing for women in business. Nicole’s resume boasts impressive achievements, which range from being hand-picked to attend the Oxford University Young Global Pioneers Fellowship, to being personally invited by President Cyril Ramaphosa to attend the signing of the Startup Competition Amendment Act into law.

She follows Steve Jobs’ motto: “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”


  • Oxford University, Young Global Pioneers Fellowship (2022)
  • Southern African Venture Capital & Private Equity Association Private Equity Programme & Country Bursary Winner (2022)
  • Dream VC Venture Capital Fellowship Programme & Full Scholarship Recipient (2022)
  • Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town, Raymond Ackerman Academy of Entrepreneurial Development, overall winner of the cohort venture prize (2015)

  • Selected to attend the prestigious Oxford University, Young Global Pioneers Fellowship.
  • South Africa’s first selected Young Global Pioneers Fellowship Participant.
  • Voted to lead the Young Global Pioneers Global Network as co-president and advisory board member.
  • Bursary winner for the 2022 Gordon Business School-SAVCA Private Equity Programme.
  • Featured in Africa’s top business journal, Ventureburn for Sustainable Development Goals Advocacy.
  • Featured in the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor for being selected to lead a global network of pioneers across 23 countries.
  •  Featured in Africa’s top graduate school business review for landing a job at a financial multinational at the age of 20.
  • Invited by the president of South Africa and Minister of Economic Development to attend the private signing of the country competition amendment bill during tenure as a woman in tech leading ecosystem design at the intersection of science, alternative funding mechanisms and drug development.
  • Recognised by Unicef for creating opportunities for marginalised youth to receive access to technological advancement and educational resources.
  • Winner of the 2018 Barclays Africa Water Hackathon during the Western Province’s count-down to Day Zero, influencing the gamification design developed by local government.
  • Disrupting venture acceleration by helping launch the first direct-to-investor relations initiative, giving South African entrepreneurs access to the continent’s most active check-writers.
  • Leading the design and delivery of 240+ founder engagements comprising masterclasses, office hours and expert clinics (profitability, B2C sales, marketing and finance) over 20 months, supporting 300+ female founders across Africa, Europe, South East Asia and North America.
  • Won overall prize for cohort venture assignment (UCT GSB).
  • The President’s Award (Duke of Edinburgh Award in South Africa) Recipient; 2X English Olympiad Award Recipient (De Beers).

Being raised by a single mother. She placed a strong emphasis on my education and instilled the importance of aiming for excellence and self-sufficiency. This has been the catalyst and baseline of all of my accomplishments; Humble beginnings, and the confidence to go first.

Go first. It won’t matter that you’re being teased for showing promise in the classroom. Continue to excel, and please stop making yourself small. You’re going to need that bright smile, enthusiastic outlook and energetic disposition on the hard days. Believe in yourself, so go first.

The year is 2028, I have successfully been a part of the change in bringing the world to Africa and supporting the transaction of billions of dollars for foreign investment into the African continent, supporting South Africa’s GDP and impacting health, education, finance and mobility by investing in everyday people, solving everyday problems. This is not only possible but a problem so worthy of solving that I am starting today. Starting with mobilising networks to materialise the goal of accelerating the country towards accessibility and a healthier economy. This vision can only be realised by the ripple effect of venture communities, and so my former contributions mentioned, have never been about me. Instead, it has been about mobilising networks, access and capital to truly move the financial needle the country needs outside of relying on policy reform and waiting for saviours. African tech startups raised $649 303 000 between January 1 and March 31 this year [Source: Disrupt Africa]. We have the brightest of minds and rich resources. Africa is open. And it is my privilege to impact Southern Africa through my work. The short answer? South Africa is no longer an inaccessible market and South Africans no longer deprive themselves of a brighter future because of lack of access to capital.

View previous winners from 2018 to 2022

Subcribe to the newsletter