National Entrepreneurship Intervarsity Finals
Denislav Marinov (21), a third-year BSc physics and chemistry student at the University of Cape Town (UCT), plans on using 3D printers in South Africa's schools to level the education playing fields. His business, DVM Designs, emerged first in the Existing Technological Business Category (Category 2) of the inaugural Entrepreneurship Intervarsity Competition finals which concluded in Johannesburg on 19 September.
This competition, run by the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) programme, is inculcating an entrepreneurial culture in students and academics, in the quest to turn all the 26 public universities into entrepreneurial spaces across South Africa. Ultimately, the programme is looking to create real business owners out of enterprising students, with the aim that they become job and wealth creators when they exit university. Marinov says this is the direction that his business will take.
DVM Designs, which operates out of Cape Town, designs 3D printing machines for hobby printing and industrial usage. For starters, DVM Designs services the basic education sector and clients in the manufacturing industry. The company is positioning itself as accelerating the advent of 3D printing technologies across Africa whilst fostering the next generation of inspired engineers and scientists. "Our main focus in the educational space is to produce affordable 3D printers that are packaged with a design thinking curriculum and educational content so that learners are exposed to problem-solving technologies and thinking," Marinov explains. Convinced that the current education system is not sufficiently exposing learners to the world beyond the classroom, he believes that exposing the learners to 3D printing as a problem solving and design thinking technology will inspire them and foster the next generation of engineers and scientists. "They will gain better understanding of what they are learning, which I think will produce skilled and inspired students who know what they want to pursue in life." The company is currently in the process of finalising their educational printers, with the hope of dispatching them to schools in 2020.
In addition to this, DVM Designs uses its own printers to do rapid prototyping (the process of fabricating products and geometries for testing, prior to large scale manufacturing. In most cases, 3D printing is the technology that enables the rapid development of such products, at a fraction of the cost and time of conventional prototyping technologies), and development for individuals, industrial manufacturers and corporate clients. "Clients come in with an idea and we help to bring it to life," He says, referring to the design concepts and manufactured products they generate using this technology.
His clients include the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation and the Innovation Hub which is a subsidiary of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
More recently, Marinov says he has had occasion to work with a researcher from Oxford University and from that relationship an opportunity opened for DVM to supply scientific equipment to Oxford. He firmly believes that will give them a lot of credibility in the industry.
"I have reached a stage where I want to expand to more clients. The plan is to build a team of young, passionate, intelligent, innovative individuals who will come together to design the top 3D printers on the continent." At this point in time, DVM does not yet have employees.
Marinov lauds UCT for her contribution to where he is today. First, UCT has played a vital role in the success of his close to three-year-old business. At the end of his first year, he applied to join the Klaus-Jürgen Bathe (KJB) Leadership Programme at UCT. The programme's goal is to produce graduates with outstanding leadership qualities and a strong sense of social justice. After sharing his ideas and plans for improving education in South Africa, Marinov was selected to be one of the programme's high-impact leaders and funded his first industrial project.
The programme, together with the Allan Gray Foundation, funded his trip to Oxford during the University of Cape Town's mid-term break at the end of August, where he worked with Dr Tinashe Chandauka as part of his doctoral thesis. Denislav assisted with the development and prototyping of a low cost medical simulation device using a large format 3D printing technology. He personally delivered the device and engaged with the research team working on the device. In addition, he says he interacted with various additive manufacturing professionals and researchers, expanding his global awareness of the technology and its application worldwide.
Secondly, after each round of the Entrepreneurship Intervarsity competition, UCT assigned a professional to engage her student entrepreneurs, helping them to finetune their pitches. "There was always a support structure to help nurture us as we advanced to next rounds." He adds that the studentpreneurs also worked very closely with Ms Nadia Waggie, Head of Operations for UCT's Careers Service and the university's Entrepreneurship Intervarsity Liaison Officer, whom he says "was more excited than all of us when our names were called out as winners!" Marinov says.
Furthermore, UCT's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, who attended the EDHE Awards ceremony in Johannesburg, also personally supports students' enterprises. At the Intervarsity Competition awards ceremony on 19 September, Prof Phakeng was wearing a bow tie that Marinov had designed and printed. "The University of Cape Town is incredibly progressive with entrepreneurship," Marinov goes on to say. "We have a Vice-Chancellor who genuinely cares about her students and promotes their brands. This is always refreshing to see and experience." He declares unequivocally that the spirit of entrepreneurship is alive at UCT.
He feels grateful that he was exposed to the Intervarsity Competition. "More than anything, I was excited to be introduced to a platform that allows us to share ideas. As an entrepreneur, what you hope for is to share your idea to try and inspire other people and, in the process, build a loyal tribe of followers that would help take your brand to the next stage." He appreciates that the competition has given him publicity and networking opportunities that were not open before. "Even entrants who did not win a prize got introduced to valuable connections that will eventually pay off over time." He also cherishes the opportunities he got to engage with fellow high-impact studentpreneurs who are making a difference in their respective institutions and industries.
He encourages all students with a business idea to enter the competition next year. "Even if you don't make it to the end of the competition, you would have been successful in taking the first step as an entrepreneur: getting started."
To find out more about DVM Designs, visit Denislav Marinov's website: www.dvmdesigns.co.za
The Writer, Linda Lindani, was a Media and Marketing Consultant to the EDHE Programme during the final leg of the Entrepreneurship Intervarsity Competition in 2019.
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