The Stellenbosch University LaunchLab has appointed US social entrepreneur Joshua Romisher as its new CEO.
Romisher spent over six years in the African solar home system sector, as the former CFO of Fenix International and VP of corporate finance at ZOLA Electric.
An entrepreneur with an array of innovative ventures, he has been involved with various projects, including a boutique investment bank in New York, a solar irrigation start-up in India and a frozen yoghurt franchise in San Francisco.
In his new role, Romisher says he aims to ensure LaunchLab becomes a platform that provides the vital services and important connections (local and international) needed to create the agile start-ups of tomorrow.
“LaunchLab will be a place where entrepreneurs can work with our dedicated team to make creative mistakes and learn from them.
“The lab will also offer critical services to start-ups, such as fundraising, talent sourcing and venture capital in order for entrepreneurs to focus efforts on customers and product offerings. These companies will solve critical social issues, drive employment and launch the next generation of African leaders,” notes Romisher.
LaunchLab is Stellenbosch University’s start-up incubator, founded for university spin-outs and other start-ups from the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. The platform offers various start-ups the support needed to eventually stand on their own feet.
Innovus is the innovation division of the university that founded LaunchLab.
Through Nedbank’s support, Innovus is responsible for technology transfer, entrepreneurial support and development, and innovation at the university.
Discussing why he chose Stellenbosch University, Romisher says he hopes the institution will provide him with an experience similar to the six years he spent in San Francisco.
“That is a place that attracts the best and brightest in the world that want to innovate by day, surf in the afternoon then collaborate in the evening amidst a beautiful setting.
“The opportunity as CEO of SU LaunchLab offers me an opportunity to be deep in this community while helping to move it forward.”
Romisher plans to open up LaunchLab to companies across Africa in 2020 to create “impact at scale”.
Millions of people in Africa are still relying on kerosene and candles for cooking and light, inhaling toxic smoke daily, he notes.
“Most people in Africa will never be connected to the grid. They will go with solar energy from the start. In the same way as most people in Africa never experienced a landline. Instead, their first and only means of communication was a mobile phone.”
He says the mission is to provide life-changing services and products. “These start-ups will create viable Africa solutions aimed at solving African problems.”