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Nkululeko Mthembu

Director, PISTA

Having read for Construction Management Studies at Wits University and spending weekends reciting French and Mandarin at the Language School, Nkululeko Mthembu’s work has now taken a different path.

Nkululeko Mthembu is Director at PISTA, a research,design and innovation firm at the intersection of design thinking, cultural intelligence and technology. The meeting of these three disciplines is what he calls innovation.

PISTA is a culmination of his life’s work as a transdisciplinary and multidisciplinary firm to solving problems in FMCG industries, healthcare, financial services, government, education & corporate Africa.

Mthembu founded The Durban Innovation Hub in 2014, a vehicle to create an enabling environment for local technology-driven entrepreneurs and equipping them with functional tools. Programmes under The Durban Innovation Hub included: Google Developer Group, Random Hacks of Kindness (a programme funded by NASA) and Hacka Durban.

In 2014 again, he led a strategic partnership with the Global Entrepreneurship Network to form Startup Nations Kwazulu Natal. The purpose of this vehicle was to expand the reach and impact of Startup Nations South Africa in the province. A dual initiative of The Innovation Hub, Wits Business School, Industrial Development Corporation and the Department of Small Business.

In 2015 – 16, he spent a considerable amount of time abroad, namely England to immerse himself in a global startup ecosystem. During his time he visited prestigious institutes Cambridge and Oxford University (meeting Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Member of Parliament Lord Mervyn King), UK Trade & Investment, Innovate UK, The Legatum Institute, Google, RSA Institute, Loughborough University to mention a few.

This immersion saw him bring best practice on new venture creation, business development, value proposition crafting, enterprise scaling and route to market strategies, partnerships and emerging markets business case development with the hopes of cross-pollinating some of these global techniques into African startups.

In 2017, Mthembu, together with the Global Shapers Community in Africa – an initiative of the World Economic Forum – embarked on an ambitious project of championing the African Continential Free Trade Agreement under the Open Africa Initiative specifically geared to prioritising interests of youth in Africa.

During this time Mthembu spent four months backpacking through various African states, via road and passing border posts, connecting with Global Shapers in each country where a town hall-type event was hosted with business and policy leaders. Mthembu gathered invaluable insights on the challenges of doing business in Africa which culminated at the African Union, Addis Ababa.

He leads a less exciting life reading for his Bachelor of Business, volunteers his time at the Durban Chamber of Commerce & Industry as Member of Council & Chairperson of Youth in Business Forum and vests a large haul of his time to his practice PISTA with the hopes of creating the most culturally-minded design & innovation firm.

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