Theme: Sustainable Design

Passion may be ingrained, but sometimes, it takes your surroundings to ignite it. That was the case for Alexis Grosskopf and Stephanie Canac, French expats with a passion for the ocean who found themselves living in Cape Town. “Being in the city where virtually three oceans meet made us realise how strong, but also how fragile our oceans are,” says Canac, who spends much of her time free diving and kite surfing. Determined to make a difference, the duo joined forces to form OceanHub Africa, an acceleration programme that seeks out entrepreneurial solutions to the ocean crisis. “We look for startups that address at least one of the ocean’s three main challenges – overexploitation, pollution and climate change – and take them through a six-month acceleration programme,” explains Grosskopf. For their first cohort, which launched in April, Canac and Grosskopf selected six startups from very different industries. The initiatives range from eco-friendly alternatives to shark nets, to a gamified environmental literacy programme aimed at reducing plastic pollution and a pump that harvests the potential energy in waves. “Such innovative and scalable solutions have the power to restore ocean health and protect the future of our planet,” says Canac. Given its location, Cape Town attracts many key players in ocean conservation and, as such, the duo have managed to create a strong network of high-level scientists, academics, entrepreneurs, inventors and investment experts, who have offered their services as mentors, free of charge, to the startups. “We want to create a space where people can meet, exchange ideas, collaborate and find all the resources they need to succeed,” says Grosskopf. “It’s been wonderful to see like-minded people with different expertise, that all want to improve the state of the oceans, come together and help and complement each other, and to know we were the catalysts for this,” adds Canac. In the few months since they launched the idea for OceanHub Africa, Grosskopf and Canac have not only secured impressive and invaluable relationships, including sponsored office space at the V&A Waterfront and partnerships with the likes of WWF and Mission Blue, but also become sought-after speakers at conferences around the world. “Everything has lined up so seamlessly,” says Grosskopf. “We must be surfing the right wave.” ​ While the project is currently focused on South Africa, the duo hope to consolidate a pipeline of projects from across the continent in order to raise a fund that further supports the "in-kind" acceleration efforts. “It will push the impact one step further if we are investors in the startups, as this way we will enter into long-term relationships that go far beyond the current six-month programme,” says Canac. “There is a massive ocean crisis, but the way we see it, that means there is a massive opportunity,” adds Grosskopf. “An opportunity that can go a long way to saving our oceans.”

100 Beautiful Things is presented by the V&A Waterfront in celebration of South Africa’s creativity, compassion, ingenuity and resilience. Every week we will be showcasing five amazingly beautiful creative things that make us proud. It is curated in partnership with Platform Creative.