V&A Waterfront’s Workshop17 seeks next African innovators

Fertile co-working space nurtures the seed of entrepreneurship

The V&A Waterfront’s future-focused and inspirational co-working hub, Workshop17, is marking its 5th anniversary by extending a helping hand to entrepreneurs.

“As we re-emerge from the lockdown, this is a time when a spirit of community is most critical for re-establishing the social and economic fabric of South Africa. We invite entrepreneurs, innovators, professionals and start-ups to all become part of our dynamic community of 50 active organisations, and we will offer the first two months free to anyone who signs up for a 12-month membership,” said Paul Keursten, CEO of Workshop17.

Workshop17 was born from the V&A Waterfront’s desire to invest in people and ideas by creating a space in which like-minded individuals and companies, whether large or small, could interact and inspire innovative and creative solutions to benefit society.

By tapping into the V&A’s resources – from property to business and retail expertise, and access to independent experts – Workshop17 offers an environment that fosters cutting-edge ideas, plans, developments and solutions in an innovation hub whose influence and impact extends well beyond its walls.

In 2015, entrepreneurs were invited to become part of the new Workshop17 venture. In the years that followed, the V&A Waterfront not only achieved its social objective, it made a significant economic impact too. Many of the smaller start-up members with only two or three staff at their beginning grew so significantly they eventually had to move into bigger premises to accommodate a staff complement of 40 or more.


Workshop17 partnerships

Workshop17 was the catalyst for the dramatic redevelopment of the old Blue Shed craft market into what is now the Watershed. The proposal for an innovation hub led to the redesign of the bigger warehouse and the opportunity to broaden the co-sharing project to also support and showcase the best local artisans at the Watershed art and crafts market.

To complement the entrepreneurial design spirit of the broader Watershed SMME community, Workshop17 focused on creating a tech cluster to accelerate rapid growth of local tech start-ups, and the key areas of education and learning, healthcare and alternative energy.

Workshop17 now houses a coding academy as part of the 50 mostly tech-oriented members. A focus area that has evolved significantly is innovative education through members and partners such as iXperience, WeThinkCode, HeavyChef and many more. “A key measure of success of initiatives at the V&A Waterfront is growing incomes and jobs through fostering enterprise development and promoting startups. Workshop 17 creates a fantastic platform for this and we want to see more make use of it.” said David Green, CEO of V&A Waterfront.


WeThinkCode is one of South Africa’s leading coding academies and addresses the country’s lack of coding skills and a key gap in the labour market. The academy trains over 100 students, mostly from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, and delivers professional coders with world-class skills.

iXperience is a higher education innovator. What began as an experiential six to 12 week summer course for American students from top universities in the US has evolved into a collection of accredited modules in a year-long course for university students around the world. Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, iXperience has expanded their programme into an online offering, which will be combined with experiences in Cape Town, once travel is allowed again.

HeavyChef is the platform of choice for entrepreneurs wanting to learn and they will soon launch an online learning platform with content on all areas relevant to entrepreneurs. These will be delivered by leaders in their fields. The Heavychef foundation conducts yearly nationwide research on learning by entrepreneurs that informs their offering. The foundation also invests in making their learning accessible to township entrepreneurs and involves entrepreneurs across South Africa’s economic and social divides.

Tesla  is an internationally renowned brand with South African roots. The company is a long-time member of the Workshop17 community where it is instrumental in preparing the launch of Tesla energy solutions locally. Tesla’s Power Wall enabled Workshop17 to maintain internet connections during load shedding.


As the V&A Waterfront intended in 2015, Workshop17 has become an innovation hub that facilitates a community of talented, passionate and diverse individuals, all learning and working together to create new solutions to big and small problems. The co-sharing arrangement enables interaction between the public, entrepreneurs, innovators and designers, as well as between disciplines, sectors and cultures in its endeavours.

Anyone interested in joining the Workshop17 community is welcome to contact Jade or Laura on 021 205 9000 or email watershed@workshop17.co.za.