Page 1

2017’s

MOST

CREATIVE

PEOPLE IN BUSINESS RISING STARS, BRILLIANT LEADERS, WORLD DISRUPTORS including ACTOR DONALD GLOVER, CHEF MASSIMO BOTTURA and AIRBNB’s KATIE DILL R35.00

JUNE 2017 FASTCOMPANY.CO.ZA

16014 7

9 772313 330006

YES-WECAN MAN

How MADODA KHUZWAYO is bringing the World Wide Web closer to Africa “Internet connectivity is the foundation from which great societies are built.”

SA’S DARLENE MENZIES, MANNY RIVERA and JONATHAN PEPLER

MADODA KHUZWAYO, Founder, HOSTRIVER


MetropolitanRepublic/20535

A different world needs a different approach to security with MTN Business Security.


MTN BUSINESS SECURITY.

A

t MTN Business, we understand the importance of protecting what helps your business grow. That’s why we pride ourselves on being an ICT provider that gives peace of mind with our end-to-end security solutions. With our collective experience and industry leading technology, we can prepare your business for cyber threats. Our end-to-end solutions include: Vulnerability Assessments, IT Networks Security, Email Security, Firewalls as well as Mobile Device Security. To protect your business go to mtnbusiness.com/za

THE COURAGE TO GROW IS BUSINESS.


June 2017

Contents

C OVER S T ORY

22 YES-WE-CAN MAN

“If Facebook and Google can do it, why can’t we?” is Madoda Khuzwayo’s bold declaration that he and his company HOSTRIVER could become the numberone hosting provider in the world. Inside the savvy entrepreneur’s plans to build tech solutions that will reshape the South African communications landscape to bring the Internet within reach of every citizen BY EVANS MANYONGA AND KAZ HENDERSON

Looking to the future “I was born in a village with no electricity, running water or certainly no Internet,” says Khuzwayo. “It’s my dream to bring about positive change in underprivileged areas”.

2   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A  JUNE 2017


S PEC IAL F EATU RE

THE WORLD’S MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE IN BUSINESS 2017 + SA’ S TOP 30 Meet this year’s most inspiring leaders, designers and doers in tech, entertainment, medicine, finance, marketing and more Begins on page 32 HIG HLIG HTS IN TERNATIONAL

S OU TH AF RICAN

66 DONALD GLOVER

46 DARLENE MENZIES, FINFIND

The writer, actor, musician and producer known for his zeitgeistdefining hits has become one of Hollywood’s most in-demand polymaths

70 JAMES ANDERSON, BLOOMBERG PHILANTHROPIES The head of government innovation programmes incubates entire municipalities to help them solve systemic problems—and creates a blueprint for other cities along the way

80 MASSIMO BOTTURA, FOOD FOR SOUL

How the acclaimed Italian chef is using market leftovers to give the poor and hungry a sense of stability City fixer Bloomberg Philanthropies’ James Anderson is transforming cities into “distribution networks for ideas”. (page 70)

4   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A  JUNE 2017

86 KATIE DILL, AIRBNB

The job of this director of experience design is to make sure you find the right local hot spot to try at the right time during your Airbnb trip

This entrepreneur has been using her own experience to develop practical, easy-to-use software tools for SMEs to aid them on their business journey

50 MANNY RIVERA, PLANET FITNESS

After swapping his dream of a life on Wall Street for the gym almost three decades ago, Rivera heads a company that’s shaping up the health and fitness industry

59 MARTIN DIPPENAAR AND SERGIO BARBOSA, GLOBAL KINETIC How the two co-founders have built an environment in which software developers can flourish, learn and excel

60 JONATHAN DAVID PEPLER, GRANADILLA

The 2013 Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year helps tourism establishments offer discounts, promotions and packaged deals to the public—enabling South Africans to become tourists in their own country


Contents

NE XT

REG U LARS

14 START AN UPRISING!

08 FROM THE EDITOR

How UCT Upstarts develops young, innovative thinkers into agents of social change BY SIMON CAPSTICK-DALE

18 THE HARVARD DIARIES

“Why my time at one of the most prestigious business schools in the world was the best learning experience of my life” BY SETH ROTHERHAM

30 PEOPLE BUY FROM PEOPLE

How anthropology can be applied in communication strategies to produce invaluable human insights BY CATHERINE BLACK

12 THE RECOMMENDER 90 THE GREAT INNOVATION FRONTIER South Africa’s ratings downgrade could spell the end of our fragile culture of innovation—unless we bridge the gaps between possibility and opportunity BY MILLS SOKO

94 FAST BYTES & EVENTS 98 INNOVATION MATTERS

Companies are struggling to be innovative, despite knowing it’s vital to their survival. Why adults need to be taught to play and think creatively again BY ROBERT KELLAS

Do it yourself Darlene Menzies, founder of Finfind, says the easiest way to create a product that meets a market gap is to solve a problem you’re experiencing in that market. (page 46)

6   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A  JUNE 2017


Fast Company promotion

Yes, you can be a tech entrepreneur! How Resolution Circle helps turn innovative ideas into market-ready products

So, you have an idea for a product. A beauty. Nothing complicated like a cure for cancer or a drip-free milk jug, but a unique idea solving a real problem. And you believe there are enough real people with the problem to present a decent market. And make you some money. Casually searching the Internet, you quickly realise this path is long and hard, starting with intimidating terms like patenting, prototyping, business models and many more casually thrown about. And you realise this is not a cheap dream, either—it will require funding. Lots of it. But how to start? Really start, and not just talk about it? Even if you had the funding, what do you know about fundraising, prototyping, product design, manufacturing and compliance testing? Even more distressing, what do you know about starting a business? Do you even want to be an entrepreneur? Enter Resolution Circle. Yes, it may have an interesting name, but it plays an interesting game—your game. Resolution Circle will take your product idea, help to get the funding, design and manufacture it, and help you take it to market. That simple. It’s called the Ideato-Barcode™ process. This one-of-a-kind commercial company was started in 2012, and is owned by the University of Johannesburg. It is the culmination of two years of international scouting to address unique problems in South Africa. After borrowing the best bits of advice and experience from around the world, Resolution Circle was started with over R380 million in investment. Five years later, and commercialising more than 80 products, Resolution Circle (now with an army of 500 people) is in a unique position to help technology entrepreneurs commercialise their products. Including yours.

It starts with a discussion of your idea, usually after signing an NDA (a document where we promise not to tell others about your idea). If there is a patenting opportunity, this will be done by the resident patent attorney (it’s handy to have one close by). Your idea will then be developed from both a technical and business perspective to end in a funding application. You will obviously also receive some technologybased entrepreneurial training; you must start and drive a business, after all. After receiving funding and surviving the celebration, the hard work begins. A detailed project plan is developed with you, and the engines are started. This includes technical issues like design, prototyping (amazingly, Resolution Circle has 12 different types of these), engineering, industrialisation, smallscale manufacturing and even marketing. Resolution Circle only stops when you have enough product to make your first R1 million. Depending on the deal, the company may even help you sell the product through its own network of partners. All the way, you will have access to experts, advice, training and support to help you through the tough times. That’s Resolution Circle.

All the way, you will have access to experts, advice, training and support to help you through the tough times.

MAY 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   7


From the Editor

Our Most Creative People in Business coverage exemplifies the great things one can achieve with one’s unlimited potential.

PUT ON YOUR (CREATIVE) THINKING CAP BusinessDictionary.com describes the term ‘creative thinking’ as “a way of looking at problems or situations from a fresh perspective that suggests unorthodox solutions which may initially look out of the norm. Creative thinking can be stimulated both by an unstructured process such as brainstorming, and by a structured process such as lateral thinking.” It has become a fundamental element in all sectors of society— disrupting, setting the pace, and ultimately solving (or at least creating a path to solving) some of the most pressing challenges we face today. As we do each year, we have identified 60 of the most inspiring creative minds in tech, entertainment, medicine, finance, marketing and more from South Africa and the rest of the world. As noted by our US editor Robert Safian, it is through Fast Company’s annual Most Creative People in Business editions that “we initially introduced readers to Instagram founder Kevin Systrom—before his business was acquired by Facebook. It’s where we first talked about Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia, Amazon Studios chief Roy Price, and Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal. And where we made the business case for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s amazing accomplishments with [the sung-through Broadway musical] Hamilton.” He adds that our coverage of these outstanding individuals reveals “just how broad and rich an impact business can have, regardless of any external economic and political conditions. There are always amazing things going on, if you pick your head up to notice them.”

8   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A  JUNE 2017

It takes a great deal of creativity to make a name for yourself as innovator, businessman, techie—and foodie. And that after growing up as a cowherd in a rural village! Today, Madoda Khuzwayo’s technology solutions are reshaping the South African communications landscape to bring the Internet within reach of every citizen— allowing them access to information and services that can improve their lives and increase the country’s competitiveness both domestically and internationally. Read our cover story to find out just how this savvy entrepreneur intends doing so. Congratulations to our Most Creative People in Business for 2017. You deserve respect and admiration for exemplifying the great things one can achieve with one’s unlimited potential. I hope you, our readers, enjoy this edition and are motivated to push the creative thinking process to its limits—and even beyond.

Evans Manyonga evans@fastcompany.co.za @Nyasha1e


PUBLISHER AND EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Robbie Stammers

EDITOR Evans Manyonga

evans@fastcompany.co.za

robbie@fastcompany.co.za

ART DIRECTOR

DIGITAL PLATFORMS

stacey@insightspublishing.co.za

Charles Burman, Catherine Crook

Stacey Storbeck-Nel

CHIEF SUB-EDITOR

By Digital Publishing

FINANCIAL MANAGER

Tania Griffin

Lisa-Marie de Villiers CA(SA)

ADVERTISING SALES DIRECTOR

PRINTER

keith@insightspublishing.co.za

DISTRIBUTION

Keith Hill

ADVERTISING MANAGER Kyle Villet

ADVERTISING SALES EXECUTIVE Robin Scott

RSA Litho MAD

SUBSCRIPTIONS

susan@insightspublishing.co.za

PUBLISHED BY

AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY CEO Grant Fredericks

grant.fredericks@africannewsagency.com

FAST COMPANY INTERNATIONAL TEAM CHAIRMAN

Joe Mansueto, Mansueto Ventures

EDITOR

Robert Safian

DEPUTY EDITOR David Lidsky

EXECUTIVE EDITOR Noah Robischon

EDITORS-AT-LARGE

Jon Gertner, Rick Tetzeli

OFFICE MANAGER

SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR

susan@insightspublishing.co.za

EDITORIAL DIRECTOR

JJ McCorvey

Susan Ball

Jill Bernstein

SOUTH AFRICAN EDITORIAL BOARD

DIRECTOR, EDITORIAL STRATEGY

Louise Marsland, Anneleigh Jacobsen, Prof. Walter Baets, Pepe Marais, Alistair King, Koo Govender, Abey Mokgwatsane, Kheepe Moremi, Herman Manson, Ellis Mnyandu, Thabang Skwambane

Lori Hoffman

CREATIVE DIRECTOR Florian Bachleda

DESIGN DIRECTOR

EDITORIAL CONTRIBUTORS

Simon Capstick-Dale, Seth Rotherham, Kaz Henderson, Catherine Black, James Orme, Winnie Sun, Ben Paynter, Matthew Shaer, Austin Carr, Mills Soko, Robert Kellas, Evans Manyonga

ARTISTS

Cover: Sarah De Pina Adobe Stock, Sarah De Pina, Maciek Jasik, Señor Salme, ioulex, Carlton Canary, Chloe Aftel, Maurizio Di Iorio, Kevin Lucbert, Kevin Whipple, Angela Ho

Ted Keller

PHOTOGRAPHY DIRECTOR Sarah Filippi Publisher and Editor-in-Chief:

ART DIRECTOR

Physical address: 176 Main Road, Claremont, 7700, Cape Town Postal address: PO Box 23692, Claremont, 7735 Telephone: +27 (0) 21 683 0005 Websites: www.fastcompany.com www.fastcompany.co.za www.insightspublishing.co.za

PRODUCTION DIRECTOR

Robbie Stammers

Alice Alves

April Mokwa

CHIEF DEVELOPMENT OFFICER Christina Cranley

CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER Mark Rosenberg

No article or any part of any article in Fast Company South Africa may be reproduced without the prior written consent of the publisher. The information provided and opinions expressed in this publication are provided in good faith, but do not necessarily represent the opinions of Mansueto Ventures in the USA, Insights Publishing or the editor. Neither this magazine, the publisher or Mansueto Ventures in the USA can be held legally liable in any way for damages of any kind whatsoever arising directly or indirectly from any facts or information provided or omitted in these pages, or from any statements made or withheld by this publication. Fast Company is a registered title under Mansueto Ventures and is licensed to Insights Publishing for use in southern Africa only. JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   9


Fast Company promotion

Cyber Protection 101 CYBERCRIME AND SECURITY

With the increasing rise in cybercrime, securing your business against online threats is more vital than ever before

In cyberspace, false modesty can kill your business—that, and complacency. If you’re the kind of business owner who thinks your digital data is too insignificant to matter to anyone else, and laughs off cyberthreats and cybercrime as somebody else’s problem, it’s perhaps time to think again. According to Rishen Sukai, product manager of security at MTN Business, “No matter how big or small your business: if you’re using the Internet or electronic device, you’re vulnerable.” Globally, countless big-name organisations have been breached by cybercriminals, from eBay and AshleyMadison.com, to the White House and CIA. A highlight of 2015 was the discovery of a multinational gang of hackers

who had syphoned about $1 billion from at least 100 banks from 30 countries worldwide. If powerfully resourced institutions like these can be compromised, smaller businesses face an exponentially greater risk, given that they are the weakest link in the business chain and typically lack the technology, expertise and even time to set up a credible line of defence against intrusion. What compounds the problem is that many see their funds and intellectual property as being too low in value to warrant criminal attention. The reality, however, is that every piece of information will be worth something

Cybercrime is the fastest growing and most costly form of crime a business faces. In the tightly governed financial services sector, the potential damage that could be caused by the simple act of losing a memory stick containing customer data could be massive. But don’t worry, there are ways to protect yourself—and being educated about this concern is a good place to start.

THE COST OF CYBERCRIME

689 million

people in 21 countries experienced cybercrime within the 2016 period.

$126 million has been spent globally since 2015 by victims dealing with cybercrime.

$2.1 trillion The projected cost globally to companies by 2019, caused by security breaches.

32%

of economic crimes suffered is caused by cybercrime, with the financial services sector the hardest hit.

Cyber-based risk has extended beyond the traditional hacker with an agenda.

80%

of cyberattacks are driven by organised crime rings, in which data, tools and expertise are widely shared.

Sources: Norton 2016 Cyber Security Insights Report, IBM Security Report 2015, Forbes

10   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A  JUNE 2017


to someone even if you wonder why on earth any outsider would want to go to such trouble. Rishen recommends businesses begin to protect themselves by adopting a few basic security measures. “The most common route for hackers is by an email with an embedded virus,” he says. “To mitigate that, first ensure your service provider has a solution for scanning email before it hits your computer. Sometimes viruses can be customised so that they bypass email security filters, so, second, have your own anti-virus on your computer and ensure it’s always up to date. “The second threat is using pirated software. Very often it has stuff built into it that allows people to monitor and take over your machine without your knowing it’s happening. The mitigation, of course, is to use legal copies of software.” Remember, too, says Rishen, that “it’s easy for hackers to get into your Wi-Fi hotspot. The easiest solution is to change your password often—and make sure it’s hard.” And when using online services, don’t use the same login password all the time. Then, ensure your operating system (as well as other software) is continually updated, because the updates contain ‘patches’, or repair jobs, which manufacturers issue as and when they discover vulnerabilities in their products. Don’t ignore those annoying pop-ups that say, “Updates are ready to install”, and don’t postpone the updates, either—they’re vital to your digital well-being. Data should be regularly backed up and stored safely. One small-business owner stores external hard-drives in a bank vault, but this extreme measure is unnecessary, as the cloud provides a formidably secure and more convenient place of sanctuary. Ideally, data stored on the cloud should be encrypted. Above all, learn to love your business: its data is important, so make protecting it a priority. Cyberthreats are a sophisticated reality. While it’s unwise to be complacent, it’s just as unwise to give in to out-and-out paranoia. All that’s required is to keep IT security on your agenda and implement an appropriate level of safeguards by speaking to experts like MTN Business for strong, sophisticated protection.

4 COMMON MISTAKES TO AVOID

While many business owners say that they are aware of cybercrime, many still make the same mistakes. Here are four tips on how to make your business less vulnerable:

CONNECT WITH A SECURE SERVICE PROVIDER The points of entry into a business network have increased due to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) business decisions, migration to cloud-based systems, and moving to wireless access as primary means of connectivity. Effective IT security must include strong IT governance and the right partner or technology selections.

@

ALWAYS HAVE A FIREWALL Over 75% of cybercrime targets small businesses—don’t be a statistic. Protect your business with The Virtual Firewall. This cost-effective alternative for low-bandwidth network links or hosting environments offers a dedicated firewall— including firewall configuration, administration, monitoring and support—to protect corporate data and systems in a round-theclock managed solution hosted in South Africa by MTN Business.

DON’T CLICK ON UNSAFE LINKS Clicking on links in emails, on social media platforms and in online advertising is a common way to compromise your device. MTN Email Security Suite helps protect against malicious email spam and phishing attempts, and provides a means of recovering emails in the event of mail accounts or a computer being compromised by malware.

STAY UPDATED Keeping your security software and operating system current is the best defence against online threats. Symantec Endpoint Protection hosted by MTN provides intrusion protection, proactive threat protection and anti-virus protection against viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware, bots and adware.

MTN Business can help with the ever-growing risks your company faces. We’ve partnered with the vendors of best-in-class security solutions including IBM, Fortinet, Mimecast and Symantec to offer South African businesses the most effective IT security solutions via a single service provider. MTN Business’ end-to-end IT security services and solutions cover IT networks, email and mobile device security, ranging from pre-emptive consulting services, protection technologies and early-detection tools through to firewalls and advanced enterprise mobile management.

Call 083 1800 to speak to one of MTN Business’ security consultants, or visit www.mtnbusiness.com/za for more information.

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   11


The Recommender What are you loving right now?

Favourite accessory WeWood watch: As an avid watch collector, I was intrigued when I came across the WeWood brand. This hybrid of technology and nature results in a unique watch that’s stylish as well as earth-friendly. Made out of 100% natural wood, they use stateof-the-art Miyota movement for the mechanics. Whether in a suit or casual attire, people are always curious about my well-designed timepiece. For every watch purchased, WeWood plants a new tree in its efforts to restore the environment. John Wilson Attorney, athlete manager, MSCSPORTS

Favourite restaurant George’s Best Fish and Chips, Helderkruin: I’ve spend a considerable amount of time searching for restaurants in Joburg that sell the best seafood. Because I live in a concrete jungle that isn’t surrounded by water, finding these kinds of restaurants can often be a struggle. However, my dad recently introduced me to George’s Best Fish and Chips. Upon recommendation from the owner George, I tucked into the most popular dish on the menu, the traditional British Hake and Chips. After devouring my meal, I better understood why George sells over a tonne of hake per week at his tiny yet elegant restaurant. I’d never tasted a fresher or more flavourful piece of fish in my home city; there was no need to add anything but a gentle squeeze of lemon. Aside from the food being so great, the service was unmatched. Sameer Naik Chief reporter, Saturday Star

12   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A  JUNE 2017

Favourite spot State 5, Fourways: As a first-time father, I spend much of my time between wanting to go out as an adult and wanting to bring my family along. State 5 at Rustic Timber and Garden Centre offers me the best of both worlds. There’s a safe space for my toddler to toddle, the food is great, and their local roast coffee (that you can buy by the bag) is definitely one-of-a-kind! Renard van Blerk Country manager, Blue Lions SA


Screen Time

This month’s pick of the most download-worthy apps currently on the market

BVI Pro

www.bodyvolume.com The body-mass-index measurement is an imperfect measure of health; neither does it tell you a great deal about fat distribution in problematic areas. BVI Pro is a new iPad app that scans your body for fat—with close focus on visceral fat—and creates an accurate body composition on the ‘body volume indicator’ scale using the device’s camera. All you have to do is take two pictures of yourself (head-on and profile) and input information like age and activity, and the app does the rest. An accurate snapshot of fat distribution is generated as well as any associated health risks.

Warblr

warblr.net

PetCoach

www.petcoach.co Before search engines, pet owners called up vets directly for advice and information. But now in the age of Google, it’s often unclear how reliable or safe the information available online is. PetCoach aims to provide a dedicated channel where users can access advice that’s reliable and backed up by registered veterinarians. Whether you need details on diets and nutrition, ailments, training, behaviour or any other query, verified vets and experts are available 24/7 to ease concerns. Users can either ask questions privately or publicly, all for free on iOS and Android.

Marshmallow

by Samsung

Young children benefit immensely from the new mobile technology of the 21st century, but there are also risks associated with an overindulgence in screen time. Samsung has created an app to discourage smartphone addiction by incentivising children with rewards. It aims to help kids develop self-control and “healthy smartphone habits”. Alongside existing parental control parameters, children can now set their own limits, rewarded with extra Marshmallow points and badges. Points are lost if they exceed their limits, but with enough points they can redeem gift cards in the Marshmallow gift shop (with parental consent, of course).

In the early days of smartphone use, Shazam demonstrated the fascinating potential of mobile technology. The song-recognition app still is a permanent fixture on many users’ systems. Warblr, launching soon on iOS and Android, is taking the tech behind Shazam and repurposing it to identify birds based on their chirps, using sophisticated machinelearning algorithms. As bird sounds are made at varying speeds and cadences among species, identifying them is trickier than recognising Shakira’s harmonies. Another challenge Warblr had to negotiate are the large repertoires of different songs and calls that individual birds perform. JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   13


Wide Scope

START AN UPRISING! Who better to develop university-fee crowdfunding, ondemand tutoring and on-campus pregnancy testing than students themselves? How UCT Upstarts develops young, innovative thinkers into agents of social change By Simon Capstick-Dale

“Upstarts is a bit of a quiet revolution happening at UCT. We’re getting out of the classroom, we’re getting students to think about real issues and what they can do—where they are—starting right now,” says Dr Francois Bonnici, director at the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Now in its third year, UCT Upstarts is in the business of launching into action the brightest ideas of South Africa’s most talented young social entrepreneurs. A joint initiative between the Bertha Centre and Super Stage (a live, open innovation “brainstorming marketplace”), Upstarts premiered in 2015 with pop-up hubs to support social entrepreneurship and innovation on the University of Cape Town’s upper campus. The student startup nation has since gone from strength to strength, and 2017 sees a further improved platform and the introduction of a brand-new wellness intervention. Students—across all faculties, from first year to honours—join the 12-week programme as members of a multidisciplinary

team who take on the challenge of finding viable solutions to realworld problems faced by everyday South Africans. “I don’t see any reason for differentiation between entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship. Every entrepreneur out there should be using their business to make the world work better. With Upstarts, we want to create a culture where business and social upliftment are fully integrated, and the emphasis is not solely on wealth accumulation,” says the wonder woman behind Upstarts and founder of Super Stage, Gina Levy. In finding answers to realworld problems faced in South Africa, these young people become a generation of proactive, self-empowered individuals in the habit of creating their own opportunities and looking introspectively to change the world rather than relying on others to make it happen. “When students find something that’s an injustice and at odds with how they believe the world should be, that’s the kind of problem they should go solve,” says Mark


Horner, founder of education enterprise Siyavula, and coach for UCT Upstarts 2016. An integral part of the Upstarts education for students is learning how to break free from the mould of prescribed, outdated employment opportunities and roles that aren’t aligned with today’s entrepreneurial landscape: “Getting students to realise they’re able to follow non-traditional career paths and aspire to become something that doesn’t even exist yet is a big part of what we’re trying to achieve,” says Levy. “We also teach students the intrinsic value in doing what they love and creating the world around them.” UCT Upstarts is hosted on a double-decker bus, where handpicked social entrepreneurs and business innovators present talkshops, workshops and ‘doshops’ to help students through the phases of their startup journey. The invited coaches are there to build the students’ confidence before they enter the marketplace with their needs-driven ideas that are capable of transforming South Africa into the place they’ve always dreamt it could be. “Working in a silo, there’s little opportunity for the cross-pollination of ideas and networking, but UCT Upstarts is very hands-on. We bring the world to campus for these students, who develop personal relationships with movers and shakers they might never otherwise have had access to. Coaches are also role models for some students who haven’t yet had anyone in their lives to look up to,” adds Levy. Each year, UCT Upstarts culminates in the Idea Auction evening where a selection of teams with the most compelling, innovative and socially impactful solutions pitch their worldchanging ideas to a live-bidding audience with the resources to put them in business right away. “Students pitch exactly what they need for their startup at the auction. In addition to money, bidders provide them with access

From top to bottom: Dadewethu: “I didn’t think something that started as a small idea could turn into something so big.” Plug-Ed: “We’ll take what we learn and develop the software side of our company.” Lwazi: “It’s not just about making money but paying it forward.”

to resources such as mentors, accelerator programmes and media exposure so they can potentially go into business on the same night,” explains Levy.

CL A S S OF 2 0 16 In the wake of nationwide student protests over fees, the Social Innovation Challenge set for UCT Upstarts 2016 was to formulate innovative ideas to “Re-educate Education”. The bold task for students was to reinvent the education landscape, with the purpose of increasing overall accessibility and affordability. The eight teams that qualified for the Idea Auction in September most certainly answered this call, demonstrating their ability to find dynamic solutions to socioeconomic issues in our schools and universities. UCT vicechancellor Dr Max Price commended the young entrepreneurs for their vision to be job creators rather than job seekers: “These students are going to be the employers, innovators and creators of a new society.” 2016 UCT Upstarts sponsors and partners included the Bertha Foundation, UCT’s HPI d-school (School of Design Thinking), SAB Foundation, Relate Bracelets, Standard Bank and Red Bull Amaphiko. Guests who attended the Idea Auction pledged more than R100 000 in cash plus resources in the form of networks, incubation spaces, travel opportunities and media exposure worth R1 million—all to make the game-changing ideas of the students come to fruition. “At Upstarts, our currency is opportunity, so it was amazing to see so many ‘opportunity bidders’ showing their support for these young innovators, and especially watching students give donations to fund the ideas of their peers— something that really proves just how impactful this platform is,” notes Levy.

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   15


Next

MEET THE FINALISTS • Dadewethu Started by four second- and third-year (at the time) female engineering students, Dadewethu—which means ‘my sister’ in isiZulu—sells and delivers pregnancy tests, sanitary products, condoms and lubricants on campus to UCT students. Pregnancy tests were their first products, and are currently available at the affordable price of just R20. “I didn’t think something that started as a small idea, from people feeling stigmatised, could turn into something so big—and that people would be so supportive and see the bigger picture,” says Dadewethu team member Cassandra da Cruz. Goods provided by the startup are delivered to a convenient location for students on both upper and lower campus. Dadewethu has a website as well as a phone and Whatsapp line available for students looking for information regarding female reproductive health.

• Plug-Ed This multidisciplinary team comprises three students studying engineering, commerce and business science, who developed the idea for a low-cost credit card–sized Raspberry Pi computer preloaded with gradeappropriate educational content for underprivileged school-

Wide Scope

children. It all started after visiting a local high school where they saw many students lacked adequate learning resources and personal safety, and where teachers weren’t always present. Plug-Ed aims to bring online educational content directly to high-school learners who need it most. These students take home the device, plug it into their TV and are able to learn in the comfort and safety of their home—individually or as a group. In future, the young startup plans to make Plug-Ed accessible to every learner in South Africa, through a website with educational resources all in one place, as well as hardware in the form of devices for students, allowing them access to educational online resources. “We are currently piloting at a high school in Khayelitsha. We have given one student a Raspberry Pi computer and we are learning from the feedback. We want to further test our model by providing access to more students at the school through USB drives, DVDs etc. We’ll take what we learn and develop the software side of our company,” says Plug-Ed team member Lindokuhle Shongwe.

• Lwazi This five-member team has developed an online on-demand tutoring platform that pairs students with tutors on campus who are registered on their system. Students simply log in to the online platform whenever they require tutoring, which is provided either face to face or via live streaming. “The cool thing about our business is that it’s not just about

“Our aim is to create allrounded, self-sustaining human beings—not just social entrepreneurs,” says Upstarts founder Gina Levy.

making money but paying it forward. It’s our commitment to enhance education in South Africa and make a social impact,” says team member Prince Nwadeyi. Students buy airtime to pay for their tutoring session, from which the tutor gets paid a portion. While the platform also exists for tutors to make some extra money, they are encouraged to teach disadvantaged students free of charge. In exchange for their services, credits are earned which they can claim against their next airtime purchase.

O T HE R S • Pop Print —encourages intellectual development in schoolchildren by using POS (point-of-sale) receipt printers at participating supermarkets to generate affordable and locally relevant stories, puzzles and other resources. • Feedback —an app that enables learners and peers to evaluate teacher performance, and matches professional development opportunities to teachers’ needs. • Uniform Exchange —provides

affordable second-hand school uniforms to children in disadvantaged communities, via pop-up days and voucher incentives.

• Funda Fund —makes crowdfunding for university tuition more accessible to underprivileged high-school students by using the university 16   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

tutor and school network to select and profile their stories, and run strategic campaigns both on- and offline.

• En Route —a travelling educational agency that exposes schoolchildren to inspiring role models through motivational talks and experiential career guidance days.

A L L’S W E L L F OR 2 0 1 7 Alongside social entrepreneurship and innovation, wellness and self-sustainability have been integrated into the Upstarts 2017 programme. Between coaching sessions where students hear first-hand from social revolutionaries and industry disruptors of all kinds, they are encouraged to look inwardly and take time out to care for their health and happiness as part of the wellness intervention. Included in the programme is mindfulness coaching, meditation, yoga and nutritional advice to keep the bodies and minds of students firing on all cylinders. The intervention is focused on educating the young entrepreneurs about how to make the kind of healthy lifestyle choices that will positively influence their future behaviours—and boost their potential as individuals who can change their communities. “By focusing on wellness— nutrition, exercise, sleep, mindfulness etc.—we hope that students will unlearn old habits that contribute to the all-toocommon cycle of burnout. We want to remind our energetic social-change agents that without good health, their ideas can’t and won’t be sustained. Our aim is to create all-rounded, self-sustaining human beings—not just social entrepreneurs,” says Levy.


Next

A Different Class

THE HARVARD DIARIES Why my time at one of the most prestigious business schools in the world was the best learning experience of my life By Seth Rotherham

Executive class Students want for nothing at HBS— from the extensive Baker Library (this page) to the Chao Center’s state-of-the-art classrooms and the hotel-like residences (opposite).

I was quite a naughty kid at school; my focus was more on entertainment rather than my marks. I cruised through and did okay academically. I can’t recall ever getting an A, and there were times I hid my report card from my folks. I was desperate to get out into the ‘real world’. I didn’t know what I would end up doing, but I remember feeling like there was a plan that would somehow come together. I was fortunate enough to get a degree in marketing, which was

18   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

great on my CV and certainly opened some doors. I was glad I had done it, but soon it was all behind me. Friends of mine continued their studies, though. Even in the last couple of years, the odd mate has gone off to get his or her MBA. I never really understood why. Two years ago, I got my fixedwing pilot’s licence, which was the first time I’d studied since my degree. But it was different this time: I devoured every word in the manuals, at ground school and in

the air. I was studying something I was truly passionate about. Maybe at school and then in tertiary education I wasn’t truly passionate about every single word I was reading. Or maybe the pilot’s licence wasn’t really ‘studying’, as in going to class at a higher-learning facility. I couldn’t imagine studying again. Then I got my entrepreneurship certificate at Harvard Business School. There are a number of programmes offered at HBS,


and I had my eye on a handful relating to entrepreneurship. Having already written a book about testing new ideas in today’s online world (Work is a sideline. Live the holiday.), the Launching New Ventures programme appealed to me. So why the sudden decision to study again? I guess it was a combination of things. The course was short, which suited me on the home front; it was highly specific to my interests, and I also believed the networking opportunity and exposure to so many like-minded people would allow a fresh perspective to trigger and

I quickly realised that possibly the biggest advantage of being at HBS is the networking opportunity.

complement new business ideas. One idea I was keen to pursue, for example, was to consult to new and established companies seeking marketing and SEO advice, but with business and entrepreneurial experience as a key differentiator. The application criteria had to do with business experience, company turnover and

viewpoints. Only 15% of applicants were accepted, resulting in a class of 75 people from 25 countries. Each person was part of a discussion group that lived together in the same wing on campus. I didn’t know what to expect, and imagined perhaps an upmarket dorm room. Instead, it was basically like a hotel—a Hilton or a Radisson. There were even porters to take our bags to the keyless rooms. Everything looked brand new. There were toiletries, a desk, computer, quality linen, hairdryer, safe . . . you name it. The mood lighting turned on automatically when you walked in the room, and it had incredible climate control (handy, as we had a couple of snowstorms). Every evening when I returned to my room to work, it had been cleaned from top to bottom, with the bed made perfectly. There was even a room-service menu in case you got hungry while burning the midnight oil. The campus itself is visually astounding, with operations and facilities to match. Besides a fully serviced bar and meals, with waiters serving wine and cleaning plates, I was squeezing in quick three-minute FaceTime calls to my girls at home, from anywhere on campus—there’s permanent highspeed Wi-Fi wherever you go. The guys at Harvard know what’s important, and don’t compromise. (And with the size of the eyewatering endowments they constantly receive from former students, they’ll never have to.) During one of the heavy snowstorms, travel between buildings was pretty cold. But that wasn’t a problem, because there’s an underground tunnel network

connecting each building on campus. Yes, the Wi-Fi works there as well. And so began back-to-back class sessions, case-study assignments, group discussions and meals. That was it. Non-stop. I managed to fit in a few treadmill sessions at 5 a.m., but there was time for little else. I was given the role of team leader of my group, which included an Ozzie, three Americans, a Dutchman and an Italian who lived in Miami. The latter had just stepped down as global CEO of possibly the most well-known cosmetics company in the world, with an annual turnover of around $5 billion (R67.5 billion). And let me tell you, the R200k cost of this course would not have covered the consultancy fees for the things I learnt from this guy alone. Not that he’d ever consult—he doesn’t need nor want to. Neither, I’m sure, would the head of Tata (as in, Mr Tata), who also recently graced an HBS programme. It was truly fascinating to learn about what everyone on the course was doing in business and what new ideas they had. It was equally rewarding and indeed satisfying on the rare occasion to offer advice on a particular issue I might have encountered in business. I quickly realised that possibly the biggest advantage of being at HBS is the networking opportunity. It would be crazy not to meet every single person—and I think I managed to do it, too—even shaking hands and swapping cards with a guy when we were checking out. He has a great idea that he wants to bring to South Africa. Everything is better at Harvard, and you’re reminded of that every day. There’s an underlying confidence you see in the professors; it comes through via the tongue-in-cheek jabs they make when MIT or Yale is mentioned in a particular case study. But it’s not arrogance—

they’re too smart for that. We’ve all heard people talk about a certain professor they had at university, who had something special and who somehow got the class to listen. Well, imagine two main professors, then another eight guest speakers or Fellows who all have you hanging on every single word they say—but with

their own style and with so much energy that you’d think it must be a once-off. And they’re not the only ones talking; they’re like orchestra conductors, guiding a constant stream of constructive and highly relevant debate among the learners, darting back and forth to the board to keep track and order the flow of our collective consciousness. It’s a fascinating spectacle to witness and to be a part of. One guy, Scott, who had studied at Harvard at the same time as Mark Zuckerberg, wore bright orange running trainers. Not for fun, but because he needed them— that’s how fast he was moving around. One day he climbed up the blackboard partitioning to make a note on the top board, instead of pressing a button to bring it down. His brain was moving too fast

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   19


Next

A Different Class

By the book Everything is better at Harvard. The Baker Library has superb resources and info services, plus knowledgeable staff.

and he didn’t want to lose the momentum that was building in our class discussion. This is the kind of stuff you’re dealing with when it comes to these men and women at Harvard. They radiate such crazy energy, coupled with ridiculously infectious passion, operating at a grandmaster level of their game. The discussion of Harvard itself and the things we were witnessing became a popular icebreaker when meeting other candidates. Someone said to me that the lecturers were “worldclass”. I found that funny, because

20   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

he hadn’t yet grasped the fact that when people refer to “worldclass”, they’re referring to this precise level. You’re in it. It doesn’t require qualification. HBS makes use of the case study method, whereby businesses that have experienced or are currently experiencing certain challenges are analysed, and the founders’ decisions dissected. Each case study tends toward a particular part of the business process for an entrepreneur, and you’re given as much information as possible: around 25 pages per case, outlining the story with visuals and spreadsheets. Some of the businesses had folded, some sold for a fortune, and some of them are still going—in which case the class would use up-to-date analytics to discuss what the company should do next. Some of the cases I’d never heard of, while others like Dropbox, Tesla and Amazon I had. Very often there was no definitive answer as to what the protagonist in the case should or should not do. But for me, the process of dealing with the

case on my own at night, then in my discussion group the next morning, and then again in open class with 75 other people from all over the world—applying lessons they’ve learnt along the way— unlocked so many fresh thoughts about new and existing ideas of my own, that I had a separate pad of paper just to keep track of these. But we weren’t just doing case studies about businesses winning or failing. We discussed dreams and family, too. Do you want cash or do you want to be king at home? Are you a success if you have billions in the bank but your marriage is over and you spend your life flying from city to city? HBS doesn’t shy away from that kind of stuff, because it’s necessary. That’s why you come here: Things need to be thorough, with no stone left unturned. Most of us went out for a drink on the last night, which was great fun. Then, when we said goodbye to each other after class on the final day, it felt like this group was special. It seemed impossible that any other group or course at HBS could be this great. But they all are—because you cannot absolutely guarantee this kind of success and customer satisfaction without having the world’s greatest facilities, systems and people at your disposal. It takes a day or two before you truly digest

what you’re dealing with. It’s massively seductive. It can become addictive, too. Many in the class talked about which programme they’d do next year. Because the courses are short (anything from a week to a few months), they’re manageable in terms of our busy lives. And because the content is so upto-date and fresh, the relevance to one’s business or job is exponential. That was probably the biggest takeaway for me: I need to keep doing this; I need to keep learning—and with short courses, I can do so. Market trends, ideas and business tools change, and without constant learning you’ll get left behind and your brain will get stale. It’s never guaranteed that we can get to Harvard each time, but there are a number of excellent short courses available for a variety of disciplines at most of South Africa’s top universities. And you don’t even physically have to get there: In collaboration with the likes of the University of Cape Town, MIT, HarvardX and Cambridge University, online education companies such as GetSmarter offer those same programmes as tutor-led, certified short courses that are accessible entirely online. I wish some of the agencies and media buyers we deal with at my company could be sent off to do a fresh digital marketing course, at the very least. These guys are blowing clients’ cash on ideas, campaigns and metrics that are so 2012 that it’s not even funny. And it’s not just my opinion. But that’s something for another article. And yes, I did get the T-shirt. And the hoodie, jersey, cap, keyring, folder and stickers. Though I didn’t think the Harvard One Ring (google that) was appropriate!


“I G N O R E ALL THE NOISE AROUND YOU” How savvy South African entrepreneur Madoda Khuzwayo went from a cowherd in a rural village to a big player in the global village By Evans Manyonga and Kaz Henderson

Photographs by Sarah De Pina

22   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017


“ I T W A S L O V E A T FIRST TOUCH,” SAYS KHUZWAYO AS HE FONDLY RECALLS THE VERY FIRST TIME HE TYPED HIS NAME ON A COMPUTER KEYBOARD. “I WAS INSTANTLY AND IRREVOCABLY HOOKED, AND IT’S BEEN A LOVE AFFAIR THAT ENDURES AND HAS SHAPED MY ENTIRE BUSINESS LIFE.” 24   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

When you speak to him, one thing’s clear: He knows exactly what he wants. In his late 30s, Khuzwayo is part of a new breed of successful tech entrepreneurs redefining the future of South Africa and the continent as a whole. But the CEO of HOSTRIVER wasn’t handed success on a silver platter. In rural KwaZulu-Natal, young Madoda grew up during a turbulent time in South Africa’s history. At the tender age of nine, his mother—a political figure in the village where the family lived—was killed in a faction fight, which left him and his two sisters in the care of his grandmother. Like many other families at the time, the young children’s father had left the village to seek employment on the ‘streets of gold’ and had ended up working in the gold mines in Gauteng. Yet, life wasn’t too bad, he says. Spending his days in the fields with the family cows, Khuzwayo herded his way into his teens with little to worry about; what the future held was not even a consideration. When he turned 13, however, things changed. Believing their village had become a hot spot for violence and thus too dangerous for her maturing grandson, Khuzwayo’s grandmother despatched him— disguised as a girl—along with his sisters to Gauteng to live with their father. Arriving in Joburg in the midst of bustling urban life and discovering a whole new family (whom he knew nothing about) could’ve been overwhelming. But instead, Khuzwayo found a distraction in technology. More specifically, the television. The rectangular box held a kind of magic that could unfurl a realm of infinite possibilities—and he was smitten. He speaks little about his years at high school, but in no means does it diminish the hardships and challenges he experienced; it’s things like the daily kilometres of cycling to and from school, come rain or shine, and the regular theft of his transport that have shaped him into the go-getter he is today. Despite all odds, he matriculated top of his class, with 100% in mathematics: a remarkable achievement that afforded him a bursary to study electrical engineering at Vaal University of Technology. There Khuzwayo was exposed to even more technology, particularly computers and the myriad opportunities of the Internet, which was still in its infancy at the time.


Started from the bottom, now he’s here Having grown up with little has helped Khuzwayo stay grounded and humbled throughout his entrepreneurial journey.

Having tried unsuccessfully to convince the grantor of his bursary to allow him to switch to IT, he completed his electrical engineering qualification. But being sent to one of the furthest outposts of South Africa’s electrical stations after graduating proved a bridge too far for someone destined to change the world, so he handed in his calculator and headed off to the United Kingdom to seek his fortune. Having never been on a train, let alone an aeroplane, “to say it was daunting is an understatement,” Khuzwayo shares. Upon arriving in the dead of night, the solo traveller still needed to find his way to Holbeach, a small market town in southern Lincolnshire, England, where he was to take up employment—“of some kind”. Realising very early on that all was not as it was promised in the newspaper advertisement, our intrepid hero found his way to London. “All I had was 80 pounds and my backpack when I finally got to the capital. But as scary as it was being alone in the big city, it was also one of the most thrilling times of my life.” Working a series of odd jobs and crashing in accommodation inhabited by a mixed bunch of South Africans also looking for fame and fortune, summer rolled on. As winter approached, drastic decisions needed to be made; answering an advert for a busboy/dishwasher in a hotel in Oxford, Khuzwayo headed off to a warm roof over his head and at least one square meal a day. And then fate stepped in.

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   25


Upon alighting at the bus stop to take up his new position, he came face to face with an employment-offer card in the window of the local job centre: “Wanted: Electrical Engineers”. “I don’t even remember walking into the place before completing the aptitude test and being offered the job. I didn’t even know what business it was for.” But the hours suited him: working Monday to Thursday in the hotel, and Friday to Sunday (on the night shift) for BMW. Earning enough money over the next few months, Khuzwayo finally got himself into the Westminster College of Computing, where he aced his first IT qualification. This was just the beginning. He soon found his way to India to further his knowledge at SQL Star College in Bangalore. But after falling seriously ill while in India, he had to return to the UK and subsequently to South Africa, as his study visa had expired. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger—or successful, as it turns out—because coming back to his home country in 2015, Khuzwayo entered the SAB KickStart competition and won the Gauteng regional contest with his first Internet-based business idea— a hosting company for Africa called HOSTRIVER. It was also there that he met Mnive Nhlabathi, who would become his long-time friend and business partner. Ever the visionary, Khuzwayo predicted the rise of cloudbased computing solutions and authored the e-book Cloud Computing for Africa well ahead of his time (as he does most things), and founded several other digital businesses including OpenTenders and BrandPark. Since his initial ventures overseas, Khuzwayo has travelled the world and counts Prague and Seoul as two of his favourite cities—along with London, which will always hold a special place in his heart. “Working insanely long hours—I did all the coding and development work for all of my businesses in the beginning—good nutrition is important to me,” says Khuzwayo. “I love to travel and love to eat good food, but I could never find what I was precisely looking for, so I created something. That’s what I do.” It’s a hugely exciting time for this larger-than-life personality who’s gracing several billboards around the country and is the face of premium cognac brand Rémy Martin’s campaign that aims to encourage people to live their lives to the fullest. Largely self-funded, like many savvy entrepreneurs, Khuzwayo Madoda starts businesses to raise others, working incredibly hard to define his success on his own terms. Given the unsettling discourse and narrative of South Africa today, where youth appear largely disenchanted with the future, he stands as a real-life African role model. Fast Company: You came from humble beginnings, from herding cattle in a small KZN village to being a boardroom power player today. How has this experience shaped the way you see the world and your personal goals? Madoda Khuzwayo: I have this infinite belief that all things are possible. I’ve learnt that most life challenges are either won or lost in your mind long before the results manifest in

26   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017


real life. The biggest challenge for me was figuring out how to ignore all the noise around me and focus on my dreams, regardless of where I come from. In fact, starting from the bottom has helped me stay grounded and humbled throughout my entrepreneurial journey. Do you consider yourself a technology entrepreneur? The simple answer is yes. Let me break it down: Technology entrepreneurship is a category within the broader realm of entrepreneurship. Any type of entrepreneur uses technologies developed by others to launch their own service or product, whatever the product may be. A technology entrepreneur, however, invents new technology or builds upon an existing one to make it better. The technology is the product. What are your thoughts on the influence and power of technology in the near future? I get goose bumps just thinking about it. Can you imagine a world where eventually all things—homes, cities, cars and office buildings—become smart and Internet-enabled? The result will be a tsunami of opportunities for entrepreneurs to build technologies that help us live in such a world. Technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics and nanotechnology are going to change the way we work and live—in ways we’ve never imagined. HOSTRIVER has been in operation for about 12 years. Tell us a bit more about its service offerings and some of your success stories? We started as a small company offering cloud-hosted email and collaboration tools to small businesses. We have since grown to be a fully-fledged Internet service provider offering domains, hosting, website security and fibre Internet. You started the company with no funding, and just a single server you purchased after winning the SAB KickStart competition. How did you manage to build up the business to its current level? Through persistence and self-belief. I wanted to succeed, and wanted it so badly that nothing else mattered. Rarely does success happen overnight, and in most cases one will fall a few times—I have. The journey is not as glamorous as it looks on the covers of the magazines; behind the scenes it’s hard, and at times frustrating, but the desire to succeed is what keeps me going. Once you accept that it takes longer to succeed in real life than you first imagined, things actually become easier. What were your most challenging moments when establishing HOSTRIVER? Mostly resources. Infrastructure and human capital are expensive, and we bootstrapped our way to the top. We grew much slower, and it was frustrating. Looking back, though, I have no regrets. Growing at a slow pace helped us learn and make mistakes with less pressure.

Can you explain the importance and significance of a reliable hosting infrastructure and its impact on the greater economy? A reliable hosting infrastructure is the backbone from which an Internet-enabled life can be realised, and can impact economies in a way we have never seen before. One study done a few years ago found that a 10% increase in Internet penetration in a developing country is associated with a 1.7% increase in exports and a 1.1% increase in imports. Significantly, hosting as a platform for com-munication and commerce enables small businesses in developing countries to become part of a global economy as international traders. It enables an economy-wide opportunity for all sectors—from manufacturing to services—and that’s where the opportunity lies. Did you ever consider quitting as the going got tough? What kept you soldiering on? I’ve tried new things before, but not quitting. In fact, just the thought of having to wake up and work someone else’s dream drives me insane. What keeps me going is love for what I’m doing and having the big dream. Having a vision and a goal that you strongly believe in propels “Can you imagine you forward even when a world where times are hard. I learnt quite early in my life that eventually all my current circumstances things—homes, are nothing but part of the cities, cars and office journey. I have to keep working and believing. buildings—become

smart and Internetenabled? The result will be a tsunami of opportunities for entrepreneurs to build technologies that help us live in such a world.”

How much value do you place on hard work and perseverance? Life is beautiful, and the possibilities of what you can make of it are endless—but you have to dream big and work very hard and never give up. Keep moving forward. You also have to give yourself the freedom to fail and the ability to forgive yourself quickly and learn from your failures. Most suc-cessful people fail time and time again, and it’s the measure of their strength that failure merely propels them into some new attempt at success. I’m not afraid to fail, and with enough perseverance, I win in the end. You have helped multiple SMEs through platforms like OpenTenders and bringing eM Client to Africa. How have these actively solved numerous challenges for small businesses? OpenTenders was a portal we created to connect businesses with procurement opportunities, mostly in government, and to some extent enterprise and supplier development opportunities for large businesses. Because we interact with a lot of small and medium businesses, we get to see first-hand what their frustrations are in as far as access to information is concerned. OpenTenders was our response to the need

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   27


for easy, accurate and fast access to procurement opportunities. And it worked superbly well— until National Treasury decided to launch its own portal, and our attempts to partner with them failed. eM Client, one of our other products, is a Windows-based desktop email management software system for sending and receiving emails, managing calendars, contacts and tasks etc., with a Mac version coming before the end of 2017. eM Client was developed as a user-friendly alternative to existing email software and calendar solutions such as Microsoft Outlook. It was originally founded and developed in 2006 in Prague, Czech Republic, and is now utilised by more than 30 000 businesses and a million users. When I first learnt about the software back in 2011, I immediately tried it and our customers liked it. I then contacted the CEO via email, and after a few Skype sessions we agreed to meet. I got on a plane to Prague, and after that trip we signed an agreement to distribute the software in Africa and founded eM Client Africa, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of HOSTRIVER. Today, eM Client has offices in London, San Francisco and Johannesburg, and has matured a lot since its inception and is now much more suitable for large companies and government departments. We’ve spent a great deal of time and effort to make it possible, and now we have several big companies on board with us—such as Toyota, Avis and McDonald’s, to name but a few. In the greater scheme of things, this gave us an opportunity to enter the desktop email software market and provide businesses in Africa with what we believe is a better alternative to Outlook and any other email software currently available. Your thoughts on the importance of broadband in aiding development on the African continent? The Internet is undoubtedly an undisputed force for economic growth and social change, especially for developing countries. One of the key benefits of the Internet is its ability to enable the use of new technologies to develop new businesses faster and cheaper, and these benefits have turned the Internet into a platform for commerce as well as a crucial tool for business and citizen engagement. It has been argued that Internet access is now essentially a basic human right on par with food and shelter. Definitely. The Internet’s enabling environment allows citizens to access information and services that can improve their lives and increase the country’s competitiveness both domestically and

28   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

30 SECONDS WITH MADODA KHUZWAYO Favourite quote? “Dream big and work insanely hard.” —David Beckham Favourite book? The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho Favourite destination? The Maldives Favourite city? London How do you unwind and relax? “I love to cook. As long as there’s food, then we’re alright.” Biggest inspiration? “Entrepreneurs.” On his vision to have the number-one hosting provider in the world: “If Facebook and Google can do it, why can’t we? The point is to set your sights high.”

internationally. In a world where technology is affecting every sphere of our lives, the Internet does indeed become a basic human right. You plan to bring high-speed Internet access to townships and many other underprivileged areas. How will you achieve this? Internet connectivity is the foundation from which great societies are built. I believe we can solve many of the world’s problems through entrepreneurship, and easy access to services and information should be at the core of transformation. I was born in a village with no electricity, no running water, and certainly no Internet. It’s my dream to bring about positive change in underprivileged areas and a gift of life to the new generation—a chance for them to dream and remain relevant in the new Internet-enabled world. How can we ensure these rural areas gain access to the Internet? If we wish to reap the Internet’s potential for social and economic gains, we must invest in infrastructure and the broader Internet ecosystem factors that affect citizens, such as awareness, education and relevant services. Partnerships between governments and the private sector is a key factor in ensuring we fast-track connectivity and build thriving ecosystems in rural and township areas. We also need to ensure policymakers understand the social and economic benefits of broadband Internet. Not only are you an astute and savvy businessman but you are also a strong brand on the social scene. Tell us about your collaboration with Rémy Martin. I’m the current face of Rémy Martin’s “One Life. Live Them.” campaign, which many have described as one of the most impactful campaigns of this decade. It’s centred around the concept of individuals using their one life to do many things, and draws on the notion that we’re all called and purposed to do and be more than one thing. Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years? I’m inspired and driven to be the best at what I do, and I’ll be somewhere tackling interesting social projects and trying to make the world a better place.


2017’s

MOST

CREATIVE

PEOPLE IN BUSINESS RISING STARS, BRILLIANT LEADERS, WORLD DISRUPTORS including ACTOR DONALD GLOVER, CHEF MASSIMO BOTTURA and AIRBNB’s KATIE DILL JUNE 2017 FASTCOMPANY.CO.ZA

R35.00

16017 4

9 772313 330006

“IGNORE ALL THE NOISE AROUND YOU” How savvy South African entrepreneur Madoda Khuzwayo went from a cowherd in a rural village to a big player in the global village By Evans Manyonga and Kaz Henderson

Photographs by Sarah De Pina

22

FASTCOMPANY.CO.ZA JUNE 2017

YES-WECAN MAN

How MADODA KHUZWAYO is bringing the World Wide Web closer to Africa “Internet connectivity is the foundation from which great societies are built.”

SA’S DARLENE MENZIES, MANNY RIVERA and JONATHAN PEPLER

MADODA KHUZWAYO, Founder, HOSTRIVER

I T IS MORE THAN A M AG A ZINE, I T'S A MOV EMEN T The Digital version of Fast Company South Africa is now available on Apple iPad and Android tablets


Next

PEOPLE BUY FROM PEOPLE How anthropology can be applied in communication strategies to produce invaluable human insights By Catherine Black

At its core, anthropology is the study of someone’s behaviour in a natural context. So, if you want to study a lion, for example, you’d go to a nature reserve, not a zoo— and you’d live with the lion rather than observing it from your car. In the same way, anthropology in an ad agency environment is an immersive approach that helps marketers understand the context

30   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

Brand Aid

of their product, by engaging with customers in their ‘natural habitat’. In a typical ad agency, the strategic planner writes the client’s communication strategy. It’s usually fairly formulaic: containing a diagnosis of the problem, a competitive analysis, a positioning piece, and then recommendations. This strategy usually also involves research— either desktop research done by the strategists themselves, or market research provided by the client. But here’s the problem: This kind of market research is usually very product-specific. And even if it’s customer-focused, it’s in the context of that customer’s relationship with the product. Crucially, because a communication strategy is used to inform the creative brief, the ads that are produced as a result are almost always product- or customer-benefit focused. The problem with this is that an ad may be solving an artificial problem identified in a focus group, when the actual need of that brand’s wider customer base is completely different. There’s another, more

innovative approach to research, and it involves using a concept that’s usually only thought of in a very academic context: cultural anthropology. So, what is the study of anthropology, and how can it be applied to the commercial environment of an ad agency? ● At its core, anthropology is the study of someone’s behaviour in a natural context. So, if you want to study a lion as an anthropologist, for example, you’d go to a nature reserve, not a zoo—and you’d live with the lion rather than observing it from your car. This immersive approach is precisely what drove Warren Moss, MD of full-service business-tobusiness agency Demographica, to consider hiring an anthropologist to give him these key insights. It was also a deliberate way to set the company apart from its competitors. “When we started doing the research,” says Moss, “we realised that, globally, not many agencies use anthropology in their market research—and certainly no one in South Africa.” With this realisation, he approached recruiters to help him

find an anthropologist. “They swiftly came back with nothing,” he says. Next, he decided to approach the Wits Anthropology Department—the head of the department, to be precise. “He was naturally very suspicious,” says Moss. “After all, there we were, an ad agency that, to an anthropologist, seems like a company that sells things people don’t want, which is of course something that’s totally against the ethos of cultural anthropology.” But eventually Moss won him over, and his search led him to recruit anthropology master’s graduate Claire Denham-Dyson onto his team. It didn’t take Denham-Dyson long to produce her first key insight for Demographica: that people buy from people, not companies. “But it doesn’t end there,” she adds. “People also buy from people they like.” Given this, it was clear that Moss and his team needed to create a sort of chemistry between the seller—their client— and the client’s prospective buyers. As a B2B agency, the


challenge was to see whether Demographica could create this chemistry through a piece of communication. It became clear to Moss that using an anthropological approach worked far better in a B2B context than in a typical business-tocustomer agency environment. “Anthropology in B2C is always going to be limited because of the volume of people you’re marketing to,” he says. “After all, if your target market is 30 million people, you can’t do enough research to justify how you get to insights relevant to everyone in that pool.” Fortunately for Moss, this didn’t seem to be the case in a B2B scenario, where one is usually only marketing to a few hundred or even thousand people at most. But even in a B2B context, every person within the business to whom a business is selling has their own motivations, triggers and emotions. The buyer also has influencers around them, so you won’t only be selling to the financial director, for example, but also to the sales director, payroll clerk and tax specialist. ● So how does this anthro-

pological-informed strategy work in practice? An example is when Standard Bank approached Demographica to help market its attorney trust accounts to notaries and conveyancing attorneys across the country. “We started off by researching who their sales subjects were,” says Moss. “It turns out that they’re A-type perfectionists—basically what you’d get if an attorney and an accountant had a baby.” Moss and his team then pitched their big idea based on this finding to the bank, and the resulting campaign was called “Dot the I’s and Cross the T’s”. The agency did a desk drop of a pen and a worksheet pad filled with contract speak, where none of the t’s were crossed or i’s dotted throughout the text. They also made paper coffee sleeves for law chamber coffee shops that contained text typos and spelling mistakes all over them. The idea here was that the people who cared about this type of thing would take note of it. Another practical application of anthropology in a marketing context was when Demographica

was tasked with rebranding and renaming Zurich Insurance, a global commercial insurer. Based in Zurich, the company was divesting out of the southern African market and selling to a Canadian private equity firm, so the new entity needed a completely different name and corporate identity. Moss’s team started the project as they always do—by speaking to real people involved with the company. This meant spending time with everyone from staff and managers to insurance brokers who dealt with Zurich Insurance, whether they loved or hated the company. “We realised from these interactions that people in this particular business weren’t just employees,” says Moss. “They were practitioners who cared deeply about the end result for their customers, for example, by giving advice about a building that would actually lower their premiums.” Once they discovered this new view of the company as an ‘artisanal insurance business’, it was easy for them to create a brand and name—Bryte

Insurance—that had the corresponding feel. “In typical market research, you’d create a brand you think the market wants. In our case, we believed the brand should be representative of the people working in it, as it’s then far more authentic and believable,” says Moss. The key characteristic of this unique approach can be summed up as follows: In traditional market research, you have research subjects, but in anthropology you have participants. It’s this anthropological perspective that helps provide a holistic understanding of exactly how a brand should be targeted based on a real underlying problem, and then craft a successful creative campaign on the back thereof. If agencies are able to do this successfully, as Demographica managed to do with Standard Bank and Bryte Insurance, this means engagement and response rates will be dramatically higher. After all, any ad man would agree that if you want to sell successfully, you have to show that you resonate with your customer’s world.

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   31


32   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

Art credit teekay


Art credit teekay

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   33


SA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

34   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017


FOR PUTTING PEOPLE AND PRODUCTS FIRST Gary Willmott and Anton Moulder Co-founders, Urbian


SA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

Gary Willmott, along with business partner Anton Moulder, established digital innovations company Urbian, where they use digital to better businesses, deliver new markets, and unlock new revenue streams. A technologist and digital native, Willmott has an uncanny eye for discerning new markets and opportunities. Obsessed with creative disruption, he loves technology’s ability to forge new business models that bring brands closer to their customers. Described by his clients as a “strategic visionary”, Moulder is obsessed with design thinking, disruptive business models, and how technology can make the world a better place for people and business. With his roots in design with digital-first agencies, he offers successful go-to-market implementations for ambitious brands—taking critical projects from design to implementation and beyond to deliver successful innovations. Moulder played a key role in the user experience, branding and ideation of YoDJ, an app initiated by Willmott that allows users to decide what music they’d like to hear at a venue or event; they also developed the transformative human resources tool Hi5, a peer-to-peer platform that makes employee reviews simple and fun (anyone can give a deserving colleague a virtual high-five). In addition to Urbian, Willmott and Moulder are venture partners in UpForIt. co.za: an app that connects coaches and professional nutritionists with users to help the latter follow a healthy lifestyle.

in South Africa that were offering these skills, so we knew it was a very bold move to make, but one we knew was right.

Fast Company: Tell us more about your creative process in founding Urbian. How did you realise the gap in the market?

GW: We’ve seen how rapidly businesses have changed in the last five years with the rise of mobile and the crowdsourced sharing economy. However, there’s a next wave of digital transformation that will affect us more in the way we do business. Artificial intelligence will change the way we manufacture with daily repetitive tasks; virtual reality will change the way we communicate or experience things; and the blockchain will change the way we transact with finance, contracts and even our private identities— thanks to South African entrepreneur Vinny Lingham with the launch of Civic. If businesses have been scared of the disruption that’s happened up until now, they’d better get a wake-up call to what’s going to happen in the future. What I find scarier is that education hasn’t evolved or adapted for what’s coming.

Anton Moulder: When we originally founded Urbian some 10 years ago, the company looked very different to what it is today. When we first started, we were a digital advertising agency. We ran digital ad campaigns and built microsites and HTML5 in Flash. However, we soon realised that the advertising industry was changing rapidly, and that if we wanted to stay ahead of the game, we knew we had to stop offering advertising services from the ‘70s and ‘80s and evolve with the times to offer our clients products and services that were actually useful to consumers—their customers—in everyday life and actually make a difference. At the time, there were very few companies

36   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

Gary Willmott: We weren’t looking for a gap— we just followed our passion. We started a company because we realised how poorly many companies were run; they were treating staff and clients like commodities. We started our own initiative to search for a better way of doing work that we passionately enjoyed. How is digitalisation and technology transforming businesses? AM: When you put those words together, it actually means digital transformation. I’ve yet to come across any company that doesn’t need to transform their business digitally in some shape or form. The companies that are doing this are winning, and those that aren’t are losing. That’s the bottom line. The effects of digital transformation are huge. For example, it’s not just about offering a better service to customers, but it empowers them to scale into new services that they weren’t able to offer before, at a speed they may not be prepared for. South Africans are now exposed to large multinationals and their standard of customer service, for example Uber and Airbnb. As a result, consumers are becoming accustomed to this level of service—and if your company is not delivering a similar experience, then they’re likely to go elsewhere.

How is a customer-first company different from one that is not? AM: My best explanation is that a customerfirst company is one that believes customer feedback is paramount. Being a customerfocused company doesn’t mean having to respond to every customer request, but it’s about understanding the customer need and responding to this to achieve the best possible outcome in each situation. Being customer-centric is rooted in customer feedback, and marrying those insights with the business goals. It’s about testing and validating the customer feedback early on in the process in order to deliver the most appropriate and best-suited solution to a problem. GW: In the past, we learnt this the hard way: We used to spend four to six months on a project, only to realise it was a fail. Just imagine the cost of three or four engineers, two designers and a product owner on a project like this for six months—that’s a lot of money! We now launch with a prototype early and at least show something to an end-user within two weeks. We also have a rule to launch to the public within a maximum five sprints (10 weeks). If it takes longer than 10 weeks, there are too many features. You are both obsessed with ‘creative disruption’. What does that mean to you? AM: Like many catchphrases, I think ‘creative disruption’ is overused and often misused. [Harvard Business School professor] Clayton Christensen coined the phrase “disruptive innovation”, which refers to technology enabling cheaper and easier access to previously expensive or hard-tocome-by products or services. While disruption can’t always be planned for, companies need to be aware of this and should learn from Christensen’s thoughts about building a moat of products and services around themselves so as not to get negatively impacted by people looking to disrupt. Clients are sometimes wanting to disrupt their sector; however, what companies really should consider is creating value first and serving a customer——this in itself will disrupt the industry if done well.


What are some of your innovative projects? GW: It was while managing Urbian that we noticed the pain, effort and admin that managers at SME companies endured in people practices in particular. Always keen to solve a problem with a smart tech solution, we launched Hi5 internally as a side project. Primarily, it started out as a solution to cut down on admin and the effort required to manage staff; however, word spread quickly about Hi5 and it’s now being used by many corporate and SME brands in multiple countries around the world. AM: We also work with a lot of companies in the financial and insurance sectors, such as Investec and Sanlam. We continue to work with Vital Health Foods South Africa, which is digitally transforming large sections of its business. One of the first things we did with Vital was to digitise all its customer collateral (for example, the Vitalise magazine) onto an online publisher that was more than just a digitised flipper—it’s a user-friendly and dynamic online magazine. We are also launching a new subscription service for South African customers to improve how they order and receive vitamins and supplements as well as healthy foods and snacks. Throughout 2017, we’ll also be working with Vital on launching a one-onone health coaching service through a digital platform called VitalME, an app for iOS and Android that connects a person with a health coach (in person). Together, they can discuss exercise, healthy eating plans, improving sleep or healthy ways to lose weight. In your opinion, how does creativity add value to a business today?

“A CUSTOMER-FIRST COMPANY IS ONE THAT BELIEVES CUSTOMER FEEDBACK IS PARAMOUNT.”

way to code or a particular approach to a research project. Creativity adds value to every part of a business, and a company that encourages creative thinking is the one that wins hands down. What do you do in your spare time that sparks creativity? GW: First of all, spare time is something precious. My concern for most people I see in tech is that they aren’t taking breaks and don’t realise how this actually affects their work and life in the future. I generally spend my spare time with family and friends. I surf when I have gaps and I find this helps me to clear my head and come up with ideas. Often I’ve found that when I’ve been stuck on a problem, I’d take a break and go for a surf, and boom! the solution comes to me while I’m at the backline. AM: I like solitude, peace and quiet. Being outside, away from technology and the business, is the best environment to spark creativity and allow the ideas to flow. Your leadership philosophy?

GW: When people hear the term ‘creativity’, they think of designers behind Photoshop or an artist behind a canvas. However, the term actually refers to “resulting from originality of thought, expression etc.” I believe everyone is creative; it’s just about inserting people in the right environment, team and framework. If this is done right, creativity is unstoppable. AM: Creativity can be found in any kind of discipline. There’s no business, industry or discipline that’s not creative. Creativity is found in a new business idea, a new fresh

GW: I love Howard Behar’s quote: “The person who sweeps the floor should choose the broom.” An important ethos and value for our employees is that they need to be self-learners and open to the ambiguous, ever changing platform called the Internet. We don’t focus on roles or titles, but rather on output, responsibilities and goals. We let staff members create their own goals and we all track and review that on a regular basis using Hi5. We’re fairly flat-structured and avoid policies

that hinder our culture. We often allow the staff to work from home and work flexible hours. I’m also a big fan of employees being faithful with the little and then being entrusted with more. Yes, we’ve had employees fail, but as long as they take responsibility for their failure, learn and adjust—how else will they ever learn? AM: To allow people the space and the licence to try new things in a safe environment, and supporting them even if what they tried has failed. That doesn’t mean I believe in commending failure; it means I believe the most innovative work is done by people who are given the confidence to try big things and are not scared of failure. Tom and David Kelley’s book, Creative Confidence, is a great read on this subject. What has been the biggest challenge for Urbian thus far? AM: Without a doubt, it’s been finding people who don’t just have the skills we need—user experience, design thinking, coding or engineering—but actually have the same DNA as we do. There are amazing rock-star coders, designers, business analysts and consultants out there, but to build a cohesive team that works well together is difficult, because you need people who work well together. And that doesn’t happen easily. GW: Clients generally love our ideas and the prototypes we build for them. The challenge we face is in getting them to actually launch and risk with us. As these types of digital products are so new to local clients, they often don’t know under which budget even to classify the expenditure, and by the time they’ve found a solution, it’s too late—a competitor or a startup has launched a competitive solution. What can we expect from Urbian in the future? AM: A significant part of our business has always been client projects and engagements, and while we will continue on this path, we’re increasingly diversifying the work we do to include investing in joint ventures and launching our own businesses and products, one of which is Hi5.

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   37


SA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

FOR BRINGING HER A-GAME 24/7 Penny Streeter

Founder, A24 Group and Benguela Collection

Fresh ideas “If you cannot move and react with the times, you risk your business becoming a dinosaur,” says Streeter.

38   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017


“I’ve always been driven by success. I never for one second doubted myself and was determined to start again,” says Penny Streeter, recalling the 1991 recession in the United Kingdom that destroyed her first recruitment agency and left her divorced and homeless with three young children to provide for. She had moved to the UK from South Africa at the age of 12, and left school to pursue work in the recruitment sector. To make ends meet after the loss of her first company, she worked for other agencies, but later ‘borrowed’ a desk and telephones at the back of a friend’s car dealership to try and set up a business. She and her mother raised funds as children’s party entertainers over weekends and, in 1995, were finally able to launch the aptly named Ambition 24 Hours—a temp staffing agency for the nursing sector. Following rapid growth, it expanded nationally to cover locum doctors, carers and social workers, among others. The agency soon became Ambition 24/7. “We realised there were a lot of agencies around, but they all opened their doors at 9 a.m. and shut at 5 p.m., whereas healthcare is a shift business that runs 24/7. If one nurse doesn’t arrive, the other can’t leave,” Streeter explains. After much success in the UK, she felt the pull of home after holidaying in Cape Town in 2004. She was so impressed by the service she was offered in shops and restaurants, that she decided to move her headquarters to the Mother City. “You can have a vision, a dream, but this can only be delivered by recruiting the right people,” says Streeter. “The very essence of good service is achieved by having the right staff in place, and this is something that businesses all over the world are struggling with. We spend all our time recruiting the right staff.” In 2006 the company had another name-change, A24 Group, and subsequently acquired Nursing Services of South Africa—the largest private provider of temporary medical personnel in this country. Streeter fell in love with the South African landscapes and wines, and soon founded the Benguela Collection of bespoke establishments in the Western Cape (Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate, Lakeside Lodge & Spa, and Benguela on Main restaurant), and more recently added Mannings Heath in the south of England—the UK’s first golfand-wine experience to match that of South Africa. It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to fail, but it takes a certain level of grit to start over when left with nothing. “Never give up. Failure helps to perfect the art of success,” says Streeter. Another bit of sage advice for entrepreneurs: “If you cannot move and react with the times, you risk your business becoming a dinosaur. I lead my businesses from the front, and will change and put new things in place at will.”

FOR MAKING TOWNSHIP REAL ESTATE HOT PROPERTY Fernando Antonio

Founder, director, ZAkasi

This young business owner first hit on his big idea during an innovation lecture by Charles Maisel, co-founder of Shanduka Black Umbrellas, at the Raymond Ackerman Academy of Entrepreneurial Development (part of the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business). Participants had to read through newspaper articles to find any problems unique to townships for which they could devise solutions. Antonio saw quite a few ads for the major real estate agencies as well as property search portals that were all serving the upmarket areas of Cape Town. “So I thought to myself, Why not start ekasi’s [the township’s] own property search portal, where everyone looking for or selling a property in ekasi can use it to gain access to such properties and markets of potential buyers?” ZAkasi Property, officially launched in January last year, is his online platform that connects buyers with sellers in townships on the Cape Flats, as well as construction companies that are able to build or renovate homes. Antonio hopes to move away from

the old ways of advertising on shop noticeboards or at train stations. Through creativity and initiative, he is taking disruptive technology to these underserved areas. Most buyers and sellers use middlemen (agents) to secure home deals. While Antonio concedes that these agents have played an important role so far, he points out that the 5% to 7% transfer cost is an overhead that consumers can bypass with his tech. “Transfer of ownership could take place effectively without the need to pay a third party.” Doing away with agents is risky business, however, as the middleman is often the figure who reduces chances of fraud. But Antonio sees this as another opportunity for technology to step in. Using cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, for instance, will protect against identity theft and allow all transactions to be transparent. “False documentation and listings will become a thing of the past. Sellers would have a digital identity, and houses would have a unique digital identity. Further-

more, homeowners will be able to claim ownership backed by digital records.” The ZAkasi platform will also expedite a laboured transaction process. Real estate markets have a reputation for being slow and tedious, further hampered by the government’s slow processing of property transfer costs. “Buyers and sellers always want to finalise the deal or transaction and obtain ownership and money with immediate effect,” says Antonio. “Though technology can do very little in influencing government legislation, it will have a huge impact on financial verifications of the sales process.” Township properties bring their own challenges. Antonio’s biggest roadblock is the lack of title deeds for many of the government RDP houses that are so common in the townships. Only a few of these projects have received title deeds in less than eight years after completion. Even if the property is available, it cannot be sold until a title deed is available to show proof of ownership. ZAkasi is just one opportunity for the 23-year-old to make a difference. “I believe as entrepreneurs we are the lifeblood of society. We create or bring the future to the people.”

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   39


SA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

FOR TRANSFORMING THE OLD INTO THE BOLD Lisa Calligaro

Co-owner, MD, The Grey

The Grey boutique hotel— in Cape Town’s vibrant and upcoming district, De Waterkant—is a sight to behold: modern flair inside a heritage building, at once cosy and fashionable, influenced by Moroccan design and Japanese food culture. It also houses the rooftop Skybar, Shio restaurant, The Piano Bar jazz café and the KOS Bistro, which together form “The Grey Experience”. “Creativity is the key in my life and [should be] in society today. We are all so full with everything, and mostly we are bored. Globalisation has opened doors in many ways, therefore individually, spirit and creativity for each of us is important,” says Lisa Calligaro, the brains behind the hotel. Calligaro was born in Hamburg, Germany and moved to Cape Town at the age of 16. After completing her university studies in London, she moved back to Hamburg where she worked with her hotel developer father, Christian Peters, to renovate the Strandhotel Blankenese. In 2008, she took over the management portfolio for this upscale German art-nouveau hotel. Two years later, how-

40   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

No shades of grey Calligaro says creativity is key in her life—and should be in society, too. “We are all so full with everything, and mostly we are bored.”

ever, an opportunity arose for her to dabble in the fashion industry—a passion she’s had from a young age. With her partner Stefano

Bia, Calligaro moved to Cape Town to launch a handcrafted jewellery brand Giro Del Mondo (meaning ‘around the world’) and stores that carry

an upbeat mix of women’s fashion and home decor. “There wasn’t really one occasion that influenced my passion for design and


fashion,” says Calligaro. “It was always a good way for me to express my feelings, and that leaves space for interpretation for other individuals experiencing this particular piece of art.” In early 2016, Calligaro and her father, along with business partner Monika Brune, conceptualised The Grey—transforming an old, dusty building into a destination hotel. There are different colours in each courtyard to give guests the experience of walking through a narrative. There are Buddha statues and vintage fountains in public spaces, and self-designed furniture and individual art pieces in each room. “Guests and customers will see and recognise your creativity and love it when you put it into the structure, design and strategy—which all represents you when you are creating a brand,” Calligaro adds. Creating a new business is a difficult task, especially for a young woman entrepreneur. “Renovating The Grey has been the greatest challenge of my career. I renovated the previous hotel in Germany as well, but dealing with builders in South Africa was not easy,” Calligaro reflects. However, the thrill of the challenge inspires her—and she would do it again, any time. Managing three jewellery stores and overseeing a hotel is not a straightforward task, but Calligaro simply loves what she does. “The jewellery business as well as the hospitality industry are very rewarding. You get an immediate response and feedback from your guests and customers. This is what I love the most—I’m surrounded by people all day.”

FOR MAKING A LUXURY BRAND FASHIONABLE IN AFRICA Jesper Gustafsson

Director of International Markets, HUGO BOSS

Last year, Africa welcomed back HUGO BOSS retail guru Jesper Gustafsson after his five-year commitment in charge of the BOSS Travel Retail stores worldwide. His new role as director of international markets sees him once more managing the African markets, in addition to new responsibilities in eastern Europe and Switzerland—making this his most challenging job to date. Gustafsson’s first stint at HUGO BOSS was in 1999 in his hometown of Stockholm. Shortly afterward he assumed a number of positions within HUGO BOSS Scandinavia, before becoming head of direct markets in 2008, leading a portfolio of 21 markets including the continent of Africa. He recognises the influence of his former MD early on in his career; a figure who offered unconditional support and who challenged him constantly. “He made me proud to work for this company—not only for the fantastic brand we are but also for who we are as people.” The ambitious young man’s guiding vision for HUGO BOSS was simple: Get distribution in Africa up to European standards. During that period, the company

initiated more than 20 store projects around the continent, significant growth that enabled it to become the market leader it still is today. With distribution now almost in line with his initial expectations, Gustafsson has a more pointed focus on customer experience. “In one way, distribution is the easy first step,” he concedes. “How can we be fast with the right merchandise to the stores? How can the service levels match those in the BOSS stores of Regent Street in London or Champs Élysées in Paris?” Like in all other sectors, technology has been as disruptive as it has been progressive for the luxury fashion industry, impacting the way merchandise is distributed and how customers obtain information on new collections—forcing companies to ensure online stores are as luxurious in appearance and top-notch in service as their physical ones. Under Gustafsson’s creative direction, HUGO BOSS has successfully cornered the South African market, one that many high-profile foreign brands have failed to penetrate. He blames the fluctuation of the rand for undermining international confidence in investments, pointing out that companies have to be prepared for dramatic increases of investment demanded by a reliably temperamental currency. “Secondly, you need to make sure to work with the right people. Even though we are in the same time zone, the distance makes us vulnerable to problems in operations. Luckily, we’ve had stable partners for over 20 years whom we trust 100% and who are living the brand values together with us every day.” Nevertheless, in terms of growth potential it’s still the young and hungry South African market that has HUGO BOSS’ attention, as it provides the perfect platform to test new ideas and products, and to learn and make improvements. “That is, of course, what excites us the most,” says Gustafsson. “BOSS is a very progressive brand that’s constantly evolving. We are 100% dedicated to finishing the job we started over 20 years ago: to become not just the market leader in South Africa but a reference within the company as a market that others look up to.”

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   41


SA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

Lecturer, researcher, biokineticist, sports technology innovator, author, speaker, founder of a non-profit—and Mr South Africa 2016—Habib Noorbhai is finding novel ways to inspire a healthy lifestyle and to better society. He has been involved in community work since 2007, and in 2013 set up The Humanitarians: a volunteerbased organisation that conducts various community projects and programmes in sports, education, sustainability and innovation in the Western Cape. “We are on this Earth for a very short time and we need to utilise every opportunity to provide inspiration, sustainability and hope. Correct action starts with the correct thinking, and correct thinking starts with a correct mindset,” he believes. His NPO’s latest project is a mobile bus gym that goes into communities that don’t have access to basic exercise equipment, targeting the youth and the elderly, students and those with disabilities. Regarding his title of Mr South Africa, Noorbhai says it’s more about being a “model male” than a male model. “It’s about being a man of honour and a role model for boys and men to aspire to, in building a different and better South Africa.” In 2013, Noorbhai was counted among South Africa’s 100 Brightest Young Minds, and in 2015 was included in the Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans.

42   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

Fast Company: How do sports, education, sustainability, innovation and healthy living all come together for you? Habib Noorbhai: Sport gives hope and provides a healthy mind, which in turn enhances the productivity of a student to better his or her education. Living healthily through positive lifestyle modifications is key to sustaining one’s wellbeing. Innovation is a critical focus area in our modern and digital world. Verily, this is what sparks one to be creative and dynamic—not only in business but in all spheres of life. The keyword here that amalgamates the above is: balance. Tell us more about your vision for The Humanitarians. My vision is to empower and educate the youth and the country at large on being passionate, driven and proactive to make a sustainable difference in society. The Humanitarians strives to create a sustainable and innovative society by: promoting a healthy lifestyle; enhancing education and skills development; initiating sports development; and enhancing sustainable and innovative living. The novelty with our NPO is that all our projects and programmes are measured through scientific research.

FOR DEVELOPING HEALTHY MINDS IN HEALTHY BODIES Habib Noorbhai

Founder, director, The Humanitarians


JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   43


SA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

What is the role of creative innovations in the sports industry? Although there has been considerable hype and vast developments in sports innovation and technology, there’s limited focus on sustainable sports development in the form of products. Such creative innovations play a massive role in the sports industry because, on the one hand, sport players have the opportunity to prepare better and are better informed on how to prevent injury; on the other hand, entrepreneurs and engineers are forming lucrative business benefits and opportunities from selling such creative innovations to companies, sports teams and individuals. These creative innovations also exist within the health and gym industry through tracking devices, monitors and other technological innovations manufactured for health benefits and convenience. As a lecturer and researcher, how do you bring creativity into your classroom? My aim is both to educate and inspire. I am a student of life who loves learning, especially imparting valuable learning to students. My teaching goals are twofold; they proceed beyond just acquiring the optimal university throughput rates. Firstly, the focus is on enhancing critical thinking among learners so that they are able to apply and critique the world of knowledge in order to foster more effective applications and adaptability in the business world of work. The second goal is understanding the difference between contentbased learning and learning through practical application, and real-world situations including community engagement.

44   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

What is the biggest challenge facing the sports industry today? The biggest challenge for me is a lack of sport participation and accessibility to facilities or human resources at the grassroots level. At the elite level, it has been modified into being sustainable when vested interests of business began to take shape. Another challenge is the essence of fair play and the spirit of the game, which has also been somewhat reduced. We must remember that the way sportsmen and sportswomen conduct themselves on the sports field sets a massive precedent for those who watch—especially the youth who aspire to be professional athletes. What kind of changes do you hope to inspire as Mr South Africa? I’d like to be remembered as the Mr South Africa who was an ordinary guy who did extraordinary things. My posts on social media are to inspire, even if it’s just one person per day. My role as Mr South Africa is to complement the activities we do with The Humanitarians through community engagement. Last year you published Should You Follow Healthy Fit Sheep?, an e-book on how to maintain an individual healthy lifestyle. What is your own lifestyle? What do you do daily? I stand most of the day and walk a lot at work. I train at BODYTEC [training franchise that uses electro muscle stimulation] once a week and I go to the gym thrice a week. An active lifestyle coupled with a healthy, low-carb eating plan is essential. This works for me, and I’m productive with this lifestyle; I stress less and I sleep much better.

FOR MAKING CYBERSECURITY A TEAM EFFORT Riaan Badenhorst

MD, Kaspersky Lab Africa

For Riaan Badenhorst, creativity comes in the form of managing challenges and positioning his company to operate strategically at an optimal level. No two days are the same in his job, nor within the IT security space, he says. It requires him to be alert and on his toes all the time, but he loves this energy. Having excelled in this sector for 18 years, Badenhorst joined Kaspersky Lab in 2011 and now acts as MD for the African region, which constitutes more than 40 countries. The world’s largest privately held vendor of endpoint protection solutions has remained an innovator in IT security. Badenhorst’s goal is to grow Kaspersky Lab’s market share in sub-Saharan Africa, moving from purely endpoint services to more sophisticated enterprise solutions that meet customer needs as the threat landscape changes. Kaspersky Lab is well-known for combating major IT threats, and its constant innovation has placed it above its competitors. “Given the complexities of cyberthreats and the growing realities around these, Kaspersky Lab has developed a range of services based on unique intelligence.”

For Badenhorst, though, his secret to success is his commitment to people, benefiting partners and customers across key regions. “I work with many different people from various backgrounds and cultures every month, which is fascinating.” More of a coach or mentor to his team, Badenhorst stepped away from the traditional micromanaging approach and began building trust with his employees. “Teamwork is very important, in not only ensuring one’s team is a healthy working group but to ensure everyone is on the same page and working toward achieving the same goal.” His mind is always active, even on the golf course or fishing. “Both these activities allow me some quiet time to reflect and think about things—and the quiet time is when I get my creative juices flowing and find solutions to present problems.” In a career that’s “constantly evolving, with many challenges and opportunities to face,” Badenhorst is staying ahead of the game with his abiding passion for technology and IT security, and living up to the words of founder and chairman Eugene Kaspersky: “Our business is saving the world from computer villains.”


FOR TURNING TECH STARTUPS INTO GLOBALLY COMPETITIVE COMPANIES Maria Pienaar

Founding director, Blue Label Ventures

With two decades of experience in the San Francisco and Silicon Valley tech industry under her belt—a thriving period in which she launched over 30 successful wireless and Internet applications—Maria Pienaar is the perfect person to usher in the next generation of world-changing small businesses from South Africa. After starting her career in the data network stem of Telkom, helping to shape the country’s communications market, she was part of the team that launched Vodacom—now one of the most successful arms of Vodafone’s international network. To add to an already impressive CV, Pienaar also had a notable stint at Cell C as CIO. Despite many challenges, she helped launch the first Wi-Fi Calling service in Africa, and initiated innovative partnerships with the likes of Facebook. At the end of last year, Blue Label Telecoms and Blue Pencil Management launched a boutique business accelerator programme, Blue Label Ventures, and it was no surprise when Pienaar was called upon to join as founding director. She works closely with co-founder and longterm business partner Tallies Taljaard, who has been commercialising, coaching and mentoring scale-up technology businesses for more than a decade. Given Pienaar’s in-depth knowledge of the telecoms and technology ecosystem, she is an “invaluable” talent to have on board, says Taljaard, in identifying earlygrowth companies in which to invest. Though Pienaar adds, “My tech background is not the most important factor in deciding where to invest, but it does help us in evaluating the product and

market when we make technology investments. It’s important to have a diverse investment team with business, financial and technology expertise when assessing tech investments.” The investment process is extensive and involves assessing market value, guaranteeing market demand, and exhaustively understanding the technology platform— with one eye always on international and scalable growth. “We get involved in the global strategy with the management teams of the companies in which we invest,” says Pienaar. “It’s important to bring a ‘think big’ approach to accelerating scale-up businesses—and having enterprise experience and exposure doesn’t hurt.” The accelerator aims to invest in up to 10 companies over the next three years, in diverse markets ranging from enterprise security and business process automation, to machine learning and artificial intelligence. Pienaar is well aware of industry barriers that stifle innovation and creativity, bemoaning the “notinvented-here syndrome” in particular for holding back South African tech development. It refers to the problematic resistance of open innovation by large and small organisations seeking to sustain a competitive edge. Those afflicted suffer by looking the other way when ideas or technology, intrinsically valuable to their own endeavours, emerge. “We also need to get corporates closer to the incubation

phase of tech. Their input, validation and feedback is critical to enable startups to execute on the commercialisation of their business,” she adds. A self-proclaimed “lifelong learner”, Pienaar diligently keeps up to date with the insights of thought leaders in the world of business, technology and a number of other diverse sectors—educating herself and her peers by bringing innovative and opposing perspectives to the table. “I’m a personal coach to early-stage entrepreneurs and am passionate about the personal development of people. To create successful companies, we need motivated, creative and innovated leaders.” Driving communication between colleagues throughout all stages of development, she adds, is indispensable to the creative and productive enterprise. “According to a Stanford Research Institute

study done in the 2000s, 80% of the way we learn is through collaboration and discussions with peers in our networks. [Harvard Business School professor] Clay Christensen says two of the skills in the DNA of an innovator are questioning and collaboration.” While the entrepreneurial community here has creativity in abundance, they “lack the financial and other key support structures to grow and scale”. “We need to look at separate support structures to grow and scale lifestyle-type entrepreneurs—who will create the majority of jobs in the country—and technology entrepreneurs, who are looking at scaling globally.” With Maria Pienaar in the driving seat, Blue Label Ventures is sure to deliver on its promise of providing a much-needed platform for developing innovative, fastgrowing tech businesses into globally competitive companies.

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   45


SA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

FOR HELPING SMALL BUSINESSES IN A BIG WAY Darlene Menzies

Founder, CEO, Finfind

Access to finance is the number-one challenge faced by startups in South Africa; only 7 in 100 reach their third year of business. Tech innovator Darlene Menzies knows all about this and other difficulties in starting and growing an enterprise. She has been using her own experience to develop practical, easy-to-use software tools for SMEs to aid them on their business journey. After working in the corporate ICT sector for 15 years, Menzies spotted a gap in the market for customised, webbased and mobile solutions, and launched The Development House: a software development

46   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

company that designs customised electronic systems for non-profits and small businesses. It garnered her the South African Innovation Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2010. More accolades and two more successful business solutions—SMEasy and Finfind—have followed. SMEasy is an online management system designed specifically for entrepreneurs with no knowledge of accounting; while Finfind is a web platform that links finance-seeking SMEs with appropriate lenders. Recently, Menzies was named by the World Economic

Forum as one of six Africa’s Breakthrough Female Tech Entrepreneurs of 2017, for her role in helping drive growth, create employment and prepare the region for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Fast Company: You strongly believe that business should play a leading role in the fight against poverty in South Africa. Tell us more about your vision. Darlene Menzies: Unemployment is a major challenge in South Africa, and has a huge knock-on effect on poverty and its associated social challenges. The bottom

line is, businesses provide employment. As [South African futurist] Clem Sunter says, if you want to create 5 million jobs, then focus on creating 1 million small businesses. The challenge is not only creating 1 million businesses but, more importantly, ensuring they survive, grow and become sustainable. We provide practical solutions that address some of the real challenges that are causing SMEs to fail. In addition, we work with South African corporations to provide unemployed youth and entrylevel candidates with work placement via online joblinkage solutions.


Both SMEasy and Finfind fill gaps in the tech and finance sectors. What is your approach to this? I’ve simply solved problems that I had experienced as an entrepreneur; I myself wasn’t able to find easy-touse solutions in the market to utilise. It has never been about brainstorming to come up with clever ideas or developing systems for systems’ sake. The easiest way to create a product that meets a market gap is to solve a problem you’re experiencing in that market—that’s essentially my creative approach. Entrepreneurs create the best solutions for entrepreneurs. What role does creativity play in starting a business? Creativity is typically associated with being arty or unstructured, or maybe being a designer—or loving dreamcatchers! When I think of creativity in business, I think of innovation. The most creative people in business are pragmatic thinkers whose minds naturally solve problems. The biggest challenge of your career thus far? Learning what to spend time and energy on. There’s no shortage of exciting opportunities or challenges to address through technology. My strategy regarding this is to focus any new product development on one market. How do technology and finance complement each other? Technology is providing consumers with speed, choice and easy access, and finance is a vital service that’s ideally suited to being delivered virtually. They are a marriage made in heaven in reducing costs, enabling easy access, overcoming geographical constraints, integrating the developing and developed world, and accelerating globalisation. What does the future hold for the tech industry? Integration and simplification. Garage teams crushing the big guns. Third-world innovations leapfrogging the developed world.

FOR SERVING A NEW MARKET Silvana Dantu and Shareen Parker Co-founders, African Equations

Think grape juice, but more elegant. Think sparkling wine, but more refined. Zari— named after the gold and silver threads woven through luxurious, traditional Middle Eastern silks—is creating its niche in the drinks section of your local grocery store, restaurant, hotel and airline. The two women behind this high-end, locally produced, non-alcoholic beverage are Silvana Dantu and Shareen Parker, who first worked together as members of the management team responsible for setting up the Robben Island Museum. With Parker’s background in education and tourism development, and Dantu’s in marketing and media, they founded African Equations in 1998—managing projects and marketing in sectors such as agro-processing and tourism, and now beverage production. “We have complementary skillsets, approaching both the creative and the practical aspects,” they concur. Through their work in tourism, they recognised a gap in the market for a premium non-alcoholic drink, particularly for Muslim consumers. Today, many tourists to South Africa are from non-traditional regions such as the Middle East, who do not consume alcohol. The global halaal foods market is the fastest growing in the world, worth over $60 billion (almost R800 billion) per year. Dantu and Parker realised that because the tourism industry was rapidly evolving, products would have to evolve, too, in order to meet the new demand. “There are new audiences and a new social milieu in South Africa,” they note. “We realised that the tourism industry was not geared to provide an alternative beverage to these visitors that’s on par with our [country’s] award-winning wines.” Zari Sparkling Grape is now available at top retailers and selected high-end hotel groups in South Africa, as well as through international vendors in the Middle East, Asia, Europe and other parts of Africa. Muslim tourists—or any visitors who eschew alcohol for cultural or health reasons—who previously might not have considered the Cape’s famous wine route tours can now enjoy a winelands experience without being offered plain old water or fizzy drinks.

Last year, Dantu and Parker showcased their brand at the Gulfood convention in Dubai, and landed a distribution deal with the LuLu Hypermarket chain in that country. They recently introduced elegant screwcap variants of Zari that are ideal for outdoor picnics and everyday table usage, and are now researching convenient 330ml cans for airlines. In addition, the brand has launched a range of hospitality merchandise such as counter- or bar fridges, barista wear and tea towels, shade umbrellas and ice buckets. Their empire is growing, and the two businesswomen accredit their success to their creative juices. “Creativity has been the key to our success from the outset. Creativity, such as in the Zari packaging and marketing, differentiates our brand from the hundreds of other grape juices on the market.” The elegant bottles have been intricately designed with vine motifs as well as images of creatures indigenous to the Cape Winelands (Cape white-eye bird, African monarch butterfly, Cape dwarf chameleon) and the Cape Muscat grapes from which the juice is pressed. Dantu and Parker are certainly doing everything right: empowering women, using local produce, employing creativity in their business, and showcasing world-class branding and marketing. After a recent visit to the Guinness Storehouse and Brewery in Dublin, they were inspired by the tale of the famous Irish beer to leave their own Zari legacy. “We are influencing new rituals in both beverage consumption and procurement. We look forward to breaking new ground wherever we go.”

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   47


SA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

FOR RAISING THE SPACE BAR Grant Johnson

Founder, head designer, Conduit Interior

48   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017


After years of working within large-scale interior design agencies, where each team member is responsible for only a small part of a given project, Grant Johnson’s vision for his boutique design practice Conduit Interior was for a focused and lean company—where each designer takes ownership of a project and sees it through to handover. The Cape Town–based firm, affiliated with the African Institute of the Interior Design Professions, has spent years identifying a network of talented and established industry professionals with whom to collaborate. The result is a hands-on approach, where each interior is 100% tailored to each client, and a design practice that sets the benchmark for the South African design industry. Conduit Interior has an exciting mix of office, retail and hospitality projects in the making as well as a dedicated user-experience (UX) research project under way. Johnson and his team are currently spending hours immersing themselves in UX and exploring its intersection with the workplace environment. If one impacts the overall workplace experience, Johnson contends, it will inevitably filter down to how customers experience the company. “Traditionally, the UX discipline has been limited to human–computer interactions, but since it is by definition ‘the process of enhancing user satisfaction and well-being by improving the usability, accessibility and pleasure provided in the interaction with the product’, we’re treating the entire workplace as one large product,” he explains. It’s a compelling concept, and an insight into the creativity of this commercial interior designer who has 20 years’ experience in the field. Another issue being addressed by Conduit Interior is employee

retention. Given novel expectations brought to the table by millennials, Johnson’s clients are turning to him to create spaces that not only attract but retain an ambitious young generation. “Employees are no longer satisfied with run-of-themill workspaces,” says Johnson. “Millennials want to feel like they are part of an organisation that’s going places, and will job-hop in search of their ideal environment until they find something that engages them fully for a significant part of their lives.” Johnson’s solution is to design spaces that not only impress the customer front-of-house but also the employees who provide services behind the scenes. Offering office perks is part of this ethos. While perks can be counterproductive (he advises against playground equipment in a law firm’s office), stimulation and engagement are essential in areas where people spend a long duration of their lives. “The days of just giving someone a desk, a computer and a cup of tea are long gone,” he adds. It sounds straightforward enough in principle but, at Conduit Interior, a persistent challenge is getting to know clients beyond the basic elements of their operational aims—employee numbers or meeting spaces required, for instance. Johnson’s team digs deeper to examine clients, enquiring as to who they are as a company and the goals to which they aspire. “It’s easy to give a client what they want, but to give them what they don’t yet realise they need is where a great designer stands apart,” says Johnson. “The most successful interiors are those that are authentic to a client’s brand; the space itself becomes the 3D embodiment of who they are. By getting this right, the workspace

becomes a catalyst for the business’s future success—far beyond the expectations of the original operational brief.” Working from South Africa brings its own set of problems. It’s easy for Johnson to keep up to date with cutting-edge international interior products, but also frustrating knowing that price tags will likely exclude them from institution in projects, even if they are exactly what a client is looking for. However, he points out that these restrictions open up new opportunities for creativity— often resulting in functional and financial benefits for clients. “By remaining inspired by the best that the design world has to offer on a daily basis, but not being able to take the easy road, we’re motivated to apply clever ideas that use local products to deliver world-class interiors without blowing our clients’ budgets.” He sees Cape Town’s christening as World Design Capital as a direct reflection of a creative and industrious effort demanded by the reality of the market: circumstances that actively encourage local artisans to improve the quality and individuality of local products. Because of these competitive and industrious attitudes, imported alternatives are now expendable for many design practices. “Not only that, but there’s the ecobenefit of buying locally and not filling up a shipping container.” To push his own creativity, Johnson ensures he has a clean, quiet space to focus, with all the necessary tools within easy reach so that he can move between sketches and ideas with clarity. He warns, however, that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for creatives. “It really depends on [their] particular

personality and circumstances, then tailoring the home office to interface with the creative.” The principle is universal: “It’s all about removing barriers to creativity. Consider what slows down or interrupts your creative flow, then work toward setting up your office to remove these barriers.” In the Conduit Interior office, of course, these principles are given full expression. Johnson works in the same openplan space as everyone else, maximising interaction and bilateral understanding. There’s a scrum board in easy view of the whole office, so tasks and projects are exposed to and can be tackled by the collective—or “community” as Johnson likes to refer to his team. If anyone needs to focus for a couple of hours, or take a confidential call, there are meeting rooms on hand. Johnson also emphasises the importance of mobility for a company like Conduit that has a hands-on philosophy. “If it’s a critical time on site, any one of us can pack a bag and set up a remote desk in the middle of the action for a few weeks without any downtime or loss of regular communication.” Some may be born with a creative intuition, but it’s important to remember that often all it takes for a creative spark is a change of attitude or fresh perspective. Johnson himself lives by the ‘inspiration is everywhere’ axiom. By keeping his eyes open to the world around him, “it becomes second nature to break down the barriers between things in their current form and things as they could be”—a constant play of opposites between novelty and habit, which keeps Conduit Interior’s ideas crisp and innovative.

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   49


SA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

Manny Rivera comes from humble beginnings, having grown up in the Bronx in New York City and selling massage machines to pay for university studies. But providence made him swap his dream of a life on Wall Street for the gym. Almost three decades later, he heads a South African company that’s worth around R3 billion and has more than 250 000 customers. Back in the US, Rivera tried getting one of the Bally Total Fitness gyms (one of the biggest health-centre groups globally at that time) to buy his machines, but instead was offered a job to sell gym contracts for them. He dropped out of his studies, and within two years was running the Manhattan region for the company. It was there that he met the South African who would become his wife, and soon he was packed up and on a plane to his new country. Here, Rivera did consultancy work for various groups such as Sports Connection, and soon identified a gap in the local health and fitness market— deciding to start his own chain of health clubs. But it proved more difficult than he had realised, a David coming up against the Goliath that was Health & Racquet Club. Despite struggling to secure investment and convince landlords of his business model, he opened his first Planet Fitness in 1995 in Benoni. But with the collapse of Health & Racquet Club in the mid-1990s, things got a lot easier for Planet Fitness. Within just a few years, Rivera’s group was showing profit. Today, there are 25 health clubs, including the premium Platinum Sandton and a new budget chain, JustGym. Rivera has also formed a number of strategic alliances with leading international and local brands. Fast Company: You didn’t complete your university studies at Baruch College in New York. How did this affect your career? Manny Rivera: It actually had a positive impact on my career, because I have an entrepreneurial mindset and therefore university just wasn’t for me. I was impatient and just had the insatiable desire to get out into the business world

50   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

FOR SHAPING UP THE SA HEALTH AND FITNESS INDUSTRY Keeping up the good work(out) “I really enjoy interacting with people and helping them become healthy and fit in order to improve their lifestyle,” says Rivera.

Manny Rivera

Founder, CEO, Planet Fitness

and make my mark. There are many very successful businesspeople who didn’t complete their university degrees either, such as Bill Gates, so it’s possible to be successful without it. However, I wouldn’t recommend it to my children, as a university degree is imperative to be considered for positions in today’s world.

What was your motivation in creating Planet Fitness? I got involved in this industry at a young age and I just fell in love with it. I really enjoy interacting with people and helping them become healthy and fit in order to improve their lifestyle. Health and wellness has many benefits to one’s life, and it motivated me

to get involved in the industry and launch Planet Fitness. How is technology disrupting the global health and fitness industry? It’s evolving, or enhancing, the business. Technology allows people to measure calories burnt, it monitors your heartbeat, and counts


how many steps you’ve taken— which makes people feel they are reaching their goal and keeps them motivated to stay on track. Technology has also had a massive impact on the machines you find in the gym— there’s something for everyone regardless of shape, size or fitness goal. How does Planet Fitness try to stand out from its competitors? We are customer-centric; we don’t think of our members as just another number, but rather connect with our members to ensure they are always pleased when they leave our gym. Our members are the pillars of our business, and that’s why we go the extra mile to understand them, and empower our staff with the correct training and tools for them to provide the best service possible. When Planet Fitness started in 1995, it had a staff complement of 10 people. Today, there are more than a thousand employees. What were the biggest hurdles you had to overcome to get to where you are today? The biggest hurdle would be funding in order to grow the business and make it successful. However, we were able to invest, trade and focus heavily on sales, so we could expand the business. Once we overcame that hurdle, we were able to focus on the expansion. What challenges is the health and fitness industry facing in general? I think it’s more about developing the right personnel; there’s a shortage of trained staff, especially on a management and senior management level. But we would like to start an academy to upskill and facilitate the skills required in the industry.

How do you optimise staff creativity? We have an open-door policy at Planet Fitness: All staff have my direct email as the CEO of the company, and they are welcome to drop me a mail with any suggestions or ideas. There’s no such thing as a bad idea! We also have internal structures and events where staff are able to express and enjoy themselves— this is often where great ideas come from. And how do you keep creative when you’re not at work? One of the things I enjoy doing is benchmarking best practice, particularly in the service industry. It can be a hotel, restaurant or gym. We want to be abreast of the industry, trying new things and keeping the creative juices flowing. Particularly in gyms, I’m constantly trying new things and visiting new places so I can get a taste of what’s out there and get inspired. Is it an exciting time to be doing business on the continent? There’s no doubt that being in Africa, and particularly in South Africa, is one of the most exciting opportunities compared to the rest of the world. The prediction of growth on the continent is exponential and surpasses that of other developed or first-world countries. Anything big happening at Planet Fitness? At the moment, we are opening a new club throughout South Africa every month for the next five years, which is very exciting for us! We are also looking at expanding into the African continent as well as eastern Europe. So there are a lot of exciting things on the cards for Planet Fitness—the start of bigger and better things to come.

FOR FINDING THE BALANCE IN HEALTH, WELLNESS AND BEAUTY Duncan Carmichael

Founder, Institute of Healthy Aging

A qualified medical doctor, Duncan Carmichael left South Africa to study further in the UK— but he became increasingly frustrated that doctors couldn’t always get patients’ diagnoses right. “As medical students at the University of Cape Town,” he says, “we were taught to recognise patterns—to differentiate a heart attack from other chest pains— and we became very good at that. The flip side of following patterns is that you never question them. You never ask, What if this pattern just isn’t true?” He tried to find answers in acupuncture, nutrition and homeopathy, but it was while studying in Brussels under Dr Thierry Hertoghe—an expert in age-reversing medicine and hormone therapy—that Carmichael finally saw the light in healthy aging medicine. After gaining further qualification in the UK, he moved back to his home country and soon opened the Institute of Healthy Aging in Sea Point, Cape Town. The clinic provides everything from hormone treatment to aesthetic skin procedures, and has developed new techniques in fat transfer, stem cells and growthfactor injections. It is now at the forefront of “fine-tuning patients’ aesthetic, hormonal, genetic and wellness balance.” It has been shown that the most effective way to deal with modern chronic illness is to optimise people’s health. “To do this, we

need to ignore the obvious illness sitting in front of us and change the mechanism driving it. We need to retrain in health with an open mind that recognises information now comes out faster than ever before. It arrives in social media outlets that we never considered before. We need to be brave and embrace new approaches that others don’t. We need to be sharp and reject new treatments that are either useless or, frankly, dangerous,” he says. When testing for cardiovascular risk, for example, Carmichael and his team don’t simply do the standard cholesterol test and ECG, but they also look at hormones and markers, and examine arteries with a CT scan. To check for bowel cancer, they offer a simple stool test instead of doing an invasive and painful colonoscopy. The Institute of Healthy Aging also offers detoxification drips to remove any damaging heavy metals that could’ve been inhaled in daily city life; gentle hormone support to reinvigorate the body; the extraction of active growth factors from the blood and injecting them into damaged areas; and using stem cells from mini liposuction procedures to restore health, among others. Carmichael has started a genetics company to research gene abnormalities to give further diagnostics, and is due to publish South Africa’s first book on agereversing medicine at the end of this year.

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   51


SA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE there’s no guarantee of ever getting to retirement or having good health when one gets to that point, so the enjoyment part may never be experienced. In order to open the door to freedom and to escape the rat race, entrepreneurship offers a wonderful opportunity that a corporate job doesn’t—and the rewards are exponentially higher in all respects.

FOR TAKING BRANDS ALONG FOR THE RIDE Justin Duveen CEO, Hubble

Each month, thousands of South Africans and scores of other commuters around the world hail an Uber. Justin Duveen, CEO of entertainment service Hubble, was the first to recognise that the 15 minutes in the back of a comfy, air-conditioned taxi had underappreciated marketing potential. An avid Uber user both locally and overseas, the accounting graduate wasted no time in starting informal research. After questioning a number of drivers, he realised that riders—often tourists—were looking for inspiration regarding holiday and nightlife activities. Though the drivers excelled at getting them from point A to point B, they lacked the local knowledge these passengers were seeking. And thus Duveen set out to develop his advertising and entertainment platform that would engage and inspire the Uber audience, improving and changing their experience from the backseat. The Hubble team conducted further research into the potential of Uber-based entertainment, and discovered of all the out-of-home advertising spaces, the backseat of an Uber was unrivalled. Billboards boast a two-second dwell time; newspapers 15

52   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

seconds, and bathrooms 30 seconds. The average Uber trip is 15 to 20 minutes long, and the average rider is a high-end consumer who owns a credit card and a smartphone, and who has no distractions. Early response rates have impressed high-profile clients like Old Mutual and Discovery, and as of 2017, the Cape Townbased service has secured its status as Uber’s preferred invehicle interactive entertainment partner in South Africa. Hubble has 200 active screens in Johannesburg and 100 in Cape Town. The screens in the Joburgbased Ubers alone generate 210 000 views per month. Fast Company: As a qualified chartered accountant, why did you settle for the challenging life of entrepreneurship? Justin Duveen: For me, the most valuable resource we all have is time. None of us knows how much we have left, and tend to ignore this precious resource. By prioritising time, it changes the way we evaluate and decide where to spend it. We are all conditioned to join the rat race, toil on the wheel until we retire and then get to enjoy life. But

How easy was it to get from startup stage to where you are now—Uber’s preferred in-vehicle entertainment partner? Not so easy. Before we launched, we spent almost a year doing homework on the local market, interviewing Uber drivers and riders, and obtaining mentoring by CEOs who had successfully launched similar companies in other markets. It was this homework and research that helped fast-track our negotiations and final partnership agreement with Uber. On Uber journeys, you are limited to a small screen and short journey time. Does this put more pressure on you to be creative in the user experience? Yes, being more creative helps improve engagement levels of riders. We have designed the system to provide information about fun things to see and do around town, news, weather and sport as well as creative, interactive experiences that help brands connect to riders on a deeper level. By giving the rider complete control over their experience, it enables them to engage with whatever content appeals to them most—which provides improved value to riders and brands alike. What makes the difference between success and failure? It’s a fine line between success and failure. The roller coaster never stops, and often the pressure is on to save the company and

make sure there’s enough lifeblood (cash) to keep going. If you could’ve done anything differently in the past five years, what would it be? I’ve made many, many mistakes over the past five years, and hopefully some of them have helped me learn to be a more careful and better entrepreneur. I try not to live life with regrets, and I see each step as a learning experience and each day as a new opportunity. Which opportunities does Uber present that other advertising mediums lack? Uber riders use Uber for a specific reason: to get from point A to point B. During this time, riders are captive in their Uber for 15 to 20 minutes, which represents a great opportunity to add inspiration and entertainment to their ride and for brands to engage with Uber riders in a deeper and more meaningful way. Our system is completely interactive, and allows riders to choose which content they would like to engage with, including comedy, music videos, games, quizzes and competitions. This helps create a curious mindset and results in much higher engagement levels for brands. What challenges and opportunities do you foresee? Deciphering how to maximise the opportunity to grow Hubble globally while staying sane and having fun! After launching in Cape Town and Joburg successfully, Uber is pushing us to grow both in Africa and internationally. We are in the throes of planning our first international launch in Ukraine. Any advice for the next generation of entrepreneurs? Tenacity is key, and learning to take mistakes in your stride and to learn from them is helpful on the path to your future success.


When I first started at DUO, I had a meeting with one of the clients I would be working with (and still am). He said to me, “Pedigree is one thing—I want to see what you can do for my business.” It’s a conversation I repeat to new team members, to prospective hires and sometimes even to my team. I learnt that big-name brands on your CV get you in the door, but doing what you say and striving for excellence is most critical—and gets you a seat at the boardroom table.

FOR REWRITING THE PR MANUAL Dominique Pienaar CEO, DUO Marketing + Communications

In 1998, human resources graduate Dominique Pienaar was still issuing press releases via fax, assisting blue-chip clients MasterCard and Old Mutual Properties with their financial services. “Journalists and PR people worked together, and no one was really ever ‘on the dark side’,” she reminisces. In the time since, she has been aiding prime clients in reputation management, crisis communications and everything in between. In 2012, Pienaar returned to her first love of consulting, after a spell running Microsoft South Africa. For the past three years, she has worked for marketing and communications company DUO as regional manager—a position she had initially declined. This year she steps up as CEO, replacing founder Judith Middleton. In her new role, Pienaar focuses on new business development by working alongside clients, finding and retaining new talent, as well as identifying products and solutions, with Middleton lending her expertise. In an era when commentators are proclaiming the death of PR and the ‘old way’

of getting things done, Pienaar and DUO are not standing idly by—they are the changing face of South Africa’s PR and digital landscape. Fast Company: You have been involved in public relations for 19 years. How has the field changed in this time? Dominique Pienaar: I think email, and now social media, has taken away the art of the relationship, and replaced it with a degree of immediacy— but at the same time, distance. It’s a lot harder to earn the respect of our journalists and editors today; they are being bombarded with content, not all of it good or relevant. They are perhaps a little more cynical and overworked than when I started 19 years ago. I think the quality of writing has changed—again because sometimes speed replaces substance, and the art of writing is not as critical as it was. We are relying increasingly on former journalists to assist with PR writing, and it diminishes the internal requirement to have this skill. What is the biggest lesson you have learnt? That relationships, integrity and hard work are critical.

What would you say was the turning point in your career? Being seconded to work on site at Microsoft South Africa, where I was taught that consultancy and trust are critical, and that there are lessons to be learnt in a crisis. For the first time in my (then) five years of PR experience, I learnt what true partnership between agency and client means. What do you love about consulting? I love the chance to troubleshoot a situation, think outside the box, and then work backward to find a workable option for the client. For the most part, clients can find a way to make good ideas work. I love the collaboration that comes from consulting: collaboration between team, clients and even the media sometimes. I love the thrill of turning consulting into actionable, impactful outcomes that give clients the best results. What can we expect from DUO? Our focus on business-tobusiness tech brands is what excites us most, and we look forward to continue working with some of the most exciting, innovative and smart businesses in the country. I think our biggest opportunity at the moment is driving and

delivering more integrated services for our clients: leveraging the content and media relationships that are at the heart of our service offering to deliver highimpact, results-oriented digital campaigns. What challenges do you anticipate? Finding the right talent to fit into our unique culture, with a love for B2B tech, is a challenge for us. We don’t always get it right—I don’t think any agency has a 100% track record. Our industry has a real shortage of skilled communications consultants with the right mix of experience, education and, in our instance, a passion for technology. How does your team stay creative? Between us we do a lot of reading—books, online forums, articles—and sharing content. We also surround ourselves with people who are smarter than us, and more creative, and we revel in their expertise and they challenge us to think outside the box. I think our clients are a source of creativity as well. They continually challenge us to think about doing things differently, and the creativity we’re required to bring to the table is more about reimagining an approach or campaign and conceptualising content, storylines and media engagements in a way that will cut through the clutter. We don’t hire the same type of people over and over again; there are only a handful of our team members who are classically PR- or digitaltrained. It’s this approach to finding good people who think differently—but have a common value system and work ethic—that also drives a creative team.

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   53


SA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

FOR MAKING THE FINANCIAL JOURNEY SAFE AND SIMPLE Eugene Maree

Founder, external CIO, Harbour Wealth

“Do the right thing.” Having been with a corporate giant for 17 years, Eugene Maree finally followed this piece of advice from his father and founded Harbour Wealth. That’s not to say the years he spent in asset management and life insurance didn’t play a role in his decision to pursue an entrepreneurial dream; his corporate experience has given him a unique perspective on how products are constructed, and on the perils and benefits that ensue when posed to the public. Technology was fast transforming the world, and Maree wanted to create a product that would benefit many. Thus the birth of Harbour Wealth, an online investment management platform that he hopes will simplify financial services for both clients and financial advisers. Fast Company: To what would you accredit your success in financial services? Eugene Maree: The fact that I came into financial services with an unconventional background for banking helped me, in that it let me ask more questions than most people— everyone knew that I knew nothing! I feel compelled to simplify financial services for people and help educate them.

54   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

Financial services have often been referred to as ‘smoke and mirrors’, and to be honest, it has served financial-services companies well in getting clients to participate in things they often don’t fully understand. The ability to simplify financial concepts to clients has helped our business by providing more transparent solutions that result in more informed and comfortable clients. I try never to forget what it’s like not to know! If we as an industry don’t address this, and educate clients, we can never expect them to engage in financial services in a meaningful way, and the distrust will continue to grow. How has Harbour Wealth redefined wealth management? The idea was to run a business more like a practice (like law or accounting) rather than a commissions-driven sales machine. It proved possible— and the technology, education of clients, and transparency of being totally independent have resulted in Harbour Wealth being the fastest growing independent wealth manager in South Africa over the last two years. We were the first to build an incredible solution that assists independent advisers to digitise their back offices, provide a client interface, and give them tools to collaborate better with clients. Linked to this is a transactional engine whereby they can buy any retail financial investment product available in the country—this is unique to South Africa. The efficiency for the adviser allows him or her more time to spend on the human elements of the advice process that no machine will ever be able to do. It also allows clients to have 24/7 access to their entire financial world, across all financial

products they own. We are living in an ‘on-demand’ economy, and clients deserve and expect this convenience. Would anyone bank with a bank that does not have an online offering? It won’t be long before you won’t deal with an adviser who doesn’t provide the same. How does creativity play a role at Harbour Wealth? Creativity is core to all we do. We have a unique working environment where we collaborate among sales, operations and IT development continuously. We are open to all ideas and believe there’s always a better way—we just need to find it. I work with some of the most creative administrators, sales people and operational people. Our biggest challenge has been learning to understand each other, rather than merely assuming we understand each other. When we communicate ideas to our developers in a way we all understand, we continuously get amazed by the creative ways in which they deliver the outcomes. For creativity to thrive, you need to be open to possibility, as some of the best ideas come from unlikely places. If companies worried less about who got credit for good ideas, more great ideas would flourish. Have you ever felt creatively spent in the financial services industry? No, never. In fact, I just feel like we’re starting. We have some great ideas, but we just don’t have enough time to get to them, as we need to continuously maintain our focus on where we’re going. The financial services industry is poised for some really exciting change, and those who don’t think it’s going to change may

get caught on the back foot. They say things take longer to happen than first anticipated—but when they do happen, they happen quicker than most had expected. You spend a great deal of time with your family. Do your two daughters influence your creativity? We learn from children the instinctive skills that we have forgotten as adults. Try negotiating with kids: They are the ultimate dealmakers and can trade seemingly uncorrelated things to make a deal work; they are shameless, in that they never give up and are incredibly creative in seeking a negotiable that may interest you to get the deal done. My kids are still young, and we play a game while driving called ‘The Odd One Out’. Recently I asked which was the odd one out between a motorbike, a motorcar and a bicycle. I thought the question was sufficiently loaded and framed to make the answer simple— obviously it’s the bicycle, as it doesn’t have an engine. My daughter said the odd one out was the car. I then realised the question was a bit ambiguous, and that her answer was also correct. I said, ‘I suppose that’s right, because the car has four wheels.’ To which she replied, ‘No, dad, it’s the only one with a roof!’ Sometimes as adults our brains are lazy and we go with the obvious; however, if we stretch ourselves, there are elegant answers in front of us that just aren’t obvious to our programmed adult minds. If we could just think more like kids sometimes, I think people would be happier and more creative, as it doesn’t take as much to make kids happy. It’s their curiosity to fill the gaps in the things they don’t understand that unleashes the


most wonderful creativity. Which is why, in any industry, the best ideas often come from people without the curse of knowledge of that industry. What has been the biggest challenge in your career? One of the biggest challenges has been getting people to follow you on your dream—to get them to give up their well-paying jobs to throw their lot in with you. They say that until you have your first follower, you are just a lone nut. I had those feelings in the early days. When you get through those tough times that startups experience, and the challenges associated with new businesses (so much could be written on this), you emerge a different person. You also see, with different eyes, the people who came through it with you. You galvanise a team in a way that no other process can. What does the future hold for Harbour Wealth? Harbour Wealth wants to stick to its path of organic growth by attracting the right people who have the skills and who share its values. Shared values, coupled with purpose and an open mind, will allow it to adapt to industry changes and client requirements. Client education is at the heart of what Harbour Wealth does, as we can’t afford the continuation of the scams that have left so many retired people destitute. Technology (such as Wealthport, which assists advisers in managing their client base) allows Harbour Wealth to reach more clients wherever they are, and provide them with on-demand access to their financial lives. This excites me, as anyone—anywhere—now can have access to good quality advice and can chose an adviser in a different town, so they are no longer bound by their geography. Harbour Wealth’s goal is to be the most nationally recognised and trusted independent advice brand. Things that are worth doing take time, and Harbour Wealth is in it for the long haul.

FOR SEEING CLIENTS AS MORE THAN JUST DATA Deon Katz

Head, Investec Private Banking

Given the current political and economic uncertainty in South Africa, Investec’s unstoppable success in private banking is all the more impressive. Under Deon Katz’s stewardship, Investec Private Banking and Wealth & Investment has been named the best private bank and wealth manager in South Africa for four consecutive years. The firm’s continued success is due in part to steady international expansion and a drive to be at the forefront of technological innovation in the finance sector. This year, Investec continues to innovate with the launch of #MoreThanData: a campaign that aims to prioritise the individuality of clients over conclusions drawn by big data—given the outcomes of the Brexit vote and the US presidential election. Both outcomes were incorrectly predicted based on data that, Katz argues, lacked a human touch. Fast Company: Is there an over-reliance on big data? Deon Katz: Big data works on the assumption that the more you know about someone or something, the more reliably you can gain new insights, identify or predict patterns, and make informed decisions. Even with data security and privacy concerns, big data has vast positive applications. However, organisations are relying on big data and analytics to get a better understanding of their

customers. They then use this profile to design and deliver generic products or solutions. The concept of ‘customised’ offerings is being lost to algorithms, averages and generalised assumptions. The reality is that data often gets the numbers right, but the people wrong. People are so much more than what their data suggests or predicts. How does #MoreThanData address these concerns? It’s an alternative perspective on bank–client relations. Our #MoreThanData film [www. morethandata.co.za] explains our philosophy that, while other banks may see clients as the sum of their data, Investec sees the individual. Although we use sophisticated data analytics as enabling tools, we don’t believe in a onedimensional approach where we place clients into rigid, defined boxes. It’s impossible for cold data to tell us who they really are. That’s why we take the time to get to know our clients, both personally and professionally, and form long-term relationships with them—enabling us to design relevant products and services. How does Investec respond to the needs, wants and preferences of individuals? We recognise that our niche client base consists of individuals with different backgrounds, ambitions and lifestyles. Through an in-depth understanding of them, we can tailor our private banking

offering. We recently launched an Investec Youth Account and App for our clients’ children. The product fulfils the real need of our clients to educate their children on money and savings. Is this a shift you expect to see across the financial sector? On some level, we can assume that the more we’re connecting and communicating online with individuals and organisations globally, the more isolated we’ve become. You may be talking online a lot, but are you connecting with another person on a deep, human level? For financial institutions, the challenge will be to use data for positive change, such as increase efficiencies and reduced costs, while not neglecting the client on the other side who still wants to be seen or heard. What do you see as the biggest threat to businesses in the coming decade? Ignoring client feedback and insights. If businesses are not attuned to what their clients are telling them—verbally, written, or through subtle behaviours—it’s going to be tough for them to stay relevant, and they’ll spend valuable time trying to recover. If a business is not reinventing itself in a continuously disruptive age, the risk is that it will become outdated and irrelevant, and their customers will move on. Just think of Polaroid and Blockbuster Video.

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   55


SA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

Yaron Assabi has a passion for all things digital and mobile. In 1998, the economics graduate founded what is known today as the Digital Solutions Group: a company that delivers a differentiated customer experience across multiple touchpoints—a true omni-channel offering. DSG already has a long list of accolades behind its name, and Assabi is constantly finding new ways to disrupt the ICT landscape: whether founding specialist mobile marketing company BroadBrand, working with United Against Malaria on an e-commerce facility, or partnering with the Maharishi Institute to support virtually-free education for thousands of underprivileged South Africans. The latter two are illustrations of how DSG successfully applies its digital knowhow and creativity to social causes. “Over the years, some of the most fulfilling work we have been involved in has been for good, rather than profit,” says Assabi. “DSG stands for Digital Solutions Group, but we also believe it’s about ‘Doing Something Great’.” The CEO is on the front line of the mobile revolution in South Africa. “Digital disruption and mobile go hand in hand in Africa, as we are a ‘mobilefirst’ continent: 97% of African subscribers access the Internet from their mobile device first. Mobile phones have the highest penetration in terms of consumer reach, while also providing the richest interface in terms of customer engagement, insight and business intelligence.” Assabi praises the sharp integration of the latest disruptive digital tech, apps, cloud services, the Internet of Things, and data and analytics. This effort has enabled South Africa to “leapfrog other nations in the critical areas of mobile learning, integrated customer experience, sales force automation, supply chain trans-formation, and last-mile delivery processes.” Possibly one of the biggest changes in the coming years, says Assabi, will be more niche branded mobile services emerging in Africa—an area that has enjoyed significant growth globally. He expects to see more competition

56   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

FOR HELPING BRANDS BECOME CUSTOMER ADVOCATES Yaron Assabi

Founder, CEO, Digital Solutions Group

and innovative mobile offerings as branded services draw a diverse set of players. The most powerful brands are customer-centric, he believes. Successful companies should not only know who their customers are but must also become their customers’ advocate. “If a particular organisation or brand is not going to serve them the way they choose, they will find something else.” DSG fulfils this demand by enabling anywhere, anytime access to products and services. For instance, DSG recently partnered with global coffee-

house chain Starbucks to develop its Single Customer View strategy that drives My Starbucks Rewards in South Africa. It allows users to register their loyalty cards to view benefits and rewards, and send gift cards to other members via mobile. Another challenge for brands, says Assabi, is appealing to Generation Z (those born in the mid-1990s and later), who have an “in-built sales resistance”. “Advertising has to change, because it’s about education, giving information and

permission marketing rather than trying to get their attention and capture it, because their attention span is something they cherish.” With social and mobile now at customers’ fingertips, Assabi believes the rules of the game have changed and brands will have to ensure they are relevant and contextual. “The brands that are going to win in the future are the ones that are really listening to their customers, and use customer insight to reinvent their business and make sure they are relevant.”


FOR CHANGING THE WORLD, ONE MEAL AT A TIME Hassen Kajee

Founder, CEO, iamcooking.co.za

Young entrepreneur Hassen Kajee is taking his e-commerce platform to new heights, banging on the door of old-style retail and helping the disadvantaged in the process. From his early university years, he has had entrepreneurial aspirations—a desire not only to create new channels but to adjust existing channels toward inclusivity, “where all are represented and grown.” After receiving a master’s degree in commerce, Kajee landed positions at a succession of highprofile firms. But after working as project implementations and financial manager for FIFA 2010 Match Event Hospitality, he decided to apply his skills differently—and entered the world of e-commerce full-time. The Durbanite’s first venture was Shopbook.co.za, which allows retailers and vendors to sell their products online. He then founded iamcooking.co.za, an online food marketplace and the first of its kind in South Africa. Cooks and chefs from all backgrounds and levels can sell delicious homecooked meals to their communities, using an easy and secure online portal for payments. A number of restaurants have also become involved so that customers can get their favourite meals delivered to their door. In addition, the site will soon have a “super convenience” section that enables stores to sell staples such as bread and milk.

“In every household there exist people who have a skill. The focal idea is to be able to home in on people who want to do more with that skill and become part of the economic landscape,” explains Kajee. Whether you’re a home cook, chef or baker, you can sign up and control everything the customer sees about your store and products. “The platform allows for everything from traditional food to designer food,” says Kajee. “The fundamental difference stems from the value system that drives the business. This is based on growth: helping one household to help one community, helping one city to help one country, and helping the world one meal at a time.” As the website grows, Kajee hopes to enfranchise it. For the value sum of R65 000, geographical divisions will be up for grabs, allowing a proprietor to take ownership and thereby proliferate the number of cooks, bakers, chefs and restaurants on the platform. “We aim to light up many disadvantaged communities and areas. We aim to give many people the power of this platform to own.” Kajee’s uncle was a human rights professor and activist oriented toward inclusion and balance. He greatly impacted the youngster’s social and disruptive ethos. “I felt a fire light up in my heart whenever I experienced his

presence,” Kajee shares. “This is what I stand for in the way I think about business and the future. We string our puppets—and how we set the stage for the show is a function of how we see the world.” Kajee believes society is ignored by many corporates for the benefit of the bottom line. Using the stakeholder model of companies such as Canada’s Desjardins Bank for inspiration, he is imagining and creating a future of stakeholder-inclusive businesses that allow society to function. “Without society, we lose the need to transact. Society lends businesses this space,” he says. It’s clear Kajee desires to make a difference, whether through helping the disadvantaged to rise up and support themselves with existing skills, or encouraging children to eschew sweets and fast food in favour of nutritious meals. “Convenience is becoming a key driver in the life of society today. This not only means we are eating incorrectly but we are also teaching our children to eat incorrectly,” he notes. “Imagine being able to come home to a delicious cooked meal—one you ordered online, prepared inhouse by a chef.”

It’s an attractive concept, but one that hasn’t been without difficulties. Kajee has had to ensure home cooks are vetted, and that relationships with customers are developed to the point where they trust the quality of food on offer. Even more impressive is the fact Kajee has already secured governmental support: The Department of Economic Development is aiding community home cooks, and talks are in place to offer sixmonth internships to qualified chefs, with expenses paid for by the government. Kajee plans to launch another e-commerce platform, designerbook.co.za. Running on the same principles as his previous ventures, the service will allow consumers to decorate their home with works of art from native designers and artists. If all goes to plan, iamcooking.co.za will cross more boundaries in e-commerce than any other company to date, Kajee hopes. While he keeps his eyes on the bigger picture, he knows that with a bit of determination, the sky’s the limit. “We all go through a phase of growth, some businesses faster than others. Never give up, and always be directed toward an end goal.”

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   57


SA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

FOR DRIVING THE PERSONAL CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Our vision is for every customer to be a Maserati Brand Ambassador.

Jason Cleghorn

Head of marketing, Maserati Sub-Saharan Africa

This strategic brand expert and consummate corporate mind has devised a number of innovative marketing solutions and tools, moving Maserati away from a product-selling organisation to one with a customer-centric focus. These innovations include key stakeholder tools based around brand and reputation management, which bring together the sales functions, contract lifespan management, and post-sales customer retention systems. Cleghorn also spearheaded a core business development tool that created efficient and effective event management. By co-ordinating multiple databases into a single Sage Platform, and integrating business intelligence data, he pioneered the ‘right people for the right event’ methodology. Cleghorn uses every piece of data and technology available to fulfil his targets, notably changing Maserati’s framework from printbased materials to a digital space early on. Significant cost savings, and a rich and informative customer experience soon followed. Forever on the pulse, Cleghorn was using Web 2.0 ideas before they were common parlance in South Africa. He decided to create

58   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

a website, not for the sake of one but to take the business to the next level—developing a comprehensive digital solution with powerful social media arms. He was also active on LinkedIn since the early days, responsible for driving key groups that continue to leverage professionals across networks today. Working with budgets in excess of R20 000 000, and delivering returns for every campaign, Cleghorn is a versatile and central gear in Maserati’s machinery, transmitting innovation and disruption throughout the company and the greater automotive industry. Fast Company: What is your vision for Maserati Sub-Saharan Africa? James Cleghorn: Our vision is to continuously build the brand and make people aware of our amazing range of vehicles. We are a premium luxury brand that offers the customer exclusivity and choice in a crowded market. This is not limited to the vehicle sale itself but is extended across the whole customer experience— ultimately leading to continuous retention and client satisfaction.

What challenges does the sub-Saharan market bring? We, as a brand, need to understand that the African market is completely different from any other market, and that there’s no set model of marketing that fits all—especially at this price position. Our challenge is to create one-on-one experiences that deliver on—or better yet, exceed—the customer’s expectation of what Maserati is. What is key to client retention? It’s simple: personalisation. Each and every one of our customers has different requirements, and we learn about that customer through his or her relationship life cycle with Maserati. It’s about offering the customer different opportunities that they don’t get with other brands, and by constantly treating them to a customer experience developed just for them. How has technology disrupted the automotive industry? The Internet means there are customers who are far better educated in their product choice than before; they come to the showroom already knowing that Maserati is top of their list. In addition, our Configurator allows prospects to personalise their choice of vehicle, so they can actually love their vehicle before they take delivery. The technology solutions in our vehicles mean we keep abreast of the competition, and this is all to the benefit of the customer. How do you apply yourself creatively at work? When are you at your most creative? I’m blessed that in my previous work life, I was a creative director

at an agency level, and I bring that creativity into everything I do. With a demographic and customer base that’s varied and wide, my job is to develop creative opportunities that appeal to the individual while promoting the brand. Our events are always worldclass and extremely well attended, as we always try to deliver the customer something different. We create points of ‘wow’ that the customer enjoys. I think our promotion of strategic partnerships in areas of sport, away from the mainstream and the expected, have shown us great returns. With Maserati Cape Town Race Week and the Cape to Rio Yacht Race, we were able to leverage off Maserati’s commitment to sailing to create something that Cape Town had never seen before. At the moment, we are using cycling as a tool to promote the Maserati Levante, the Maserati of SUVs, with our own dedicated cycling team in both road racing and mountain biking. Any exciting projects you’re working on currently? We’re spending a lot of time and effort in uplifting the Maserati Club to include all new owners as well as the historic members, and this should see a larger Maserati community by the end of the year. We’re also constantly updating our range of stunning vehicles to offer customers even more surprises and out-of-the-ordinary features. What can we expect from you in the near future? I’m very lucky to have a job that allows me the scope to be creative, while delivering on the factory proposition. I don’t believe there are many better positions than the one I have, so I see myself here for a long time into the future. Managing a world-class brand in sub-Saharan Africa has to be one of the coolest jobs out there!


FOR KEEPING CLIENTS—AND EMPLOYEES— HAPPY Martin Dippenaar and Sergio Barbosa Co-founders, Global Kinetic

Martin Dippenaar, a software developer with over 30 years of experience, realised what developers like himself desperately needed: a space in which they could love what they do. “I was always surprised at how people were running their business and departments when it came to software development and engineers,” he says. “We all want to love what we do, and we all want to feel that we’re making a difference.” That’s what sets Global Kinetic apart from other software developers: It’s an environment in which engineers can flourish, learn and excel. To achieve this, the company secures interesting and challenging projects to ensure its engineers have job satisfaction. “There’s a feeling that you’re making a difference, and not having to worry about your salary; having the right equipment, mentorship and team,” says Dippenaar. “This allows our developers to create high-quality software, which in turn keeps our clients happy.” An example of Global Kinetic’s state-of-the-art projects is the

Beacon Talking Easter Bunny, for which engineers brought to life the sweets brand’s iconic bunny with a groundbreaking combination of augmented reality, 3D graphics and audio interactions. When customers pointed their smartphone at any in-store Beacon Easter Egg promotional poster, the bunny would jump out of the egg and talk. “What’s fun about projects like this is that you really stretch the relationship between creativity and discipline,” says CIO Sergio Barbosa. With a background in computer science and software engineering, he and CEO Dippenaar started Global Kinetic in 2005 with a core group of like-minded software engineers. The company has increased to more than 70 staff members since its inception. The challenge for many companies is to grow the business while still holding on to the dynamics of a ‘small company culture’ that was instrumental in getting the business off the ground.

“One of the key things we focus on are the core values, as a reminder of what’s important to us as a company,” says Barbosa. “Whenever someone in the company is faced with a difficult decision to make, we find that these core values are a beacon of light and have helped us immensely in our growing pains.” Their unwavering standards have resulted in a very low staff turnover rate at Global Kinetic. The pair recognised that Cape Town was in dire need of more professional engineers, and have ensured their company is a space where engineers choose to work. “We encourage a work– life balance and push strongly against the traditional concept of overtime.” It’s when staff are not working and not in their usual routine that the brain allows for creative ideas, remarks Barbosa, whose own best ideas are born during musical sessions—in his spare time, he plays three instruments: guitar, bass and drums. “Creativity is not something

that can be switched on at a whim,” adds Dippenaar. “Sometimes it takes many different elements to spark a specific idea in someone’s mind. Our job at Global Kinetic is to look out for these moments, reward them, and give the person the opportunity to explore that idea.” Global Kinetic has developed a culture in which creative explorations and negative feedback from staff members are welcomed and encouraged. Discipline, however, is still vital during the implementation of ideas. “Creativity is as important as discipline, so we strive to achieve a balance between the two,” says Barbosa. “At some point, an innovative idea needs to manifest itself in a practical sense, and this requires discipline.” Their goal is to become truly ‘Global’, expanding their software engineering centres abroad—specifically to new offices in Palo Alto in California’s Silicon Valley. “We intend taking over the world,” declares Dippenaar.

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   59


SA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE businesses with developing their brand or expanding their markets, you’ll find him working on new avenues and disruptive platforms in monopolised industries. Fast Company: What is your ‘Did You Know’ for the marketing industry?

FOR FRUITFUL SOLUTIONS IN TOURISM AND ONLINE MARKETING Jonathan David Pepler

CEO, Granadilla Digital Media

Jonathan Pepler is building a digital and mobile-media legacy. His agency, Granadilla Digital Media, specialises in the hospitality and tourism industry, as well as business-to-business marketing. Platforms include Discount Traveler South Africa, Bookings Unlimited, The Traveler Mag South Africa, South African Supplier & Business Directory, and The Networker digital magazine. A graduate of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the AAA School of Advertising, Pepler’s work has already garnered a Silver Loerie Award and a finalist position in the New York Festivals’ World’s Best Advertising Awards. He was also named the 2013 Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year. When Pepler isn’t assisting

60   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

Jonathan David Pepler: Did you know that not everything that can be done, has been done? Don’t let anyone ever tell you that the market you’re playing in is too big, inaccessible or too saturated. If you can gain entry into a market with whatever you do and differentiate yourself from the competition, and have a good business plan—you can do it. It’s never the size of the slice but the size of the pie that counts. What role does creativity play in business today? Creativity is the heartbeat of any business. You have to be creative to solve problems, sell, and keep a good relationship with your clients. Humdrum acquisition of business, production of products or services, and follow-ups with your clients will put you on equal footing with everyone else. Be different, be creative, be the best you can be at what you do. How do you approach marketing and advertising? The best way to approach marketing is to empathise. If you understand your product or service and the mindset or frame of reference of your consumer, you’re halfway there. The key is to convert the features of your product or service creatively into a persistent benefit and then effectively communicate this to your consumers on platforms they understand—or more importantly, on which they feel engaged. What has been the biggest challenge of your career? Starting a business from scratch. It’s daunting, to say the least, even

if you have a solid plan. Unexpected events or rapid change in the market can throw you off, not to mention you’re taking all the risk. It’s important to keep a level head throughout the implementation of your plan, and to be malleable when you need to adapt and keep the momentum going. You are the founder of the Sanlam Top Destination Awards. Tell us about your thought process behind the idea. We are in our third year of hosting the Sanlam Top Destination Awards and it has been very well received by the hospitality industry. It’s important to recognise the people behind the scenes of everything from bed & breakfasts to 5-star hotels. They are the driving force behind one of South Africa’s biggest industries, and should be awarded for their efforts. Being the last to bed and the first to wake up 365 days of the year can be arduous. When we realise that we all take turns to serve each other—no matter what your place is in the hierarchy of business—you can start building lasting relationships with your staff, clients and the market. How did you find the intersection between tourism and marketing? Very few businesses in the tourism industry operate at full capacity 100% of the time. This gives them great leeway in offering their products or services. An example would be an empty bed at a game lodge: If no one is sleeping in that bed tonight, you can count that room-night as a loss. So it’s better for them to offer that bed at 70% of its value than gain nothing. With that in mind, we developed Discount Traveler South Africa, which allows establishments to offer discounts, promotions and packaged deals to the public— and in effect enable South Africans themselves to become tourists in their own country.

Any future plans for Granadilla? We have recently been earmarked by IMS Africa [Internet Marketing Solutions], a global business partner for Sabre Hospitality Solutions in South Africa, as an exclusive provider of its distribution and centralised systems to the accommodation establishments of Africa. This is a big step for us, as we’ll enable these businesses to provide an unrivalled travel experience and give them access to the technology that, until now, has been available only to the large hotel chains of America, Europe and Asia. We can effectively distribute any available room-nights in Africa across 300 airlines, 400 000 travel agents and more than 200 online booking platforms. What’s your favourite destination in the world? It has to be South Africa! Nothing beats the local vibe, people, nature, weather and variety of places to visit and see. Our country is so diverse that no matter where you go, you’re sure to be surprised at the little nuances it has in store. We’re lucky to inhabit a very unique piece of the globe where creativity, aspiration and growth can become a purpose to exist. Africa as a whole is a developing continent—and that makes it all the more exciting. Is there a hidden gem in South Africa that not many people know about? Prince Albert, for sure. It’s the town that time forgot, and that possibly holds the most beauty per square metre I’ve ever encountered. The rustic, calm feel of Prince Albert really lets you take it all in at a pace that makes you feel rested. With entry to the Meiringspoort Pass at the end of town, you’ll be astonished at the surrounding mountains, rock formations, fauna and flora, occasional waterfall and crystalclear, slow-flowing river along the route. Definitely worth a weekend visit!


FOR MAKING CUSTOMER LOYALTY PROGRAMMES A REWARDING EXPERIENCE Marc Johnstone MD, Incentiv SA

Trained attorney Marc Johnstone is carving out a profitable niche in the sales channel incentive industry with specialist company Incentiv, a subsidiary of French multinational advertising network Publicis Groupe. As MD, he has seen the company go from strength to strength, disrupting the field through innovative and risk-free marketing and wowing bluechip clients in the process. Incentiv provides promotional risk-and-rewardsfulfilment services within the loyalty industry. Its multiplatform programme enables maximum reach, while an innovative pricing model enables deep discounting of rewards based on individually assessed risk profiles. With a 230% rate of growth in the past 18 months, coupled with a rallying cry that has even the most conservative business leaders raising their eyebrows (“All of the reward, none of the risk”), Incentiv has become a market leader with top-shelf clients such as Nedbank and Woolworths. Understandably, this success has seen Johnstone gain a reputation among employees and customers alike as a charismatic and progressive leader, with a laser-precise mind and an eye for innovation—ensuring Incentiv constantly churns out new products, platforms and rewards. Fast Company: What makes Incentiv’s business model unique?

Mark Johnstone: What sets us apart from our competitors is that, ultimately, we don’t sell rewards in the same way they do; instead, we sell the risk coverage relating to those rewards. This enables us to deliver genuine value to our client base that’s able to offer rewards with a liability far greater than the cost to client, because our actuarially assessed risk profiling passes the benefit of promotional breakage back to those clients. What is your process when solving a particularly tough problem? In our business, the devil is in the detail, so one has to be as methodical and analytical as possible. The key is to trust the processes that we’ve developed over many years and to know that by staying true to those, the outcome is going to be accurate and correct. Because we’re such a niche business, I really don’t have many people I can use as a sounding board, but I do have a couple of trusted business confidantes by whom I’ll occasionally run some thoughts. How important is it to establish positive and valuable relationships with clients and customers? It’s absolutely critical. Particularly in our industry where we’re dealing with risk management, the elements of trust and delivery are the cornerstone on which relationships are built. Because there’s so much value to clients in the service we offer, their

experience of this value and its ability to drive their business objectives is the reason Incentiv sees so much repeat business from core clients. Has technology played a large role in the rise of channel incentive programmes? Technology has changed the face of the industry, because solutions are now infinitely scalable. Digital execution has widened the spectrum of both platform and reward options, meaning there are appropriate solutions available regardless of the demographic of the target audience. And, of course, our ability to tweak existing platforms has brought down the cost of their rollout. Importantly, too, speed to market has improved exponentially— clients can now respond in near real time to market forces. Finally, because digital executions collect data at every touchpoint, we’re able to adapt their solutions based on analytics of the data collected. Any challenges you envisage for the industry in the next decade? I see both challenge and massive opportunity within our industry. As our clients’ products and services become increasingly commoditised, our services become ever more important as a way of differentiating our clients from their competitors. This requires us to be at the forefront of innovation of platforms and reward options, because what was cool yesterday is old news today!

An acute understanding of consumers across all market segments is an absolute prerequisite to enable this innovation, to ensure we’re able to offer consumers what they want in the way they want it. And that’s a constantly changing landscape— particularly as the millennial generation becomes a more significant driver of spend. How do you keep your mind fresh and creative? I’ve always been very active, and have solved many a major business problem on a mountain rather than in the office! I’ve always found that a change of scenery and a little air in the lungs while on a mountain bike or on a trail run adds a different perspective—9 times out of 10 I’ll crack a solution there that might have been evading me in the office. What can we expect from Incentiv in the near future? I want us to capitalise on the platform we’ve already laid as a catalyst for growth. Expect us to keep pushing the boundaries and developing new solutions, products, rewards and routes to market for clients. We’ll evolve and improve digital execution, bringing clients closer to their markets and facilitating direct engagement with their consumers. Expect massive returns on investment for our clients—because that’s the true measure of our value.

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   61


SA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

FOR CHANGING THE LIVES OF ENTREPRENEURS Jayshree Naidoo

Head, Standard Bank Incubator

Jayshree Naidoo has become known as an innovation thought leader. Having previously held leadership roles at the Development Bank of Southern Africa, Da Vinci Design (where she developed the Seven Steps Model for Innovation Imple-mentation) and Discovery, among others—and having been a founding member and chairperson of the Southern African Innovation Network—she

currently heads up the Standard Bank Incubator. The Incubator was launched in order to speed up the growth and success of startups and early-stage companies by mentoring, training and providing them with business development support. Standard Bank also assists incubated entrepreneurs with access to markets that would be difficult to secure without proven products and services. “Standard Bank services a major share of business banking accounts in the country.

FOR THINKING OUTSIDE THE CAMP Zai Khan

Owner, Koester Farm Glamping

The Koester Farm ‘glampsite’ sits atop a cliff overlooking the valley of the Magaliesberg. Here in the magnificent 21-hectare Koesterfontein, you can combine the fun of camping with the comfort of a hotel—eating your braai with Carrol Boyes cutlery or stirring the baked beans in a Le Creuset pot . . . The lady behind the establishment is Zai Khan, well-known radio sports anchor and now also budding entrepreneur, who believes in “the power of hustling and working hard”. She has received

62   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

This is not only a great privilege but also a great responsibility for the bank, which realises it can potentially help these businesses improve their innovation stack by linking with entrepreneurs and thereby contributing to the economic growth in South Africa,” says Naidoo. “Breaking into established value chains is challenging. Being part of the Standard Bank Incubator has made this task just a little easier for entrepreneurs, by providing them with access to value chains and corporate networks.” Naidoo’s 25 years of knowledge, understanding and experience of e-channels, marketing and innovation have stood her in good stead to successfully manage projects in e-commerce, strategy and IT. In 2014, she was ranked no. 24 in Onalytica’s Top 100 Global Fintech Influencers, as a

tremendous support from the Standard Bank Incubator. Fast Company: Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

How have you overcome your biggest startup challenges? Believing in myself first. Trusting my intuition and working extremely hard.

Zai Khan: I’m a working mum who loves spending time with my family and friends. Being tired of spending my days commuting to a cubicle and packing my real life into two weeks’ holiday a year, I’m creating a business I can run from anywhere.

What kind of support did you receive from the Standard Bank Incubator? I wanted to hang out with like-minded people, especially entrepreneurs. And the Lionesses of Africa Lean In programme [in collaboration with Standard Bank, a community of young women entrepreneurs sharing advice, insight, inspiration and a platform for promoting their own business ideas and companies] has helped me turn my “I wish” into “I will”.

Tell us about your business. It’s all about making camping glamorous. Koester Farm Glamping provides authentic, quality tented living, furnished with hotel-quality king-size beds, 300-thread count linen, Le Creuset crockery and Dolce Gusto coffee, and is styled for a comfortable glamping experience. With our rushed, compressed lives, I want to encourage people to head out of the city for a weekend adventure.

What are some of the invaluable lessons you have learnt while taking part in the Standard Bank Incubator? Three words, in bright block letters, appear on my laptop’s desktop wallpaper: “Hustle harder, Zai”. For me, pursuing a niche path in hospitality meant

professional driving engagement within the fintech community on social media. Being identified as one of the top 25 fintech influencers in the world was “a milestone— especially being on a list with key players and influencers like Jim Marous [co-publisher of The Financial Brand and owner of the Digital Banking Report],” Naidoo adds. “It is always a blessing to be in a role that allows you the opportunity to have meaningful impact on people’s lives. I firmly believe that purpose fuels one’s passion. I continue to be extremely passionate and committed to changing the lives of those we touch. “Entrepreneurs continue to amaze me with their passion and their energy, and we are seeing more intrapreneurs living out their passion in the corporate world.”

I had to be part of a community, networking with other entrepreneurs, and diving into business with learning opportunities. With no business experience, I pursued the Lionesses of Africa Lean In programme and secured the awesome accelerator programme, meeting female entrepreneurs early in the morning every Tuesday. I knew I’d have to work hard, but I learnt that the hustle extended far beyond the classroom. You have to stay hungry. The accelerator also taught me to take nothing for granted and not to underestimate networking. “Your network is your net worth.”


FOR HELPING LEARNERS REACH FOR THEIR DREAMS Fulufhelo Ramulifho

Founder, Careers For A Powerful You

Living up to her name, Fulufhelo is bringing ‘faith and hope’ to many young people in South Africa by telling her story of overcoming so many obstacles, and by giving them high-quality career guidance, coaching and mentoring. The critical period for young people to open their minds to possibilities and to prepare for their future is during their school years—but they need the right kind of support to help them on their journey. Careers For A Powerful You is Ramulifho’s solution. In 2013, the young go-getter decided to leave formal employment; she had worked at big-name companies such as KPMG and Mutual & Federal. “Within me there was a desire to be in business. I wanted to be in a business in line with my passion and purpose,” she says. Ramulifho then established her goals-based career-guidance academy for high school learners in disadvantaged communities. The majority of learners end school with minimal or no career guidance; however, the prospect of a career choice is an issue that touches every young learner, organisation, community and the South African economy in a profound way. The academy offers career-guidance training, mentoring and coaching to assist learners in promoting themselves. Ramulifho says she joined the Standard Bank Incubator to assist with transitioning into her new journey as an entrepreneur. She now also runs afterschool career-guidance training workshops, girl child holiday camps, school visits and high-impact career days in various communities. To date, she has reached out to more than 20 000 learners in various regions throughout the country. “At the age of 60, my father—a former teacher in Limpopo—spent his time motivating high school learners, going from one village to another. I spent most of my teenage years and my 20s doing school visits with him, and so was inspired by the need to make a difference.”

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   63


SA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE from the functional solution will remain honest, timeless and easy to use. This makes Humanscale design solutions as relevant in New York as they are in Dubai, Tokyo, Singapore or even Johannesburg. Solve the functional problem first, and the beauty and universality will follow.

FOR CHANGING THE STANCE ON WORKSPACE DESIGN Peter Kowalski

Founder, MD, Formfunc Studio

Anyone who sits at a desk for most of the day knows the value of a comfortable, productive space. Yet, interior designer Peter Kowalski struggled to turn corporate attitudes in favour of ergonomic office chairs, workstations and monitor arms. Now, almost a decade since its inception, Kowalski’s design studio Formfunc is cementing itself as the country’s authority on ergonomic design. Formfunc is the southern African dealer partner for Humanscale—the global leader in ergonomic design—and has evolved into an assembly facility for all Humanscale seating in the region. Growth has outstripped Kowalski’s “wildest expectations”, employing 21 permanent staff (including financial director Kim Kowalski, Peter’s wife and mother of his two children). Kowalski previously worked in the UK at various design firms, including an invaluable stint at media corporation British Sky Broadcasting (now Sky UK), driving innovative solutions for office and broadcasting space. It was there that he learnt the connection between freedom, trust and fulfilment—a philosophy he has carried through to Formfunc. His current role as MD is focused on developing and motivating his young team

64   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

to educate the market about the science of ergonomics, and to ensure Formfunc’s world-class service is not compromised by its rapid ascension. Fast Company: What makes your partnership with Humanscale work so well? Peter Kowalski: I think the Humanscale management team realised very quickly that we were committed to their unique message about holistic and passive ergonomics from the early days in 2009. In Tim Hutchings (Humanscale International president), we have both a mentor and a friend. Tim loves the entrepreneurial aspect of our partnership, and the exponential pace of our growth in South Africa is directly proportional to the level of support Humanscale has offered us. One of your philosophies is “Functionality = Universality”. Can you unpack this? As a workplace designer, in my ‘previous life’ I believed strongly in the less-is-more approach. When I was introduced to Humanscale’s design philosophy 12 years ago in the UK, it resonated with my beliefs about good design. As a company, Humanscale puts function first; this means the form that follows

Do you think there’s a link between creativity and success? We live in an ever evolving world where technology and the access to information are changing exponentially, and I believe the success of most modern industries is directly proportional to their ability to evolve, to make their businesses relevant to their customers. In my view, it will be very difficult to succeed if you’re not innovating—and you need creativity to innovate. How do you boost creativity in the workplace? Give your staff goals and the freedom to think for themselves, then give them the tools to collaborate—but also the quiet space to think. Build an environment where teamwork and trust are the fundamental core values. Provide all of this, and the creativity will flow in abundance. What are the biggest changes facing the office design marketplace—and how are you responding? There are multiple aspects to the changing workplace; however, our focus is on the health, wellness and, ultimately, the productivity of the computerbased staff member. It’s a concept that’s on everyone’s lips, and business owners are starting to realise the value of happy and healthy staff. Remind yourself that movement is key to health, and you will start to understand why sit-to-stand worksettings [designed to make changing postures effortless] are starting

to become so popular. Humanscale is pioneering the innovation in this technology. How are offices going to look in a decade or two? Geez, if you think that we had VHS and Betamax 20 years ago, then I’m nervous about what’s going to happen in the next decade, let alone two! Science, technology and innovation are going to rule our world. Interacting with holograms as computer interfaces, and possibly even thought processes, is around the corner. Office furniture as we know it will probably cease to exist, and activity-based worksettings will dominate design concepts. Which steps can entrepreneurs take to perfect their workspace? Make sure the workspace you invest in and create today is adaptable for tomorrow, otherwise your investment will date quickly and you’ll be throwing away profits and losing staff. Any latest innovations in particular that you are excited about? The new retrofittable sit-to-stand solutions are challenging the idea that the technology is expensive. M/Connect [dual-video docking station] is a new innovation at Humanscale that’s allowing us to interface directly with information-technology professionals. I’ve yet to meet an IT geek who hasn’t seen the game-changing value of this product.


USA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

FOR BEING A CULTURE FACTORY Donald Glover Actor, musician, writer, producer

Photograph by ioulex


Glover pays close attention to the reactions of his fans. “You’re playing off the vibes, the wavelengths, the algorithms that your audience is giving you,” he says.

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   67


USA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

30-SECOND BIO Hometown Stone Mountain, Georgia

Donald Glover is tired. Like, bone-tired—the kind of tired that crushes his normally bright voice into a monotonous murmur. “This is a different level of production than anything I’ve ever been involved in, you know?” he says. It’s close to 9 p.m. London time, and Glover is coming off another gruelling 10-hour day on the set of his latest movie—the as-yet-untitled Star Wars film in which he plays the beloved Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi character Lando Calrissian. It’s a part that has required Glover to not only undergo intensive stunt training but also participate in daily weight-lifting sessions and abide by a strict muscle-building diet. Most nights, he says, he leaves the set barely able to walk. Though shooting a megabudget sci-fi blockbuster has proven more extreme than his typical workday, Glover has lately been getting used to fatigue. Consider the relentless pace of his last 24 months, a period that has ce­­mented his reputation as one of the entertainment industry’s premier polymaths. In addition to playing Calrissian in the eagerly awaited Han Solo–focused prequel (due next year), he will appear in this July’s Spider-Man: Homecoming in a mysterious role that has been the subject of much online speculation. (Glover won’t divulge anything for fear of, as he puts it, getting “dragged away by the Marvel police.”) Last December, while still making the Spidey film, Glover released his third official album under the name Childish Gambino—the well-received Awaken,My Love!— and in September he put on a sold-out, three-day multimedia event in Joshua Tree, California to debut his new music. But the project that has truly kick-started Glover’s career—that has transformed him from a well-

68   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

respected performer into one of Hollywood’s most exciting and in-demand creative minds—is the FX television series Atlanta, which he created, stars in, co-writes and executive-produces. When it premiered last September, the show quickly established itself as something original and important: a cerebral not-quitecomedy that uses the 30-minutesitcom format to explore issues of race, class, ambition, friendship, relationships, parenthood and other endlessly complex subjects. It’s all filtered through Glover’s unconventional aesthetic, which blends pathos and humour with a giddy surrealism that comes and goes like fragments of a dream. Atlanta has been celebrated for its diversity: The cast is composed entirely of people of colour, as is the writers’ room. Glover stars as Earnest “Earn” Marks, a Princeton dropout who washes back up in his hometown, crashing with his on-again, offagain girlfriend (Zazie Beetz) and their toddler daughter. Dead broke, Earn ingratiates himself with his cousin, a rapper who goes by Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry), and the first season loosely follows their travels through the local hip-hop scene. Atlanta is a show created by an African-American man in 2017, and its concerns, if not always overtly political, are necessarily wrapped up in questions of what it means to be young and black in America today. (Atlanta recently won a Peabody Award, which recognises, in part, societal impact.) Over the course of its 10episode run, the show built an impressive audience. By its November finale, Atlanta was averaging more than 5 million viewers per episode across platforms, making it the mostwatched comedy in FX’s history.

Notable movie roles A NASA astrophysicist in best-picture nominee The Martian; a stripper in 2015’s Magic Mike XXL

Early break Glover co-founded a sketch-comedy trio called Derrick Comedy while at NYU. The group’s online videos won a significant fan base, including Tina Fey, who hired Glover to work on 30 Rock.

Source of inspiration When Glover was getting ready to film Atlanta, he watched BBC nature docu­- series Planet Earth II on repeat. “It’s the most beautiful, honest, visceral and universal show,” he says. “I love that you could show it to a person anywhere in the world and they’d be in awe.”

It went on to win two Golden Globes—one for Glover, for best actor, and one for best television comedy—and FX quickly announced it was re-upping the series for a second season, which is due next year. In January, the network tapped Glover for an unusual exclusive overall production role, which enables him to create an unspecified number of other shows. “FX, to me, feels like a safe creative place right now,” Glover says. “I’m hesitant to say that, because it’s owned by a big conglomerate [20th Century Fox], but I mean it: If I have an idea, they’ll find a place to put it.” To the network, Glover represents the rare kind of visionary talent who can attract intense interest at a time when it’s harder than ever to break through the cultural clutter. “He’s remarkably multifaceted,” says FX president John Landgraf. “I look at Donald first and foremost as a creator, but also as an entrepreneur— someone who is almost boundaryless, who can do almost anything they set their mind to.” For Glover, Atlanta’s success— and FX’s faith in his voice and creative vision—is gratifying. “I had this thing, starting out, where people didn’t really trust me,” he says. “I say that as a young creative person, and I say that as a young black man.” The shows that he will create via his FX deal are a chance to prove, as he puts it, “that I understand what hits are—that I can make a hit. I’m gaining people’s trust. Every one of those roles is a step that brings me closer to doing the things that I want to do, on my own terms.” Though Atlanta is not autobiographical, Glover did grow up in a suburb of the city, the son of a postal worker and day-care manager. After graduating from New York University’s Tisch


School of the Arts in 2006, where he was a member of a popular comedy group, he was handpicked by Tina Fey to lend some millennial savvy to the writers’ room of 30 Rock, and three years later he scored an acting role on cult-favourite sitcom Community, playing Troy, a washed-up jock. Though it was a supporting part, Glover’s endearing performance earned him outsize attention and appreciation. When Glover started releasing music as Childish Gambino, many fans and critics were sceptical. But it turned out he was serious about broadening his creative purview, and his albums Camp (2011) and Because the Internet (2013) won some devotees. His most recent, Awaken, My Love!, a carefully crafted tribute to Funkadelic and other sounds of the 1970s, has been admired by both fans and music critics. Glover now essentially juggles four separate careers, any one of which would be a full-time occupation for most people: star and showrunner of a hit TV show, in-demand film actor (he will also voice Simba in the upcoming remake of The Lion King), creator and producer of multiple future FX programmes, and recording artist. Today, in operating this culture factory, Glover has come to rely on a team of colleagues and family members, which includes his long-time manager Dianne McGunigle, and his kid brother Stephen Glover, a rapper and one of the writers on Atlanta. Glover refers to this group as a “hub” that gives him a creative base as well as advice, especially as the number of opportunities that come his way have multiplied. “Freedom is responsibility,” he says. “This idea that the only thing stopping you is your own imagination—that’s beautiful,

but you still need structure, you still need boundaries, even if you’re making them yourself.” A similar dynamic is at play with the Atlanta team. “At its best,” he says, “it’s like a Ouija board. We’re all pushing and pulling together.” Part of his strategy includes paying close attention to social media, carefully monitoring reactions to his various projects. “A lot of art is a dance you do with your audience,” he says. “You’re playing off the vibes, the wavelengths, the algorithms that your audience is giving you. And now that I’ve got that information, I can get ready to dance with them again for [Atlanta’s] second season.” Surprisingly, he does not himself actively participate, having deleted all of the posts from his public Twitter and Instagram accounts two years ago. “I wanted, when I said something, for people to know I meant it,” he now explains. “Instead of 140 characters with no detail, I’d rather be like, ‘Here’s this thought. I made a thing out of it, and there’s a whole world contained in there.’ I want you to be able to immerse yourself in it.” I ask Glover whether, during rare moments of downtime while shooting the Star Wars movie, he finds himself thinking about his next big projects. He admits that he feels an intense sense of urgency. “The way I look at things, I have only a couple more years of being dangerous,” he says. “A couple more years of making risky moves.” After that, he seems to be saying, he’ll be fully caught in the Hollywood machine—less able to gamble with a show as irresistibly strange as Atlanta. “But while it’ll be from a very different place, I hope I’ll still be making good shit.” —MATTHEW SHAER

FOR TEACHING COAL MINERS TO CODE Justin Hall President, Bit Source

Justin Hall was running a coding academy for kids in Lexington, Kentucky when the owner of Bit Source, a software company deep in the state’s struggling coal region, asked him if he could teach coal miners to code, too. Hall agreed and came up with a business plan in which Bit Source would hire former miners as ‘apprentices’— paying them $15 (close on R200) per hour (thanks to federal funds available to jump-start the region) to learn a curriculum he developed involving HTML, CSS and JavaScript. In March 2015, Hall selected 10 former miners—chosen from more than 900 applicants—who

quickly became fluent not just in coding basics but also in programs including Drupal, Xamarin and Unity. Since then, they have completed dozens of projects, including repeat business from a Fortune 500 company. (Another ongoing effort, which the team brain-stormed at an MIT hackathon in October, is an app for delivering lifesaving drugs for opioid overdoses.) Hall says his goal is to establish the region as a hotbed for good coders and attract enough business to sustain the area’s thousands of displaced miners: “What we really want to say is, ‘We can do this work.’ ”

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   69


USA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

By equipping mayors with data—and helping them learn from each other— Anderson is driving change on a global scale.

70   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017


FOR LEADING CITIES TOWARD SOLUTIONS James Anderson Head of government innovation programmes, Bloomberg Philanthropies

When James Anderson arrived in Tel Aviv, Israel in October 2014, the city was in the midst of an immigration crisis. Tens of thousands of Africans, having fled the poverty and conflict of their native countries, now resided in the southern neighbourhood of Neve Sha’anan. In less than a decade, the area’s population had grown fourfold, resulting in overcrowding, unemployment, and cultural rifts between some members of the migrant community and native Israelis. “It was the opposite of vibrant city life,” Anderson says tactfully, recalling a flea market set up inside a former bus depot as a particular bright spot. City officials had ramped up rubbish collection and were maintaining the overloaded sewage system, but these kinds of measures only treated the symptoms. A couple of months later, Anderson invited Tel Aviv

Photograph by Maciek Jasik

mayor Ron Huldai to join the new “i-team” programme he had launched in 2012: Bloomberg Philanthropies would fund and coach a crossdisciplinary innovation squad (project manager, analysts, designer etc.) for three years to help local officials address systemic issues. Today, that once-depressing bus terminal has a kindergarten on one floor, a city-backed business accelerator on the next, and an international food market in the parking lot. Various Neve Sha’anan community groups share a Facebook page, where officials and service groups post information in multiple languages about how to register for school or what emerging sports, chess and music programmes are available to, say, Eritrean or Sudanese transplants. The i-team keeps detailed records of all these efforts, so that other cities can learn from them.

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   71


USA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

As global leadership has fractured—and people migrate more and more to urban centres— mayors have arguably become the most high-impact players in government. Their front-line efforts in civic engagement, social service, environmental action and economic development have never been more central to our future. What Anderson and his crew at Bloomberg Philanthropies are doing is creating an ecosystem to help mayors become “much more agile, creative and in partnership mode [with other mayors],” Anderson explains. Today, most local governments are aware of only 3% of the various interventions being applied around the world, according to Citymart, a public-solutions procurement firm. (Eco-friendly, traffic-decongesting bike-sharing programmes, for instance, have virtually no downsides, yet have been adopted in fewer than 30% of the world’s largest cities.) Anderson’s goal is to “Bloombergise” urban development, as he puts it, empowering municipalities to create models that others may later adopt. “Cities should not have to reinvent the wheel time and time again,” he says. “I am obsessed with the notion that [cities and mayors] can serve as distribution networks for ideas that work.” Since joining Bloomberg Philanthropies in 2010, Anderson has devised and led ambitious programmes that have channelled more than $215 million (R2.8 billion) to urban projects reaching 290 cities across 25 countries. They include the Mayors Challenge, which awards cash prizes to metro areas with the most forward-looking and potentially replicable plans to improve city life; and What Works Cities, which provides smaller cities

72   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

with data-driven ways to improve services and planning. These efforts pay ongoing dividends around the world. In December, Stockholm began implementing its 2014 Mayors Challenge– winning project, which uses plant waste to reduce carbon emissions and produce alternative energy. Mysore, India, and Parma, Italy, are planning to incorporate the Stockholm model this year. Meanwhile, Aspen, Colorado has implemented Santa Monica, California’s Wellbeing Index, a tool for measuring citizens’ quality of life which won in 2013. “One of the things I learnt from Mike Bloomberg is that borrowing ideas is a badge of honour,” says Anderson, a one-time activist with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, who spent eight years working alongside the former mayor of New York City—first as a senior adviser in the homeless division and then as communications director. During that time, the Bloomberg administration was actively searching for solutions that other mayors had successfully pioneered elsewhere, including conditional cash transfers, bike lanes and bus rapid transit. The concept for New York’s successful community-action hotline, for instance, was based on a project that originated in Baltimore; New York improved it by mapping the complaints received to reveal the underlying issues—and then systematically addressing them. On the flip side, when other mayors asked about copying one of Anderson’s own programmes, called CoolRoofs—covering rooftops with reflective white paint, which lowered building cooling costs and carbon emissions—he founded a nonprofit called Cities of Service so everyone could share their

“I A M O B S E S S E D W IT H T H E N OT I O N THAT C IT I E S C A N S E R V E A S D I ST R I B U T I O N N ET W O R K S FO R I D EA S T HAT W O R K.”

precise blueprints and lessons. It’s now part of Bloomberg Philanthropies. Anderson continues to use data to guide problem-solving efforts, but he also recognises that numbers alone cannot cure all the uncomfortable realities of running a city: Mayors must admit it’s on them to find the answer. “Cities can basically do anything except declare war and sign treaties, and that gives you a whole lot of room to rip and run,” says New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, whose i-team has managed to dramatically reduce the city’s murder rate and has sped up the process for getting permits and business licences. “Jim is a great interrogator,” says Louisville, Kentucky mayor Greg Fischer. “One, I think he is a life-long learner. But, two, he’s heard a lot of BS in his days.” Fischer, through Bloomberg’s What Works Cities programme, has been able to apply new methodologies that have led to a boost in parking-violation collections, the repurposing of vacant lots, and more animal shelter adoptions. Anderson, who has held private, closed-door meetings with mayors to answer their most

basic questions, is now investing further in their potential. In July, his organisation will launch the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, a sort of mayoral MBA programme for top city officials that will offer free virtual classes and executive coaching sessions developed in tandem with Harvard Business School and its Kennedy School of Government. Jorrit de Jong, who leads Harvard’s government innovation studies and will oversee the programme, says modern city planning without data analysis is like driving a car blindfolded. “It’s really important that the mayor gets it,” De Jong says. Last year, Anderson returned to Tel Aviv to attend a pitch session for community projects designed by people living in Neve Sha’anan. An art centre had been cleared out for the hackathon-style event, and the city’s i-team director Itai Eiges and other officials were on hand to award micro-grants. “I think things are changing there, but it will take time,” Eiges says. Not long after, a delegation from Tel Aviv visited Seattle to ga­ther information about economic-stimulus opportunities: Tel Aviv learnt how homegrown powerhouses like Amazon, Boeing and Starbucks are scaling successfully, while Seattle received tips about nurturing a thriving startup culture. Tel Aviv mayor Huldai has also joined nine other mayors in a joint initiative by Bloomberg and the Aspen Institute to explore how the driverless-car revolution can be harnessed to improve citizens’ lives. The work these leaders are doing will go toward solving their own issues—and others’ as well. After all, Anderson says, “every elected official needs to produce results.” —BE N PAYNTE R


FOR CONVERTING CO 2 INTO FOOD Lisa Dyson Co-founder, CEO, Kiverdi

T H E P R O B L E M : Scientists and activists have focused on reducing carbon dioxide emissions, but few have looked to reuse CO2 that has already been released into the air. T H E E P I P H A N Y: Physicist Lisa Dyson was exploring new techniques to recycle CO2 with John Reed, a former colleague from the Department of Energy’s Berkeley Lab, when they stumbled upon NASA research from the 1960s that looked at how microbes aboard spacecraft could absorb CO2 from as­­t ronauts’ breath and be turned into food. T H E E X E C U T I O N : After founding the company in 2008, they began using the NASA technique to develop microbe-based alternatives to palm oil and citrus oil. They also created a protein replacement for use in food and animal feed. T H E R E S U LT: Kiverdi is now working to make other products using recycled CO2. “If we show companies this is environmentally and economically sustainable,” Dyson says, “they’re going to choose [it].”

Illustration by Kevin Whipple

FOR EXPANDING THE STREAM Bernadette Aulestia Executive vice president of global distribution, HBO

Bernadette Aulestia’s job is to put HBO on users’ laptops, tablets and smartphones, particularly if they don’t have a traditional cable subscription. In the digital video industry, where every company that could partner is also a competitor, Aulestia has to forge these relationships diplomatically. Last December, she made a deal with Amazon for it to sell HBO directly to Prime members. The partnership helps HBO reach customers who want the convenience of watching Game of Thrones via Amazon Video without

having to manage another account, app or bill. In return, Amazon receives an additional enticement to sell Prime—and another tool to threaten Netflix. Any HBO shows that Prime members watch will boost Amazon’s streaming traffic totals, a key metric used by analysts to measure vitality. Aulestia’s efforts have also brought HBO to Microsoft’s Xbox, Sony’s PlayStation Vue and Sling TV—and in 2016, subscribers to HBO Now, its app for cable cord cutters, tripled to 2 million, making it a hit in the new streaming world.

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   73


USA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

FOR LEADING THE VOICECONTROLLED REVOLUTION Rohit Prasad and Toni Reid Vice president, head scientist, Amazon Alexa; Vice president, Echo devices and Alexa

Rohit Prasad and Toni Reid have turned Alexa, the always-listening virtual assistant that’s built into Amazon’s two-year-old Echo devices, into a category-defining consumer experience. Now, to stay ahead of competing technologies at Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, they are finding clever ways to make Alexa both smarter and ubiquitous. In the past few months, they’ve helped bring Alexa’s voice-powered

74   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

Photograph by Carlton Canary


technology to the iPhone and Ford vehicles. They’ve rolled out cheaper alternatives to the $180 (R2 300) Echo— the $130 (R1 600) Tap and the $50 (R650) Echo Dot—and expanded into the UK and Germany. They’ve also enabled developers’ creativity, building a platform that has inspired programmers to create more than 10 000 voice-controlled “skills” such as getting WebMD health insights, Capital One balance info, and language translation. “When we launched, Alexa only had 13 skills,” Reid says. Key to their success, they say, is giving their teams room to dream— “[We do] not get mired down in, How can this be done?” Reid says—and the discipline to kill or delay rolling out features that aren’t ready for market. “There’s a trust between us,” says Prasad, who develops the brains of Alexa while Reid focuses on its relationship to the customer, “over what the technology can and can’t do.”

Prasad and Reid built the platform that powers Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa.

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   75


SA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

76   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017


FOR FIGURING OUT HOW THE WORLD WATCHES FOR UNLOCKING THE EMOTION—AND VALUE—OF LIVE VIDEO Fidji Simo Vice president of product, Facebook

Fidji Simo is responsible for virtually everything Facebook’s almost 1.9 billion users see when they open the big blue app, from news to advertising. For each new feature, Simo starts by asking her teams a simple question: “What is the feeling you want people to have?” she says. “Feelings are universal.” Last year, when Simo launched Facebook Live, the breakthrough streaming-video application, the goals were “excitement” and “anticipation”. That’s why Simo inserted a feed of viewers’ real-time comments and encouraged video crea­­tors to integrate them into their broadcasts. The interactivity was such a hit, she’s rolling out a feature called “go live with a friend”, enabling two users to broadcast together, no matter where they are. All of this has helped turn Live into a global phenomenon. Simo brings the same userfirst mindset to advertising products, which Facebook integrates closely with its consumer ones. Her approach has worked here, too: Eighty percent of Facebook’s ad revenue comes from mobile ad products that Simo has helped create.

Illustration by Señor Salme

Todd Yellin Vice president of product, Netflix

“If you’re not falling on your face,” Todd Yellin tells his team at Netflix, “you’re not leaning far enough forward to take risks.” Last year, Yellin helped bring Netflix into more than 130 new countries, each with unique bandwidth capabilities and user behaviour. Here’s how he figured out how to deliver content everywhere—from India to Brazil to the Philippines.

1. After seeing how slow the Internet is in some regions—leading to annoying glitches—Yellin led Netflix to reverse its decision not to offer downloads. The company’s download feature launched in November. 2. Yellin learnt that na­­t ional identity doesn’t equal viewing identity. “My taste doppelgänger might be in Munich or São Paulo,” he says. As a result, Netflix re­­p laced its country-specific personalisation algorithms with a global one. 3. Voice-dubbing for foreign-language fare has a bad rep, but Yellin thought it could work as Netflix began debuting its shows around the world. Last November, it released Brazilian series 3% with an English voiceover and was happy with viewer response; Netflix will dub other programmes in places where it sees potential.

FOR BRINGING THE THUNDER TO ENTERPRISE COMPUTING Diane Greene Senior vice president, Google Cloud

Google’s consumer services (Search, Mail etc.) are built on an impressive infrastructure that features some of the world’s best data centres, analytics, machine learning, and image-recognition technology. Before Google acquired Diane Greene’s startup in 2015—and then put her in charge of cloud computing—the search giant had not prioritised using its resources to service other companies. Greene coalesced disparate teams into a single organisation to showcase how Google’s tech

can help other businesses. The insurance giant USAA is using Google’s translation expertise in its call centres; Airbus, the airspace company, and Planet Labs, a dataanalytics startup, use Google Cloud to store and process satellite images. “When Google deploys a new service, it dispatches reliability engineers to make sure it never goes down,” Greene says. “We realised we should offer customers the same thing.” These efforts have helped turn Cloud into Google’s fastest-growing division.

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   77


USA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

FOR CHANGING THE WAY WE LOOK AT WEARABLES Lauryn Morris Design lead, Spectacles, Snap

Snapchat surprised every­­one last year by changing its company name to Snap and introducing Spectacles, the elegant camera-equipped sunglasses that capture videos to share on its popular social media platform. That Spectacles could succeed in being the most exciting new gadget launch of the year in a field where Google Glass failed, and Microsoft and Magic Leap have been slow to commercialise a compelling product, is a testament to

78   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

Lauryn Morris, who happened to have a decade of experience in wearable computing and high-end fashion eyewear. Morris had studied industrial design at varsity where, for her senior thesis project, she devised a conceptual “head-worn device that allows you to experience music in ways other than hearing it,” she explains, such as through vibration and colour. “It created this immersive experience that totally fascinated me.” After graduating, Morris designed eyewear collections for the likes of Michael Kors, Zac Posen and Diane von Furstenberg, but didn’t want “to get pigeonholed in fashion,” she says, so she consulted for various companies, tinkering with wearable technology. “With eyewear, you’re designing a product that enables people to feel beautiful—something they’re excited


to wear, and I really like that aspect. But what’s so interesting about tech is that you get to solve real problems for people.” Snap came calling in late 2014, and Morris joined a small team secretly at work on early prototypes of what would become Spectacles. She set about refining the eyewear, defining target customers and use cases, exploring materials, and collaborating with the company’s engineers to work through weight and form-factor issues—what she calls a “marriage of the old-school classic eyewear world and the consumer electronics world”. It helps that cofounder and CEO Evan Spiegel is a designer by trade, too. “Evan would bring us college textbooks on optics, children’s books about the human eye, and tell us all these stories about the invention of different camera models,” Morris says.

Illustration by Angela Ho

“We even in­­vited PhDs to talk to us about how the brain processes memories in the modern age of photography.” This explains why the field of view that Spectacles captures is circular: It mimics the way the human eye sees. “We went off on a lot of tangents in the first year. It was a good example of how the design process can be both messy and beautiful.” The resulting product—with its big round lenses, flashy colour options, and camera and LED lights accented in yellow in the upper corners of the frames—is a reflection of Snap’s brand: It is designed to be, Morris says, “happy and playful and simple, and not meant to be taken too seriously.” Snap always wanted Spectacles to be “like a regular pair of sunglasses that you would have a lot of fun with,” she says. Surprisingly, this meant embracing the product’s tech component. Spectacles “celebrates the camera; it doesn’t hide it,” Morris says. Her team also oversaw Spectacles’ packaging, along with the “Snapbot” vending machines, which have popped up from Miami to the Grand Canyon to help distribute the device. “Essentially, every customer touch-point has come from our team,” Morris says. “It’s like having a mini design firm [inside Snap].” But what Morris continues to value most about the product is that it solves a problem. No longer do people need to interrupt or delay a moment by pulling out a camera; with Spectacles, the experience is immersive and “quite intimate”, she says, citing such recent Spectacles uploads as a baby’s first steps and a couple holding hands on a boardwalk (selfies be damned). Morris herself loves shooting video of her stepdaughter while riding the roller coasters at Disneyland, or building sandcastles with her niece and nephew on the beach while her hands are covered in sand. (A user can save his or her videos, but footage shared with friends, like most content on the Snapchat app, eventually disappears.) “These are all perspectives you can’t get with any other product,” she notes. “And that’s what makes it really meaningful to us.” —AUSTIN CARR

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   79


USA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

FOR NOURISHING THE SPIRIT Massimo Bottura Chef and co-founder, Food for Soul

Superstar chef Bottura explains that his refettorios around the world don’t just feed the hungry but “make them feel at home, cared for and respected.”

80   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

Photograph by Maurizio Di Iorio


Massimo Bottura is famous for upending Italian cuisine at Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, which topped the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list for 2016. With his refettorio—or “dining hall”—projects, he’s doing a different kind of groundbreaking work. Beginning with 2015’s Refettorio Ambrosiano in Milan, followed by outposts in Rio, London and, soon, the US, Bottura is helping to feed the hungry, reduce the 1.3 billion tonnes of food waste accumulated each year, and rebuild communities. How do the refettorios work? Food for Soul [Bottura’s nonprofit] connects with local charitable organisations, [and] these groups invite the poor and homeless people we serve each week—as many as 100 meals per day in Milan. An abandoned theatre was donated by a Catholic church in Milan, and in London we’ve partnered with an established soup kitchen and drop-in centre. In Rio and Milan, we can offer meals for free because all the meals are made with surplus ingredients donated by supermarkets, suppliers and local markets, and the staff are mostly volunteers. Food for Soul has four full-time people, and there are a few permanent employees at each refettorio, like a supervisor, a head chef and, in the case of Milan, a social worker. Rio also has a culinary school, offering job training for young people, in addition to a community kitchen. We find the volunteer staff through press, social media and local churches. The London soup kitchen, Felix—named in

memory of a young soccer player who cared deeply about the welfare of others— is currently in need of a lot of love and energy from people in the area. That is a mission of Food for Soul: to activate communities. Where did this idea begin? The idea of not wasting food came from my grandmother. She taught me the deep Italian culinary traditions of not taking even a breadcrumb for granted. For the refettorios, we found so many new ways for using ingredients that would otherwise be thrown away. But we can all be better about not wasting food, cleaning out our refrigerators by eating and cooking everything in them, and learning how to rethink the lifespan of ingredients. You’ve described Food for Soul as a cultural project, not a charity. How does that translate at the refettorios? The idea, from the beginning, was to not just feed our guests but to make them feel at home, cared for and respected. We work with local architects, designers, and artists to create beautiful, light-filled spaces. Art on the walls, no plastic plates or cups but real ceramic and glass, freshly baked bread, and delicious three-course meals. Volunteers address guests by name, converse and welcome them, day after day. This is part of nourishment—not only what goes into the body but what the body perceives. I’ve always believed that food, art and creativity are a universal language. Ethics and aesthetics go hand in hand.

the power grid during the day, demand surged in the evening, requiring utilities to run fossilfuel plants for backup power.

FOR TURNING BUILDINGS INTO GIANT BAT TERIES Susan P. Kennedy Co-founder, CEO, Advanced Microgrid Solutions

TH E PR OB L E M : As chief of staff to California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Susan Kennedy helped oversee a massive increase in the state’s renewableenergy capacity—and witnessed its unintended consequences. While solar power helped bring down the overall energy draw on

TH E E PIPH A N Y: Inspired by hybridcar technology—and falling prices for lithium-ion batteries— Kennedy and co-founder Jackie Pfannenstiel envisioned a plan to equip large buildings with banks of batteries that charge up with electricity from the grid when power is in low demand (and cheap) and switch over to battery power when demand in­­c reases—reducing strain on the grid. TH E E XE CU TI O N: AMS secured a contract with Southern California Edison in 2014 that includes the retrofitting of 24 large commercial buildings owned by the Irvine Company with hybrid-electric-battery storage systems. The batteries are connected to software that regulates energy use. TH E R E S U LT: The first 13 buildings are now online, with the rest due later this year. Energy cost savings range from 7% to 14%, while utilities get to avoid building backup plants or purchasing power on the spot market.

FOR RESHAPING FITNESSWEAR Tyler Haney Founder, CEO, Outdoor Voices

Tyler Haney grew up playing several sports, but as an adult she gravitated toward activities such as walking her dog or hiking. Like many millennials who are more interested in fitness than competition, she couldn’t find an activewear brand that spoke to her. So she started Outdoor Voices, “a friendly, inclusive call to action that is non-prescriptive.” She created a range of high-performing yet soft fabrics—including her

most recent, Tech Sweat—that are lightweight, fast-drying and worn by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Frank Ocean. Sales have quadrupled, and last year the company raised $13 million (R170.7 million) in funding, bringing total investment to $22.5 million (R295.5 million). It’s been using that money to expand its retail footprint, opening three new stores to go along with its original Austin location.

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   81


USA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

FOR SHARPENING THE TOOLS OF PRECISION MEDICINE Jun Wang Founder, CEO, iCarbonX

Every aspect of our body—DNA, lipids, cells— is carbon-based. Jun Wang’s big-data medical startup iCarbonX, which he founded in 2015, is working toward aggregating all our carbon-related information and then using artificial intelligence to discern more accurate details about any particular person’s disease. “To have a deep understanding of diabetes, we should dig into diet, intestinal microbes, genes, proteome, etabolites— rather than just insulin,” says Wang, who previously spent 16 years at Chinese genomics company BGI (half as CEO), building it into one of the world’s most prolific sequencers of human, animal and plant DNA. “With this, we talk

about [cure].” For Wang’s “carbon cloud” platform to work best, he will need at least 1 million participants. So in January, he invested in sev­e n companies in exchange for their contribution to this project, including AO­­ Biome (which is studying gut bacteria), an Israeli AI startup, and a Chinese cosmetics firm. Wang in­tends this “global life alliance”, as he calls it, to combine with AI algorithms to personalise treatment for diseases like diabetes and cancer— and everyday items like over-the-counter skincare products, too.

FOR FACILITATING ONLINE PAYMENTS ACROSS BORDERS Claire Hughes Johnson COO, Stripe

Stripe creates back-end systems that allow startups and small businesses to accept and receive payments online. Claire Hughes Johnson, who joined the company three years ago after leading Alphabet’s self-driving-car initiative, helped take Stripe global last February with the launch of Atlas, a toolkit that enables any business, anywhere in the world, to incorporate in the United States. For $500 (about R6 485), Atlas eliminates expensive and time-consuming legal and logistic hurdles to allow startups to accept payments quickly through a US bank account—and use Stripe’s merchant services. So far, thousands of businesses have signed up for Atlas, a number that has the potential

82   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

to grow exponentially, according to Johnson: “Less than 5% of commerce globally happens online,” she says. “This is a huge frontier.” Plus, it isn’t just about facilitating transactions: “[Stripe’s] core products are really about economic access,” she adds— helping people realise their business ideas and catalysing job growth.

FOR EXPLORING THE EIGHTH CONTINENT Naveen Jain Co-founder, executive chairperson, Moon Express

Born in poverty near New Delhi, India, Naveen Jain made his fortune with search engine InfoSpace, then cofounded data-mining giant Intelius, which he left after it was acquired in 2015. Jain’s most prominent company, Moon Express, is a spacetravel startup that has raised $45 million (R583.6 million) in its effort to become the first private company to land a spacecraft on the moon— a feat Jain plans to attempt later this year as part of an effort to win the $20-million (R259.4-million) Google Lunar XPrize. Next, Jain will set about developing technology to mine the moon’s natural resources. Lunar water, for example, could be gathered and split into hydrogen (which can fuel rockets) and oxygen (which can sustain space travellers). Eventually, metals found on the moon might be used to build structures and ships in space, making it easier to colonise other worlds. Jain says his ultimate goal is to make it possible for humanity to find a new home if the current one fails. “To build a sustainable business, you have to both do well and do good,” he says. “And there’s nothing better than saving humanity from potential extinction.”

Illustration by Kevin Lucbert


JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   83


USA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

Vijay Shekhar Sharma Founder, CEO, Paytm

Vijay Shekhar Sharma launched Delhibased digital-payments app Paytm in 2010 and then spent years trying to convince reluctant Indian merchants to give it a try. Customers tended to prefer cash, however, and while Paytm evolved into India’s lead­­i ng digital wallet, growth remained slow. Then, last November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dropped a bombshell: To reduce corruption, he was scrapping the country’s most common bills, effective immediately.

Cash trans­a ctions were suddenly difficult, and Paytm represented a solution. Sharma quickly launched a na­­t ion­­a l advertising campaign, and consumers themselves often made the case to vendors. In a matter of weeks, Paytm added 3 million merchants—quadrupling the company’s reach. In February, Paytm’s parent company, One97 Communications, raised an additional $200 million (R2.5 billion) to fund broader e-commerce efforts, with Alibaba leading the round. Sharma, meanwhile, has been transformed from an idiosyncratic en­­t repreneur to something of a national hero. He has seen a video of Indian schoolchildren singing about Paytm, and a photograph of a rural merchant who had drawn a poster of the Paytm logo by hand. “Wow, this brand has reached everyone,” says the CEO. “I felt proud.”

FOR DOING YOUR HOMEWORK Amy Chang Co-founder, CEO, Accompany

Amy Chang is acutely aware of the risks of walking into a meeting unprepared. The former global head of Google Ads Measurement (and current Cisco board member) created the company’s first enterprise analytics product, back in 2010, and was tasked with selling it to clients. “I had my arse handed to me,” she recalls of her early sales calls when she didn’t have time to fully study up on the dozens of people she was pitching. “I felt like there must be something that makes it easier.” Today, Chang’s machine-learning-powered app,

84   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

Accompany, takes care of such homework automatically. The recently launched platform scans users’ calendars and delivers briefings (professional and company information, photos, recent news articles and more) on people they’re meeting; it also creates curated news feeds covering contacts and businesses. The service can scan hundreds of millions of sources, correctly matching people with companies while anticipating what information is most relevant to users.

FOR MERGING MUSIC AND ACTIVISM Ty Stiklorius Founder, CEO, Friends at Work

Long-time music manager Ty Stiklorius—who steers the careers of John Legend, Ciara and Lindsey Stirling, among others—launched a new firm in 2015 called Friends at Work, which combines traditional management services with social activism. “We don’t work with artists who are not engaged in using their platform for good,” says Stiklorius. “I have no interest in just having another pop hit on the radio.” Together, Stiklorius and Legend launched the #FreeAmerica campaign, which raises awareness about mass incarceration and other issues, and she’s partnered with attorney Adam Foss in activist group Prosecutor Impact. Stiklorius, who co-founded and helps run Legend’s Get Lifted film-production com­ pany, is also assisting Stirling in turning one of her ultrapopular YouTube channels into a destination for raising awareness for mental illness.

Photograph by ioulex

GUTTER CREDIT TK

FOR RESCUING INDIA’S SMALL BUSINESSES

Art credit teekay


GUTTER CREDIT TK

Stiklorius has “no interest in just having another pop hit on the radio.”

Art credit teekay

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   85


USA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

FOR ENHANCING THE JOURNEY Katie Dill Director of experience design, Airbnb

Dill’s job is to make sure you find the right local hot spot to try at the right time during an Airbnbpowered trip.

86   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017


Katie Dill led Airbnb’s expansion late last year from home-booking app to full-on travel concierge via the high-profile launch of its Trips platform. Air­­bnb now offers travellers the ability to book unique, memorable, site-specific experiences such as Thai fruit carving in Bangkok or hanging out with TV writers in Los Angeles, while a product called Places provides mobile, location-specific information (along with meetups and audio tours) so that users can enjoy their surroundings like a native. Dill’s challenge is to deliver a localised perspective at a global scale, making each Airbnb trip unique even as the service handles more than 100 million people worldwide. How does Trips differ from Airbnb’s regular booking platform? We do far more curation. People apply [to offer an experience through Airbnb], and we make sure their ideas are up to our standard. We also help them create their listing, including shooting a lot of videos, which we believe is important. When you take pictures of a home, you get a sense of that space—but you need video to capture what it looks like to sumo wrestle.

FOR SEEDING A CONSUMERPRODUCTS BOOM De Liu Co-founder, vice president, Xiaomi

De Liu, a co-founder of the Chinese electronics giant Xiaomi, likens his strategy for building connected devices to growing bamboo: “Each shoot grows quickly, and there are constantly new ones,” he says. “The problem with bamboo is that its life cycle is short, so it’s best to form a bamboo forest, to be safe.”

Why did you change the notifications in the Airbnb app to bold, full-screen reminders? We call it our superhero. This app in your pocket contains an incredible amount of intelligence about you, so let’s offer information you need at the time you need it. There are all these moments of the customer’s journey that could be problematic, like remembering the address or figuring out the Wi-Fi password of a rental. We also want to use this full-screen notifier to let you know when there are events or a meetup going on down the street.

FOR CREATING MAGIC OUT OF THIN AIR

What role does the host play in developing Airbnb’s localised content? If we think about all the guidebooks that our hosts have created—in San Francisco [alone], we have hundreds of thousands of recommendations about places to go from people who live here. Yelp, TripAdvisor or Google will give you great information, but it’s probably going to leverage tourist insights, and you’ll go to the same place everyone else is going. We have a fantastic community of people who joyfully share what they know about their city. We’re leveraging that information.

AirPods, the wireless earbuds Apple released just before Christmas 2016, remain a back-ordered hit because they deliver precisely the kind of ‘wow’ features customers expect from Apple. Isabel Mahe and her team are responsible for all of them, including the seamless way AirPods connect with an iPhone and their ability to sync with two devices at once: Users can hear their Apple Watch alarm while streaming music from their iPhone. Perhaps most impressive, Mahe figured out how

Photograph by Chloe Aftel

Liu’s job is to figure out which products can thrive at a particular mo­­m ent, and then quickly incubate startup hardware companies to produce them. In three years, he’s fostered 77 companies that have launched hundreds of products, such as a smart guitar that teaches users to play via a connected app. The broad range of devices generated almost $1.5 billion (R19.4 billion) last year and has helped Xiaomi— primarily a phone maker—to diversify. Liu, a former dean of industrial design at Beijing University of Technology, and the designer of Xiaomi’s first smartphones, expects revenue to double this year. “In the next 20 years, all your products will be getting better,” he says. “We have the opportunity to improve the quality of life of a generation.”

Isabel Mahe Vice president of wireless technologies, Apple

to create controls even though AirPods don’t have any buttons. Take one out of your ear and it knows to stop streaming audio. Tap twice with your finger and it can control the phone. She had experimented with numerous modes of physical interaction (shaking your head yes or no was considered, but rejected), but the double-tap won out as the most Apple-like solution: “It’s what [customers] are used to right now,” Mahe says, “and the most natural way forward.”

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   87


USA SA MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE

FOR BROADENING PERSPECTIVES

FOR BREWING CHANGE

Barry Jenkins

Rodney Hines Director of US social impact, Starbucks

Writer, director

Made for just $1.5 million (R19.6 million), Barry Jenkins’s critically adored 2016 drama Moonlight earned more than $60 million (R787.9 million) worldwide and won three Oscars, including best picture. But the film was more than just a hit. Featuring an all-black cast, it captures the life of a young, gay AfricanAmerican man—an experience never before explored with such depth and complexity in mainstream Hollywood.

“What we’ve been given in the arts [about] blackness and masculinity is very narrow,” says Jenkins. “There’s so much room for us to spread the scope.” Jenkins is now working on a screenplay for a movie about boxer Claressa Shields, and he’s also creating an Amazon series based on Colson Whitehead’s 2016 novel, The Underground Railroad, which imagines an alternate universe in which slaves made their escape on real trains.

FOR USING AI TO STREAMLINE SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH Amy Molyneux and Sam Molyneux Co-founders, Meta

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative—the mission-driven LLC (limited-liability company) created by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan—made its first acquisition in January: Toronto-

88   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

As an executive responsible for Starbucks’s social-good initiatives, Rodney Hines is helping to lead the coffee giant’s new efforts to hire 10 000 refugees across 75 countries by 2022. To accomplish this ambitious goal, he has worked to secure partnerships with such organisations as the United Nations and No One Left Behind. “My role is to take [this] commitment and bring it to bear for the business—to make it work,” he says. Hines is also leading the company’s ongoing initiative to bring 15 cafés to economically depressed US

based Meta. Co-founder siblings Amy, a software developer, and Sam Molyneux, a medical biophysicist by training, started the company to help biomedicine professionals keep up with the 4 000 scientific papers published every day. With seed funding from VCs led by iGan Partners, the Molyneuxes created an AI platform using neural networks and other algorithms, and combined this with a machine-learning-based predictive-intelligence system. The resulting tool

combs through the world’s largest, most up-to-date cache of scientific papers, tracks which discoveries may have the most future impact, and delivers those insights to users. With the acquisition,

communities. Five are now open—including one in Phoenix, one in Ferguson, Missouri, and one in the Chicago neighbourhood of Englewood—and all of them are not only hitting their sales targets but have already indirectly contributed a total of $10 million (R131.3 million) in economic development to their respective areas. Hines has instilled a community-first focus at each of these locations: Many sell products from local vendors, offer workshops, and help employees find day-care or housing services.

Meta will soon be available to researchers at no cost. Chan and Zuckerberg “share our mission of accelerating science,” Sam says. “Now we can do things faster and at a much larger scale.”


As the architects of The Washington Post’s recent business-reviving digital strategy, Shailesh Prakash and Joey Marburger are proving that ‘newspaper innovation’ can be a reality rather than an oxymoron. Prakash focuses on developing better ways to deliver the Post’s content, pushing the notion that they can design the future of news and not just shepherd it. “We’ve shifted from an IT mindset to an engineering one,” he says. Marburger turns those ideas into action, making sure, he says, “that

FOR BREAKING THE NEWS Shailesh Prakash and Joey Marburger Chief information officer and director of product, Washington Post Co.

our journalism can reach everyone.” The duo is most proud of Arc, the Post’s proprietary publishing technology, which has proven so successful in helping package and publish content that, in March this year, the owner of the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune licensed the software. Prakash and Marburger’s efforts have boosted subscribers and digital traffic, which is as high as 100 million monthly unique visitors—up from 20 million five years ago.

FOR AUTOMATING SMALL-BUSINESS LOANS Jacqueline Reses Capital lead, Square

Last year, Jacqueline Reses and her team introduced a product that makes customised loan offers to merchants who use Square each time they open its dashboard. The automated offers are based on cash-flow data

that the paymentprocessing platform has captured through transactions. How does it work? Imagine you run a food truck. Lunchtime business is taking off and you need to place larger wholesale orders, but you

don’t have enough cash. Square’s algorithm may predict the situation and generate a loan proposal—no application required. “We size the loan such that we know the seller can pay it back,” says Reses. “We won’t give

you a loan that’s bigger than what you can afford.” Square’s tool is on track to lend more than $1 billion (R13.1 billion) this year, with an average size of around $6 000 (R78 000) and term of nine months. Unlike competitors, Square structures its interest charges as a one-time fixed fee, ranging from 10% to 16% of the overall loan, and has also created an automated daily repayment system that calculates amounts based on the rise and fall of sales—reducing the chance of default and allowing merchants to pay loans off faster if business picks up.

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   89


Next

The Great Innovation Frontier

M i l l s Soko

KEEP THE SPARK ALIVE South Africa’s ratings downgrade could spell the end of our fragile culture of innovation—unless we bridge the gaps between possibility and opportunity

South Africa’s fears recently materialised: The country was downgraded first by ratings agency Standard & Poor’s, then by Fitch, to junk status. Concerns for the implications are wide-ranging, not least of which is the possible effect on innovation. It is well-documented that innovation drives economic growth. This is, in fact, one of the most consistent findings by scholars in macro-economics— and according to the United States Chamber of Commerce Foundation, some 50% of US economic growth is attributable to increases in innovation. There’s a notion that the corollary is also true: that when times are tough, human beings rise like phoenixes from the ashes and begin to innovate faster than ever. But in order for a culture of innovation to truly take root and become transformative, there must be a certain amount of available R&D budget and an enabling environment that includes favourable policy, strong leadership and supportive legislation. India, for example, is aiming to make the country an innovation-driven economy via a major increase in investment—some $31 million (R417.1 million) in 100 incubators, supporting startups in innovation throughout the country. This, says Human Resources Development Minister Prakash Javadekar, is “the only way for sustainable prosperity for the country”, which currently ranks 66th out of 128 countries in the Global Innovation Index 2016. Canada, meanwhile, already one of the world’s most innovative countries, is angling for more venture-capital investment to boost the country’s innovation economy even further. The relationship between a strong economy and innovation is clear. Countries that top the 2017 Bloomberg Innovation Index—South Korea, Sweden and Germany, for instance—are not badly off. And, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, innovation intensity tracks development status; so when looking at regional statistics for 2016, innovation is lowest in Africa at just 20%, and highest in North America at 39%. Hopes for an African Renaissance depend on the entire continent’s ability to innovate, and it’s naïve to hope the

90   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A  JUNE 2017

The research is clear that co-operation between firms and external agents is considered by many to be one of the most important drivers of innovation.

extent of innovation required can take place without an environment conducive to investment. As International Monetary Fund MD Christine Lagarde said recently, even developed economies are reeling from the effects of the financial crisis, and governments will have to step up to invest in research and tech, and unleash the entrepreneurial spirit by “removing unnecessary barriers to competition, cutting red tape, investing more in education, and providing tax incentives for research and development.” For South Africa, a ratings downgrade and the resultant negative impact on the economy and growth will, if anything, result in less government spend on these things. Already in July 2016, former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan warned that South Africa owed close to R2 trillion in debt, and that a ratings downgrade would increase the interest on those repayments significantly. At the time, R160 billion was being spent on interest annually. This figure is set to rise after the downgrades. For businesses that need to innovate to grow, the environment is set to get tougher as well. Higher interest costs on debt repayments and inflationary pressures will create an untenable situation for would-be entrepreneurs needing to borrow startup capital, and increased taxes will further exacerbate the problem. The 2016 GEM report found that entrepreneurial activity was on the decline in South Africa, with a low rate of perceived opportunity and an even lower rate of entrepreneurial intention. There is little good news that can be teased out of a ratings downgrade. What one hopes, however, is that active citizenry will bridge the gaps between possibility and opportunity. Academic institutions, policymakers, non-governmental organisations and businesses can all work together to help create a more supportive environment for entrepreneurs and innovators, through maintaining high standards of scholarship and ethical leadership, and not abandoning community outreach. The research is clear that co-operation between firms and external agents is considered by many to be one of the most important drivers of innovation. This will not make the economic impact of a ratings downgrade disappear—but it may make it possible for some of the country’s bright minds to find a niche where they otherwise would not, and keep the spark of innovation alive. Mills Soko is the director of the UCT Graduate School of Business and an associate professor specialising in international trade and doing business in Africa. With a career that has spanned business, government, civil society and academia, he is uniquely positioned to understand the role these sectors have to play—collaboratively and individually—in addressing the critical issues of Africa’s development and competitiveness.


SUBSCRIBE 2017’s

MOST

PEOPLE IN BUSINESS RISING STARS, BRILLIANT LEADERS, WORLD DISRUPTORS

R35.00

JUNE 2017 FASTCOMPANY.CO.ZA

16014 7

If you’re still not following Fast Company SA, you’ve already missed great content, inspiring stories and the latest tech developments! So find us, follow us, tweet us and tag us to keep up to date with our news and events on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. We want to hear from you, see pictures of you with the magazine, and find out what your favourite articles are. Visit our website at www. fastcompany.co.za, or go ahead and download the digital version of Fast Company SA for Android and Apple. So keep in contact and watch this space— there may be secrets, surprises and prizes!

FOLLOW US Fast Company South Africa www.facebook.com/fastcompanySA

CREATIVE including ACTOR DONALD GLOVER, CHEF MASSIMO BOTTURA and AIRBNB’s KATIE DILL

Be part of the movement!

@FastCompanySA @fastcompanysa www.pinterest.com/fastcompanysa @fastcompanysa

TWEETS YES-WECAN MAN

How MADODA KHUZWAYO is bringing the World Wide Web closer to Africa “Internet connectivity is the foundation from which great societies are built.”

SA’S DARLENE MENZIES,

MADODA KHUZWAYO, Founder, HOSTRIVER

MANNY RIVERA and JONATHAN PEPLER

9 772313 330006

Subscribe to Fast Company SA and stand a chance to win an Alcatel 2-in-1 Plus 10 hybrid laptop/tablet, worth R3 500! Fast Company South Africa is available in selected Pick n Pay and Exclusive Books stores. An annual subscription is for 10 print issues of Fast Company SA magazine (March/April and December/January double up as one issue each), at a cost of R240 (including 14% VAT and postage). Full payment must be made before the subscription is valid. This offer is for South Africa ONLY. If you would like to subscribe, email Susan Ball for more details: susan@insightspublishing.co.za.

A PERFECT 10

With its compatible 4G/Wi-Fi–connected keyboard, the new Alcatel Plus 10 offers a complete mobile desktop experience. It is compact and 40% lighter than an average laptop, which makes it exceptionally convenient to carry. The device can be used in laptop mode to type documents or create spreadsheets (it runs on Windows 10), and in dock mode to display presentations or slides. Dual front speakers with immersive 3D sound, coupled with the HD IPS screen technology, make film-watching and gaming an extra pleasure. When used in tablet mode, without the keyboard, it is an ideal companion for travel or commutes, to browse the Web, or serve as an e-book reader. With its multiple ports (rare in this device category), the Plus 10 enables connections to a hard drive, mouse, USB key, secondary screen and more. In addition, it has a default memory of 32GB that can be ramped up with an external SD card. The tablet and 4G LTE keyboard offer a total of 8 410mAh battery power, which lasts a full eight-hour working (or playing) day. What’s more, the unique keyboard serves as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 15 users. As an extra bonus, the Plus 10 has both a front and rear-facing camera, with front flash that’s ideal for video calls. Visit www.alcatel-mobile.com/za/en for further information. JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   91


Next

Motoring

Staying power Driving in his newly acquired Jaguar XF helps Abdulla balance the energy needed to continue operating at the level he does.

DRIVEN TO SUCCEED How alone-time in the car helps energise and focus one of South Africa’s top businessmen

Group CEO Khalid Abdulla is the leading man behind JSElisted company African Equity Empowerment Investments. It’s been a bumper year for the diverse investment group, with the listing of its food division, impressive half-year results, and several industry awards including

92   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

recognition for its financial performance and its empowered management team who steer the various companies within the group. In addition to the numerous company acknowledgements, Abdulla himself has been honoured with an Oliver

Empowerment Award as the Top Empowered Business Leader of the Year 2017. South Africa’s top BEE business leader is also a passionate family man, a keen sportsman and someone who appreciates that the finer things in life do not just fall out of the sky, but come as a result of hard work and dedication to one’s craft. One of his key enjoyments (which also helps balance the energy needed to continue operating at the level he does—sitting on the boards of all the companies in which the group has interests, travelling, and attending family and school functions) is listening to music while driving in the sanctuary of his newly acquired Jaguar XF. “Everyone needs some alonetime,” says Abdulla, “and mine just happens to be the journey to

“I get to switch off my phone, immerse myself in the music I want to hear, or listen to an interesting podcast while reflecting and thinking up new ideas.”

and from the office or meetings, where I get to switch off my phone, immerse myself in the music I want to hear, or listen to an interesting podcast while reflecting and thinking up new ideas. Doing so in comfort is an added benefit.”


Help the Children’s Hospital Trust Give Back Childhood. childrenshospitaltrust.org.za 021 686 7860 | cht@chtrust.org.za

www.facebook.com/childrenshospitaltrust

@chtrust1


Fast Bytes Fast Company SA takes a look at the innovative new ideas, services, research and news currently making waves in South Africa and abroad

A win for e-sports in SA Telkom’s new VS Gaming (formerly Digital Gaming League) is dedicated to the emergent field of e-sports, which has seen tremendous growth in South Africa. CEO Cambridge Mokanyane says there “needs to be a standalone entity to give it the focus, energy and attention it deserves.” The company will host the largest football e-tournament in Africa in July, when more than a thousand players will play FIFA 17 with the chance to win a substantial prize pool. “We are going to create a community for gamers that is safe, inclusive and focused on development. And e-sports will not just be another hobby—we are going to create a movement,” adds Mokanyane.

Safe payments at your fingertips MasterCard has developed a bank card that uses biometrics to verify a cardholder’s identity, and the testing period is happening right here in South Africa. Two separate trials have already been concluded at Pick n Pay and ABSA Bank. The technology will enable customers to make payments in a face-to-face environment, using their fingerprints. “It’s not something that can be taken or replicated, and will help our cardholders get on with their lives, knowing their payments are protected,” says Ajay Bhalla, president of global enterprise risk and security at MasterCard. The company says the next-generation biometric card will work at any Europay, MasterCard and Visa card terminal globally. Additional trials are being planned in Europe and Asia-Pacific in the coming months.

Afri-Fri for all South Africa’s Project Isizwe has won $75 000 (almost R1 million) in funding from a global Mozilla contest, for its Afri-Fri free public Wi-Fi initiative. The key goal of Afri-Fri is to create a sustainable business model by linking together free Wi-Fi networks throughout South Africa and engaging users meaningfully with advertisers so they can ‘earn’ free Wi-Fi. It also connects some of the most marginalised communities within South Africa, and is leading the free Internet movement to low-income communities who otherwise cannot afford connectivity. “Free Wi-Fi removes the barriers to education, social inclusion, skills development and job applications. In short, free Wi-Fi empowers,” says Tim Genders, COO of Project Isizwe. 94   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017


Fast Bytes

From left to right: Felix Kuhnert, global automotive advisory leader at PwC; Barbara Hahlweg from German TV network ZDF; Audi’s Prof. Rupert Stadler accepting the award; and Prof. Dr Stefan Bratzel, director of the Centre of Automotive Management.

Designing the future

Audi has the advantage For the second consecutive year, Audi has achieved overall victory in the Automotive Innovations Award in the premium manufacturer category. The brand once again has demonstrated its versatility and innovative strength in important future segments such as aerodynamics, lightweight construction, connectivity and piloted driving. Audi achieved 84 new improvements in the reporting period. “These awards show that we bring our brand claim— Vorsprung durch Technik—to life, and are leading when it comes to many innovation issues,” said Professor Rupert Stadler, chair of the Board Management of Audi AG, at the award ceremony.

Sophisticated sips The Wade Bales Whisky & Gin Affair held in Cape Town in May showcased more than 75 limited-edition and rare malts from around the world, with new innovative blends. Guests were encouraged to take their time tasting and engaging with whisky aficionados (such as South Africa’s top whisky master Pierre Meintjies) and gin artisans who shared their knowledge and unique insights—helping them find the perfect malt, blend or gin. A highlight was the opulent Murano Bar, where reps from French Champagne leader GH Mumm demonstrated the fine art of sabrage and offered tastings of its finest bubbly.

The annual Corobrik Student Architect of the Year competition awards the best architectural students at the country’s eight major universities, based on their final thesis. The entries combined sustainable architecture with innovation, technology and creative building design. Eight regional winners were chosen during 2016, and in May this year Jean-Pierre Desvaux De Marigny from the University of KwaZulu-Natal walked away with top honours. His thesis, “Design for [bio]diversity”, explored the potential of architecture for ecological conservation in the context of the Springfield industrial park/uMgeni River catchment area in Durban. The other finalists were:  Mario van Wyk, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University—“Horror in Architecture”, a romantic exploration of the exquisite corpse analogy  Kim Geldenhuys, Tshwane University of Technology—A community food production facility in Alexandra, Gauteng  Kenneth Main, University of Cape Town— “Urban Acupuncture”, architecture as a catalyst for environmental and water conservation in the context of the Kilimanjaro Informal Settlement  Darren Sampson, University of Johannesburg—“The Light House”, an architectural proposition that uses light and dark to produce a harmonious experience  Yvonne Bruinette, University of Pretoria— “The Heritage Portal”, an experiential narrative based at Westfort in Pretoria  Lana Bramley, University of the Free State— “Art Gallery”, questioning topographic and institutional edges by sculpting inhabitable thresholds  Katherine Dewar, Wits—“Hyper-embodiment”, a jewellery creation hub + community for women

JUNE 2017  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   95


Fast Events Local conferences, talks and meetups we think are worth attending

SA Quo Vadis?

Manufacturing Indaba

Date: 20 June (Cape Town); 21 June (Stellenbosch) Time: 16h00–19h30 Location: Century City Conference Centre (Cape Town); Spier Wine Farm (Stellenbosch) Cost: R550 (discount for Brenthurst clients) www.bwm.co.za

Date: 27 & 28 June Time: 08h00–17h00 (day 1); 07h30–17h00 (day 2) Location: Emperors Palace, Kempton Park, Johannesburg Cost: R6 800 manufacturingindaba.co.za

If South Africa’s economic state of affairs concerns you, book now for the Brenthurst/Moneyweb SA Quo Vadis investment seminar series. Speakers Magnus Heystek, investment strategist and director at Brenthurst; political analyst Nic Borain; investment strategist Sam Houlie at Counterpoint Asset Management; and Ryk van Niekerk, editor of Moneyweb, will provide insights that will help you to navigate these difficult times. Topics include: “Junk Status: A Reality and Your Money, Your Business, Your Property”.

The Manufacturing Indaba will provide a platform for business owners, industry leaders, government officials, capital providers and professional experts to highlight challenges and issues that are impacting the South African manufacturing industry, and will set out to seek innovative ideas to create local market attractiveness and move the industry forward over the next five years.

Design for Future Living

SMME Opportunity Roadshow

Date: 23 to 25 June Time: 10h00–18h00 Location: Century City Conference Centre, Cape Town Cost: R40 (pensioners R20, children free) www.design4futureliving.co.za

Date: 19 July Time: 08h00–18h00 Location: ICC, Durban Cost: Free (registration essential) www.smmesa.co.za

The Design for Living expo returns in its new incarnation. Now called Design for Future Living, it has been repositioned for modern times—the age of connected technology or the Internet of Things. The expo will display and promote innovative solutions to the real challenges of modern life, whether you’re a young techie, established and settled, or even retired— there’ll be something for everyone.

96   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2017

The SMME Opportunity Roadshow not only showcases opportunities but also provides focused guidance for SMMEs to mainstream their competitive advantage as effectively as possible. Aspiring entrepreneurs, corporates and government are invited to come together in the sharing of skills, expertise and opinions in order to empower, discover, improve and ultimately unlock South Africa’s business talent.


Fast Events

I Code Java Cloud

Fall in Love with Presenting

Date: 20 & 21 July Time: 08h00–16h30 Location: Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, Newtown, Johannesburg Cost: R1 850–R2 250 j-sa.co

Date: 28 to 30 July Time: 09h00–21h00; 09h00–17h00 (day 3) Location: Cape Town venue TBC Cost: R5 750 fallinlovewithpresenting.com

This annual two-day conference is for anyone interested in coding, from beginners to enterprise skilled professionals. It will host innovative speakers from home and abroad (such as Donovan Muller, lead technical partner at Barclays Africa, and Oraclecertified Java programmer Rory Preddy) covering Java, microservice and DevOps.

KwaZulu-Natal Industrial Technology Exhibition Date: 26 to 28 July Time: 09h00–17h00 Location: Durban Exhibition Centre Cost: Free (register online) www.kznindustrial.co.za This is the definitive forum for a diversity of industrial technology and services, specifically suited to the KZN region. It provides a place where you can source products and services, share ideas, and learn from industry experts, as well as network with industry peers. Seminars to look forward to include: Top 5 industrial automation trends for 2017 and beyond; The dawn of smart factories; and skills development versus collaborative robots.

Superior presentation skills lead to deeper personal connections and relationships; an increase in leads and sales; more people knowing, liking and trusting you; and an enhanced personal brand. This is a brilliantly designed course that gives you information that you can apply immediately to any presentation, whether you’re an entrepreneur or work in the corporate sector. The course itself is a fun, interactive, relaxed and empowering event where you learn to feel good about yourself and build your skills in presenting and public speaking.

Electronics & Gaming Expo Date: 28 to 30 July Time: 10h00–18h00 Location: CTICC Cost: R100 (single day), R200 (weekend pass), R400 (LAN pass) egesa.co.za With a global market value of over $93 billion (R1.2 trillion), and a gaming population of more than 3.5 million casual gamers, South Africa is the perfect location for a dedicated all-inclusive gaming experience. Gamers can expect to see, touch, feel and experience the virtual world and learn what this revolutionary industry is up to—with everything from tabletop games and memorabilia to awesome stands by SA’s gaming industry experts, and LAN (bring your PC and play non-stop for 53 hours!).

JUNE 2017 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   97


Next

Innovation Matters

Rob e r t Kel l a s

TURN STUMBLING BLOCKS INTO LEARNING BLOCKS Companies are struggling to be innovative, despite knowing it’s vital to their survival. Why adults need to be taught to play and think creatively again

In a new report titled “Innovation Matters”, consulting firm PA Consulting surveyed more than 800 senior executives around the world and found that, while over 60% believed innovation was crucial to survival, only 24% believed they had defined the skills and activities needed to be innovative. About 50% did not think their leaders had the ability to be innovative. The report states, “Despite a year full of societal, business and technological changes that offer even greater opportunities for fresh innovation, this year’s research confirms the skills and will to innovate have not yet improved in most organisations.” Why is innovation such a slippery fish to catch? It’s our fear of failure that’s holding us back. There have been numerous studies showing how effective we are at keeping ourselves from succeeding in creative fields. And this extremely debilitating trait is something we develop as we become adults. Small children are far less worried about failing or what others will think of their creative efforts; they are more willing to explore. This was famously illustrated by American thought leader Tom Wujec, by way of the marshmallow challenge: Teams were given 18 minutes to build a tower out of spaghetti sticks, masking tape, rope and one marshmallow. After having several teams perform the test, Wujec was surprised to find that kindergarten children were able to build higher and more interesting towers than recent business school graduates. The graduates had been ‘taught’ to find a single ‘right’ solution—which limited their creativity in execution. They built with the spaghetti sticks and only added the marshmallow at the last moment, which often caused the whole structure to collapse. The kindergartners built prototypes starting with the marshmallow, changing their designs as they went along. The process was less stressful, more collaborative and resulted in better outcomes. Design thinkers call this the essence of the iterative

98   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A  JUNE 2017

The concept of a culture where innovation thrives is one where there’s less focus on rules and rigid structures, and more emphasis on flexibility and openness in terms of thinking and suggestions.

process: the act of trial and error, learning from your mistakes to find better outcomes. Design thinking expert and IDEO CEO Tim Brown says adults often apologise for their efforts in creative exercises, as they are driven largely by fear of judgement from their peers. “This fear leads us to be conservative in our thinking.” How we configure our working spaces and interactions encourages this kind of thinking. Planning sessions and strategy meetings take place around tables. People are given turns to present their opinions and are judged according to the merits of the speaker’s argument. By contrast, stepping into the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design Thinking (d-school) at the UCT Graduate School of Business, you’re met by an open space with brightly coloured walls full of Post-it notes and handwritten phrases. The furniture is on wheels and is frequently moved around. Flexibility in the physical space encourages engagement around a focus point, shifting to the needs of the team. Meeting in these spaces promotes active participation and building on one another’s ideas. The transformation in the physical space mirrors what’s going on cognitively in the minds of the participants, as walls are constantly being tested and shifted—a reframing of perspectives and understanding. Many South African businesses have cottoned on to the benefits of this creative approach to innovation. Rather than merely reacting to external factors, organisations want to actively create a future in which they are relevant. The concept of a culture where innovation thrives is one where there’s less focus on rules and rigid structures, and more emphasis on flexibility and openness in terms of thinking and suggestions. Participants on design-thinking courses are encouraged to try and fail, to voice their opinions, and learn how to listen and talk to others. They are guided to becoming more attuned to the user experience and the way customers and clients use products or services. This is quintessential to finding innovative improvements to a process or product. Innovation may not be easy, but it’s not nearly as hard as people think it is. Robert Kellas is the programme manager of the Professional Programmes at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design Thinking at the University of Cape Town. He is particularly passionate about improving the innovation process and understanding the artefacts that promote collaboration.


THIS IS LEARNING, REIMAGINED. Unlock your potential with Executive Education Short Courses and Customised Programmes. Programmes can be delivered off-campus and the GSB footprint extends around the world.

Contact 0860 UCT GSB (828 472) or visit www.gsb.uct.ac.za/executive-education

Fast Company SA - June 2017 issue 26  
Fast Company SA - June 2017 issue 26  
Advertisement