2018’S MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE IN BUSINESS
“If you want certainty in life, stay at your job. If you want life at its fullest, be an entrepreneur.” J T F OX X WORL D ’ S #1 W E A LT H COACH
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2 2 Masters of Cryptocurrency
Fast Company SA talks to the world’s leading Bitcoin investors and discovers what inspired them to take the risk
“Being an entrepreneur means taking calculated risks! It is an adventure with huge opportunities.” – Mao Lal
REG U L AR S
NE XT 58 STEALING THE SPOTLIGHT AT VIVATECH 2018 60 SA MY WAY
62 A THOROUGH BREAKDOWN OF BITCOIN
By Carl Thomen
06 FROM THE EDITOR 08 RECOMMENDER 09 SCREEN TIME 57 UCT COLUMN 64 FAST BYTES & EVENTS 68 HOW TO INCREASE YOUR NET WORTH
By Francois Joubert
SPECIAL F E AT U RE
2 0 2 018’s Most Crea tive Peop le in Bu siness How a keen sense for creativity has helped them become the leaders of their industries
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Africa’s tech future Talking robots. Thinking robots. Robots applying your makeup or filling in your job application. And for the 21st century kid, a piggy bank that recognises coins and tells you your bank balance. These were some of the highlights of the Viva Technology conference I attended in Paris, France, last month. VivaTech is a gathering of the world’s brightest minds, talents, and products – a rendezvous for startups and leaders to come together to celebrate innovation. In its third year now, it attracted 100 000 attendees, including 1 800 startups, 1 900 investors and 1 900 journalists. In attendance were French President Emmanuel Macron and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, as well as Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. The top two takeaways for me were from President Macron’s opening address in which he emphasised ‘Tech for Good’ and encouraged investment in Africa. He announced that the French government, through the French Development Agency (Agence Française de Développement), would launch a R900 million-programme aimed at investing in African startups. Macron had just returned from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, where he launched the Digital Africa
initiative, which he urged African startups to join. I was impressed by the inclusion of an Africa Tech zone this year, and by the number of African countries present, both as exhibitors and speakers (Rwanda, Nigeria, South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia and Senegal). Our own Department of Trade and Industry brought 13 startups. There are so many creative and innovative solutions coming out of Africa! The future may be uncertain, but one thing that we do know is that we need innovation and creativity to pave the way forward. That’s why we’re looking at the Most Creative People in Business in this edition of Fast Company. One such person is Murendeni Mafumo of Kusini Water. Kusini Water is focused on making affordable, renewable energypowered water purification systems that use locally sourced macadamia nut shells and nanofibres to purify water from any source. If you are in a creative company or industry or have undertaken creative measures to take your business to the next level, you’re in great company. Fast Company.
“T HE FUTURE MAY BE UNCERTAIN, BUT ONE THING WE DO KNOW IS THAT WE NEED INNOVATION AND CREATIVITY TO PAVE THE WAY FORWARD.”
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Saarah Survé firstname.lastname@example.org
What are you loving right now? LOVING: CLARENS Recently I went to run a trail race in Clarens and I fell in love with the place. Its history, the monument sites, the link between South Africa and Lesotho. Lesotho is around the corner, so you can drive over for a short visit. The people are wholesome and restaurants are friendly and provide great service. The B&B we stayed in was homely and had an old school feel to it in terms of architecture and decor. I loved the use of language in all the building designs. Mzamo Masito Google Africa CMO
LOVING: GADGETS THAT MAKE HOME ENTERTAINMENT LIFE EFFORTLESS Currently, my favourite technology is streaming – smart hubs, pods and smart speakers – on-demand entertainment. And with a strong fibre connection the experience can be amplified across the house. Exactly what I need in my down-time! Riaan Graham Ruckus Networks Business Unit Director
LOVING: CONNECTED TELEVISION
LOVING: SCRABBLE I have always loved words. Since majoring in English at university and through my career, words have been a big part of my personal toolkit. I initially downloaded the free version of Scrabble (by Mattel) and started playing casually against random (live) opponents. As I got hooked on the rush that comes from a high triple word score (nerdy, I know) – I got too impatient to wait through the adverts and for my opponent to come online and play the next word. I purchased the paid-for app and now play (my family would say “obsessively”) against the computer. I’ve worked my way from Beginner, to Intermediate, to Skilled and am now playing Advanced. As soon as I start winning regularly – I’ll try my hand at Expert level. Playing Scrabble helps me relax, and it’s taught me something – I only know a fraction of the English language, and less is not more. Try it – you’ll see what I mean. Alison Treadaway Striata Director
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What a world when your TV streams the web! Connecting to my PlayStation 4 has been life changing – it supports all platforms and acts almost like a smart TV. Katharine Liese 1Life Insurance General Manager of Marketing
Fast Company SA takes a look at the apps that make task management so much easier TODOIST
TRELLO Trello is an online project management tool that lets you drag, drop, colour-code, and manipulate to-do list items in a way that many of the other tools on this page don’t. You can arrange larger projects into “boards,” under which you can add all sorts of lists to break down that bigger project into sub-projects. Under each list, you can add what they call “Cards,” which are items in a list. You can add a due date, a checklist, notes, attachments, and colour-coded labels to each card. You can also drag and drop cards between lists and boards.
Although Todoist has been around for a while, it’s become especially powerful in just the last few years. This tool includes a ton of great features that let you organise tasks by date, colour-code them, and so on. The free version has fewer features than others on this page, but it’s well-designed and user-friendly. You can create sub-tasks and dependencies, projects, and sub-projects. You can attach due dates to these tasks, prioritise them using a colour-coding system, categorise them, and more.
ANY.DO Any.DO is one of the more beautifully designed apps on this page. It offers all of the features you’d want in a to-do list app, including drag-and-drop and swipe-to-complete, but there are a few things that make it stand out. For example, its key differentiator is “the moment” – a push notification you get each morning telling you to plan your day. There are also a few other cool and delightful features in there, like voice entry and the ability to shake your device to clear finished tasks
WUNDERLIST In a nutshell, Wunderlist lets you create to-do lists you can then share with friends, family, or coworkers – who will have editing capabilities of their own. And the user experience (UX) doesn’t get messy, even when both people are working on a list at the same time. It’s sleekly designed and very userfriendly. Adding and checking off list items is simple and intuitive, as is adding and checking off subtasks, adding a due date, adding any reminders you may want, and so on.
TOODLEDO Here’s a task management tool some of the most organised people in the office swear by. ToodleDo is a very user-friendly tool for organising simple to-do lists on your iOS and Android devices and on the web. It’s heavily focused on tasks, and that’s what the tool does best. Under each task, you can add additional notes, priority ratings, due dates, and reminders. You can also organise your tasks into different folders.
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AI Expo advert (225x275).indd 1
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WANTED By Elske Joubert
Art as functional as it is beautiful Ceramics by Clementina
I happened to stumble across Clementina van der Walt’s website whilst in search of the Japanese mending practice of Kintsugi – where broken pottery is fixed with a special lacquer dusted with either gold, silver or platinum. I’ve always been drawn to pieces that tell a special story and even though Clementina
does not practice the art of Kintsugi as such, her work very much resembles, inspires and engages. I was specifically drawn to her Afro Deco range. The range is inspired by Russian constructivists like Malevich and to a certain extent, Kandinsky and Miro. The cups are slip cast in a charcoal-coloured earthenware clay, and
glazed in an opaque white glaze. Clementina then plays with random cut-out geometric shapes, which are made on an onglaze decal paper in a variety of colours. The touches of gold lustre are then added, after which follows a third time in the fire, but this time at a lower temperature. What makes this range so special is that Clementina works very intuitively when creating these cups – making each one a truly beautiful once-off piece. With both ranges, as well as all of her other work, she aims to make functional art – objects for use, but also for contemplation and aesthetic enjoyment. Clementina’s work focuses primarily on the exploration of the symbolic potential of utilitarian form and the ritualistic understanding
of ordinary activities like eating and drinking. This connects with many African traditions of embellishing domestic utensils, which also express a commemorative dimension of affirming one’s place in one’s community and family – both living and dead. Using earthenware clays and decorative slips, Clementina creates a pronounced irregularity in the forms, thereby proclaiming their hand-made status. She is inspired by colours, textures and shapes within the African cultural and physical landscape. Clementina works in her studio in Woodstock, Cape Town, and has a retail outlet at The Old Biscuit Mill and owns a gallery and studio with her partner Albie Baily in Kraaldoring in the Klein Karoo.
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WANTED By Walter Hayward
Go anywhere in the epitome of luxury off-roaders Fancy an all-round family-friendly vehicle? Got a few million bucks lying around? Rolls-Royce has you covered with its new ultra luxurious SUV, the Cullinan
First announced almost three years ago, it is finally here. The “world’s most anticipated SUV” and the first-ever high-riding model from Rolls-Royce, the Cullinan, shows its face to the world wearing a name inspired by the largest single-piece diamond ever discovered on the planet – more specifically, in South Africa. The Rolls-Royce of SUVs is targeting wealthy buyers with a yearning for a powerful, super luxurious, and practical sport utility vehicle. The company wants to attract the “younger, very
successful high-net-worth individuals who are heavily engaged in the experience economy” by perfecting the already popular formula of a premium SUV. Perhaps the most comfortable place in the Cullinan is the rear passenger compartment, which will be offered in two different configurations. The Lounge Seat layout is the more functional of the two and has space for three passengers in a traditional bench-style seat. The Individual Seat configuration offers the ultimate luxury with two separate chairs, divided by a massive centre console incorporating
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a drinks cabinet with branded whisky glasses and decanter, champagne flutes, and a refrigerator. On board is an array of safety and assist systems, which should make the Cullinan “the most technologically advanced car of its type in the world”. The standard equipment includes a night vision system, a fourcamera view system with panoramic view, all-round visibility, and helicopter view, collision warning, cross-traffic warning, lane departure and lane change warnings, WiFi hotspot, and many more. Five USB ports can be used to charge electronic devices, while mobile phones can
be wirelessly charged in the front of the cabin. Rolls-Royce’s first SUV is based on the so-called Architecture of Luxury all-aluminum platform featuring self-levelling air suspension – a heavily re-engineered version of the already existing air suspension of the company, which makes millions of calculations every second to adapt itself to the road. Larger air struts with more air volume have been added to cushion the blows of the off-road terrains, and the front axle suspension layout has been completely redesigned. The Cullinan rides on 22-inch wheels. Power comes from
the familiar 6.75-liter biturbo V12 engine of the marque, which has also been revised and now delivers “just the right level of torque” – 850 Newton-metres at low 1 600rpm. Peak power is 420kW, channeled to all four wheels through a new all-wheel drive, all-wheel steering system. The top speed of the 2.7 ton SUV is electronically limited to 250 kilometres per hour, while 0-100kph sprint time is not provided by Rolls-Royce – they have no time for such trifling matters. Average fuel consumption? Not that it matters, but approximately 15 litres per 100 kilometres.
guests from around the world received an exclusive invitation to give to their descendants to attend the premiere of 100 Years, on November 18, 2115, at the House of LOUIS XIII in Cognac, France.
Thinking a century ahead Inspired by sustainability, LOUIS XIII launches the ‘100 Years’ campaign to help bring awareness to global warming
Sustainability and climate change are two focal points within the global warming discussion as our environment becomes more vulnerable each year. Fast Company SA chats to Ludovic du Plessis, Global Executive Director of Louis XIII – the most exclusive spirit on earth – about his company’s campaign to help inspire a more sustainable future for the next generation. You recently launched your campaign called ‘100 Years’ in collaboration with Pharrell Williams. Can you briefly tell us more about this campaign? LOUIS XIII partnered with Pharrell on this innovative project due
to a shared dedication to environmental issues. The original song is a creative expression of the delicate relationship between nature and time, and the effect humans have on their environment. Each decanter of LOUIS XIII represents the life achievement of generations of Cellar Masters, so LOUIS XIII must always think a century ahead. 100 Years premiered during a private listening party in Shanghai in November 2017, where Pharrell presented the song for one time only. The exclusive performance was recorded onto a record made of clay from the chalky soil of Cognac and stored in the cellars of LOUIS XIII in a state-ofthe-art safe that is only
destructible if submerged in water. If sea levels continue to rise at such an alarming rate due to climate change, scientists project that in 100 years a significant portion of the world’s land might be underwater. The only way to guarantee this original piece of music will be heard again in 2117, one century from now, is if we address the consequences of global warming – if we do not change our way of living, future generations will never be able to hear this song. “100 Years: The Song We’ll Only Hear If We Care” by Pharrell Williams will be out in 2117, but only if we care. You partnered with actor and visionary John Malkovich in 2015 where you created 100 Years:
The Movie You Will Never See. Can you tell us more about this artistic work and what it represents? In November 2015, we announced an original film starring actor John Malkovich, which envisions Earth one hundred years from now and will not be released until 2115. Directed by Robert Rodriguez, 100 Years: The Movie You Will Never See was inspired by the century of careful craftsmanship and patience it takes to create each decanter of LOUIS XIII Cognac. To ensure that 100 Years remains secure until its official premiere in 2115, one century from now, the film was placed in a stateof-the-art safe which will open automatically in 100 years when the timing is complete. One thousand
The focus point in South Africa and across the world is sustainability. How are you contributing to a more sustainable future? The central goal of “100 Years: The Song We’ll Only Hear If We Care” is to raise attention for global warming and support the international effort to stymie climate change. LOUIS XIII must always think a century ahead, as the role of the Cellar Master is to set aside the finest eaux-de-vie as a legacy to his successors for the coming century. Our intention with this project is to be a flag bearer for this major issue of the 21st century. The project was devised as an artistic exploration of the way our actions today shape the world of tomorrow that we hope will sensitise as many people as possible to be attentive to their actions. Preparing the legacy we will leave behind for future generations is an integral part of our brand DNA, and our involvement in the international effort to combat climate change is not only legitimate, it is imperative. Since each decanter is the life achievement of generations of Cellar Masters, LOUIS XIII must always think a century ahead, and the stability of our environment ensures not only the future of LOUIS XIII Cognac, but also the world around us.
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CRYPTO BILLIONAIRES Most of us are scared of taking risks, but world-class wealth coach JT Fox x and business t ycoon Mao Lal prove that taking risks can lead to great rewards. Fast Company SA gets personal with the “Bitcoin Kings”. Writer: S aarah Survé
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Q: Can you tell us about your backgrounds? JT: I moved to America from Canada about 10 years ago with $974 (R12 300). I started investing in properties, and 10 years later I own over 50 companies and brands, do business in 45 countries and I have become one of the world’s top speakers and the world’s leading wealth and business coach. Mao: I spent my time in the German Air force (officer rank Captain) for 21 years. I established my first company Deutsches Edelmetallhaus, one of the leading bullion dealers in Germany, in 2003 in Berlin. Now I own 14 companies around the world, including CryptoGold, a global operating cryptocurrency mining company. Q: Can you give us an overview of your involvement in Bitcoin? When did you first invest and why? JT: It was entirely by accident. I met Mao at an event I was speaking at in Germany. I mentioned how much I love South Africa and he told me
about cryptocurrency and how South Africa is way ahead of most countries regarding cryptocurrency thinking. Like many I thought it was a tulip phase, but then after more consideration they said the same about Amazon, Facebook, and PayPal. So I decided to take a chance. Mao: In 2010, I started mining Bitcoin on my own computer. I later expanded by building several mining farms in different countries around the world. Currently, I am building one of the biggest mining farms in the world in Norway, where two farms are already complete. Question for JT: Why the move from wealth coach to Bitcoin? I am still the world’s number one wealth and business coach and own over 50 companies and brands. This is more like a diversification play for me. I am not putting all my money into this, but the risk is worth the reward. I mentally prepared myself that it will either make more money than I expected, or I will lose it all. But up
to now, it has been by far one of my best investments. Q: How would you define being an entrepreneur? JT: Being an entrepreneur is a way of life. To do whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want. If you want certainty in life, stay at your job, but if you want life at its fullest, be an entrepreneur. Remember, if you take risk out you take opportunities out. Mao: Being an entrepreneur means taking calculated risks! It is an adventure with huge opportunities. You decide for yourself how much you want to earn. Q: Which sectors of business interest you most? JT: I am very much in favour of diversification and hedging, and I don’t like putting all my eggs in one basket. In the end, wealth equals control and I like to control. That’s why I like mining cryptocurrency as opposed to trading it. I like properties, owning businesses, and passive wealth investments in numerous industries. Mao: I have a real interest in blockchain, gold trading, and real estate. Q: What has been your secret to success? JT: Preparation + Practising business + Persistence = Success Mao: A dream with a plan = vision = practising the vision = success Q: What have been some of your biggest challenges and successes? JT: Dealing with haters, naysayers
“If you take risk out, you take o p p o r t u n i t i e s o u t .” 16
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and non-believers, but now they inspire me more everyday and actually push me to do more. Trusting people is a big problem, everyone is loyal until a better opportunity dictates their loyalty. Mao: One of the biggest challenges was doing active duty in Afghanistan, protecting the lives of my team.
JT: Every five minutes of my life are actually planned out. It’s not about time management but energy management. We all have 24 hours, but it’s how we use that time that defines our success. I’m a big believer that 99% of people actually waste their time. I prefer spending 100% of my time on the 1% that matters. Mao: Whenever I get the chance, I always try to have a little more fun.
Question for JT: How is your business in South Africa performing? Better than ever. South Africa is amazing and there are so many opportunities. Of course, there are challenges, but challenges are nothing more than opportunities in disguise.
Q: What sparks your creativity? JT: Everyday I do 15 minutes of daily strategic thinking and I think vertically, trying to find a daily ‘aha!’ moment. In fact, I have a daily programme called JTFoxx365.com where everyday I share every single good, bad or amazing thing that has happened in my life and business. I believe a wise man
“Challenges are nothing more than opportunities in d i s g u i s e .” How do you balance work and play? JT: I don’t believe in work-life balance, I believe in work-life choices. If you love what you do, then it’s never work. Mao: It’s simple; work hard, play hard. Q: What would you do with an extra hour in your day?
learns from his mistakes and a genius learns from other people’s mistakes. Learn from mine. Mao: Traveling all over the world and meeting interesting people can be incredibly inspiring. Q: What is your life philosophy? JT: Life is not a matter of chance, but a matter of choice. Mao: Try to have a little fun along the way.
Photography: Courtesy images; Retouching: SADI Media @sadi_media
Quick-fire questions: Q : W H AT B O O K A R E YO U C U R R E N T LY R E A D I N G? J T: My book, Millionaire Underdog. I read it once a week! M A O : Vom Kriege, its a German book by Von Clausewitz about the nature of war in the 18th century. Q : W H O O R W H AT I N S P I R E S YO U ? J T: My friends Patrice Motsepe and Robert Gumede. M A O : People like Sylvester Stallone. True fighters. Q : FAVO U R I T E H O B B I E S / PA S T I M E S ? J T: Watching Netflix without thinking about business. M A O : Martial Arts, perusing Amazon Prime, and watching football. Q : FAVO U R I T E Q U OT E? J T: I always say if you are born broke it’s not your fault, if you die broke then it is 100% your fault. Choose to be a “Millionaire Underdog”. M A O : Don’t waste your time with negative people. Choose positive thinking and surround yourself with inspiring people. They will significantly improve your life. Q : FAVO U R I T E T E C H G A D G E T? J T: My iPhone X is my life and business. M A O : Always the latest products from Apple. JUNE 2018 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A
E IN BU
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teenagers and young adults, covering topics such as entrepreneurship, work-readiness, business acumen and other life skills. The Pride Factor events and courses are cool, fun, and aspirational as participants are incentivised through our unique ‘earn as you learn’ philosophy. What would you say is the ethos behind Pride Factor?
FOR INSPIRING AFRICA’S YOUTH
The ethos is simple – you have one shot at life, just one! So identify your passions, hone your skills to become the best that you possibly can and turn that into your career and lifestyle.
Unemployment is the key as it leads to inequality, lack of dignity and crime. Business and government need to be proactive in changing their top-down approach and start listening to what the youth want in order to become productive citizens. We have gathered heaps of information from the thousands of youth we have interacted with and utilising the innovative services of entities such a Monash South Africa, TILT, SAAYC, Activate! and many more. We have created programmes that address the needs and deliver them on platforms the youth can access in places and at times that are convenient for them.
Founder & Owner, Pride Factor
ene Botha, owner and founder of Pride Factor and Inspired Youth, a multimedia platform aimed at inspiring, guiding and mentoring young people across Africa, has dabbled in many skills in his impressive run of starting his own youth skills-driven academy. From TV and radio presenting, motivational speaking, life coaching and brand ambassador, to extreme sport stunts and modelling, Dene has done it all. The selftaught entrepreneur who has launched several businesses and worked with South Africa’s leading brands now embarks on a journey that discovers, develops, inspires, guides and mentors teenagers and young adults on how to acquire the life skills necessary to achieve fulfilling careers and lifestyles. Can you tell us more about Pride Factor? It’s an academy dedicated to enhancing the lives of teenagers and young adults, a modern day ‘finishing-school’, if you like. We host large, live events that feature highprofile young role models and celebrities, all of whom are keen to pass on their experience and knowledge to motivate the next generation. We also have alliances with a number of TV shows, a weekly Inspired Youth radio show on CliffCentral.com, a strong social media presence and recently we proudly launched our online academy, which offers courses for
Unemployment, inequality and crime remain rampant in South Africa. How can businesses use creativity to help solve these problems?
South Africa’s education system comprises of quite rigid curricula. Would you say that we are using creativity to its full potential in our schooling system? We are believers in formal education – everybody needs to know how to read, write and handle numeracy – but those who draw up the education curricula need to realise that their methods are fast becoming obsolete. The amount of information available as the Fourth Industrial Revolution looms is staggering and the authorities need to take the youth into their confidence and consult them on their requirements in order to provide creative solutions that will enhance both the content and methods of learning for the modern age. As a creative person yourself, how does creativity impact the work that you do? I’m extremely passionate about what we do at Pride Factor. I love my job! From that love comes inspiration to constantly improve the impact we can make on those who will be the future leaders of our country, continent and planet. I’m always looking for new ways to make our events even more motivational, adding cutting edge technology and services to our academy courses and exploring international best practices that we can introduce locally. JUNE 2018 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A 23
SA’S MOST C R E AT I VE P EO P L E I N BUSI NE SS
For putting entrepreneurs first Jayshree Naidoo CEO, YIEDI
For turning heads and hands Vincenzo Marchesini and Christopher Lowndes Founders, Colton James
Colton James, by pursuing designs inspired by theme and meaning, brought innovation, creativity and a new design language to the watch world. Their sole mission is to create the perfect watch: one with character that is undeniably classic and timeless. We caught up with qualified engineers and watchmakers Vincenzo Marchesini and Christopher Lowndes to ask them more about their product and creativity process. You both are qualified engineers. What made you decide to venture into the world of watchmaking? While studying Engineering at UCT, we were both very passionate about fashionoriented wristwatches, and this would often be the topic of discussion between us when we saw each other at social events. The wristwatch was always a standout piece for us – generally one of the few ways that a guy can accessorise – and we started appreciating the different options available. As students, we were on tight budgets and couldn’t afford to invest too much, and over time we became
more and more critical of what brands were offering. Eventually we decided that these brands were missing the mark in terms of quality, affordability and style, and we started to pursue creating our own brand to stand out in all three of these categories. The engineering background gave us many skills to bring into designing our products and perfecting them in terms of quality. Take us through the creative process of designing your watches. From where do you draw inspiration? We looked deep into the history of the wristwatch to find inspiration for our brand. We knew that the big brands are steeped in a rich horological history, which is often what people want in a wristwatch – not so much a piece just to tell the time, but to tell a story as well. The wristwatch became a common item in World War 1, and was issued to soldiers to implement new strategies. This coincided with the birth of the propeller aircraft. Our watches are inspired by one such plane – the Polish PZL P11 – and feature many
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design cues based on this striking piece of aviation history. What would you say differentiates your product from all others in the market? While we keep very classic and minimal designs to fit into the fashion wristwatch game, we bring new levels of quality and customisation to the market. Our watches feature scratch-proof Sapphire glass, surgicalgrade stainless steel and a Seiko-Epson movement. All our straps are fully interchangeable with a quick release mechanism, allowing you to purchase extra straps to swap out and change your look. You can essentially build your own combination to perfectly complement your style. Where does the name ‘Colton James’ come from? Colton James is a name created by combining our middle names. We wanted a subtle reference to ourselves since this is our own brand which we are intensely passionate and proud of.
Jayshree Naidoo is a thought leader on innovation and entrepreneurship and the CEO of YIEDI, a company that focuses on Innovation and Strategy Consulting, Incubation Design and Management, Entrepreneurship and Supplier Development and Digital and eLearning solutions. She has developed several frameworks and models for innovation and incubation, and has created several structured acceleration programmes for startups and growth entrepreneurs as well as leadership programmes for corporates. She was the founder and Head of the Standard Bank Incubator programme that focused on growing and developing entrepreneurs and improving the innovation stack of the bank and its corporate clients. The seven pillar incubator model that she created was also applied to launch the first incubator outside of South Africa for Standard Bank within Maputo, Mozambique. She has held several leadership roles in South Africa that include positions at the Development Bank of Southern Africa, Discovery, ABSA and Internet Solutions. She was previously the CEO of Feenix, a crowdfunding platform for students launched by the bank, a board member of Junior Achievement South Africa (JASA), as well as the Chairperson of the Southern African Innovation Network (SAINe), and held a seat on the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI). How can innovation and entrepreneurship help transform South Africa? South Africa is still a developing country with many challenges. Innovation, by nature, is designed to
solve challenges. Innovation is the output of entrepreneurialism. As a country, if we focus on creating an ecosystem that supports entrepreneurs, it will drive more innovation, which will in turn solve for many of the challenges we face with just one of them being job creation. How important is it for organisations to create and embed a culture of creativity and innovation? It is critical for organisations to embed a culture of creativity and innovation so that it eventually forms part of the DNA. In the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution more staff need to be able to embrace the unknown and use new age skills to solve complex challenges. These challenges will require innovation, creativity, conceptual and critical thinking. What have been some of the most creative/ innovative solutions you’ve come across working with a number of startups and entrepreneurs? I have come across so many wonderful innovations and I still have a soft spot for social innovations that are simple but have a profound impact on society. One of these innovations is the child authored books, one of the products from a startup called Bala Books led by the entrepreneur Glad Kaiser. Children are taught the basic of language skills and with the assistance of artists and facilitators they create their own published books. Do you think that we are fully cultivating and growing a culture of entrepreneurship in South Africa? Unfortunately not. Our ecosystem is failing entrepreneurs with a few great programmes and many that are self-serving or help deliver the tick boxes for corporate scorecards. Entrepreneurship is not a first choice career, and very often individuals enter the space out of necessity. We need to do more to introduce entrepreneurship and innovation into classrooms so that it becomes part of our mindset from an early age. What have been some of the most creative solutions to problems you have personally implemented? In my past roles I launched a self-service mobile application for mobile phone users when smart phones were not that smart and USSD and WAP were still in fashion. I went on to launch an innovation function at a development institution, which became a model for replication with local and international case studies. My most recent creative solution was launching the Standard Bank Incubator. A first for the bank and a benchmark for the development of entrepreneurs by using an incubation framework that I created. The incubator assisted hundreds of entrepreneurs with development, access to markets and networking opportunities and had a strong focus on female entrepreneurs, the youth and technology businesses.
For creatively solving global problems Kayli Vee Levitan Creative Group Head, M&C Saatchi
M&C Saatchi Abel Creative Group Head and co-founder of The Street Store, Kayli Vee Levitan, chats to us about how they came up with an innovative solution to a global problem. She packed her bags with one thing on her mind and headed to Cape Town to equip herself with an education that would enable her to pursue her creative passions. She left Durban for the University of Cape Town – the one decision that spearheaded her into a game changer in one of the continent’s most dynamic creative industries. “One of the media courses involved a weekly seminar of our choice. I chose advertising because it sounded like the least difficult of the bunch. Firstly, I was wrong,” says Levitan. “Secondly, it led me to that lightbulb moment of knowing what I wanted to do with my words. I was always a good writer, but I was very uninspired by the formal nature of my degree and the paths that it would lead me.” C R E AT I V I T Y W I T H A D I F F E R E N C E Levitan co-founded The Street Store, an initiative that employs creative measures to ease the burden on the homeless by coming up with out-of-thebox solutions to one of their problems. This is how they do it: The Street Store creates a visible presence at any viable outdoor space (mostly sidewalks) by hanging interactive posters to fences which immediately convert the space into a pop-up store. “My co-founder, Max Pazak and I, were standing on our office’s balcony one day. We saw how the haves and the have-nots cross one another’s paths on the street, but never really meet,” says Levitan.
“To bring in donations now, and in the future, we needed to bring both groups together to learn from one another and break through deep-set social stereotypes, while making donating easy, and receiving dignified.” The pop-up concept aims to give the homeless a dignified shopping experience. Most of the items available are usually collected through donors who support the initiative. It doesn’t end there. Through the support of her employer, Levitan and her team have managed to implement this concept globally; all this by allowing interested parties to plug into their template, reaching over 1 million people with 3 million items of clothing. R E C O G N I T I O N F O R H E R E F F O RT S Levitan’s achievements with The Street Store has afforded her the opportunity to engage with some of the most influential parties on well recognised platforms such as TED Talks, French Women’s Summit and the ROI Summit in Israel. Even after collecting various accolades for her efforts, Levitan remains focused on the initial objectives of founding The Street Store. “Awards lose their shine and titles are forgotten. All of this means nothing when compared to going to sleep at night knowing that someone is warm because of The Street Store. More importantly, knowing that people have taken on this idea and made it big.” On an ordinary day, Levitan spends her days as a Creative Group Head for a major advertising agency – a role that equally allows her to exercise her creative muscle regularly.
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FOR KEEPING LUXURY GOODS TRADITIONAL Chad & Erin-Lee Petersen Co-founders, Research Unit
stablished in 2011 by Erin-Lee and Chad Petersen, a husband and wife team, Research Unit (RU) is a design brand that specialises in luxury goods and leather bags. To raise capital for the business, the pair ingeniously took out an iPhone contract, sold the phone and used the money as startup capital, paying the instalments back monthly. The company now employs 12 people, most from disadvantaged backgrounds, who get taught leather working skills from scratch. How is digitalisation and technology transforming the luxury goods market? Smartphones allow everyone to be connected 24/7. This means that an individual at one end of the world can know exactly what’s happening on the other side of the world, making for a very competitive industry. Our online sales and followers have grown and to keep up, our social media accounts such as Instagram, must be on point to maintain a good perception of our brand. Our manufacturing processes, such as stock taking, sales reports and systems are operated from the cloud as well as our accounting systems. We use Computer Aided Design (CAD) software to draw up our designs, which allows us to produce our products with more efficiency, higher quality and accuracy.
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You have both mentioned the “story and soul behind a product”. What does that mean to you? Our processes are peopleoriented and we have families working together at our workshop. The employees that have attained skills in our workshop want the products to be of the highest quality. There is a transparent manufacturing process, where staff are paid a fair wage and treated ethically and fairly. We are not about mass production: everything is made with integrity and longer handmade processes. Every product can be explained as a story – from materials used to who made it. The soul behind the products also mean that when we employ someone and upskill them, we enable them to go home and provide for their families. If you love what you do, you put your whole soul into it.
produce our fittings from scratch. We design our fittings on our CAD software systems and have them casted and made in South Africa, thereby producing 100% locally made products to our consumers. Our latest project is our Masala Collection which focuses on Africa. The inspiration for the collection was based on our diverse upbringing in Cape Town. We were drawn to the spices used to cook traditional Cape Malay curries as our colour inspiration for the new collection. We chose turmeric, masala, coriander (dhanya in Cape Malay) and rice as the exact colours to pair at the canvas dye house. Saffron, a rare fragranced spice, was our inspiration for the fringing of the deep tote bags. The leather used on the bags is handmade and stitched and were carefully and intelligently designed to consider every detail down to the last zip puller, the colours and finishes. The collection boasts a brand new leather and canvas African Basket inspired bucket bag with a beaded strap, fringed deep shoppers in three spicy colours, a black leather moon bag and cylinder shaped canvas shopper.
What are some of your most innovative projects? Being in Cape Town, at the tip of Africa, we are quite isolated from the rest of the world. There are very high-quality fabrics being produced abroad as well as metal fittings and fixtures, which are used on other luxury products being produced in other parts of the world. However, these are quite expensive for us to import. Therefore, we have decided to
In your opinion, how does creativity add value to a business today? Creativity for us is about solving problems that are worth solving. We must be leaders at the same time and take our creative and innovative thinking to all aspects of our business, whether it be finances, retail, design, marketing or production. Creativity adds value to a business. Creative staff who want
to see the business grow, will brainstorm with you and offer ideas. We have designers and retail specialists who play a very important role in making the business a successful, progressive and innovative one. What do you do in your spare time that sparks creativity? We do constant research on trends from around the world: what brands are doing well and why – from luxury leather goods brands to high-end street brands. We surround ourselves with likeminded people. We also pick creative books to boost our thinking of how we do things. Your leadership philosophy? We believe in leading by example. The person on a production floor might not need the same leadership as their manager, which would require a different level of leading and know-how to appeal to them. Our philosophy is: ‘Don’t hate what you don’t understand’. What can we expect from RU in the future? Research Unit is pretty much a constant project for us. It’s a project that can lead us into different directions. We are very focused on carrier goods and the luxury market, but we could potentially be going into home goods. We plan to increase our international footprint. We’ve already taken the brand to Germany and Paris at the start of 2018 and will also be doing trade shows in Paris and the US in the next two years. We also want to extend towards wholesaling in Africa, specifically in Angola and Nigeria.
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For providing a natural resource solution
For inspiring local entrepreneurs
Founder, Kusini Water
According to the United Nations, by 2050 7.3 billion people – or nearly 70% of the world’s population – will reside in cities, increasing global urbanisation and the world’s industrial production tenfold, but the main challenge remains sourcing sustainable, affordable, and safe water. Murendeni Mafumo is a social entrepreneur with a chemistry background who has founded the effective water recycling project, Kusini Water. Due to a lack of access to clean water, sanitation supplies and water education, people in rural areas are most at risk, and water borne diseases are steadily increasing as South Africa’s country-wide drought intensifies. Mafumo launched Kusini Water as a mobile, solarpowered water purification system that uses locally sourced macadamia nut shells and nanofibres, and an off-grid power system to provide safe drinking water in rural areas. The project was recently selected as a Red Bull Amaphiko participant – Amaphiko (Zulu for wings) was launched to “give wings” specifically to grassroots social entrepreneurs who are making a positive difference in their communities. Kusini Water’s system can treat water from any source, removing 99.9999% of all bacteria and viruses. It can produce 40 times more water than reverse osmosis, the current best practice, and uses about half the energy.
Tell us more about your creative process in founding Kusini Water. How did you realise the gap in the market? After working for municipalities, one of the most striking things was how expensive and complex water treatment was for rural areas and informal settlements. I wanted to come up with a solution that can be easily deployed, easy to operate and affordable. How important is it to apply creativity in solving societal problems? Extremely! Societal challenges are often embedded in complex and deeply rooted causes. Most are long-standing, a way of life and super difficult to solve without assistance. Creativity is needed to ensure that the solution is centred around the people it seeks to assist and not about the solution provider. What, according to you, are the top five areas in which social entrepreneurs can use their creativity to bring about change? Financial support models: Most communities we seek to serve can’t afford to pay for services, donor funding has run dry and therefore creativity is needed to come up with a solution. Human Resources: In a country that has high poverty levels, education tends to suffer, therefore affecting the labour market, and creativity is needed to get the best out of people. Distribution: In areas
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Director, House of Growth
affected by poor road infrastructure, electricity and lack of other infrastructure, creativity is sorely needed. Human-centred design: Knowing, understanding and empathising with the community we serve is vital to create an impact. Social entrepreneurs can use creativity in terms of how we design and structure our solutions and make them workable for local challenges. Using the tools of technology: The use of technology has revolutionised many industries. Social entrepreneurs can utilise technological developments to continue to grow and scale solutions to more and more areas. Financial access for low-income communities has, for example, been transformed through access to mobile money; services like dispensing medication – especially related to emergency relief – have been drastically improved by the use of drones and advances in nanotechnology. What can we expect from Kusini Water in the future? We see ourselves as a leading innovator in our space. We see our technology being applied to more and more projects, such as seawater desalination. In fact, we are launching a new desalination plant over the next few months, one that will be fully solarpowered, utilising locally sourced materials and components.
Francois Herbst’s entrepreneurial endeavours began when he founded his first profitable business at only 16 years old. He soon realised that the cornerstone of financial success and sustainable growth is a good foundation. To combine the technical aspects of accounting with a great business idea can add extraordinary value, not only to an individual, but also to the surrounding community. Today, Francois is the director of House of Growth, a business advisory and consulting company that helps small to medium enterprises set and achieve their business goals. How can creativity be used to encourage original thinking and spur innovation in the financial services sector? In the past, the financial services sector used to involve a lot of in-the-box, uncreative thinking. With programmes used in the financial services sector nowadays being cloud-based, accounting has become more effective, userfriendly and hands on. Accounting and auditing used to just involve bringing the records and information of a client up to date accurately, but the need for accounting and financial information has changed. How important is it to inculcate a culture of creativity not just for optimal customer service, but also for employee morale? I live by the saying, “look after your employees, and your employees will be motivated to look after your customers.” It is important for your employees to have a sense of ownership within an organisation and by being creative and innovative they do not only enrich themselves, but they also enrich their clients and the people they work with daily. Enhancing creativity within employees also brings about a sense of individualism, making employees feel like their opinion also matters.
For giving emotion to animation Anthony Silverton
For using creative flair Renate Albrecht Co-founder, Brand Cartel
Partner & Head of Development, Triggerfish
Partner and Head of Development at Triggerfish, Anthony Silverton, lets us in on the secret to his team’s creative energy that has captured audiences across the globe. What could microbiology and animated storytelling have in common? The one person well suited to provide a qualified response to that question is none other than Anthony Silverton. Despite being a qualified and published scientist, he is the creative engine at a major animation studio, holding a Bachelor of Science (Hons) degree. “It (animation vs microbiology) has similar aspects in terms of how to approach a project or a problem and the patience required to achieve the required result.” As a youngster, Silverston used to enjoy toying with clay, while his mother created ceramics. That was the beginning of his interest in stop-motion. What are the challenges you encountered when making the switch from studying science to animated storytelling? Apart from working for free for several months on a mad animated feature in Germany, it was hard to find opportunities in stopmotion, so I gave up and learned computer animation. While doing another unpaid internship, I was writing my own personal project (Khumba). I had still hoped it could be
stop-frame as originally intended, but after winning a script competition (along with co-writer Raffaella Delle Donne), we expanded it.
of story. Stuart Forrest, our CEO, spotted my obsession for storytelling and suggested I become one of the partners in the company.
Over the years, you have reached interesting milestones in a not-sopopular section of the entertainment industry. Which ones are your highlights?
Let us in on the personal habits you believe inspire your creativity?
Getting my first independent short into a few film festivals really encouraged me to keep going, but I’d say the biggest breakthrough was winning the script competition for Khumba, since that my co-writer and I were mentored through the process of writing a script aimed at an international market. Launching the Triggerfish Story Lab with the support of the Walt Disney company was also great because it provided more mentorship and allowed us to expand our network of writers and directors. We now have a large slate of projects to develop. Can tell us more about your growth journey with Triggerfish? Over the years, I’ve been working alongside Vanessa Sinden in development and learned a lot about production from her. Becoming a partner at Triggerfish immediately put me into a position where I could define the creative direction of the studio – especially in terms
Running! It alleviates stress and helps with the low moments which all of us face in the creative industry. I love seeing fresh creative talent bring a vision into fruition, so I’ve ended up playing more of a producer and mentor role which is extremely inspiring. Although I initiate creative inspiration, my job is now mainly to facilitate the creativity of others. I do enjoy hopping between the different projects, because when one is hitting a bit of a roadblock there’s always something else to focus on. Where to from here, for yourself and for Triggerfish? We have a lot of plans to grow. We’ve been developing some TV projects which are likely to go into production soon, and although it can take a lot longer, we have a number of feature film scripts in development too. For me, that means I will be overseeing larger teams and giving higher level feedback on a variety of projects, which will perhaps allow me to then step back and entrust the other creative leads so that I can get my own feature ready too.
Renate Albrecht heads up the media gang at Brand Cartel. Renate started working when she was 16, spent a year at AFDA studying Live Performance, won many show-jumping and acting awards and finally graduated cum laude in 2011, whilst juggling two jobs. Renate has a wealth of knowledge in the advertising and PR arena. To make it in an industry where the deadlines are tight, competition is rife and the client is always right, you need to develop a very thick skin while balancing work and personal life. While the advertising industry isn’t for the faint-hearted, it is very rewarding to see a campaign that touches the hearts of consumers. Can you comment on the challenges and rewards of Brand Cartel being a femalerun agency? I’ve never experienced any challenges in this regard. Our agency is run by myself and my two male business partners Dillon Warren and Marco Ferreira. We are a powerful combination and I couldn’t imagine running this agency without them. Additionally, I think that I have always viewed my female status as a superpower, and as a result of this mindset, I’ve never allowed it to become a challenge. Instead, I’ve always used it to my advantage. Being a woman in business means that I can run an agency in a professional and concise manner, but this can be done in a nurturing way. I think this is how my nickname “Mob Mother” caught on. As a woman, you are able to balance the two qualities out seamlessly. You can be authoritative, but without having to instill fear. You can motivate your team in an authoritative manner, but in a nurturing way. On your website you say, “We seek to bend the very fabric of creativity itself”. What do you mean by this and how indeed do you accomplish this? My business partner Marco Ferreira coined that saying. Marco, Dillon and myself are logical, business-minded individuals, but we’re all incredibly creative at the same time. That’s a rare balance, but everything that we do is always done creatively. We could be dealing with an objective mathematical matter, but it would be dealt with a flair of creativity because all three of us (and our agency) are bound by creativity. It’s nestled within our very core.
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Tell us more about your creative process in founding U&B. How did you realise the gap in the market? My passion is in the mobile space and over the years, I realised that while technical solutions tend to have a strong development focus and be functional, user experience was often neglected. While companies invested large budgets on technical builds, customers were not using them and preferred to go onto systems that provided a better user experience. While at Prezence Digital, we always pitched both the creative and technical steps to our clients. When Prezence closed, we decided we wanted to continue on this path of combining the best of both worlds to our clients. U&B is a mobile an specialist company that works very closely with clients to help them understand how mobile can fit into their current processes. I spend a lot of time understanding my clients’ needs, challenges and objectives so that I can empower them with a mobile strategy that not only fits their target market’s needs, but also adds value to their business. How is digitalisation and technology transforming the marketing industry? Digital solutions are measurable and businesses are able to see real value that offers real results. It’s been eight years since the explosion of the smartphone market and especially with the increased recent availability of lowcost smartphones, there is now a phone in almost everyone’s hands. But before we can start talking about any trend, as marketers we need to understand that mobile starts with an understanding of how fiercely personal this device is. Walk into a hospital waiting room, hop on the Gautrain or just stand in a checkout queue in the supermarket and you will see that everyone is pretty much attached to their mobile device. With that as a starting point, it’s easy for us to then understand that mobile is connecting us to our digital worlds, but increasingly it is also about activity in the real world. Mobile is the bridge between the physical and digital worlds and that is exciting for us as marketers – as the messaging can start on mobile and then extend to the real world with real results. What are some of your most innovative projects? We worked on a soccer community driven platform for our Nigerian clients a few years ago that used true social omnichannel across all digital platforms. We have also worked on mobile money solutions for the low-income markets for a client that is breaking barriers in Africa and now expanding in Asia and Eastern Europe.
FOR CREATING APPS WE LOVE TO USE Lynette Hundermark Co-founder and Chief Product Officer, Useful & Beautiful
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In your opinion, how does creativity add value to a business today? When you combine the best of creative and technology expertise to create the products that are both useful and beautiful to the person using it and to the business that has invested in it, people will ultimately prefer using this over anything else and businesses will see those results. For the consumer, the selection of apps to choose from is simply overwhelming and like software, people will return to what they are familiar with and what works best.
For entertaining the world Matt Brown CEO, Matt Brown Media Group
Matt Brown is an entrepreneur, speaker and the host of the Matt Brown Show – a global media platform brand that has built a captive and loyal audience in over 100 countries. He is the CEO of Matt Brown Media Group, an on-demand branded content studio and digital broadcaster. The Matt Brown Show has become synonymous with providing the latest information to communities of interest at scale using technology driven media events. His podcast, The Matt Brown Show, has hosted billionaires, entrepreneurs and the CEOs of some of world’s most successful companies. How has the narrative around Africa and innovation changed over the last five years? The narrative around Africa is changing slowly. With technology being the great leveller and enabler of scale regardless of where you are in the world, more and more African startups are featuring prominently on the world stage. Giraffe founder, Anish Shivdisani won the global Seedstars program, Sweep South was accepted as part of Y-combinator and 500 startup incubators in the US, and Empty Trips founder Benji Coetzee was just last week competing at the world cup of startups in Silicon Valley. Initiatives like Startupbootcamp are also helping to grow the startup ecosystem, but it is time for corporate South Africa to step up to the ‘innovation plate’. Corporate innovation
centres almost by definition are not innovating because they are largely constrained by organisation inertia and archaic legacies that simply do not lend themselves to innovation. Startups are best positioned to solve the innovation problem for corporates but corporate SA is not doing enough to support the startup ecosystem of South Africa. Unfortunately, African innovation is largely ignored by the western media, despite the presence of so many world-first African lead innovations. With media evolving so quickly, there is a huge gap to tell these stories on a world stage and at scale. What have been some of the most creative/ innovative solutions you have seen coming from Africa? It is easy to be romanced into thinking that the shiny and new innovations are the best, but sometimes innovation can simply mean stopping doing something old. Arguably one of the best innovations from Africa I’ve seen is the Hippo Roller - instead of carrying water in buckets across a long distance the Hippo Roller enables ordinary Africans to transport water on the ground by simply rolling it. Of course, mPesa, the world’s first USSD-based mobile payments solution is arguably the most wellknown African tech innovation. What has been the biggest challenge for The Matt Brown show thus far?
The biggest challenge for the Matt Brown Show currently is to satisfy the hunger for fresh and relevant content for the show’s fans. Thanks to the smartphone, it is easier than ever for anyone to create content, but it is far harder to create great content that engages communities of interest at scale. This is one of the big challenges for all industry leaders, namely
how to create an ongoing dialogue between the brand and its customers in a hyper-fragmented media space and with so many brands vying for the narrow attention space of the connected consumer. What do you do in your spare time that sparks creativity? The one thing that sparks creativity for me more than anything else is
creating an environment where I can get context on what I am doing in my own business. Listening to podcasts from around the world helps me do that as, for me at least, it’s important to be an infinite learner. When the business world is changing as quickly as it is, to get perspective on what is really happening in other parts of the world makes a huge difference.
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FOR TELLING THE TECH STORIES WE WANT TO HEAR Simon Carpenter Chief Technology Advisor, SAP Africa
In the course of his career with SAP, a market leader in enterprise application software that helps organisations fight the damaging effects of complexity, generate new opportunities for innovation and growth, and stay ahead of the competition, Chief Technology Advisor Simon Carpenter is proud to have worked with many of Africa’s best organisations helping them to understand how SAP solutions can contribute to their growth and ongoing success. He is a passionate advocate for leveraging information to create a better Africa for all. Simon has worked predominantly in the area of operations and logistics solutions ranging from on-board computing in transport to largescale enterprise systems. He has broad experience having worked in sales, marketing, support management, project management, and consulting and systems development. Carpenter speaks at numerous local and international conferences and universities on a wide range of topics and is an award winner at the SAPICS conference. With over three decades of wide-ranging experience in the IT sector, Simon talks creativity in business and technology. Tell us more about your background. Few people have heard of Chipata, Zambia – a small town on the border with Malawi but that’s where my life journey began as my dad was the manager of the local branch of
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Barclays DCO. I grew up and was schooled in Harare before coming to South Africa in the early 1980s. I joined SAP in 1994 just as R/3 was beginning its ascendancy as the world’s ERP system of choice. Back then we had two products, 32 staff, about 100 people in our SI ecosystem and seven customers in South Africa. Today, we have a Digital Business Framework that encompasses over 2 000 products including leading SaaS and PaaS solutions, 1 800 customers across Africa, about 650 local staff and over 3 000 local people in our ecosystem. It’s been a wild ride and a huge privilege to be part of an amazing growth company. It’s also really humbling to see how many admirable and well run companies entrust their ability to innovate, grow and profit to SAP solutions. What will the impact of digital technology be on the future growth of Africa? I am predominantly optimistic that we are standing on the threshold of a step-change in humanity’s evolution that will be enabled by multifarious new technologies and that will allow us to rectify some of the damage wrought by the Industrial Revolution (which despite giving us the most sustained burst of socio-economic development since Homo sapiens first emerged has come with a heavy toll on our planet and societies). And I think that if we can get our act together as Africans, our continent stands to benefit in a disproportionate manner
because we can leapfrog the developed world’s mistakes and legacies and sunk costs in old industrial structures and technologies. Africa and Africans can, if we work together across societies and sectors, use digital technologies to transform every aspect of life in Africa. But, it will not fall in our laps and it will require significant effort. What role does creativity play in finding and implementing the correct business solutions? Creativity is hugely important, especially in Africa where we are often resource constrained. All human progress has been driven by someone creating new ideas, technologies and ways of doing things. Something I’ve seen is that creativity is essential if you want to hone in on the real problem rather than simply reacting to a symptom. It’s about creating hypotheses and then testing them to see if you’ve identified the real issue. What we have learned at SAP is that creativity is not something reserved for just some people or the R&D and marketing departments. Every single one of us can be creative; typically we just need the right stimulus and a process to make it real. You have more than 35 years experience in the industry. What have been some of the most creative/impactful innovations you have seen over the years? I’d have to say the Internet/ WWW and the smartphone. They have both become an integral part of conducting our lives, businesses, governments and societies. I also believe the sequencing of genomes (human, plant and animal) and all that goes along with that is in the process of profoundly altering our notions of life and will challenge our ethics and morality in ways we don’t yet understand. Your roles and responsibilities include, amongst others, AI, the intelligent workforce, etc.
What do you feel is the most significant technology area and why? Artificial Intelligence in its many guises. I know it raises many concerns from killer robots to job losses, to amplified bias but we need it. As we wire the world up into the Internet of Things, we are creating data at speeds and volume well beyond our human abilities to extract meaning and insight. Our cortex is trapped in a skull that can’t scale out and constrained by our metabolic rate so there are very real limitations to the amount of data we can synthesise – albeit the human brain is the most wondrous construct in the universe. At a macro level, AI’s great promise is that we will be able to use the planet’s finite resources more effectively and efficiently and so ensure the survival of our species. Similarly, at a micro level it’s about hyper-automating organisational process, not just for productivity and efficiency gains, but so that you can free your talent up for more engaging, and value-creating work. So, in the same way that we used the technologies of the Industrial Revolution to augment humans’ limited physical capabilities, we need to think about how AI can augment our limited mental number-crunching abilities while we free ourselves up to be creative, social, loving beings. You also have the role of Chief Storyteller at SAP. Can you tell us more about what this role entails? I’ve always loved reading; you can really lose yourself in a wellcrafted story and that’s because we are hardwired to respond to stories (our lives themselves follow a narrative arc with a beginning, chapters of struggle and triumph and an ineluctable ending). So, I think it’s a good skill for everyone to develop and of course in Africa, with its pervasive oral tradition and histories, it’s a skill that resonates. As for storytelling; we take it seriously at SAP for two reasons. Firstly, because it’s an important
mechanism for ensuring that this complex, far-flung enterprise coheres around our common purpose of helping the world to run better and improving people’s lives. Secondly, because our purpose plays out through our customer’s stories – we only achieve our vision on a grand scale if we help hundreds of thousands of organisations to innovate and run better. We need to understand how they want to write their story so we can enable it with the most relevant solutions. Can you predict which sectors will undergo major disruption in the next five years? If I could do that with precision and certainty I probably wouldn’t be answering these questions. Things are moving so fast on so many fronts that disruption is the new normal. It’s unstoppable and it cannot be planned – you must experiment your way forward. I think what we can say with a degree of certainty is that industry boundaries will continue to blur and service industries will be most impacted by this (banking, insurance, retail, telcos, healthcare) over the next 5 years or so. Platform companies will emerge around which business networks will coalesce. Examples are Apple, Amazon, eBay, SAP Ariba, SAP Asset Intelligence Network. Enabled by IoT, the servitisation of physical products will continue to drive changes in business models and customer expectations in both B2C and B2B. This will impact the assetintensive industries as people and companies will pay for the experience or the service rather than buying the “thing”. And, as we create and gather ever larger sets, Artificial Intelligence in its various forms will permeate everything. One aspect of this that excites me in the African context is Natural Language processing. Today, too many people are excluded from economic activities and access to information because of
functional illiteracy. When they can interact with systems in their own language just by talking that’s going to open tremendous new possibilities for inclusion and uplifting societies. At SAP, our focus with the SAP CoPilot digital assistant is bringing those capabilities to the enterprise in a similar fashion to Siri, Alexa and others in the personal/consumer market. What is your leadership philosophy? Don’t ask people to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself. Focus on outcomes not activities. Listen, really listen. Never assume that you are the smartest or most important person in the room. Be humble, stay curious. Trust your people. And always remember that leadership is an act of service. What can we expect from SAP in the future? SAP is a purpose-led organisation and we know that to help the world run better and improve people’s lives we must share that purpose with our customers and partners. Every time our customers turn their aspirations and ideals into reality using SAP solutions, we move a step closer to achieving our purpose. In doing this, we know we don’t have a monopoly on innovative ideas and that some of our customer’s challenges are unique. So, one thing you can expect to see over the coming years is much more collaboration and co-creation with our customers and partners. You can also expect to see rapid progress in the AI and ML fields as we expand our existing portfolio of ML applications for the Intelligent Enterprise; our customers collectively sit on massive sets of data that can be used to train new algorithms to drive higher levels of productivity and sustaining innovation.
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For connecting South Africa via IoT
For keeping it fresh
Acting CEO, SqwidNet
Co-founder, Soweto Gold
Phathizwe Malinga has more than 20 years experience in the information technology and telecommunication industry, and has held several senior management positions over the years. He completed his Executive MBA at the Graduate School of Business and is currently serving as interim CEO of SqwidNet. We spoke to Phathizwe about the role of technology in the advancement of Africa and the importance of creativity in providing the perfect business solutions. SqwidNet has recently announced the launch of a new identity. What does this mean for the future growth of the business? From inception, our vision at SqwidNet has been “Connecting Things, Adding Value and most importantly, Enabling Innovation. Our new logo is a fresh take on what remains to be our vision. It takes elements of the squid and symbolises our ethos using the body, the tail, and the eye. For us, this means we get to see and get to live our vision every day. Let me speak about these three elements of our vision just a little bit to illustrate current and future growth. We have always aimed for national coverage as this allows us to connect things. We are now at 83% of population coverage. This has been the focus of 2017. With this in place, 2018 is the year for adding value. Our ecosystem of partners engages with businesses daily and enables them to walk their digitisation journey. And lastly, we will forever be about enabling innovation. Like the squid’s tail, the diamond shape, innovation is about moving a business forward. Yes, a squid swims tail first. How important is it for brands to stay abreast of the
latest technological advancements? It is extremely important. You have to constantly ensure that you have the best people, producing the best products and services for your evolving customer, using the best technology. Best is not necessarily the latest technology, but the most efficient technology. A business has to constantly innovate, and put out signals that it is constantly doing so. However, the rapid rate of technology changing doesn’t help. It’s becoming impossible to keep up. With the rapid rate of change, it’s important to have a technology partner you can trust. Can you comment on the importance of creativity in meeting specific business needs and providing solutions? It is very important to always be creative. My personal view is that most people equate creativity to spontaneity, and this is not the case. Creativity can still be achieved by using tools that can be taught and repeated. What is your leadership philosophy? I try to live what is referred to as servant leadership. I believe that my parents expected this of me, and hence my name. What servant leadership is to me is having the courage to create the kind of environment that motivates the people who work in it. Daniel Pink refers to this environment being one where each person has the autonomy to practice mastery of their craft, towards fulfilling a purpose they are clear about and buy into. And finally, to quote the same poet our Minister of Home Affairs holds in high esteem, Kendrick Lamar, “Be humble!” … Always.
Josef Schmid chats to Fast Company SA about how his friendship with Master Brewer Ndumiso Madlala gave birth a locally produced award-winning beer. Passionate about hospitality, marketing and business management, Schmid dedicated twenty years of his career serving various multi-nationals at management level in four different continents. Upon his return to South Africa in 2007, his curiosity led to more groundbreaking collaborations. Josef is a serial entrepreneur at heart, well-travelled and always looking for the next hot thing in the realm of viable business ventures. What would you say has been the secret ingredient to your inspirational journey? By nature, I am a curious person. The creative industry – marketing, concepts and product development – is what drives me. I realised that I have a keen creative mind, never afraid to ask questions, never afraid to seek assistance. What are your most cherished moments in business? In my life, I have had the great fortune to travel. I have had the opportunity to work with and learn from a diverse bunch of people and complex cultures. I’d advise people to take from their experiences and surroundings, find an opportunity, stick with it and make it great. What philosophy sets you apart as a business creative? Anyone can make a product – to succeed you must set yourself apart from the competition. Create a great brand, innovate a quality
differentiated product and then author an even greater story that resonates with the psyche of your target audience. Let us in on the personal habits you believe inspire your creativity in your role? I am constantly curious about everything around me. I don’t stick to one field or one industry. Everything fascinates me! The potential of the human mind and creativity is mind boggling. I spend hours reading and researching. I learn everyday! Why is creativity vital in your current role at the Soweto Brew Co and what embodies and revives the creative spirit at the company? To stay current to our thirsty target audience, we must continuously evolve and innovate. We must surprise and delight at every opportunity. Soweto Brew Co has always been an outlier in the traditional craft brewery scene. We dare to be different! We encourage participation, we ask questions and we listen. How did your relationship with Heineken come about? We eventually decided to partner with Heineken when we realised that the brand (Soweto Gold Beer) was bigger than our little business (daily operations). Only by partnering with a like-minded world-class organisation with access to national sales, distribution and world-class production facilities, would we be able to bring our beer – born eKasi and brewed for all – to the thirsty nation at an affordable price. Our beer embodies the spirit, pride, initiative and tenacity of Soweto.
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For telling the right stories Caitlin Nash & Jo Griffiths Managing Partners, The Loudhailer
For leading from the front Zunaid Moti Chairman, Moti Group
Caitlin Nash, Managing Partner of The Loudhailer, is passionate about authentic leadership and real connection. Her energy comes from pioneering change, practical wisdom and the art of embracing the ordinary. Fellow Managing Partner, Jo Griffiths, has spent the majority of her 23-year career in the UK and Asia, and was one the five pioneers who set up the first digital agency in London. Tell us more about your creative process in founding The Loudhailer. How did you realise the gap in the market? The Loudhailer was born from an aspiration of both of us to have real impact in Africa. To tell stories that will create change. We spotted the gap in the market whilst working together to drive digital and transformative educational training across all 29 of the municipalities in the Western Cape. No one is telling the African Innovation story on the global stage. Our ambition and purpose is to amplify change by telling the African Innovation story collectively as a continent to attract investment, grow talent, create industry transparency and provide entry points to drive the African economic development agenda. Through the partnerships we support, we work to communicate and connect in a manner that stimulates investments, rapid integration into opportunities, and critical collaboration between global and African innovation players. What have been some of the most creative/innovative solutions you have seen coming from Africa? We are fortunate to see many creative solutions solving real problems unique to the African continent from innovators. However, the most creative solutions we see are
coming from the accelerators that we work with who are the driving force for startups to secure global funding. There are many cutting edge solutions for fintech and retail tech, but the biggest opportunity solves social problems that are actually even more commercially viable at scale. What do you do in your spare time that sparks creativity? Jo: Spare time for me is family time, and family time means feeding and preserving the curiosity, ambition, and enthusiasm of being a child in preparation for survival in the changing economy. In whatever work life my children choose, I want them to be strong, smart leaders. The creative spark is feeding their passions so they can chase their dreams. Caitlin: When you’re in the mindset of discovering innovation or telling the world about it, when you find something innovative, you find inspiration everywhere. That inspiration generates creativity. What is your leadership philosophy? We find our purpose in being part of a community of valuebased African leaders who are prepared to be significant and be co-creators of a good society. We similarly believe that Africa’s future lies in the investment and development of effective, values-based and enlightened African leaders and we try to layer this into how we shape our innovation leadership space and the stories we tell around that. We aim to work with likeminded, community-spirited people who care about innovation in their continent and showcase innovators, both locally and globally, who will guide and lead the space with integrity.
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Zunaid Moti grew up in a home where money was always tight. Not one to focus on the negative and dwell in the past, Zunaid has always wanted to create his own destiny and be able to give back to his family. How do technology and finance complement each other? Both work hand-in-hand in my opinion, as they help you to find new creative avenues for achieving your dreams. Technology helps you find a balance in achieving what you need to, while finance provides you with the equity to go out and do things. In your opinion, what role does creativity play in starting a business? When we dream, we all want to have good dreams; no one ever asks for nightmares. Dreams are what set us on our path to achieving our business goals and the more creative you are, the more likely you are to come up with out-of-the-box ideas that are innovative and new. I believe to be an entrepreneur, you need to consider accomplishing your crazy dreams – taking your vision, adding some creativity to get that ‘off the wall’ idea. Entrepreneurs also need to be risk averse. Take that chance – you never know what will work out. What do you do in your spare time that sparks creativity? I enjoy spending time with my family, especially the kids. The best thing about children is that they see everything in black and white. Their simplicity is so inspiring that I find they are constantly sparking my creativity in this way.
Is it an exciting time to be doing business on the continent? Yes, it is. I believe that Africa is still an untapped continent in terms of climate, landscape and skills. I have no doubt that we will be able to plant enough on the African continent in order to feed the whole world. Your leadership philosophy? I believe in leading from the front, making sure that my team knows where we are going and are all on the same page. I then discharge them to go and do what I have hired them to do. Everyone feels empowered to make decisions in the best interest of the company. They also know that I have an open door policy and I am only too happy to offer advice or weigh-in on situations where they feel they need additional assistance. What has been the biggest challenge for your career thus far? My biggest challenge to date has been trying to convert people from being net-takers to becoming netgivers. Nothing fills me with more pleasure than helping someone in need. If you just change your focus from receiving to one of giving, you will be astounded at the improvement in your own life. Giving doesn’t just mean money. Give of your time, your talents, yourself – there is always something that you can share with others to help them out.
FOR CHANGING THE NARRATIVE Reese Witherspoon Founder, Hello Sunshine
B Y M A R Y K AY E S C H I L L I N G
When Reese Witherspoon was 17, she had already appeared in four films. Still, she took an unlikely part-time job, as an intern in Disney’s post-production department. “I wanted to learn about editing, visual correction, and sound mixing,” she tells me 25 years later. Not long after, she worked as a production assistant on the 1995 Denzel Washington film Devil in a Blue Dress, helping with casting, among other things. Also: “I parked Denzel’s Porsche!” That inquisitiveness, as well as nearly three decades in front of the camera, has
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Photograph by Ellen von Unwerth
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made Witherspoon one of Hollywood’s most astute producers. She turned Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl into a $369 million (R4.6 billion) worldwide hit in 2014 (that earned Rosamund Pike an Oscar nomination) and did it again, that same year, transforming Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling memoir, Wild, into a breakout success. Then came HBO’s Big Little Lies, executive produced with costar Nicole Kidman; the cultural bellwether about female relationships and domestic abuse, based on a novel by Liane Moriarty, swept nearly every category it was nominated in at 2017’s Emmy Awards. After years of hearing from studio executives that there was no market for female-driven films, Witherspoon had succeeded to a degree that proved a hunger was there. Her instinct for what women want is now being tested on multiple platforms through her 18-month-old storytelling company, Hello Sunshine. She and her team currently have shows in development at Hulu, NBC, and Apple TV (which has partnered on three projects, one rumored to be the biggest deal in history for a straight-to-series show), as
“A lot of us are having to step up into leadership positions that we didn’t know we were capable of,” Witherspoon says. “I definitely feel that in my life.”
well as a film at TriStar/Sony Pictures. But Witherspoon is also laying the foundation for a direct-to-consumer brand, one that is already beginning to speak to women through a website, social media, YouTube and Facebook videos, audiobooks, podcasts, and newsletters—whichever platform she and Hello Sunshine execs think best honours the story being told. For all the company’s digital ambition, Hello Sunshine’s Santa Monica, California, headquarters have an old-fashioned feel. The loftlike interior, with exposed wooden beams and pipes, is cheerfully decorated by
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Big Little Empire Reese Witherspoon’s company, Hello Sunshine, has projects in development with a vast array of distributors. A P P L E T V : Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston will star in a drama about a TV morning show; Kristen Wiig will produce and star in a comedy series inspired by Curtis Sittenfeld’s story collection You Think It, I’ll Say It; Octavia Spencer will produce and star in Are You Sleeping, based on a novel by Kathleen Barber. AT&T: A Hello Sunshine VOD channel will launch later this year with two new interview-based series. A U D I B L E : Reese’s Book Club x Hello Sunshine on Audible features Witherspoon’s monthly book picks read by top talent. Audible Originals x Hello Sunshine will showcase long-form narratives from known and unknown writers. FA C E B O O K WATC H : The first five episodes of Meet My Mom—featuring celebrities such as Adam Rippon interviewing their mothers—debuted in May. F OX 2 0 0 0 : Something in the Water is a film in development based on Catherine Steadman’s thriller. H B O : Season 2 of the miniseries Big Little Lies is now filming and will air in 2019, with Meryl Streep joining the cast. H U L U : Little Fires Everywhere—a series based on Celeste Ng’s best seller—will star Witherspoon and fellow producer Kerry Washington. N B C : Delivery is an upcoming family drama set in a high-risk perinatology unit. P O D C A S T S : On How It Is, Orange Is the New Black’s Diane Guerrero gets Ellen Pao, Gabrielle Union, Lena Waithe, and others to share stories. T R I S TA R / S O N Y P I CT U R E S : A White Lie, adapted from Karin Tanabe’s The Gilded Years, will star Zendaya as a real-life light-skinned black woman who passed for white at Vassar in 1897. YO U T U B E : Witherspoon interviews guests on Hello Sunshine Conversations, which debuted in March.
Crate & Barrel (Witherspoon collaborates with the retailer). Vintage typewriters and hundreds of books make plain the company’s abiding passions: stories and the people who tell them. Sheets of paper with typewritten words to live by, tacked to a wall, gently rustle every time the front door opens. “I hope that you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there,” reads one, a line from Nora Ephron’s 1996 commencement address at Wellesley College. “And I also hope you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women.” Fluorescent signs at the back of the room illuminate a five-word ethos: optimism, humour, curiosity, honesty, generosity. The space—which doubles as a set for interviews—is recognisable from videos on the Hello Sunshine website. Witherspoon’s glassed-in office is within shouting distance of her coworkers, who on a late March day sit or stand at a handful of desks or read books in armchairs. Witherspoon is wearing a navy blazer and a blue shirt with white hearts, both from Draper James, the apparel and housewares brand she launched online in 2015 as a “hey y’all!” celebration of her down-home roots. Her look is feminine, but not precious. Or, as her friend Kerry Washington describes it, “genteel Southern badass.” Witherspoon, in person, bears a distracting similitude to Elle Woods, the character she made famous with 2001’s Legally Blonde. Celeste Ng, whose novel Little Fires Everywhere is being adapted by Hello Sunshine for Hulu, had a similar first reaction: “She’s bubbly and perky and scarily smart. I thought, Oh my god, it’s Elle Woods! But there’s a kinship with [Election’s] Tracy Flick, too, in that people who underestimate her learn their mistake really fast.” Wherever Witherspoon goes—Asia, Europe, Africa, South America—she is stopped by Legally Blonde fans: “I went to aw school because of you,” they’ll say, or, “You helped me believe in myself.” She gets teary talking about the film’s impact. “I didn’t even understand when I was making it that it was a bit of a modern feminist manifesto,” she says. “Seeing a woman who is interested in feminine attitudes—getting her nails done—but who is also interested in promoting herself and accomplishing things was a new idea of feminine. A lot of women related to that, and the feeling of
Previous spread: Stylist: Petra Flannery at Two Management (clothing courtesy of Saks Fifth Avenue); prop stylist: Din Morris; hair: Lona Vigi at Starworks Group; makeup: Kelsey Deenihan at The Wall Group
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Previous spread: Stylist: Petra Flannery at Two Management (clothing courtesy of Saks Fifth Avenue); prop stylist: Din Morris; hair: Lona Vigi at Starworks Group; makeup: Kelsey Deenihan at The Wall Group
being underestimated.” Cynics might wonder if Witherspoon’s production company was merely designed to capitalise on #MeToo’s momentum. But Hello Sunshine was founded in November 2016, nearly a year before the flood of 60-plus allegations against veteran Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein exposed just how endemic and toxic the industry’s gender imbalance has been. The outpouring of firsthand accounts of sexual abuse from fellow actors encouraged Witherspoon to reveal her own multiple experiences of harassment and assault, including by a director when she was just 16. She was among the Hollywood women who organised the all-black dress code for the Golden Globes this past January as part of the Time’s Up movement. “Part of me is incredulous,” says Witherspoon of Hollywood’s quick pivot to addressing gender disparity. “I can’t believe people are actually listening now. It’s also a relief,” she adds with a laugh, “not to have to spend the first 15 minutes of every meeting talking about the lack of content for women. Now it’s, ‘Yeah, got it.’ ” At the same time, she says, “a lot of us are having to step up into leadership positions that we didn’t know we were capable of. I definitely feel that in my life.” Putting more women on screen is a Hello Sunshine mandate. But surfacing the voices of real—and diverse—women is the company’s true mission. There are many female-focused production companies, and several successful digital brands that produce social content directed at women, but no entity has yet tried to do what Witherspoon is attempting: to build a premium independent film and TV studio within a direct-to-consumer, femaleled brand that operates on multiple platforms. “Fortunately,” Witherspoon says, “I like proving people wrong.” Hello Sunshine is Witherspoon’s third production company. At 25, she had an office and five employees to develop movies for Universal Studios. She called it Type A Films. “I had no idea what I was doing,” she says. “In four years I produced one film, Penelope, with Christina Ricci. It was beautiful, and I loved it, but it was clear to me that I wasn’t ready to tell stories—because I didn’t know what stories I wanted to tell.” As she aged, substantial roles became harder to come by. “It was getting laughable
how bad the parts were, particularly for women over 35,” says Witherspoon. “And that, of course, is when you become really interesting as a woman.” Suddenly, there were stories she wanted to tell. Witherspoon thought about partnering again with a studio to develop films. Her husband, Jim Toth, dissuaded her. Toth is a motion picture talent agent at Creative Artists Agency, and it was apparent to him that his wife was good at reading the zeitgeist and spotting promising authors. Toth told her, “ ‘Babe, do it yourself,’ ” Witherspoon recalls. “ ‘You read more books than anyone I know. You know what works as well as anyone.’ ” She also wanted to “further the evolution of women’s roles,” she says, and they both knew that partnering with a studio would mean satisfying a corporate mandate. “I’d be making products they like,” she says. Witherspoon joined forces in 2012 with another producer, Bruna Papandrea. They created a company called Pacific Standard, which went on to adapt two of that year’s hottest book properties, Crown Publishing Group’s Gone Girl and Alfred A. Knopf’s Wild (Strayed had personally sent an advance copy directly to Witherspoon in November 2011). Around the time that they were developing Big Little Lies, in 2014, Witherspoon began noting changes in consumer behaviour. “Women weren’t going to movies,” she says. “They were streaming shows. They were on Instagram and Facebook. Digital was winning. The only way was to go where women are, instead of expecting them to come to us in theaters.” The digital imperative was underscored by her three children—Ava, 18, and Deacon, 14 (with first husband, actor Ryan Phillippe), and 5-year-old Tennessee (with Toth, whom she married in March 2011). For them, YouTube and streaming had replaced watching network TV and going to the movies. Rather than moaning like so many in the industry about the tyranny of tiny screens, Witherspoon became excited by the creative potential of digital platforms and the relationships forged on social media. She joined Instagram in 2013 and started to build an audience (12.8 million followers to date). Draper James—which now has four brick-and-mortar stores—allowed her to become involved with consumers in a more intimate way.
“I’d never had that before. I was always behind a screen. And I’m an extrovert,” adds Witherspoon, who remains creative director and the face of the retail company. Witherspoon’s second-ever Instagram post, in May 2013, was about J. Courtney Sullivan’s novel The Engagements (“I love this book! Has anyone else read?”). It got a big-enough reaction that other book recommendations followed. News she posted about Pacific Standard’s coming adaptations of Gone Girl and Wild gave both novels sales bumps. According to
“The outpouring of firsthand accounts of sexual abuse from fellow actors encouraged Witherspoon to reveal her own multiple experiences of harassment and assault.”
Amazon Books, Gone Girl sales tripled following the release of the first movie trailer, then doubled during the opening weekend. Witherspoon learned that she could personally build audiences for movies long before they were released. At the same time, she was also loving the conversations she was having with other women about literature. After starting an informal Instagram-led book club in 2015, Witherspoon grew even more interested in digital community building. Papandrea preferred to stick with film and TV. The pair decided to dissolve Pacific Standard (though they continue to partner on Big Little Lies; season 2 is due in 2019), and Witherspoon began to think about who might help her build a consumer-facing brand. If Witherspoon is the soul of Hello Sunshine, then CEO Sarah Harden, a fast-talking Australian, is the heart of the place, pumping life into the operation daily. I meet her in the company’s second office, in Beverly Hills, where the film and TV brainstorming happens. Harden and Witherspoon met through
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Peter Chernin, who was head of 20th Century Fox when the studio produced 2005’s Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, for which Witherspoon won a Best Actress Oscar. When Chernin left the company, Witherspoon followed his career. “He is very smart,” she says, “and a good prognosticator.” Chernin had gone on to found his own media company, the Chernin Group, and launch (with AT&T) a subsidiary called Otter Media, dedicated to acquiring and building media brands for niche audiences. One of them, Crunchyroll, is now the largest global distributor of anime. The executive overseeing Otter’s acquisitions was Harden, who helped turn digital media studio Rooster
“It takes incisive understanding to build full-scale, profitable businesses around [female brands], and it requires creating a brand people love,” says Witherspoon.
Teeth into an online mecca for gamers. “Sixty thousand people go to [the Rooster Teeth] convention in Austin every summer,” Harden says. “I said, ‘We’ve got to find a female equivalent.’ ” She spent four years looking at existing female-driven brands. Most “were beauty- and fashion-focussed, publishing-focused. They weren’t video storytelling at their core. And video is expensive,” she adds. “It takes incisive understanding to build full-scale, profitable businesses around that, and it requires creating a brand people love.” Witherspoon first brought her idea for Hello Sunshine to Chernin in the summer of 2016. One of her criteria: “I needed to have a woman run the company,” she says. Chernin introduced her to Harden, and by November, Otter Media was Hello Sunshine’s only external seed investor (for an amount in the “single-digit millions,” says Harden),
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joining Witherspoon, Toth, and investor Seth Rodsky, who was Witherspoon’s partner in founding Draper James. The investment “had nothing to do with Reese being a movie star,” says Chernin. “She’s a great entrepreneur because of her willpower. And she had a remarkably clear idea of what she wanted to build.” He also saw a potentially lucrative white space for an underserved audience. Unlike the millennial- and coastal-focused brands that dominate the digital landscape, Witherspoon is targeting literate women across America, spanning a strikingly wide age range of 20 to 60. Hello Sunshine now has 19 employees, with 20 more likely to join by year’s end—a workforce that, yes, includes men. It’s important, Witherspoon says, that men “feel they have an opportunity to create a new reality for the world too.” Underlying everything, says Harden, is books. Witherspoon’s book club picks—and, yes, she chooses each one (helpfully, she reads fast)—were an easy way to establish the company’s tone. One of Harden’s first moves after taking the helm of the company last June was to turn each selection into a monthly event, supported by video interviews with authors (usually conducted by Witherspoon), social posts on, say, a book’s inspiration, and giveaways—all in the service of community building. Maintaining levity is important, says Harden: “You can go to earnest places very quickly, and Reese will say, ‘This is not funny! Nothing about this is funny!’ ” Reese’s Book Club x Hello Sunshine, which counts upwards of 460 000 followers on Instagram, hasn’t reached Oprah book club heights (more than a million followers), but Hello Sunshine is already considered by the publishing industry to be a powerful marketing force. Two of her selections have been HarperCollins titles: Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network and Balli Kaur Jaswal’s Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows. “With both novels, we saw significant upticks, not just in sales but in distribution,” says Jennifer Hart, a marketing executive at the publishing company, who is particularly optimistic about a recently launched Hello Sunshine newsletter. Witherspoon is world-famous, deeppocketed, and married to a top agent at a leading Hollywood agency (where she is also a client). It’s tempting for people to attribute her success as a producer to her undeniable
advantage. But Witherspoon’s pipeline to the book world is authentic and robust. Since posting her first book recommendation five years ago, she has relied on her taste and instinct to predict, again and again, which titles will resonate with her audience, and that has encouraged the book world to court her attention. The Alice Network became a New York Times best seller six months after Witherspoon selected it for her book club. HarperCollins even timed the release of last March’s Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows—“which wasn’t on anyone’s radar as a big book,” says Hart—to coincide with the Hello Sunshine pick. “I don’t think there’s anyone out there who is as much of an advocate for female authors, and for pushing out new, diverse voices,” says Hart. Little Fires Everywhere was months from publication when Witherspoon first read it, and she chose it for her book club last September, before it became a monster best seller. Like Big Little Lies, the novel is rich with conversation starters—in this case adoption, parenting, race, and class. Witherspoon had been looking for a series to coproduce with Kerry Washington, and the minute she finished Little Fires, she emailed the actress. “The message was, ‘I’ve found our project!’ ” says Washington, who was shooting Scandal at the time. “I finished it in 72 hours. I literally locked myself in a bathroom.” Hulu won the bidding war and is developing the series. Hello Sunshine’s newest venture is a multiyear partnership with Audible, the world’s largest producer of audiobooks, which will allow anyone to access the audio versions of Witherspoon’s monthly book club picks. Don Katz, the founder of the company, now owned by Amazon, had lunch with Witherspoon in May 2017 (they were both speaking at the Milken Conference) and “one thing led to another,” he says. A separate but related deal, Audible Originals x Hello Sunshine, will enable Witherspoon’s company to commission new audio-first or audio-exclusive works from authors, playwrights, and TV writers. “Reese is focused on talent—actors and writers—who [are] underemployed for various reasons,” says Katz, “and she’s aware of an audience that is similarly underserved. All of those people come with her.” Chernin says that Hello Sunshine’s biggest challenge now is growing its daily engagement, and Harden and Witherspoon
know that one key to this will be maintaining Hello Sunshine’s positive, pro-women voice. Witherspoon has been remarkably savvy in the way she communicates with her audience. But as Lena Dunham, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Tony Robbins might attest, too much honesty can be perilous when you are running a personal brand. A single tone-deaf comment, awkwardly phrased joke, or attempt at “making a little trouble” as Nora Ephron suggests, could derail your entire business. But Witherspoon’s wit and straightforwardness are what her fans love about her. If she plays it too safe, she risks losing them, too. Witherspoon needs to walk off a sciatica flare-up, a recent development, so we stroll from the Santa Monica office to a nearby grocery and café. Witherspoon, who grew up in Nashville, talks about having two doctors as parents—her father is a retired otolaryngologist and her mother has a PhD in pediatric nursing. “My dad, every day he read medical journals and historical novels. If you didn’t have something interesting to say at the dinner table, it was because you weren’t doing any research or you weren’t a curious person,” she says. “He’s not a people person,” she adds. “I get that from my mom.”
“But Witherspoon’s wit and straightforwardness are what her fans love about her. If she plays it too safe, she risks losing them, too.”
Asked about her career role models, she thinks for a few moments. “Goldie Hawn,” she says finally. “When she saw studios weren’t making parts for her, she knew her audience and would create a film based on what she knew they wanted to see—Private Benjamin, or Wildcats. Also Dolly Parton, who
told me she did her best work partnering with women.” The old trope of the competitive female coworker, will, in Witherspoon’s opinion, disappear as jobs for them increase. “There’s real power in partnership, and I don’t think we have the ego thing as much.” HBO’s chairman and CEO, Richard Plepler, says that when Witherspoon learned that Nicole Kidman was also interested in optioning Big Little Lies, Witherspoon and Papandrea got in touch with Kidman and suggested that they join forces. “I love that about Reese,” says Plepler. “There’s room for everyone at the table.” For Witherspoon, partnering with Kidman has proved to be what she calls a “one plus one equals five” strategy: “People see the show’s success, that it makes a lot of money for the company, and that will create another show like that.” It’s playing out faster than she could have imagined. Casey Bloys, HBO’s president of programming, admitted in April that the network’s recent equal-pay push (e.g., Westworld star Evan Rachel Wood will earn as much as her male costars starting with season 3) was a “direct result” of the Time’s Up movement and encouragement he received from Witherspoon. Witherspoon and Kidman, meanwhile, will reportedly each take home close to $1 million per episode for season 2 of Big Little Lies. While crunching on avocado oil potato chips at the café, Witherspoon tells me about an exercise she does with her family, on the rare occasions when they watch TV together. A commercial will come on—such as a recent Adidas ad featuring athletes, models, and DJs sitting around a table, talking about what’s cool—and when it’s over, she’ll press pause and ask, “What did you see?” In this instance, “they said they saw a mix of people who were interesting and creative. And I said, ‘You know what I see? Three women and 13 men at the table. That’s what I see.’ ” Invariably, during these exercises, her family will ask her to roll the commercial back to check her math, and she’s usually pretty close. “Now my husband sees it all the time,” she says. “You just have to ask yourself, What am I not seeing?” One of the projects in development at Hello Sunshine is a film version of Karin Tanabe’s The Gilded Years, which will be released by TriStar/Sony Pictures next year. The 2016 novel reimagines the true story of the first black graduate of Vassar, in 1897, who was light-skinned enough to pass for
white. Witherspoon fast-tracked a bidding war by preemptively casting the immensely popular former Disney star and pop singer Zendaya, who will also coproduce. For the adaptation, called A White Lie, she hired veteran TV screenwriter and producer Monica Beletsky (Fargo, Parenthood) because Beletsky had an idea for how to turn the period piece—always a hard sell with studios and audiences—into a thriller. Beletsky says she’s never before experienced the level of support she received from Hello Sunshine. “It can’t be overstated how rare it is to find producers who so quickly take a risk on an original idea, who are able to see the same film in their head that I see in mine,” she says. In her experience, producers don’t prep much before pitching movies to studios—“maybe a phone call the day before,” she says. But prior to her first meeting with potential buyers for A White Lie, Hello Sunshine had her workshop the pitch in front of different groups of employees. “I kid them that I felt like I’d been trained for the moviestorytelling Olympics.” The pitches are multimedia productions: Beletsky described her script in front of images from the period; as she talked about a scene, the real places would appear behind her. She’s half black and half Jewish, so she spent some time talking about identity; Zendaya spoke of “colourism” and how she connected to the material. At the end of one meeting, a potential buyer said, “Well, the good news is that we’re living in a world where people are more openminded,” recalls Lauren Neustadter, Hello Sunshine’s head of TV and film development. Witherspoon was dismayed by the comment, Neustadter says, and on the way back to the office Witherspoon asked her assistant to find current photos of the boards of various big corporations, as well as members of Congress. They offered a stark finale to the team’s second pitch meeting, one that emphasised how little has actually changed—the very reason the film needs to be made. “Reese got very emotional,” remembers Neustadter, “and she said to the room, ‘We wish that we lived in a world where that was different.’ ” She was essentially asking studio execs what she asks of her family: What are you not seeing? It’s a question she hopes every Hello Sunshine project will answer.
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FOR GIVING AFRICAN TECH A GLOBAL STAGE Haweya Mohamed and Ammin Youssouf Cofounder and managing director / cofounder and CEO, Afrobytes
In addition to the usual hurdles of fundraising and scaling, African tech founders face the fundamental misperception that they’re working in an innovation-starved environment. French entrepreneurs Haweya Mohamed and Ammin Youssouf—whose families are from Somalia and the Comoro Islands, respectively—are challenging that idea with their three-year-old Afrobytes tech conferences, which bring together international investors and African startups for events in Paris, New York, and Hong Kong. “There are a lot of tech investors who aren’t ready to go directly to Africa, because they are unfamiliar with the landscape,” says Youssouf. “So we bring the startups to them.” The flagship event in Paris last June brought French-, English-, and Portuguese-speaking African entrepreneurs under one roof to raise money and attend panels and workshops on everything from engaging millennials to building smart cities. Afrobytes also serves as a showcase for the inventiveness of African founders, who are skilled at building impactful, mobile-first products with limited resources. “Imagine having to innovate when you don’t have roads, or you’re working with just three or four hours of power each day,” says Youssouf. “You start thinking outside the box.” For Mohamed, allowing entrepreneurs to tell their own stories is crucial to raising the profile of Africa. “Look at the African continent as a brand,” she says. “A brand you don’t like is a brand you don’t invest in. We want to tell the story of our continent.”
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FOR REDEFINING TESLA’S ELECTRIC CARS—REPEATEDLY Franz von Holzhausen Chief designer, Tesla
When Franz von Holzhausen joined Tesla in 2008, the electric-car startup was so inexperienced at vehicle design that it had to outsource most of the work on its original Roadster to the sports-car manufacturer Lotus. Today, its growing product lineup reflects the stylish minimalism of Von Holzhausen, a veteran of GM, Mazda, and Volkswagen. For the Model 3 sedan, which arrived in 2017 with a starting price of $35 000 (R436k), the designer helped figure out how to bring the price down (there’s only one dashboard screen and no selfextending door handles) while still delivering the carmaker’s signature understated, aero-dynamic look. For Tesla’s latest Roadster, due in 2020 and priced at $200 000 (R2.5 million), Von Holzhausen ditched the opaque roof of the 2008 model for a lightweight, removable glass one that can be stored in the trunk. The Roadster gave the designer a chance to build the uncompromising electrified hot rod Tesla wasn’t capable of producing a decade ago, and fans are already drooling for it. “We want to show that an electric vehicle can be better than anything,” he says. “Not just better than a normal road car, but better than any supercar.”
Photograph by Aaron Feaver
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For offering Instagram as a storefront Vishal Shah Director of product, Instagram Business
In the two years since Vishal Shah launched Instagram Business, a free suite of tools that allows companies to use the social platform as a storefront, 25 million businesses have signed on—and half don’t even list an external website on the app. That means Instagram is their primary point of advertising and
customer interaction, explains Shah. Designed to offer businesses a way to reach customers in a mobile-first, userfriendly environment, the tools Shah and his team built let companies glean traffic insights, share shoppable photos, and run targeted advertisements on Stories. Two hundred million Instagram users
now visit a business profile every day; to them, corporate accounts look nearly identical to those of their friends or favorite celebrities. “We’re shooting for an ad experience that not only feels native,” says Shah, “but also helps users discover products or services they would actually love to find out about.”
For pinpointing Netflix shows you’ll want to watch Chris Jaffe VP of product innovation, Netflix
Netflix’s army of subscribers— 125 million and counting—drive the investor confidence that saw the company’s stock rise 60% in the first four months of this year. And it’s Chris Jaffe’s task to get those folks to click on, and enjoy, enough TV shows and movies that they’ll stick around. As the company prepares to roll out 80 original movies in 2018, here’s how Jaffe is adapting user experience and playing matchmaker to keep engagement high.
TA I LO R T H E P I TC H : Jaffe says he is “excited to have people watch Bright or Stranger Things the moment it launches,” but unlike traditional entertainment brands, Netflix doesn’t need blockbuster audiences the first weekend. Jaffe leans on data to figure out when it’s best to suggest a show to viewers. If you’ve been watching programmes with strong female leads, Netflix’s interface may recommend Glow. It’s new to you.
L I M I T T H E P R E A M B L E : Rivals start promoting their big tentpole movies years in advance, but Jaffe says that strategy doesn’t work for Netflix. “I’ve done exhaustive testing—9, 12, 18 months out—and it doesn’t seem to resonate,” he says. Jaffe uses Netflix’s menus, in-app notifications, and even old-fashioned email to alert people to new content when it’s “actionable.”
O F F E R A TA S T E : “Our members watch a lot of trailers in our mobile UI,” he says, so in April he introduced Previews, a stand-alone viewing experience where users can watch original 30-second clips in the vertical format. “When you open Netflix, you’re used to seeing rows of posters. Now you can just cycle through and watch trailers all day.”
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For reforesting the Amazon M. Sanjayan CEO, Conservation International
Deforestation is responsible for one-tenth of global warming emissions. Conservation scientist M. Sanjayan has responded by recruiting a diverse coalition of technical and funding partners (from the World Bank to the promoters of the Rock in Rio concert series) to help him undertake the largest-ever tropical-reforestation project. Over the next five years, 73 million new trees will sprout up over 28 300 hectares of the Brazilian Amazon (the equivalent of 30 000 soccer fields). Sanjayan is championing a planting technique called muvuca (Portuguese for a lot of people in a small space) that sprinkles seeds for hundreds of native plants rather than engaging in the traditional practice of sowing individual seedlings by hand, which is timeand labour-intensive. Even on fallow land that’s been slashed and burned or cleared for pastureland, 90% of seeds germinate. As they compete for resources like sunlight and water, the strongest survive, and over time, muvuca results in a more diverse, dense, and resilient jungle ecosystem. For the Sri Lanka–born Sanjayan, who lives in the US, this isn’t just about trees but proving a replicable model for climate action at scale, which saves lives. “When governments fail, when societies collapse, when civil war intrudes, when nonprofits and NGOs run away,” he says, “nature is what provides us with the ultimate safety net.”
For placing DNA sequencing in the palm of your hand Gordon Sanghera Cofounder and CEO, Oxford Nanopore Technologies
FOR GIVING GOOGLE HARDWARE SOFT SKILLS Rick Osterloh Senior VP of hardware, Google
Over the past couple of years, Rick Osterloh has transformed Google’s sporadic, often unsuccessful approach to creating consumer electronics into a meaningful effort that harnesses the company’s greatest strength: its software. Under Osterloh, a former president of Motorola, the search giant’s hardware division has used its AI-infused Google Assistant voice service to bolster both the Pixel phones (which let you summon the Assistant with a squeeze) and Google Home smart speakers, which fulfill a long-standing dream of Googlers to create an ambient, interactive presence like the computer from Star Trek. In February, Google released the tiny Clips video camera, targeted at parents and pet lovers. The $250 (R3 100) device uses computer vision to recognise beloved creatures and smiling faces and then deploys machine learning to know when to record and what to keep. “By combining the best of our AI, software, and hardware together,” Osterloh says, “we can innovate for users in a way that would just not be possible if you were doing them separately.”
Scientists around the world have been using the MinION—a handheld device that can sequence DNA and RNA in real time and costs just $1,000 (R12 500)—since Oxford Nanopore Technologies first released it four years ago. Real-time sequencing has been a game changer for infectious disease diagnosis, and the portable MinION has helped biologists, environmental researchers, and forensics experts perform rapid analysis of plant, animal, and microbial samples in the field without waiting days or weeks for lab results. A team of scientists even recently published the first full human genome sequence with the device. “I’m an electronics guy,” says CEO Gordon Sanghera, who previously designed blood glucose sensing devices. “I like implementing improvements and seeing the work people are doing.” Last year, Sanghera introduced two new devices that leverage the same “nanopore” technology as the MinION, which draws long strands of DNA through hundreds of nanoscale holes in a special membrane and reads the sequence in real time by detecting its electrical signature. The benchtop GridION (the device is free) has the capacity of five MinIONs and can quickly analyse mutating viruses, while the even more powerful PromethION is meant to compete with Illumina’s $1 million (R12.5m) top-of-the-line sequencing machine. Later this year, Oxford, plans to release the low-cost SmidgeION, which will plug into a smartphone and could enable anyone at home to diagnose a flu, monitor their telomere length as an indicator of aging, and more.
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FOR BUILDING WAKANDA Hannah Beachler Production designer
The Afrofuturist sets of Marvel’s 2018 blockbuster Black Panther, with their blend of modernist forms and traditional African motifs, were the brainchild of Hannah Beachler, the production designer behind Miami’s sun-drenched underside in Moonlight and the working-class Philadelphia of Creed. She also helped develop Beyoncé’s Southern Gothic look for the visual album Lemonade. For Beachler, every project is a distinct creative challenge. “There’s no unique tool that I use, other than my imagination,” she says. Wakanda, the hidden African utopia in Black Panther, is a fantasy, but it also feels real and textured. How did you approach that? We were representing Pan-Africa. All the cultures came together to create a Wakanda aesthetic. I always do research, but the Wakanda [set design] “bible” that we used took me months to put together. I think the final version was 515 pages, covering the 187 sets on the film. Every time someone asks me about a particular item, I can recite the thought behind it. One of the most stunning sets is the throne room for the character of M’Baku, who lives on a snow-capped African mountain. What went into that? It’s one of my favourite sets: simple, eloquent, and beautiful. People have asked me about the walls [made of hanging birch logs]. There’s meaning in the birch log itself. It grows in the north; it grows in the cold. And birch is what Native Americans gave to the first [European] settlers when they came, as a sort of peace offering, because birch symbolises ancient wisdom and truth. We sharpened the birch at the end—weaponising that truth. It’s protecting yourself, and your ancestry, from those who come to take it. Black Panther was a big-budget action movie, but you’ve worked on several indie films about poverty. How does the process compare? For Moonlight, we didn’t have a lot of money, so I did simple stuff. I knew we had to see [the main character’s] mom’s drug habit getting worse. I thought, You know what she would do? She’d look around her house and see what she could sell. The next step was things just slowly disappearing from the house. Any electronic that could get her $5, $2, $1, it went out of that set gradually. The thing that a lot of people noticed was when the TV was gone.
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Photograph by Daymon Gardner
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For going up against Big Smiley Jennifer 8. Lee and Yiying Lu Cofounders, Emojination
FOR OFFERING INDIA’S BUDGET HOTEL OWNERS AN UPGRADE Ritesh Agarwal Founder and CEO, Oyo
Recognising that the small, independently owned hotels, inns, and guesthouses that account for most of India’s hotel inventory could offer travelers better experiences with the right technology, Ritesh Agarwal launched Oyo. Five years later, he has knit together the country’s largest budget hospitality company by giving property owners tools that automate room availability, revenue management, customer relations, and marketing, boosting occupancy rates to roughly 75% (65% of guests are repeat visitors). With more than 75 000 rooms spread across India, Nepal, and Malaysia (accounting for 2.2 million room nights in December alone), Oyo is also one of India’s most powerful booking engines: 95% of its reservations are made through company channels, eliminating travel agency fees. “The neighbourhood hotel can now fight the big boys,” Agarwal says. 50 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2018
If you’ve ever used emoji like the hijab or the DNA double helix, you can thank Jennifer 8. Lee and Yiying Lu. The pair founded Emojination, a platform that allows anyone to submit a symbol to be considered for the world’s keyboard. Lu, a Chinese-born graphic artist, and Lee, a Chinese-American writer and entrepreneur, started Emojination in 2015, after making plans for a dumpling dinner over text and realising there was no dumpling emoji. “Dumplings are universal— and emoji is a global universal language,” Lee says. They learned that the Unicode Consortium consists of 12 organisations, including Apple and Google, that pay $18 000 (R220k) a year for the privilege of voting on the lexicon, a process that can take more than 18 months. “How do you take something run by tech culture and make it inclusive?” Lu says. Emojination offers cloudbased tools to help aspiring contributors with everything from designing icons to writing proposals. Of the 66 new emoji approved for 2018, 45 came from Emojination, including a women’s flat shoe, a mosquito (developed with the Gates Foundation), and, for noshers everywhere, a bagel.
For tripping Twitter’s live wire Kay Madati Global VP and head of content partnerships, Twitter
Kay Madati joined Twitter from BET last September to accelerate its live-video ambitions, and he proceeded to close 22 new partnerships in the fourth quarter of 2017. His goal: Find opportunities that complement rather than compete with media brands. “I’m not here to tell [networks] to stop producing content on TV and [only] put it on Twitter,” he says. Here’s how he’s helping partners go #Live. B U Z Z F E E D : Madati and his team have helped grow BuzzFeed’s AM to DM morning show on Twitter to an average of 1 million daily viewers by offering it on demand, rather than just live, and adding segments showcasing viewer tweets. A C A D E M Y AWA R D S : Madati devised three live-video experiences to air before, during, and after the Oscars. PeopleTV hosted the red carpet; IMDB held a live viewing party; and Vanity Fair live-streamed its after-party. F I FA W O R L D C U P 2 0 1 8 : Fox Sports will produce a 30minute daily recap for Twitter users in the US during the soccer championship. To prepare Footie Twitter, Madati made a deal with Major League Soccer to air a game of the week.
Illustration by Meijia Xu
FOR LAUNCHING A ZERO-G ECONOMY Twyman Clements CEO, Space Tango
Two boxes, each the size of a microwave oven, sit 250 miles above Earth on the International Space Station. They are miniature R&D labs, built and operated by Twyman Clements’s four-year-old company, Space Tango, that allow customers to test materials and manufacturing methods free of Earth’s gravity. The first TangoLab arrived on the ISS via SpaceX-9 in August 2016; a second went up on SpaceX-12 a year later. Each box can hold up to 21 independent “cube labs,” which run autonomously and stream data back to Space Tango engineers on Earth with a mere 700-millisecond delay, allowing them to observe results and adjust experimental settings quickly. Space Tango launched 30 tests for clients in 2017, its first year of commercial operation, and will send about 50 in 2018. Early customers include Budweiser, which is experimenting with growing barley in space, and companies prototyping space-based production of fiber-optic cable, semiconductors, retinal implants, and drug ingredients. “Research is a constant source of revenue,” says Clements, a mechanical engineer. “But we’ll really be successful when we can take raw materials up, add value, and bring a new product back.” JUNE 2018 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A 51
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For translating Airbnb into Chinese Vivian Wang Experience design manager (China), Airbnb
As manager of the design team behind Airbnb’s expansion into China, Vivian Wang is adapting the American home-sharing platform for the Chinese market, which the company thinks will be its biggest by 2020. “China just moves so fast—the design DNA is really shifting,” she says. Her team has rebranded Airbnb as the easier-to-pronounce Ai Bi Ying and localised the onboarding and payments processes by integrating them with ubiquitous Chinese apps WeChat and Alipay. The group also rolled out regionspecific features, such as a mobile-only tool that enables
users to share travel tips, helping locals get used to the idea of vacationing in a stranger’s home. Airbnb’s China business is exploding, with reportedly more than 150 000 active listings and more than 10 million bookings in 2017—up 180% year over year. Wang sees China as the perfect test bed for new products and features because the market has “trained this generation of [Chinese] consumers to embrace newness and quickly adapt,” she explains. “[Airbnb] can actually launch changes in China first— and then introduce them to the rest of the world.”
FOR GLIMPSING DRUG-RELATED SIDE EFFECTS THROUGH WEARABLE TECH Michelle Longmire Cofounder and CEO, Medable
Michelle Longmire’s fascination with genetics might be, in fact, inherited—her father helped create the first map of the human genome. As a student at Stanford Medical School, however, Longmire realised that in the rush to comb genetic data, doctors overlooked a big opportunity, presented by new technology, to gauge overall health. Medable, which she founded in 2014, is a digital health platform that taps into smartphone sensors and wearables to gather lifestyle data, including sleep patterns, socialisation habits, and movement statistics. Currently open to people in clinical drug trials, the platform is used by researchers to understand how a drug affects patients’ everyday lives. “Before our system, [clinicians] didn’t capture data outside the walls of the clinic,” Longmire says. Last year, Medable partnered with hospital systems and biopharmaceutical companies nationwide, which helped it reach a total of 15 million patients and impact more than 6 000 clinical trials. 52 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2018
For testing the brakes on fast fashion at H&M Ulrika Bernhardtz Creative director, Arket
H&M has experimented for years with eco-friendly fabrics and recycling, but its core business has always been to churn out runway looks at rock-bottom prices. In March, when the company revealed a pile of unsold garments worth $4 billion (R50bn), the news underscored a need to alter its fundamentals. Former architect Ulrika Bernh ardtz, who joined H&M in 2015, launched a spin-off brand last August called Arket, which offers well-crafted, timeless clothes and home goods that are winning fans in the fashion and design worlds. Arket seeks out expert factories for each product and helps them control waste, reducing water and energy use. The full supply chain is made public on Arket’s site, with details about the factory and the workers who made the product customers are about to buy. “It’s a way of showing that we are confident in our suppliers,” Bernhardtz says. Any manufacturing improvements can then be incorporated into Arket’s $28 billion (R350bn) parent company’s supply chain, which has enough scale to affect the industry globally.
For turning Gaza’s ashes into stone Majd Mashharawi Founder and CEO, GreenCake
Years after the violent 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, homes in the Palestinian territory still lay in rubble. Reconstruction has been a challenge: Israel restricts imports of cement and other basic building materials, saying they can be used for military purposes. But engineer Majd Mashharawi has developed a workaround using materials already inside Gaza’s borders. Her three-year-old startup, GreenCake, employs a new low-energy manufacturing process to turn ashes, produced by businesses that burn coal or wood, into bricks that are both stronger and cheaper than their conventional alternative. Mashharawi’s company, which now generates up to 5 000 bricks a month, is financially self-sustaining, despite Gaza’s struggling economy, and is reinventing the maledominated world of construction by hiring women to run the production line. “It’s not just about creating building blocks,” she says. “It’s about creating a system which changes the culture of Gaza.”
FOR AMPLIFYING SMARTPHONE VOLUME Larry Guterman Cofounder and chief customer officer, SonicCloud
The Problem: Starting in college, through his career as a Hollywood director (2001’s Cats & Dogs) and executive producer (2015’s Holocaust drama Remember), Larry Guterman struggled with hearing loss. Phone calls became particularly difficult, and hearing aids offered little help. He understood how devastating hearing impairment could be: “People become isolated—they stop talking on the phone, watching videos on YouTube, interacting with the people around them,” Guterman says. The Epiphany: Frustrated with expensive hearing aids, Guterman had a thought while talking to his college roommate, engineer John Lederman: Why not embed the functionality of a $5 000 (R62k) hearing aid in a phone? The Execution: The duo founded SonicCloud in 2012, enlisting Jody Winzelberg, former chief of audiology at Stanford Children’s Health, to help develop an app-based assessment that guides users through a series of exercises and creates a personalised hearing profile. SonicCloud then uses signal processing to tailor calls to a user’s hearing needs. The Result: Guterman called his wife with the prototype, reducing her to tears. “She said, ‘We’ve been married more than 15 years, and you ask me every 30 seconds to repeat myself when we’re on the phone. We just talked for half an hour and you didn’t ask me once,’ ” he remembers. Featured at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference and Google’s Accessibility Week in 2017, SonicCloud is available in app stores for iPhone and Android for R125 per month. JUNE 2018 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A 53
D I G I TA L IDENTIT Y: DEFINING O U R S E LV E S IN A VIRTUAL WORLD
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SAP Africa’s Head of Innovation and South Africa’s Mars One candidate, Dr Adriana Marais, talks about taking back ownership of our identities in the digital world through the compelling application of blockchain.
e’re bringing information and devices online at an unprecedented rate, raising one of the fundamental questions of our time: how do we represent ourselves in this digital world that we are creating? And more importantly, how do we secure our identity in a digital world? We’ve heard about blockchain for currencies and smart contracts, a compelling and crucial application in securing online identity. For four billion years, the genetic code has been life’s data store – containing not only instructions for, but also the lineage of, all terrestrial life. Over the past few hundred thousand years, a new species has emerged, one that is rapidly and inexhaustibly producing huge volumes of data of their own: humans. A brief history of humanity’s data affair We have observed the world and made sense of it through language for as long as we’ve existed. Armed with the technologies we developed, we peered inside atoms and learned something about the behaviour of the fundamental particles, including electrons and photons that we have found there. Developing capabilities to manipulate collections of these units of electricity and light has led to a series of technological revolutions that has had a fundamental impact on how we store, analyse and communicate information about our world. The network of networks, the Internet, has evolved over time from a range of contributing developments by mathematicians, scientists and engineers. In each decade from the 1940s, inventions included the transistor, the computer, computer networks, remote access to computing power, software and documents, and finally by the mid-1990s, commercial service providers ensured increasingly global connectivity. Near-instant text and audio-visual communication, and the emergence of social media and online services across industries, have vastly transformed our society in a remarkably short space of time.
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of up to 87 million members’ data to a third party in the service of the last US The benefits of increased connectivity come with the presidential election has caused shockwaves across the world, wiping $100 billion off associated risk around how the information that we its market capitalisation and leading some analysts to speculate around fines that create, communicate and store can be intercepted, could amount to $2 trillion – 100 times larger than the biggest corporate fine in sometimes with malicious intent. Cryptography is the history. ancient art of achieving confidentiality by transforming One definition of personal data is an economic asset generated by the identities a message such that is only intelligible to someone in and behaviours of individuals, and the monetisation potential of its (mis)use is possession of a key. Since the emergence of the Internet, astounding. Services like messaging, search and navigation may appear free to a multitude of algorithms for data security have been use, but they actually come at a cost: your personal data, or perhaps more aptly developed, and global standards for encryption protocols called your consumer data. Because as has been said, if you’re not paying, you’re not provide some level of communications security over our the customer; you’re the product. The question of how to verify, secure and manage computer networks. identity and personal data online is more pertinent today than ever before. Just months after the financial crash of 2008, the first digital currency to employ cryptography to solve the problem of double-spending without the requirement for The strongest link in the (block)chain a central trusted third party was proposed. That currency Identification provides a foundation for human rights. An estimated 1.1 billion people was Bitcoin, now valued at over $100 billion, and one of worldwide cannot officially prove their identity, and we simply don’t know how many over 1000 different cryptocurrencies. The technology of the world’s more than 200 million migrants, 21.3 million refugees, or 10 million underlying this decentralised capability is a distributed stateless persons have some form of identification. The World Bank estimates that 78% ledger, or blockchain. Transactions are recorded in blocks of these unidentified people are from sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. that are linked and secured by cryptography, these The recent Blockchain Africa Conference in Johannesburg brought together records are verified and stored across a network making like-minded innovators. Global Consent, based in Cape Town, is one such local the ledger resistant to modification. player doing exciting things in the identity space. Consent is developing a The really interesting part is that blockchain, this blockchain-based trust protocol to independently authenticate identity and combination of capabilities in computing, connectivity selectively exchange personal information. Consent is also the first Sovrin steward and cryptography, has applications not only in the in Africa. Sovrin is the world’s first publicly available distributed ledger dedicated financial world, but in any transactional environment, to digital identity. The code base of Sovrin is part of the open source Hyperledger including for a decentralised personal project, which is governed by the Linux Foundation data management system that ensures and backed by corporates including SAP, IBM, NTT and “The benefits of increased users own and control their data. Intel. The infrastructure for ensuring consensus, security and trust around identity transactions on the connectivity come with Sovrin network is provided by globally distributed Ups and downs: the risks of the associated risk around stewards like Consent, who independently own and exponential data operate nodes on the network. As of this year, the digital world’s data how the information that Blockchain has impressive applications in a content is estimated at billions of terabytes, we create, communicate transactional environment, in this context, enabling or zettabytes, 90% of which has been and store can be individuals to own and control their identities online created since 2016. Information is an in a decentralised personal data management system increasingly valuable commodity, and its intercepted, sometimes where records are verified and stored across a network acquisition, analysis and trade play an with malicious intent.” making the ledger resistant to modification. Like any important role across industries. And with network, the strength of a blockchain-enabled one quarter of the world’s population using personal data management system depends in part on Facebook every month in 2017, a lot of this its size. And given the size of the problem of personal identification in Africa, both data is personal. online and off, we can look forward to ongoing discussion and adoption of The rise of social media has led to new technologies like blockchain to meet this challenge going forward. conceptualisations and discussions around identity, as we Developments in computing, connectivity and cryptography, have resulted in build representations of ourselves online. On the other blockchain, the technological confluence of the three, with exciting applications in hand, information about ourselves that we did not intend identification and securing personal data online. However, we live in the physical to be shared or distributed is also contributing to our world, and biometric data will need to support the initial registration of an digital profiles. Any organisation with stores of personal individual on such a system. A candidate for advanced biometric identity data can be hacked, be negligent, or even sell this data to verification is a naturally occurring structure, which could also be the future of external parties for profit, resulting in outcomes that data storage, with a remarkable 700 terabyte capacity per gram – the ultimate range from spam to identity theft. unique identifier. This structure is the DNA molecule, and despite significant In South Africa, more than 30 million identity achievements like determining its structure and sequence, science continues to numbers and other associated financial information was grapple with the computational complexity of understanding life. Life, and in leaked online only last year. Regulators have been swift in particular humanity, is arguably the most mysterious phenomenon we have ever their response: personal data protection regulations such encountered, and we have a long way to go in terms of fully understanding as the European GDPR or South African POPI Act carry ourselves. One thing we have arrived at, is a solution to taking back ownership of severe penalties to companies who act recklessly or even our identities in the digital world we are creating, through the compelling negligently with personal data. application of blockchain in the digital identity space. Stunning revelations surrounding Facebook’s sharing 56 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A JUNE 2018
NEXT B y M i l l s S o ko ,
D i r e c t o r, U C T G r a d u a t e S c h o o l o f B u s i n e s s
How to unlock Africa’s creativity dividend When we speak of the most creative people in business, we don’t always think of artists first. But we should. Africa is undergoing an arts renaissance, and the impact on business and economic growth is undeniable.
Cape Town recently celebrated its 19th International Jazz Festival and the 2018 SAFTAs (South African Film and Television Awards). The country’s top media were honoured by the prestigious Taco Kuiper awards for using their creativity to hold business and government to account. Black Panther and Inxeba reopened dialogue about African perspectives in the arts. It has been a fruitful time – and our country and continent are undeniably brimming with creativity. Yet the story of arts in Africa mirrors that of its natural resources. We have abundant talent, but, though growth is on the rise, there is much to be done before income generated matches our potential. Bolanle Austen-Peters argues in Al Jazeera that Africa – for all its influence on the world’s creative arts – deserves a larger market share. “If Africa is the cradle of civilisation, it is also the birthplace of artistic exploration: this continent produced the rhythms and call-and-response that continue to shape contemporary music,” Austen-Peters writes. “In the 1970s and 1980s, American musicians turned to Africa as pop and jazz underwent a revival; today, Beyoncé pays homage to Yoruba deities in her groundbreaking visual albums. “Beyond music, Africa imprints itself on modern art, haute couture, dance, and theatre. But despite its pervasive influence, Africa’s global share of creative industries remains negligible, contributing less than 1% to the world’s $624 billion trade in creative goods.” Fortunately, that is beginning to change. Africans are beginning to understand the business potential of their creativity. Let’s look at the numbers. According to the EY report, Cultural Times – The First Global Map of Cultural and Creative Industries, revenue from cultural and creative industries generated globally accounts for 3% of the world’s GDP, or R26.8 billion. It also creates a total of
29.5-million jobs worldwide, or 1% of the employed population. Locally the trend is similar. South Africa’s creative economy contributes R90.5 billion to GDP, plus 562 000 jobs – as much as the mining industry. Music and other cultural festivals are booming and an important driver of tourism and other income opportunities. According to the research unit Tourism Research in Economic Environs and Society at North West University, there are 600 cultural festivals in South Africa alone, making up 15% of the creative economy. As for the rest, Business Day, citing the Business and Arts SA Artstrack 7 report, says 92% of adults are interested in music and 72% are passionate about it. Then there are events like the various Fashion Weeks, art exhibitions, the film industry, or the many creative entrepreneurs making a living in the informal sector. With this potential in mind, the Department of Arts and Culture launched the Mzansi Golden Economy strategy, aiming to make strategic investments for the economic benefit of the arts in South Africa. Many corporates invest in the arts too. Professor Jen Snowball, a cultural economist from the South African Cultural Observatory, believes that South Africa’s R90 billion arts economy can grow further, arguing that it is “increasingly evident in global and local statistics that cultural and creative industries have a significant socio-economic impact”. Growth, she says, can be accelerated through better monitoring and management that allows creatives to track their projects’ impact and success; stronger policy and legislative frameworks supporting creatives; development projects supported by government; and funder support (including funder monitoring and evaluation). Business schools, too, have a role to play here in creating courses and programmes that give aspiring artists the business acumen to turn their creativity into profitable enterprises. The UCT Graduate School of Business is a pioneer in this regard, launching its Business Acumen for Artists short course more than ten years ago. The course boasts an impressive list of alumni who have gone on to create global businesses out of their art. Our artists are potentially our most creative people in business. For our collective good, we need to support them and so further unlock the creativity dividend on this continent.
“W E HAVE ABUNDANT TALENT, BUT, THOUGH GROWTH IS ON THE RISE, THERE IS MUCH TO BE DONE BEFORE INCOME GENERATED MATCHES OUR POTENTIAL.”
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.
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Paris recently hosted VivaTech, one of Europe’s biggest tech conferences. Around 100 000 visitors from 125 countries, including among them about 9000 startups, 1900 investors, and 1900 journalists gathered for the Tech Summit, which aptly describes itself as the “world’s rendezvous for startups and leaders”. By: Caitlin Nash This year ’s edition – the third since the tech summit launched in 2016 and arguably the best yet – stood out from the two previous editions, not because of its stellar list of 400 speakers that included Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt, and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi – but because of this year’s focus on African Innovation. For the first time this year, VivaTech featured a dedicated Afric@Tech Zone. This was not lost on French President
Emmanuel Macron who, on the first day of the Summit, spoke mainly about digital innovation in Africa. “We have a tremendous energy, a tremendous ecosystem now in Africa from Lagos, to the Cape, from Casablanca, to Kigali, and Dakar, and everywhere you have these hubs emerging with new businesses, with new communities,” Macron said. But more importantly, during the speech Macron announced that he would be financing the French development agency’s (AFD) Digital Africa
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initiative with €65 million (R950 million) which is to be aimed towards African startups. The French President urged African innovators to use the Digital Africa initiative that he launched last year in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. “I invite all the African entrepreneurs to reach this platform, to get access to the Digital Africa initiative, to join the platform, to make it more efficient, and more powerful,” said Macron. On the same day, two South African startups won two innovation challenges at the
conference. The first a Johannesburg-based artificial intelligence company Vizibiliti Insight, and buy-to-lease solar cell marketplace The Sun Exchange. Vizibiliti Insight placed first in a challenge by American telecoms giant Verizon for its alternative credit scoring solution, winning €5000 as well as an opportunity to work with the multinational. “Being a South African startup based in Joburg, it’s amazing to be a Fintech business here in France and having such support from the global community here for what we are doing,” said Vizibiliti Insight CEO Courtney Bentley. The Sun Exchange was selected ahead of four other African companies to win the AFD’s Energy Blockchain challenge and
Photography: Courtesy images
How African Innovation Stole the Spotlight at VivaTech 2018
was a winner of AfricArena 2017. Speaking to Caitlin Nash, Managing Partner at The Loudhailer, a Cape Town-based strategic communications agency which was the only South African outlet covering the event, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said it was “very significant that there is a focus on Africa at this particular VivaTech”. “It’s obviously becoming a very significant global showcase for technology and technology companies, but also the focus on Africa, and the focus on startups is very significant for us,” said Davies. “I’m glad that the DTI has been able to support some of these startups coming here. It’s also part of our efforts to promote greater levels of investment in South Africa,” he added. Ntsako Mgiba, the founder of Jonga a low-cost home security solution and part of a contingent of 13 startups that the DTI travelled to the conference with, said it was exciting to meet with international investors at the summit. “Just having the South African pavilion has really opened that door to meeting the right people. We look forward to actually growing and coming back next year so we can do even more,” said Mgiba. AfricArena, which is set to host its second international startup and investor summit in Cape Town this November, flew 11 startups to the summit to participate in a pitch competition, which was won by WeCashUp, the co-founder and CEO of which is Cedric Atangana.
Photography: Courtesy images
Continuing with the focus on African innovation, Maxime Baffert, co-Managing Director of VivaTech announced a partnership with AfricArena which will see the two tech conferences, among other things, hold a joint innovation challenge. “We are very satisfied with this Africa tech initiative. We want to do it every year in partnership with AfricArena which has been extremely instrumental to bringing the best startups here to VivaTech,” said Baffert. AfricArena founder Christophe Viarnaud said, “the prize for the joint innovation challenge with VivaTech is sponsored by French President Macron’s Presidential Council for Africa, and consists of providing the winning startup with support through a network to access capital, or funding, and market access, particularly in France”.
AfricArena subsequently just completed a tour in New York post VivaTech, where Viarnaud shared with US audience that, ““If you are investing in African business or startup it’s a different kind of adventure than investing in a more conventional US or European business. And you have to be prepared to be as adaptive as the entrepreneur.” Part of the African contingent to the Summit included MEST MD Aaron Fu, and Startupbootcamp (SBC) Africa co-founder, and Chief Investment Officer Zachariah George, who participated in a panel discussion on accelerating and incubating African startups. During the talk George pointed out that although African startups were solving real problems, “the story is not making it past our shores”. “We know that there are entrepreneurs solving
Clockwise from top: Day 1; Charlie Graham Brown of Seedstars, Aaron Fu of MEST and Zachariah George of Startupbootcamp Africa at VivaTech; Minister of Trade and Industries Rob Davies and the South African DTI Delegation at VivaTech; Christophe Viarnaud and Maxime Baffert announcing Viva Technology partnership with AfricArena at VivaTech 2018; Caitlin Nash of The Loudhailer, the only South African Reporter Telling the African Innovation Story at VivaTech
problems in electronic health records, in peerto-peer insurance, in money transfer, in AgriTech, solving real problems versus building the next 400 dollar juicing company in San Francisco,” he added, calling on international media outlets like CNN and the BBC to cover African innovation through syndicating news produced by local African partners. But by far the highlight of the talk was George’s revelation that SBC Africa, which launched last year in Cape Town, had received over 1000 applications from 75 countries for the accelerator’s 2018 cohort. Aaron Fu, in the panel discussion with Zachariah George, co-founder and CIO of SBC Africa, shared how public sector failures by African governments are giving African startups who are stepping in to solve them opportunities
to grow. “A lot of times when you have public sector failures it actually represents massive opportunities for private startups to actually step in and build something at scale,” said Fu. During the talk Fu explained how MEST Africa’s entrepreneur training initiative -- which he said is “based on a training programme which is pre-team, and preidea” – helps African tech startups focus solely on building their solutions. Now in its 10th year investing in tech entrepreneurs in Africa, MEST recently announced the third MEST Africa Summit, which will take place in Cape Town, South Africa, June 18-20. Formerly the Africa Tech Summit, this year’s event will go Pan-African, bringing together top entrepreneurs, investors and executives from Africa, Silicon Valley and Europe, to network and discuss trends, challenges and opportunities affecting markets across the continent, under the theme The Year of the African Scaleup? “We find it really important to give these aspiring entrepreneurs one year, not just the skills, but this runway where they don’t have to worry about rent or food, because I think a lot of entrepreneurs get distracted along the way, especially in Africa, where they have this product they want to build but then they have to make rent, so they do these consulting projects and that’s where they get distracted,” said Fu..
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M Y W AY B y R e n e F ra n k
Julien Verspieren founded Work & Co as an inspiring physical and digital platform to connect people and help them grow their businesses.
The Interconnector Bringing businesses together and forming collaborations is Julien Verspieren’s forte. Seeking inspiration, Rene Frank interviews the Frenchman in his Bree Street office.
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“Great relationships are the difference between success and failure in business.” These are the wise words, which strike me during my first meeting with Julien Verspieren, owner and founder of Work & Co in Bree Street, Cape Town. Verspieren moved to Cape Town with his family in 2014, after selling his highly successful recruitment company in France, which he started with a partner in 2001. Within 13 years, Verspieren
30 SECOND BIO
had grown the business from a two-staff office to 160 personnel, comprising eight French satellite offices with a turnover of €58 million (R857m). He founded Work & Co as an inspiring physical and digital platform to connect people and help them grow their businesses in a unique, innovative space. When it comes to networking, most people focus on the easy part – meeting new people. But for true mutuality and interconnectedness, it is vital to stay in touch and keep your relationships alive and growing once you’ve made that initial connection. Regardless of what you call the position and whether it’s formally or informally held, the role Verspieren and others like him hold in the entrepreneurial and investment ecosystem is worth more than gold. Verspieren’s ethos is dominated by three P’s – The PURPOSE of the Community is to bring together like-minded business owners and professionals who ambitiously expand and grow their practice through personal introductions and referrals from its members. The PROCESS the Community uses to ripen their culture is by holding monthly workshops, talks, events and meetings in which members gather to promote their business, introduce potential new members and exchange contacts. Another important part is fun – this gives the Community a better chance to connect, trust and engage more naturally. The PAYOFF to the Community members is sharing ideas and concepts to market their business that may lend a different perspective from what they have experienced; knowledge of different industries which can add value to their client base by demonstrating they are a resource; and most importantly, new prospects, clients and sources of business. Relation is an act of collaboration. In the context of business, nothing
FAVOURITE QUOTE “You‘re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn FAVOURITE BOOK 50 Speeches That Made the Modern World: Famous Speeches from Women’s Rights to Human Rights FAVOURITE DESTINATION Back to the roots, into the wild, where my soul is – the bush. FAVOURITE CITY Cape Town, but Paris as a tourist. FAVOURITE TECH GADGET My iPhone, if we can call it a gadget IDEAL DAY Starting with a good Crossfit session. Heading off on my motorbike to my mobile office, NOVA, somewhere on the Coastal Road. Meeting inspiring entrepreneurs, making new projects, bouncing ideas and getting things done. Finishing with the family or friends. And a glass of wine! HOW DO YOU UNWIND AND RELAX Definitely outdoors, shooting my bow. BIGGEST INSPIRATION Barack Obama during his presidential campaign in 2008. BEST MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE Early breakfast in the bush, with the family, listening to Gregory Porter.
that lasts – nothing of substance and power – was ever built by a single person. Creating a company that stands the test of time requires a network of allies, advisors, and partners. Learning to select the right partners and, in turn, trusting them is vital for success. It is common for entrepreneurs to express loneliness. ‘Nobody knows what it’s like to work this hard … No one truly understands my vision but me,’ are sentiments often shared between those in this space. This may be in part, a self-imposed condition seeded by the need to maintain a tight control on all aspects of the process. This mentality holds good people back from being great. When we allow ourselves to trust others and express that trust through transparent communication, we build a foundation for personal and professional growth and success. Another obstacle that Verspieren hurdled within the creation of Work & Co, was the fact that the entrepreneurs and SMEs of today still struggle with the concept of belonging to a fixed space. They want to move and be free to have their team meetings in different environments and settings. To accommodate this need, Verspieren engaged his cap of creativity and the astonishing ‘NOVA’ was born. NOVA is South Africa’s first mobile office pod. A brainchild created between Verspieren and his closest team member, Jolize Pienaar. The pair were clear on their vision for the interior of NOVA, ultimately understanding the needs of a client for a productive work environment. Designing the interiors themselves, taking into account the challenge of limited space, whilst keeping functionality and comfort essentially top of mind. “As the face of the traditional office has changed, you have to ensure a space which welcomes versatility, creativity and inspiration – these are the key factors for business growth,” says Verspieren. NOVA can be driven and set up pretty much anywhere “you can take your team out for a brainstorm session in any environment you choose, it has become a very popular tool for unleashing creativity and free flowing ideas,” adds Pienaar.
“R ELATION IS AN ACT OF COLLABORATION. IN THE CONTEXT OF BUSINESS, NOTHING THAT LASTS – NOTHING OF SUBSTANCE AND POWER – WAS EVER BUILT BY A SINGLE PERSON.”
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Bitcoin For Slightly More Philosophical Dummies Cryptocurrencies flying over your head? Luckily, Carl Thomen, Digital Head of Old Mutual Finance, explains the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the viral trend.
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t a recent digital officers conference I asked how many people in the room owned Bitcoin. A lot of hands went up. Then I asked who knew how Bitcoin works. Not so many hands. That’s partly because it isn’t easy to understand how Bitcoin works, but mostly because the majority of people don’t care. Bitcoin, thanks to media hype and some of the less glamorous aspects of human nature, is about making money. This is a pity, because it’s in trying to understand Bitcoin that the vast potential of the technology becomes apparent. So bear with me here. Although this article provides some technical detail, I’m going to try to contextualise it. The ‘what’ of Bitcoin is inexorably bound up with the ‘why’, and therefore with far more than a revolutionary way for people to pay one another.
Of Black Swans and Mysterious Japanese Men Many would agree that the financial crisis of 2008 presented the strongest indication to date of the frailties inherent in the global financial system. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb and others have pointed out, the system suffers from a complexity that makes it vulnerable to tail risk. While intermittently stable, it’s prone to massive failures (or ‘Black Swan’ events, from Taleb’s book of the same name) that require taxpayer-funded bailouts and lengthy periods of recovery. These failures come at the cost of knock-on recessions and many financial lives. Whether you agree or not with Taleb’s assessment, until a while ago no one had managed to come up with a viable alternative to using the centralised intermediaries of the current system, and in so doing assuming the risk he rails against. Then, at the nadir of the 2008 crisis, someone (or a group of people) calling themselves Satoshi Nakamoto publishes a paper that shows us a way to securely pay each other without the need for trusted intermediaries. A more robust, decentralised financial system becomes a possibility. People get excited and start buying Bitcoin. Those of us in the financial services industry start to worry a little bit. And here we are, with governments scrambling to regulate a myriad of emerging cryptocurrencies and blockchain-based businesses. The old world is waking up to a commotion downstairs, trying to rub the sleep of an entrenched, centralised and suddenly threatened financial system out of its eyes, not quite knowing what to make of this Bitcoin thing. And now, the really clever stuff… That brings us to the ‘what’ of Bitcoin. The most succinct definition of Bitcoin is that it is a decentralised application for payments. A decentralised application is a service that no one controls (hence the fear from banks and other big intermediaries). To understand that statement in the context of payments, consider that a while ago, if Peter wanted to pay Paul, he gave Paul cash (or he traded him for something of equivalent value). He could still do that today, but it’s likely that Peter and Paul don’t have the time to meet and it’s just much simpler to do an online payment. That online payment requires a trusted third party (or parties, if Peter and Paul have different banks) to keep a ledger that everyone agrees reflects Peter’s payment to Paul and their adjusted balances. Now, what if everyone could agree that Peter has indeed paid Paul, without any third parties getting involved? Furthermore, what if everyone could agree that Peter’s paid Paul, Paul’s paid Jamie, and Jamie’s paid Murray and Brett? What if an entire network could agree on every payment that’s made on an ongoing basis without any third parties keeping track of anything? That, my friends, is Bitcoin. To start with, any digital currency needs to solve the ‘double spend’ problem, which refers to the fact that digital currencies are simply files that can be copied or falsified easily. Peter should be able to pay Paul, but we should be able to record the transaction such that he can’t duplicate that money and spend it again. To do that in a way that doesn’t require trusted third parties, Bitcoin uses a distributed ledger in the form of a blockchain (‘distributed’ because everyone can see it, and download a copy of the entire thing should they feel like it). When Peter wants to pay Paul, he broadcasts the transaction to the network using a cryptographic signature. Funds need to be transferred from his public address (which displays the balance of his account to the network) to Paul’s public address. This is
achieved by Peter unlocking those funds with his private key (a series of letters and numbers known only to Peter). Thus Peter’s private key ‘signs’ the transaction so that the network knows it was he who authorised it. Bitcoin transactions are collected and recorded in a series of ‘blocks’. Hence the general term ‘blockchain’ for the type of technology that underscores Bitcoin and many other cryptocurrencies. Miners (or rather, their computers) compete to verify blocks of transactions, and are rewarded with Bitcoin for doing so. It’s therefore in the interests of the individuals in the network to ensure that recorded transactions are valid, and in so doing stop double spending and maintain the integrity of the network. The verification procedure involves solving a complex mathematical puzzle that uses the cryptographic fingerprint of the preceding block to ensure that the newest block correctly references all the previous blocks on the chain. To commit fraud would mean competing against the combined computational power of the network to alter the entire history of the blockchain, which is very, very, very, very – in fact in practical terms, impossibly – difficult.
With great power, comes great responsibility! So we have a transparent, trustless and for all intents and purposes unhackable system (the immutability of the Bitcoin blockchain means it’s incredibly secure, but also that you had better be very sure who you’re sending money to!). In lieu of trusting each other or having a third party do the trusting on our behalf, we’ve taught computers, via a combination of cryptography and the internet, to trust one another. And when you think about it like that, the power and potential of blockchains and decentralised technology starts to emerge. Blockchains like Bitcoin can’t be hacked (although the humans who use them can). They’re immutable, and therefore good protection against systemic fraud. They’re efficient, in that they lack the time costs imposed by third party systems. But, they’re slow at
scale, have loose and often disorganised governance, and are only beginning to be regulated. They’re also extremely inefficient in their use of energy and computing resources. However, despite the teething problems, blockchains and other decentralised technologies are being built and tested in nearly every industry, from payments, insurance and medical record-keeping to supply chain, identity management and file storage. There are even decentralised social media platforms and prediction markets, as we begin to think differently about how we organise information and the circumstances under which it is available. If the old world is waking up slower than the crypto crowd would like, it seems at least to be considering whether Bitcoin can show us a way to do some things better. Finally, to speak about the potential for blockchain isn’t to denigrate the host of value-adding services that banks and many other intermediaries provide. Rather, it’s to point out that disruption and competition in the market tends to benefit the customer. If those of us in financial services are being honest, we’ve sometimes lagged behind other industries in our ability to remove friction from our processes and make life pleasant for our customers. Moreover, if we’ve failed people who have quite literally trusted us with their lives, we should want to make sure we never fail again. We should welcome the challenges new technologies present to us if they help us think differently about the services we provide and the faith our customers place in us. Carl Thomen is the Head of Digital at Old Mutual Finance. He holds a PhD in Technological Philosophy, and before discovering a passion for digital strategy and customer-centricity was a research fellow and lecturer at universities in South Africa, Australia and the UK. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those of Old Mutual South Africa.
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Fast Company SA takes a look at the innovative new ideas, services, research and news currently making waves in South Africa and abroad YOUTUBE FINALLY JOINS THE MUSIC STREAMING RACE YouTube is said to launch a new music streaming service, YouTube Music, and will soon unveil a premium service that will charge more for its original shows. The streaming service comes with extra features like personalised playlists based on individuals’ YouTube history and other usage patterns. The new adsupported version of YouTube Music will be available for free, while YouTube Music Premium, a paid membership without advertisements, will be available at $9.99 a month.
FNB TO ROLL OUT BIOMETRIC BANKING TRANSACTION POINTS IN SOUTH AFRICAN TOWNSHIPS First National Bank (FNB) will roll out 50 self-service kiosks that use fingerprint biometrics to verify a user’s identity in South African townships over the next six months. The “TouchPoint” is a self-service kiosk that clients can use to conduct transactional banking such as transfers and payments, view statements, buy airtime and electricity and perform card cancellations. The device also allows for new accounts to be opened by reading a customer’s thumb print. Even though the device does not contain cash, users can use it for withdrawals in the form of retail credit vouchers. FNB aims to extend banking services to underserved communities through the roll-out of selfservice digital platforms.
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WHATSAPP LAUNCHES NEW FEATURES FOR GROUP USERS WhatsApp has rolled out a number of new features this year. While most of these were focused at the one-on-one conversations and overall app in general, WhatsApp is now finally shifting its focus to group users as well. These new features aim to make the experience better for group users, as well as give them more control on their groups. WhatsApp already has some nifty features which lets you remain in a group, but at the same time avoid all the commotion it can become.
GOOGLE RELEASES NEW AFRICA APP TO BEAT SLUGGISH INTERNET SPEEDS Google is releasing an app for Africa that will help internet users overcome obstacles such as lack of high-speed connectivity and the high cost of data. The release of ‘Google Go’ is the tech giant’s latest attempt to extend its reach into emerging markets. The new app reduces the amount of data needed to display search results by 40% and allows previous searches to be accessed offline. Google has also adapted the voice function to work better on slow connections. The Go app will be available in 26 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and can be downloaded from the Playstore. The app will come pre-installed in all Android Oreo devices.
MTN AND HUAWEI UNVEIL AFRICA’S FIRST 5G FIELD TRIAL MTN and Huawei have unveiled what they call Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution. The field trial demonstrated a 5G fixed-wireless access use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz millimetre-wave technology in a “realworld” environment in Hatfield, Pretoria. It achieved impressive speeds of 520Mbit/s on the downlink and 77Mbit/s on the uplink. The trial provides MTN with valuable insight into how much work there is still left to do before 5G is switched on, and also an opportunity to future proof its network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation of networks.
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Local conferences, talks and meetups we think are worth attending
Date: 18 June 2018 Time: 08:00 – 16:00 Venue: PRISA Johannesburg Cost of tickets: R3 180pp
Date: 20 – 21 June 2018 Time: 10:00 – 17:00 Venue: Cape Town International Convention Centre Cost of tickets: R50pp
A strong brand identity has the potential to position a company ahead of its competition. Building a powerful brand is about resonating with your target audience as well as with everyone in the company. They must become your brand’s most fervent ambassadors. It’s all about credible communication with a message that hits the target audience immediately. This one-day workshop will teach you the skills necessary to build your brand, the ins and outs of living your brand, and how to design a basic brand development plan to position your brand effectively. You will learn about key messaging as well as the basics of how public relations and reputation are directly linked to the sustainability of your brand.
Source Africa will take place for the 6th time in Cape Town this year. It is now the most important annual panAfrican textile, clothing and footwear trade event on the international calendar. It brings together manufacturers, buyers, suppliers and service providers in one major integrated event, enabling international and African buyers to view and explore an extensive array of products and services from Africa. Source Africa is a world-class sourcing event that supports the growth and development of business, trade and economic opportunities in Africa.
MANUFACTURING INDABA 2018
SAITEX FOR TRADE – DISCUSSING THE FUTURE OF BUSINESS IN AFRICA
Date: 19 – 20 June 2018 Time: 09:00 – 17:00 Venue: Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg Cost of Tickets: R8 337pp Manufacturing Indaba is the leading manufacturing event in sub-Saharan Africa. The aim of the annual indaba and its provincial roadshows is to bring together business owners, industry leaders, government officials, capital providers and professional experts to explore opportunities and grow their manufacturing operations. This year’s Manufacturing Indaba will comprise of a two-day conference and showcase exhibition hosted in the heart of Sandton. The event, with its strategic partners, the DTI and the Manufacturing Circle, will provide a platform to engage and discuss the latest global and local manufacturing trends. Other key aspects that will be discussed include efficiencies in manufacturing and how this can help manufacturers grow and become more profitable; as well as access to new markets.
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Date: 24 – 26 June 2018 Time: 10:00 – 17:00 Venue: Gallagher Convention Centre, Johannesburg Cost of Tickets: Free on Registration SAITEX offers you the largest showcase of products, from around the world. From electronics, toys and gifts, to beauty, medical and tooling and so much more. Meet hundreds of potential suppliers from more than 26 countries, build important new relationships, book a seat at the Africa’s premiere business and trade conference to keep abreast of future opportunities and network with other business owners, entrepreneurs, retailers, wholesalers and distributors from across the African continent.
NATURE, ENVIRONMENT & WILDLIFE FILMMAKERS CONGRESS Date: 16 – 18 July 2018 Time: 07:00 – 23:00 Venue: Durban Botanical Gardens, Durban Cost of tickets: R500pp The Nature, Environment and Wildlife Filmmakers Congress is designed for passionate filmmakers around the world to forge new relationships, build on those already formed, innovate and move towards further development in natural history and conservation content creation, using Africa as the key landmark. The three day event creates a path to conservation through film by providing a platform for delegates to engage, network and contribute to the industry. NEWF 2018 offers topics to inspire stories and spark lively and robust debate, informative panel sessions, case studies and interactive demonstrations. An array of keynote speakers, industry leaders and special guests have been invited, whose details will be announced in due course.
THE BUSINESS SHOW Date: 2 August 2018 Time: 09:00 – 17:00 Venue: Gallagher Convention Centre, Johannesburg Cost of tickets: Free on registration The Business Show is Africa’s leading one day event for starting out and building a bigger business. It’s a melting pot of top-ofthe-line speakers, business experts, interactive exhibits, cutting edge solutions, amazing ideas, incredible opportunities, world class networking, in depth education and off-the-chart experiences. With more than 12 500 delegates and hundreds of exhibitors, seminars and sessions all under one roof in one day, it’s the largest and most successful one-day show of its kind in Africa.
THE BUSINESS AND INVESTOR SUMMIT
BIO AFRICA CONVENTION
Date: 28 – 29 July 2018 Time: 09:00 – 19:30 Venue: Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg Cost of Tickets: R897pp
Date: 27 – 29 August 2018 Time: 08:00 – 17:00 Venue: Durban International Convention Centre Cost of tickets: R10 800pp
The Business and Investor Summit is a fresh concept that was conceived to address growing global economic problems being faced by the middle- and lower income classes. The summit – a first of its kind in South Africa – has a main focus on the much anticipated frenzy around money, specifically the past, present and future of money. Key speakers at the event include Robert Kiyosaki, best-selling author and financial educator responsible for the number one personal finance book in the worlds, Rich Dad Poor Dad, Sandy Jadeja, chief market strategist and trading educator, as well as Tom Wheelwright, author of Tax-Free Wealth, CEO of ProVision and one of eight ‘Rich Dad’ advisors.
AfricaBio is proud to announce the launch of the first BIO Africa Convention. The convention aims to bring together African and global biotech industries to explore partnering opportunities within and outside the region. The theme of the conference is “Africa: Open for Business – Together Building the Bio-Economy”. The conference aims to provide a platform to network and showcase Africa’s innovations in the fields of agriculture, health and industrial biotechnology. The BIO Africa Convention seeks to position Africa as an investment destination of choice in the Biotech sector and facilitating engagement with African policy makers, regulators, entrepreneurs, decision makers, investors and professionals.
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NEXT B y F ra n c o i s J o u b e r t FRANCOIS JOUBERT
Practical steps to increase your net worth Today more than ever, you need to do everything possible to achieve your goals and increase your net worth. Doing your best is not good enough anymore.
To be successful you need to be able to take action, with a “yes” or “action taking” mentality. Create a clear vision for your business as this is the common denominator among successful people. Be goal-oriented: set goals and a plan on how to achieve those goals. Most importantly, believe in yourself. Your mindset is a powerful indicator if you will be successful or not. Successful people develop a positive, can do mindset. There are five practical, but important steps that each entrepreneur can implement today to start increasing their net-worth. Each step will explain why it is important, the reason entrepreneurs find it hard to do and then a practical way to implement it. These are not new, but explained in a different way to make it easy for you to implement. Implementation is the key to success. These steps will put you on your way to achieve exceptional results. Analyse and understand your numbers Business is a game of numbers and you need to understand them in order to make profitable decisions. Understanding your numbers will tell you if your business is consistent, predictable and stable. Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs don’t know which product or service are the most profitable or which expenses are unnecessary. Therefore, make sure that your numbers (financial and non-financial) are up to date and invest in an accountant or business coach that knows business and can assist analysing your numbers. Create your goal Your vision or goal will not only give you direction and focus, but also open your eyes to new opportunities that will bring you closer to it. Reality is, people don’t have a goal or they do not know how to achieve their goal. Overcome this by writing down clear and measurable goals and track those goals on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to ensure that you are moving towards it.
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“ YOUR MINDSET IS A POWERFUL INDICATOR IF YOU WILL BE SUCCESSFUL OR NOT. SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE DEVELOP A POSITIVE, CAN DO MINDSET.”
Define your target market A clear understanding who your clients are, enables you to compartmentalise them, adjusting your message to address their different needs. Don’t think that everyone can use your product or service – not everyone can and will use your product or service. Define your perfect client by thinking about their gender, age, race, preferences, spending capacity, geography, marital status, dependants, education, qualification, social standing and religion, to name a few. Develop your marketing strategy Marketing is the engine that drives your business. Without marketing, your business will die a slow death. Billion dollar corporations spend millions on marketing each year, because that drives their business and builds their brand. Avoid this trap by thinking that marketing is costing you money when it should make you money. Develop a strategy that addresses your client’s needs. Talk about the benefits of your product rather than the features. People do not want to know what your product or service can do; they want to know what it can do for them. Grow your business network Surrounding yourself with people who share a similar drive and ambition, you are more likely to move forward as a group. Stop thinking that it is a waste of time and money to network and attending networking events. Dedicate time on a monthly basis to attend at least one business networking event. Attend it with a strategy to meet and connect with 10 new business people. Implementing these steps will give you a boost to increase your net-worth and put you on your way to achieve exceptional results.
Francois Joubert has been called a ‘Powerhouse of a Business Man’. He is a successful entrepreneur who owns multiple businesses and brands and is an international speaker, sharing the stage with Robert Kiyosaki, bestselling author of Rich Dad Poor Dad, as well as JT Foxx, the world’s leading wealth coach. He is on a mission to inspire people to achieve, not only exceptional business results, but also continuous personal growth. He recently wrote and published his first book, Increase Your Net Worth aimed at teaching people how to win in business.
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