South Africa WORLD-CHANGING innovations rocking their industries
HASHTAG HIJACK Safety concerns plague Twitter
MAY 2018 FASTCOMPANY.CO.ZA
S TA R T U P BOOTCAMP AFRICA “Startupbootcamp is here to discover, support, and scale companies so they can compete on a Pan-African and global stage.” PHILIP KIRACOFE
Co-founder and CEO of SBC Africa
Meet the future, today.
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M ay 201 8
2 0 Lifting Africa’s startups
Philip Kiracofe and Zachariah George of SBC Africa reveal why their company loves supporting tech startups By: Elske Joubert
“Startupbootcamp grows startups globally by giving them access to an international network of relevant partners, content, investors and mentors in their sector in more than 30 countries.” – Zachariah George, co-founder and Chief Investment Officer, SBC Africa
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R E GU L AR S
15 INNOVATION AGEN T Delivering style without sacrifice – The Modist
06 FROM THE EDITOR 08 RECOMMENDER
17 LEADING EDGE Innovative policy making
09 SCREEN TIME
60 UCT COLUMN
28 TWEET OFF How Twitter is scrambling to fix safety concerns
66 REALISE YOUR POTENTIAL House of Growth helps
76 FAST BYTES & EVENTS 80 R EMAINING RELEVANT IN FACEBOOK’S NEW ALGORITHM by Jodene Shaer
businesses set and achieve their goals
SPECIA L FE AT U RE
40 World -Ch a nging Innova tions & Id ea s
Ambitious projects creating new approaches to some of the world’s most urgent needs and challenges
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South Africa AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY CEO Grant Fredericks
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No article or any part of any article in Fast Company South Africa may be reproduced without the prior written consent of the publisher. The information provided and opinions expressed in this publication are provided in good faith, but do not necessarily represent the opinions of Mansueto Ventures in the USA, Insights Publishing or the editor. Neither this magazine, the publisher or Mansueto Ventures in the USA can be held legally liable in any way for damages of any kind whatsoever arising directly or indirectly from any facts or information provided or omitted in these pages, or from any statements made or withheld by this publication. Fast Company is a registered title under Mansueto Ventures and is licensed to Insights Publishing for use in southern Africa only.
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Starting anew... Innovation should be driven by the need to solve the problems and challenges of our times. Our continent has long found solutions and led the way in the face of the most complex challenges. Large parts of sub-Saharan Africa are experiencing crippling drought and a number of countries has been wracked with food security issues for decades. African farmers have found their own ways to manage by employing methods that include agroecology – simply finding novel approaches to forge ahead in the harshest of terrain. Usually these farmers put the environment first in everything they do so that natural ecosystems can thrive. Solutions are what Africa needs, and has. In this issue of Fast Company we look at world-changing innovations and ideas. Read about Sliide Airtime, who encourages its users to engage with news and other content on their platform in exchange for airtime. This is relevant in Africa, where the costs of data are prohibitive and mobile-user penetration is among the highest in the world. We also look at innovation for good, and as a solution, illustrated by the Streetscapes project of Khulisa Social Solutions. Streetscapes employs homeless people in Cape Town’s CBD to work in food gardens that supply some of the leading hotels and restaurants in the city. Innovation is one of the prerequisites of being an entrepreneur in the African startup space. Starting a business comes with a number of challenges. There are many barriers to entry, not least of all finance,
funding and bureaucratic red tape. Innovation alone won’t necessarily guarantee the success of your startup. It is thought that the first 1000 days is the make or break window for any startup. Philip Kiracofe and Zachariah George of Startupbootcamp Africa, featured in our cover story, are changing the game for startups in Africa. SBC Africa is a one-stop shop for accelerating startups and disrupting industries. “Startupbootcamp is here to discover, support, and scale companies so they can compete on a Pan-African and global stage,” says Kiracofe. SBC Africa is part of a global chain that gives startups direct access to an international network of relevant partners, content, investors and mentors in their sector in more than 30 countries. It helps startups be more innovative, solve serious business challenges and simultaneously grant them access to markets, clients and distribution channels to help them scale and grow more effectively. In my first issue as editor-in-chief, the team has focused on showcasing the best innovative companies and ideas Africa has to offer. We hope these stories inspire you to break new ground and disrupt industries in your respective field. If you already are, you’re in great company. Fast Company.
“I NNOVATION IS ONE OF THE PREREQUISITES OF BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR IN THE AFRICAN STARTUP SPACE.”
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What are you loving right now? LOVING: ANTARCTICA!
LOVING: LEICA V LUX CAMERA
Antarctica is a breathtakingly beautiful continent. It is home to some of the most bio-diverse wildlife on the planet and plays a pivotal role in the health of every single ocean in the world. Visiting Antarctica is more than a holiday, it’s a sojourn. You will leave as an ambassador. I will be taking my family to this icy wonderland later this year to kayak amongst icebergs and areas where few have set foot, let alone paddled kayaks. We will snow shoe to the top of snow peaks, visit penguin colonies and hopefully see a few leopard seals. Dawid Mocke Four-time World Surfski Series Champion and founder of MockePaddling.com
I’m loving my new Leica V Lux camera. It’s everything you could possibly want in a camera, and it’s a Leica! I’ve added a 26-400mm Leica lens and the images are amazing! Kirk Gainsford Chief Creative Officer: MullenLowe SA
LOVING: THE CONQUEROR SERIES BY CONN IGGULDEN
LOVING: GLENMORANGIE 9TH PRIVATE EDITION SPIOS
Much to my wife’s raised eyebrows, I have managed to justify buying a drone. The tech involved in this piece of equipment at its price is remarkable.
What I’m loving right now has to be the latest addition to the acclaimed Private Edition series from Glenmorangie whisky – the 9th Private Edition Spios. Spios, Scot Gaelic for spice, is Glenmorangie’s first single malt whisky fully matured in American ex-rye whiskey casks. With its uniquely savoury and full-bodied character, the Spìos perfectly recalls the glittering heyday of American rye whisky.
Eugene Marais MD: Wealthport
Anina Malherbe-Lan CEO: Vivid Luxury
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I am currently reading a series by Conn Iggulden about Genghis Khan and the rise of the Mongol Empire. A novel that stays close to the known history of the Great Khan. Arthur Case CEO: Evergreen Retirement
Fast Company SA takes a look at the apps worth having for the health enthusiasts VULA www.vulamobile.com Are you left stranded in remote and rural areas without a general practitioner nearby? Vula is an app that makes it easy to refer patients to specialists, putting healthcare workers in touch with on-call specialists, which making the referral process much easier and quicker than by phone or email. The app allows users to capture diagnosis, patient history, examination details and medication, refer skeletal, spinal or spontaneous onset injuries, use the quick eye test to assess the patient’s visual acuity, and capture total burn surface area as well as burn depth. Receiving specialists can use a quick-reply form to send advice to the referrer, and a referral form captures clinical conditions, CD4 count and viral load, as well as ART history.
PHC CLINICAL GUIDE
www.health-e.org.za Should you want to do health checks online, the free, easy-to-use Primary Healthcare Clinical Guide is an app developed for the Department of Health by the South African Medical Research Council’s innovation unit and is already used by almost 10 000 clinicians. A treasure trove of information, the app covers minor common health ailments to serious, recommended treatment protocols, shows the cost of medicine, the codes for diagnoses, and also explains when to refer cases. The in-depth information available ranges from seemingly minor problems, like a teething baby, to serious issues, such as heart attacks or receiving a child at a trauma unit. The smartphone app also generates information on new disease and illness patterns based on common search term, and presents the standard treatment guidelines and essential medicines list.
WATIF HEALTH APP
www.watifhealth.com Are you concerned about the security and privacy of your health records? The WatIF portal is a new and inventive way of delivering healthcare to the man on the street. A disease management solution designed for ordinary people, it requires the input of basic, clinical data from patients, and then processes it through an interactive medical knowledge system that is a part of WatIF’s artificial intelligence. The app allows patients to record their vital signs, laboratory test results, personal and family history. It provides a graphical representation of the patient’s health progress, monitors the effect of insulin on the users’ blood glucose level, when glucose levels are found to be below or above the recommended therapeutic level, the “insulimometer” assists the user in calculating the required insulin adjustment.
MEDICI https://medici.md/patients/ Right now, you may have to call the doctor’s office, hope you get an appointment within two days, at which you will have to travel and park, to sit in a waiting room, fill out paperwork and have limited time with the doctor who is probably running late. Medici can often solve this saga in minutes with a few texts and a photo or video consult. The best part is it costs less. Medici is a HIPAA-compliant app that allows people to consult a doctor using text or video messaging. The app allows physicians, paediatricians, dermatologists, dentists, veterinarians, mental health providers and nutritionists to consult with their patients via the app. Medici focuses on reinventing the doctor-patient relationship and transforming how healthcare is delivered by offering patients and medical professionals a more streamlined and compliant system of communication and record-keeping.
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F U T U R E O F R E TA I L NIKE
By Jonathan Ringen
Nike’s partnership with Kendrick Lamar has yielded limitededition shoes and new opport unities to connect with fans.
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On a recent Friday morning, a select group of Nike’s biggest fans got an alert. A new, limited-edition version of the brand’s Cortez running shoe—an old-school nylon sneaker originally released in 1972—was about to drop. The release was happening during the NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles, and the shoes—red, white, and black, with the words don’t trip emblazoned across the laces—were made in partnership with rapper Kendrick Lamar, a local legend. Customers received the notification through an app called Snkrs, which Nike has been refining over the past year as a way of connecting superfans with desirable pairs of, you know, sneakers. It is distinct from the regular Nike app, where you go to get a pair of
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Coachella)
Nike Has a New Digital Playbook— and It Starts With Sneakerheads
performance shoes. Snkrs sticks to the kinds of limited-edition runs—interesting colourways, unusual styles, partnerships with performing artists or fashion designers such as Riccardo Tisci— that are so popular they often end up being resold, concert-ticketstyle, on the secondary market. Fans who collect rare sneakers (and streetwear by culty brands like Supreme) are known as hypebeasts, and they are accustomed to waiting in endless, scrumlike lines at highend boutiques with no guarantee of even getting a pair by the time they reach the front. Nike was trying something different for its $100 (R1200) Cortez Kenny II, nicknamed “Kung Fu Kennys” after Lamar’s alter ego. (An earlier version, the Cortez Kenny I, sold out in January and already goes for more than $400 a pair on the open market.) Nike used geofencing to ping only LA-based Snkrs users about the release. Fans who wanted a pair reserved them on the app and were directed to an address in downtown LA the following day. When they arrived, they found themselves inside the company’s highly Instagrammable AllStar headquarters, which were swarmed throughout the weekend with stars such as Kobe Bryant, Bella Hadid, and Spike Lee. Lamar was on hand for a live Q&A. Some of the most engaged Snkrs users received wristbands for his VIP performance that night. For Nike, the experience was about much more than selling limited-edition sneakers. It was an experiment that could one day be applied throughout the company. Until last year, Nike primarily saw itself as a wholesaler creating product for retail partners at various levels: hypebeast boutiques at the high end, chains like Foot Locker in the middle, and discount outlets like DSW at the bottom. But after decades of outpacing its sneaker rivals, the once indomitable athleticwear company has been losing
The Shoe Fits Nike’s quest to personalise retail extends from Snkrs to the rest of its channels. 1. Nike App Taking a page from the Snkrs playbook, Nike recently began “unlocking” special colourways of popular shoes to users of its main app and letting them customise kicks with logos and personalised laces. It also offers members perks—Apple Music credit, say—based on past purchases.
2. Nike Run Club; Nike Training Club Nike’s training apps provide a suite of services including fitness trackers and workout programmes. You don’t need to purchase a Nike product to use them. But you do need to set up a Nike+ account, creating a digital thumbprint that follows you from app to app and that can be used to offer high-achieving members exclusive retail rewards.
3. Nike store Last fall, Nike worked with ad agency Wieden+Kennedy’s tech studio, the Lodge, to create an AR-enabled sneaker customisation experience in the shoemaker’s New York City studio space. Shoppers could slip on a shoe, project different graphics onto it, and have their favourite design printed within an hour.
ground—and buzz—to No. 2 Adidas. In the US, Adidas’s market share surged from 6.8% in 2016 to 10.3% last year, according to the NPD Group. During the same period, Nike’s share dropped from 34.5% to 32.9%. Meanwhile, the shoemaker’s longtime brick-and-mortar partners have floundered as the retail landscape changes. “We realised that the market was moving fast, and consumers were moving fast,” says Adam Sussman, who became Nike’s first chief digital officer in 2016. “Mobile was becoming the main way that people were connecting with brands and shopping.” In response, Nike CEO Mark Parker announced a plan last summer to overhaul the way the company reaches customers: Though it still works with some 30 000 retailers worldwide, Nike began focusing its efforts on just 40 of them, including Foot Locker and Nordstrom. (It also began working with Amazon.) Even more important, it prioritised selling directly to customers through its own channels, which include physical shops and, increasingly, digital storefronts such as Nike.com, the Nike app, and Snkrs. Parker dubbed the effort Nike Direct. “When a brand wants to fully control how a consumer perceives it,” says NPD adviser Matt Powell, the leading authority on the sneaker business, “the best way to do that is to become its own retailer.” Parker has described the moves as “a massive transformation,” streamlining the company’s process from design to manufacturing and refining its sales experience using the data it has on more than 100 million “members” (Nike parlance for anyone who uses its training apps or makes a purchase through digital channels). He tapped Sussman, along with Heidi O’Neill, president of the new Nike Direct division, to oversee the efforts. Sussman is focused on using Nike’s own channels to offer richer and more personalised shopping experiences—and to deliver them on a vast scale. To that end, he’s been rolling out a slew of experiments across all of the company’s digital properties, which also include the Nike Run Club and Nike Training Club apps. But these days, the company’s boldest—and perhaps most impactful— experiences are playing out on Snkrs. Though limited-edition drops aren’t an especially big part of Nike’s business (according to NPD’s Powell, they make up less than 5% of the entire sneaker industry), sneakerheads are highly coveted customers—and their enthusiasm has a halo effect. (Adidas’s relationships with the likes of Kanye West and Raf Simons, for example, have dramatically changed perceptions of its brand.) What’s more, by tapping into its most obsessed customers, Nike is gaining insights on how to develop and activate a community, ideas that it can use in the sneaker wars to come.
“THE MARKET WAS MOVING FAST, AND CONSUMERS WERE MOVING FAST. MOBILE WAS BECOMING THE MAIN WAY THAT PEOPLE WERE CONNECTING WITH BRANDS,” SAYS NIKE’S ADAM SUSSMAN.
Home for the Snkrs squad is a gritty Manhattan office space known as S23NYC—
named for its street address and Michael Jordan’s number. While the teams responsible for Nike’s other digital properties are located at the company’s Beaverton, Oregon, headquarters, Snkrs’s graffiti-filled outpost operates more like a startup. Until it was acquired by Nike in 2016, it was a startup, albeit one backed by Richard Branson, called Virgin Mega. Virgin Mega’s founder, Ron Faris, helped develop the Virgin music festival while working in marketing for the company a decade ago. He was fascinated by how excited kids got as they waited to get into the festival, and it occurred to him that there are both good and bad kinds of lines. That insight led him to launch Virgin Mega and create digital tools designed to gamify the experience of shopping for high-demand goods, including a virtual queue where fans could compete to get closer to the front and interact in other ways. When Nike bought Virgin Mega, it tasked Faris, an affable Brooklyn dad who
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favours flannel shirts and oldschool Jordan sneakers, with turning Nike’s then-new Snkrs app into a test bed for the company’s digital efforts. “The idea,” says Sussman, “is that we’ll build for one product and reuse what we’ve built across the entire [Nike] portfolio.” At the same time, Nike had to repair its relationship with sneakerheads. The company, fans say, had been rolling out an excess of putatively “exclusive” product, tarnishing the desirability of even top lines like Jordans. “They alienated a lot of customers by releasing [too many pairs of] shoes that had traditionally been limited, to a point where those shoes were sitting on shelves,” says Yu-Ming Wu, founder of the annual rare-shoe expo Sneakercon. Adidas’s Kanye West– designed Yeezy shoes, meanwhile, were all the more irresistible for their elusiveness. Faris needed to make Nike’s limited-edition runs feel more rare—while making the shopping experience for them more satisfying. In slightly more than a year, S23NYC has developed a suite of
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Nike has an increasingly wide range of collaborators for its Snkrs-worthy shoes.
tools that allow for a wide variety of Snkrs experiences—and gather data about Nike’s most passionate fans. Faris and his team have rolled out Pokémon Go–inspired shoe releases, called Sneaker Stashes, in which users in a certain city are given hints to meet at specific locations. When they get near the spot, the shoe is “unlocked” on their app. With Shock Drops, a pair of shoes—for example, the Jordans that Justin Timberlake wore during his recent Super Bowl halftime performance—appear in the app and can be reserved at different vendors, including Nike’s own storefronts. The Snkrs team’s most audacious experiment took place last summer, around the release of a shoe unlike any in Nike’s history. When the brand paired up with Momofuku chef–owner David Chang to make a signature version of the classic Dunk sneaker, nobody knew whether there would be much crossover between sneakerheads and foodie culture. To get a pair, fans had to snap a photo of a Momofuku menu using the Snkrs app—which unlocked an augmented-reality moment where the shoe appeared to be floating above the menu. Not only did the shoe sell out, but it converted Chang fans into Nike ones. Faris’s team followed the Chang shoppers on the Snkrs app for four weeks after the shoe’s release. “They entered 30% more drops and spent twice as much money as normal consumers,” Faris says. “We won foodies into the sneaker-culture tribe.” Beyond the cool factor that these initiatives cultivate, there are the APIs, which can be plugged into other Nike apps. Faris envisions being able to allow runners who use the Nike Run Club app, for instance, to unlock a limited-edition performance shoe by completing certain tasks. Nike’s digital ecosystem isn’t yet stitched together as closely as it needs to be to pull this off. But Sussman says it is getting there. “It’s great to have different product teams dedicated to each of
“THE IDEA IS THAT WE’LL BUILD FOR ONE PRODUCT AND REUSE WHAT WE’VE BUILT ACROSS THE ENTIRE [NIKE] PORTFOLIO,” SUSSMAN SAYS.
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F U T U R E O F R E TA I L I N I K E
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Growing interest in streetwear has customers and investors alike turning their attention to the once niche sneaker-resale market. The top players:
3. Stadium Goods
FOUNDED IN DETROIT IN 2016
FOUNDED IN CULVER CITY, CALIFORNIA, IN 2015
FOUNDED IN NEW YORK IN 2015
5 million a month
7 million to date
15 million to date
398 000 followers
965 000 followers
708 200 followers
Buyers place bids and sellers submit asks for sneakers and other lifestyle goods On StockX, from Supreme hoodies to Louis Vuitton monogram bags. When they match, a transaction occurs automatically.
GOAT (short for Greatest of All Time) sells only sneakers—more than 400 000 of them, including the Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Beluga 2.0 and the Pharrell x Chanel x Adidas NMD Trail Human Race, which sold for $20 000.
Though 80% of Stadium Goods’s merchandise is sneakers, the most expensive item ever sold on the platform was a Supreme x Rolex Submariner watch for $50 000. A quarter of its stock is geared toward women.
The bottom line
Thanks to A-list investors like Eminem, Mark Wahlberg, Scooter Braun, and AOL’s Tim Armstrong, StockX has raised $7.5 million. It tops out at $1 million in sales daily, and projects more than $500 million in gross merchandise volume for 2018.
GOAT has raised $97.6 million in three years from high-profile investors that include former Twitter COO Adam Bain and Casey Wasserman. It recently acquired Flight Club, a sneaker consignment site with retail outposts in LA and New York.
Kirsten Green’s Forerunner Ventures has invested, and LVMH Luxury Ventures recently took an undisclosed stake. New partnerships with Alibaba’s Tmall and Nordstrom signal the platform’s global and affluent expansion. —Priya Rao
these experiences,” he says of Nike’s various apps, “because they all come up with such different ideas.” Sussman, who joined the company in 2014 as head of global strategy, credits his background in video-game publishing—with stints at Take-Two Interactive, Electronic Arts, and Disney—as key to his current role. “I learned how to drive consumer connections and leverage new technologies for the sake of better entertaining or serving the customer,” he says. He points to a new programme for the main Nike app that, though still in beta, shows how far he’d like to take things. Nike 1:1 is an experiment in something called conversational commerce, where consumers with very specific interests are paired with an expert who can help them achieve their goals, anything from finding a trendy pair of shoes (via a stylist) to training for a 5K (with a competitive runner). “Our experts will be able to get you the right gear,” says Michelle Goad, who runs the programme. “But then there is all this added value. They’ll follow up with training plans and guided runs and invite you to meetups. Keep you on point, so you don’t quit.” The company is also using data to identify underserved demographic groups and address them in new ways. One cohort Nike has recently begun targeting is female sneakerheads. During All-Star Weekend, the company debuted several lines of limitededition women’s shoes, including reinvented versions of classic Jordan models, which sold
out immediately. A week later, the company announced Nike Unlaced, a retail experience for female sneaker fans that launched online at the end of March and will roll out to physical stores this spring. Members of the platform will get same-day delivery on street-style collaborations and the chance to make one-on-one appointments with guest stylists. “There’s the style-obsessed female, and then there are women in the sneaker-fan community,” Sussman says. “We’ve found opportunities to serve both.” Nike’s retail reorientation is showing results: The company’s direct-to-consumer sales grew 16% last year—compared with 6% for the entire Nike brand. The company is now thinking about further steps. Because once you start learning what your customers want, why not feed that information into the very beginning of the Nike process—the creation of the shoe itself? For its latest project, S23NYC identified specific neighborhoods in several cities around the world where Snkrs data shows an unusual amount of demand. It recently sent researchers into those areas. “They’ll come back with videos, photo galleries, interviews,” Faris says. “They’ll really get a sense of that world—and will brief our footwear designers.” These regional shoes—which the company plans to market to residents of each area, along with people elsewhere who share affinities with them—will start appearing in late winter. The design process will be compressed, in ways that eventually the entire company might be able to take advantage of. “Because we can sell directly, we don’t have to get retailers to buy into our ideas,” Faris says. “Usually, there are months spent working with the different retailers on how we want to target [customers]. All of that stuff? It goes away when you are building a one-on-one relationship with the consumer.”
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WANTED By Elske Joubert
Innovative and sustainable fashion: G-Star RAW leads the way The G-Star Elwood RFTPi jeans and F-Staq RFTPi jacket – dubbed the brand’s “Most Sustainable Denim Ever”– have been included in the V&A Waterfront’s Fashioned from Nature exhibition.
The Fashioned from Nature exhibition, taking place from April 2018 to January 2019, “traces the complex relationship between fashion and the natural world since the 1600s. It celebrates the inspiration fashion derives from nature’s beauty and power while showing how its processes and constant demand for raw materials damage the environment. It echoes those activists who effectively campaigned for this issue, and highlights the role of design in creating a better, more sustainable fashion industry.” Edwina Ehrman, Senior Exhibition Curator at the V&A, and the one who hand-picked the items, says, “I have included G-Star’s garments in the exhibition as a great example of a brand re-thinking how clothes can be made. Their new denim fabric, coupled with design which facilitates recycling, represents a significant step forward in the global challenge of creating a cleaner, more sustainable denim industry.” G-Star, known for
their holistic approach to denim design (which includes using the world’s cleanest indigo dyeing process), is the first Cradle to Cradle Gold Level Certified denim fabric ever produced. What’s more: the products’ sustainable washing techniques are known to save water, and
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the eco-finish trims are optimised for recycling. Being champions for change and eager to see other brands adopt a similar approach to sustainable fashion, G-Star has allowed free access to their most sustainable fabric development which can be retrieved from their
Fashion Positive Materials Library. Says G-Star RAW Corporate Responsibility Director, Frouke Bruinsma, “Innovation and sustainability are at the core of the G-Star RAW DNA. We feel honoured to be part of the V&A’s Fashioned from Naturee
exhibition, which we view as a seminal moment in the wider conversation on the importance of sustainability in the fashion industry.” The garments have been donated to the V&A’s fashion archive, which will allow future researchers to access it.
I N N O VAT I O N A G E N T GHIZLAN GUENEZ
Founder and CEO, The Modist
The Modist Delivers Style Without Sacrifice
By Claire Dodson Photograph by Katarina Premfors
A native Algerian who grew up in the Middle East, Ghizlan Guenez was
working in private equity when she developed the idea for a luxury e-commerce platform devoted to the kind of clothes that she and the women in her family like to wear: high fashion, just with “long sleeves, long hems, no high slits, not too much lace,” she says. But when Guenez began taking the concept of a “modest” fashion site to designers a couple of years ago, she found that many had a very narrow idea of what that meant, envisioning plain fabrics and loose silhouettes. “[They] had a specific woman, religion, and even country in mind,” she says. “We are smashing these stereotypes.”
Led by CEO Guenez, the Modist is giving modest clothing a fashionable twist.
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I N N O VAT I O N A G E N T | T H E M O D I S T
Last March, on International Women’s Day, Guenez launched the Modist, which showcases everything from floral silk dresses to fitted sequin jumpsuits from more than 100 designers. The site, which has already attracted shoppers in 65 countries, reflects the concerns of a growing group of women who, for reasons both cultural and personal, want full-coverage clothing that doesn’t forgo style. The modest fashion space is predicted to grow into a $484 billion market by 2019, largely spurred on by Muslim shoppers, who are expected to spend $368 billion on apparel by 2021, according to the recent State of the Global Islamic Economy Report from Thomson Reuters. The fashion industry has taken notice. In February, Macy’s launched the Verona Collection, a ready-to-wear line that includes hijabs, tunics, and layered ensembles. Meanwhile, at the luxury level, houses such as Dolce & Gabbana and Burberry have spent the past couple years getting into the space, offering special abaya collections during Ramadan. The Arab Fashion Council recently expanded its Arab Fashion Week from Dubai to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In London, the two-year-old Modest Fashion Week showcases designers from around the world, including emerging labels such as Under-Rapt and 1001 Abayas. The Modist, which is one of the first platforms devoted entirely to high-end, full-coverage fashion, follows Net-a-Porter’s model of mixing curated e-commerce with content—including a seasonal print magazine, The Mod—to create a robust online community. (Guenez even hired two Net-a-Porter veterans for her team: chief operating officer Lisa Bridgett and fashion and buying director Sasha Sarokin.) The company distinguishes itself from competitors by showcasing both traditionally modest labels and appropriate styles from mainstream brands, such as Missoni, Oscar de la Renta, and Proenza Schouler. The site calls out important details like fabric thickness or how loosely an item fits, in case shoppers want to layer, and features models of different races and religions, wearing head coverings and not. “The frustration of trying to find something [modest] may be stronger with a woman who has religious reasons,” Guenez says, “but the reality is there’s a much broader consumer base. The Modist wasn’t built for just one type of woman.” Just over a year after the site’s launch, the company says monthly traffic has been growing by 45%, and Guenez is aiming to triple annual revenue in 2018. (Top markets are the Persian Gulf States, followed by the United Kingdom and the US.) The Modist’s increasing prominence has even inspired designers, including New York’s Adam Lippes, to adjust their clothes to meet its parameters— extending hems, turning sheer features opaque, and sewing up open backs or thigh slits. Lippes says he was initially skeptical that his clothes would qualify as modest fashion, but the site has proven to be an important channel for his independent brand, growing his presence “exponentially” in the Middle East. “It was a risk,” he says, “but boy, was it the right risk to take.” Guenez continues to add new designers to the site each season. When she senses gaps between what the fashion houses offer and what her customers want, the Modist commissions exclusive collections, such as a Ramadan-themed caftan capsule featuring custom pieces from London-based Mary Katrantzou, among others. Guenez says she’s already seeing evidence of her platform’s broader influence on the fashion community. On a recent trip to the Paris showroom of designer Peter Pilotto, she noted his latest collection needed little editing to fit her site’s specifications. “I told him, ‘It’s almost like it’s for us,’ ” says Guenez. Pilotto replied that the Modist customer had been on his mood board all along.
“[SOME DESIGNERS] HAD A SPECIFIC WOMAN, RELIGION, AND EVEN COUNTRY IN MIND,” SAYS GUENEZ. “WE ARE SMASHING THESE STEREOTYPES.”
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Modest Fashion on the Rise These four companies are covering shoppers around the world. 1. Uniqlo Since 2015, Uniqlo has partnered with BritishJapanese designer Hana Tajima on collections that include hijabs and traditional Southeast Asian– style baju kurung tunic dresses, but are aimed at audiences beyond the Muslim world.
2. Macy’s With the launch of its Verona Collection this past winter, Macy’s became the first major US department store to offer a range of affordable hijabs and modest basics— an opportunity for the retailer to cultivate the growing Muslim market.
3. Vivi Zubedi Up-and-coming Indonesian designer Vivi Zubedi made a splash at February’s New York Fashion Week with a show made up of only abayas, traditional robelike dresses. Zubedi’s label features textured fabrics with pearl-adorned hijabs.
4. DKNY Ramadan has emerged as an important shopping season in the Middle East, a trend that this New York–based brand tapped into by launching annual Ramadan-themed capsules in 2014. Its most recent line included maxi dresses and silk tunics.
LEADING EDGE APOLITICAL
Illustration by Josh McKenna
wonks growing—and with seed funding from the European Union, plus investors spread across five continents—S cott and Witter expanded the platform last summer to include peer-topeer sharing, allowing users to discuss issues and solutions.
T H E R E S U LT
GUTTER CREDIT TK
An International Exchange for Innovative Policy
THE PROBLEM Policy makers often operate as if the challenges facing their country are unique to their own borders, when in fact legislators around the world may have encountered similar issues— and come up with applicable solutions.
Robyn Scott cofounded an organisation that taught entrepreneurship and coding to prisoners in South Africa. Working in that environment showed her the power of policy—especially around mental-health care and education— and what happens when it fails. She met Lisa Witter, a former member of the Seattle City Council, in
London in 2011. They discovered a mutual frustration over the information gap facing public officials, and set out to stop the constant “recreation of the wheel.”
THE EXECUTION In 2015, they launched Apolitical, a website featuring articles and case studies about policy advancements. With their network of lawmakers and policy
Public servants in more than 120 countries, including the US, now use Apolitical to understand how other governments operate. For some, it’s a source of inspiration: A European ministry of justice employee turned to the platform to study up on universal basic income experiments happening on a small scale around the world, and used them as a blueprint for a criminal justice exercise in his own country. For others, it’s a way to network. The UK government’s Cabinet Office seeded discussions about public–private partnerships on the site; later, it took the conversation offline by hosting Apolitical’s official UK launch, which was attended by officials from the United Arab Emirates, Sweden, India, and more. Apolitical is already achieving Scott’s original goal: inspiring officials with examples of success. “We’re so good at celebrating innovation in the private sector,” says Scott. “We wanted to show that governments have heroes, too.”
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MASTERCLASS CAMILLE HACKNEY
E V P, B r a n d P a r t n e r s h i p s a n d Licensing, Atlantic Records/ Warner Music Group
Hackney helps Atlantic’s musicians strike meaningful deals with brands like Pepsi, American Express, and Samsung.
By Claire Dodson Photograph by Natalia Mantini
How This Atlantic Records Matchmaker Creates Pitch-Perfect Partnerships When it comes to advertising, brands have traditionally needed musicians more than musicians have needed brands. But as the popularity of streaming continues to drive down album sales, more artists are seeking out lucrative campaigns and licensing deals. At Atlantic Records, home to Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, Kelly Clarkson, and other stars, EVP of brand partnerships and licensing Camille Hackney helps both sides navigate this new terrain. Here’s what she has learned about blending art with sales.
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I M PA C T S TA R T S W I T H S I N C E R I T Y Early in her career at Atlantic Records, Hackney watched as a hip-hop artist trashed a brand partner in an interview and quickly learned the consequences of a forced relationship. “The artist has to truly love the brand, or you’re going to be on pins and needles the whole duration of the contract,” she says. Now, each time she meets a new Atlantic artist, she asks a series of questions: “What do you wear?” “What devices do you use?” “What do you eat and drink?” The responses serve as starting points for outreach to clothing labels and tech companies. For example, when “Jar of Hearts” singer Christina Perri announced in her first meeting with Hackney that she had a Mini Cooper tattoo on her driving foot, Hackney knew immediately whom to call, and BMW ended up sponsoring several of Perri’s music videos. “You’re in a much better position when you can say, ‘My artist loves your brand. How can we work together?’ ” says Hackney.
Happy Couples Atlantic artists and brands that hit it off 1. Cardi B and Amazon The “Bodak Yellow” rapper starred in two 2017 spots in which she impersonated Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa, with her signature sass.
L E AV E R O O M F O R G R O W T H
Erika Goldring/Getty Images) (Cardi B); Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images (Mars); Dimitri Hakke/Redferns via Getty Images (Monáe); Andrew Chin/Getty Images) (Khalifa)
When new artists join the label, they’re often open to any partnership opportunity that might come their way. That’s fine in the beginning, when publicity is a priority, says Hackney. But as musicians develop their image, she leads them toward partnerships that can benefit more than just their wallets. For bodypositive rapper Lizzo, licensing deals with companies like Apple and Cadillac have been significant—but a 2017 spot with plus-size retailer Lane Bryant proved even more effective for connecting with her fan base. Sometimes, Hackney has learned, the potential lies not in the music itself but the method: Grammy-nominated R&B singer Kehlani is known for her highly physical performances, which won her an endorsement deal with activity-proof beauty products from Make Up For Ever.
2. Bruno Mars and the NFL The Grammy winner headlined the 2014 Super Bowl halftime show. The performance drew a record 115.3 million viewers.
TELL IT LIKE IT IS One way Hackney builds strong relationships is by delivering bad news fast. If, for example, an artist gets arrested, “you don’t want [the brand] to read about it on TMZ,” she says. Her straightforward reputation has helped draw companies including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Samsung, and the NFL into the Atlantic ecosystem, where they have become regular partners. It’s also helped her land deals for newer artists with smaller followings. She recalls bringing NFL representatives to Bruno Mars shows in 2013 and selling them on an artist who, while popular, wasn’t yet iconic. His 2014 Super Bowl halftime gig ended up breaking viewership records. “They have to trust that we can read the tea leaves,” she says.
”YOU’RE IN A MUCH BETTER POSITION WHEN YOU CAN SAY, ‘MY ARTIST LOVES YOUR BRAND. HOW CAN WE WORK TOGETHER?’”
HUMANISE THE ARRANGEMENT Hackney has one requirement during negotiations: The brand representatives and the artist have to speak directly with one another, either in person or on the phone, before they sign a deal. “Both parties are building brands, and each needs to talk about who they are, their goals and strategies,” she says. She’s learned that when musicians have a chance to put a face to what can otherwise seem like an anonymous corporation, they’re more likely to understand the importance of their actions while they’re under contract (and less likely to flake on engagements). Brands, meanwhile, are less likely to make unrealistic requests, like a “no change in appearance” clause once suggested for an artist famous for altering her hair colour daily. Understanding one another’s values, she says, “always makes a partnership stronger.”
3. Janelle Monáe and Belvedere Vodka Actress and musician Monáe recently signed a partnership with Belvedere Vodka, the first fruit of which is a short film series curated by Monáe.
4. Wiz Khalifa and Converse Khalifa loves Chuck Taylors so much he named his record label Taylor Gang. He later collaborated with Converse on multiple shoe collections and ad campaigns.
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ACCELERATING STARTUPS & DISRUPTING INDUSTRIES
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Startupbootcamp (SBC) is one of the leading global, early-stage tech accelerator programmes in the world. Fast Company SA caught up with Philip Kiracofe, co-founder and CEO of SBC Africa, and Zachariah George, co-founder and Chief Investment Officer of SBC Africa. Writer: Elske Joubert
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Google Cloud and Cisco. The programme is also supported by several service partners including Cloudworx, VC4A, Inner City Ideas Cartel, Brevity Law and The Loudhailer. Due to the B2B nature of the companies SBC works with, the primary focus is to create strong commercial opportunities for innovative tech ventures, thereby providing them a clear route to market through strategic partnerships with leading banks, insurance companies, telecoms and retailers across the continent.
Can you give us an overview of the Startupbootcamp organisation? Zach: SBC grows startups globally by giving them direct access to an international network of relevant partners, content, investors and mentors in their sector in more than 30 countries. Founded in 2010, SBC operates 21 accelerator programmes in 20 locations annually around the world. It is the only multicorporate and multigeography focused accelerator programme that helps corporations solve critical business challenges through disruptive innovation. SBC does this by engaging with top-tier tech startups that can integrate with SBC’s corporate partners and simultaneously grow and scale them quickly. Presently, 79% of SBC alumni teams are still active and 71% have gone on to raise additional funding from many of the world’s leading VCs and Angels. Last year, the global Startupbootcamp network launched the firstever Africa-based SBC 22
How would you define being an entrepreneur? Philip: It’s a combination of passion,
Philip Kiracofe (above) has summited Mt Kilimanjaro, completed two Ironman triathlons and the Comrades Marathon.
programme in Cape Town. SBC Africa is a leading accelerator focused on high-growth startups in blockchain, connected devices, payment solutions, capital markets and asset management, integrated supply chain, e-commerce, FinTech, RetailTech, InsurTech, alternative financing, identity management, digital connectivity, data and behavioural analytics and enabling technologies. The accelerator is anchored by leading corporate sponsors Old Mutual, RCS, BNP Paribas Personal Finance, Nedbank, Woolworths Financial Services, and PwC that will support and grow the programme and selected startups. Global sponsors include Amazon Web Services,
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But here are our top 10: 1. Evaluate technologies dispassionately before you get involved. Avoid falling in love with your idea or your product. 2. When developing an idea, understand the behaviour of the focus customer segment. It’s easy to assume wrong and just as easy to fail. 3. Customers don’t pay for the world record – they pay for a solution that either saves them money, makes them money or makes their lives better. 4. Be aware of the long-term impact of short-term benefits; it’s a long winding road to commercialisation. 5. Tick the “stupid” things first; incorporation, equity, defining roles and
“In Africa, startups have even more hurdles and challenges, so entrepreneurs here must be willing to defy conventional wisdom and often walk a lonely road.” vision, audacity, and arguably a dose of insanity. There is a great quote from George Bernard Shaw that says: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” In more mature ecosystems in the US, Europe, and Asia, there are many stakeholders (media, investors, corporate partners, developers, and early adopters) who support and fuel the entrepreneurial process. In Africa, startups have even more hurdles and challenges, so entrepreneurs here must be willing to defy conventional wisdom and often walk a lonely road. Being an entrepreneur is also a lot about being resilient enough to accept setbacks and constantly learn from experiences – good, bad or ugly. What advice do you have for ‘techpreneurs’ who are looking to make a name for themselves and bring their product to market? Zach: There’s a lot of advice we can give based on our experiences meeting hundreds of tech entrepreneurs over the last few years in Africa.
responsibilities and authority will enable you to focus on the core task of making it happen. 6. The market will frequently put a higher perceived value on the solution than what the technology team might imagine, but this will only be known once you get there. 7. Don’t assume that the tech team has all the answers simply because they are the best at what they do. Your vision may be the only right one, simply because you have one. 8. There is such a thing as too much rocket science. When you’re being enamoured by what the technology is, ask what it can do and how soon it can do it for real people. 9. When communicating, keep it simple. People hear what they want to hear – depending on motivation and relevance. 10. Identify team-related issues early and work on resolving them. They won’t go away. It’s ego – not lack of funding – that’s the primary cause for startup implosion. What, in your opinion, does it take to run a successful company? Philip: A successful company is one that remains in the perpetual pursuit
of failing (vs failure). In order to be truly disruptive, companies must never hesitate to take risks, especially big risks. Fail often and fail fast is the modus operandi, as that enables companies to do customer validation and discover product-market fit so that they can scale as quickly as possible. You launched your first Africa-based programme in 2017. What were some of the challenges and successes? Zach: It took us around 18 months from inception to execution to get Startupbootcamp off the ground in Africa. The concept of corporate venturing in Africa was pretty much non-existent until about 3-4 years ago. Interactions between large corporations and startups in Africa, prior to 2014, was mostly limited to either CSR/ CSI/enterprise development initiatives and/or pure M&A, and innovation within corporates was mostly internally focused. In 2015, we ran the first-ever corporate-backed pilot accelerator programme for tech startups in Africa supported by Barclays Africa, and followed that with an accelerator programme for the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation in 2016. Both these programmes were very successful and several ventures that were part of it ended up getting substantial commercial traction and receiving significant investment capital. Getting large corporations to source external innovation through light, lean experiments, pilots and proof-of-concepts (PoCs) with disruptive tech startups was a pioneering step forward and was made possible thanks to some truly bold and visionary executives at our corporate partners. Startupbootcamp Africa, which is based on a truly open innovation driven ecosystem around corporates, mentors, investors, talent and startups has now made it possible for corporates to be more innovative and solve serious business challenges and simultaneously get startups access to market, clients and distribution channels to help them scale and grow more effectively. This year, SBC will be hosting FastTracks in several cities. What are some of the outcomes you are expecting from these events? Philip: This year, we will host a total of 19 FastTrack events across Africa, the Middle East and Europe, with 14 on the continent. Each city offers a unique insight into the particular challenges of the region. In Zimbabwe, where access to cash is very limited, 4 out of the 10 startups at our FastTrack were cryptocurrencies. In Ghana, there were several intriguing AgriTech businesses. Lagos delivered some great FinTech solutions and also 2 startups tackling transportation solutions. In East Africa, we met some very exciting founders with big visions for digital commerce services and mobile-money. While we always hope to meet founders who may end up in the SBC Accelerator programme, the simple reality is that we can only host 10 companies per programme,
so the vast majority of the startups will not get in, despite being very promising. So one of the most important outcomes is that every startup that attends leaves with tangible and material benefits. Each team receives nearly 2 hours of feedback from 5 different sets of mentors which can help propel the company towards greater validation. FastTracks regularly result in collaborations between the startups and our corporate partners. Why the need for accelerator programmes – especially in South Africa and Africa? Philip: African startups and corporates operate at a significant disadvantage compared to their competitors in Tier 1 tech ecosystems. Accelerators help founders move along the validation curve much faster by providing opportunities to work closely with some of the most innovative corporates on the continent. We also invest a significant amount of time working with the senior leadership of the corporate partners who are fully committed to transforming their internal cultures to be more lean and agile. Startupbootcamp creates a safe sandbox where that collaboration can take root, risks are centrally managed and then launch takes place. Our estimate is that alumni of these world-class accelerators can compress 12-18 months of growth into 3 months. Can you give a couple of examples of success stories that came from startups’ involvement with SBC? Zach: One of the things we are most proud of at SBC Africa is how so many of the startups in our 2017 cohort have pivoted their business models to be smarter in the way they acquire customers and scale their businesses through ways that are both costeffective and resource-light. By engaging commercially with our corporate partners (both inside and outside of our programme) through 32 proofof-concept projects, experiments and pilots, they were able to shorten their route to market, prove traction and be much better positioned to raise capital. Although it is hard for us to choose just a couple of our success stories, it is worth highlighting specifically the extent of the impact across different sectors. Here are examples of startups from two seemingly
diametrically opposite verticals, fintech and social-tech: DusuPay – A payment infrastructure startup from Uganda came into our cohort with around 1,000 customers and a good track record of implementing cross-border payment solutions across several African countries. Through our accelerator, they have now added South Africa to their roster, tripled their customer base to over 3,000 users, established key strategic partnerships with several banks, retailers, lenders and payment aggregators, as well as completely restructured their legal and operational entities to make them more efficient and simpler to work with. Brownie Points – Brownie Points originally came into our cohort as a social enterprise helping non-profit organisations get more volunteers on board to make the process of volunteering more structured, streamlined and coordinated. Through our accelerator, they have now developed a tangible and scalable commercial business model where small and large corporations can run entire CSI programmes that actively engage employees by combining all forms of giving – money, in-kind, time and skills through the Brownie Points tech platform. The platform, often touted as the ‘Discovery Vitality of Volunteering’, now simultaneously encourages, facilitates and incentivises individuals and businesses to volunteer and donate; helps nonprofit organisations set and reach goals for external support to improve and scale their impact; and promotes innovationdriven philanthropy by using online technologies to make a big difference. MAY 2018 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A
What are some of the digital trends you can forecast for the upcoming year? Zach: 1. A.I. - The New Electricity: In every device, app and website, in every service interaction, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be the norm – the default
“I have an inherent desire and responsibility to leave a lasting, impactful legacy through my work that goes beyond just a job or a career.”
Zachariah George (above) is a long-time singer and acoustic guitarist with an iTunes album.
Can you tell us the story behind the Green Eggs & Ham book? Philip: The classic tale by Doctor Seuss helps illustrate the quest for Product-Market-Fit (PMF). To discover PMF requires extensive experiments to validate the assumptions. Through a series of buildmeasure-learn iterations, entrepreneurs can develop and refine PMF, as opposed to ‘discovering’ it in a magical Eureka moment. In the book, Sam I Am undertakes dozens of failed tests for his product in the market before he ultimately finds the right customer and achieves PMF. How important is digital transformation/ disruption in the future growth of Africa? Philip: One of the most intractable and impactful trends that we face this century is the relentless population growth. According to UN projections, global population will increase by roughly 4 billion people in the next 80 years, and Africa will 24
account for a staggering 90%. By the end of this century, the 3 most populous cities in the world, and 12 of the 20 largest cities on the planet will be in Africa! It is simply impossible to imagine how we can adapt to municipal growth rates of 400-800%. The only possible path forward will be a profound disruption across every aspect of life. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, disruption is literally an existential necessity for Africa. If one accepts that world view, then the next logical question is ‘where will the disruptors come from?’ We fundamentally believe that the entrepreneurs who are living here and facing these challenges every day have the best understanding of the market conditions and therefore the best chance to develop the disruptive solutions. Startupbootcamp is here to discover, support, and scale those companies so they can compete on a Pan-African and global stage.
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expectation. AI will become the new electricity. There will be a rapid rise in machine-learning methods, and a huge demand for data scientists. 2. Humanity 2.0 is Coming: Forget ‘Augmented Reality’. Think ‘Augmented Humanity’. What separates humanity from other species on the planet is our incredible ability to imagine and invent ways to “hack” the world and achieve the outcomes we want. A lot of use-cases will fundamentally upgrade human ability rather than replace humans. Our technology will be co-pilots, not autopilots, and together we will achieve new levels of efficiencies that have never been seen before – like real-time translation of foreign languages 3. Entering a world of Zero UI: We will start shifting to a world of seamless tech from the visual world to the intuitive, where emotions and expressions, speech and gestures will manipulate our data and devices rather than buttons, i.e. Zero UI. Screenless interactions with products and rather interactions with the world based on mood, tone of voice, etc.
Questions for Philip Can you predict which sectors and industries will undergo major disruption in the next few years? Not a chance. Trying to predict the specific verticals with the greatest potential is far beyond me. And this is one of the explicit reasons that we are not running a programme targeting any particular sector. We are betting on ‘Africa’ as our vertical and believe that
there is potential for major disruption in literally every industry. One of the most critical lessons we teach our founders is to be relentlessly engaging and to constantly be searching for PMF. The market always decides which products have a chance and ONLY then can we help them scale. So we can be industry agnostic while still ensuring that the founders get the full benefits of our expertise. Your trajectory spans from technology to real estate to various entrepreneurial ventures. You’re quite accomplished: you’ve summited Mount Kilimanjaro, completed Ironman triathlons and a Comrades marathon. How do you balance work and play? My wife would certainly argue that I don’t balance work and play very well at all. Fortunately, she is also an entrepreneur so she understands – or at least tolerates – my intensity. Given my role as a CEO of an accelerator, it’s not surprising that I tend to take things to the extreme. The draw of these big challenges for me is how to shift one’s perspective to win the mental game. When I trained for Comrades, I was living in NYC and we had a group of friends that transformed endurance training into social outings. Instead of boozy brunches or barhopping, we spent our weekends on long, leisurely jaunts around the city. We once ran the entire perimeter of the island (52km) in the middle of a snowstorm. What would you do with an extra hour in your day? One of the secrets to getting more done is to find growth hacks in unusual places. I attended a military academy for university and one of the life skills they taught us was how to sleep faster than normal. This allows one to get the equivalent of 8 hours of sleep in 5 hours of elapsed time and those extra hours of ‘found’ time are invaluable. Sadly, I still feel like there is never enough time to achieve everything on my bucket list.
Questions for Zachariah You were an investment banker working on Wall Street before you came to South Africa. What drew you to this country, and to Cape Town specifically?
Post the global financial crisis of 2008, after spending a couple of years at Barclays in New York, I came to Cape Town on holiday in 2010 to catch some of the action at the FIFA Soccer World Cup. Cape Town certainly lived up to the hype of being the ‘San Francisco of Africa’, with its stunning views of the mountain and ocean, the winelands, the art deco, music, food, theatre and culture. What I did NOT expect to find in Cape Town were 5 critical elements that create a self-sustaining, growing entrepreneurial ecosystem: 1. Young, talented, techsavvy entrepreneurs – developers, designers and digital marketers from top-tier technical and business schools opting to pursue an entrepreneurial path by working with startup founders. 2. A growing pool of risk capital from high net worth individuals, families and Angel
investing groups that are gradually becoming aware of early stage venture capital instruments as an alternative asset class. 3. Corporations looking beyond traditional ‘internal’ innovation and product development programmes by venturing into the realm of expedited external innovation through partnerships with startups disrupting ‘business-as-usual’. 4. The emergence of accelerators, incubators and high-growth entrepreneurial support organisations that provide the ideal channel and means for corporates to administer proofof-concept pilots with startups. 5. An active, willing and ‘red-tape light’ government (at the national, provincial and municipal level) that seeks to promote greater economic development by providing incentives to
small/medium sized businesses through incentives like tax subsidies, R&D grants, etc. From mechanical engineer to Stanford University to venture capitalist to a parent to having an album on iTunes. How do you manage to do it all? For starters, let me say this - it’s not easy. One side of me is very analytical, ambitious and purpose driven - always looking to pioneer big, impactful changes in business and society. Having gone to good schools and worked for top-tier firms, I have an inherent desire and responsibility to leave a lasting, impactful legacy through my work that goes beyond just a job or a career. But the other side of me is very creative and artsy. I have been a singer and musician since I was 13. I read and write quite a bit, enjoy competitive sport and am a big lover of the performing arts. But the one thing that grounds me through it all is being a parent. My 4-year-old daughter and two teenage stepchildren have the uncanny and beautiful ability to remind me that life is about experiences and moments that make you come alive, and that at the end of the day, we are all just human beings with hearts. Significance, not success, is ultimately what matters. There are five tenets I try my best to live by (from ancient Toltec philosophy) -
1. Be impeccable with your word 2. Don’t take anything personally 3. Don’t make assumptions 4. Always do your best 5. Be skeptical, but learn to listen What would you do with an extra hour in your day? One of the things I cherish most about my childhood growing up in the Middle East in the 80s and 90s was the abundance of books on classic English literature, fiction, non-fiction, travel documentaries, etc. as well as the volumes of old-school music (rock ‘n’ roll, blues, jazz, classical music) that I was exposed to. In the insanely digital world we live in today, I would love to spend a magical extra hour each day reading classic works of fiction, listening to incredibly talented singer-songwriters or go for a hike in the mountains! Learn more about SBC here: www. startupbootcamp.org/accelerator/ cape-town Application deadline: 24 May 2018
A L U M N I Ten startups from the Startupbootcamp Africa 2017 cohort
Khoyn is an AI-powered shopping assistant that allows users to discover and shop fashion from thousands of retailers in Facebook Messenger. It provides the user with a personalised shopping experience by curating products to the users’ specific style, size, and budget. “We are reinventing the way Africa shops online.” www.khoyn.com
2. BROWNIE POINTS
Brownie Points is a platform that connects volunteers and companies with nonprofit organisations to achieve meaningful impact. They simplify volunteering and donations and reward good deeds with brownie points, a social currency that accumulates over a lifetime of giving. These points can be redeemed for over 60 lifestyle and retail vouchers. www.brownie-points.co.za
GotBot is a multi-channel AI solution, focused on increasing and improving retail and customer experience for businesses through always-on AI, real-time training. Created out of a need to build innovative, adaptable and solutions-driven Artificial Intelligence for the retail and communications sector. www.gotbot.co.za
4 . D U S U P AY
DusuPay is a payment infrastructure provider that enables businesses to accept and make payments to mobile wallets across Africa. DusuPay powers global payments with Africa and provides the most secure, efficient, simple and fast infrastructure to process payments globally with our continent. www.dusupay.com
MOBicure is a mobile health company solving Africa’s biggest health problems. They launched the OMOMi app, which is providing 37 000 mothers with access to life-saving maternal and child health information and connecting them with doctors via mobile. www.mobicure.biz
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6 . B R AV E
Brave provides employers with the ability to better manage key health risks that may affect their employees’ productivity, absenteeism and morale. They enable businesses to access the best private healthcare at a low cost whilst rewarding healthy employees with a range of value-added benefits. www.gobrave.co.za
7. J U S T N O W
JustNow is a system that helps both large and small food businesses save money while increasing revenue and client engagement. This is achieved by reducing fresh food waste through the use of a smart advertising mobile application. www.justnow.co
FoSho is a digital peer-topeer insurer enabling users to congregate into groups to reduce their short-term insurance costs. They are taking the hassle out of insurance issuance and fulfilment by using AI and machine learning to tailor the user experience and making it easier for customers to manage all their insurance needs. www.fo-sho.co.za
9. SPOON MONEY
Spoon Money is an impact-driven enterprise that tracks the financial behaviour of group savings and credit schemes (stokvels). Spoon Money capitalises creditworthy groups in order to support their financial growth, thereby bolstering economic activity in townships. www.spoonmoney.com
10. VIRTUAL DRIVE
Virtual Drive is a virtual portal, connecting private buyers and sellers (P2P) securely. Virtual Drive’s mission is to provide a revolutionary digital platform that allows vehicle buyers and sellers to connect safely and enjoy the benefits of dealership support within a private sale environment. www.vdrive.co.za
SPONSORS AND PARTNERS of the Startupbootcamp Africa programme
OLD MUTUAL Old Mutual, a partner to the Startupbootcamp Africa and Startupbootcamp London InsurTech programmes, believes in the mutual value created when a large corporate teams up with innovative entrepreneurs. “The external innovation partnerships complement Old Mutual’s internal innovation drive, which encourages employees to create and imagine solutions to existing customer, process or business pain points.” – Stanley Gabriel.
RCS CEO of RCS, Regan Adams, has invested heavily because of his vision and belief that local entrepreneurs can be the driving force behind the innovative technologies of tomorrow, particularly the systems and processes most relevant to financial services institutions in South Africa. “It is without a doubt that the RCS Group, with the global support of BNP Paribas Personal Finance, are committed to innovation and ultimately support the true potential of the African continent.”
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B N P PA R I BAS PERSONAL FINANCE As a core sponsor of the 2018 Startupbootcamp programme, BNP Paribas, one of the largest banks in Europe, believes that investing in startups is the way of the future. The sponsorship for this global bank is managed by their consumer finance division, BNP Paribas Personal Finance and its African subsidiary, BNP Paribas Personal Finance South Africa, trading as RCS. – Natacha Baumann-Bonte
NEDBANK “Africa’s tech ecosystem is exciting and growing fast. The success of these burgeoning ecosystems relies on gritty entrepreneurs, talented tech startup teams, venture capitalists, corporates with foresight and accelerator programmes like Startupbootcamp that connect all aspects of the system and create synergies.” – Stuart van der Veen.
PWC “PwC is getting as close as we can to ten startup businesses who are living the daily challenges of being an entrepreneur. They don’t get reliable salaries, have marketing and HR departments, or a big brand. When things need to happen, they need to make it happen, and spend their lives overcoming challenges between them and their goals.” – Paul Mitchell.
CLOUDWORX THE LOUDHAILER – S T R A T E G I C C O M M U N I C AT I O N S
Photographer and retoucher: Dylan Louw; Lighting Assistant: Kira Bird; Hair and Make up: Niki De Wet
INNER CITY IDEAS CARTEL - COWORKING HUB
“When it comes to the future of innovation in Africa, although the continent has a long way to go, the prospects are both endless and exciting for leaders and influencers. We know that offering dynamic, curated, connected workspaces adds tremendous value to entrepreneurs’ networking, collaborating and maintaining big-idea thinking.” – Schuyler Vorster, Founder ICIC. www.ideascartel.com
THE LOUDHAILER – S T R AT E G I C C O M M U N I C AT I O N S
“Now is the time to get involved and tell the African innovation story collectively as a continent to attract investment, grow talent, and drive this economic agenda. Through the partnerships we support we work to communicate and connect in a manner that stimulates investments, integration into opportunities, and critical collaboration between global and African innovation players.” – Caitlin Nash & Jo Griffiths, Managing Partners, The Loudhailer. www.theloudhailer.org
INNER CITY IDEAS CARTEL
BREVITY LAW - LEGAL
THE LOUDHAILER – S T R AT E G I C C O M M U N I C AT I O N S
“In the midst of creativity, it was clear how undervalued legal concepts around shareholding, management, and company structure are for startups. Africa has so much entrepreneurship potential. However, this potential can only flourish within appropriate structures, supported by the necessary contracts. On the other hand, there is no scope for overlawyering. Brevity Law aims to provide this balance,” – Juliette Thirsk, Director Brevity Law. www.brevitylaw.co.za
CLOUDWORX - FINANCIAL SERVICES
“The best part about working with startups is that they understand technology and how to use it to do things better and faster which makes doing our job easier and allows us to provide a better service. It’s also exciting to get in on the ground floor of a venture and be a part of helping it grow.” – Gareth Price, Director. Cloudworx www.cloudworxsa.com
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Hijacked How Twitter’s zeal for free speech blinded the company to safety concerns—and what it’s doing to make up for it now By Austin Carr and Harry McCracken
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YAIR ROSENBERG WANTED TO TROLL THE TROLLS. Rosenberg, a senior writer for Jewish-focused news-and-culture website Tablet Magazine, had become a leading target of anti-Semitic Twitter users during his reporting on the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Despite being pelted with slurs, he wasn’t overly fixated on the Nazis who had embraced the service. “For the most part I found them rather laughable and easily ignored,” he says. But one particular type of Twitter troll did gnaw at him: the ones who posed as minorities—using stolen photos of real people—and then infiltrated high-profile conversations to spew venom. “Unsuspecting readers would see this guy who looks like an Orthodox Jew or a Muslim woman saying something basically offensive,” he explains. “So they think, Oh, Muslims are religious. Jews are religious. And they are horrifically offensive people.” Rosenberg decided to fight back. Working with Neal Chandra, a San Francisco–based developer, he created an automated Twitter bot called Imposter Buster. Starting in December 2016, it inserted itself into the same Twitter threads as the hoax accounts and politely exposed the trolls’ masquerade (“FYI, this account is a racist impersonating a Jew to defame Jews”). Imposter Buster soon came under attack itself—by racists who reported it to Twitter for harassment. Unexpectedly, the company sided with the trolls: It suspended the bot for spammy behavior the following April. With assistance from the AntiDefamation League, Rosenberg and Chandra got that decision 30 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A MAY 2018
reversed three days later. But their targets continued to file harassment reports, and last December Twitter once again blacklisted Imposter Buster, this time for good. Rosenberg, who considers his effort good citizenship rather than vigilantism, still isn’t sure why Twitter found it unacceptable; he never received an explanation directly from the company. But the ruling gave racists a win by technical knockout. For all the ways in which the Imposter Buster saga is unique, it’s also symptomatic of larger issues that have long bedeviled Twitter: abuse, the weaponising of anonymity, bot wars, and slowmotion decision making by the people running a real-time platform. These problems have only intensified since Donald Trump became president and chose Twitter as his primary mouthpiece. The platform is now the world’s principal venue for politics and outrage, culture and conversation—the home for both #MAGA and #MeToo. This status has helped improve the company’s fortunes. Daily usage is up a healthy 12% year over year, and Twitter reported its first-ever quarterly profit in February, capping a 12-month period during which its stock doubled. Although the company still seems unlikely ever to match Facebook’s scale and profitability, it’s not in danger of failing. The occasional cries from financial analysts for CEO Jack Dorsey to sell Twitter or from critics for him to shut it down look more and more out of step. Despite Twitter’s more comfortable standing, Dorsey has been increasingly vocal about his service’s problems. “We are committed to making Twitter safer,” the company pledged in its February shareholder letter. On the accompanying investor call, Dorsey outlined an “information quality” initiative to improve content and accounts on the service. Monthly active users have stalled at 330 million—a fact that the company attributes in part to its ongoing pruning of spammers. Twitter’s cleanup efforts are an admission, albeit an implicit one, that the array of troublemakers who still roam the platform—the hatemongers, fake-news purveyors, and armies of shady bots designed to influence public opinion—are impeding its ability to grow. (Twitter did not make Dorsey, or any other executive, available to be interviewed for this story. Most of the more than 60 sources we spoke to, including 44 former Twitter employees, requested anonymity.)
“You can’t take credit for the Arab Spring without taking responsibility for Donald Trump,” says Leslie Miley, a former engineering safety manager at Twitter. MAY 2018 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A 31
in the Obama administration. Internally, Twitter thought of itself as “the free-speech wing of the freeThough the company has taken speech party.” significant steps in recent years to This ideology proved naive. “Twitter became so convinced of the virtue of its commitment to free remove bad actors, it hasn’t shaken speech that the leadership utterly misunderstood how it was being hijacked and weaponised,” says a the lingering impression that it isn’t former executive. trying hard enough to make the service The first sign of trouble was spam. Child pornography, phishing attacks, and bots flooded the a safer space. Twitter’s response to tweetstream. Twitter, at the time, seemed to be distracted by other challenges. When the company negative incidents is often unsatisfying appointed Dick Costolo as CEO in October 2010, he was trying to fix Twitter’s underlying infrastructure— to its users and more than a trifle the company had become synonymous with its “fail whale” server-error page, which exemplified its mysterious—its punishment of weak engineering foundation. Though Twitter was rocketing toward 100 million users during 2011, its Rosenberg, instead of his tormentors, antispam team included just four dedicated engineers. “Spam was incredibly embarrassing, and they being a prime example. “Please can built these stupidly bare-minimum tools to [fight it],” says a former senior engineer. someone smart make a new website Twitter’s trust and safety group, responsible for safeguarding users, was run by Del Harvey, Twitter where there’s only 140 characters and employee No. 25. She had an atypical résumé for Silicon Valley: Harvey had previously worked with no Nazis?” one user tweeted shortly Perverted Justice, a controversial volunteer group that used web chat rooms to ferret out apparent after Twitter introduced 280-character sexual predators, and partnered with NBC’s To Catch a Predator, posing as a minor to lure in pedophiles tweets in November. for arrest on TV. Her lack of traditional technical and policy experience made her a polarising figure Twitter is not alone in wrestling with within the organisation, although allies have found her passion about safety issues inspiring. In the fact that its product is being corrupted the early days, “she personally responded to individual [affected] users—Del worked tirelessly,” for malevolence: Facebook and Google says Macgillivray. “[She] took on some of the most complex issues that Twitter faced. We didn’t get have come under heightened scrutiny everything right, but Del’s leadership was very often a factor when we did.” since the presidential election, as more Harvey’s view, championed by Macgillivray and other executives, was that bad speech could information comes to light revealing how ultimately be defeated with more speech, a belief that echoed Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’s 1927 their platforms are being manipulated. landmark First Amendment decision that this remedy is always preferable to “enforced silence.” Harvey The companies’ responses have been occasionally used as an example the phrase “Yo bitch,” which bad actors intend as invective, but others timid, reactive, or worse. “All of them are perceive as a sassy hello. Who was Twitter to decide? The marketplace of ideas would figure it out. guilty of waiting too long to address the By 2012, spam was mutating into destructive trolling and hate speech. The few engineers in current problem, and all of them have a Harvey’s group had built some internal tools to enable her team to more quickly remove illegal content long way to go,” says Jonathon Morgan, such as child pornography, but they weren’t prepared for the proliferation of harassment on Twitter. founder of Data for Democracy, a team of “Every time you build a wall, someone is going to build a higher ladder, and there are always more technologists who tackle governmental people outside trying to f*ck you over than there are inside trying to stop them,” says a former platform social-impact projects. engineer. That year, Australian TV personality Charlotte Dawson was The stakes are particularly subjected to a rash of vicious tweets—e.g., “go hang yourself”—after she high for Twitter, given the spoke out against online abuse. Dawson attempted suicide and was essential role it plays in hospitalised. The following summer, in the UK, after activist Caroline enabling breaking news and Criado-Perez campaigned to get a woman’s image featured on the global discourse. Its challenges, 10-pound note, her Twitter feed was deluged with trolls sending her 50 increasingly, are the world’s. How rape threats per hour. did Twitter get into this mess? Why is it only now addressing Number of points the Dow fell the malfeasance that has dogged The company responded by creating a dedicated button for on April 23, 2013, after the Syrian the platform for years? “Safety reporting abuse within tweets, yet trolls only grew stronger on the Electronic Army hacked the AP’s got away from Twitter,” says a platform. Internally, Costolo complained that the “abuse economics” Twitter account and spread false former VP at the company. “It were “backward.” It took just seconds to create an account to harass rumours about a terror attack on the White House was Pandora’s box. Once it’s someone, but reporting that abuse required filling out a timeopened, how do you put it all consuming form. Harvey’s team, earnest about reviewing the context back in again?” of each reported tweet but lacking a large enough support staff, moved slowly. Multiple sources say it wasn’t uncommon for her group to take months to respond to backlogged abuse tickets. User support agents manually evaluated flagged tweets, but they were so In Twitter’s early days, as the overwhelmed by tickets that if banned users appealed a suspension, they would sometimes simply microblogging platform’s founders release the offenders back onto the platform. “They were drowning,” says a source who worked closely were figuring out its purpose, its with Harvey. “To this day, it’s shocking to me how bad Twitter was at safety.” users showed them Twitter’s power Twitter’s leadership, meanwhile, was focused on preparing for the company’s November 2013 IPO, for good. Galvanised by global social and as a result it devoted the bulk of its engineering resources to the team overseeing user growth, movements, dissidents, activists, and which was key to Twitter’s pitch to Wall Street. Harvey didn’t have the technical support she needed to whistle-blowers embracing Twitter, free build scalable solutions to Twitter’s woes. expression became the startup’s guiding Toxicity on the platform intensified during this time, especially in international markets. principle. “Let the tweets flow,” said Trolls organised to spread misogynist messages in India and anti-Semitic ones in Europe. In Latin Alex Macgillivray, Twitter’s first general America, bots began infecting elections. Hundreds used during Brazil’s 2014 presidential race spread counsel, who later served as deputy CTO
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H A S H T A G #NeverAgain
WA R S
Twitter’s signature feature, the hashtag, can still catalyse social movements, such as the gun-control advocacy of the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting, but it is also weaponised by the likes of James O'Keefe, of Project Veritas, or Rep. Devin Nunes to promote conspiracies.
propaganda, leading a company executive to meet with government officials, during which, according to a source, “pretty much every member of the Brazilian house and senate asked, ‘What are you doing about bots?’ ” (Around this time, Russia reportedly began testing bots of its own to sway public opinion through disinformation.) It wasn’t until mid-2014, around the time that trolls forced comedian Robin Williams’s daughter, Zelda, off the service in the wake of her father’s suicide, that Costolo had finally had enough. Costolo, who had been the victim of abuse in his own feed, lost faith in Harvey, multiple sources say. He put a different department in charge of responding to user-submitted abuse tickets, though he left Harvey in charge of setting the company’s trust and safety guidelines. Soon, the threats morphed again: ISIS began to leverage Twitter to radicalise followers. Steeped in free-speech values, company executives struggled to respond. Once beheading videos started circulating, “there were brutal arguments with Dick,” recalls a former top executive. “He’d say, ‘You can’t show people getting killed on the platform! We should just erase it!’ And [others would argue], ‘But what about a PhD student posting a picture of the Kennedy assassination?’ ” They decided to allow imagery of beheadings, but only until the knife touches the neck, and, according to two sources, the company assigned support agents to search for and report beheading content—so the same team could then remove it. “It was the stupidest thing in the world,” says the source who worked closely with Harvey. “[Executives] already made the policy decision to take down the content, but they didn’t want to build the tools to [proactively] enforce the policy.” (Twitter has since purged hundreds of thousands of ISIS-related accounts, a muscular approach that has won the platform praise.) Costolo, frustrated with the company’s meager efforts in tackling these problems, sent a companywide memo in February 2015 complaining that he was “ashamed” by how much Twitter “sucked” at dealing with abuse. “If I could rewind the clock, I’d get more aggressive earlier,” Costolo tells Fast Company, stressing that the “blame” lays on nobody “other than the CEO at the time: me.” “I often hear people in Silicon Valley talking about fake news and disinformation as problems we can engineer our way out of,” says Brendan Nyhan, codirector of Bright Line Watch, a group that monitors threats to democratic processes. “That’s wrong. People are looking for a solution that doesn’t exist.” The Valley may be coming around to this understanding. Last year, Facebook and YouTube (which is owned by Google) announced initiatives to expand their content-policing teams to 20 000 and 10 000 workers, respectively. Twitter, meanwhile, had just 3 317 employees across the entire company at the end of 2017, a fraction of whom are dedicated to improving “information quality.” Putting mass quantities of human beings on the job, though, isn’t a panacea either. It introduces new issues, from personal biases to having to make complicated calls on content in a matter of seconds. “These reviewers use detailed rules designed to direct them to make consistent decisions,” says Susan Benesch, faculty associate at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Centre for Internet and Society
and director of the Dangerous Speech Project. “That’s a hard thing to do, especially at scale.” The enormity of this quality-control conundrum helps explain why Twitter frequently fails, at least initially, to remove tweets that users report for harassment—some including allusions to death or rape—even though they would appear to violate its community standards. The company also catches flak for taking action against tweets that do offend these rules but have an extraordinary context, as when it temporarily suspended actress Rose McGowan for including a private phone number in a flurry of tweets excoriating Hollywood notables in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal. “You end up going down a slippery slope on a lot of these things,” says a former C-level Twitter executive. “ ‘Oh, the simple solution is X!’ That’s why you hear now, ‘Why don’t you just get rid of bots?!’ Well, lots of [legitimate media] use automated [accounts] to post headlines. Lots of these easy solutions are a lot more complex.” Five months after Costolo’s February 2015 lament, he resigned from Twitter. Cofounder Jack Dorsey, who had run the company until he was fired in 2008, replaced Costolo as CEO (while retaining the same job at his payments company,
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H A S H T A G #MAGA
WA R S #Mueller
Hashtags are supposed to make it easy to follow a Twitter conversation, but too often they devolve into ugly face-offs, as seen by following the pro-Trump MAGA rallying cry, the UK immigrant debate (epitomised by the #1DayWithoutUs campaign), and the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller.
veteran of Salesforce who had little patience for free-speech hand-wringing. Bhatnagar dramatically Square). Dorsey, an English major in a increased the number of outsourced support agents working for the company and was able to reduce land of computer scientists, had deep the average response time on abuse-report tickets to just hours, though some felt the process became thoughts about Twitter’s future, but too much of a numbers game. “She was more like, ‘Just fucking suspend them,’ ” says a source who he couldn’t always articulate them in worked closely with her. If much of the company was guided by Justice Brandeis’s words, Bhatnagar a way that translated to engineers. “I’d represented Justice Potter Stewart’s famous quote about obscenity: “I know it when I see it.” be shocked if you found somebody [to This ideological split was reflected in the company’s organisational hierarchy, which kept Harvey whom] Jack gave an extremely clear and Bhatnagar in separate parts of the company—legal and engineering, respectively—with separate articulation of his thesis for Twitter,” managers. “They often worked on the exact same things but with very different approaches—it was just says the former top executive, noting bonkers,” says a former high-level employee who felt ricocheted between the that Dorsey has described two factions. Even those seemingly on the same team didn’t always see eye the service by using to eye: According to three sources, Colin Crowell, Twitter’s VP of public policy, such metaphors as the at one point refused to report to Harvey’s boss, general counsel Vijaya Gadde Golden Gate Bridge and (Macgillivray’s successor), due in part to disagreements about how best to an electrical outlet for a approach free-speech issues. toaster. Once, he gathered Contentiousness grew common: Bhatnagar’s team would want to suspend the San Francisco office for users it found abusive, only to be overruled by Gadde and Harvey. “That drove a meeting where he told Peak valuation of Cynk, Tina crazy,” says a source familiar with the dynamic. “She’d go looking for employees he wanted to a fake company with Jack, but Jack would be at Square, so the next day he’d listen and take notes on define Twitter’s mission— no assets and no revenue, his phone and say, ‘Let me think about it.’ Jack couldn’t make a decision and proceeded to play after bots fueled a pumpwithout either upsetting the free-speech people or the online-safety people, the Beatles’s “Blackbird” and-dump stock scheme over two months in mid-2014 so things were never resolved.” as attendees listened in Dorsey’s supporters argue that he wasn’t necessarily indecisive—there confused silence. were simply no easy answers. Disputes that bubbled up to Dorsey were often There was no doubt, bizarre edge cases, which meant that any decision he made would be hard to generalise to a wide range though, that he believed in Twitter’s of instances. “You can have a perfectly written rule, but if it’s impossible to apply to 330 million users, defining ethos. “Twitter stands for it’s as good as having nothing,” says a source familiar with the company’s challenges. freedom of expression. We stand for Dorsey had other business demands to attend to at the time. When he returned as CEO, user growth speaking truth to power,” Dorsey had stalled, the stock had declined nearly 70% since its high following the IPO, the company was on tweeted on his first official day back as track to lose more than $500 million in 2015 alone, and a number of highly regarded employees were Twitter’s CEO, in October 2015. about to leave. Although Twitter made some progress in releasing new products, including Moments By the time Dorsey’s tenure got and its live-video features, it struggled to refresh its core experience. In January 2016, Dorsey teased under way, Twitter had gotten a better users with an expansion of Twitter’s long-standing 140-character limit, but it took another 22 months to handle on some of the verbal pollution launch 280-character tweets. “Twitter was a hot mess,” says Leslie Miley, who managed the engineering plaguing the service. The company’s group responsible for safety features until he was laid off in late 2015. “When you switch product VPs anti-abuse operations had been taken every year, it’s hard to keep a strategy in place.” over by Tina Bhatnagar, a no-nonsense
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Hundreds of bots were used in Brazil’s 2014 presidential election to spread political propaganda on Twitter, leading a company executive to visit the country and meet with members of its National Congress.
Then the US presidential election arrived. All of Twitter’s warts were about to be magnified on the world stage. Twitter’s support agents, the ones reviewing flagged content and wading through the darkest muck of social media, witnessed the earliest warning signs as Donald Trump started sweeping the primaries. “We saw this radical shift,” says one at the time. Discrimination seemed more flagrant, the propaganda and bots more aggressive. Says another, “You’d remove it and it’d come back within minutes, supporting Nazis, hating Jews, [memes featuring] ovens, and oh, the frog . . . the green frog!” (That would be Pepe, a crudely drawn cartoon that white supremacists co-opted.) A July 2016 troll attack on SNL star Leslie Jones—incited by alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos—proved to be a seminal moment for Twitter’s antiharassment efforts. After Jones was bombarded with racist and sexist tweets, Dorsey met with her personally to apologise, and the company banned Yiannopoulos permanently. It also enhanced its muting and blocking features and introduced an opt-in tool that allows users to filter out what Twitter has determined to be “lowerquality content.” The idea was that Twitter wouldn’t be suppressing free speech—it would merely not be shoving unwanted tweets into its users’ faces.
But these efforts weren’t enough to shield users from the noxiousness of the Clinton–Trump election cycle. During the Jones attack, screenshots of fake, Photoshopped tweets purporting to show divisive things Jones had shared spread virally across the platform. This type of disinformation gambit would become a hallmark of the 2016 election and beyond, and Twitter did not appreciate the strength of this new front in the information wars. Of the two presidential campaigns, Trump’s better knew how to take advantage of the service to amplify its candidate’s voice. When Twitter landed massive ad deals from the Republican nominee, left-leaning employees complained to the sales team that it should stop accepting Trump’s “bullshit money.” The ongoing, unresolved disputes over what Twitter should allow on its platform continued to flare into the fall. In October, the company reneged on a $5 million (R61.5m) deal with the Trump campaign for a custom #CrookedHillary emoji. “There was vicious [internal] debate and backchanneling to Jack,” says a source involved. “Jack was conflicted. At the eleventh hour, he pulled the plug.” Trump allies later blasted Twitter for its perceived political bias. On November 8, employees were shocked as the election returns poured in, and the morning after Trump’s victory, Twitter’s headquarters were a ghost town. Employees had finally begun to take stock of the role their platform had played not only in Trump’s rise but in the polarisation and radicalisation of discourse. “We all had this ‘holy shit’ moment,” says a product team leader at the time, adding that everyone was asking the same question: “Did we create this monster?” In the months following Trump’s win, employees widely expected Dorsey to address Twitter’s role in the election head-on, but about a dozen sources indicate that the CEO remained mostly silent on the matter internally. “You can’t take credit for the Arab Spring without taking responsibility for
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better job than they get public credit for,” says Brianna Wu, the developer who became a principal Donald Trump,” says Leslie Miley, the target of Gamergate, the loose-knit collective of trolls whose 2014 attacks on prominent women in the former safety manager. gaming industry was a canary in the Twitter-harassment coal mine. “Most of the death threats I get Over time, though, Dorsey’s these days are either sent to me on Facebook or through email, because Twitter has been so effective at thinking evolved, and he seems to be intercepting them before I can even see them,” she adds, sounding surprisingly cheery. less ambivalent about what he’ll allow Twitter has also been more proactive since the election in banning accounts and removing on the platform. Sources cite Trump’s verifications, particularly of white nationalists and alt-right leaders such as Richard Spencer. (The blue controversial immigration ban and check mark signifying a verified user was originally designed to confirm identity but has come to be continued alt-right manipulation as interpreted as an endorsement.) According to three sources, Dorsey himself has personally directed influences. At the same time, Twitter some of these decisions. began to draw greater scrutiny from the Twitter began rolling out a series of policy and feature changes last October that prioritised civility public, and the US Congress, for its role and truthfulness over free-speech absolutism. For instance, while threatening murder has always been in spreading disinformation. unacceptable, now even speaking of it approvingly in any context will earn users a suspension. The Dorsey empowered engineering company has also made it more difficult to bulk-tweet misinformation. leaders Ed Ho and David Gasca to Such crackdowns haven’t yet eliminated the service’s festering problems: After February’s mass go after Twitter’s problems full bore, shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school, some surviving students became targets of harassment, and in February 2017, the company and Russia-linked bots reportedly spread pro-gun sentiments and disinformation. Nobody, though, rolled out more aggressive measures can accuse Twitter of not confronting its worst elements. The pressure on Dorsey to keep this to permanently bar bad actors on the momentum going is coming from Wall Street, too: On a recent earnings call, a Goldman Sachs platform and better filter out potentially analyst pressed Dorsey about the company’s progress toward eliminating bots and enforcing safety abusive or low-quality content. policies. “Information quality,” Dorsey responded, is now Twitter’s “core job.” “Jack became a little bit obsessed,” says a source. “Engineering in every department was asked to stop working This past Valentine’s Day, Senator Mark Warner entered his stately corner suite in Washington, DC’s Hart on whatever they were doing and focus Senate Office Building, poured himself a Vitaminwater, and rushed into an explanation of why Silicon Valley on safety.” needs to be held accountable for its role in the 2016 election. As the Democratic vice chairman of the Senate Twitter’s safety operations, Intelligence Committee, Warner is swamped with high-profile hearings and classified briefings, but the previously siloed, became more topic is also personal for the self-described “tech guy” who made a fortune in the 1980s investing integrated with the consumer-product in telecoms. side of the company. The results have Warner is co-leading the committee’s investigation into Russian election interference, which has been positive. In May 2017, for example, increasingly centred on the growing, unfettered power of technology giants, whom he believes need after learning how much abuse users to get over their “arrogance” and fix their platforms. “One of the things that really offended me was the were being subjected to via Twitter’s initial reaction from the tech companies to blow us off,” he began, leaning forward in his leather chair. direct messages feature, the team “ ‘Oh no! There’s nothing here! Don’t look!’ Only with relentless pressure did they start to come clean.” overseeing the product came up with He saved his harshest words for Twitter, which he said has dragged its feet far more than Facebook the idea of introducing a secondary or Google. “All of Twitter’s actions were in the wake of Facebook’s,” Warner complained in his gravelly inbox to capture bad content, akin voice, his face reddening. “They’re drafting!” The company was the only one to miss the January 8 to a spam folder. “They’re deadline for providing answers to the Intelligence Committee’s inquiries, and, starting to get things right,” making matters worse, Twitter disclosed weeks later that Kremlin-linked bots says a former manager at the managed to generate more than 450 million impressions, substantially higher company, “addressing these than the company previously reported. “There’s been this [excuse of], ‘Oh, well, problems that’s just Twitter.’ That’s not a long-term viable answer.” as a combination of product Warner stated that he has had offline conversations directly with and policy.” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, but never Dorsey. Throwing shade, Warner During a live video Q&A smiled as he suggested that the company may not be able to commit Percentage of Trump Dorsey hosted in March, as many resources as Facebook and Google can because it has a “more supporters who shared “junk he was asked why trust complicated, less lucrative business model.” news” on Twitter between and safety didn’t work with The big question now is what government intervention might look like. October 20, 2017, and January 18, engineering much earlier. The Warner suggested several broad policy prescriptions, including 2018, according to one study CEO laughed, then admitted, antitrust and data privacy regulations, but the one with the greatest “We had a lot of historical potential effect on Twitter and its rivals would be to make them liable for divisions within the company where we the content on their platforms. When asked if the European Union, which has been more forceful in weren’t as collaborative as we could be. its regulation of the technology industry, could serve as a model, the senator replied, “[I’m] glad the We’ve been recognising where that lack EU is acting. I think they’re bolder than we are.” of collaboration has hurt us.” If the US government does start taking a more activist role in overseeing social networks, it will Even previous victims of Twitter unleash some of the same nettlesome issues that Europe is already working through. On January 1, abuse have recognised that the for instance, Germany began enforcing a law known as (deep breath) Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz, company’s new safety measures have or NetzDG for short. Rather than establish new restrictions on hate speech, it mandates that large helped. “I think Twitter is doing a social networks remove material that violates the country’s existing speech laws—which are far more
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2018 Social Media Safety Report Card Twitter’s rival networks have their own issues.
Facebook hasn’t done enough to combat fake news, spread organically and through ads. Critics claim its algorithms incentivise incendiary content. There are investigations into how it has impacted election results.
It’s the boiler room for the creation of fake news, memes, and shitposting that later infect other social platforms. Reddit users, never shy, have blasted the company for being slow to stop Russian trolls on the site.
The video platform is riddled with conspiracy-theory videos and racist live streams. Critics claim YouTube’s algorithm pushes users to more extreme content. Its stars glamorise dangerous stunts.
The working solution
It’s partnering with factchecking organisations to flag disinformation and has de-emphasised news in its News Feed. CEO Mark Zuckerberg pledged to beef up its content-moderation team to 20 000 people by year’s end.
Reddit removed a large number of trolling accounts and pledged that all ads are vetted by humans. Since Reddit almost melted down over harmful content in 2014 and 2015, it has a robust system for quarant ining offensive subreddits.
It demonetises (and sometimes removes) videos once they’re called to the company’s attention. CEO Susan Wojcicki says that the company plans to increase its content-moderation workforce to 10 000 staffers this year.
What’s at stake
Facebook is the most vulnerable of the social media companies to regulators around the world.
New controversies imperil Reddit’s efforts to make itself more brand friendly.
Each new incident leads major advertisers to reevaluate the video site and consider reinvesting in traditional TV.
stringent than their US equivalents—within 24 hours of being notified of its existence. “Decisions that would take months in a regular court are now [made] by social media companies in just minutes,” says Mirko Hohmann, a Berlin-based project manager for the Global Public Policy Institute. In the US, rather than wait for federal action or international guidance, state lawmakers in Maryland, New York, and Washington are already working to regulate political ads on social networks. As Warner said, the era of Silicon Valley self-policing is over. Whether or not the federal government steps in, there are many things Twitter could still do to protect its platform from abuse. One relatively straightforward measure would be to label automated accounts as such, which wouldn’t hobble legitimate feeds but would make it tougher for Russian bots to pose as heartland Trump supporters. The company could do more to discourage people from creating objectionable content in the first place by making its rules more visible and digestible. It could also build trust by embracing transparency as more than a buzzword, sharing with users more about how exactly Twitter works and collaborating with outside researchers. Toward this end, and inspired by research conducted by nonprofit Cortico and MIT’s Laboratory for Social Machines, the company announced in March that it will attempt to measure its own “conversational health.” It invited other organisations to participate in this process, and Twitter says it will reveal its first partners in July. The effort is intriguing, but the crowdsourced initiative also sounds eerily similar to Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council, whose mission since it was convened in February 2016 has been for advocates, academics, and grassroots organisations to provide input on the company’s safety approach. Many people who worked for Twitter want not a metric but a mea culpa. According to one source who has discussed these issues with the company’s leadership, “Their response to everything was
basically, ‘Look, we hear you, but you can’t blame Twitter for what happened. If it wasn’t us, it would’ve been another medium.’ The executives didn’t own up to the fact that we are responsible, and that was one of the reasons why I quit.” Even Senator Warner believes that before his colleagues consider legislation, the tech companies’ CEOs ought to testify before Congress. “I want them all, not just Dorsey. I want Mark and I want [Google cofounders] Sergey [Brin] and Larry [Page],” he said. “Don’t send your lawyers, don’t send the policy guys. They owe the American public an explanation.” When Twitter debuted its new health metrics initiative, the American public seemed to finally get one, after Dorsey tweeted about Twitter, “We didn’t fully predict or understand the real-world negative consequences. We acknowledge that now.” He continued, “We aren’t proud of how people have taken advantage of our service, or our inability to address it fast enough. . . . We’ve focused most of our efforts on removing content against our terms, instead of building a systemic framework to help encourage more healthy debate, conversations, and critical thinking. This is the approach we now need.” One week later, Dorsey continued to acknowledge past missteps during a 47-minute live video broadcast on Twitter. “We will make mistakes—I will certainly make mistakes,” he said. “I have done so in the past around this entire topic of safety, abuse, misinformation, [and] manipulation on the platform.” The point of the live stream was to talk more about measuring discourse, and Dorsey tried to answer user-submitted questions. But the hundreds of real-time comments scrolling by on the screen illustrated the immense challenge ahead. As the video continued, his feed filled with anti-Semitic and homophobic insults, caustic complaints from users who fear Twitter is silencing their beliefs, and plaintive cries for the company to stop racism. Stroking his beard, Dorsey squinted at his phone, watching the bad speech flow as he searched for the good.
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FAST COMPANY PROMOTION
SqwidNet: An enabler of innovation Still in its infancy, and yet already making huge strides, SqwidNet has become the fastest growing Internet of Things (IoT) net work in South Africa – currently covering 83% of the countr y’s population and set to cover 85% by mid-2018.
In November 2016, SqwidNet was launched as the South African operator of Sigfox, a company building wireless networks that enable objects to send data to the Internet using small amounts of energy. Since its inception two years ago, SqwidNet has successfully deployed a low-cost, low-power, ultranarrowband IoT network in South Africa, resulting in millions of devices being digitally connected – revolutionising the way we live and work.
CONNECTING THE DOTS: WHAT IS THE INTERNET OF THINGS? IoT can be defined as the internetworking of connected things that collect and exchange data; these ‘connected things’ include devices, vehicles, buildings, wearables and a myriad of other objects. The data collected can be used to help increase productivity and efficiency, respond to emergencies (or even prevent them), and fundamentally improve life as we know it.
FILLING THE GAP What differentiates SqwidNet from companies with similar offerings, is that it speaks to a low-cost market. Millions of devices are being connected to the Internet and to each other at a fraction of the costs, using relatively less power while its data load is securely communicated into an application layer for processing. According to the company, there is no other commercially viable solution like the one SqwidNet provides.
PROJECTS IN THE PIPELINE SqwidNet is working with a number of partners on a variety of projects, some of which have already been deployed commercially. One such project consists of monitoring the air around waste management plants to ensure that gases like hydrogen sulphide and volatile organic compounds remain subdued; and by using IoT-enabled technology,
38 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A MAY 2018
Acting CEO of SqwidNet, Phathizwe Malinga
customers are able to proactively prevent rising gas levels around waste management facilities, thereby protecting surrounding communities from potential negative effects. Asset tracking is another popular application of the technology. The software deployed allows customers to track valuable goods by monitoring driver behaviour, thereby ensuring that they adhere to their own asset management plan and promise of quality service delivery. Customers also apply asset tracking in order to detect intrusion at any given facility, with the added benefit of maintenance optimisation.
FAST-TRACKING IOT ENTREPRENEURSHIP The success rate of solving Africa’s problems through IoT will be greater if solutions were built and
developed in Africa. SqwidNet therefore launched an IoT entrepreneurship programme in South Africa called IoTE (IoT to the power of E). The aim of this programme is to see individuals with trailblazing IoT ideas develop the necessary skills they need to bring their product to market. The 3-day programme focuses on three key development areas: Device development: During the first day of the workshop, SqwidNet and its device ecosystem partners facilitate a maker’s workshop. The participants are given development kits and taken through the process of building a device with sensors to solve realworld sensing and monitoring problems. Software and analytics: Day two sees participants introduced to IoT software platforms, giving them the opportunity to create basic dashboards to analyse the high-level data being collected in the device they developed. Business skills: Day three of the workshop focuses on providing participants with a high level of business skills. Prototypes that make it through the stringent testing will be put into production and distributed to where there’s an existing need. From the programme’s initial intake, more than 80% of proposed solutions were aimed at solving problems that are unique to Africa.
WHAT’S NEXT? Though SqwidNet has seen exponential growth in just two years, the next step in taking that growth forward, is to up the number of
devices being manufactured locally, which will positively impact the commercial scalability of solutions for Africa. Through SqwidNet’s IoTE programme, the company aims to grow local talent to meet both local and international demands for relevant solutions. The company also plans to partner with network operators to expand SqwidNet into other African countries.
INNOVATIVE CONNECTIONS A powerful ecosystem is at play – one that benefits all. In order to speed up the adoption of Sigfox connectivity solutions and to leverage their partners’ scale and distribution capabilities, SqwidNet has been robustly building and developing the IoT value chain. Their global partner, Sigfox, has established a network presence that now reaches 45 countries, covering 803 million people with a footprint that exceeds 3.8 million square kilometres. This rapid global expansion of the Sigfox network has further fuelled the growth in device and platform development which is a key contributor to the availability of solutions that drive digital transformation in businesses.
FAST FACTS AND FIGURES
percentage of coverage across municipal highways
1estimated 0 M I Lnumber L I OofN
devices to be connected in South Africa in the next 3-5 years
83% of South African
population covered by SqwidNet network
of coverage across national highways
expected coverage by mid-2018
3number 0 of ICT service
providers in various stages of deploying IoT solutions across a number of sectors
MAY 2018 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A 39
WE HIGHLIGHT AMBITIOUS, VISIONARY PROJECTS, IDEAS, & INNOVATIONS THAT ARE CREATING NEW APPROACHES TO SOME OF THE WORLD’S MOST URGENT CHALLENGES.
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Anna Simpson, left, and Bethany Edwards began work on Lia as UPenn grad students. 42 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A MAY 2018
Photograph by Jessie English
WORLD-CHANGING IDEAS LOCAL PICK
Lia flushable home pregnancy test
VEHS is a portable power station that converts traffic pressure on the road into renewable electricity. Using a specially designed layer that sits on top of the road, they can harvest the pressure created by vehicles and use it to power a turbine that creates electricity. No raw materials, water or greenhouse gases are used and they create zero waste, meaning they can produce electricity without damaging the environment.
Skip Sterling (Philips Lighting)
Nearly 1 million kilograms of used home pregnancy tests wind up in landfills each year. The plastic diagnostic tools “are only used for a few minutes, but they are made out of things that are not sustainable,” says Lia cofounder and CEO Bethany Edwards. “We believe that materials should match up with product life cycles.” Lia, the world’s first flushable pregnancy test, stems from a grad school project that Edwards and two classmates embarked on at the University of Pennsylvania’s integrated product design programme. “Nobody had innovated on the form factor of the pregnancy test in over 30 years,” she says. The device uses the same amount of material as six squares of three-ply toilet paper and contains no glue. Its protein-, plant-, and mineralbased fibers biodegrade whether flushed or composted, so in addition to environmental benefits, they offer a revolutionary new measure of privacy. “Pregnancy is personal,” says Edwards. “We give women control in a discreet, sanitary, and better-for-the-environment way.” Lia received FDA approval in December and is currently on track to hit stores and Amazon this summer, priced between $13 and $15 for a pack of two. (The product offers the same 99% accuracy rate as existing home tests.) Next, the company plans to expand into additional home diagnostic tests, for ovulation and urinary tract infections. —BS
Vehicle Energy Harvesting System (VEHS)
Turning Old T-Shirts Into New Denim Regenerative fiber Evrnu
Stacy Flynn was on a business trip to China when she and a colleague stepped out on opposite sides of their car, but could barely see one another through the smog generated by the local textile operations. As a fabric development and design expert in the apparel industry (one of the worst polluters), she had an epiphany: “I felt personally responsible for some of this,” she says. Now, as cofounder and CEO of Evrnu, Flynn is producing recycled fibers and working with apparel makers to turn this year’s castoffs into next year’s musthaves. The Seattle startup, backed by $4 million (R50.4m) from angel investors, has patented a process that takes post-consumer cotton and breaks it down into a pulp before extruding the liquid through fine filters to form new fiber. Flynn says Evrnu can produce a variety of premium grades, ranging from smooth as silk (and stronger than cotton) to something that’s coarse, like denim. The process uses 98% less water than farmed cotton, and all chemical solvents remain in a closed loop so they can be reused. Levi’s has used Evrnu fibers to produce 511 jeans, and other top brands, including Target and Stella McCartney, have recently signed deals. —Ben Schiller
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Streetscapes Khulisa Social Solutions
Khulisa Social Solutions launched a pilot project in response to the growing problem of homelessness on Cape Town city streets, having employed more than 100 homeless people to work in two urban vegetable gardens which now supply some of the top restaurants in Cape Town.
Transforming Wallets Into Scorecards AIM score Aspiration
As more and more people choose to vote with their wallets, Aspiration has created a checking account app that pulls data on the environmental and ethical practices of more than 5 000 companies, including Adidas, Burger King, and Delta Air Lines. An online financial services firm that invests with corporations committed to sustainability and ethical practices, the company says that more than 65% of its 200 000 checking account holders regularly look at their Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM). The score, founder Andrei Cherny says, “helps people think more deeply about the ethics and values of the places where they’re doing business.” —Eillie Anzilotti
BrandsEye LOCAL PICK
Cut - Shape - Stick Max Basler & Anine Kirsten Mayka Toy Block Tape
Previously Nimuno Loops, Mayka is a “Lego-compatible tape” that bends or sticks to any surface. This block tape instantly transforms virtually any surface into a base for toy bricks, figures and accessories.
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A leading opinion mining company that uses a proprietary mix of AI and crowdsourcing to mine online coversations for sentiment and the topics driving that sentiment. They provide accurate and granular opinion data to governments and businesses around the world. They used their technology to predict the outcomes of the Brexit referendum and US presidential election.
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Latest Sightings Nadav Ossendryver Latest Sightings is an app platform that allows visitors who are currently on safari, be they rangers or tourists, to report the animals and events that they are seeing – live. They report their location, time and sighting to Latest Sightings, which in turn broadcasts these ‘tings’ (a reported sighting) to the smartphone app.
Linking Products to Values Sustainable Product Optimization Tool L’Oréal
The words are emblazoned on products up and down the beauty aisle: all-natural, sustainable, organic. But when it comes to an item’s actual environmental impact, what do these terms really mean? And what can they tell us about a company’s actual commitment to environmental stewardship? L’Oréal, the largest and most profitable corporation in the beauty industry, has overhauled its entire supply chain over the past five years. Its Sharing Beauty With All initiative, launched in 2013, aimed to advance sustainable practices across all aspects of the business—embracing renewable resources, shortening transit routes, repackaging products in biodegradable materials, and converting its manufacturing facilities to run on renewable energy. Last year, the company went a step further, rolling out its Sustainable Product Optimisation Tool (SPOT) across all 150 product categories among L’Oréal’s 53 brands. Developed with the help of sustainability and life-cycle analysis experts from dozens of universities and nonprofits, SPOT provides both L’Oréal and its thousands of suppliers worldwide with a stringent set of criteria that all products must meet across eight different categories: carbon footprint, water scarcity, water quality, biodiversity, acidification, resource depletion, air quality, and ozone depletion. More than 120 products have been optimised using SPOT so far. La Roche-Posay, one of L’Oréal’s higher-end brands, used the tool when revamping its Gommage Surfin facial scrub and replaced the exfoliating plastic microbeads with perilite, a natural mineral, improving the biodegradability of the product by 10%. Since then, all L’Oréal exfoliators have moved away from plastic in the ingredients list. The Vichy brand, meanwhile, used SPOT to redevelop its Aqualia Thermal skincare treatment: The proportion of renewable ingredients in the product increased from 55% to 95%, and the brand began sourcing its shea butter from a sustainable, women-owned cooperative in Burkina Faso. “SPOT is now fully integrated in the conception process and launch of new products,” says L’Oréal’s chief sustainability officer, Alexandra Palt, adding that her team is expanding the tool so that by 2020 consumers will be able to access SPOT for more extensive product information. Palt’s efforts have support from the very top of the organisation. “I love having an activist within to drive change internally,” says L’Oréal chairman and CEO Jean-Paul Agon. —EA
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Reading news pays off Corbyn Munnik Sliide Airtime
Sliide Airtime is a content delivery platform that gives users free airtime in return for engaging with news and sponsored content.
Illustration by Kevin Whipple
Today’s catch UCT researchers, DAFF & fisher community representatives
Through the development of an integrated small-scale fisheries informationmanagement system and mobile app suite, the ABALOBI initiative aims to enable smallscale fishers to drive and be integrated into information and resource networks – from fishery monitoring and maritime safety, to local development and market opportunities.
Dropping beats Gqom
a uniquely South African music genre
Gqom is a style of house music that emerged a decade into the 21st century from Durban. The word gqom derives from an onomatopoeic combination of click consonants from the Zulu and Xhosa languages that represent hitting a drum. Popular Gqom artists include Distruction Boyz, Babes Wodumo, DJ Tira and DJ Maphorisa.
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Showing Rescuers Where They’re Needed Most Disaster Maps Facebook
BY BEN PAY N T ER When natural disasters strike, people generally have two options: stay or flee. Either way, you can bet they’re keeping their phone with them. Facebook has been capitalising on that behaviour since last June when it launched Disaster Maps, a feature produced by its Data for Good division. Facebook had already introduced Safety Check, which earned kudos for allowing people in crisis zones to signal they’re safe. Soon after that widget debuted in late 2014, however, Molly Jackman and Chaya Nayak, two public policy research managers at Facebook, sensed that disaster responders were desperate for what Jackman calls “better situational awareness”—real-time data that shows where the most vulnerable people are located. To generate Disaster Maps, Facebook takes time-stamped snapshots of users’ geographic coordinates to show where they’re moving. As a result, Disaster Maps provide aid groups with near real-time data visualisations of how users react as a calamity unfolds, allowing for a more dynamic response—where to stage resources, how to evacuate those who are stuck, and how to reach folks who check in as safe but are nonetheless uprooted. The service gathers account signals into population heat maps, revealing when and where people cluster via a shared dashboard that only Facebook and vetted disaster response partners can view. Facebook app users don’t need to do anything but have their (charged) phones with them and the location setting activated. Their data is aggregated and anonymous: The program scrubs the exact identity associated with each signal but still tracks movement, allowing for hourly updates on sheltering and evacuations. (If you don’t want your location used for Disaster Maps, simply turn off location services in the Facebook app.) So far, the tech giant and various external relief teams have deployed 48 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A MAY 2018
Disaster Maps during more than 100 worldwide crises that have occurred in the past year, including hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, the California wildfires, a cyclone in Chennai, and a volcano eruption in Bali. The emergency supply group Direct Relief used the feature to help guide distribution of more than 400 000 respiration masks to various emergency-operations checkpoints during the Southern California fires. After Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, causing an island-wide blackout in late September, both the Red Cross and NetHope compared Facebook activity directly before the storm with population maps and community health information to figure out, based on signals showing where people had gathered, who might need help first. “In the past, whichever voice is the loudest makes you say, ‘Well, I need to make sure I respond over there,’ ” says Frank Schott, NetHope’s vice president of global programmes. “Now we can see with great certainty which areas are lit up [on the Disaster Maps readout] and which aren’t.” About a dozen non-profits, including the World Food Programme and UNICEF, have committed to the service. Unfortunately, the only way to enhance the application is to run more tests during actual disasters. “It’s a back-and-forth process,” says Facebook’s Nayak. “They’re using the data and figuring out where it’s helpful, and then giving feedback we are able to build into our products.” Illustration by Daniel Stolle
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Health-e solutions Sheraan Amod RecoMed
RecoMed is South Africa’s largest and fastest growing online healthcare booking platform. The platform helps patients find and make appointments with healthcare providers 24/7 without any phone calls or paperwork. They give healthcare professionals a proven way to grow their practices while improving the patient experience. Over 100 000 patients and 1 500 providers connect with each other every month via RecoMed.
Electricity at no slow pace James van der Walt SolarTurtle
SolarTurtle develops secure solar containers for off-grid electrification, with each solar container serving as an energy platform from which a small business can be operated. Shipping containers are converted into small, mobile solar power microutilities, which generates and sells electricity at a grassroots level.
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The Cali Wool Beanie The North Face
On a sprawling ranch in the foothills of a California mountain range, placid herds of sheep at Bare Ranch are part of an experiment to prove that wool production can help fight climate change. By managing where sheep graze, planting trees and cover crops, and fortifying fields with compost, the ranch now absorbs more carbon dioxide than it emits. Its farming practices trap around 4 000 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year, offsetting the emissions from about 850 cars. Working with the nonprofit Fibershed, funded by a grant from the North Face, the ranch first started creating a “carbon farm” plan in 2014; in 2016, Bare Ranch became the first large-scale sheep operation in the US to complete this type of transformation. After proof that the changes on the ranch were sequestering CO2, the North Face chose the new climate-beneficial wool for its Cali Wool Beanie, which launched in late 2017. “Often, products are trying to be less bad and reduce their environmental impact,” says James Rogers, the North Face’s senior sustainability manager. “This actually has a positive environmental impact.” The hats sold out online within a few weeks, and the North Face will launch a new scarf and jacket made with the wool this fall. —AP
Skip Sterling (L’Oréal)
Putting a Lid on Carbon Dioxide
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The 2018 US Honorees FAST COMPANY US’ SECOND-ANNUAL WORLD-CHANGING IDEAS AWARDS DREW NEARLY 1 400 SUBMISSIONS IN 12 CATEGORIES. THESE 240 ENTRIES MADE IT TO THE FINAL ROUND OF JUDGING. TO READ MORE ABOUT THEM—AND SEE THE WINNERS—VISIT FASTCOMPANY.COM/WORLD-CHANGING-IDEAS. GENERAL EXCELLENCE
Ontario Basic Income Pilot
Government of Ontario
The Pay Equity Explorer
Automated cricket farms
Aspire Food Group
The Children’s Scrappy News Service Going to School
Classy Passport Classy
Sustainable Product Optimization Tool L’Oréal
The Climate Museum
Visa champions a cash-free society
The Climate Museum Golden
Dell ocean-bound plastics packaging program Dell
A Digital Geneva Convention Microsoft
Disaster Maps Facebook
Equity-Centered Community Design Creative Reaction Lab
The Fairness Project
The Fairness Project
Flow Kana Flow Kana
Generation WV Impact Fellowship Generation West Virginia
Tech for Good
The Upstanders Campaign
Ink cartridges made from recycled bottles
The Gradian CCV
Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket
Intel’s Agency Inside
Royal DSM gDiapers
APPS The Darwin Challenge Universal Favourite
Detroit Water app CityInsight
FINE (Feeling Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional) Method
Levi Strauss & Co.
Lia pregnancy test Lia Diagnostics
Global Good Folia Water
Blockchain for Change Gradian Health Systems
Harmoni Labs Jana’s Mcent Browser
FOOD AeroFarms AeroFarms
Africa Improved Foods
University of Arizona, College of Social & Behavioral Sciences
Aspire Food Group
Petit Pli: Clothes That Grow
Alzheimer’s Association: Pure Imagination Project
Rent the Runway
Onward Financial Wellness
World Resources Institute
GreyMatters Care Guardian Circle
#BlackAtWork Havas Chicago
Break Bread Smash Stigma Bensimon Byrne
The Climate Optimist Campaign
TrueMotion Objective Zero Foundation
LogicInk UV LogicInk
The Moby Mart
Rent the Runway SenceTech
Game Over for Aflatoxin
The shirt of the future
Airlift Pump FloNergia
Ginkgo / Bayer
Carbon recycling Tandem Technical
The Thrive App
Coffee-powered London buses
The Whole Story Y&R
Shell International Hilton
The Energy Policy Simulator Energy Innovation
Africa Improved Foods
AirPop Smart Mask
Liter of Light Community Solar and (LAN) Hub
Royal DSM Aetheris
Banking the unbanked
Liter of Light
Refugees Are Us
Cali Wool Beanie with climatebeneficial wool
Connecting blood donors
Vehicle-to-grid energy exchange
Papel & Caneta
Reinvent Mindsets HP
Social payments Goodworld
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Crop One Holdings
University of Arizona, College of Social & Behavioral Sciences
Fans of Love
Seventh Generation disinfectant spray
Engage & Resonate
Fresh Box Farms
ComEd Icebox Derby
The Humanium Metal Initiative
Automated cricket farms
Riley (RealLife Adventure)
5 for the Fight NBA jersey patch
Feeding Children Everywhere
Pass the ERA
The Online Hate Index
Wind energy subscription
Kind: Pop Your Bubble
The Impak Coin
WattTime automated emissions reduction
Nebia Spa Shower
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Career Academy
The Moby Mart
Your American Dream Score
R/GA and the Ad Council
The People Development Factory
Global Social Network for Voters Re-Invent Democracy
The North Face
Squeaky Clean Energy
CNC – Communications & Network Consulting Ginkgo Bioworks The Growcer Indigo
Just Scramble Hampton Creek
Plant-Based Meat Challenge Lab
The Good Food Institute
The Real Dill The Real Dill
Replacing farms with fish farms
The Conservation Fund— Freshwater Institute
Sally the Salad Robot Chowbotics
Square Roots Resident Entrepreneur Program Square Roots
H E A LT H
Climate Impact Lab
Brain-implantable chip ARM
California air-quality mapping Aclima
Dhyaan Design Limited
MIT Senseable City Lab
Redefining menstruation Noa Bartfeld
Descartes Labs’ data refinery
The Ecological Atlas Studio Roberto Rovira
Impact Investing Network Map
Emin Demirci Estee Bruno, Julia Liao, and Claudia Poh
Zaid Haque, Noshin Nisa, and Hannah Xue
The Infographic Energy Transition Coloring Book
Universal Socket Prosthetic
Cathryn Anneka Hall
EPS-25 medicaI instrument sterilizer
Dominic Chiavacci, Hunter Garnier, Akhilesh Mishra, and Stephen Shelnutt
NASA: Data Lens
Lauren E. Lee
Turbulence app Delta Air Lines
Cofounder and director of innovation, Greater Good Studio
Zunum Aero Zunum Aero
URBAN DESIGN Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Pilot Project
Office of Mayor Garcetti and Los Angeles Innovation Team Kitson & Partners
TR ANSPORTAT I ON
Under the Canopy
Equity-Centered Community Design
Lia pregnancy test
Unseen Stars at Grand Central Terminal
Pediatric ICU Patient Room Connected LED Lighting System Philips Lighting
SitTight—Balanced Active Sitting SitTight
UC San Diego Health, Jacobs Medical Center CannonDesign
Vitaliti medical tricorder Cloud DX
PHOTO AND VI SUA L ISAT IO N
Viz for Social Good Viz for Social Good
We Wear Fair Trade Fair Trade Certified
STUDENTS Arranged!—The Arranged Marriage Board Game Nashra Balagamwala, Alex Kiesling, and Lucas Vasilko
Kansaranat Pear Nerngchamnong
Ning Xu and Yue Yuan
Joshua Robert Gershlak and Angela Mathis
Hidden in Plain Sight Michelle Hessel
Chasing Coral Exposure Labs
MIT, Catapult Design, and Asian Development Bank
Chanje electric vehicle Chanje Energy
Coffee-powered London buses Shell International
Electrified highway Siemens
Kingman and Heritage Islands Park
Design partner, New Enterprise Associates
G R E G L I N D S AY
LifeEdited: Maui LifeEdited
Mental Health Center of Denver Dahlia Campus for Health & Well-Being
New Story Community Participatory Design New Story HDR
The New Raw
Open Location Platform
Danish Dhaman and Paritosh Gupta
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SmartCycle Bike Indicator Iteris
JAMES JOAQUIN ALBERT LEE
Nomad: a wearable sensor for the visually impaired
Instructor in entrepreneurship, USC Marshall School of Business
Stadiums of the future
Self-driving retrofit kits
Las Americas Social Housing
Cofounder and CEO, Public
Cofounder and managing director, Obvious Ventures
Print Your City!
Managing director, Hemi Ventures
Hickok Cole Architects
Flytrex autonomous drone delivery system
STEPHEN D. COMELLO
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Peña Station Next
Cofounder, B Lab
Executive director and CEO, The Toilet Board
J AY C O E N G I L B E RT
Caitlin Hickey and Matt Tennenbaum
“How the Other Half”
Aircraft Pictures, Cartoon Saloon, and Melusine Productions
Founder, president, and CEO, Creative Reaction Lab
Creative Reaction Lab
Harman, a Samsung company
Chicago Mobile Makers
Pale Blue Dot Media
Autonomous car user experience
Use All Five
Automated drone logistics for healthcare systems
Casagrande Laboratory Chicago Mobile Makers
CEO, Wild Earth; investor, Babel Ventures
Director, Sustainable Energy Initiative, Stanford Graduate School of Business
RYA N B E T H E N C O U RT
Healing Blade: Defenders of Soma Nerdcore Medical
VC, Collaborative Fund
G E O R G E AY E
A3 by Airbus
Fitbit Sleep Stages Fitbit
The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation/ AMB Group
Director of strategy, LA CoMotion Director, stakeholder engagement, Echoing Green
E M I LY P I L L O T O N
Founder and executive director, Project H Design
Executive director, United Way Chennai
JAMES ROGERS CEO, Apeel
Cofounder and president, Generate Capital
CAMILLA SIGGAARD ANDERSEN Urban innovation consultant
ALEX STEFFEN Planetary futurist
J U N E S U G I YA M A
Director, Vodafone Americas Foundation
Elkus Manfredi Architects
City planner and urbanist, Toderian UrbanWorks
Urban Ecology Design Guidance
KY L E W E STAWAY
Judges recused themselves from deliberating on entries submitted by companies that they are funding or consulting with.
Managing partner, Westaway
Founder and president, Hip Hop Public Health
D ATA L E D EXECUTION O F S T R AT E GY
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To keep abreast of rapid technological change and potential disruption, large organisations need to ensure that their market relevant strategy is executed using real time data and reporting. Gone are the days, when strategy was set every 4 years and the execution of it only measured quarterly using financial results. An agile strategy execution culture using data to track critical project results is required. BY Michael O’Carroll, Associate Director PwC South Africa
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The pace of change and potential risk of disruption is escalating, which requires a more nimble strategy that can pivot in the light of new opportunity or pending threats. Agility is key, but execution of an iterative strategy is even more critical. A typical enterprise would measure and report on a number of financial and non-financial outcomes, but this may only be done every quarter and potentially not include adequate results on strategy execution. Take a market relevant scenario that all businesses will be facing today - ‘how to become a data led organisation’. If this is a critical business need and embedded within a corporate strategy, then can the executive leadership team review a realtime dashboard which gives a percentage completion of data transformation projects per business unit and show accountable leaders driving specific projects? For example, at enterprise ABC we are 48% complete in business unit 1 and nearing 95% complete in business unit 2 for the data transformation projects 1-n. Imagine how this kind of information will empower the executive to make more informed decisions on new growth or help them to fine tune the business strategy. Where execution is not moving as quickly as anticipated they can also intervene and support the change that is required. It’s great for the executive team to see and understand how well they are executing their strategy, but it’s also powerful to help drive accountability of project execution if a resource’s name is set against a project delivery task. It’s not about using data to reprimand project managers on poor execution results, but rather a way to show where the overall organisation it’s not realising its strategy, and then support teams with funding or
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resources to solve the critical issues. Even if a company can setup and track the execution status of strategic priority projects, it still needs to consider how teams manage projects on a regular basis using more agile reviews and interactions. Weekly check-in meetings for a quick 20 minutes are much more powerful than lengthy 1 day sessions every 2 months. It’s critical that project teams and leaders can meet regularly and review data results to build alignment and adjust where necessary. Project completion status is updated at these regular meetings to maintain an overall enterprise wide state of execution. Agility and regular feedback are required to pivot and transform using data. Running parallel to agile teams working closely to achieve execution outcomes of strategy, the executive leadership also needs to start tracking and reviewing additional attributes of strategy execution. Board meetings and business unit leadership sessions should include status updates on execution dashboards and critical decisions required to help keep strategic projects moving forward. Where projects are falling behind or not moving forward, senior interventions are required to unblock and kick things forward. Therefore, it becomes a real time interaction between leaders and teams on how they are collectively executing strategy using data. Using data to track execution results of strategy is effective, but it should be structured around a set of common business transformation quests - or areas of change required for a digital world across all business units. As described above, one quest could be ‘to become a data led organisation’. What are the other quests that will be common across all businesses units for the future organisation operating in a digital world? To be truly agile, teams need data execution results on the go - they need a mobile application to track and update project execution. Leaders need simple visualisation results on a mobile dashboard. A cloud solution where super users can adjust the quests and general users update project status. A simple, clean interface across all areas of the business and regions in which it operates means that anyone can see execution results at any point in time. To drive a culture of successful execution of strategy, organisations should consider using the data to build leaderboard metrics or profiling individuals who are leading the execution of projects. Creating some healthy competition between teams and telling the success stories from across the business can help drive continual execution of strategy. Internal storytelling is a powerful tool to help drive additional support and adoption of projects, but also good to show staff that their efforts are making a difference and building a more future proof organisation in a disruptive digital world. It’s also important for clients or customers to see the results of the organisations transformation and feel the benefits of new ways of working. Using a marketing agency to tell the external story will help enhance brand value and perception of growth and security in a disruptive world. Once data led strategy execution becomes business as usual, then companies can start to optimise and refine their quests and projects using this data. A data scientist can find business process improvement ideas and new strategy execution projects can be mobilised. Creating this data led business process improvement function can really help find an optimal competitive advantage. Never before has it been so critical for organisations to run an agile strategy and drive the execution of it using data. Leading organisations will use market relevant quests and data led execution of strategy to find new areas of growth while building a defensive mechanism against disruption.
“N EVER BEFORE HAS IT BEEN SO CRITICAL FOR ORGANISATIONS TO RUN AN AGILE STRATEGY AND DRIVE THE EXECUTION OF IT USING DATA.”
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Innovation and education go hand in hand Innovation is helping to ensure that Africa’s children can receive the education they deserve, and educated Africans, in their turn, are driving innovation. It’s a cycle of excellence that we need to invest in to ensure that nobody is left behind as the Fourth Industrial Revolution gathers pace. Innovation is increasing exponentially and the world our children and grandchildren will know is one we cannot conceive of now. But it’s also true that “the world” is not homogeneous, and that as we innovate, we must be mindful of development objectives. We need to guard against leaving people behind. The risk is real. According to a new report from economists Anton Korinek (Johns Hopkins University) and Joseph E. Stiglitz (Columbia University) economic inequality “is one of the main challenges posed by the proliferation of artificial intelligence and other forms of worker-replacing technological progress.” One way to guard against this is to invest in education to prepare young people for this unknown future. Education is essential for the continent’s development, and yet worryingly, 17 million school-aged children across Africa are unlikely ever to see the inside of a classroom. Even more concerning is the prediction from the International Commission on Financing Global Education that even for those who are in formal education now, without major shifts in how we use our educational resources, by 2030 half of all the youth - over 800 million young people - will not have the skills needed to keep up in a new economy. Much needs to change, not only in what we teach – the commission recommends a breadth of skills are imparted to children, including critical thinking and communication skills – but also in how we teach. Here the application of new technology to learning offers huge opportunities – from enhancing learning to improving data collection to driving down costs – and innovators in South Africa are leading the way. South Africa’s education system has faced its share of challenges, but these have been met head-on by the country’s innovators. Four years ago already, the BBC noted that education in South Africa was getting an “e-learning digital makeover”, in which “old-fashioned, dusty textbooks (were) gradually being replaced by tablets, computers and mobile phones”. Some of the developments South Africa has seen include
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entrepreneur Sibella Knott-Craig’s Slimkop, an educational app for children under the age of seven which is available for under R40; the free Vodacom e-school, which is also zero-rated, meaning it doesn’t incur data charges; and Thinkahead, a PDF document listing iPad apps by subject and grade. Then there are two apps that specifically encourage science learning in young students: one by Toca Lab, which gives children aged seven and up an interactive tool to help them learn about the periodic table and figure out their own virtual laboratory experiments; and EveryCircuit, which has a free version and teaches learners about electric circuits. Eiffel Corp, an education and training company for tertiary institutions, has been producing e-learning materials to support students from all walks of life. It is not only the private sector that has been working hard. In the Western Cape, for example, the provincial education department has been rolling out a R1,2 billion e-learning initiative over a five-year period and across the continent, governments are embracing technology, providing laptops in schools and committing to Sustainable Development Goals with ICT at the heart. It is exciting to see. In a very real way, education drives innovation and development, and so innovation must drive education. It is a cycle of excellence that must be encouraged. Of course, there are still many very real obstacles to technology-enabled education on the continent from a lack of access to electricity to low internet and mobile penetration. According to the GSMA Intelligence Mobile Economy report for 2017, mobile penetration in South Africa is particularly high, with Nigeria coming in second. South Africa has 37.5 million unique mobile subscribers and a 68% penetration rate, followed by Nigeria’s 86 million mobile subscribers, and 45% penetration. But just four other countries have managed over 20 million subscribers, namely Ethiopia, Kenya, the DRC and Tanzania. An important priority must therefore be to drive mobile access for all Africans. We must pour our energy into creating the conditions that will support access to education – this includes actively promoting partnerships and investment in education innovation to facilitate an expansion of educational opportunity. We need to believe, as the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity does, that it is possible to create a learning generation, where all people have the skills needed to thrive in the 21st century and nobody is left behind as the 4th Industrial Revolution gathers pace.
“S OUTH AFRICA’S EDUCATION SYSTEM HAS FACED ITS SHARE OF CHALLENGES, BUT THESE HAVE BEEN MET HEAD-ON BY THE COUNTRY’S INNOVATORS.”
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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C R E AT I V E TECHNOLOGICAL SOLUTIONS The ro l e of tec hno l o gy i n fo steri ng i nnova ti o n a nd c rea ti vi t y i n busi ness i s vi ta l fo r a thri vi ng ec o no my By Paige dos Santos, SAP Africaâ€™s Digital Transformation Lead
TECHNOLOGY HAS CAUSED A SEISMIC SHIFT IN THE WAY WE LIVE AND WORK, CREATING OPPORTUNITIES THAT WERE PREVIOUSLY THE DOMAIN OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION. EXPONENTIAL TECHNOLOGIES SUCH AS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, CLOUD COMPUTING, BIG DATA, IOT AND PREDICTIVE ANALYTICS ARE TRANSFORMING ENTIRE INDUSTRIES BY ENABLING ORGANISATIONS TO REIMAGINE THEIR BUSINESS MODELS AND REENGINEER BUSINESS PROCESSES. We see examples every day of how these technologies are making industries smarter, better, and faster. However, while efficiency gains are incredibly important, these technologies also open up opportunities for innovation as well as give room for creativity – both of which are key for companies that want to grow and succeed in today’s digital and technologised world. Technology has also created opportunities to foster greater innovation capability within businesses. Innovation is the lifeblood of today’s successful organisation and creativity its beating heart: without these two elements, organisations are unable to compete for business, customers or top talent. Ultimately, such businesses will succumb to more innovative and creative competitors in a process of accelerated natural selection.
A MORE CREATIVE (AND COMPETITIVE) FUTURE By 2020, one in five core workplace skills will be different to what they were in 2015. The World Economic Forum points to soft skills such as critical thinking, creativity and complex problem-solving as the go-to skills of the future workplace. Successful organisations in the near-future will integrate innovation methodologies, such as design thinking, into their everyday business strategies to kickstart a process of continuous disruption and innovation. When design principles are applied to strategy or innovation, the success rate of innovation dramatically improves. Design thinking is a methodology for creative resolution of problems of all kinds. When product designers are creating a new product, they go through a number of iterations of discovery, brainstorming, prototyping, and testing. Why not apply this to more than just product management? This remarkable success has not gone unnoticed, and it has put design thinking at the core of strategy development and organisational change management.
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One study has found that companies that have embraced design thinking - such as SAP, Apple and Coca-Cola - outperform the S&P 500 by more than 200%. But technology also provides us with extraordinary tools for amplifying methodologies such as design thinking to foster innovation and creativity within organisations. Three ways in which technology is enabling us to be more innovative and creative are:
TAKING TO THE CLOUD(S) Digital transformation is a must-have for modern businesses, and the cloud is where much of the action takes place. Creating cloud-based environments for innovation allows companies to explore new technologies and applications and then scale quickly and seamlessly. Where business advice in the past focused on thinking ‘out the box’, cloud computing discards the box entirely and takes business innovation into a limitless environment. Without the cloud, companies will lack the flexibility to outperform competitors and struggle to secure market-leading positions.
DEMOCRATISING DATA The separation of IT and the rest of the enterprise is no more thanks to advances in data analytics and how organisational data is visualised. Not too long ago, it would take the IT department weeks,
ABOUT SAP As market leader in enterprise application software, SAP (NYSE: SAP) helps companies of all sizes and industries run better. From back office to boardroom, warehouse to storefront, desktop to mobile device – SAP empowers people and organisations to work together more efficiently and use business insight more effectively to stay ahead of the competition. SAP applications and services enable more than 345 000 business and public sector customers to operate profitably, adapt continuously, and grow sustainably. For more information, visit www.sap.com.
months, in some cases even years to analyse data and provide key insights into the performance of specific business processes. Considering the pace of today’s business environment, taking months - even weeks - to analyse data could spell the end of an organisation’s innovation and competitiveness. The evolution of big data and the advent of real-time predictive analytics now allows companies to access accurate data about the performance of key parts of the business and make informed decisions that can have a direct impact on performance, profitability, and long-term competitiveness. We all know, and some of us use, natural language-processing applications like Siri and Alexa in our private lives: They are great in that they give us much easier access to information, for example by “reading” a recipe to us, or even by entertaining our guests with some soft jazz or jokes. In today’s fast-paced digitised business world, though, these voice-enabled devices have the potential to ease access to data. You can easily think of a CFO asking for real-time revenue figures during a board meeting, or an HR team looking at employee hiring trends ahead of an interview. No matter which business situation comes to your mind, data is becoming more accessible across the enterprise, at a faster pace than ever, no matter the data’s complexity. This newly won ease in using data opens up opportunities for innovation and creative thinking in every department and at
every level. I’m absolutely convinced that innovation, paired with creativity, is key to succeed in the digitalised business.
AUTOMATING THE MUNDANE Few technologies are as disruptive or far-reaching as artificial intelligence (AI). By automating mundane or repetitive tasks, AI frees knowledge workers up to focus on more creative pursuits that can have a far greater impact on the organisation’s long-term success. By removing the need to invest time in tasks requiring low skill, AI further enables employees to continuously upskill themselves with more impactful skills and competencies. This has the dual benefit of empowering the organisation’s workforce while also increasing employee satisfaction and retention. Advancements in AI, data analytics, and cloud are completely transforming how (and where) we work. With more data, time, accessibility, and convenience, we can much more easily connect, expand our knowledge, and keep drumming up new ideas that contribute to our business’ momentum. With cloud technology increasing teamwork, streamlining and uniting business goals, and crowdsourcing ideas that help make organisations smarter, you don’t have to wait long to see creativity skyrocket. As we all know, where there is productivity, efficiency, and creativity – success is only one step away!
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M Y W AY B y E l s ke J o u b e r t
Stimulate and realise your business’ growth potential House of Growth is a business advisory and consulting company that helps clients set and achieve their business goals. Combining all their supporting services and opinion, they help clients become a business with the financial power to accommodate growth and expansion.
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Director Francois Herbst founded House of Growth in 2013 after recognising a need in the SME sector for entrepreneurs to focus solely on growing their businesses without the distraction of completing the daily (and often mundane) administrative tasks. House of Growth has since expanded and currently Jaco Bezuidenhout and Willem Vorster is part of the executive management. For House of Growth, it’s important to help entrepreneurs remember their ‘why’, and they do this by taking control of the business process’ side. “There are many entrepreneurs with great ideas, but due to the lack of financial experience, starting a successful business can be difficult,” says Herbst, “and factors like choosing a company name, registering your company, statutory requirements, employer responsibilities, etc. are important aspects to consider before starting this journey.” House of Growth assists in this regard by not only acting as a virtual financial director to entrepreneurs, but helping them as a strategic partner in drawing up their mission, vision, goals and feasibility of their ideas, as well as a solid business plan. The company acts as consultants to incubators where they provide insight into the financial health of their businesses. They also believe in being proactive – identifying the financial risks and needs of the business in advance, thus helping entrepreneurs address these issues before they arise. What about strategic planning? At House of Growth, it doesn’t matter if companies have a successful track record; instead, they look at the potential of the business. For the company, it’s important to understand their clients’ history and track record to help set new targets and re-evaluate their clients’ goals. House of Growth also identifies any current
From left: Willem Vorster, Francois Herbst, and Jaco Bezuidenhout run House of Growth, a business advisory and consulting company.
drawbacks and helps in reviving growth opportunities. Their strategic planning services include compiling monthly and annual budgets, cash flow forecasts, doing feasibility studies, valuations, management accounts, tax planning and group structures. And investment options? “Considering the investment of additional cash is a fundamental decision”, says Herbst, “whether it’s investments in horizontal expansion, linear expansion or diversifying your investment portfolio – it can be cardinal for wealth creation in the future.” House of Growth can help with analysing your current position, identifying possible opportunities and the feasibility thereof, and creating an opportunity for the relevant parties to meet. According to Herbst, due diligence and analyses of opportunities, negotiations, valuation and feasibility studies of the opportunities all form part of their service.
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M Y W AY | H O U S E O F G R O W T H
What do the accounting services include? House of Growth does all the leg work of a business: summarising bank statements, capturing invoices or PAYE reconciliations and submissions. Other services include monthly accounting, employee taxation, biannual EMP reconciliation, VAT calculations and recons, annual financial reporting, and income tax.
Questions for Francois Herbst, Director of House of Growth You founded your first profitable business when you were only 16 years old. What has been your secret to success? You need to love what you’re doing. For me, it’s important to remember why you started the business. The reason why you started a business would surely be because it is something you enjoy or are passionate about. Keep this focus on your passion and get someone else or a partner to attend to the parts of business which might distract you from doing what you love. What have been some of your biggest challenges and successes? Growing a business has daily challenges - from staff to finance to management. My biggest daily challenge is to remember that a successful, sustainable business is not built over a short period of time, but rather constantly doing the right thing over and over. For me, there is a difference between success and achievement. Success is not a fixed goal to accomplish, but rather a moving target to strive for. My biggest achievement though, was earning the title of Entrepreneur of the Year in SAICA’s Top 35 under 35 awards in 2017. Developing and honing entrepreneurs is vital in reducing South Africa’s high unemployment rate, and small businesses are needed to help grow our economy. How important is government’s and
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Director of House of Growth, Francois Herbst, winning Entrepreneur of the Year at SAICA’s Top 35 under 35 awards in 2017.
QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS WHAT BOOK ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING? Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie. It is truly an inspirational book. WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU? My wife is my rock. Her unconditional support and passion to see me achieve my goal is what inspires me. FAVOURITE HOBBIES/ PASTIMES? Reading and spending time with people.
the private sector’s role in helping to achieve this? In order to reduce South Africa’s unemployment and fast-track our economic growth, there needs to be a strong symbiosis relationship between government and the private sector. Unfortunately one will not be able to achieve results without the other. The government needs to create an environment where SMEs can have the best chances of surviving. This includes reducing red-tape, and help reducing the hurdles to adequate finance, more preferential tax laws etc. The private sector not only needs to support SMEs more, but should also be willing to coach and mentor these SMEs from the early stage to corporate stage. Thus, not only supporting them financially (buying their product or service), but also emotionally. You believe in paying it forward and are involved in quite a number of CSI initiatives. Can you elaborate on one or two of these? Being involved in CSI initiatives is such an inspiration. There are these amazing people with amazing ideas, and against all odds, they wake up everyday to chisel a better future for themself, their loved ones and the country. There are a few very close to my heart, one being Shift the Frame. We have partnered with a business in Hermanus who is in the manufacturing and supplying wood industry. They are willing to supply the practical training and the wood for a carpentry upliftment project, and needed a partner in the mentoring and business coaching part of the project. The idea is to train more unemployed people to work with their hands, while also getting to understand the concept of business better. This will enable them to either start their own business or just be of more value as an employee, which can lead to promotions.
The Entrepreneurship Support Ecosystem Is the entrepreneurship support ecosystem broken? Those meant to help are set up to make as much money as possible from the corporate programmes. Those who pay for it often end up with exceptionally expensive initiatives, which benefit a small handful of businesses. Writers: Jayshree Naidoo & York Zucchi
In most instances this is acceptable to the corporate as long as it meets scorecard requirements. The rest - the millions of other SMEs and entrepreneurs out there - are left fending on their own. Government tries to help, but hoping that government officials create something that actually speaks the SME language is a tough ask. Once in a while you get great initiatives that try and tackle the issue of the masses such as Awethu or Gauteng’s eKasi Unlimited (The Township Marketplace) and others, but generally speaking the system is broken. One-to-one incubation, upskilling, mentoring and handholding is effective if delivered at the right time to affect the changes required. There a few organisations that though meaning well actually inflict more damage. This support is prohibitively expensive and generally reserved for those that already show signs of success. So how we do support the entrepreneurship ecosystem best? Surely there must be a better way to support SMEs that doesn’t crash the bank or harm the SME. For an ecosystem to work you
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need to tackle a number of angles, in this article we aim to explore four of these:
Legislation The first one being legislation. Israel did it really well a while back. They created a financial incentive for start-up funds that basically worked as follows: for every USD 1 that the fund invested the government gave another USD 7 as co-investor. It did come with 2 qualitative catches: For an incubator/fund to apply for this they had to show real track record with SMEs (i.e. not just incubating them, but showing that under their supervision the SMEs actually grew). And the co-investment license was checked annually for performance of the SMEs so the incubator/funder was as much under pressure to help their SMEs to grow as the SMEs itself. The SMEs had to work on business solutions that could be exported (think Skype, Agri-processing, defence, etc). This had the effect of creating an incredibly rich export ready culture (Israel only has 7 million people so the market was too small anyhow). Who decided what was export-ready? They had a government office in charge of helping decide this. In South Africa, for example, they introduced a 12J tax incentive that allows investments in startups to be written off as a tax loss, which increased overnight the number of funds registering for this setup. The short term effect will be the usual rush for the best entrepreneurs, but over time we will see the effect spill to other areas. Unfortunately in SA, many funders and VC’s are fishing in a very small pool, and very often fishing in the same pool at the detriment of the start-ups that actually need support.
Bureaucracy & Accounting We often hear of complaints related to the complexity of setting up a business and these complaints are understandable, but to us the administrative burden of running the business is more important. We are all reluctantly in favour of paying taxes to support the economy, but in our view a startup should have a 3-5 year “simplified tax” window – perhaps something along the lines of turnover tax, etc. In our experience however, tax is a bi-product of sales and cash flow management. Too many businesses struggle and often downright fail at doing proper accounting. This is less to do with taxes and more to do with having a realistic check on how your
business is doing. Our wish is that there was a financial incentive (e.g. lower tax bracket) if you diligently use and submit your quarterly accounts online – irrespective of what accounting package you use.
Access to funding and financing SMEs are by their very nature of their startup age difficult to finance based on track-record. Most funders/financiers still apply the same funding/financing criteria to a small business as they do to a large business which is clearly nonsensical, but we can also understand the perspective of the financiers. The solution can be found through more and more innovative ways to look at what is really risky in an SMEs transaction and to treat different SME sectors with different lenses. For example, there are now innovative solutions that are similar to factoring, but where the funder looks at the actual purchase order and not the invoice. The funding mechanisms for these exist within the procurement, enterprise and supplier development areas of corporates, but organisations have been slow to leverage them for use within their corporates as it is not a core function.
Access to skills Often (though not always) entrepreneurs are excellent at the technical skill set on which they build their business (engineering,
consulting, software development, etc) but lack experience across the whole spectrum of business skill-sets which can be a fatal blow to their ability to build and grow a business. Experience certainly helps, but in our view what is really lacking is an entrepreneurial skills audit that entrepreneurs can take to get a better understanding of what they are good at and what they lack. While an entrepreneur is often expected to be able to do many things well, especially in the initial stages of business, a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses could be very beneficial in understanding how to resource their weaknesses better. It could also help them understand what they need in a business partner or employee team. This will ensure that corporate incubators and accelerators create customised programmes that target the actual gap identified in a skills audit, as opposed to off the shelf programmes that have no relevance in the emerging market context and offers no real value to the entrepreneur.
Access to markets
All of the above are wonderful, but useless if a business does not have clients. This has historically been done via trade shows, networking events and paid-for advertising across all channels. But the above are not cost-effective and are often once-off initiatives. Additionally, most entrepreneurs - in our experience seriously underestimate the cost of client acquisition (how many times have we entrepreneurs met with prospects, including travel, presentations, proposals, etc, for a small deal that rationally could never cover all the effort). Access to markets (finding clients) is especially tricky to support from a big corporate perspective and even trickier as government. It is a way for governments to create a space where businesses can meet each other in a way that drives trade between businesses as well as between regions (think of the intra-trade potential for entire economic regions). Corporates also benefit in supporting this because it allows them to place relevant products next to relevant business opportunities. Fixing the entrepreneurship support ecosystem isn’t hard. There are some great initiatives out there, and many ecosystem players are doing an amazing job in supporting entrepreneurs. The missing glue is communication; too many organisations are doing too many independent initiatives without coordinating with each other, learning from each other and asking the value of what they are doing to the SMEs bottom line.
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FAST COMPANY PROMOTION
Digitise, Innovate, Disrupt! Fast Company SA inter views Brandon Roberts of Sybrin, an information management company Writer: Elske Joubert Today’s disruptive technologies are accelerating the pace of digital transformation. Globally, businesses are constantly evolving at a rapid speed, creating a demand for seamless interactions – anytime, anywhere. Enter, Sybrin. We touched base with Brandon Roberts, Head of Innovation, where he told us more about Sybrin, tech trends, and the importance of having a digital presence. What’s the ethos behind Sybrin? Sybrin’s main driver is to consistently enable change. Our work is guided by our purpose which is to bring about positive change, to both our customers and ourselves, by investing our passion in creating innovative solutions giving rise to growth, reliability, and shared prosperity. We use technology to uplift traditional forms of working, and enable enriched lifestyles. By helping people to open accounts faster, have better branch interactions, experience improved workflows, we enable them to
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achieve more whilst building a culture which is good for both people and their environment. How important is it for a company to have a digital presence in this day and age? In today’s world, your digital presence is extremely Brandon Roberts, 26, important. Not having a digital presence is almost Director of Innovations, equivalent to not being registered on the national ID Marketing, and Pre-Sales database, you may as well not exist. Millennials are leading the charge when it comes to your current workforce, user base, client base, and their interaction of choice is a digital interaction. Even generations that came before them are choosing digital interactions, that is the magnitude of their influence. To not create a digital presence for them to interact with is unthinkable. One should see your digital presence as an enablement platform, it is the gateway to your audience. This is where your potential customer, supplier, or user can reach you. They will use this platform to learn about you, form a bond with you, and interact with you. You’ve worked for Sybrin for approximately 7 years. What have been some of the major lessons/takeaways you’ve learned thus far? In my time with Sybrin, I’ve learned 3 important things: Firstly, changing internally in the company is a never-ending responsibility. Everything has to shift as the world around us changes. As a technology company, we have to keep changing our views, our insights. We need to make use of everything that is out there, constantly retraining and upskilling to keep up with an ever-evolving environment. We need to embrace these consistent shifts and in doing so we’ll keep disrupting our own thinking internally, year after year. Secondly, what we’ve noticed is that customers don’t always know what they want, or need. They follow the latest trends, or they try and create systems around their current processes as opposed to leveraging off the myriad of new innovative solutions available that are already solving problems they hadn’t even realised they have. It’s also important to note that when making these changes it’s best to start small; innovate and change current business models as opposed to following a Big Bang approach. Get your user base to feel comfortable with the technology, then move on to the next step, which would be changing more of your business models. If you don’t, you end up with the Chicken vs The Egg dilemma, and people won’t want to embrace the change. That being said, make sure those first steps happen quickly, keep up the momentum, it will keep your users/customers happy and engaged, otherwise you may as well have opted for the Big With a global presence spanning 20+ Bang. countries. Sybrin manages over 1000 systems for 250+ clients. Lastly, but arguably most
user’s screen with a ton of little enablers, those are meant to drive a consumer-driven approach. The key change is to foster a more user interactive nonstatic app based approach, that tells the user “Hi! Please use me! This amazing app has been made for you and it’s got everything you need in one place”. It starts with focusing on “how do I use it?”, “what is the information I require to use it?”, “what are the functions I’m going to be exposing to everybody?”, and “how do I connect my app to all the apps out there in the world?” It’s not just my closed loop anymore, everything else in the world has an impact on me now.
Sybrin’s solutions process over 100 million payments a month.
importantly, focus on Operational Change. Technology has its challenges, but generally implementing it is not the issue, making people believe in the concept however is often times harder than it sounds. What really is more difficult is getting the business ready, operationally there is more that goes into it than simply implementing new tech, and often times this is what organisations miss. Keep in mind that during these shifts you’re changing how something has worked for years. Upskilling, re-educating, and enabling your customer base is often neglected and these usually end up being the biggest challenges we face – the operational change, not the technology change. As Head of Innovation, what are some of the key trends you’ve seen in the industry? The trend I’ve found most prevalent is how apps are changing to best fit the user experience. The design first principle starts with the persona of the user and not the functions enabled on an API, these experiences then tailor the needs to be addressed and force a change in thinking which results in the user being presented with less information which is of a higher quality in a perfectly simplistic manner. The key enabler of this is the Open API Economy, whereby everyone should be creating APIs. Apps are meant to be connected, they’re meant to work together regardless of which industry they traditionally fall in. That is the focus, if apps in today’s day and age, or service providers, do not allow for APIs to be present you can’t connect all the different worlds you operate in. The other integral part of this is that by embracing the Open API Economy it enables Fintech companies to create feature rich apps and platforms that drive a more technology driven economy as opposed to the current manual operational driven one. It’s not about flooding the
Any interesting projects/innovations from Sybrin we can look forward to in the near future? Sybrin has been focusing on establishing our own lowcode platform. Using this platform we’ve tackled two areas where we felt we could make a huge impact, both within the customer acquisition realm. We are creating our next generation Digital Banking platform which is focused on financial freedom and flexibility for consumers, it is also provided as a Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS) model. You don’t need to purchase anything outright, you can link back with us and we’ll provide you with all the functionality of a traditional bank. As part of that there is also a full customer acquisition module which allows for self-service customer acquisition, with all the verification and compliance checks enabled. This means anyone can become your client without having to interact with a person. All checks are done, and accounts are opened automatically, all without any human interaction. Secondly, our on-boarding module is available for any industry. From retail, to banking, to insurance, the whole lot. It’s completely pluggable, feature rich, and ready to go. Customer Acquisition is thus now available as an omni-channel experience that is seamless and personable. It provides a customer-centric, end-to-end, digitised, and automated on-boarding journey from capture point through to fulfilment. Lastly, our low-code platform is truly the basis of our ability to innovate. We currently use it to create apps for any industry, and in the near future we’ll be launching it so that it is open to entrepreneurs and citizen developers to help make their app dreams a reality. Using our platform, they won’t need to be a developer to create what they aspire to have, it’s a full end-to-end delivery platform which will allow them to create apps and more with little to no development experience. Our platform will help fast track your digital transformation journey by connecting people, processes, information, and applications to rapidly build engaging digital customer- and user-experiences. Through our innovative use of new technologies, we can give you the edge to lead the market. Get ready to Digitise, Innovate, and Disrupt!
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FAST COMPANY PROMOTION
The LaunchLab: How Innovation Hubs Can Actually Work sure they reach their potential. To do so, they handle specialist tasks like patenting the IP, product development support, connecting the founders to investors and providing the missing business skills to grow them to the level where they are no longer just an idea, but self-sustaining, profit generating entities. To build the momentum of all of this innovation movement, to further help startups reach their commercial potential, as well as to amplify entrepreneurial activity with students, faculties and the broader community, Innovus decided to establish the Nedbank Stellenbosch University LaunchLab in 2015 with the help of Nedbank and the Department of Trade and Industry. Within its walls, you’ll find some very driven people using the resources the LaunchLab provides – access to market through corporate clients (Nedbank, Santam, ATTACQ and Mercedes-Benz South Africa), access to funding, free internet, tools, skills workshops and functional space. Most importantly, they use each other as resources to solve unsolvable problems, by tackling them from multiple angles. “We call it facilitating valuable connections. This is the heart of what we do at LaunchLab. Entrepreneurship is a contact sport. If you don’t have connections to help you build and grow your business you are going to struggle. And Stellenbosch, the University and LaunchLab are a rich community for valuable connections” says LaunchLab CEO, Philip Marais.
Ideas – to paraphrase Robin Williams – can change the world. This is right on the money… but it’s also reductive. The real problem is not the having of ideas, but making sure that the really good ones go on to fulfil their potential. If there’s another thing that we’ve learned it’s that you can significantly reduce the rate of failure and exponentially increase the amount of sustainable, stand-alone businesses that coalesce around their ideas if you surround them with like-minded, yet differently skilled individuals. Communities create connections. One such community is Stellenbosch. With companies like Mediclinic, Distell and Capitec all having their roots in the same soil, and Technopark, which is growing worldchanging tech companies, it is proving to be just as proliferating for the imagination. At the heart of all of this is Stellenbosch University (affectionately known as Maties), which, understandably, is brimming with superlative talents in multiple fields. In just the last decade, we have seen an escalation of entrepreneurial activity coming out of our University. Many years ago a decision was made to capitalise on the number of influential ideas that our students and faculty generate, and a new, focused entity, Innovus, was formed. As the University’s technology transfer office, it is Innovus’ responsibility to ensure that any grand concepts coming out of the university, that are feasible as businesses, are firstly able to reach their markets (either through licensing or starting new companies) and then, secondly, to make
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THESE EXAMPLES ARE PARAGONS OF THIS WAY OF WORKING:
Stellenbosch innovators in the LaunchLab Space
Stellietech is a student-founded company that has built their own custom software training system, and was recently awarded the tender from Stellenbosch University to train all of the support staff on Microsoft Office Sxuirrel is a marketplace for space, first for storing goods for when students are required to vacate residences during holidays and, more recently, for parking and event venues. MySmartFarm is a dashboard and automation solution for farmers, which uses new algorithms to improve yield. They have also worked with the electronic engineering department to develop sensors to read soil moisture and mineral composition. Leap.ly is a platform for graduate recruitment that uses AI to match candidates with opportunities. They have also worked with the computer science department to improve their algorithms. Mellowcabs manufacturers electric mini-cars that operate through the Uber platform. They worked with the electrical and electronic engineering departments to improve the battery management systems for their vehicles. Stellenbosch University has earned its reputation as ‘the most innovative’ and the LaunchLab as the ‘top university incubator in Africa’. It’s all because of the proven fact that at the heart, we facilitate valuable connections – when good people come together, good things can happen faster.
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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
INTEL LAUNCHES WORLD’S FIRST SIX-CORE MOBILE CPU Intel’s eighth-generation Core processors first debuted in late 2017, but the launch covered a limited number of processors. Notably missing was a successor to the top-tier seventh-generation quad-core chips, as well as a fully filled line-up of desktop processors. The company’s new announcement bulks up its chip line and offers the first ever six-core CPUs for mobile, the core i9 which leads six-core chips for laptops. People who need serious portable power have long awaited their own upgrade, and Intel has handed them two extra cores for waiting. Intel’s Core i9-8950HK is the headliner. It’s not only among the first six-core chips for mobile, but also the first Core i9 for a laptop. Its maximum clock speed of 4.8GHz is absurd for mobile hardware, and it’s even unlocked, so daring owners can try to overclock it for even better performance.
FORMER FNB CEO INTRODUCES SOUTH AFRICA’S FIRST DIGITAL BANK Former FNB CEO Michael Jordaan and former FNB head of retail Yatin Narsai are set to launch a new app-driven bank, Bank Zero, that offers added control and transparency with a fresh approach to banking. The bank has been granted a provisional licence after a rigorous, in-depth evaluation process by the South African Reserve Bank and will make use of a mutual bank licence – a concept which mirrors current social media trends and benefits customers by allowing for the support and creation of financial communities. It also provides for a capital-efficient framework, and the bank will be sharing the subsequent cost benefits with its customers (both businesses and individuals). Bank Zero will offer a unique and fresh approach to banking without any legacy systems which can be costly to maintain. Bank Zero is a 45% black-owned mutual bank and is set to launch in the fourth quarter of 2018.
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GOOGLE CREATES FREE AI AND MACHINE LEARNING COURSE ONLINE Machine learning (ML) and AI are some of the biggest topics in the tech world right now, and Google is looking to make those fields more accessible to more people with its new ‘Learn with Google AI’ website, which will serve as a hub for AI and machine learning resources. The company envisions the Learn with Google AI site serving as a repository for machine learning and AI, and it’s meant to be a hub for anyone looking to learn about core ML concepts, develop and hone their ML skills, and apply ML to real-world problems. The site will apparently cater to all levels of AI enthusiasts, from researchers to beginners.
MOZILLA ANNOUNCES FIREFOX REALITY, A BROWSER FOR AUGMENTED AND VIRTUAL REALITY Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox web browser has been invested in augmented reality (AR), or mixed reality, and virtual reality (VR) for some time now. Starting with Firefox 5.5, for example, Mozilla has officially supported WebVR, a growing standard that lets anyone experience VR with just a VR headset and a compatible browser. Now, Mozilla is expanding its involvement with a new browser that’s designed specifically for mixed reality and VR. Dubbed Firefox Reality, the new browser is aimed directly at stand-alone AR and VR headsets. According to Mozilla, the purpose of the browser is to extend support for mixed reality and VR beyond the smartphones, tablets, and PCs that currently drive the technology, and to make it more accessible as the web continues to grow and advance.
FORD SOUTHERN AFRICA EXPANDS ENGINE PRODUCTION IN STRUANDALE Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA) is expanding its operations at its Struandale engine factory in Port Elizabeth as part of a wide-ranging investment in its two South African plants, announced late in 2017. The new diesel engine assembly hall is located in a totally revamped 3868-square-metre section of the Struandale plant, and features the automaker’s latest, state-of-the-art manufacturing processes that guarantee the highest standards of workmanship, product quality and performance. Eight derivatives of the new engine will be assembled at Struandale when production officially commences in the fourth quarter of 2018. The new assembly line has a capacity of 120 000 engines per annum.
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Local conferences, talks and meetups we think are worth attending
YOUTH EMPLOYABILITY INDABA & KZN CAREER EXPO
Date: 24-26 May 2018 Time: 09:00 – 16:15 Venue: Durban International Convention Centre, KwaZulu-Natal Cost of tickets: Free
Date: 25 – 27 May 2018 Time: 10:00 – 17:00 Venue: Sandton Convention Centre, Gauteng Cost of tickets: R80pp – R120pp
The Durban ICC in partnership with the eThekwini Municipality and Independent Media will be hosting an inaugural Youth Employability Indaba & KZN Career Expo. The event aims to provide a platform to address youth employment challenges and opportunities within the KZN province and provide career guidance. This will be achieved by the engaging conference component and the event aiming to attract 300 exhibitors from corporate companies, tertiary institutions, state owned enterprises, government institutions and professional career associations. The KZN Career Expo is not only open to learners and students, but to people of all ages in the community who may be looking to get back into the workforce, for a career change or to find new ways of up-skilling.
Design Joburg, featuring Rooms on View, is Johannesburg’s premier event showcasing the leaders in décor and design. The show brings together the long-established Rooms on View exhibition with the bold Design Joburg brand. Showcasing the very best of both international and local design, the show will return in May, transforming the Sandton Convention Centre into Johannesburg’s most covetable and inspiring design destination. The show welcomes the return of creative directors Andrea Kleinloog and Megan Hesse, plus décor doyen Sumari Krige, who will once again enhance the Rooms on View experience.
UNLOCKING AFRICA MARKETS CONFERENCE
Date: 25 May 2018 Time: 08:30 – 18:00 Venue: Cape Town International Convention Centre, Western Cape Cost of tickets: R1 500pp
Date: 6 – 7 June 2018 Time: 09:00 – 17:00 Venue: Sandton Convention Centre, Gauteng Cost of tickets: R50pp
The third Unlocking African Markets (UAM) Conference 2018 will be held under the overarching theme: Deepening African Integration through Entrepreneurship and Intra-African Trade Enhancement, the conference will attract high-level speakers and high-profile personalities across the continent and in diaspora. The month of May is a very auspicious period for the conference, being the Africa month, the conference hopes to leverage the significance of the Africa month to amplify the need to pay more attention to Intra-African Trade and Investments.
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Are you a hungry marketer? Madex is the ultimate marketing, advertising, design, social media and all that good stuff expo you don’t want to miss. Not your typical marketing event, Madex brings marketing matters to life through an interactive exhibition floor, curated expert content and multiple networking opportunities. Enhance your capabilities, gain valuable insight and knowledge into today’s ever-changing trends and techniques and consult with key providers.
Date: 13 June Time: 10:00 – 17:00 Venue: Sandton Convention Centre, Gauteng Cost of tickets: R11 680pp
Date: 20 – 21 June 2018 Time: 10:00 – 17:00 Venue: Cape Town International Convention Centre, Western Cape Cost of tickets: R50pp
By bringing the brightest minds together from across the globe in rail, Africa Rail ignites new innovations and inspires the audience to think differently. This is the one-stop shop for product demonstrations and networking. Leading rail solution providers meet an extensive list of buyers from across Africa. Africa Rail has been called “the must attend event in the rail industry”.
Source Africa will take place for the 6th time in Cape Town this year. It is now the most important annual pan-African 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 worldclass sourcing event that supports the growth and development of business, trade and economic opportunities in Africa.
AI EXPO AFRICA
Date: 18 June 2018 Time: 08:00 – 16:00 Venue: PRISA Johannesburg, Gauteng Cost of tickets: R3 180pp
Date: 9 – 11 September 2018 Time: 08:00 – 18:15 Venue: Century City Conference Centre, Cape Town Cost of tickets: R4 900pp
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.
This year’s AI Expo Africa 2018 is focusing on real world applications & trends driving the Artificial Intelligence (AI) economy in Africa and seeking to build an AI business-focused community across the continent. With 400 delegates, 27 speakers, 5 keynotes, 4 workshops, 28 AI exhibitors plus Innovation Cafe housing 20 AI startups. The event is aimed at CxO, decision maker, investor & innovator delegates with the primary goal of educating business leaders about AI applications and opportunities impacting the enterprise today, as well as generating real business opportunities for sponsors, speakers & AI startups across the region.
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NEXT By Jodene Shaer JODENE SHAER
How to remain relevant in the Facebook age of meaningful social interactions With Facebook announcing that it’s pushing brand and publisher content out of news feeds, how can businesses, especially small and medium enterprises in South Africa, remain relevant?
It was deemed a “rude awakening” early in January 2018 when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the social networking platform had changed its algorithm, basically meaning it had changed what users see on their news feeds, shutting out that which friends are not engaging with. Now its set of rules include bumping up users’ friends and family members’ status updates and photos, and underplaying public news articles and content published by brands. But where does that leave the small or medium businesses largely - sometimes even solely - reliant on communicating their brand messages through Facebook? How do they now reach the approximately two billion Facebook users? There is still a way. “Meaningful interaction is not something new to Zuckerberg’s focus on how brands engage with their Facebook audience,” explains Jodene Shaer, head strategist of social media engagement specialist, Chat Factory. “In essence, there is a place for paid media, but if a brand is trying to be seen organically, then it must feel like it is part of the flowing content people want to see from friends and family. It is pushing for the reason that Facebook was created in the first place - to be social. “Having the algorithm at zero percent now creates the demand for everyone with a page to ensure their focus shifts to creating engagement and interaction,” she continues. “Community management and authentic content is the only way a page will see any organic reach going forward. This will change the dynamic of how influencers are used, because once working alongside a brand, they are also responsible for ensuring that they respond to comments and engage with the online community. Facebook is watching very carefully how people manage the authenticity of their pages.” She explains that ‘engagement bait’ is a call to action requesting your audience to Like or Share your content as a tactic to gain more followers. “This has been long frowned upon by Facebook, but the organisation is now monitoring this more closely, and pages who do so will
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have less visibility on their posts. The negativity stems from the unethical tactic of ‘trolling’ for new followers by putting the onus on your existing fans.” Truly embracing the power of live videos and video content on Facebook - and then creating reasons for the public to engage with those posts - is an excellent move for any business that is budget conscious, Shaer adds. “The ranking for visibility of organic content is highest when live. Live videos are absolutely the route to go, as followers receive a notification that you are live and there is a greater chance of visibility. A big advantage is that you can save that content to the page and it becomes shareable, and can be uploaded to YouTube, where there is still a strong call for business content. “Your content doesn’t have to be high budget either, but it must be authentic, informative, engaging and encouraging. Of all things, ensure that all comments are responded to and shares and reviews are acknowledged.” Shaer believes that smaller local businesses can make their ad budgets stretch further on Facebook by moving onto Ads Manager, instead of simply using the Boost button. “The reach is different, so invest in watching some YouTube videos as tutorials,” she recommends. “Boost to unique target audiences and turn the boosting into a science, by watching your reach. Set up smaller boosts and spread your spend across a few posts instead of one big boost. Track your stats and see which audiences work best.” Shaer points out that we’ve already seen algorithms roll out in Instagram, with the same focus on engaging with posts. “One way that South African SMEs can tackle this platform is to make use of Instagram Stories, as these are gaining organic reach. “In addition, we’ve seen the opening up of the use of LinkedIn and had people return to using the power of Twitter, so it’s worth investigating how to maximise other platforms while trying to keep your budget low. “None of this should put a small business off, but should create exciting and challenging opportunities to shift how social media is used and explore the outcomes of each post, to truly develop a social media presence,” she adds. The passive consumption of Facebook content has ended. Time will soon tell if the new algorithm sparks a significant, more dynamic and personal life into this social platform now in its adolescence, having recently turned 14 years old.
“T HERE IS A PLACE FOR PAID MEDIA, BUT IF A BRAND IS TRYING TO BE SEEN ORGANICALLY, THEN IT MUST FEEL LIKE IT IS PART OF THE FLOWING CONTENT PEOPLE WANT TO SEE.”
Jodene Shaer is an entrepreneur at heart; author and speaker by passion. Specialising in South African and international social media strategy, content and community management and influencer marketing. Alongside her team, Jodene is head strategist and influencer marketer for her social media online agency, Chat Factory, the social media partner of #Madex2018.
SUBSCRIBE TO THE AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY FOR EXTENSIVE NEWS FROM SUBSCRIBE TO THE AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY THE AFRICAN FOR EXTENSIVE NEWS FROMCONTINENT THE AFRICAN CONTINENT African News Agency(ANA) is Africa’s first multimedia News-Wire syndication and PR Wire service. ANA is a commercialised, digital content generation and syndication service providing the very latest Africa’s first multimedia news syndication wire service, the African News Agency (ANA), and breaking news information and developments across all spheres of politics, business, current is now up and running. affairs, lifestyle and sport coverage from the African continent and globally. Catering for government departments, organisations , businesses, digital and and traditional publishers, Launched on 1 March 2015, ANA is a digital content-generation syndication service television and radio broadcasters as well as content providers media on the African providing solid political, business, current affairs, and lifestyle andoutlets sport coverage from the continent and worldwide. ANA has not only filled the gap left by the closure of the South African African continent. Press Association (SAPA), but we have also greatly improved the service offering at a greatly reduced price.
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ANA is staffed by a senior team of experienced journalists in South Africa with a network
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