The legacy of ROMEO KUMALO
INNOVATIVE COMPANIES 25 OF SA’S OWN MOST FORWARD-THINKING BUSINESSES including BUZZFEED, ALPHABET, FACEBOOK, HUAWEI, FNB AND MTN
DECEMBER 2016/JANUARY 2017 FASTCOMPANY.CO.ZA
9 772313 330006
Inside the businessman’s plans for an African ICT revolution “I don’t need to look at other markets— what I want to do is impact Africa.”
SECRETS OF THE MOST PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE How ultra-busy SA professionals—from a group CEO to a filmmaker—get so much done
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E N J OY R E S P O N S I B LY. N OT FO R S A L E TO P E R S O N S U N D E R T H E AG E O F 1 8 .
Now in its third year, Chivas Regal is running The Venture for 2017. But this time, there’s a twist… The Venture is a global competition to find and support aspiring social entrepreneurs who use business as a force for good. This year, Chivas Regal SA is taking the competition to the next level with The Venture Elevator Pitch. Globally, The Venture provides social entrepreneurs with the opportunity to earn a share of $1 million in financial investment. Additionally, participation in The Venture connects entrepreneurs with invaluable business resources and generates global exposure for their work. The Venture lives up to Chivas Regal’s global creed - to Win The Right Way - and invests in the idea that business can create positive social change. For South Africa, the concept of
‘Win The Right Way’ is significant as it aligns with the philosophy of Ubuntu. Everyone wins when you Win The Right Way. Last year, more than 2 500 start-up business owners from 27 countries applied to compete in The Venture. In South Africa this year, The Venture will be bigger and better than ever before. The selection of the South African finalist will be a highly publicised competition with a cash prize of R350 000.
in which they will meet and learn from some of South Africa’s legendary captains of industry. The local finale of the competition will be broadcast in a televised special, and the winner of the event will go on to the United States to represent South Africa in the global final of The Venture. Entrepreneurs can submit to enter The Venture from September 15th to November 5th at www.theventure. com. Be sure to watch The Venture Elevator Pitch on Mzansi (DSTV) from November 15th, and be a part of the journey.
Chivas The Venture Elevator Pitch, the name of South Africa’s leg of the competition, will be broadcast on national television, including the opportunity for select contestants to pitch their businesses to a panel of esteemed judges and the greater South African public. The advancing local finalists will then participate in an accelerator program
ENTER NOW AT THEVENTURE.COM
E N J OY R E S P O N S I B LY. N OT FO R S A L E TO P E R S O N S U N D E R T H E AG E O F 1 8 .
December 2016/ January 2017
C OVER F EATURE
HIS WORTHY PROJECT
Clear vision “We will make an impact on society. We will use technology to change lives,” says Kumalo about his new company, Washirika. (page 20)
Romeo Kumalo doesn’t see himself as a Zuckerberg-type entrepreneur, but rather one who can leverage decades of corporate experience in media and telecoms to connect Africa and mentor a new generation of black industrialists—his lasting legacy. Inside the South African business mogul’s plans for an ICT revolution. By CHRIS WALDBURGER Page 20
F EATU RES S P EC IAL F EATURE
THE WORLD’S MOST INNOVATIVE COMPANIES + SA’S TOP 25
Whatever challenges may be buffeting business—market instability, political unrest, interest rate hikes, red tape— there are always pockets of extraordinary achievement. Here’s our 2016 guide to the businesses that matter most. Begins on page 42 2 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A DECEMBER 2016/JANUARY 2017
30 SECRETS OF THE MOST PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE
Ultra-busy South African professionals offer the best ways to break through all the clutter—at work and at home
102 MOVING FORWARD How innovative tech companies are getting goods to African consumers BY TOM JACKSON
108 RICHES FOR THE POOR
Billionaires around the world are joining the Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge to contribute to charitable causes
112 IN GOOD SPIRITS
A taste of South Africa’s exclusive and innovative brands of cognac, brandy and whisky BY GRAHAM HOWE
H I GHL I GHT S
S OU T H AFRI CAN
INT E RNAT I O NAL
44 FOR ACCELERATING FINTECH INNOVATION
66 FOR SHAKING UP MEDIA ACROSS THE GLOBE
With its accelerator programme by Rise, Barclays Africa is shaping the next generation of innovative businesses that could disrupt the financial sector
While BuzzFeed has been amusing bored employees around the world with cat GIFs and funny lists, it has also transferred its specific brand of virality to deep political coverage, personal and critical essays, as well as breaking and in-depth global news
46 FOR FIXING THE INTERNET
Passmarked is harnessing the power of the global collective— the crowd and the cloud—to make the World Wide Web a safer, more transparent, accessible and business-friendly environment
78 FOR CHANGING THE GAME WITH MOBILE VIDEO
A must-have tool for sports teams of any level, Hudl has built a platform where athletes and coaches can quickly upload and review videos of gameplay, and use these for training and promotional purposes as well as recruitment
50 FOR CONNECTING MORE THINGS
Two of South Africa’s leading telecoms companies, MTN and Vodacom, are launching narrowband Internet of Things solutions that will drive the evolution of connectivity on the continent
86 FOR BRINGING CREATIVITY TO THE FIGHT AGAINST CANCER Novocure, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Amgen have created promising new therapies, medicines and even a live, modified virus to help treat tumours
88 FOR BREAKING THE BOX-OFFICE RECORD WITH CANNY CASTING AND MARKETING
Universal Studios’ latest success is mainly due to its smart, againsttype casting, and its embracing of social media and other digital platforms to help promote its slate of films
56 FOR TAKING THE DIGITAL LEAD
The latest version of its banking app, as well as new services and products are cementing FNB’s reputation as South Africa’s foremost tech-driven banking institution
94 FOR REDEFINING WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A NON-PROFIT BUSINESS Most non-profits rely on grant money, which comes with rules about how they can use it. Leila Janah is redefining the ‘business for social good’ model by using private-sector methods in her Sama Group. Revenue generated by her commercial beauty company, Laxmi, is helping to feed the socially focused work of Sama’s other programmes.
63 FOR FIGHTING CRIME IN REAL TIME A burst of independence Leila Janah’s Sama Group represents a new model for social impact: a nonprofit that is self-funding. (page 94)
The SPOTTM founders leveraged South Africa’s increasing mobile Internet penetration in devising an app with which victims of crime can immediately report a felony to thousands of community members in their neighbourhood
DECEMBER 2016/JANUARY 2017 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A 3
REG U LARS
08 FROM THE EDITOR 10 THE RECOMMENDER 13 OUT OF AFRICA
Siyabonga Ngwenya’s icherryefresh turns traditional items into modern accessories
118 THE GREAT INNOVATION FRONTIER
The most important habit of productive and innovative people? They know what they want. BY WALTER BAETS
120 FAST BYTES & EVENTS 124 TEAM SPIRIT
Why you should learn from the people who share your business journey BY MARK MCCHLERY
N E XT
26 THE TALKING CURE How tech giants such as Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft are deputising chatbots to win your attention BY CLIFF KUANG
111 GROUP THINK
We asked 50 designers to share how, or if, they brainstorm. Here are their best ideas.
C REAT I VE C ONVE RSATIO N
14 PRIME TIME FOR ISSA RAE
The writer, producer and comedian talks about transitioning from YouTube to HBO, and making TV more diverse INTERVIEW BY JJ MCCORVEY
4 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A DECEMBER 2016/JANUARY 2017
Who’s Insecure now? Issa Rae’s bumbling, relatable humour has propelled her from YouTube to HBO. (page 14)
STUNNING FROM EVERY ANGLE. INCLUDING THE FINANCE DIRECTOR’S.
The Jaguar XE is here. It’s our most advanced, refined and efficient sports saloon ever, with a brand new range of high tech engines. These Ingenium diesel engines deliver breathtaking figures, from 109g/km CO2 and up to 4.2l/100km.
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Contact your nearest Fleet & Business centre to arrange a test drive: Jaguar Bedfordview: (011) 621 6300 Jaguar Cape Town: (021) 413 9820
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The Jaguar XE is here. It’s our most advanced, refined and efficient sports saloon ever, with a brand new range of high tech engines. These Ingenium diesel engines deliver breathtaking figures, from 109g/km CO2 and up to 4.2l/100km.
LOWER EMISSIONS From 109g/km CO 2 HIGHER FUEL ECONOMY UP TO 4.2L/100KM LONGER SERVICE INTERVALS 2 YEARS OR 34.000KM
Contact your nearest Fleet & Business centre to arrange a test drive: Jaguar Bedfordview: (011) 621 6300 Jaguar Cape Town: (021) 413 9820
Jaguar Centurion: Jaguar N1 City:
(012) 678 0044 (021) 595 7100
PUBLISHER AND EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Robbie Stammers
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Joe Mansueto, Mansueto Ventures
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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. 6 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A DECEMBER 2016/JANUARY 2017
LOWER EMISSIONS From 139g/km CO2 HIGHER FUEL ECONOMY Up to 5.3l/100km LONGER SERVICE INTERVALS 2 years or 34,000km
From the Editor
The companies on our list have all supplied a product, service or process that’s making life a little bit easier.
INNOVATION IS THE ONLY WAY FORWARD Nothing gives me more pride than presenting the annual instalment of the Most Innovative Companies in South Africa. At Fast Company we eat, sleep, drink, live and think innovation. This year’s list epitomises what we believe in and what’s driving our present—and our future. Innovation is generally considered to be a process that brings together various novel ideas in a way that they have impact on society. The companies on our list have all supplied a product, service or process that’s making life a little bit easier. OfferZen has simplified a recruitment process that was problematic; Ford has redefined vehicle technology and is bringing it to Africa; and Huawei, MTN and Vodacom are developing the continent’s ICTs in ways that were unimaginable until now. We congratulate and applaud these game-changing entities. And we’ll be watching our “special mentions” closely, too, as they more than likely will make the list in future. All these businesses have kept up with the pace of change in modern society, and have innovated no matter the market instability, political unrest, interest rate hikes and other hurdles that could so easily stymie their endeavours. Someone who is truly passionate about development, business and entrepreneurship is our cover personality, South African businessman Romeo Kumalo. Humble, gifted, tenacious and driven are only a few of the words I can use to describe the former COO of Vodacom and one of the judges on South Africa’s version of the venture-funding reality
8 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A DECEMBER 2016/JANUARY 2017
show, Shark Tank. Kumalo believes the future of digital technology starts in Africa and not abroad. I fully agree. After all, South Africa has just been rated as the country with the highest digital literacy in Africa, in Siemen and Deloitte’s “African Digitalisation Maturity Report 2017”, which did research into the extent and quality of human resources and current use of digital tech and platforms in SA, Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia. Another special feature in this edition is the Secrets of the Most Productive People. I personally found it fascinating, as I always wonder how ultra-busy people get it all done. We can learn a thing or two from them. Enjoy this edition; let it be a lens on our future in innovation, design and creativity.
Evans Manyonga email@example.com @Nyasha1e
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THE COURAGE TO GROW IS BUSINESS.
The Recommender What are you loving this month?
Bradley Leather Executive director, Purple Group
Favourite destination Maranello, Italy: For any car enthusiast, a trip to the picturesque home of Ferrari in northern Italy has to be at the top of the bucket list. I visited there recently with Pablo Clark Racing.
The factory tour is a must-do; kitted out in their full Ferrari jumpsuits, the team displays all the precision, pride and passion that goes into assembling these magnificent machines.
Favourite restaurant Lawrence Brittain
2016 SA Olympic Silver
Bravo Pizzeria, Hatfield, Pretoria: As a heavyweight rower, food is of the greatest importance to me—and pizza’s my all-time favourite. You can find me at Bravo any time of the day, as pizza’s great for breakfast, lunch or dinner! Over the years, the restaurant has grown bigger and better, and is always delivering new and exciting fare. Whenever I return from tour or training camps in Lesotho, Bravo is one of the first places I visit to settle my cravings.
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Co-founder, MD, ninety9cents
Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek: This sequel
Four-time world surfski champion and founder, MockePaddling.com
Never leave home without . . . SPOT: As someone who spends a large amount of time on the water, I often encounter less-thanideal conditions. You will never be stronger than nature, and that’s why it’s important to take safety precautions. I pack in the SPOT device (with its app) whenever I hit the water.
Its satellite devices provide GPS locationbased messaging, emergency notification technology, and even anti-theft alerting and tracking. The interface and functionality is simple and easy to navigate—vital in an emergency.
Favourite website Dan Frost MD, Coppermonkey
Cheapflights.co.za: This website helps you compare flights from hundreds of airlines; it’s the quickest way to search for a domestic or international flight, at your fingertips. You can sort by the cheapest or most direct flights, and save your searches with one swipe—which is super helpful, especially when you’re on the go.
to the best-seller Start With Why has reminded me what real leadership is all about. Sinek writes, “Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead, and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest.” Highly recommended for anyone in a leadership or managerial position..
Marketing manager, Alpen Food Company
The Misleading Mind by Karuna Cayton: Having recently become a (working) mom has made me re-evaluate priorities. Cayton uses modern psychology and secular principles of Buddhist psychology in presenting techniques for personal growth, wisdom and wellbeing in practical, real-world examples for application in business and personal life. DECEMBER 2016/JANUARY 2017 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A 11
‘Tis the season
Subscribe to Fast Company SA and stand a chance of winning one of these festive giveaways! See page 123 for subscription details.
Bruichladdich’s The Classic Laddie Bruichladdich offers a selection of unpeated and peated single malts that are as pleasing when shared with friends as they are enjoyed in a quiet moment at home. The single-malt Classic Laddie has been crafted from individually selected casks to showcase the classic floral and elegant house style. Unpeated, and made from 100% Scottish barley, the whisky is trickledistilled then matured for its entire life in premium American oak by the shores of Islay’s Loch Indaal. www.bruichladdich.com Subscribe to win one of 2 Classic Laddie glass gift packs, worth R939 each.
The Botanist Gin Alcatel One Touch POP STAR This new Android smartphone boasts a Quad-core processor, 8MP rear camera and 5MP front camera, and fully laminated 5-inch HD IPS display. What’s more, each phone comes with two interchangeable ‘fashion’ back covers in Denim and Wood; and a QR code on the battery cover gives access to the Wallpaper Store app for matching wallpapers. popstar.alcatelonetouch.com One winner will receive an Alcatel One Touch POP STAR with two fashion back covers, all worth R1 799.
Conceived and handcrafted by distilling legend Jim McEwan, The Botanist is a super-premium artisanal gin from the Bruichladdich Distillery on the wild Hebridean island of Islay. It is trickle-distilled and augmented with a heady harvest of 22 botanicals hand-picked by an expert foraging team from the windswept hills, peat bogs and Atlantic shores of the island. The layered complexity of The Botanist makes it as much for the mind as for the palate. TheBotanist.com We’re giving away 2 bottles of The Botanist Gin, worth R499 each.
Glenfiddich 12 Year Old The world’s most awarded single-malt Scotch whisky celebrates this festive season with a one-of-a-kind limited-edition gift pack. The premium packaging is embossed with the world-famous stag, and includes the signature 12 Year Old variant along with two Glenfiddich-branded tumblers. www.glenfiddich.com/za You could win one of these limited-edition gift packs worth R429.
12 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A DECEMBER 2016/JANUARY 2017
OUT OF AFRICA icherryefresh turns traditional items into modern accessories
“It all started with a teething bead necklace that snapped apart. I suddenly had the idea to try and make earrings from the beads— and I haven’t looked back.” Siyabonga Ngwenya is an accessories maker and collector, focusing on African-themed products. Although she has been making and selling her creations since 2010, it was only in December 2015 that she decided to add more accessories to the range and make it an official business called icherryefresh. Apart from her obsession with accessories, especially earrings, Ngwenya felt she wanted to produce items that were not only unique and stylish, but also affordable. “Luckily for me, my designer friend from the Congo offered to give me her off-cut materials with which to make my accessories; that way, I was able to keep my production costs low, and this ultimately allowed me to offer my range at affordable prices.” Ngwenya has also been collaborating with other crafters and designers to create pieces that “speak to the modern African”. icherryefresh incorporates her plus-size fashion blog, so she is able to blend the two aspects of the brand via her social media platforms. “While growing the brand and business, I’m also growing as an entrepreneur and creative—and taking each step of the journey as it comes.”
Ngwenya’s creations can be viewed on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat (icherryefresh). For orders, telephone 078 900 6784 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
DECEMBER 2016/JANUARY 2017 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A 13
The Awkward moment After a stint at Shondaland, HBO approached Rae: “Do you have any other ideas that you want to explore?”
“WE DON’T GET TO JUST BE BORING” Issa Rae’s gawky-yet-relatable humour won her a throng of fans on YouTube and a place on best-seller lists for her memoir, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. Here, she talks about her new HBO show, Insecure, why she loves Seinfeld, and the movement to diversify media. I N T E RV I E W BY J J M C C O RV E Y
In Insecure, you play a young woman who is just starting to deal with the realities of adulthood. What makes her tick? She is complacent and used to doing what is comfortable, which makes her kind of passiveaggressive. She’s always wishing for stuff, but doesn’t take action. Then, there’s a moment where she’s just like, “Ya know what? I’m tired of coasting at my job and in my relationship. I want to be a different person.” It’s about overcoming her own insecurities, and wanting to be . . . more. Is that autobiographical? Your character is named Issa. In my mid-20s, I was comparing myself to peers, going to these Christmas
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Stylist: Ayanna James; hair: Felicia Leatherwood; makeup: Kamaren Williams
Photograph by The Collaborationist
parties where my Stanford classmates would meet up. I have a friend who was about to be a doctor, another who was a 25-year-old diplomat. They’d turn to me and they were like, “So, girl, I saw your YouTube video! Good job, girl!” [Laughs] Bless them for trying to pump me up, but it felt like, Is this what I’m meant to be doing? [My character in Insecure] is definitely me at my core, but it’s not an autobiography by any means. I want people to watch it and feel like, “Oh I know that girl,” or “I know that best friend,” or “I’ve dated that guy,” or “I’ve been in this situation!” I just want to create a relatable story that centres around black people being regular people.
“Shondaland really helped me figure out how strong my voice needed to be, and how certain I needed to be in it.”
What do you mean by that? I don’t want to invalidate anybody’s black experience. But it seems to me [on television], we’re either extremely magical, or we’re extremely flawless. But we don’t get to just be boring. Like, it’s a privilege to be able to be boring and not answer questions like, “What do you think about this shooting?” and “How are you overcoming all these obstacles?” What about the times that I’m just kicking it with friends at brunch? Those are the moments that we want to reflect, in addition to talking about some of the issues that we encounter racially. That stuff plays in the background to our regular lives on the show, but we wanted to be in these characters’ worlds first. What’s your favourite TV show? I have so many. Of all time? I would have to say Seinfeld and Arrested Development . . . and Fresh Prince.
John P. Fleenor/HBO
What do you like about Seinfeld? The nothingness and the storytelling aspect. I get so much glee at the end of the episode when you realise how everything in it intertwines. Like, ohhh, haha, okay, that’s why that happened. It was so simple: about life and mediocrity and nothingness.
Prime time Through Insecure, Rae hopes to normalise the day-to-day lives of people of colour.
That ties back to what you said about minorities being able to have shows that are just about boring, daily life. Can you imagine a black person pitching a show about nothing? “Wait, so there’s no struggle? There’s no race . . . there’s no . . . you’re black, though, right?” Like, we don’t get that. Only a white person could literally walk in the room and be like, “I wanna make a show about nothing,” and they’d be like, “Sold!” How did you make the transition from your YouTube series, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, to the very different world of television? One of the biggest opportunities I got before HBO was [developing a pilot] with Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers at [production company] Shondaland. That was my first TV development experience. Shondaland really helped me figure out how strong my voice needed to be, and how certain I needed to be in it. ABC ultimately passed on the pilot. What do you think happened there? In my eager-toplease, “this is my only chance” mindset, I wasn’t as firm as I should have been [in developing the story]. I wanted to tell a story about dating in LA. I like to be raw, I like to curse, I like the N-word, I like portraying sex, and I like portraying the discomfort of stuff. I think that’s not really fit for network television. And because I wasn’t secure in the story, it was easy for me to flip-flop [on what I wanted]. And that’s not how you tell a story. When ABC ended up passing on the project, I was devastated, but I understood why. It was on me at the end of the day. I thought that was my last chance. But then Casey Bloys and Amy Gravitt from HBO called the next month, and they were like, “Hey, we heard you’re free now. Do you have any other ideas that you want to explore?”
DECEMBER 2016/JANUARY 2017 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A 15
Did you do any soul-searching after the show wasn’t picked up? Soul-searching? I did a lot of moping. [Laughs] I was just like, Ugh, what am I gonna do? Let me figure out my next moves on the web, because that’s always been consistent. Larry Wilmore [cocreator of hit comedy, Black-ish] actually helped me. Once I sold Insecure to HBO, they said, “You need a showrunner.” [Wilmore came aboard to consult and cowrite the first episode.] He and I had a lot of conversations, and my soul-searching was saying things out loud, and learning from him and how firm he was in his voice. He tells it like it is. How did you feel about Comedy Central’s decision to cancel The Nightly Show? You’d been a guest panellist there. It’s their loss. It really plays to that thing that black [professionals] fear: That there is just one spot. In addition to being executive producer for Insecure, you’re also a prolific YouTube producer. On your Issa Rae Productions channel, you have both your own web series and projects from other creators. How did you get started? I had acted throughout high school, but then I saw Love & Basketball when I was 16 and thought, Oh, I wanna write movies. I directed plays [at Stanford], then took some time off to learn filmmaking and writing at New York Film Academy. I created my first web series during my senior year of college. I began taking [the YouTube channel] seriously in 2009, with Fly Guys Present the F Word, which featured my brother and his music group in a documentary-type show. I started building an audience from there, and by the time I did The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl [in 2011], we had 5 000 to 10 000 subscribers. The show took the channel to new heights. [The Issa Rae Productions channel now has more than 226 000 subscribers.]
30-SECOND BIO Issa Rae HOMETOWN
Los Angeles NOTABLE CREATIVE PROJECTS
The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, a web series that follows the professional, social, and romantic life of insecure black girl “J”; Fruit, a 10-part podcast drama about a pro footballer exploring his sexuality; The Peak, a content portal for the black intelligentsia; and Insecure, an HBO series that follows the professional, social and romantic life of awkward black girl “Issa” BIG-NAME COLLABORATORS
Pharrell Williams, Shonda Rhimes, Larry Wilmore ON RAISING $714 000 [R9.5 MILLION] THROUGH GOFUNDME FOR THE CHILDREN OF ALTON STERLING, AFTER HE WAS KILLED BY BATON ROUGE POLICE IN JULY
“I realised how many other people felt helpless like I did. It’s a small step in trying to ameliorate a terrible issue.” FIRST ROLE
“I caught the acting bug in, like, the fifth grade when they cast my black ass as Demetrius, a man, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
16 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016
Crossing over Last year, Rae turned her YouTube series, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, above, into a memoir.
And even though you’ve crossed over to cable, you’re still using YouTube to help the careers of others. For example, your #ShortFilmSundays channel features a new short film every week. I’m a fan first, so I’m basically being a curator of content that I love. We put out a call, and we watch these short films and decide which writer/ directors we want to highlight. We’re giving them a platform and then paying them a small fee to let us showcase it. We ultimately help to fund and share assets with creators. It’s community-building. We’re championing unheard voices for multiple mediums, and we aren’t afraid at all to look for new ones.
“We’re championing unheard voices for multiple mediums, and we aren’t afraid at all to look for new ones.”
Which do you enjoy most, being in front of the camera or behind it? Behind. A thousand, bajillion percent. Why is that? I just love telling the story more than being in the story. I think that plays true to my real life, too. I love listening to people more than I love talking.
We’re seeing a wider breadth of more nuanced shows led by people of colour—Jane the Virgin, Fresh Off the Boat, Master of None and now, Insecure. What’s the next step in making television more diverse? It’s the executives, it’s the crew. It’s in making sure that this isn’t a flash-in-the-pan moment, by making sure you have a black or Latina executive, for example, who understands the importance of telling these stories. Making sure that everybody is represented behind the scenes is how the momentum will continue.
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2016 Levi’s Pioneer Nation Festival Our Professors from the School of Hard Knocks share their top business tips
It feels like every week there’s another entrepreneurship conference, competition or hackathon here in South Africa. While it’s exciting to see this startup culture starting to emerge in an economy desperately in need of a jump-start, we’ve seen a risk: that young entrepreneurs focus all their energy on ‘starting up’ as opposed to ‘staying up’. The truth is, just about anyone can start up. What’s really lacking in South Africa is meaningful mentorship and support for the tens of thousands of young Pioneers who will start up a diversity of enterprises outside the cocoon of venture-capital incubators. This has become the core mission of Pioneer Nation. At the heart of Pioneer Nation is the insight that young Pioneers learn important business lessons most efficiently and quickly from other successful young entrepreneurs. For three years, the Levi’s Pioneer Nation Festival has curated a diversity of successful young businessmen and women, and offered them a stage to share their lessons, insights and valuable tips with their peers and soon-to-be entrepreneurs. This year, the festival added eight businessbuilding workshops to its line-up (including a great session with Fast Company SA editor Evans Manyonga), along with the Caban Investments Pitching Den: a wildly successful all-day pitch battle where three young companies emerged with R250 000 worth of support services to accelerate growth. Levi’s has been the angel investor and key sponsor of Pioneer Nation since the
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Young Pioneers learn important business lessons most efficiently from other successful young entrepreneurs
beginning. It makes perfect sense, since entrepreneurship is woven into the brand’s DNA: Levi Strauss invented blue jeans nearly two centuries ago to meet the tough needs of the California Gold Rush miners. Today, a pair of Levi’s is virtually the uniform of the modern entrepreneur worldwide—a symbol of independence and pioneering spirit. Join the Pioneer Nation community and conversations in social media, and keep tabs on our upcoming schedule of events such as Township Boot Camps and mini festivals. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: PioneerNationZa.
For those of you who weren’t lucky enough to be a participant in the 2016 festival, here are a few of the gems from the 40 young entrepreneurs who participated. We like to call them our Professors in the School of Hard Knocks.
Shaka Sisulu, Afro-entrepreneur
“When you have a product, the first people you test it on are your family and friends—forget the marketing plan. Start with the people you know and trust, and the people who trust you!”
Andile Kwaphuna, Chain Gang
“My Chain Gang label started when I was 12, because I wanted to make my own money. I didn’t know how, but I knew that I would. When I saw people in a movie putting bike chains on their wrists, the penny dropped; instead of letting the bike chains get thrown away, I could recycle them into jewellery. My message is: Keep your eyes open every day—ideas come from everywhere.”
Nthato Malope, Insights Over Everything
“Very often, barriers are within yourself. So you need to be brutally honest with yourself and change what’s holding you back. Every day, ask yourself why people should part with money for what you’re selling. Be honest and persevere. On tough days, remember that perseverance is the only fuel that gets you to Destination Success.”
Thoba Grenville-Grey, Sweet Bites and Awethu Project
“The biggest lesson I’ve had to learn is: Just ask. You can’t build a business wandering in the dark in isolation; when you don’t know something, you need to get off your butt and ask people who do know.”
Uno de Waal, Between 10 and 5
“Early on, you will be asked to provide services or products ‘for the exposure’; in other words, for no payment. So many people told me, ‘Don’t ever do it for the exposure’—but I think that’s terrible advice. In my experience, you must carefully weigh up the value of the exposure versus the value of the ask—and make sure it’s a good equation in your favour. If it is, then it’s worth doing!”
Jeff Mulaudzi, African Public Bicycles and Alexandra Bicycle Tours
“This sounds strange, but my inspiration is poverty, because I see there is a huge need for those of us blessed with the creativity, drive and ability to create jobs to create those jobs. I’m passionate about my businesses, because they are creating jobs not just for me but for others in my community. I wake up every morning looking for opportunities, and stay up late keeping my businesses in business— because others are depending on me.”
Banele and Bandile Mbere, Major League DJz
“In the beginning, work your ass off to be in the shadow of people who are better than you, because that will help you. You earn the right to be in their company with your hustle, and how much you show that you invest in yourself. People respect that. And here’s another tip: On your way up, look for those hustlers who were like you, and bring them in under you. They make you grow faster.”
grow my business. I’ve learnt I have to have the guts to hear what my customers are saying about my products, even when it’s not what I thought they’d think. Social media is my lifeline; I hear everything—and now my community is honest with me, because they know I want to hear everything.”
Mpho MacChambers, Kula Education Group
“There is power in community. There is power in family. In order for a business to grow, it needs to find its community. And your employees need to be your family. The entrepreneur’s real challenge is to find the profit in all his or her goods to keep things sustainable.”
Ramona Kasavan, Happy Days
“When you’re frustrated (and you will get frustrated), just remember that great minds will always receive great opposition from mediocrity. Remember that this is your idea, and the only way that this idea will become a business is if you start the process—and that means it all starts with you. Find a business process you believe in, and trust it.”
Rabia Ghoor, Swiitch Beauty
“Looking back, I think it probably took a lot of guts to start. What I do know now is that it takes a lot of guts to show up every day and
Evans Manyonga, Fast Company SA
“Festivals like the Levi’s Pioneer Nation are essential to fostering and encouraging the spirit of entrepreneurship in South Africa. It’s not just about gathering a few entrepreneurs and having a series of talks, but rather about pushing the spirit of entrepreneurship through frank discussions and a holistic sense of togetherness. This was definitely my favourite festival in 2016.”
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RENAISSANCE MAN Inside South African business mogul Romeo Kumalo’s plans to transform the continent through an ICT revolution BY CHRIS WALDBURGER
Photographs by Richard Hughes
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“ I w e n t t o H a r v a r d t o seek new experiences, new global influences. I travelled to New York, to Silicon Valley. I met people like [Facebook COO] Sheryl Sandberg. I saw how Americans were using technology to foster entrepreneurship, and I inevitably asked myself: Why am I in a corporate job? How can I build a legacy? How can I do more?”
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Beneath the politics and the headlines, African entrepreneurs go about the business of restoring the promise of their beloved continent. One such entrepreneur is Romeo Kumalo, a former captain of corporate Africa who has now, together with former SuperSport CEO Happy Ntshingila, created Washirika Holdings, which is looking to be at the forefront of a great leapfrog into a new development phase of the African economy. According to Kumalo, at the heart of this great transformation is technology, which ultimately represents the potential of a connected, mobile-centric continent—with all the access to information, banking and markets implied by such connectivity. Seeking to be at the heart of this tech revolution, Washirika focuses on three sectors: construction (in which it positions itself as a complete design and build entity); clean energy (focusing on solar and natural gas); and ICT (with some exciting new ventures in the mobile-data sector in the pipeline). Kumalo, familiar to South Africans as one of the ‘Sharks’ on our country’s edition of the reality show Shark Tank, left his position as head of international business at Vodacom last year, as he was looking to leave a legacy, to make an impact—and he felt he could best do that on his own terms. After tasting corporate and media success with Metro FM, SABC and latterly Vodacom, he wanted the opportunity to leave an even bigger footprint. With a background in advertising, Kumalo had leapt into broadcasting in his 20s. He transformed Metro FM into a national radio player (increasing listenership from 1.8 million to more than 6 million), was at the heart of the golden age of South African television in the ‘90s, and was then headhunted by Vodacom CEO Alan Knott-Craig to find himself in the trenches of the mobile revolution. Convergence was just beginning to emerge as the next wave of media, and he sought to be at the coalface. He managed Vodacom’s operations in Tanzania, and would eventually manage all the company’s international business. Those were heady times as 3G was launched and data began its rise. He travelled the continent, looking for new licences, markets and fresh territories. But at the height of his corporate success, a study sabbatical at Harvard led Kumalo to a crossroads. He returned to Vodacom for another three
years, but with a firm belief that mobile tech could change Africa, and that he could do more as an entrepreneur. He branched out in 2015 with an explicitly African vision: “I love Africa. I don’t think about China, South East Asia, Latin America. I don’t need to look at other markets— what I want to do is impact Africa.” Kumalo doesn’t see himself as a Zuckerbergtype entrepreneur—a pioneer straight out of college—but rather as an entrepreneur who can leverage decades of corporate experience in media and telecoms to create wealth and mentor a new generation of black industrialists. And he and his partner Ntshingila have a three-pronged strategy to do just that. Kumalo has been in the headlines recently as whispers abound about a huge new mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in the works,
with Washirika at the forefront. He cannot yet provide any details concerning the venture, as confidential discussions (likely with Vodacom) are still ongoing, but he has said he is getting ready to “launch something that will change the face of the mobile industry in South Africa.” This is of a piece with the broader vision of Washirika, which is to be at the heart of a South African revolution in infrastructure— in construction, energy and “I love Africa. data—and thus underpin I don’t think an African Renaissance about China, hitherto only spoken of by idealist politicians. South East Asia, One cannot help but be Latin America. reminded of Elon Musk when Kumalo explains why I don’t need to Washirika chose its three look at other areas of focus. Musk, of markets—what course, chose the Internet, renewable energy and space I want to do is travel as the three pillars of impact Africa.” humanity’s economic future. Kumalo, with his great African vision, is not dissimilar. He first makes clear that any business venture is reliant upon opportunity and expertise (which he shares with his partner), but underpinning these two prerequisites is the desire, like Musk’s, for impact. Firstly, as Africa modernises its infrastructure, Washirika wants to be at the heart of new design and construction, particularly in the health and financial sectors. Secondly, Kumalo believes information and communications technology is set to kick-start a new wave of African economic development: “ICTs will transform Africa, and allow us to move quickly into the mainstream world economy. In rural areas, people are moving directly to smartphones. This market penetration will empower young entrepreneurs and give them access to the economy. In every sector—government, agriculture, mobile money—technology is set to make business mobile-centric.” Thirdly, Kumalo is of the opinion that a lack of energy is currently holding back African development. Washirika’s involvement in gas and solar (with a notable project under way in the Northern Cape) is poised to lead a move to provide the continent with sustainable, affordable and reliable power. “What’s holding us back? Clearly, it’s energy,” he says. “If you fix the energy problem, you can fix the economy. At the moment, Spain, a single European country, uses more power than the entire continent. It’s a shame. Pictures from space show only a bright South Africa, with pockets in Nigeria. This is why we are the so-called dark continent. It’s clear we are nowhere near where we need to be—yet—in terms of energy.” Currently, Kumalo acts as the CEO of the holding company, with a hands-on focus in the ICT sector, while Ntshingila is the chairperson with special expertise in marketing and communication. They have an advisory board, too, and the overarching vision of all the stakeholders is to be at the heart of a major shift in the economy as technological innovation accelerates and democratises opportunity.
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Kumalo sees himself chiefly as a mentor, whose role is to help new entrepreneurs scale up their ideas and operations, and empower them with capital and tech expertise as well as access. “I like backing the entrepreneur: a person with passion and guts, preferably with skin in the game in the form of his own money invested.” But for Kumalo, the idea is at the heart of entrepreneurship: “The second criterion is a question: ‘Is your business solving a societal problem?’ Uber is solving a problem, for example. There is ultimately nothing the public sector can do in response, because it is clearly solving a consumer problem. If your business does this, then you have a long-term, commercially sustainable proposition.” He notes there is absolutely no shortage of ideas and innovation in South Africa; he does not have to go looking for investment opportunities. Nonetheless, he believes the country requires more and more entrepreneurship. In short, he is looking to propel a new wave of black industrialists, ready to build up the country and the continent. “Entrepreneurship is the only way to solve South Africa’s problems, chief of which is unemployment. We have graduates unable to find work. But if you start your own business, suddenly you are employing other people, paying taxes— and the ripple effects begin to grow. This is why I believe in young people . . . South Africa is full of young people, as is Africa. If you look at Europe and Asia, their populations are ageing. We have to use this advantage.” In order to seize the moment, Kumalo wants to inspire young people to start their own businesses, to understand money, and to celebrate entrepreneurship. His appearance in the Shark Tank, where young people compete for investment from the experienced ‘Sharks’, is a part of this drive. It is perhaps then no surprise that Kumalo has also found himself in the mix when it comes to the #DataMustFall campaign in South Africa. As a businessperson, with decades of experience in the mobile sector, he is well-placed to weigh in on the continuing controversy. And he makes no bones about the fact that, yes, data prices are far too high. “Expensive data is holding back
30 SECONDS WITH ROMEO KUMALO Title CEO, Washirika Holdings; venture capitalist Hometown Johannesburg Favourite quote? “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” —Steve Jobs Favourite book? How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen Favourite city? New York City Favourite tech gadget? Suunto Ambit3 GPS watch Your ideal day? “Spending quality time with my children.” How do you unwind and relax? “Reading, and playing golf.” The meaning of life? “Being content and living in gratitude.” On how to succeed in business: “You’ve got to have the right vision . . . If you have a clear vision of what you want to do—if you have audacious goals of where you want to be—that’s what’s going to make you successful.”
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our economy. And the incumbents in the market must realise that this is an opportunity to relook their models of pricing and distribution, and bring the price down for the sake of the economy.” In a digital economy, the government has a responsibility to regulate the data spectrum in such a way as to allow access, but Kumalo hopes it will not get to the point where heavy-handed government intervention is necessary. “The current operators must look to be innovative, before government has to intervene. At the end of the day, the regulator licenses the operators. And our current situation of a duopoly is not good for the consumer. We need to open the market.” This is also an issue of transformation, which Kumalo implies is a question of providing opportunities for the sake of the common good, thereby creating new fields of innovation for deep and rapid infrastructural development. “The regulator has failed to open up the markets and thus create new opportunities for black industrialists. Icasa [Independent Communications Authority of South Africa] needs to pull the lever that is called spectrum, to create these opportunities and therefore transform the market.” This is in line with Kumalo’s view of the ideal relationship between business and politics: “Politics needs business, and business needs politics. There needs to be a collaborative effort to create the society we want.” Of course, this means that ruptures within the government—between the regulator and the Communications Ministry—must equally be harmonised. At the core of Kumalo’s (and Washirika’s) vision is this idea of concert, symphonic harmony, and such a vision implies connectivity. This connectivity has to be relational, but equally technological. Here it is clear that Kumalo is something of a techno-optimist: “For every 10% of broadband penetration, there is a 1% increase in GDP . . . In 10 years, this continent will be completely different: Energy, agriculture, government and finance will all be revolutionised in a connected, mobile-centric continent.” And Kumalo has no doubt that he and Washirika will be in the engine room of this revolution. “We will make an impact on society. We will use technology to change lives.” When he says this, one cannot help but believe him.
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Mind and Machine
THE TALKING CURE Why tech giants and hopefuls alike are betting that chat could rule the mobile landscape By Cliff Kuang
Illustrations by John Hersey
Like tens of millions of teens across the world, 15-year-old Emma rarely surfs the web or tries out new apps. Instead, she conducts her digital life through a collection of social apps, from Facebook to iMessage to Instagram to Snapchat. On all of them, she’s messaging. “There are always messages for me to check,” she says. And though she picks up her phone every 15 minutes or so, her friends still complain that she’s slow to respond. We are all becoming like Emma that way: Recent studies show that Americans use their phones to
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message far more than anything else. Increasingly, companies eager for our attention online have to be part of these conversations. And increasingly, they’re doing it through chatbots. Computer programs that talk with (and like) humans, chatbots appear as voice-controlled assistants (such as Siri or Cortana) and pop up online as customer service ‘representatives’ for major retailers. If you’re in Messenger or a number of other messaging platforms, you can connect with bots much as you would with other users. Except the bots aren’t people; they’re brands like H&M or Whole Foods, and they’re there to serve up things like outfit recommendations and recipe ideas, depending on the keywords you type. They also, crucially, allow retailers, services and a host of other companies to engage mobile users, like Emma, on the platforms where they’re already spending so much time—especially since users’ appetites for new apps has dwindled. According to a recent comScore report, half of US smartphone owners download zero apps a month. The potential for bots to serve as app replacements has inspired companies like Apple, Facebook, Google and others to bet on messaging as an altogether new way of interacting with the web. New interfaces, after all, tend to have an outsize effect on the tech industry. It was Apple’s unveiling of the graphical user interface and the mouse that set IBM on its long retreat from PC dominance. Steve Jobs set things in motion once again with the touchscreen interface. A move toward conversational interface through chatbots could catalyse another profound shift. Perhaps no one knows this better than Ted Livingston, the founder of the chat app Kik, which has an estimated 275 million users around the world—among them, 40% of American teens, according to the company. Boyish and broish, the 28-year-old Livingston was early to spot the potential of messaging, but has yet to “It seems like chat cash in on it. He originally is going to be at the launched Kik in 2010 as a base of everything we way to let BlackBerry users do in a way that even connect with people on iOS the Internet isn’t. and Android devices. The app What if chat powers took off—until BlackBerry the world?” abruptly booted it off its phones (then sued Livingston for infringing on its own closed-messaging service). Rivals such as the now-billion-user WhatsApp gained traction while Livingston retrenched and relaunched. During that nervous, uncertain time, he came up with a plan to distinguish Kik from competitors: He’d turn it into a platform, where users could play games or buy clothes, without ever leaving the app. The idea was foresighted, but requiring people to download mini apps inside of Kik proved clunky. Finally, Livingston and co-founder Christopher Best decided to let those apps simply talk to users from within Kik. Today, Kik is pinning its future on chatbots. “It seems like chat is going to be at the base of everything we do in a way that even the Internet isn’t,” says Livingston. “What if chat powers the world?” The rise of chat extends across the globe. In China, a phone’s operating system isn’t nearly as important as its chat apps. Through WeChat, which
B UIL DING A B E T T E R B O T Creating a chatbot that people like interacting with isn’t easy. Here’s what previous bots have done right—and wrong.
FOCUS ON THE BASICS
The most satisfying bots are ones with clear uses, such as the Whole Foods one on Messenger that prompts users for an ingredient then offers recipes, or the Sephora bot on Kik that offers beauty tips based on skin type. One of users’ big problems with bots is knowing what they can do. Google Allo solves that with messages that introduce features and capabilities over time. If a query is too much for the bot, it will say the feature isn’t available yet, and suggest ones that are.
DISCLOSE YOUR LIMITATIONS
AVOID OPEN-ENDED DISCUSSION
ESTABLISH A VOICE
CNN’s Messenger bot, which was originally designed to answer general questions about the news, often failed to grasp what users were asking. Without any conversational perimeters, Microsoft’s Tay bot on Twitter went quickly off the rails, mimicking trolls’ racist language. Bots are better when their interactions are constrained to a few choices and quick exchanges with guided prompts. Because the personality of a bot moulds the user experience, some of the best, such as the Poncho weather bot for Messenger, take special care to communicate in chummy language—the equivalent of a brightly coloured and inviting interface.
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Mind and Machine
has 700 million monthly users, people are able not only to talk to friends about going to a concert, they can also purchase tickets, reserve a dinner table, split the bill and hail a cab—all using automated helpers. Today in China, there are 10 million business accounts on WeChat and millions of apps as well. Businesses often launch with a bot on WeChat—and skip the web page entirely. Part of the reason chat evolved as it did in China is that the vast majority of Chinese didn’t grow up using desktop computers—and didn’t grow accustomed to interacting online through browsers and dropdown menus. “The barrier in the US is that people are used to using their phones in certain ways,” says Derrick Connell, the corporate vice president for search at Microsoft, whose Chinese-language search bot, Xiaoice, has amassed more than 20 million users across a half dozen social media platforms and chat apps. The equivalent US demographic is teenagers. Mobile dominates the lives of Gen-Zers like Emma. That may explain why WeChat’s parent company, Tencent, invested $50 million (R676.7 million) in Kik last year as part of a strategic partnership: Livingston’s app is well positioned to mature with teens as they begin interacting with more lucrative services such as banking and shopping. “Tencent said it’s either you or Facebook that’s going to figure this out, and we think it’s going to be you,” says Livingston. Those ambitions bring Livingston into direct competition with Facebook. Though it acquired WhatsApp in 2014 for $14 billion (almost R190 billion), Facebook has been steadily making Messenger into a billion-user behemoth, starting with its decision in 2014 to turn the service into a standalone app. It’s now letting developers create their own bots on Messenger—the clothing company Everlane, for example, lets you track your order via bot. (WhatsApp, for its part, has remained a messaging service, with no business bots.) Facebook has introduced a button for third-party web pages that can bounce users to a bot in The challenge for Kik’s Messenger, allowing them to chat with customer service Livingston isn’t just or complete purchases. the deep pockets “We want this to be totally of his competitors: ubiquitous,” says Jeremy It’s the limitations of Goldberg, a product designer bots themselves. at Facebook who works on messaging. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to say this is the new ‘Like’ button.” Or a new way to buy things. It’s no accident that Facebook’s head of messaging is David Marcus, who was previously PayPal’s president. Chat may represent the best way for Facebook to become something like a digital wallet. Apple, Google and Microsoft are also horning in on the time you spend chatting. Apple has started to make iMessages accessible to thirdparty apps such as OpenTable and Airbnb, and also more expressive, letting users share hand-drawn notes and custom stickers. Siri, meanwhile, has steadily gained more real estate across its products. This September saw the release of Google Allo, a chat app with a built-in AI assistant. Leveraging Google’s insights into users’ search history
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T HE K ING S OF CH AT A look at the dominant messaging apps around the world WECHAT Though more than 90% of its users are Chinese, WeChat has been pushing into India and Southeast Asia.
LINE Japan’s popular messaging app just launched its own smartphone plan with unlimited data for Line services.
KAKAOTALK A full 93% of South Korean smartphone users have signed up for this chat app.
WHATSAPP Facebook’s new plan to collect data from WhatsApp users has privacy experts concerned.
KIK Teens love its anonymity, but Kik has come under fire for that same reason.
iMESSAGE Apple is just starting to build upon iMessage’s tremendous user base as the default iOS chat app.
MESSENGER Facebook is integrating payments into Messenger so that it may become a mobile commerce engine.
GOOGLE ALLO By leveraging Google’s unparalleled data, this assistant could become a significant new portal.
SLACK The smash-hit workplace chat app now has integrations with hundreds of services.
and preferences, Allo can, for example, automatically suggest restaurant reservations if you’re messaging someone about dinner. (Facebook, not to be outdone, is training its digital assistant, M, by painstakingly cataloguing millions of realworld conversations.) But the most intriguing play may be from Microsoft, which has been an also-ran in the mobile wars. It is creating a “cognitive services” division that will allow developers who want to create bots for Facebook, Google or Kik to plug into the company’s machine-learning algorithms for help deciphering text and images. In other words, Microsoft is positioning itself to be the plumbing behind chatbots. The challenge for Kik’s Livingston isn’t just the deep pockets and AI capabilities of his competitors: It’s the limitations of bots themselves. Developers are still trying to figure out what kinds of bots spark the most engagement. There hasn’t yet been a clear hit. (See “Building a Better Bot”, previous page, for the best examples.) For now, the chatbots you find on Facebook and Kik function like choose-your-ownadventure novels, without the adventure. Livingston predicts the breakthrough chatbots may actually feel less human (or AIheavy) in their interactions and will instead be more lightweight and purposeful. And they’ll need to be inherently social: Perhaps Kik’s greatest innovation is that it allows users to summon bots directly into conversations they’re already having with friends and to share the bots they like through invites. That natural social spreading of bots may solve the discovery problem stalling the app economy. Livingston, for his part, is hoping that this time around, he’s not just spotting the next big wave for mobile, but finally catching it. “The future is inevitable,” he says. “It’s just about who gets there first.” The surf is getting crowded.
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S A’ S M O S T P R O D U C T I V E P E O P L E 2016
“TAKE TIME FOR ONE LAST CUP OF TEA” SHUKRI TOEFY AND AMR SINGH CO-FOUNDERS, THE FORT GROUP
When Toefy and Singh co-founded The Fort ad agency in 2006, they used journals to note their creative ideas. Toefy’s love of journalling then culminated in The Rainmakers Journal project and the acclaimed art-house film, Unwritten, which takes viewers along on his journey through Nepal to unlock a world of “old knowledge” from ordinary people: artisans, musicians, spiritualists, scholars and others. “We’re not narrative filmmakers, we are ad men making commercials and advertising . . . but in order for us to think differently about business, brand narratives, communication products and services, we need to understand ourselves and the stories we tell in a different way,” explains Toefy.
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THE FILM? Toefy: The story begins back at university when I started keeping a journal, after a university lecturer had said to me, “If you want to be an Olympic athlete, you need to train like an Olympic athlete; if you want to be an Olympic thinker, you need to keep a journal.” At the time, I worked as a cab driver to pay back my student loans, and I felt like I travelled the world through the different people I drove. That’s where my fascination with knowledge from ordinary people came from. The knowledge from ordinary people is much more valuable than the sort of sterile and cold writing you often get within business books and publications. In thinking about Unwritten, we wanted to bring to life this idea of a visual journal, and show people just how vivid and valuable it can be to write things down and bring it to life through one’s own interpretation of how one sees things. I think we all have the seeds of our own success within us, and watering and harnessing that is done
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through writing, and trying to understand ourselves through writing things down. So we set out to go to a land we found fascinating, that we’d never been to before, that had some old-world wisdom. We set off to a land we had heard was a museum without walls, a country that wasn’t colonised, and where some of the old knowledge had hopefully endured and not been affected by the more globalised world. We went there to try and capture this idea of someone experiencing for the first time this ancient city and the ancient value of wisdom, and that’s really what we tried to achieve. Hopefully, people will have a visceral experience of Nepal and the Kathmandu Valley in particular. This was when I asked Amr Singh to direct a film that could try and bring this to life; that would encourage people to travel and experience new places; to realise the knowledge of ordinary people, the people all around us in everyday interactions—and, as always, to try and get people to journal and write things down. Because when you write things down, it changes the frequency of what it is and makes it real.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR PASSION FOR “UNLOCKING VALUE IN SHARED KNOWLEDGE”. Singh: In each of us there’s an innate human desire to search, explore and connect with our fellow human beings, and to experience places that shed light on who we are and where we come from. It is a curious trait, and I think it’s in the hope of gaining insight into our purpose in this world. Studying social anthropology at the University of Cape Town was a valuable base for beginning to understand this idea of ‘shared knowledge’ and a ‘common human heritage’. Oral history is rich and textured, and, yes, it changes with the times and the people who pass it on, but that’s also a reflection of how societies and communities change. For millennia, human beings have been storytellers; from sitting around a fire to contemporary forms of narrative. Everyone has a favourite film, a favourite joke, hopefully a favourite book—and that’s because there’s something incredibly nourishing in hearing tales, fables and allegories. History has shown, for better or worse, that there’s an intense urge as human beings for self-knowledge, and for a long time that was gained through the wisdom of others. This urge to want to journey into the unfamiliar and confront unforeseen challenges is an attempt to understand what connects us and makes us who we are—it’s a search for purpose. I want to explore the truth and insights of this, and celebrate it in a truly creative way. With Unwritten, we wanted to create a tapestry of places and faces which shows the depth and breadth of what and who we are as humans. If we can do that in creating a sense of curious wonder, then that’s what our shared heritage should do. AS LE ADERS IN BUSINESS, DO YOU THINK DIFFERENTLY ABOUT FINDING INSPIRATION AND INSPIRING OTHERS? Toefy: I think we take our responsibility as leaders within our business very seriously, and we realise we need to find inspiration and knowledge not only for ourselves, our staff and the people we lead, but also the whole value chain of the people we do business with. We need to be at the forefront of what’s happening with our clients, our own internal team and everyone we interact with. I think, generally, people would go to conferences and speak to traditional thought leaders and business experts—and we do go to these industry shows and conferences, but what we realised through our travels was that it was more meaningful to find and gain knowledge from ordinary people. The key thing here is that the lessons you can learn are from people who are not traditionally ‘successful’. I think we have a very narrow and finite view of what success is, and this is often when you want to try and be a leader who thinks differently. We also take our responsibility as brand storytellers very seriously, and we need to think about expressing ourselves and building narratives in different ways and areas so we can bring that to life in what we do in day-to-day business. Creating an art piece that we can share with others, which they can interpret differently, is very powerful. Unwritten represents a piece of art and inspiration that people can sort of tap into and chew on in many different
ways, and that’s very inspiring, because gone are the days when a business leader was a one-dimensional businessperson. We believe you can certainly be a great business leader and an artist and a storyteller at the same time.
We’re just ordinary people With Unwritten , Toefy (right) and Singh wanted to create “a tapestry of places and faces showing the depth and breadth of what and who we are as humans.”
W H AT S PA R K E D YO U R D E C I S I O N T O S TA R T A J O U R N A L? Toefy: I’d always written things down and tried to remember words or stories that I found inspiring or captivating, and tried to use that in my life. There were many instances and stories that I jotted down from driving a cab, both good and bad, inspiring and even depressing at times. There’s one instance when I was driving someone and the trip cost R100. This very pompous and wealthy man got out of the cab and threw a R50 note at me, saying, “A hundred rand is too much. You’ll take 50 rand.” I remember standing there, feeling so disempowered; in my mind I went through all the possible scenarios that could’ve happened if I’d acted on that anger I felt. Instead, I chose to write it down, remember it and learn from it. Other really amazing, inspirational people have asked me what I want to do with my life, and then encouraged me to be able to do that—they gave me perspective about the world. The ability to understand people is probably one of the most powerful things in business, the keyword being empathy around what people want and desire, and to try and have those values align; understanding the world better and realising we are more similar than we are different. Those were the kind of stories I started to write down without knowing that down the line they’d precipitate a project like The Rainmakers Journal that encourages people to journal, or art projects and films like Unwritten. H O W D O E S I T F E E L T O H AV E A C C O M P L I S H E D S O M U C H W I T H T H I S I N S P I R AT I O N A L F I L M , A N D W I N N I N G A C C O L A D E S G L O B A L LY? Toefy: It feels amazing. We’ve achieved so much more than we’d hoped for. We didn’t produce the film to win awards, or to have a blockbuster release. We were actually unsure of the outcome or how people would react to it. The honesty and introspection of the film has connected with people and audiences around the world, from Hollywood to Europe to Indonesia. It’s very inspiring for us, and more than anything we’re inspired to tell more stories and create more beautiful films. It has also been an affirmation of the commitment to thinking differently around inspiration and thought leadership. W H AT L E S S O N S H AV E YO U L E A R N T I N T R A N S C R I B I N G YO U R V I S U A L J O U R N E Y INTO UNWRITTEN? Toefy: There have been many. One of the first lessons we learnt early on is that you can’t go to a place with great wisdom and ask people for take-away knowledge and wisdom. We realised it was impossible. We came across people who had dedicated their life to the search of enlightenment and knowledge, and we found there’s no single moment of truth or take-away knowledge for which you can ask that will change your life. We are all on this journey where we are made up of the bits and
pieces of the things we learn and take with us to carry along the way. As we encountered people, we’d say, “Please give us some knowledge” or “What can you help me with in my life?” We realised how distasteful that was in a place where people would commit to the apprenticeship of learning and knowledge; we were sort of tourists trying to gather information in a short period of time. People are so busy trying to conquer Everest that they forget the splendour at the foot of the mountain, and that’s a metaphor for our own lives. Take time for one last cup of tea, take time to sit and smile and talk among friends, because that’s the real beauty in life. There’s no single moment of truth, there’s no destination of clear enlightenment—that became abundantly clear as we travelled through the Kathmandu Valley.
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H O W D I D YO U B U I L D T H E F O R T ? Toefy: We started The Fort when we were penniless and cash-strapped students at UCT back in 2006. We’d take the train to meetings, missing lectures to try and pitch to people to do marketing campaigns, promotions and video productions. What we came to realise was that we were actually pretty good at it. Our best sales pitches must’ve been when we had absolutely no track record, jumping off the train, rehearsing our sales pitch on the walk over to our meetings. Then we got an old little warehouse in Woodstock where we couldn’t afford to pay rent, and there was no Internet. We asked the owner if we could use the space if we’d sign boxes in and out when the delivery trucks came. After a couple of months, we installed an Internet connection and were able to start paying rent. That entrepreneurial spirit is still very evident in the business today. We’ve had a number of partnerships with companies throughout Africa and the Middle East, but in January 2017 we launch our Fort network with offices in Lagos, Nairobi and Dubai. Emerging markets in Africa and the Middle East are exciting, and a lot of the stories we need to tell happen at a continental and regional level. We need to think about spreading the great stories that companies and people have to tell throughout Africa. There’s no lack of great products and services, and we see our responsibility as taking those products and services to market, telling great stories and building brand narratives.
E X P L A I N YO U R C R E AT I V E P R O C E S S . Toefy: There are a number of different things that exemplify the type of leadership I try to espouse. One is creating thought leadership platforms and opportunities for people within our organisation. This can be seen through our Fort Review, whereby our team can write an article and then defend that at a panel discussion and events at industry level. Another is The Rainmakers Journal, which encourages people to journal and writing things down, and to think about their lives. Lastly, thinking differently around being a CEO: about inspiring not only the people I employ around the world but also everybody else, around what direction to take the company, and to take time for introspection and be attuned to what’s happening within myself and the world. At The Fort, we think about ourselves as a creative agency that can execute on any platform; that can tell brand stories and build narratives, rather than speaking at people. We want people to change; we want meaningful and responsible brand communication. We hope to use Unwritten as a tool to inspire people to journal, to explore and share knowledge with each other. Something may sound like a good idea when you say it out loud or in your head, but may look very different written down, when you’re able to interrogate it and how you process it from there. Singh: The alchemy behind something like the film craft has disappeared—the mystery of design is fading. If you want to be a good storyteller, if you want to create and craft narratives—whether brand narratives or ones purely for the sake of entertainment—you need to keep building your creative arsenal. Understanding as many creative disciplines as you can is no longer an advantage; it’s rapidly becoming the standard. Directing is a privilege, not a right. Visual art has the power to change and influence people’s perception in very real ways—and it’s a difficult medium to master. I think a meaningful story is given power through a strong visual language. I try to stay aware of the responsibility I have in putting out content that large audiences may engage with. I draw a lot from my anthropology background, because often when telling stories, you’re making representations of other people—which is a precarious thing to do, because heritage and identity is something that should be self-determined. So I think very deeply about why a character may have certain traits on screen, and what it means for the story. I draw from a lot of different elements, including my own life, but most of all I try to work with a sense of joy and appreciation for the opportunity to do what I do. —As told to Kayla Jacobs
HOLDING THE FORT The tools, tricks and truths that help Toefy and Singh get everything done
Toefy: I try to exercise in the morning and spend some time with my kids before they go to school. I also make time for prayer and meditation, and get to work at about 8 a.m. It helps that I live a kilometre from work! Singh: I spend time with my 2-year-old son. I sometimes go to gym or for a run before work, but I prefer exercise in the evening. I try to get to the office early, make myself some breakfast and settle into the day’s tasks.
S T R AT E G I E S T O B E AT P R O C R A S T I N AT I O N
Toefy: Keeping a notebook and having clear tasks that I tick off throughout the day; secondly, having little breaks where I run around the office letting off steam and then coming back. I try to be focused for short periods of time and break that up by getting around the office, touching base with everyone. Singh: Procrastination is not really a struggle for me;
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I’m quite a deadline-driven person. But I frequently feed myself with interesting activities while working through something. For instance, I like to read an interesting article piece by piece in short breaks while I’m working. It keeps your mind fresh, gives you perspective and can make more mundane tasks interesting.
KEY BUSINESS TOOLS
Singh: My MacBook and Adobe Creative Suite. I also use a lot of great websites as references; my most recent
find is a fantastic site called film-grab.com.
G O -T O M O T I VAT O R S
Toefy: My family and my kids are a big motivator, and my parents who sacrificed a lot to send me to a good school, so that motivates me to build on it. I don’t want to have to work from when I’m 40—I want to just work on my passion projects. So I have another eight years of trying to hustle! Singh: As I’ve gone through different stages, I’ve found motivation in various places.
Ultimately, I’d say my wife and family keep me motivated.
C O P I N G TA C T I C S
Toefy: Prayer and meditation, and also taking breaks: Getting away from the daily routine in the office is super important to get out of the same head space and change things up as much as possible. Singh: I thrive off ‘completion energy’, so what keeps me going is successfully completing projects.
“T H I N K . T E S T. DO. REFINE.” DESERÉ ORRILL, CO-FOUNDER, CMO, OLE! MEDIA GROUP
It takes a special kind of dedication and productivity to run six companies, work with your husband and still find time to be a wife, mother to three entrepreneurial-minded teenagers, and a friend, plus squeeze in time to just be—but that’s exactly what the “Queen Bee” of the Ole! Media Group does on a daily basis.
THE MEANING OF PRODUCTIVITY
“It sounds simple, but so much harder to effect in practice, but I believe the value I create should be more than the effort it took to create.”
“I’ll usually do some work at home, answering urgent
emails, before getting to the office around 09h30, which means I’ve avoided the traffic and maximised on my time.”
EMAIL PET PEEVE
“The expectation in the modern world is that emails need to be answered immediately which, in my opinion, has rendered them less than useful. I’m a firm believer in verbal and faceto-face communication, but because we’re very much in an email world, I scan and delete the obvious spam first and then deal with the most pressing mails— usually those in the top half of my computer screen.”
TA B L E TA L K
“One thing I’m insistent on is a nourishing cooked meal for supper, and that we all eat around the table as a family every evening. The
table is a place where we can air our views openly without recrimination, but sometimes it leads to healthy debate. If necessary, we agree to disagree. I try to incorporate this approach into my work life too, fostering what I hope is an open communication policy with everyone in the office and our clients as well.”
KEY APPROACH TO MAXIMISING PRODUCTIVITY
“I can sum this up as: Think. Test. Do. Refine. While the majority of my time would be taken up with the thinking and planning process of the task at hand, I’m a firm believer in sharing my opinions and filtering the ideas. Distilling often leads to crystallisation of the idea, which can then be tested and refined if required.”
AREA FOR IMPROVEMENT
“I’ll sometimes spend too much time on a detail that isn’t really essential; if I’m writing some copy, for example, I’ll research one small fact because I’m interested in it, because it satisfies my own desire for knowledge—but it may deflect the speed that’s needed to complete the task. However, that can also be very productive, as the detour often results in the end destination being worth the journey.”
“I take time to slow things down. I’m currently doing a mindfulness course, so I fit in some of the exercises in the quiet moments. I’m finding I’m now consciously active in making the time to free my mind, to fully
concentrate on a specific element: whether eating my fruit or drinking my coffee, appreciating each and every molecule for what it is—or even just looking out of the office window and savouring just one fine detail of the view.”
G R E AT A DV I C E
“Before I get out of bed every morning, I check my calendar and plan the week ahead—no more than that. Then I see what the day holds for me and organise accordingly. Bitesize chunks are best: having the big picture in mind but remembering and doing the day-to-day.”
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“Clearing the mind for a good night’s sleep is critical, and I often use this time to reflect on my day and write down a list of any unattended items or WhatsApps to address the following day, so these thoughts don’t end up invading my head space during the night.”
M O ST P R O D U CT I V E S PAC E?
“ I F Y O U C A N ’ T FIND A SOLUTION TO SOMETHING, S L E E P O N I T.”
M A I L M AT T E R S
JULIE CLEVERDON, DIRECTOR, CAPE TOWN SCIENCE CENTRE
“My car: I have a great sound system, and when I’m driving I love listening to my music—from R&B to jazz. Although I’m fully aware of what’s going on around me, the music helps my mind decelerate, and it’s during these times that I often find the solution to some of the more pressing issues on my plate.” “My phone is always on and always near me, even at night, so if someone sends an email at night (local time), it could be urgent and I’ll answer it. I’ve also been known to send WhatsApp texts in the middle of the night as thoughts or ideas occur to me. Fortunately, I work with people who understand me and the constraints of what we do.”
“ S T A Y U N D E R T H E RADAR AND OBSERVE”
BEST WORK HABIT?
“Thinking broadly and implementing. People can talk the talk, but I like to walk the talk and get things done. Also, my never-say-die and positive attitude to challenges presented in our day-to-day operations is also a good habit of mine.”
KHALID ABDULLA, GROUP CEO, AFRICAN EQUITY EMPOWERMENT INVESTMENTS LIMITED With seven divisions and around 40 companies and subsidiaries to lead and manage, Khalid Abdulla is a very busy man. His time has to be streamlined and maximised, especially considering he’s a hands-on executive who happily rolls up his sleeves to get stuck in any task at hand.
THE MEANING OF PRODUCTIVITY
“Getting things done! Once the decision is made, whatever that may be, I want to translate the strategy into action plans and start implementing them. The sooner we get going, the sooner I can monitor whether we’ve adopted the right strategic path, and determine if it needs adjusting or not. Ultimate productivity, though, is in seeing my staff working together, enjoying what they do because I know they have the ability to do so; because, as a team, they support each other and have top cover and guidance from me.”
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“Spare time is rare; however, I try to take a 20-minute brisk walk to the V&A Waterfront from my office. I find that the sea air and the beautiful surroundings just clear my mind and refresh my thinking.”
FAV O U R I T E A P P
“My Calendar and WhatsApp. I also find my GPS pretty useful, because although I enjoy the drive, I don’t always have the time to search for my destination, so finding the shortest route to get where I need to go is more productive in the long run.”
“A round of golf with my competitive close friends whenever I can. I believe the golf course still provides an excellent opportunity for networking as well as relaxing; it combines the best of both worlds.”
G R E AT A D V I C E
“Stay under the radar and observe; only show your hand when you have something meaningful to contribute.”
For the past 16 years, Julie Cleverdon has been a dynamic force shaping young minds—and older ones, too—in science and technology. To facilitate her many tasks at the science centre, and as the global co-ordinator for Africa Code Week (the continent’s single largest coding initiative), Cleverdon has learnt to let go. Only by entrusting certain projects to a great team, can she focus on reaching as many children as possible. When she’s not meeting heads of state, she can often be seen mopping floors or tidying away the tools of the science trade.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
“Coffee and reading for half an hour in bed, when I catch up on the news of the day and gather my thoughts. I’ll probably also work for a short while before I take my son to school.”
M O S T P R O D U C T I V E S PA C E
“Early morning, at home, when everything is quiet. If I happen to be at the office, then 5 p.m. is when the phones stop ringing and then I can squeeze in another hour of productive work as I wait for the traffic to die down—an extra hour in the office instead of one-and-a-half hours in the car.”
E M A I L S T R AT E GY
“I skim through all my emails and immediately answer the most pressing ones. My worst mistake is opening emails and then not closing them, as they hang over me until they’re dealt with.”
“I enjoy the sanctuary of my vehicle. Driving and listening to talk radio or even nothing at all often gives me the opportunity to think. When I can, or if I have a particular need for quiet thought, I’ll drive.”
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“A good breakfast and a light lunch. Fresh food is vital to keeping me going. It gets a bit tricky with all the travelling, but that’s also a challenge and it’s great to experience local fresh ingredients.”
FAV O U R I T E B U S I N E S S T O O L
“Facebook. I look at what other similar organisations are doing in Africa, and link with them so we can share and collaborate and help
to build a cohesive ecosystem of like-minded organisations. Facebook is a vital tool for me to see what’s happening (and what’s not) on the continent and in other parts of the world.”
a different path. Because I actually love this discovery action, I’ll spend hours learning about all manner of interesting things before realising I’ve gone completely off topic. But you never know when I may need to recall what I’ve read up on, so I’ll file it away in my memory—just in case.”
G O -T O M O T I VAT O R
“I have quite a varied collection of memorabilia gathered from the many trips I’ve done. My office could be a combination curio shop, museum and even wildlife sanctuary meets tech! I often look at these objects for inspiration and a reminder of how far we’ve come, but still how much farther we have to go.”
AREA FOR IMPROVEMENT
“Procrastination! I’ll start researching something and then get distracted and wander off down
“Not having enough time to properly see the places I visit. I think if I had to do it all over again, I’d probably be an adventurer or a travel journalist.”
G R E AT A D V I C E
“If I can’t find a solution to something, I sleep on it. I’m a big believer in putting it aside and sleeping on it and waking up with a fresh thought.”
“S H O O T E M A I L S DOWN AS THEY COME IN” JOHANNES BOOYSEN, FOUNDER, FUTURENEERS
What happens after you build one of Africa’s most successful mobile media agencies and sell it to one of the world’s largest communications groups? Answer: Create more businesses. Serial entrepreneur, philanthropist and avid supporter of the tech revolution, Johannes “Jo” Booysen recently launched his latest venture called Futureneers— nurturing startups through each phase of the business growth cycle.
THE MEANING OF PRODUCTIVITY
“If I can look back at the end of the day and I can see that I’ve made progress on what my objectives were for the day or the week, then I know it’s been a productive use of my time.”
BEST WORK HABIT
it’s unfinished business and irritates me and disrupts my life.”
T I DY D E S K , T I DY M I N D ?
“Yes. I’m a perfectionist who enjoys harmony in all aspects of my life—even my clothing cupboards are systematic. It’s not a bad habit to inculcate into my daily working life, so I find I’m pretty much ordered in everything I do. Not having to worry about finding things saves time for what’s necessary to get the job done.”
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“While I’m driving, I often record notes as ideas pop into my head. I’m always afraid I won’t remember them later, which tends to be counterproductive, as I’ll spend too much time trying to recall that brilliant idea. If I go on holiday, I come back from the weekend with five new business ideas.”
“Very important. I’m not a fan of artificial supplements to keep me going, so choosing the right foods and eating frequent small meals are vital in keeping my mind and body functioning optimally.”
E M A I L S T R AT E GY
F AV O U R I T E A P P
“I shoot them down as they come in. I don’t answer every single one of them—I get a lot—but if I don’t at least scan them as they arrive, I know I’ll never get to them. But when the mail requires an answer, I’ll more than likely respond immediately, otherwise
“WhatsApp—I don’t know what we did without it! I have a lot of companies and projects under way at the moment, and I have a need to know what’s going on
with them at any one time. The different groups and subgroups I create within this messaging system make staying on top of what needs to happen so much easier. It’s so much better than email, as it’s instant.”
“Prayer. Gratitude is everything, and it’s during this time that I’m humbly aware of all that I’ve
achieved and that I have not done this on my own. Prayer is a fundamental part of who I am and I cannot function without it.”
“Doing what I say I’m going to do; doing it now and following through. I really dislike wasting time, and talk with no action. I’m learning to say ‘no’ to people who don’t share the same philosophy.”
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“ELIMINATE T E M P T A T I O N S THAT WILL DISTRACT AND WASTE TIME” GLENDA MANSFIELD CO-FOUNDER, CMO, MARKETING CSI SOUTH AFRICA With three teenagers in the house and running her own company, this former Western Province relay runner clearly has the staying power to switch South Africa on to the good news through the MCSISA portal that connects corporates and social causes.
THE MEANING OF PRODUCTIVITY
“At the end of the day, I should be able to look back and see what I’ve achieved against what I had to do. Planning is essential to output.”
M O S T P R O D U C T I V E S PA C E
“Anywhere I can sit and just be with my mind. If I have a particular problem to solve, or need a
specific strategic idea to come into focus, as long as the space is quiet and I can be left to think, I get my best results. It could be in the bath, my car, office or walking along the beach by myself—and no phone calls!”
E M A I L S T R AT E GY
“Filter spam and respond immediately to important mails. I have a rule that I need to get back to everyone within 48 hours.”
D A I LY B R E A KS
“I have a wandering and extremely enquiring mind and an overactive brain, which doesn’t allow me to remain focused for more than 30 minutes. I usually create the disruption, so breaks for me are essential.”
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“I do believe regular intake of good food that can keep the brain functioning optimally is essential to maintaining creativity and work output, especially when on deadline.”
BEST WORK HABIT
“I’m a list maker. I don’t have hundreds of different lists, but one concise one that houses
everything that needs to be done in all the aspects of my daily life.”
AREA FOR IMPROVEMENT “I distract others—I love sharing (which is both a positive and a negative).”
“I read in all my spare time: I consume everything I can find on the Internet about a particular subject that’s occupying my time and thoughts, be it for work or pleasure. For me, the Internet is a bit like
“DON’T DO WHAT ISN’T FUN” JONATHAN SIDEGO, AWARDWINNING FILMMAKER; FOUNDER, HEAD OF PRODUCTIONS, SDGO 38 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A DECEMBER 2016/JANUARY 2017
the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland—I never know which direction it will take me.”
G R E AT A D V I C E
“Never give up! Eliminate temptations that will distract and waste time, our most precious commodity. Have a plan and stick to it, but be open to adapting where required. As much as I’m a ‘doer’, I also listen deeply. Be aware of what’s around you and be involved, but don’t get side-tracked too often.”
As a means to combine his loves of filmmaking, entrepreneurship and technology, Jonathan Sidego formed his own production house and agency, SDGO, in January this year in Silicon Valley, where he assists tech startups in creating effective visual communication. His advice to young South African creatives: “Read a lot. Watch a lot. Make a lot.”
THE MEANING OF PRODUCTIVITY “A productive person is someone who gets done with what they need to do, then finds the time to learn new skills and have the creativity to conceive new pursuits.”
M A I L M AT T E R S
“I use my inbox as my to-do list, marking emails as ‘unread’ if I haven’t dealt with them, and archiving them once I’m done. Those red notifications on my phone annoy me enough to make sure I deal with what I have to do.”
“My Apple Watch has been reminding me to take short, mindful breathing breaks every few hours, which has been good. Sometimes you get caught up in an unproductive frenzy, where you lose focus and flail around. [The mindfulness] is great in letting you step back and rethink your approach.”
FAV O U R I T E A P P
“Notes. I make lots and lots of notes, keeping a store of ideas and thoughts when they occur to me. It’s extremely useful when I’m working on a project later and reach a dead end creatively and need some inspiration. It’s nice knowing [the notes] are backed up in the cloud and accessible from anywhere. I’ve been adding to some specific notes for many years now.”
G O -T O M O T I VAT O R
“I’m practically always spinning a Bic Cristal pen between my fingers, and buy them by the bag. I feel strange when I don’t have a pen to spin, and think it most certainly helps me think and relax. But it really annoys people sometimes, and gets ink on my hands!”
AREA FOR IMPROVEMENT
“Getting distracted. I get very carried away reading or thinking about something, and forget what day it is. That’s the downside of curiosity. I’ve started light meditation in an effort to curb this and increase my focus.”
“I have a ton of long-form articles bookmarked on my phone, so when I’m sitting in an Uber or waiting for a meeting, I’ll dive into one and have the best time.”
G R E AT A D V I C E
“Always be learning, and don’t do what isn’t fun. I really enjoy the work I do, and it often feels like I’m playing.”
“L O O K A F T E R YOUR BODY AS WELL AS YOUR MIND” LORRAINE STEYN, CO-FOUNDER, KHANYISA REAL SYSTEMS; SIMPLIFIERIN-CHIEF, I’M BORED Lorraine Steyn founded her bespoke software and mobile application development company over 29 years ago and is still going strong. Passionate about utilising technology to make life better, Steyn loves the way social media brings content to one’s mobile device when and where needed. The constant changes influenced by millennials and Generation Z keep her and her team on their toes.
E M A I L S T R AT E GY
THE MEANING OF PRODUCTIVITY
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“Using my time productively is all about finishing tasks. Too many things on the go at once is a focus drainer, and half-finished tasks just mean you have to figure out where you were before you can make progress again. It’s about not wasting time. It’s definitely not about multitasking— that’s a myth!”
“I check emails before I get out of bed, then get my son ready for school. I spend about 20 minutes on the iPad before thinking time in the shower. Doesn’t matter where, that first hour or two before everyone else gets going is the most productive for me.”
“I don’t have notifications. I do whatever I’m doing and then I set aside time to handle email. It’s an explicit activity, and I keep my inbox small—just what I have to deal with.” “Proper food is critical to being productive, so KRS provides a full, cooked, nutritious meal every day to all staff for free, with high focus on vegetables and salads—fresh stuff that’s always available, including fruit. It’s very important.”
“I’m a deeply lazy person! Because of that, I like to get things done as efficiently as possible. I will never make work. I think that being productively lazy is an asset: It’s part of my simplifying approach, and need to get things right the first time. I’m a bit of a last-minute merchant, but I work well to deadlines.”
“There are some games that my young son plays which I play too—partly to understand what his interests are and partly to make sure I have that connection as he progresses through his teenage years, to show I’m interested. So I feed my dragons or check that my clan is doing okay (laughs).”
G R E AT A D V I C E
“Get some exercise and be fresh and ready to go. Look after your body as well as your mind. There’s nothing like pumping blood to be productive; you can’t do it if you’re run-down and demotivated or lacking in energy. As a mum, energy is my currency. I hoard and protect it, and it’s what gets drained by the multiple demands of raising a family and running a company, especially as one gets older.”
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Fast Company promotion
Ingenuity for Life Siemens matches brand ambitions with development goals
Siemens has embarked on a brand campaign to illustrate how the company is making a sustainable difference to the world—and in particular South African society—in the fields of energy, industrial and infrastructure development. “For so long, South Africa’s well-being has been defined by its world-famous commodities of gold and diamonds, but its future rests on the vision, entrepreneurialism, creativity and industriousness of its businesses and people,” says Keshin Govender, head of Corporate Communications. The world has never been so closely linked, or as digital, as it is today. Digitalisation has found a home in everything from personal devices to complex industrial systems. Our real world is taking on a digital dimension wherever we look. And this connected future needs sustainable innovation. Every day new innovations across the globe and locally are finding new and better ways to improve our lives. Imagine a South Africa where a clean and integrated energy ecosystem powers a highly
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efficient and digitalised industry comprising an inclusive workforce. Intelligent mobility gives every citizen access to safe, reliable and efficient transport. That vision is being mapped out today by Siemens, working closely with customers and innovative entrepreneurs. The company has invested its global technology experience and expertise in the long-term future of South Africa to engineer the country we all aspire to be: where technology with purpose and economic empowerment enables people to prosper. Sustainable growth can provide the strong foundation for an economically prosperous and inclusive country. It can provide both the stability and momentum that encourages established businesses, new businesses and entrepreneurs, as well as the next generation of ideas to flourish. What matters to South Africa now is to step away from the inequality and uneven development of the past and to create new infrastructure as a catalyst for business and industrial opportunities and for the development of a skilled workforce. Siemens’s Ingenuity for Life brand campaign is testament to this. It is partnering with South Africa to create a pathway to sustainable growth by focusing on what matters most to the country’s development, its businesses and society as a whole.
Imagine a South Africa where a clean and integrated energy ecosystem powers a highly efficient and digitalised industry
When technology transforms a nation and unlocks the dreams of its people. That’s Ingenuity for life. There’s an economic renaissance taking place in South Africa. When technology is engineered with purpose it drives the economy and enables prosperity. Siemens’ industrial, transportation and energy solutions are transforming South Africa’s economy and global competitiveness so that South Africans can live better, more rewarding lives. That’s Ingenuity for life.
THE WORLD’S MOST INNOVATIVE COMPANIES + SA’s TOP 25 42 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A DECEMBER 2016/JANUARY 2017
Whatever challenges may be buffeting business—market instability, political unrest, interest rate hikes, red tape— there are always pockets of extraordinary achievement. Our 2016 guide to the businesses that matter most, from Barclays to BuzzFeed.
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For accelerating fintech innovation
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SA’S MOST IN N OVAT IV E COM PA N IE S
ON THE RISE The 10 startups that completed the first-ever Barclays Accelerator programme in Africa INUKA PAP (KENYA)
A mobile platform that partners with credit co-operatives to provide instant emergency financial services to members.
Enables governments to convert physical land titles into digital copies on an immutable, blockchain-secured e-transactions platform.
BEYONIC (UGANDA, US)
A cloud-based platform allowing businesses to make, track and manage payments to mobile money accounts across numerous providers.
SIMBAPAY (KENYA, NIGERIA)
Last year, the Barclays Africa Group launched Rise: a global community that facilitates collaboration and innovation in fintech. It provides developing markets with an opportunity to leapfrog ageing analogue infrastructure—deployed in most developed economies—and with it the capacity to solve some of the continent’s development challenges. One of several initiatives by Rise, the Barclays Accelerator is an intensive startup programme designed to capture, shape and scale the next generation of innovative fintech businesses. The first of the group’s accelerators in Africa, it draws upon mentors from both Barclays and the Techstars network: a US initiative that works with exceptional fintech entrepreneurs innovating in the continent’s financial services industry. “We firmly believe that some of the most disruptive
technologies to financial services will come from African entrepreneurs, as their thinking will not be trapped within the confines of legacy bank infrastructure and products. African entrepreneurs are literally reinventing banking for their communities,” says Greg Rogers, executive director at Techstars. The 2016 Barclays Accelerator culminated in a Demo Day at the Rise innovation hub in Cape Town at the end of June, when the 10 participating companies presented their businesses to investors, industry experts and fintech specialists. Head of Open Innovation at Barclays Africa, Paul Nel, says: “We are committed to driving leading fintech innovation that translates into lifestyleenabling products and services for our customers, and creates greater financial inclusion across the continent.”
A digital money-transfer provider that allows one to send money instantly to family and friends’ bank accounts or mobile wallets in Africa (from abroad), and enables individuals to open a bank account back home using the app.
A web-based church management application that enables effective administration for church leaders, and seamless engagement with members of the congregation.
SOCIAL LENDER (NIGERIA)
A lending platform, licensed to financial institutions, that determines creditworthiness based on social reputation on social media platforms.
WIZZPASS (SOUTH AFRICA)
Cashless and ticketless (via a smartphone) smart parking and visitor management platform for use at shopping malls, airports, commercial property, office parks, residential property and gated communities.
Provides farmers with real-time access to market information through an electronic commodity exchange and electronic warehouse receipt system.
Creates tools and apps that empower the financial literacy and inclusion of people with special needs, such as the ReAble Wallet that uses optical character recognition during transactions by taking a photo of a receipt.
JAMII AFRICA (TANZANIA)
A mobile micro-health insurance company aimed at providing affordable insurance to the lowincome and informal sectors.
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For fixing the Internet Serendipity is often the spark behind the most revolutionary and innovative products. This was no different for local startup Passmarked.com. What started out as their own fix for various problems within a single website’s code, led Passmarked’s founders on a journey of discovery— not only of how flawed the Internet is as a sum of its billions of imperfect parts but of a big-picture solution that would bring together the global coding fraternity to unite behind the cause of improved global web standards. With open-sourced access to a repository of all web code, Passmarked serves to identify errors and issues and suggest corrections simultaneously in a way never before seen on the Internet. The problem is that the Internet is broken—and no one knows it. There are about a billion websites today, with most built by DIY novices with limited knowledge of security, mobile compatibility and other performance issues. And that’s bad news, considering about 80% of connected devices are mobile, and that modern humans do almost everything online: shopping, banking and running their businesses.
Passmarked enables one to test a website’s four key risk areas—security, performance, compatibility across devices, and content—to identify errors and solutions in a flash. It’s the first and only all-in-one, free, open-sourced, websitetesting tool in the world. Coders, website owners or anyone interested in testing a website can enter its URL on the Passmarked home page. The program then runs the quick fourcategory test and immediately issues a nifty report card showing the tester exactly where the issues in the code are, by category, and how to fix them. Any website can be tested, and the results are open to the public. Passmarked has a basic version that’s “free for humans forever”, and more advanced versions for more complex jobs. As with most companies that have a fundamental global appeal, Passmarked is underpinned by a philosophy based on making a difference to the whole problem at its root cause, not simply the symptoms. “Passmarked has a big role to play in making the Internet a safer, more transparent, accessible and businessfriendly environment for people all around the
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SA’S MOST IN N OVAT IV E COM PA N IE S
world,” says founder Barry Botha (right). “In the age of rapid digital migration, mainly to mobile, it was high time the world got a tool like this.” His co-founder and lead technologist, Johann du Toit (left), the first Google Developer Expert in Africa, adds: “Our goal is to harness the power of the global collective—the crowd and the cloud—to fix the Internet for today and for future generations.” Botha explains that Passmarked has the potential to address a multitude of interconnected problems with the performance of websites across the worldwide web: from making online shopping portals faster and more
secure, to making the mobile Internet more responsive in Africa, and quickly identifying dangerous cybersecurity issues on commonly used sites. “By pulling together all the most important and widely accepted current web standards, and inviting the world’s coders to get involved to contribute rules that they believe will be beneficial to the Internet community, we’ll be able to create a de facto universal global benchmarking standard for website performance,” says Botha. “If a site gets a high Passmarked score, you know it meets internationally accepted standards that the community agrees with.”
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People want vehicles that are reliable, safe and have the latest technology— regardless of where they live, says Ford global CEO Mark Fields.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY
For building cars for Africa The Ford Motor Company prides itself on being not only an auto manufacturer but a provider of software-driven services to improve customer safety and increase transportation efficiency. And Africa won’t be left behind, says global CEO and president, Mark Fields. The continent will soon also be able to enjoy the connected and autonomous features being launched in new Ford cars. “Clearly, there needs to be some room for tailoring cars for African markets—but when you look at connectivity needs, there are far more similarities than differences. People in Africa, as everywhere else, want to be sure vehicles are reliable, safe and have the latest technology—regardless of where they live,” Fields adds. Ford already has invested R2.5 billion to expand operations in South Africa to produce the all-new Ford Everest SUV. “By producing the Everest in South Africa, we will be able to make it more readily available—and in a
greater variety of models—for customers throughout sub-Saharan Africa,” says Jim Farley, Ford executive VP and president of Europe, Middle East and Africa. Part of this investment has been directed toward the production of the new Ranger, which is already running at maximum capacity at the Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria. This factory features state-of-the-art automation utilising Ford’s global manufacturing processes, and will be equipped to produce 10 000 Everests each year. Soon to be launched in selected South African models of the Everest, Ranger, Kuga, Mustang and others is the new SYNC 3 infotainment system. Ford SYNC enables drivers to voice-activate essential in-car features, thereby contributing to driving safety. With audio and phone options at one’s fingertips via built-in voice control; pinch-to-zoom and swipe gestures; Apple CarPlay for iPhone users; Siri Eyes Free for easy access to Siri via Bluetooth;
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Android Auto to bring up Google apps; and the option of Afrikaans, English or isiZulu, SYNC 3 brings to life even more innovative ways of staying connected on the move. As another means of improving customer safety, Ford’s Driving Skills For Life programme teaches newly licensed drivers the necessary skills for safe driving beyond what they have learnt in the standard drivereducation course. It is also a means for experienced drivers to better their defensive driving ability. Training comprises both a hands-on and web-based curriculum—at no cost, as the programme is supported by the Ford Motor Company Fund—with modules such as hazard recognition, speed and space management, as well as distracted and impaired driving. “We want our product to make lives easier, and offer a brand experience that keeps people coming back to our vision of the future,” says Fields.
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For taking the fuss out of finding software development jobs Spha is a self-taught programmer who grew up in a township in Newcastle called Madadeni. He didn’t have a degree so, instead, came up with a nine-point plan to teach himself programming and as much Python as possible. He came across OfferZen on Facebook and signed up; within four hours he had received his first interview request— at 1.5 times the expected salary indicated on his profile. Two hours after
completing his first OfferZen Skype interview, Spha was hired. OfferZen connects companies looking to innovate and stay ahead of the curve, with top-quality software developer skills. The founders—brothers Philip and Malan Joubert, and Brett Jones—wanted to provide a platform where software developers could find meaningful work that pays well. “We flip the normal recruitment model around, so instead of
applying for jobs, companies send you interview requests with up-front salary,” says Philip. “The advantage of receiving interview requests with the salary offered up front is that the developers don’t spend valuable time interviewing with companies that can’t afford them, and vice versa.” Instead of having to apply for jobs individually, developers get access to more than 270 companies with a single profile. At the end of the OfferZen process, developers can be
certain they’ve really seen what’s ‘out there’. On the flipside, the OfferZen platform makes it much faster for companies to reach out to and hire software developers, enabling hiring managers to recruit directly for their teams. Alternatives like job boards and traditional recruitment firms don’t have nearly the kind of quality developers and accessibility to reach them. One year into operation, OfferZen is placing one developer into a permanent position every
day, and clients include big-name companies like Barclays, GetSmarter, Takealot, Zappi, Superbalist, Allan Gray, RhinoAfrica and 24.com. Sourcing highly skilled talent is proving to be a challenge for many companies, and shortage of skills is a contributing obstacle. Top software developers can have a significant impact on a company’s ability to innovate, and OfferZen provides a quality pipeline of high-calibre talent into a market that sorely needs it.
Flip it OfferZen turns the recruitment model around by getting the companies to send job-seekers interview requests with up-front salary.
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MTN AND VODACOM
For connecting more Things
This year’s AfricaCom tech conference was the place for some of South Africa’s leading telecoms companies to show off their new solutions that will drive the evolution of connectivity on the continent. At the forefront was narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT). The Internet of Things is the internetworking of everyday objects with connectivity and built-in sensors that gather and act on data across a network. NB-IoT, a lowpower wide-area radio technology, will extend the use of the IoT by connecting objects requiring a long battery life and in remote or hardto-reach locations, thanks to its stronger and more penetrative signal using telecoms bands. Devices can be placed underground or anywhere else over a period of 10 years without alterations or chargers so
that they continue to function. MTN partnered with Huawei Technologies at AfricaCom to conduct live demonstrations of NB-IoT—focused on smart refrigeration for the commercial bottling market, smart water metering, and usage-based insurance solutions. Future applications will include smart parking, wildlife tracking, smart farms and smart homes, among others. “IoT is an area of focus for MTN—not just in South Africa but the rest of Africa,” said Alpheus Mangale, chief enterprise business officer for MTN SA. Already used in a township in Gauteng, the smart fridge detects activity via sensors on the door as well as ones for temperature and smoke. It also comes with a panic button and location-tracking device. The smart water meter connects industrial devices
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to provide big data-, flowand consumption analysis. A pilot device has been installed in Johannesburg. Usage-based insurance will allow insurance companies to have access to a driver’s driving information—location, driving behaviour, and vehicle-running status, among others—so that they can analyse and score the driver’s performance on the road using big data technology. The insurer can then adjust its offering to individual drivers, and benefit from a decreased loss rate. MTN and Huawei plan to deploy the new technology in South Africa from 2017, before expanding to Nigeria and the rest of the markets in which MTN operates. ● Vodacom also demonstrated its NB-IoT network build, which it plans to launch
commercially in major metropolitan areas across South Africa in 2017. Business chief officer Vuyani Jarana said: “In investing in its network for NB-IoT, Vodacom will enable South Africans to participate in developing new solution sets for the Internet of Things . . . This will push the boundaries of what is possible, as well as bring services to the market that will genuinely transform lives and businesses in South Africa for the better. This is ultimately about taking the Internet of Things to the next level as a disruptor to further economic development and social empowerment through digital connectivity.” The more affordable the combination of the NB-IoT network and ‘Things’ becomes, the more significant the transformation of value chains for goods and
services. This, in turn, will support economic growth and social improvement initiatives in the local economy, Jarana added. The company’s NB-IoT network will leverage off its existing established network infrastructure, ensuring excellent coverage and reliable connectivity. A large portion of the network will only require a software upgrade to support the technology, which means that deploying NB-IoT across Vodacom’s existing base stations will be a relatively quick rollout, driven by geographic deployment and based on demand. “What NB-IoT means for economic growth in our country is incredibly exciting, and we are going to see the digitisation of brandnew ecosystems and value chains,” Jarana said.
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For seeing to both patients and their healthcare workers
PAT I E N T WAITING How health workers can use the Vula Mobile app OPHTHALMOLOGY
Do a quick eye test to assess the patient’s visual acuity.
Capture diagnosis, patient history, examination details and medication.
Refer skeletal, spinal or spontaneous onset injuries.
Capture total burn surface area and burn depth.
Note clinical conditions, CD4 count and viral load, as well as antiretroviral therapy history.
Capture rash distribution and type, note clinical history, and take photographs. Other specialties such as otorhinolaryngology, paediatric surgery and oncology will be made available soon.
The brainchild of Dr William Mapham, Vula connects primary healthcare workers in remote areas with on-call specialists in hospitals via a mobile app. Mapham conceived the idea while working at the Vula Amehlo
(“open your eyes”) clinic in rural Swaziland, where he experienced first-hand the difficulties faced by rural health workers when they required specialist advice. Initially only for ophthalmology referrals, the app’s functionality
soon became more widely needed. With Vula Mobile, health workers capture patient information, take photographs, do basic tests, and record a brief medical history before sending the details directly to a specialist. They can ask for
advice over a dedicated messaging platform, and decide on the best course of care for the patient. The chat feedback also helps the health workers learn more about certain medical specialties.
For solving a chronic problem Winner of the 2016 #Hack.Jozi Challenge, Neo Hutiri’s Technovera is a medical startup that allows people to collect their repeat medication without the inconvenience of long queues, by making use of a tech-enabled service called a smart locker. These secure lockers, based at clinics or other health
centres, are loaded with patients’ prepackaged chronic medication. Once this has been done, the system sends patients an SMS or email including a one-time PIN, which can be used together with their ID number and mobile number to access the locker at a suitable time. This has reduced the waiting
time for chronic medications at public healthcare facilities from three to five hours, down to just three minutes. “I used to be a patient collecting treatment from a public clinic,” says Hutiri. “It’s really an unpleasant experience to wait the whole day just to manage your condition.”
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For making investments easy—for everyone Having already established its EasyEquities platform that enables people to invest in shares and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) for as little as R5, this year the Purple Group focused its efforts on developing products and solutions to cater to customers’ needs: many of which surrounded creating good saving habits, gaining a better understanding of what to invest in, and building portfolios in line with their personal financial goals and investment styles. Part of this education is to offer users insight into
their risk profile using an assessment tool called RiskAlyze, so that they can refine their investment options based on the amount of money and the time period they have at their disposal. Once completed, users are given a risk number that they can match to a series of new available products. The first of these is baskets: a collection of shares that are preselected and weighted by a financial analyst, asset manager or personality. Baskets enable people to invest in a diversified portfolio of shares or ETFs
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that are associated with different levels of risk, with whatever investment amount they have available. The user can remove shares from the basket if they wish—and once bought, the basket constituents appear with their other investments. The Purple Group also saw a need for a more managed offering, and so recently built a similar but more sophisticated tool: bundles. Like baskets, bundles offer users access to a portfolio of shares or ETFs based on their risk appetite, which are chosen and weighted by an asset manager, but are also
readjusted and overseen by their creators—giving users access to advanced investment strategies from which they might otherwise have been excluded. There are baskets and bundles suited to both taxfree savings and regular EasyEquities accounts, with creators ranging from well-loved South African personalities like Jan Braai to renowned asset managers such as Anthea Gardner of Cartesian Capital. For so many people, automated saving and investing is the only sure way to build wealth
consistently, so creating a recurring investment feature was a necessity for the EasyEquities community. This feature gives users the ability to have an amount automatically transferred into a particular investment or their available funds: monthly, quarterly or yearly. These new developments are only the start of a multifaceted longterm vision for the Purple Group, which is to empower and enable investing for everyone— irrespective of age, gender, experience or income.
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WE ARE MONSTERS
For taking the fear out of new technology Intuitive technology is the future, says the team at We Are Monsters: a web and mobile development agency whose “cherrypicked” coders, marketing specialists and behavioural psychologists help digital agencies and startups develop campaigns and apps designed specifically
for the South African market. The company believes any business, whether new or established, can enjoy more profitability and a competitive advantage when applying innovative strategy through the most efficient technology possible. Employing the Mindful Method when building
this tech ensures WAM’s strategies are holistic and the products purpose-driven. We Are Monsters not only supports the growth and development of other companies, but it also helps take prototypes to the minimum viable product stage and to market in other parts of the world. Already, quite
a few European companies have approached We Are Monsters, says co-founder Pieter van Reenen. “We’ve been involved with a local non-governmental organisation, and seen some amazing concepts and prototypes come to life: from analysing soil with drones, to numberplate recognition in
Amsterdam for on-street parking payments.” But no matter how simple to use, new technology can be scary; staff and customers alike may need help at first. WAM’s Adopt-a-Monster programme combines in-person training with ongoing telephonic and digital support for as long as assistance is required.
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SOLID GREEN CONSULTING
For making green practices everyone’s business 54 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A DECEMBER 2016/JANUARY 2017
Solid Green’s innovative initiatives are improving the green-building landscape both in South Africa and abroad. Its cutting-edge Solid Insight web application is an allin-one energy and water monitoring solution that is easy to use and understand. It connects a building’s energy and water meters as well as other sensors, and brings the accurate data to the cloud. A live dashboard can then be created, from where resource use—such as carbon emissions or solar production—can be
monitored and controlled. By integrating Solid Insight into a building’s smart-metering systems, the data can be disseminated to everyone in a user-friendly, engaging way on any device with an Internet connection. “Solid Insight is like Internet banking for your energy,” says Solid Green director, Warren Grey. “When users are provided with clear, real-time insight into the working of their buildings, they are able to pursue sustainability goals as informed and responsible agents.”
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For going nuts about water purification Upon completing his Mandela Washington Fellowship at Yale University in the US, social entrepreneur and scientist Murendeni Mafumo set his sights on building water-treatment systems that could support rural areas and create a platform for water conservation and care in South Africa. Now he has done just that, through his company Kusini Water. Mafumo has created a low-cost nanotech
membrane that can clean rain- or groundwater through osmosis to make it drinkable. The unique component in his system? Macadamia nuts. The crushed nuts act as a carbon filter that removes bad tastes and smells from the water before the water is forced through the membrane by solarpowered pumps. Similar solar-powered water-treatment systems have been put on trial in South America by researchers at MIT, but
Mafumo’s top-secret formula is currently awaiting a patent. Kusini Water— which won this year’s Pitch& Polish startup competition in November—is being tested in three pilot programmes: coffee shops that are purifying rainwater for drinking; a shopping mall that is recycling waste water for irrigation and car washing; and a low-cost desalination plant in Namibia.
FRUIT & VEG CITY FOOD LOVER’S MARKET
For keeping things fresh
Brian and Mike Coppin opened the first Fruit & Veg City store in 1994 in Kenilworth, Cape Town. The brothers’ journey continues to this day with the Food Lover’s Market concept, where “shopping is as much about the experience as it is about the things you buy.” Having built their company on traditional
family values, the Coppins now hold the honour of being South Africa’s “leaders in fresh”, and have expanded to 11 countries including Australia, Angola and Mauritius. Food Lover’s Markets are food emporiums in line with global trends— recreating the ambience of an old-fashioned marketplace, but in a modern “theatre of food setting”. They are “still 75% to 80% fresh-based”, according to the Coppins. In 2009, “FreshStop at Caltex” outlets were
launched for 24-hour convenience while you fill up with petrol at (now more than 200) Caltex stations—fresh groceries, snacks, light meals and gourmet coffee on the go. And in 2012, the group rolled out the Market Liquors brand at selected stores, after acquiring a 50% stake in Diamond’s Discount Liquor. Today, Fruit & Veg City has an annual turnover of more than R5 billion. Through cutting-edge innovation, their products remain in high demand.
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For taking the digital lead
First National Bank has cemented its reputation as the country’s foremost tech-driven banking institution by launching exciting new features on its FNB Banking App 5.0— catering for customer needs such as more control over their bank account, cost savings, better security and on-the-go transactions. In May, FNB was revealed as South Africa’s best digital bank in the 2016 Internet Banking SITEisfaction survey— a measure of customer satisfaction with digital banking services. It was also ranked first as the best Internet banking site, as well as best mobile banking experience, consistently delivering the best experience in local digital banking.
In an effort to bulk up its digital offering so that customers have the option to transact digitally, FNB has increased the number of branches with active Wi-Fi connections, as well as Digital Zones. What’s more, the bank’s new ConeXis smartphone comes with an FNB SIM card and a number of FNB apps preinstalled. Marketleading data and voice costs will help reduce customers’ cellular spend while enabling them to bank anywhere, anytime using smartphone technology at very affordable prices, says Jan Kleynhans, CEO of the FNB Consumer Segment.
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H O W M AY T H E Y HELP YOU? Inside FNB’s latest innovative banking-app services FNB PAY
Allows customers to pay for goods under R200 by tapping their near-field communication– equipped Android smartphone against any Contactless payment terminal.
Android and iOS users can authenticate themselves via a fingerprint sensor for easy login to the banking app.
Premier and private banking clients can use this feature to enquire about services or send instructions to their private-banking support team at any time of day, without risk of phishing or identity theft.
The inContact transaction
notification system—now called Smart inContact—has been made even more secure by sending one-time PINs over the app instead of via SMS.
1-TOUCH REPORT FRAUD
Now via Smart inContact, customers can notify the 24/7 FNB Fraud Line of suspected fraudulent activities on their account.
FNB WATCH APP
Extends key features of the banking app onto an Android or Apple smartwatch: Customers can make secure payments; buy top-up prepaid products; make cardless cash withdrawals; perform Geo Payments to another watch or phone in close proximity; view part of their transaction history; and redeem vouchers and coupons.
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RAINFIN & LULALEND
For taking the “bank” out of bank loans
South Africa’s fintech market is growing rapidly, with new and innovative ideas disrupting the financial sector. Startups are providing consumers with fast, efficient and value-adding services that were once the domain of banks—such as loans. Peer-to-peer lending is a relatively new concept
in the country. Also known as social lending, it facilitates loans without the aid of traditional financial institutions. RainFin connects borrowers (individuals, small and medium enterprises, corporates) directly with lenders looking to make a return on their investment.
It enables over R1 million in loans per day in a safe, quick, transparent and anonymous environment. By eliminating many of the costs associated with traditional banking, it is possible to offer more attractive interest rates and low fees to creditworthy borrowers, while at the same time offering
better returns to investors. And multiple investors can fund one loan to decrease risk. LulaLend is South Africa’s first and only online, automated shortterm business funding solution. The entire process is handled through the LulaLend website, and application
details are doublechecked by staff. Minimum qualifications for loans are less intensive than those of banks. A decision is made in minutes—no paperwork, no waiting, and no obligation to take up the loan—and funds are made available within two business days.
EASY MONEY How fintech startups such as RainFin and LulaLend are changing the face of finance THE OLD WAY
Borrowers seek loans from banks or credit providers. Financial institutions have set business hours. There are high margins. The process is timeconsuming, and there is a lack of transparency. Early-repayment charges.
THE NEW WAY
Borrowers have access to multiple lenders. Online and accessible 24/7. Minimal fees, due to low overheads. Fast, secure, transparent and fair process. Pay off your loan any time, without penalties.
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For opening our eyes—and ears— to the world The days of ticking attractions off a list in a guidebook are disappearing fast as travellers seek experiences that are more in tune with the local culture and its people. Yet, tour companies still fail to respond to travellers’ growing desire for flexibility and independence. To the founders of South African startup VoiceMap, however, this presented an enormous opportunity. VoiceMap’s audio tour app is changing the way people experience cities, sights and neighbourhoods around the world. Simply download on-demand tours onto your device and explore somewhere new at your own pace. The app
uses your smartphone’s GPS to track your location and play relevant audio at exactly the right moments. So, when you hear an anecdote about an ancient sculpture, a beach, or someone’s favourite coffee shop, it’s right there. The guide in your ear adds directions as you need— if you do get lost, offline maps keep you on track. It’s a way of hearing perspectives and insights to which you wouldn’t otherwise have access. The company’s open publishing platform provides the tools for anyone to share an audio walk (or cycle, or drive, or boat ride) with the world. So far, VoiceMap has released over 250 audio tours by 200 contributors
in 35 countries on six continents, and new tours are created each week with the help of their editorial team. You can take a graffiti tour in Joburg, a sci-fi walk in Singapore, and even a walking tour through London’s theatre district with actor Ian McKellen (aka Gandalf). But the tours aren’t all aimed at tourists: Locals are using the app to rediscover their own city.
VoiceMap has also partnered with major attractions—including Table Mountain Cableway and Cape Point Nature Reserve—to create more memorable visitor experiences. “When the medium is used well, location-aware audio can feel like magic, but we still put a personal perspective and the story first,” says VoiceMap co-founder and CEO, Iain Manley. “When
you start thinking of the world as a collection of overlapping stories, there isn’t enough time to even scratch the surface.” The company recently launched “Welcome to the Neighbourhood” tours, which are shorter than VoiceMap’s other tours and designed to show visitors around— pointing out useful things like grocery stores, ATMs and local coffee shops.
up her Neat Freak range, which she sources both locally and internationally. The president of the Professional Organisers Association
Africa, she believes her company’s turnkey solutions will enable any office or home (and garage!) to become more efficient.
For ordering online Diaries, planners, hangers, hooks, labels, lists, magnets . . . The Neat Freak Group has everything one needs to be more organised—at home and at work. Its
online store offers products, ebooks, online courses, a blog for sharing tips and tricks, as well as a database of service providers to help individuals get rid of the
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clutter quickly and have more time to do what they love. CEO Isabelle de Grandpre, “The Efficiency Expert”, first tested products at home with clients before building
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For making retail deliveries even more convenient Founders Lars Veul and Derk Hoekert, both with backgrounds in e-commerce and logistics, felt there was a better way of dealing with the logistical challenges of delivering parcels to consumers. “Optimal parcel delivery is about convenience, speed and reliability—yet South African businesses and their customers frequently
face late or missed deliveries,” says Veul. “Disruptions at the Post Office have further complicated matters.” And what if you don’t have a physical address to which parcels can be delivered—living in a gated estate with strict rules, for instance? Enter Pargo. Targeted at both online and offline retailers, the company
has more than 500 wellknown and trusted pickup points in South Africa’s major urban centres— including FreshStop at Caltex, Vee’s Video, Waltons and Clicks—many of which are open 24 hours a day. Consumers simply shop at their favourite store, choose their preferred Pargo point,
and collect after receiving notification or when it suits them best (within 14 days of delivery). “Customers collect the parcels at the Pargo counter, and the staff of the store hand over the parcels,” Veul explains. If you’re travelling during the festive season, you can have your gifts
delivered at a Pargo point at your holiday destination and collect when you arrive there. Pargo offers a returns solution, too. Online shoppers can drop off their parcel at a Pargo point, from where it is returned to the retailer. Parcels are stored in a secure area inside the outlet.
parking facility or designated business zone (such as an airport or mall) and lock the keys back in the cubby hole. Even if the cars are broken into, they can’t be driven away, as Locomute can disable it remotely— and the vehicles cannot be started without online authentication from the app. (Kubheka says they
subscribe to Steve Jobs’s mantra that “human beings are inherently good.”) The founders are now working on a food app. “Convivial will be to cooking what Airbnb is to accommodation: You can offer meals in your home or set up a pop-up restaurant in a parking lot,” Kubheka explains.
For offering everyone a ride Doing research for their MBA assignment, Tumi Marope and Ntando Kubheka found there were no car-sharing schemes in South Africa or the rest of the continent. This sparked the idea for Locomute, which offers short-term use of vehicles to bring flexibility to the car-rental industry. The company operates
in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria, Durban and Ekurhuleni, and plans to expand into Port Elizabeth and East London, and further afield to Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana. It’s all about offering customers convenience. Cars are available 24 hours a day; a spare vehicle can be delivered
to one’s home; and petrol, insurance, e-toll or parking costs are included in the upfront fee. Members register with Locomute and use the app to find the nearest car. The app also ‘unlocks’ the vehicle, while a one-time PIN releases the keys inside the cubby hole. Once you’re done with the car, you leave it at the closest Locomote
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For speeding up private car sales Selling one’s car privately in South Africa can be complicated and riddled with risk. HiCarByeCar has revolutionised this process by allowing a private seller to upload a vehicle’s details to its platform, which are then sent out to a network of dealers in the seller’s city. These dealers make offers on the vehicle, with the platform automatically matching the highest offer with the seller. This effectively cuts out the middle man, and splits the retained value between the private individual and the dealership. Although a vehicle’s value is based on its year, make and mileage, there are other contributing factors that often are not
accounted for, such as the popularity of the model. Because popularity is based on taste, vehicles can often hold different values based on where they are being resold. HiCarByeCar leverages this and other pricing factors to obtain offers from a vast network of dealerships. Dealers get real-time updates on cars available; and because vehicles are only available on the platform for 48 hours, there is a sense of urgency, and interaction levels are kept to a maximum. As a technology-first company, HiCarByeCar has brought a fresh take to a market that is ripe for disruption—and the results are showing. In the four
months since its launch, it has assisted more than 2 000 car sellers in securing over R250 million worth of offers on their vehicles. Many users returned months later to sell a second car. HiCarByeCar has many
more market-firsts planned, including an advanced AI platform to learn from dealer behaviour to increase the price that private sellers are offered, and to reduce the time taken. “Our ambition is to
guarantee users the highest price within one day, and we believe that we are well on our way to achieving this in South Africa by the end of 2017,” says founder and MD, Michael Zahariev.
For contributing toward financial stability
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Stokvels have long been one of the few ways of improving financial security among lowerincome communities: informal group funds into which community members pool their savings and from which they can withdraw when they need money for starting a business, for school fees or emergencies etc. But most dealings are done informally and in cash, with the risks of theft, fraud and lack of transparency. Stokfella is a simple live-running
platform (for smartphones, PCs, tablets and even regular mobile phones via USSD) that allows users to contribute to and withdraw funds electronically, and offers interest on balances. It also allows all members of a stokvel to track the funds, making Stokvella transparent, accountable and secure. The company plans to add features such as rewards, mobile money transfers, loans and other products.
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HUAWEI SOUTHERN AFRICA
For creating a space for innovation The top priority for Africa is to build digital infrastructure that will serve as a platform for digital innovations, says Li Peng, Huawei’s president of the East and Southern Africa region. To this end, the tech giant—in partnership with the SA Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services—opened Africa’s first Huawei Innovation and Experience Centre in Sandton, Johannesburg to enhance local ICT skills, create jobs and serve as incubator for ICT startups to test and fine-tune their technological innovations. Huawei will work closely with the department to train a thousand youth in ICT skills over five years;
150 students are already being trained with the aid of the State Information Technology Agency. Areas of focus include game development, 5G communication technologies, satellite navigation technology and cloud computing, among others. After training at the centre, it is planned for the students to receive further instruction in future tech trends at Huawei’s headquarters in China, as part of the company’s global Seeds of the Future programme. In November, the first group of 10 university students left to China, where they will get hands-on practice in Huawei’s most advanced labs and be shown how
they can harness new opportunities. Peng said the centre was more than just a flexing of Huawei’s innovative muscle. “The centre will serve not only as a platform for Huawei to showcase our latest ICT solutions but also a space for ICT business, government and individuals to showcase their latest innovations.”
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For cleaning up oceans—and port operations
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A South African company could soon be manning harbours, ports and canals around the world with 24-hour on-the-water aqua drones. RanMarine’s solarpowered vessels—called Waste Sharks—collect detritus, marine waste and chemical substances from the sea and then feed back into the port authorities’ established wastemanagement programmes. Each Waste Shark can gather up to 500 kilogrammes of waste before returning it to a collection point. It also gathers data about
water quality, and designs more efficient collection routes as it learns over time. Since September, Waste Sharks have been put to the test cleaning up the Port of Rotterdam. In 2015, there was an estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean, with 269 000 tonnes floating on the surface. RanMarine’s tech is not only helping to overcome the environmental damage being done to ocean life, but aiding ports in streamlining their operations as well.
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For fighting crime in real time
More than two-thirds of South African citizens live in urban areas, where crime is most prevalent. But the country also has the largest number of citizens in southern Africa with mobile Internet access. This presented a great opportunity for Lawrence Suss and Beverley Paly, co-founders of the selffunded SPOTTM company, to create a crowdsourcing app that instantly alerts users to crime in their area. Says Suss, “I was hijacked in Cape Town, and as I stood there waiting for [law enforcement], I knew the limited number of police in the neighbourhood would make it difficult for them to track my car. I thought, if there were a real-time way for me to notify thousands of neighbours to be on the lookout, it would certainly increase the chances of the police locating my car before it left my neighbourhood.” With the SPOTTM app, victims of crime or concerned citizens can immediately report a
felony to thousands of anonymous community members (“Spotters”) in their area, respond to police identikits, or alert family during an emergency. Reports— which contain geolocation and time data—are received and vetted by the SPOTTM helpdesk before being forwarded to Spotters and local law enforcement agencies. “SPOTTM is a platform that allows us to become active change agents in our communities—and not just bystanders—when it comes to addressing social issues,” says Paly.
The founders’ research revealed that people residing in high-crime neighbourhoods were most concerned about the slow response times of law enforcement. That led Suss and Paly to partner with private security companies and community forums to offer a solution. “In working with armed response agencies in various communities, we are able to offer app users a pay-as-you-go call-out feature during an emergency. This guarantees a response in that urgent situation.”
HELP IS JUST A C L I C K AWAY How to use the SPOTTM app GREEN BUTTON:
Report an incident quickly and easily, with the option of uploading audio, video or photo evidence.
Alert family or friends and the police, should you find yourself in a dangerous situation.
about service requests e.g. fixing burst water pipes, faulty street lights, potholes etc.
Send a location-based SOS alert to three preselected contacts and local law enforcement.
Allows your contacts, via GPS, to ‘walk’ you home virtually.
Upload images or videos to alert the local council
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Special mentions The companies that almost made the list, and which we’re watching for next year and beyond
Ducere Holdings Ducere Holdings develops innovative products mainly in the IT, automotive, leisure and medical industries. Its new MISER Hydraulic Hybrid Transmission System is a revolutionary approach to storing and reusing kinetic energy, which is usually lost as a vehicle starts and stops. The MISER offers engine optimisation with fuel savings of up to 70% and significantly reduced carbon emissions.
Walletdoc This fintech startup offers users an easy and secure payment solution: notifying them when bills arrive, reminding them when payments are due, and allowing them to pay via credit card. It also takes care of account and
reference numbers. Partnered with Absa, Walletdoc supports bills from municipalities, Telkom, SABC, Cell C and others.
Provulo Through its cloud-based services, Provulo digitises inefficient, pen-and-paper– intensive processes into a streamlined online document store that helps users work more effectively and productively—from anywhere, on any device, any time—with dashboards, alerts and real-time status updates.
Impression Signature Impression Signature’s app enables secure and legally recognised digital signatures on any smart device. It also
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has the functionality to take a photo of a document, digitally sign it, and then send it back. As a security measure, the app takes into consideration how hard one presses when signing and the speed at which it is done, as well as one’s location.
Kriterion Developers A company started by students from the University of Johannesburg, Kriterion Developers has produced an app to automate and bring transparency to large government tender processes in South Africa. The app integrates these processes into one system so that estimates can be assessed accurately and any irregularities immediately identified.
Invoke Solutions Invoke’s innovative IT solutions help organisations unleash the power of information to gain insights and increase profitability. Its proprietary reporting
and analytics platform allows users to pull data from spreadsheets and a variety of systems to Wordbased documents.
Zuka Yethu Zuka Yethu addresses socio-economic challenges through affordable alternative wastemanagement solutions that eliminate air, ground and water pollution. It provides a range of organic products that improve soil and repel pests, such as Zuka Gud Grow: a specially developed (liquid and solid) compound created through vermicomposting, using the natural waste of vegetables, fruit and gardens located at industrial sites.
delvv.io delvv.io allows brands and agencies access to feedback on their creative asset (video ad, mobile app, website or campaign concept) from 30 of the most relevant creative professionals in an on-
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demand community. Clients then get a report outlining the strengths, weaknesses and actionable next steps to optimise their creative before they spend millions on advertising.
FinFind This state-backed online portal is designed to help small enterprises access finance by helping them organise their business and books through tools such as SMEEasy—which assists in preparing financials, invoices, payslips etc.—and AdminEasy for online training. FinFind also matches SMEs with the most suitable lenders in its database.
Thevia The Pretoria-based startup has created a sustainable roof tile that is 70% lighter than traditional concrete, slate or clay tiles—but twice as strong and not brittle. It is manufactured from 99% waste material, recycled plastic and crusher discard.
Synexa Life Sciences Synexa Life Sciences is a leading provider of biomarker and molecular biology analyses to the global biopharma industry. It also provides an innovative range of specialist diagnostic tests to local clinicians. Its novel Quorus Bioreactor is used to manufacture a range of compounds that are extremely difficult or expensive to produce using traditional fermentation platforms.
Prodigy Finance Founded by three INSEAD graduates who experienced at first hand the difficulties of financing an international MBA, Prodigy Finance has created a community platform that offers loans to international postgrad students attending top universities. Alumni, impact investors and other private qualified entities can invest in tomorrow’s leaders while earning a financial and social return.
Livestock Wealth This ‘crowdfarming’ platform offers people with no access to land, time or skills the opportunity to own livestock within a professionally managed farming operation. Through a web and mobile application, potential investors can buy cows online and Livestock Wealth manages the cattle like an investment portfolio.
Standard Bank Standard has become the first SA bank to launch an app for children. Targeted at youngsters between 6 and 11 years, the gamified Kidz Banking App is set in an animated realm where South Africa’s Big 5 animals maintain habitats that represent
a different area of money management such as saving, earning and spending. It integrates directly into a parent’s own banking app for added control.
Angola Cables Expanding its IP ecosystem throughout southern and western Africa, telecoms operator Angola Cables joined with Teraco in Johannesburg as colocation partner to deploy its first direct point-ofpresence in the country. Angola Cables is also constructing the first subsea fibre-optic cable system with Japanese IT company, NEC, to connect Africa and South America.
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From left: BuzzFeed publisher Dao Nguyen, Motion Pictures president Ze Frank, and CEO Jonah Peretti keep BuzzFeed weird— and powerful—by never getting too comfortable.
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For shaking up media across the globe
BY NOAH ROBISCHON Photographs by Eric Ogden
Ask BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti about his influences, and his answer sounds like, well, a BuzzFeed post—one titled “The Three Historical References That Explain BuzzFeed Will Make You Say WTF.” Peretti first points to a company that started more than 100 years ago, Paramount Pictures, which owned a film production studio, its own cast of talent, and its own distribution channel in the form of theatres. “That allowed them to adapt and change as the market changed,” says Peretti. Peretti’s second fascination is with CNN—how founder Ted Turner ran a 24-hour news operation at a fraction of the cost of what the networks spent, due in part to prescient use of satellite and cable technology. And then there’s Jay Z. In the early 1990s, Peretti, who grew up in Oakland, California, attended public school where, he says, “The only music was black music.” The lyrics were full of boasts—selling more albums, earning more money, amassing more bling. Later in life when Peretti, now 42, made friends with people who loved indie rock bands, he noticed “this weird thing where it’s like, the band that they love, they go to all their shows, but as soon as they have a record deal, ‘I don’t like them anymore.’ ”
Previous Spread: Illustration by Studio Kamargo
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THREE REASONS BEING A RED-HEADED DATA G E E K AT BUZZFEED IS AWESOME
2. “We collect statistics on everything,” says Adam Kelleher (centre), a data scientist working on Pound, a sharinganalysis tool that helps BuzzFeed learn how an article with 3 million views goes viral. 3. “It’s a real engineering challenge to be able to deal with the data at a scale that we have,” says Andrew Kelleher (far right), an engineer and Adam’s brother, who also works on Pound.
There was a similar attitude among bloggers, he says, who had a “deeply tortured relationship with popularity. The mainstream media is somehow evil, bad, or selling out.” Peretti didn’t share this angst. “With BuzzFeed, I always felt like, let’s have as big an impact as we can. Let’s grow this into something giant.” Or, as Hova himself once rapped, “I’m so far ahead of my time, I’m ‘bout to start another life / Look behind you, I’m ‘bout to pass you twice.” BuzzFeed has built its success, like Paramount a century ago, by owning all the elements of a modern media business: a global news team, its own video production studio, a sophisticated data operation, and an in-house creative ad agency. Just as Ted Turner embraced cable before cable was cool, Peretti has pushed BuzzFeed to tailor its content to each emerging social channel, from Snapchat to Pinterest. And BuzzFeed is expanding globally, from the UK to Brazil, India to Mexico, Germany to Australia. Much of this transformation has taken place within the past two years. The “bored-at-work network”, as Peretti himself once called it, was merely a single US website. In late 2014, he foresaw that people wouldn’t want to leave their social apps, so Peretti drastically shifted his company’s strategy: Instead of trying to lure eyeballs to its own website, the way most publishers do, BuzzFeed would publish original text, images and video directly to where its audience already spent its time: some 30 different global platforms, from Facebook to the
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Russian social networks VK and Telegram. Rather than write one definitive article and publish it on every platform (the de facto standard in the media business), BuzzFeed would tailor content specifically for the network and audience where it’s being viewed. How’d that turn out? Across all the platforms where it now publishes content, the company generates 5 billion monthly views—half from video, a business that effectively did not exist two years ago. Traffic to the website has remained steady— 80 million people in the US every month, putting it ahead of The New York Times—even though as much as 75% of BuzzFeed’s content is now published somewhere else. This move also creates new revenue opportunities as services like Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat seek to prove they can funnel money to partners who publish directly to their platforms. In the fourth quarter of 2014, “15% of our revenue was derived from video,” says BuzzFeed president Greg Coleman. “Fourth quarter [of 2015], 35% of our total revenue was video.” The privately held BuzzFeed does not
Set design: Eric Hollis; grooming: Keiko Hamaguchi at Art Department
1. “When we’re going to evaluate a new platform, we say, ‘What kind of data can we get?’ ” says Jane Kelly (near right), a leader of BuzzFeed’s distributed data team that focuses on Buzz Feed’s presence on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Vine and many more. “We try to find metrics that [equate to] subscribers, content views, engagement (likes or shares), time spent, and impressions. The more of those you have, the more you can understand how the platform works.”
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detail its financials, but leaked documents last year revealed the company was growing at about 200% annually, generating $100 million (R1.3 billion) in 2014, and was the rarest of things for an Internet startup: profitable. BuzzFeed has become the envy of the media world for its seemingly magical ability to engineer stories and ads that are shared widely—whether it’s a dress that looks to be either white and gold or blue and black, an investigation into taxpayer-funded “ghost schools” in Afghanistan, or an older cat imparting wisdom to a kitten on behalf of Purina. Rivals in the insular media world carp that BuzzFeed is gaming Facebook’s algorithm, or buying ads to pump up its content, and both are unsustainable; viral smashes like the dress are mere luck; even traditional brands such as The Washington Post can beat BuzzFeed with their own traffic-oriented gambits. What’s lost here is a true understanding of what Peretti, one of the world’s most astute observers of Internet behaviour, has built. The company’s success is rooted in a dynamic, learning-driven culture; BuzzFeed is a continuous
feedback loop where all its articles and videos are the input for its sophisticated data operation, which then informs how BuzzFeed creates and distributes the advertising it produces. In a diagram showing how the system works, Peretti synthesised it down to “data, learning, dollars”. Everyone who’s ever shared a BuzzFeed post on Facebook thinks they understand the company. But to truly get it, one has to consider all of BuzzFeed, as I did during a months-long exploration of its video, data, editorial and advertising operations. “If we actually learn what works on Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook,” Peretti says, “and we actually learn what works in Brazil and the UK, and we can figure out a way of sharing that knowledge, we should have a better understanding of how to make great content that people love.” Peretti likens BuzzFeed’s secret to a fleet of selfdriving cars: Each car learns from every other autonomous vehicle on the road, so eventually they’re all thousands of times smarter. The other secret to BuzzFeed’s success is a culture that embraces constant change yet remains devoted to data-driven metrics. That’s a tricky combination, but essential for any company hoping to thrive in today’s tumultuous business climate. “ I L O V E H O L LY W O O D . I L O V E M O V I E S . I grew up on them. I love television shows,”
says Ze Frank, the head of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures. “The way that stuff is
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“Brands have to figure out how not just to be sponsors, they need to become creators,” says CMO Frank Cooper. “That’s what we’re trying to teach them.”
made, however, doesn’t work necessarily in this environment.” Ironically, Frank, whose team publishes about 65 original videos every week—for YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat as well as for brands—is saying this from inside a 4 800-square-metre production studio on Sunset Boulevard in the heart of Los Angeles. There’s a soundstage, a test kitchen, a prop room as large as a vintage store, two bungalows with rooms that serve as reusable indoor sets, and a clear view of the Hollywood sign from the roof. In short, the new digs have everything one would expect in a traditional movie studio. But Frank, a performer whose rubber-faced, staccato monologues on The Show back in 2006 created the aesthetic for the first wave of YouTube stars, runs a decidedly non-Hollywood shop. There’s a refreshing lack of pretension, in part because he’s avoided the hyperspecialised model used in traditional video production where a writer may never see a gaffer or even understand what that person does. (It’s the chief electrician on set, in case you’re wondering.) Everyone at BuzzFeed Motion Pictures is “multihyphenated”, says Ella Mielniczenko, 25, a writer-producer-performer for the series You Do You, an all-female scripted comedy that you could binge-watch along with Girls. “I can write better, because I understand how I’m going to execute it and make it,” she tells me. “I can direct better, because I know what it’s like to be in front of the camera.”
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Frank’s multihyphenates are organised into teams—often colour-coded—of no more than seven people, each devoted to a type of video, such as those that promote racial equality (“If Latinos Said the Stuff White People Say”) and “franchise” formats such as Reaction videos (“Celebs Watch Animal Births”) and Moments (“Awkward Moments You Know Too Well”). To ensure no one gets complacent, the entire staff is reorganised into different teams every three months. Frank believes this keeps the creative process from becoming calcified and helps producers unlearn habits. “There’s this highly articulated way of making video that started 100 years ago,” says Frank, who has overseen the making of more than 7 000 videos in the three years since Peretti got him to join BuzzFeed by acquiring his startup. “The modern opportunity necessarily means that you have to question almost every one of those decisions. Things like, ‘Should we be talking about story as the prime vehicle for video versus a moment or a character?’ ” Mielniczenko’s series epitomises BuzzFeed’s updated approach. You Do You focuses on the interplay among the main characters, Ashly, Ella, Quinta and Sara, as they explore particular moments in their lives. The narrative arc that’s woven through the episodes—going to a friend’s wedding together—is secondary at best. Last year, BuzzFeed decided to bundle the 12 episodes of You Do You for $2.99 on iTunes, the first time it sold its content directly to the public. The series hit No. 1 on the Top TV Seasons chart the week after its release, beating The Walking Dead and Fargo. BuzzFeed’s video plans also include a partnership with Comcast’s NBCUniversal (which invested $200 million/ R2.7 billion last year) around the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. While NBC works on its traditional (and arguably calcified) “up close and personal” TV segments on prospective American Olympians, BuzzFeed was invited to film its own interviews. They asked the athletes goofy questions such as, “Have you ever seen a live turkey?”— and then unleashed a turkey on set to capture athletes’ reactions. The result is “a video that they think is going to go mega-vi,” says NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke. That’s shorthand for “mega-viral”, by the way—and no, Burke had never heard the term before, either. I F B U Z Z F E E D M O T I O N P I C T U R E S feels chaotic—as if there’s a live turkey on set every day—it’s because that’s exactly what Peretti wants. “If everyone is in some highly structured organisation, it’s hard for anyone to be creative,” he says. “It’s hard for people to make new things without autonomy and freedom.” Peretti’s management philosophy stems from his early career as a teacher—and, he contends, from watching his younger sister Chelsea bloom into a top stand-up comedian. “The best teachers don’t just say, ‘I have a good way of communicating or connecting with the students.’ They also change what they’re communicating. They think of a new curriculum that they know the student will be excited about.” As for his sister, who is now a regular on the Fox series Brooklyn Nine-Nine and of whom he’s clearly very proud: “What I learnt from Chelsea and watching the way comics work is that they would tell a joke, and then
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the joke doesn’t quite connect, so they try and tell the joke a different way.” To thrive at BuzzFeed means learning to roll with it. “BuzzFeed is this insane morphing rocket ship,” Emily Fleischaker, a creative director overseeing one of the company’s most popular properties, Food, tells me during a trip to her lower Manhattan test kitchen, which was previously located inside her apartment. “Every three months you have to be ready for someone to come in and be like, ‘You’re going to report to this person now, and your desk isn’t where it used to be.’ ” “And we’re moving houses tomorrow,” chuckles Peggy Wang, the editorial director of the Lifestyle group, who was also a student of Peretti’s in the 1990s. (BuzzFeed’s New York headquarters moved five blocks south in early 2016.) “And you have to be like,” Fleischaker chimes in, snapping her fingers, “ ‘All right, let’s do this!’ ” Adaptability is a particularly useful trait in the digital media world right now. (Peretti himself relocated to LA in January, ostensibly because his wife prefers the West Coast, though he acknowledged in a staff email announcing the move, “BuzzFeed’s second-largest and fastest-growing team is based in LA.”) As he points out, the medium is still in its infancy: In the decade since BuzzFeed was founded, our computer usage has migrated from desktop to mobile; we’ve shifted from browsing the web to using apps; and still images are being usurped by live video streams that include chat. Peretti’s ability to frame the tech shifts that are upending content creation and consumption is why venture capitalists love him. “When he [Peretti] hangs out with us, he speaks tech natively and media with an accent,” says Chris Dixon of Andreessen Horowitz, who led a $50-million (R682-million) investment in BuzzFeed in 2014. BuzzFeed is Peretti’s vision, shaped by his restless curiosity. In high school, he saved his money from doing yard work to buy a Macintosh computer. He discovered the Netscape browser as a sophomore in college, and upon graduation from the University of California, Santa Cruz, interviewed at a tech startup but decided that a R320 000-peryear job teaching computers at a private school in New Orleans was more interesting. He landed at the MIT Media Lab, where his thesis was a software authoring tool for the classroom. Co-founding The Huffington Post in 2005 was Peretti’s introduction to startups and business, but a year later he wanted to go off and experiment again. HuffPo’s investors gave him a little seed capital, because “they wanted me to be able to keep doing Huffington Post,” he says. “It was like, ‘Oh, Jonah’s doing his little R&D lab.’ ” He stayed on until 2011, when AOL acquired HuffPo for $315 million (R4.2 billion). Only then did BuzzFeed become Peretti’s sole focus. Although BuzzFeed currently employs approximately 1 200 people and is valued at $1.2 billion (R16.3 billion), Peretti still largely thinks of it as his teaching workshop. Now, as the company is reaching a size where it has to act like a real business, Peretti is finding ways to harness the chaos, just enough, to cross-pollinate ideas across departments. “A lot of what we are working on organisationally is, How do we create structures where there’s lots of local autonomy plus some global co-ordination?”
I T ’ S A C R I S P A F T E R N O O N and Matt Stopera, a 28-year-old BuzzFeed senior editor, is discussing hoverboards—“a good, funny recent example of something where we were a little too soon,” he tells me. “A couple of weeks ago, we did a post on people failing. They’re falling.” When I tell Stopera that I saw the piece everywhere on Twitter, he’s dismissive. “In our Twitter world,” meaning media and tech professionals, “everyone was talking about it, but in the real world, people aren’t really talking about it.” Stopera, an Internet savant so steeped in pop culture that he appeared on an episode of MTV’s Fanography as a teenager for his “psychotic” love of Britney Spears, is explaining how he and his 500-plus peers in the editorial department define success. They rely on an internal proprietary metric, known as “viral lift”, which quantifies how much and how quickly a piece of content is shared. “If something has a 1.5 viral lift and 100 000 views and above, that was worth doing,” he tells me. “It’s a failure if you have 400 000 views and a 1.1 or 1.2 lift. That’s a flop.” Most publishers would perceive the post with 400 000 views to be the success, but at BuzzFeed sharing is paramount. As Stopera explains, “It wasn’t shared. It was all seed. The fun in the game is getting people to share something. I click on shit all the time. ‘Oh, let’s look at what this person posted on Instagram,’ and you saw their butt cheek. It’s like, click, but I’m not going to share it.” “I take no responsibility for what these insane reporters cover,” says Dao Nguyen, the data maven whom Peretti named publisher in October 2014. (Editor-in-chief Ben Smith manages the journalists.) She is, however, entrusted with figuring out how articles and videos travel across all the platforms where BuzzFeed plays. “Traditionally, publishing meant owning a printing press and dealing with delivery trucks and newsstands,” says Nguyen, 42, who in fourth grade was caught debugging software code instead of doing classwork (her punishment was to program a state capitals quiz for the entire class). “With digital media, getting your content to the public is all about your technical platform and your distribution plans on social networks.” As Peretti explains, “What is the competitive advantage that you can gain as a publisher today? You’re not going to inherit one or get one given to you by a spectrum grant,” he says, referring to the historical benefits of a family-run newspaper or a radio station. “Having technology, data science, and being able to know how to manage, optimise and co-ordinate your publishing is the thing that gives you a competitive advantage.” To illustrate how BuzzFeed is analysing social sharing and how that will influence the company, Nguyen takes me to meet Andrew and Adam Kelleher, the ginger-haired twins who lead the Pound project. Andrew, the engineer, and Adam, the data scientist, explain that Pound is a way for BuzzFeed to understand how people share content across different social networks. Let’s say I find an interesting article on Twitter and then copy the link and post it to Facebook, where one of my friends reshares it to his network, and then one of
“THE FUN IN THE GAME IS GETTING PEOPLE TO SHARE SOMETHING,” SAYS MATT STOPERA, A BUZZFEED SENIOR EDITOR. “I CLICK ON SHIT ALL THE TIME. ‘OH, LET’S LOOK AT WHAT THIS PERSON POSTED ON INSTAGRAM,’ AND YOU SAW THEIR BUTT CHEEK. IT’S LIKE, CLICK, BUT I’M NOT GOING TO SHARE IT.”
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those people puts it back on Twitter. Pound connects the dots to show how I’m connected to that friend-of-a-friend who put it back on Twitter, even when that social chain— the “propagation graph”—is several links deep and includes multiple platforms. “Facebook only sees how content flows within its own network,” says Adam. “It doesn’t see how it is connected with other ones.” This is a unique data set, and the Kellehers—whose parents put coloured dots on their eyeglasses to tell them apart as kids—have come up with nine different metrics to quantify it all, including the “propagation rate between nodes”. That one’s particularly valuable, because it measures the amount of time it takes for a piece of content to be shared between two people, and if that happens at an increasing rate, it’s a good sign that something is going to go mega-vi. “If you think of the course of human history,” Adam adds, “we’ve seen continually increasing propagation rates within pairs as we’ve improved our telecom infrastructure.” From telegraph to telephone to email to instant messaging, information has moved faster and in larger quantities, spurring economic and social changes in the process. Collecting massive amounts of data over time has allowed BuzzFeed to learn, among other things, that while ideas get an early start on Twitter, they go wide and become popular on Facebook (which is what Stopera understood about hoverboards). The team is even beginning to grasp how an idea spreads if it’s seeded among certain types of people on a specific social network. “We can make predictions about how a particular piece of content should spread through this network based on where it begins,” says Duncan J. Watts, a sociologist with Microsoft Research and early BuzzFeed adviser who helped devise Pound. That’s why you may see an article titled “Guys Confess Secret Reasons Why They Cry” on a page devoted to stories about cats.
One goal of Hive is to track every editorial idea, even ones that aren’t published, across all of BuzzFeed’s many platforms. A seven-step web recipe for slow-cooker chicken becomes a 46-second Facebook video, and then a 15-second Instagram clip with the instructions written as a comment, and finally a Pinterest post with two images and a link back to the Facebook video. And if it’s going on Snapchat, it needs to be shot in portrait mode as well. It’s all the exact same recipe, but “we put it on Facebook, and we put it on YouTube, and we put it on AOL and Yahoo,” says Hive lead Jane Kelly, “and all of a sudden it’s 15 different MP4 files.” Soon, every piece of content produced will be uploaded into a central database and assigned a unique ID. Hive will enable BuzzFeed engineers to create many other useful tools, including being able to track how well something like that slow-cooker recipe performs as it migrates from Twitter to Facebook to Snapchat. What’s more, it knows how each piece of content is related—whether it was about the same topic or featured a particular actor—and how well it connected with an audience. If a writer is going to do a post about pizza, Peretti says, “you should see all the things that the audiences have loved about pizza, you should see what people have done before,” he explains, “then build on top of that.” Take, for example, the series about short-girl problems: It began with an article on the website that attracted more than 8 million views, titled “30 Awkward Moments Every Short Girl Understands”; it then became a scripted YouTube video (“10 Problems Only Short Girls Understand”); and ultimately it inspired a cartoon titled Trans Girl Problems that appeared on Facebook. Hive will speed the editorial evolution of popular ideas like this one. From a technical perspective, Hive is both simple—maybe five tables in a relational database—and absurdly abstract. One diagram Kelly shows me has a pipe labelled pixie dust as well as an animated Super Mario jumping up and down on part of it. “We think of it as a Voltron,” says Nguyen, referencing the cheesy 1980s cartoon starring a super robot. Each platform is a smaller robot, and the combined learning about what works across all of them make BuzzFeed “like an even more powerful robot that no one can defeat.” Voltron, er, Hive will be increasingly important as BuzzFeed expands globally, to identify what works across borders. Like its approach to different social networks, BuzzFeed aims to create something organic in each global market rather than simply translating an article into another language. “We don’t want to be seen as an American company that’s going into these local markets spreading the gospel of American pop Internet culture,” says Qichen Zhang, an international product lead. Better that BuzzFeed find content in far-flung locales that appeals to everyone across the globe. Peretti—channelling father of the electronic age, Marshall McLuhan—believes BuzzFeed will succeed globally because of the rise of postliterate media. “Angry Birds, Candy Crush, Minions, Transformers,” he rattles off. “Anywhere the dialogue is less important than the special effects. Or a Nicki Minaj video. There are things that you don’t really need language to appreciate.” The platonic ideal can be seen in one of BuzzFeed’s biggest 2015 hits, sparked when Stopera noticed that his iPhoto feed started including pictures of a man in China standing next to an orange tree. He figured out that the photos were coming from his old iPhone, which he had lost in a bar a year earlier, so he
A SEVEN-STEP WEB RECIPE FOR SLOW-COOKER CHICKEN BECOMES A 46-SECOND FACEBOOK VIDEO, AND THEN A 15-SECOND INSTAGRAM CLIP WITH THE INSTRUCTIONS WRITTEN AS A COMMENT, AND FINALLY A PINTEREST POST WITH TWO IMAGES AND A LINK BACK TO THE FACEBOOK VIDEO. AND IF IT’S GOING ON SNAPCHAT, IT NEEDS TO BE SHOT IN PORTRAIT MODE AS WELL.
P O U N D ’ S I N S I G H T S H E L P BuzzFeed gain a deeper
understanding of its audience. But Pound is just one piece of an even more audacious data initiative called Hive, which promises to make its editorial content more shareable than ever. No one—not Peretti, Nguyen or anyone else—actually has an exact idea how many pieces of content BuzzFeed creates or where it all gets published. Today, internal teams monitor their output using Google Spreadsheets and Slack—a hack that fails to match BuzzFeed’s increasingly complicated distribution system.
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wrote a story about it. A few hours after it was published, the story was translated into Chinese and posted to Weibo, a Twitter-like service in China which at the time had 198 million monthly active users. Stopera soon became that network’s most popular trending topic. Weibo users tracked down the guy in the photo with the orange tree, Li Hongjun, and brokered an introduction to Stopera, who bought a plane ticket to China and, a few weeks later, landed in the Meizhou prefecture where he was met at the airport by a mob of reporters. Stopera and Brother Orange, as he’s now known, travelled around the country for eight days, met by ever-larger crowds and showered with gifts. They held press conferences, planted an orange tree, took a mud bath together, posed for photos with babies, and rode around in a car with their faces painted on its side. At one point, Stopera inadvertently endorsed a few liquor products. The BuzzFeed post on Weibo about their first meeting racked up 70 million views, and the duo appeared together on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. The tale of the lost-iPhone-turnedheartwarming-bromance is soon to become a featurelength documentary, produced by BuzzFeed Motion Pictures. A M I D T H E T U M U LT of BuzzFeed’s editorial and data operations, it can be easy to forget that the company makes money by achieving viral lift for advertisers. BuzzFeed houses a branded studio that produces lists, quizzes and (increasingly) customised video for clients such as HBO, Taco Bell and Ford; copywriters have access to the same data insights as everyone else at the company. BuzzFeed places native ads—which are designed to look like the content where they appear—not only on its own site but everywhere it distributes its editorial. What’s more, many brands value BuzzFeed’s social wizardry so much that they hire the company simply to distribute their traditional ads to a targeted audience, primarily on Facebook. (This helps explain why BuzzFeed appears to spend so much money there.) The business model is inspired in part by Google, which “built a search engine where you put in a keyword and you get relevant results, and you also get relevant sponsor results,” Peretti explains. “It’s the same engine that’s powering recommendations to queries. When they get better at doing that core thing for consumers, they also make more money.” Selling ads at BuzzFeed falls primarily to Greg Coleman, a former HuffPo colleague of Peretti’s who joined as president in 2014, and CMO Frank Cooper, who came over from PepsiCo a year later. Their task is to make BuzzFeed a core part of marketers’ advertising budget, despite its unorthodox approach. “I can’t do, ‘Oh, look at my cool BuzzFeed way,’ ” Coleman says. “I have to hold BuzzFeed to the same standards in terms of efficacy, research, and proof points, use down-and-dirty syndicated research, things that they know.” The custom ads that Coleman’s team are selling are still considered out there by many marketers. Coleman recounts one brand exec audibly gasping when shown a two-minute comic vignette that didn’t feel like a TV spot.
The video in question, though, has become BuzzFeed’s advertising calling card: The “Dear Kitten” campaign for Purina’s Friskies brand cat food, where a feline elder statesman (which happens to be voiced by Ze Frank) schools a kitty in the ways of the world—“I remember when I could fit in a shoe. There’s nothing like it, being engulfed by 360 degrees of foot smell. [Sniff] Enjoy it while you can.” Hilarious, cuddly, and including an obvious pitch for cat food, the original spot has been watched almost 25 million times on YouTube alone, and nine subsequent videos have racked up another 40 million YouTube views. (“Dear Kitten” has been so successful that many clients expect a monster hit just like it. Coleman says he’s had to guide brands to understand just what BuzzFeed can and cannot do for them: “We never go to a credit-card company and say, ‘Oh, we’re going to sell a billion credit cards.’ ”) As Cooper points out, it’s not just the tone of the content that BuzzFeed is challenging, but also the way ad programmes are developed. Rather than contract with a client to produce a set number of videos and hope they hit the mark—which is how traditional ad agencies work with clients—BuzzFeed wants to sell companies on the idea of rapidly iterating through a series of videos around a key message in an attempt to find the best fit for a particular platform. It’s not all that different from how BuzzFeed editors cycle through posts on a topic like hoverboards until they hit the zeitgeist. There were four other Purina videos that hardly anyone saw before “Dear Kitten”. “It sounds like a revolution,” says Cooper, 51. “Large corporations don’t like revolutions. They like predictability. They like incremental growth.” Still, BuzzFeed’s way is catching on. In August, BuzzFeed and GroupM, a division of WPP, one of the world’s largest advertising conglomerates, struck a yearlong, multimillion-dollar deal to create and distribute content together, following this model. “Their ability to conceive, create, test, define and then either abandon or rinse and repeat is phenomenal,” says Rob Norman, GroupM’s chief digital officer. The alliance has already led to video production for 13 different clients, including Nike, Target and Unilever, with another 45 in the pipeline. “We’re spending more money with them than either of us expected,” Norman says. P O U N D A N D H I V E , chaos and comedy, serendipity and quantified metrics:
These are the tools of BuzzFeed’s newfangled global media enterprise. “There’s an opportunity for a modern media company to be more engaged with the audience than ever before,” Peretti says, “and have a more intimate connection in people’s lives, to respond and be reactive to the things that matter to people.” Late last year, he invited me to sit in on a guest lecture at an NYU Stern School of Business class on digital media innovation. In front of a packed auditorium of aspiring MBAs, Peretti, clad casually in his favourite grey hoodie, posed a series of questions about how BuzzFeed measures the impact of its work. Does the asset work across platforms? Does it click internationally? Does it help people connect with one another? Does it improve their lives? Does it inform the public and change institutions? Does it make the world more open and diverse? BuzzFeed has answered them all, whether it’s an article titled “29 Things Everyone With Nipples Should Know” that led one reader to visit the doctor and discover she had stage 1 breast cancer or the weekly podcast Another Round, which recently featured Hillary Clinton as a guest. The co-hosts, Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton, asked: Did the mass incarceration policies passed during her husband’s administration “really fuck [things] up for black people” in the United States? The answer didn’t go mega-vi, but never has Clinton seemed more human. Peretti was commanding and charming as he led the 400 students through BuzzFeed 201. He’s a damn good teacher. “The intellectual challenge of trying to understand why ideas spread, how they spread, human psychology, those kinds of things,” Peretti said, “is infinitely rich. I don’t feel like you ever figure that out.” The more BuzzFeed remains focused on understanding people, the better a business it’ll be.
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For not letting size get in the way of acting like a startup
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Facebook’s financial performance is to die for—$17 billion (over R230 billion) in 2015 revenue, and a reported $7.1 billion (R96 billion) for the third quarter of 2016—but it’s the steady confidence with which it’s improving that makes it a killer. The Instant Articles platform has smoothed out the process of sharing content for publishers, while offering readers ultrafast story downloads. Facebook’s efforts to encourage direct video uploads have helped push daily views from 1 billion to 8 billion in just over a year. And the Moments app, which backs up photos and leverages the company’s growing prowess in artificial intelligence for sharing suggestions, is increasingly popular. Facebook’s fastestgrowing app is Messenger, which also uses AI to help businesses interact more naturally with their customers. Some of these
Illustration by Plasticbionic
applications are pure fun: When Disney unleashed Miss Piggy on Messenger to talk to fans, her answers were powered by Facebook’s machine learning. Others, like the company’s digital assistant, M, help users find whatever they want via both computer and human intelligence. All these moves are evidence that Facebook is becoming adept at incubating products within the service itself, letting them get popular, and then spinning them out into important freestanding services. The thread that connects these efforts is Facebook’s central, though underappreciated, principle: to make the interactions between users—whether they’re individuals, businesses or content creators— feel special, even as the complex social infrastructure behind them fades into the background. Exactly as it should.
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For removing all the barriers to stock trading
Robinhood’s Tenev (left) and Bhatt dream of a world where a new generation can invest with the ease of ordering an Uber.
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There may be no better “Why didn’t anyone think of this sooner?” product than Robinhood, which brings stock trading into the modern era with a stunningly designed mobile app and a no-minimums, free-trades policy. Co-founders Baiju Bhatt and Vlad Tenev were Stanford roommates and friends who graduated into the teeth of the 2008 financial crisis and got their start helping the likes of global financial-services company, UBS, execute highfrequency trading more efficiently. As those transaction costs neared zero, Bhatt recalls wondering, Why are online brokerages still so expensive? Watching their peers become disillusioned by Wall Street further inspired the idea of creating a new kind of financial company. The pent-up demand for Robinhood led 600 000 people to join the waiting list to download the app before it debuted in March 2015. Robinhood has gone on to convert hundreds of
Photograph by Noel Spirandelli
thousands of those folks into customers, who have so far traded more than $2 billion (R27.6 billion) via the app—saving $50 million (R690 million) in trading commissions. The company currently generates revenue and earns interest off of customers’ cash balances (the “float”), and it is launching premium services such as trading on margin. Part of the reason for Robinhood’s success is its design. The app is incredibly fast and intelligently prioritises the information you care about most. “How often do you check your account value?” Bhatt asks rhetorically. “That’s the number-one thing. You look at it quickly, get what you want, and feel connected to your money.” Many users check more than 20 times a week. Scroll down for individual stocks; click on one for clear charts and the latest headlines. The first financial app to win an Apple Design award, Robinhood knows how to keep users coming back.
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For changing the game with mobile video
Junior MJ Walker of the Jonesboro Cardinals makes a ritual of watching his performance on Hudl after every game: “There’s no waiting. I can see what I did wrong and what I did right.”
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BY M AT THE W SH A ER Photographs by Emiliano Granado
An hour before dawn, the members of the Jonesboro High School basketball squad file into a darkened classroom to watch tape from the previous night’s win over Eagle’s Landing. On paper, at least, the showing was impressive—the kind of comefrom-behind, 14-point victory that catapulted Jonesboro, a public school in the outskirts of Atlanta, to back-to-back Georgia state titles in 2014 and 2015. But the Jonesboro Cardinals’ coach, Dan Maehlman, is having trouble finding much to praise. “Do you know what it means when I say deny? Am I speaking a foreign language?” he asks, gripping his head as if it’s about to crater open. He gestures at the projector screen, where two defenders are failing to intercept a lob pass. Maehlman rewinds and replays the offending sequence. “Let me try this again for you guys: Deny means that your goddamn player does not catch the goddamn basketball.”
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The players are largely silent. Most have already spent hours watching the tape on their own, on their smartphones, tablets and home computers, using software called Hudl. At the meeting, Maehlman, too, is using the technology. Created by two buddies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Business School, Hudl is built around digital video playback: Teams upload game films (captured either on a mobile device running the Hudl app or a digital camera) to Hudl servers, where they are instantly available to anyone with viewing permissions, from training staff to players to scouts and recruiters. Later, coaches can flag sections of the video (that unprompted turnover in the fourth quarter or that particularly balletic secondquarter steal), inserting notes, scribbles or audio commentary for their players. They can also use those clips to create digital playbooks for the team. Athletes tap the software to study plays, edit and share highlight reels on their customisable Hudl profile pages, and send their coaches clips to analyse. Or they can review and discuss in person, as Maehlman and the Jonesboro squad are doing today. A 1.98m tall former forward for West Virginia’s Alderson Broaddus University, the coach bears a close resemblance to an Appalachian peak— broad at the midsection, broader at the shoulders, and unforested at the summit. In Georgia high school basketball circles, he has a reputation as a brilliant strategist (he was coach of the year in 2015) and a kind of anti-cheerleader: Even when his teams are winning by many points, he tends to pace the sidelines with a look that alternates between anguish and fury. On the morning I sit in on the Cardinals’ game review, Maehlman’s ire is trained on his team’s defence. He slides his hand over the trackpad on his laptop, stopping the Hudl video at minute marker 21:23. The Cardinals’ defence is clustered around their own net. “We were doing this all-night long,” Maehlman says. On the projector, the Cardinals jerk back to life. “We get the rebound, fine, but then we decide, for some reason, that we’re going to dribble. Why?” Fast-forward. Stop. “Now here, we have the rebound again, and we make the outlet pass, but it’s slow. It’s sideways. It’s almost backwards, for God’s sake.” At 8 a.m., with a half hour before the first bell of the school day, the team heads to the gym and straight into an outlet drill. Standing at half-court, Maehlman observes his sophomore centre Jamari Mosley dribble off the rebound. “Jamari, did you see the same video as me?” he shouts. “Were you listening? The next player that does
Coach Dan Maehlman, who won back-to-back state basketball titles in 2014 and 2015, is betting on Hudl to help his team three-peat.
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that and the entire goddamn team is going to be running wind sprints until 8:30 a.m.” On the second go-round, Mosley barely lets the ball hit the ground: jumping rebound, looping pass to his teammate, swish. “Okay,” Maehlman says, mostly to himself. “Better.” He sounds halfway convinced. I F A W H I T E B O A R D and erasable marker were the primary tools of the trade for previous generations of coaches, Hudl is fast becoming the 21st-century analogue. More than 100 000 sports outfits around the world currently rely on the software, paying annual subscription fees from $99/R1 300 (for club teams) to as much as $50 000/R690 000 (for pros)—and more for the additional tools Hudl is starting to roll out. The service has been adopted by NFL teams and NHL squads, and all but one of the 30 NBA teams. Some of the world’s most elite international organisations—including FC Barcelona, the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team, and almost all the English Premier League clubs—have subscriptions. Hudl’s widest adoption, though, has been among college, high school and club teams in the US. In the basketball vertical alone, nearly 22 000 schools and colleges count Hudl as a foundational coaching tool. Despite Hudl’s ubiquity, many observers were taken by surprise when the bootstrapped Nebraska-based startup announced in April 2015 that it had raised $72.5 million (just over R1 billion) in a single Series B investment round, giving it a $250-million (R3.45-billion) valuation. It was startling news to anyone unaware of the subtle yet transformative effect Hudl has had on the way coaches and players at all levels communicate with one another and the outside world. “We want to capture and add value to every moment in sports,” says CEO David Graff, who founded Hudl in 2006 with fellow computer engineer John Wirtz. At Jonesboro High School, Hudl is integral to almost everything the basketball team does. The morning after nearly every game, Maehlman takes his players through his annotated reel; before big matchups, he screens films of the opposing team. In addition to the video features, the software keeps track of individual and squad stats, and automatically creates graphs and colourful shot charts depicting patterns in the team’s play. Maehlman also uses Hudl when talking to recruiters. Last year, for instance, he directed representatives from a handful of colleges to the Hudl profile pages of two of his top players, Tariq Jenkins, a senior point guard, and James “MJ” Walker Jr, a 1.98m junior shooting guard who’s almost certainly bound for the NBA. The profiles included highlight clips, stats and even test scores and grade-point averages. “By the time they got done looking at those pages, the recruiters knew everything they needed to know,” says Maehlman. “And I didn’t have to spend hours emailing back and forth with them.” Like a lot of successful software, Hudl was conceived as a digital replacement for a task long done by hand—in this case, the exchange of the game tapes that coaches use to keep tabs on the competition. “You’d have people driving hundreds of miles to trade DVDs or waiting days for the things to come through the mail,” says Graff. “And once you got the tape, there was so much data and so many plays to break down and no easy way to do it. We set out to change that.” In early 2006, Wirtz and Graff, a graduate assistant for the Nebraska athletic programme, managed to get a beta
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The morning after nearly every game, the members of the Jonesboro basketball team commandeer a high school classroom to review Hudl footage with coach Maehlman.
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version of Hudl—then known as Huddle—in front of Bill Callahan, the head coach of the nationally ranked Cornhuskers football squad. The software was pretty barebones: a media player, essentially. But Callahan immediately grasped the potential. If the pair could have a finished version of the product ready by the start of the 2007 football season, Callahan said he would use it. Luckily, Wirtz and Graff had good timing: Video hardware was becoming more affordable, as was cloud storage. And the smartphone, while not yet ubiquitous, was ascendant. Together with a small team of designers and user-interface experts, Wirtz and Graff refined their software, building in the crucial ability to capture video via mobile devices and to review that tape on pocket-size screens. When Callahan landed a job as assistant coach of the New York Jets, he took Hudl with him. The Hudl founders hoped other pro teams would quickly adopt their technology, but that didn’t happen. “We had eight months there where we were kind of beating our heads against the wall,” Graff recalls. The breakthrough, as he tells it, was Hudl’s decision to expand into high school sports. After all, the pool of pro teams is small. The high school market is almost limitless. So in 2009, after opening a pilot programme at 12 schools in Nebraska, Texas, and Kansas, Hudl dropped the starting price of an annual subscription to $800 (R11 000) for high schools. By 2010, it had signed 2 000 teams. The number grew from there: 7 000, 8 000, 80 000, more. And not just football, but also basketball, soccer, baseball and volleyball. Hudl didn’t just make coaching easier; it changed the way sports organisations operated. “Sports has been undergoing this tech revolution on so many levels, where it’s all about having an objective approach to performance measurement,” says Vince Gennaro, director of the sports management programme at Columbia University. “We now have wearable technologies, high-speed cameras, Doppler radar and datacollection devices that will measure everything from the pitch recognition of a batter in baseball to the force of impact on a tackle in football, to the spin rate and spin axis of a shot on goal in a soccer match. And we’ve only scratched the surface.” Hudl’s genius was to democratise the tech revolution Gennaro describes by bringing it to pro teams as well as high school, youth and rec-league teams. Here were shareable, editable, accessible analytics of the kind typically reserved for moneyed pro organisations. “You’d have a conversation with one coach, and next thing you know, you’d get a call from another a county over, someone saying this is what he’s been waiting for,” recalls Jason Aldridge, a former football coach and the Hudl sales rep for Georgia and South Carolina. “It was very much filling a void for these teams.” As it grew, Hudl snapped up smaller competitors such as DVSports and Apex Sports, expanding its market share. Acquisitions of London-based Replay Analysis and Australia’s Sportstec have helped grow Hudl’s presence among international and elite teams. And with the purchase of startups like Ubersense, a slow-motionvideo-analysis company, Hudl has expanded beyond its signature subscription app. Hudl Technique, a free stand-alone app based on Ubersense code, lets athletes see the velocity and angles of, say, a golf swing or soccer kick, or the form of a free throw. The software, which has been used by Olympians in 20 disciplines, gives Hudl entrée into non-team sports such as golf, tennis, snowboarding and even CrossFit. The Hudl Combine app, the product of a new partnership with Nike, lets players upload stats from the “40-yard dash” sprint and other football combine events and share them with potential recruiters. Officially, the company, whose headquarters house 200 employees, does not disclose annual revenue, but estimates are generally in the neighbourhood of $30 million (R414 million)—up from $1.4 million (R19 million) in 2010. This year, Hudl released new, paid add-ons to its core subscriptions. Hudl Assist for basketball takes all data entry off management’s hands—coaches submit video to Hudl, and a professional sports analyst tallies and breaks down all the statistics from the game. Sideline is a live-playback feature. Coaches can connect up to five devices to Sideline— assuming they have a Wi-Fi connection at their local field—and share and annotate clips in real time. Spot a weakness on your opponent’s defensive line? You can call a time-out, bring up the relevant clip on your iPad, and point out the opening. “The best way I can describe Hudl to you is that it’s just streamlined a whole lot of processes for us,” says Maehlman. “Need tape? It’s there. Need info on an
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“SPORTS HAS BEEN UNDERGOING THIS TECH REVOLUTION, WHERE IT’S ALL ABOUT HAVING AN OBJECTIVE APPROACH TO PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT. AND WE’VE ONLY SCRATCHED THE SURFACE.” opponent that you might face in the semifinals of a state tournament? Or exactly how one individual player shot from the free-throw line? That’s there, too. And it frees me up for what I need to be doing, which is concentrating on coaching and the team.” I N M I D - D E C E M B E R 2015, the Jonesboro Cardinals travel by bus to Christian Brothers High School in East Memphis, Tennessee for the eighth annual Memphis vs Atlanta Roundball Classic. The two-day event will not affect the Cardinals’ progression toward the state finals. But the symbolic importance of the tournament is hard to ignore. In the summer after the 2015 championship season, the Cardinals lost several high-producing players, and the cohesion and solidarity of prior team lineups have not yet manifested themselves. Maehlman has been pushing his team hard over the past few weeks with a routine of game reviews and drills. The idea: Use Hudl to show players what they need to do; use practice to get them doing it instinctively. It’s exactly what Graff envisions for his software: “Hudl is about enhancing learning opportunities.” Jonesboro is scheduled to play two games during the Roundball Classic. The first contest is a win, but a desultory one––the Cardinals left Georgia at 5 a.m., and their fatigue is obvious. The mood for the next night’s game is far livelier: The stands are full, and nearly everyone in the room is rooting for the Cardinals’ opponents, the Devils of nearby Germantown High School. Although the Cardinals start strong, their defence soon starts to fray and the scrappier Devils take advantage. By halftime, the Cardinals are up by just two, and they struggle throughout the second half until, with four seconds left, they’re down by three. What happens next is magic. How else to describe it? With three seconds remaining, the Devils miss a lay-up that would have buried the Cardinals for good. That’s when Mosley, the very player Maehlman had called out for dribbling off the rebound a few days earlier, grabs the ball—two seconds remaining—and chucks an outlet pass to Jenkins. The clock whirs down to one second. Jenkins is at half-court. Pushing off his back right heel, he reels forward and releases his grip on the ball. The buzzer rings. The ball drops through the net. For a moment, the auditorium goes dead. The Cardinals bench surges forward to wrap Jenkins in a hug. The momentum has shifted. Now it is the Devils who are off balance. Overtime ends with the Cardinals on top by 12 points. It is a banner win, a small miracle set in motion by meticulous coaching. After the game, the Cardinals burst through the double doors of the locker room, hollering and screaming, with Maehlman charging in after them. For the first time all day, he’s smiling.
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The goal isn’t just to notch up a win, says senior point guard Tariq Jenkins (right): “We need to play as a single machine instead of a lot of different parts.”
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“We are everyday people doing extraordinary things,” says Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
For turning the conversation about race into results
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“When people describe us, they say, ‘They’re leaderless,’ ” says Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza. “We just don’t have one leader. We have many leaders who are empowered to make decisions and guide strategy in their communities based on what makes sense for their local context.” Historically, the most effective sociopolitical movements have coalesced around single leaders like Dr Martin Luther King and Gloria Steinem. Black Lives Matter stands out for empowering each of its more than 30 chapters worldwide to take action when and where they see fit, tapping into the support and resources of the wider organisation. This fluidity has enabled activists to move quickly to organise headline-grabbing
protests from New York to Minneapolis and even crash presidential campaign rallies to press for a more substantive discussion of race in the run-up to the US election. “We all come together through a network structure when we want to maximise our impact,” says Garza. In 2015 alone, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter reverberated through Twitter more than 9 million times, while high-level officials— including police chiefs in Baltimore and Chicago and the president of the University of Missouri—were forced to resign in the wake of pressure over racial incidents and their cover-ups. Forty new laws—mandating body cameras and bias training for police and restricting excessive force—have been enacted across 24 states, in large part thanks to Black Lives Matter, which continues to push for more accountability from public officials. “Twenty years from now, I would love for us to be able to say that we made some really important gains,” says Garza. “That we built political power for black people, economic power for black people, and social power for black people.”
Photograph by Damon Casarez
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For taking the upper hand in the global mobile competition
S T R AT E GY
B I G G E S T R I VA L
S U R P R I S I N G A L LY
W H AT ’S N E X T
Consumers whose first phone was a Xiaomi are ready to trade up to a brand like Huawei with better design and quality.
Amasses tech expertise (and a supplier network) moonlighting as a private-label manufacturer.
China’s biggest phone seller last October; 35% revenue growth fuelled by smartphone and consumer products.
Yes, Apple. Huawei may be ritzier than Xiaomi, but if you can afford an iPhone, you get it.
Alphabet, which worked with Huawei to make its flagship Google Nexus 6P, featuring a next-gen fingerprint sensor.
Smart-home products to rival Xiaomi and Samsung, like its high-end, six-inch Mate 8.
As Android grows bloated, Cyanogen offers a more open, customisable version of the world’s dominant phone OS.
Woos handset makers in hyper competitive markets like India by letting them modify their own software.
Deals with OnePlus, Lenovo, India’s Micromax and BQTelefonica to sell millions of Cyanogen handsets worldwide.
Google, which has become insistent that if device makers want Android, they have to take it Google’s way.
Microsoft. Its deal offers Cortana and Skype on Cyan ogen’s OS as alter natives to Google Now and Voice.
Giving developers more access to its OS to innovate app experiences; finding a work-around to the Google Play store.
InMobi’s person alised mobile ads are a refreshing departure from intrusive, one-sizefits-all approaches.
Takes advantage of phones’ sensors to serve up cus tomised ads—and dominate in China and India.
Launched Miip to scan app behaviour to curate deals; reach exceeded 1 billion phones worldwide; 75% revenue growth.
Google, which leads the R1.38-trillion mobile ad market— except in China, where it can’t operate.
Dell—its data centres are helping InMobi scale its growing Miip network.
Burrowing deeper into phones via partnerships with Samsung and other handset makers.
Illustration by Francesco Ciccolella
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For bringing creativity to the fight against cancer
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For attacking tumours with electricity There are three major ways to fight cancer—cut it out, hit it with radiation, or pummel it with medication. Novocure is the first company to successfully commercialise a promising fourth way: alternating electric field therapy. The Jersey Isle, UK–based company’s portable Optune device sits directly on a patient’s scalp to deliver low-intensity, alternating electric fields that inhibit tumour growth in the most common and aggressive type of brain cancer, called glioblastoma. Though Optune has been used for several years to help forestall glioblastoma that has progressed beyond other therapies, the FDA recently approved it for use as a first-line treatment in conjunction with oral
Illustration by Stephen Chan
chemotherapy. The company also has clinical trials under way for nonsmall-cell lung cancer, pancreatic and ovarian cancer, mesothelioma and other types of brain tumours.
For treating tumours with T cells While its competitors have been distracted by megamergers and corporate restructuring, Bristol-Myers Squibb has been acquiring small biotech companies with big ideas and speeding experimental treatments to market. This “string of pearls” strategy has put BMS at the forefront of a powerful new class of cancer meds called checkpoint inhibitors,
which spur a patient’s own T cells to fight tumours. In the past year, BMS has racked up approvals to deploy its checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo to treat renal, advanced melanoma and non-small-cell lung cancers and to use it in combination with another of its inhibitors for metastatic melanoma. The five-year approval path for this first-ever combination immunotherapy for cancer was lightning fast by medication development standards, and BMS is collaborating with other pharmaceutical companies to study new combinations. The checkpoint inhibitor market is projected to reach $40 billion (R552 billion) by 2020. Amgen
For making cancer therapy go viral
When Amgen spent $1 billion (R13.8 billion) for the cancer-focused lab BioVex in 2011, it was a big risk. Today, as one of the first to market with a so-called cancer-killing virus, Amgen is poised to shape the future of oncology. Unlike any other medication approved for human use, Amgen’s Imlygic is a live, genetically modified virus (a version of the cold sore–causing herpes simplex). It infects cancer cells, replicates inside them, and kills them by popping their membrane like a balloon— releasing the virus to go hunting for more. Imlygic also has a genetic addition that may help generate an immune response, amplifying its impact. Last year, the FDA and European Commission approved Imlygic to treat metastatic melanoma after clinical trials showed im pressive response rates.
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For breaking the boxoffice record with canny casting and marketing When Universal reached the $5 billion (R69 billion) global box-office mark last July, it got there faster than any other studio in history. It did it with a combination of smart, againsttype casting, and a new approach to marketing that pays equal attention to traditional and digital media in order to draw in audiences wherever they may be. Here are five films that demonstrate how Universal pulled off its Very Big Year.
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The studio took a risk with director Colin Treverrow, who had just one indie film to his name. By staying true to the emotional depth of Spielberg’s original, he made a blockbuster that was more than just dinosaur mayhem. Star Chris Pratt brought humour and charisma to an otherwise thinly sketched character. Universal, meanwhile, created an immersive Jurassic World destination website, attracting 3 million people and proving that dinosaurs, when presented imaginatively, never get old. P R O D U C T I O N C O S T S R2 billion W O R L D W I D E B O X O F F I C E R22 billion
Straight Outta Compton
In the midst of filming, star Paul Walker was killed in a car accident. The dilemma, according to Michael Moses, Universal’s co-president of worldwide marketing: “How do we get the audience past the tragedy and into, it’s still okay to enjoy a Fast & Furious movie?” The film became a tribute, with Walker’s brothe rs shooting his remaining scenes. Cast members took to social media to post photos of the star and encourage fans to do the same with the hashtag #ForPaul.
Despite her own Comedy Central show, Amy Schumer was still largely unknown to mainstream America last year. But her raunchy candor and postfeminist truth-telling killed it on the big screen, aided by Bill Hader’s sweet, slightly offbeat foil. Universal adeptly primed the pump, getting early buzz by premiering a “work in progress” version of the movie at South by Southwest. Even by Austin standards (audiences at the festival tend to be generous), the film and its cast were rapturously received.
This was the definition of a niche picture: a musical biopic about the gangsta rap group N.W.A. with a no-name cast. Moses recalls thinking, “We’ve got a movie that stars nobody.” The antidote: producers Dr. Dre and Ice Cube tapped their music-industry connections to help promote the movie, and Universal created a “Straight Outta (fill in the blank)” meme generator that went viral. Critics and audiences, meanwhile, appreciated the film’s timely depictions of racial tensions and police brutality.
Moving a trio of yellow, nonsense-babbling sidekicks to centre stage might have seemed counterintuitive, but Universal had a plan: Heavy on physical gags, the Minions have incredible international appeal. When Universal released a Minions carolling video over Christmas 2014—a full seven months before the film’s release—it became Facebook’s most shared piece of content that year. The film became a huge hit in China and Russia, fuelling its $821-million (R11.3-billion) international haul.
P R O D U C T I O N C O S T S R2.6 billion W O R L D W I D E B O X O F F I C E R20.7 billion
P R O D U C T I O N C O S T S R480 million W O R L D W I D E B O X O F F I C E R1.9 billion
P R O D U C T I O N C O S T S R386 million W O R L D W I D E B OX O F F I C E R2.7 billion
P R O D U C T I O N C O S T S R1 million W O R L D W I D E B O X O F F I C E R15.8 billion
Illustration by Marcos Chin
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For inspiring action along with comedic outrage
Doctors Without Borders before shutting down the church. The Trinity Foundation, an organisation that investigates religious fraud and has pressured the IRS to rethink how it evaluates church doctrine, has since renewed its efforts. 3
Topical, even political, comedy has been a latenight staple for generations, but until Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, produced by Oliver’s company Sixteen String Jack, it didn’t make a point to routinely incite action. Oliver’s signature work—intensively researched, long-form pieces that dive into underexplored issues for up to 20 minutes—often asks viewers to participate in the joke. Within hours of airing, HBO releases Oliver’s entreaties online (an unusual step for a subscription network), helping them echo throughout the Internet and beyond to stimulate a national conversation—and even impact policy. Here, three topics Oliver has addressed.
year, Jeff remained at the top of the list of returns for a Google image search of “Marlboro Man”. 2
To spotlight tax exemptions for televangelist-led megachurches that manipulate worshippers into donating “seed” money, Oliver legally established his own cashgrab church, Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption. Declaring himself MegaReverend John Oliver, he called on viewers for donations. They sent in tens of thousands of dollars, which the show forwarded to
Poultry industry In May 2015, Oliver called out US Congress for its implicit support of big poultry processors that hold smaller farmers to stringent contracts that often keep them below the poverty line. His segment, which encouraged viewers to insert chicken-related profanities into the Wikipedia pages of hypocritical members of Congress, helped secure the passage of a bill sponsored by Rep. Marcy Kaptur to protect independent farmers. “We’ve never had publicity like this in the 16 years I’ve worked on this issue,” she said.
Big Tobacco Last February, when tobacco conglomerate Philip Morris International threatened expensive legal action against countries such as West Africa’s Togo over their plans to require graphic warnings on cigarette packages (in the place of company branding), Oliver proposed a compromise: a new Marlboro spokesperson called Jeff the Diseased Lung in a Cowboy Hat. He urged fans to weigh in on PMI’s efforts with the hashtag #JeffWeCan and to tag Jeff’s photo on Google Plus with “Marlboro”. For nearly a
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Illustration by Kayan Kwok
ILLUSTR ATION SOURCE IMAGES, CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM CENTER: JESSE DITTMAR/REDUX (OLIVER); ERIC LIEBOWITZ/HBO (LUNG MASCOT, OLIVER); MICHAEL BURRELL/ALAMY (CIGARETTE); FLPA/ALAMY (CHICKEN); KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/AP/CORBIS (ROBES); BLEND IMAGES/ALAMY (MONEY PILE); KEITH LEIGHTON/ALAMY (MONEY); EZIO GUTZEMBERG/ALAMY (BIBLE)
SIXTEEN STRING JACK
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For morphing tech into somet hing new before our very eyes
For evolving from commerce to cool cloud services When Amazon introduced its first web services in 2006, the move left plenty of people flummoxed. A decade later, no one’s confused. Amazon Web Services is now an $11-billion (R151-billion) business, and its operating income rivals that of the company’s entire North American e-commerce operations. AWS has more than 1 million customers, but the most important one is Amazon. Its cloud mastery has informed many of its prominent new
Illustration by Nick Iluzada
consumer offerings, notably Amazon Prime Video and Alexa, the inventive voice-powered assistant available for its Echo speaker and Fire tablet. Those newer services drive Prime memberships, which create the e-commerce division’s slim profit margins.
For acing its China test Seven years after pundits opined that Apple’s Beijing store would have trouble moving phones, Greater China now accounts for almost a quarter of the company’s total revenue.
“If you look back five years, China’s middle class had about 50 million people,” Tim Cook told investors last October, “and if you look ahead five years, it will have 10 times that number. I feel like we are reasonably well positioned in China.” That’s an understatement: iPhone 6 was the number one– selling smartphone in mainland China at the end of 2015. And the iPhone 6 Plus, such a perfect fit for the Chinese market? Number two. This popularity is also spurring App Store revenue, which in China grew 127% in 2015; the country today boasts 1 million iOS developers. Apple now has 40 retail outposts in Chinese cities, up from 12 in 2013.
Flagship stores around the world are hiring Mandarin speakers to cater to Chinese travellers, too.
For devising a better way to bet big Google co-founder Larry Page’s announcement of Alphabet, a new holding company that would house Google and convert many of his wildly forwardlooking technical pursuits into their own operating units, signalled a brilliant strategic play. The move allowed Page to step away from day-to-day management of Google;
it quieted sceptics who carp about Google chasing dreams with no obvious connection to its core advertising business; and it empowered these ambitious projects to move faster. While questions remain about Alphabet’s mechanics, the reinvention has already borne fruit. Nest released its thirdgeneration thermostat and is reportedly racing ahead on new augmented-reality glasses; Access is targeting larger cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago for its gigabit broadband service. Alphabet has also fostered new moon shots such as combating malaria and dengue fever with GMO mosquitoes.
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When Apple Music launched in June 2015, it was a direct challenge to industry leader Spotify, but the Swedish startup’s subscriber growth just kept picking up speed; it now has more than 100 million users and 40 million paying customers (as at September). Why? Part of the reason is its growing slate of features, built on sophisticated analytics. “We are a metrics-driven organisation,” says chief product officer Gustav Söderström. He explains the features that take Spotify from metrics to music.
For finding the beat in the data
Found Them First
To help people amp up their workouts, Spotify created Running, which matches tunes to your individual pace. “We said, ‘What if this digital music player could personalise not just based on your taste, but on the situation?’ ” Söderström says. “You’re going to see us take this approach elsewhere.”
This lighthearted feature taps into your music preferences to predict what you would have listened to if Spotify had existed in the pre-digital era. “With all this data, it was possible to bring you back musically and say, ‘This is what you probably would have liked.’ That really resonated with people.”
Another data-driven feature lets listeners find out which famous artists they knew about before the rest of the world caught on. “You have fans who say, ‘I discovered these guys before everyone else.’ A lot of people take pride in that, but they wonder, ‘How early was I?’ Well, we can just tell you.”
Spotify’s personalised playlists offer uncanny predictive accuracy: 71% of listeners add at least one track to their own lists. Söderström credits Spotify’s music intelligence platform, the Echo Nest, along with the very human work of metadata tagging the catalogue over many years.
This tool gives artists demographic, geographic and other info about listeners. “Do they have a bunch of casual listeners or a smaller group who are really passionate? Where should they go on tour? The data is right in front of us, and we can give it to the constituent who could really use it.”
For leading the Industrial Internet of Things
R81 billion 2016 revenue from GE’s new cloud platform, Predix, and all the apps built on top of it. Predix enables customers (Boeing, Exelon, BP and others) to analyse machine data from jet engines, wind turbines, freight trains and the like—and issue commands to maximise their efficiency. “The Industrial Internet is going to be a combination of the physical and the analytical,” says CEO Jeff Immelt. “We bring a tremendous amount of credibility to that world.”
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For taking health tracking mainstream Fitbit was the top ranked app on the Apple App Store over Christmas 2015, signalling the devices’ popularity as holiday gifts. Fitbit, whose 2015 revenue grew more than 100% over 2014, released the Charge HR and Surge bands in January 2015 and continuously improved them via software that made them more intelligent and spurred wearers to follow—and challenge— their friends. “Once you’re connected, you’re less likely to leave,” says CEO James Park.
Illustration by Nicolas Dehghani
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For not treading water around environmental issues
The footwear giant’s latest creation is not only good for your feet but good for the planet as well. adidas recently launched the UltraBoost Uncaged Parley: the first mass-produced running shoe created using plastic waste from the ocean. adidas and Parley had already teamed up last year to design a partially 3D-printed shoe made from up-cycled ocean plastic, which eventually led to the limited-edition Adidas x Parley running sneaker—100 pairs were given away through an Instagram competition. This time around, adidas is making 7 000 pairs of the UltraBoost Uncaged Parley available for purchase at $222 (around R3 000) per pair. With its design
inspired by ocean waves, the shoe features an upper made from a mix of plastic waste retrieved by Parley in the Maldives (95%) and recycled polyester (5%)— with each pair reusing 11 plastic bottles. The shoe laces, heel-cap base material, heel webbing, heel lining and the sockliner cover are also made from recycled materials. The shoe is created using new technologies specifically engineered to up-cycle marine plastic debris into technical yarn fibres. By the end of 2017, adidas aims to have at least 11 million plastic bottles—retrieved from coastal areas by the Parley Global Clean-up Network and Remote Island Interception—recycled and repurposed into elite
performance sportswear. adidas and Parley have also released up-cycled performance soccer jerseys, which two top teams— Bayern Munich and Real Madrid—wore in matches during November this year. The kits are also made from
recycled ocean plastic and feature water-based prints. These products are part of adidas’s larger commitment to use more sustainable materials, and to make eco-innovation the new industry standard through implementation of the
Parley A.I.R. Strategy (avoid, intercept, redesign). Parley founder Cyrill Gutsch says the entire fashion industry needs to act before it’s too late. “There’s no Batman or Superman coming along. If we don’t fix this now, we’re fucked.”
For creating a vibrantly addictive alternative to traditional TV Snapchat owes its transformation into a mobile entertainment hub—one that has deals with the National Football League, Major League Baseball, Fashion Week and every music festival you can think of—to Live Stories. The feature, which allows users to follow stitched-together videos of live events, has covered everything from the MTV Video Music Awards to Mecca during Ramadan. Up to 20 million of Snapchat’s 150 million users tune in each day. This isn’t just a cool element, but a major threat to the entertainment industry: More than twice as many 18- to 24-yearolds watched the first US Republican Party debate as a Live Story as on live TV. Stories is also becoming a revenue stream for the company, as Snapchat offers attractive ad deals around these events (living up to its October 2016 valuation of $25 billion/R340 billion). The key, says Nick Bell, Snapchat’s head of content, is access: “Some of the best shots are shots that are not available to general admission.” In other words, Snapchat takes you behind the velvet rope.
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For redefining what it means to be a non-profit business BY SARAH KESSLER Photographs by Chloe Aftel
“I am so sick of fundraising.” Leila Janah, the founder and CEO of Sama Group, has just left an hour-long staff meeting about grant proposals, and she is venting as we dig into an artisanal brick-oven pizza at Farina, a restaurant in San Francisco. Janah, 33, founded Sama in 2008 with the belief that creating work opportunities is the most effective tool for fighting poverty. Sama goes into communities that lack living-wage jobs—from the slums of Nairobi, Kenya and Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to rural Arkansas—and trains people to do digital work such as verifying data that makes Google’s search algorithms smarter and flagging inappropriate content posted to TripAdvisor. So far, Sama reports that it has helped more than 50 000 people, about 22 000 direct beneficiaries and another 29 000-plus of their income dependants. In 2015, Sama aided twice as many people as it did in 2014. Janah, as usual, is feeling bullish about her mission, but she’s chafing at the strictures of the traditional non-profit model. Janah may run an
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Sama Group founder and CEO Janah brings a Silicon Valley– style mentality to poverty relief.
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antipoverty organisation, but she is also a Harvard-educated former management consultant who believes in the startup ethos of experimentation, iteration and the occasional pivot. Grant proposals, by contrast, typically compel organisations like Sama to detail programmes step-by-step, in advance. “It basically requires you to predict what is going to happen in the future,” Janah says. Eradicating poverty, though, is by definition unpredictable labour. Janah’s team has to find and train people in Kenya who have never used a computer. It has to find dependable Internet access to teach clients in rural Arkansas, where bandwidth is as scarce as jobs. Some of the good assignments it finds require several weeks of unpaid training, and Sama’s clients can’t afford to go that long between paycheques. Janah tells me that when she gets discouraged, she remembers the maxim that every human being you help is an infinite victory. In Sama’s work, its success stories are people like Kristen Logan, a former administrative assistant in economically depressed Merced, California. She lost her job after five years and wasn’t sure if she would ever find another one that would let her support three kids by herself. Logan has used the skills she learnt via Sama’s training academy to find a position fielding calls for a beauty school in New York—and earns more than she did previously.
S A M A V E R S U S THE SLUMS
Above: On the outskirts of Nairobi, Janah caucuses with Ken Kihara, who helps train lowincome youth to do digital jobs.
How Leila Janah fights poverty in the world’s poorest locales
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Right: Samasource differs from traditional outsourcing businesses by going into the most economically challenged communities such as Mathare, a network of slums with 500 000 residents. More than half of Sama workers are female, and more than 90% are unemployed or underemployed before receiving work from the Sama Group.
For Janah, that is hardly enough—which is why she has dedicated herself to freeing Sama from the stifling non-profit funding process. This is a radical burst of independence, and Sama is already close to achieving it. Thanks to contracts with companies including Getty Images, Microsoft and Qualcomm, Sama has generated enough income to cover the majority of its operating costs. “If we can show that not only can we provide this dramatic improvement [in Sama workers’ lives], but we can do it on a break-even basis, it’s revolutionary,” Janah says. “Let’s say you invested a dollar in 2009. The social return on that dollar will be infinite.” Sama represents a new model for social impact: a non-profit that is self-funding. To get closer to that goal, in October last year Janah launched an affiliated for-profit business called Laxmi, a high-end cosmetics line that enlists poor African people—predominantly women—to grow, harvest and process its ingredients in exchange for a fair wage. Her goal is to use some of Laxmi’s profits to fund Sama’s current operations as well as give her additional capital to find new ways to fight poverty. While buy-one, get-one companies like Toms and tech-powered non-profits like Charity: Water
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have blurred the line between charities and startups, Janah wants to merge the two worlds entirely. S A M A , W H I C H M E A N S “ E Q U A L” in Sanskrit, has had Silicon Valley DNA since its inception. Janah started the company in a Facebook-backed startup accelerator alongside ride-sharing service Lyft. Shervin Pishevar, an early investor in Uber, and Dave Morin, then a Facebook employee who would later become a noted angel investor, were among the programme’s first funders. Janah partnered with an outsourcing centre in Kenya to create jobs for the poor. Sama supplied it with work from tech companies—with the requirement that tasks be completed by people who, prior to hiring, were making below a living wage. To help maintain quality, Sama developed proprietary software that breaks this digital work into bite-size tasks. Last year, it took a step away from this partnership model altogether and opened its own work centre near the Mathare slums in Nairobi. To address poverty in the United States, Janah introduced a school to teach Americans how to find
virtual work. The initial plan was for students to secure gigs through freelance labour marketplaces such as Upwork. But while some students found success, they faced steep international competition from low-wage labourers. To improve job placement, Sama shifted to focus on specific skills like social media marketing. Sama’s programme directors in Merced, California, and Dumas, Arkansas, two of the locations where it operates, secured at least one virtual internship for each student. By the end of its second year of operation, about 50% of attendees succeeded in winning at least one online contract, and in August 2015 Sama launched an online course to reach more people. It has since expanded the programme to Nairobi. Janah hasn’t been shy about promoting her mission. “Some people don’t like [it],” she admits when I ask her about complaints regarding her Instagram selfies with Richard Branson and her frequent presence on the conference circuit. “But all of our biggest deals come from pounding that kind of pavement.” She counts the likes of Eventbrite co-founder Julia Hartz and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick as friends, and she aggressively converts those relationships into professional opportunities. She also won a deal with Uber to create a custom curriculum it could offer potential drivers. At Google Zeitgeist in October 2015 (the search company’s own version of TED), Janah met Thumbtack co-founder Jonathan Swanson; a couple of weeks later, she visits his headquarters to find a way to work together. Thumbtack is a startup valued at $1.3 billion (R17.9 billion) that uses a smartphone app to connect customers with plumbers, home cleaners and other independent professionals
Left: Sama workers (average tenure: six to 12 months) continue to improve their earning power even after they leave, and that has a profound ripple effect on their children, letting them feed their kids nutritious food, send them to a decent school, and save enough money to move out of the slums.
Below: A computerliteracy session for people who will soon perform digital work for the likes of Getty Images, Microsoft and Qualcomm.
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“I THINK A KEY MARKETING IDEA,” JANAH SAID, “IS THAT YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO PRONOUNCE ALL OF THE INGREDIENTS IN YOUR FOOD, BUT WHY NOT WHAT YOU PUT ON YOUR SKIN? DO YOU REALLY WANT YELLOW NO. 5 ON YOUR FACE?”
in their area. In 2015, the company claimed that 200 000 of those pros fielded 6 million project requests and generated nearly $1 billion (R13.7 billion) in revenue. “In New York City, we are training a thousand people,” Janah tells Swanson, citing a new deal Sama made to teach courses there in 2016 thanks to a grant from the Robin Hood Foundation. “If we had people get jobs on Thumbtack after that, it would make everyone very happy. Are there any gaps [our students] could fill?” Swanson pulls up a spreadsheet. Carpet cleaning? Lawnmowing? Moving? He moves down the list of job requests for which Thumbtack has the most unmet demand. Before long, Janah and Swanson launch into a fully fledged brainstorming session, and I watch like it’s a game of table tennis. Swanson has an idea for outsourcing video editing in partnership with GoPro: “One click, and someone in Africa would pick out the good clips and set it to a song.” Janah suggests a matchmaking service, with workers swiping profiles on their clients’ behalf. She pitches Swanson on joining a yet-to-be-created Sama advisory board and a plot in which cities would use Thumbtack to hire Samaschool graduates. Swanson is careful not to commit, but he can’t stop nodding his head at the ideas. As Janah says on her way out, “We have so many businesses to start.”
T H E I D E A F O R T H E L A X M I skincare line first occurred to Janah during a trip to Benin, West Africa, where she realised that locals were growing shea in their yards. “I said, ‘Let’s build an export industry, but only buy from poor women,’ ” she remembers. “We can solve poverty while also making our skin better.” Laxmi’s mission, as with Sama’s non-profit initiatives, is to create good jobs. When I visited last year, Laxmi had just shipped its first orders, and Janah had set up a notification on her phone to alert her every time a new customer ordered Nilotica Facial Crème ($72/R990 for 50ml) or Rose Water Regenerating Mist ($52/R710 for 50ml) from the website. “Did you see that we made a sale this morning?”she asked MJ Doctors, Laxmi’s COO, as she entered a meeting in a Sama conference room. Doctors, who was just as excited as Janah about the early sale, had spent the past year travelling to rural African villages to set up Laxmi’s ethical supply chain, sourcing its anti-ageing ingredient, called Kigelia, from South Africa and its rose water from Morocco. The $11.2-billion (R154.5-billion) luxury cosmetics market is a crowded one, so having a product line with a good story attached to it is essential, and that meeting was devoted to Laxmi’s marketing. Thea Kocher, Laxmi’s chief marketing officer, who had also
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led marketing at beauty brands Caudalie and Bobbi Brown, Skyped into the meeting from New York. Janah swivelled her laptop so that the screen faced Doctors and the beamed-in Kocher. She played a video produced by the natural candy company, Unreal. “We love candy,” it began. “But it’s made with junk.” Janah paused the video. “I think a key marketing idea,” she said, “is that you should be able to pronounce all of the ingredients in your food, but why not what you put on your skin? Do you really want Yellow No. 5 on your face?” Janah told me later that she wanted Laxmi to be like Method Products, the household supplies company. Does Method use bottles made from 100% recycled plastic? Sure. But it distinguishes its soap with its good branding as well as its values. Laxmi has the social-good story and the clean-ingredients list for those people who care about it, but it also has a distinctive design ethos: Its facial cream comes in an appealing black glass jar that blocks UV rays so it doesn’t need to use synthetic preservatives. Initially, Janah envisioned Laxmi as part of her non-profit, but she knew Sama’s donors would be hesitant to fund the marketing and infrastructure needed to build a high-end beauty brand. “Who cares?” she says of the expenses when compared with the potential benefits. “What you spend on pencils versus pens, versus salaries shouldn’t matter. What matters is this amount of money was spent in this fiscal year and this impact was delivered in this fiscal year.” Instead of applying for grants, Janah tapped her network to fund Laxmi’s launch, raising a $2-million (R27.5-million) seed round from the likes of LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Toms Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie, and former Yahoo CEO Tim Koogle (who’s also chairperson of Method Products). “I was shocked at how easy it was to raise money as a for-profit business,” Janah says. Eventually, Laxmi wants to grow its line to as many as 70 or 80 products. Then, there are ancillary markets such as jewellery and home decorations into which Janah envisions expanding, both of which could create jobs for poor women in remote locations. “This is the beginning,” Doctors says. “The idea is to iterate.” The high-end beauty market may seem dissonant with the rest of Sama’s mission, but that disparity is by design. “The problem is poor people are typically doing low-margin activities,” Janah says. “That’s why businesses don’t hire them. It’s expensive to recruit and train them. However, if you have a big enough margin on top, you can cover the cost and return to investors.” Making Laxmi as luxurious as possible is, ironically, the only way for it to effectively employ some of the poorest people in the world. Sama owns 12% of Laxmi and Janah owns 24%. This means that if Laxmi pays dividends or is acquired, Sama will receive a windfall. “Laxmi can eventually generate money for additional social enterprises,” she says. It is, Janah acknowledges, a hack of the system. In her ideal world, she would not have to promise investors or corporate backers profits, just as she doesn’t want to adhere to rigid grant requirements. All of it detracts from maximising social impact. But this is not an ideal world, and as Janah told me when we first met, “I don’t have a Mother Teresa complex. I’m a pragmatist.”
For giving unexpected audiences exactly what they want
For hustling corporate business
Having established itself as a purveyor of binge-worthy shows such as House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, in 2015 Netflix ramped up its plan to become the first global online entertainment network: It released a new original title on the service every one and a half weeks—and then rang in the new year by bringing its service to an additional 130 countries and making more than 700 hours of new programming. Netflix—which has more than 86 million subscribers and has seen its stock rise 500% over the past five years— is laser-targeting demos to give them at least one title they can’t live without. Older viewers were treated to Grace and Frankie, starring Jane Fonda; Between spoke to teens; Spanish-language audiences could watch Narcos and Club de Cuervos; Master of None, with its immigrant themes, found traction with comedy nerds; and indie-movie buffs got the first Netflix original film, Beasts of No Nation, which was simultaneously rolled out in theatres in the US.
At the beginning of 2016, more than 750 000 companies had signed up for Uber for Business since its 2014 launch. Uber leveraged its consumer dominance to woo firms into letting users create separate profiles for work rides and introduced UberEvents, which enables companies to prearrange transport. Emil Michael, Uber’s SVP of business, credits employees with company adoption: “It’s like millennials coming into work and asking to connect their iPhones into IT.”
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For putting the world’s best boutique-fashion retailers on a global stage
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Pak, of New York City’s Patron of the New, says shoppers are drawn to his store both online and in person after discovering it on Farfetch.
Photograph by ioulex
Are you a farfetishist? The passionate clientele of the e-commerce fashion site Farfetch helped it generate $500 million (R6.8 billion) in revenue in 2015—a sign of just how deeply founder and CEO José Neves’s vision of creating a luxe, department store–like experience within a web browser is resonating with high-end shoppers from Texas to Tokyo. The platform, which rolls up more than 400 of the coolest boutiques in 35 countries into one site, “is about enabling the best curators of fashion wherever they are,” says Neves. Farfetch gives these store owners a way to reach customers across 190 countries, as well as the logistical intelligence for global same-day delivery, in-store returns, and multilanguage customer service. According to Jonathan Pak, owner of New York City’s fashion-forward Patron of the New boutique, Farfetch introduces stores such as his to new customers—and moves merchandise. “Certain brands sell much better through Farfetch, and the purchases are bigger than on our own site,” says Pak. Since partnering with Farfetch in 2012, his yearover-year sales growth via the site has been 132%. Neves, meanwhile, continues to experiment with how to blur online and real-world commerce, by buying up the venerable British department store Browns and signing up more than 50 fashion labels, including Jason Wu and Derek Lam, to sell directly on Farfetch. “We’re creating the store of the future,” he says.
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Moving For ward
HOW INNOVATIVE TECH COMPANIES ARE GETTING GOODS TO AFRICAN CONSUMERS By Tom Jackson
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Logistics is a critical yet easily neglected component of economic development in Africa, says Frank Matsaert, CEO of TradeMark East Africa.
“Three little boys in Kigali are sharing a lollipop. It’s imported, so 45% of its cost is due to transport and allied costs. It has travelled thousands of kilometres and over several borders. So, whichever of the boys bought that treat, he’s paying part of the freight clearance charges, handling charges, insurance, fuel costs and the salary of the trucker who got it to the Rwandan capital.”
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Heaven-sent Zipline’s drones make up to 150 on-demand, emergency deliveries per day of life-saving blood to parts of Rwanda.
Frank Matsaert, CEO of TradeMark East Africa, adds in a blog on his company’s website that logistics is a critical yet easily neglected component of economic development in Africa. “Investment in agriculture is futile if there is no supply chain in place to get produce to market. Essential medication is rendered ineffective if it cannot be transported in the appropriate conditions. Consumer goods cannot improve people’s lives if the cost of importing them means they are too expensive for people to access.” With little more than half of Africans living on tarred or paved roads, delivering items to rural areas is a serious challenge. In the continent’s cities, the high charges associated with traditional courier services like DHL make the transportation of documents expensive for businesses. Meanwhile, transporting goods in and out of Africa is expensive and difficult to arrange. It is hardly surprising, then, that 25% of Africans pinpoint infrastructure and transport as two major issues for their governments to address. This has not been the case, with Africa’s infrastructure investment deficit huge. Yet, innovative tech companies are taking up the challenge
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of fixing Africa’s logistical problems. Uber has had a huge impact on transportation globally as well as in Africa. Yet, the ‘Uber model’ of on-demand mobile services is being adopted for other means, not least in the logistics space. South African company WumDrop channels Uber to make it easier to move goods and documents around cities. In much the same way as Uber users utilise their smartphone to request a taxi, WumDrop users can connect with couriers via its app. They can input the pickup and drop-off details, follow the progress of the courier, and make payment through the app. It is an incredibly simple and effective solution for individuals and small businesses, while WumDrop is also in the progress of rolling out its proprietary Deliver To Me solution, which will allow e-commerce clients to deliver to their customers’ mobile phone location rather than to an address. “This allows for deliveries to areas with no formal address system, and to end users in dynamic environments where they might have popped out of their given delivery address for an errand,” says co-founder Simon Hartley. The key to ensuring uptake of services like
WumDrop is user experience, with Hartley saying the smartphone is a crucial tool in improving this. “As end users ourselves, something that annoys us intensely about living in South Africa—and this applies to other African countries, too—is that our address data is less than stellar. But one thing we have loads of in South Africa, and in other African countries, is smartphones. And smartphones transmit geolocation data.” WumDrop has taken advantage of this, with phone-dependent tech that geolocates pickup and drop-off points and its drivers in real time. “This allows us to deliver more accurately, optimise driver routes, and aggregate drivers onto the network as demand spikes,” Hartley explains. The WumDrop model is being employed in Kenya by Sendy, which also uses smartphone tracking to log unmarked addresses on a map. Prior to its launch, corporates and individuals were required to sign long-term contracts with traditional couriers, hire a rider, or use the inefficient national postage system. “None of these options is designed to make the customer’s experience as seamless as possible,” says Sendy marketing manager Michelle Miller. Sendy, however, offers real-time tracking, simple accounting and statements, and overall better transparency of how the delivery is going. Uptake has been strong, with the company now undertaking hundreds of deliveries each day, and expanding into other mediums of delivery such as pickups, vans, three-tonne trucks and even larger inter-city vehicles. “This year we also opened operations in Mombasa and Kisumu, which has increased our overall volumes and allowed us to launch city-to-city deliveries, connecting Mombasa, Nairobi and Kisumu for package deliveries of all sizes,” Miller adds. The challenges that companies like WumDrop and Sendy are overcoming are sizeable. Adetayo Bamiduro, co-founder of Nigerian equivalent Metro Africa Express, says the existing logistics infrastructure in most African cities is “grossly inadequate” and cannot support continued growth. “Sadly, all indicators show this problem will get worse due to insufficient infrastructure investments, increasing rural-urban migration, and non-declining birth rates,” he says. “Transportation, logistics and retail are critical sectors that will determine the pace of development and economic growth in Africa. This means that companies such as ourselves have a leading role to play in leveraging technology and mobile
Transporting goods into and out of Africa—or from country to country—has long been a challenge, while Africans remain unable to shop on international e-commerce stores because delivery to their homes is not possible.
applications to provide powerful products and create extraordinary user experiences that can unlock growth.” It is not just in moving things around African cities where the problem lies. Transporting goods into and out of Africa— or from country to country—has long been a challenge, while Africans remain unable to shop on international e-commerce stores, because delivery to their homes is not possible. A number of on-demand companies are looking to address this issue. One of these is Ghanaian startup, Swiftly. Individuals sign up on the app as either a “user” or “freight forwarder”, and are then able to place requests for goods to be shipped or to post available space. The platform matches shippers with free freight space, and allows users to chat to arrange collaboration. CEO Edem Dotse says Swiftly and equivalent companies are helping to push down the costs of international shipping and increase customer traffic to freight service companies, while allowing individual shippers to make some money by filling any extra space. “Swiftly helps cut down the cost
of shipping for small cargo owners, SMEs, importers and exporters,” he adds. “Users sharing shipping space and sharing cost not only makes it more affordable, it also cuts down on the fossil fuel consumption involved in
transporting the cargo.” Swiftly has seen strong uptake, with requests from countries as diverse as the UK, US, China and Morocco. The company’s collaboration model is also being utilised by online logistics hub, Bifasor, which has launched a matchmaking platform that allows logistics businesses to find partners and customers. The software enables users such as shippers, carriers and freight forwarders to enter into direct contact with one another and forge business relationships on the basis of open data. “Across Africa, a lack of information hinders the transportation and distribution of goods. In this digital era, many African transport and logistics companies continue to rely upon tools from the 20th century: word-of-mouth, the Rolodex and phone calls,” notes Rym Soussi, Bifasor communications manager. “More than eight out of 10 small transport businesses do not maintain their own website, effectively making them invisible to the outside world. Inability to access information makes it difficult for stakeholders to convey market opportunities,
Whenever, wherever WumDrop is finalising its new Deliver To Me solution, which will allow deliveries to customers’ mobile phone location rather than an address.
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and decreases levels of mutual trust. The result is market failure that contributes to elevated costs and long delays in transport, and impedes the efficient, regular and costappropriate delivery of goods within and between African countries, and between Africa and the rest of the world.” By shining a light on Africa’s service providers through maximising the amount of information available, Bifasor allows people to make data-driven decisions. “Information also increases trust, which makes people hesitant to work in African markets less so,” Soussi adds. Companies seem to agree, with Bifasor having signed up 190 companies from 20 countries since launching earlier this year. Meanwhile, in Rwanda, a California-based company is looking to tackle the difficulties in
A new relationship Online logistics hub Bifasor’s matchmaking platform brings together shippers, carriers, freight forwarders and customers.
getting medical supplies into rural areas— beginning with blood. Zipline has launched the world’s first national drone delivery service in Rwanda’s Muhanga District, with unmanned aerial vehicles being used to make up to 150 on-demand, emergency deliveries per day of life-saving blood to 21 transfusing facilities located in the western half of the country. It will expand to transporting other types of medicines and vaccines in the future. The aim is to overcome the last-mile problem. In countries like Rwanda, there are significant difficulties in delivering medicine to rural or remote locations due to the lack of adequate transportation, communication and supply chain infrastructure. Roads become washed out during the country’s long rainy season. As a result, postpartum haemorrhaging is the leading cause of death for pregnant women in Rwanda. Using
Zipline, blood transfusion clinics can place emergency orders by SMS, which are received by Zipline at its distribution centre where it maintains a fleet of 15 drones, or “Zips”. Each Zip can fly up to 150 kilometres at a time, and carry 1.5kg of blood—enough to save a person’s life. Zipline can fulfil orders in around 30 minutes. “The inability to deliver life-saving medicines to the people who need them the most causes millions of preventable deaths each year around the world. Zipline will help solve that problem once and for all,” says CEO Keller Rinaudo. “We’ve built an instant delivery system for the world, allowing medicine to be delivered on-demand and at low-cost—anywhere.” Zipline’s work is supported by a partnership with UPS and Gavi, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation. The partners are studying the blood drone delivery operation with a view to expanding its operations. “Drones have the potential to revolutionise the way we reach remote communities with emergency medical supplies. The hours saved delivering blood products or a vaccine for someone who has been exposed to rabies with this technology could make the difference between life and death,” says Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi. “This project will also act as an important test for whether drones are a viable way to improve targeted vaccine delivery around the world. Every child deserves basic, life-saving vaccines. This technology could be an important step toward ensuring they get them.” Rwanda really is ahead of the game in this respect. Zipline recently announced plans to expand its service to the US, where it will serve Indian reservations in Maryland, Nevada and Washington State. Africa’s logistics problems are among the worst in the world. But it is proving it can teach the rest of the world some lessons when it comes to overcoming these hurdles through tech innovation.
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IT’S A SMALL WORLD 10 OTHER AFRICAN STARTUPS MAKING USE OF SMARTPHONE TECH TO BRING SERVICES CLOSER TO THE PEOPLE ••• M A F U TA G O
Kampala, Uganda Mobile and web application that helps users find the nearest petrol station, as well as any special offers at these service stops
E C O N E T C O N N E C T E D H E A LT H
Zimbabwe Blood glucose and blood pressure monitoring system, with results sent to a medical practitioner
•••S A F E M O T O S
Kigali, Rwanda Uber-type service for motorcycles, which monitors driver behaviour via smartphone
•••V U L A M O B I L E
South Africa Puts primary healthcare workers, particularly in remote rural areas, directly in touch with on-call specialists
Kenya Finds the closest mobile payment service agent, financial institution, financial intermediary or retail outlet
DAKAR BUS TIME
Dakar, Senegal Informs users of bus routes, closest stops and arrival times, with a community forum to share info and alerts
SMS FOR LIFE
Tanzania Allows health workers to keep track of and send reports on supply and demand for medications, especially anti-malarial drugs
Côte d’Ivoire Enables people to order items online and pick them up at duty-free shops when they travel
R AY E 7
Egypt Exclusive carpooling network that connects users with only colleagues and friends within their network
Nigeria E-retailer that delivers supermarket goods directly to clients’ doorsteps on a same-day basis and at very affordable prices
RICHES FOR THE POOR
BILLIONAIRES AROUND THE WORLD ARE JOINING THE GIVING PLEDGE TO CONTRIBUTE TO CHARITABLE CAUSES
VIRGIN’S RICHARD BRANSON, APPLE’S TIM COOK, FACEBOOK’S MARK ZUCKERBERG, AND THE THREE CO-FOUNDERS OF AIRBNB: THESE BUSINESSPEOPLE ARE AMONG THE 155 MEMBERS OF THE GIVING PLEDGE. A PRODUCT OF THE IDEAS AND I N PUT FRO M M A N Y G RE AT CO N V E R SATI O N S B E T WE E N B I LL A N D M E LI N DA GATE S , WARREN BUFFETT AND OTHER PHILANTHROPISTS IN THE US AND ABROAD, THE PLEDGE WAS F O R M A L LY A N N O U N C E D I N J U N E 2 0 1 0 . T H E A G G R E G AT E W E A LT H OF THE FIRST 40 PLEDGERS WAS $125 BILLION IN AUGUST 2010. 108 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A DECEMBER 2016/JANUARY 2017
The Giving Pledge is an effort to help address society’s most pressing problems by inviting the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to commit to giving more than half of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes, either during their lifetime or in their will. Each family or individual who chooses to pledge makes this statement publicly, explaining their decision to join. At an annual event, those who take the pledge come together to share ideas and learn from each other. Throughout the year, there are opportunities for conversations that go deeper on the specific topics of interest to the group. The pledge does not involve pooling money or supporting a particular set of causes or organisations. It asks only that individuals give the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes or charitable organisations. Turn the page for a look at some of the notable African businesspersons have committed to representing the ideals of the Giving Pledge. (Though some are not based in Africa, they have businesses operating on the continent and are African by birth.)
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Elon Reeve Musk is a South Africanborn Canadian-American business magnate, investor, engineer and inventor. He is involved in SpaceX, Tesla Motors, SolarCity, OpenAI, Zip2 and X.com (which merged with PayPal of Confinity). As at June 2016, he had an estimated net worth of $12.7 billion (R177.9 billion), making him the 83rd wealthiest person in the world. Musk has stated that the goals of SolarCity, Tesla Motors and SpaceX revolve around his vision to change the world and humanity. These goals include reducing global warming through sustainable energy production and consumption, and reducing the “risk of human extinction” through “making life multiplanetary” by setting up a human colony on Mars. In addition to his primary business pursuits, he has envisioned a high-speed transportation system, the Hyperloop, and proposed a VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) supersonic jet aircraft with electric-fan propulsion, known as the Musk electric jet. Elon is chairperson of the Musk Foundation, which focuses its philanthropic efforts on providing solar-power energy systems in disaster areas. In 2010, the foundation collaborated with SolarCity to donate a 25kW solar-power system to the South Bay Community Alliance’s hurricane response centre in Coden, Alabama. In 2011, it donated $250 000 (R3.5 million) toward a solar project in Sōma, Japan: a city that had been devastated by a tsunami. In 2014, Musk was approached by cartoonist Matthew Inman and great-nephew of Nikola Tesla, William Terbo, to donate $8 million (R112 million) toward the construction of the Tesla Science Centre at Wardenclyffe, New York. Ultimately, Musk agreed to donate $1 million (R14 million), and additionally pledged to build a Tesla Supercharger in the museum car park. In January last year, Musk donated $10 million (R140 million) to the Future of Life Institute to run a global research programme aimed at keeping artificial intelligence beneficial to humanity.
STRIVE AND TSITSI MASIYIWA
Strive Masiyiwa is a London-based Zimbabwean businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is founder and executive chair of diversified international telecoms group, Econet Wireless. He has won numerous accolades and gained international recognition for his business expertise and philanthropy, and is considered one of Africa’s most generous humanitarians and most prolific philanthropists. He has used his family fortune to build one of the largest support programmes for educating more than 40 000 orphans, and sponsors students at universities in the US, UK and China. He has provided scholarships to more than 100 000 young Africans over the past 20 years, and funds initiatives in public health and agriculture across the African continent. Masiyiwa founded the environmental group, the Carbon War Room, with Sir Richard Branson and recently took over the chairmanship of AGRA, an organisation that supports African smallholder farmers. In addition, he is co-chair of Grow Africa, the investment forum that has helped mobilise over R200 billion in investments for agriculture on the continent. Tsitsi Masiyiwa is herself a philanthropist (she is a founding member of the African Philanthropy Forum) and social entrepreneur devoted to empowering young people in Africa. With a passion for tech and innovation, she developed an online smart learning platform that provides learning opportunities for primary and secondary school learners. This year, she received an honorary doctorate from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, for aiding both vulnerable and talented African children.
PATRICE AND PRECIOUS MOTSEPE
Patrice Tlhopane Motsepe, a South African mining magnate, is the founder and executive chairperson of African Rainbow Minerals. He also sits on several company boards including as non-executive chair of Harmony Gold, the 12th largest gold mining company in the world, and as deputy chair of Sanlam.
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In 2012, Motsepe was named South Africa’s richest man, topping the Sunday Times annual Rich List with an estimated fortune of R20 billion. Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe, a qualified paediatrician, is executive chairperson for African Fashion International, which hosts the annual Fashion Weeks in South Africa. She was a speaker on the topic of “Women and Health in the Workplace” at the Global Summit of Women held in South Africa in 2000. Regarding their decision to join the Giving Pledge, the Motsepes said: “This selfless and compassionate characteristic is part of the age-old African culture of giving and caring for your neighbour and other members of your community. In South Africa, it is embodied in the spirit and tradition of ubuntu/botho, in terms of which your wellbeing, happiness and success is dependent upon and influenced by the well-being, happiness and success of others.”
The Tanzanian businessman, entrepreneur, philanthropist and former politician serves as the president and CEO of MeTL, a conglomerate founded by his father in the 1970s. He is single-handedly responsible for increasing MeTL’s revenues between 1999 and 2014, with its operations now contributing to around 3.5% of Tanzania’s gross domestic product. In March 2015, he was named the 21st richest person in Africa, with an estimated net worth of $1.25 billion (R17.5 billion). In addition to his many endeavours in the business arena, Dewji has contributed to the well-being of the people of his country via the Mo Dewji Foundation. Founded in 2014, it has provided grants for healthcare, education and business development, among other things. “All the current and future projects supported by the Mo Dewji Foundation will be aligned to my philanthropic vision of facilitating the development of a poverty-free Tanzania—a future where the possibilities, opportunities and dreams of Tanzanians are limitless,” he wrote in his Giving Pledge letter. “Having witnessed severe poverty throughout my upbringing, I have always felt a deep responsibility to give back to my community,” he added. Dewji hopes others will follow in his footsteps. “When God blesses you financially, don’t raise your standard of living; raise your standard of giving.”
The Survey We asked. You answered.
GROUP THINK Love it or loathe it, brainstorming is a ubiquitous part of office culture. Whether it is an effective tool for generating ideas and solving problems is up for debate. And since we love a good debate, we invited 50 leaders in the design community—typically some of the most opinionated, creative and analytical types in business— to share how or if they brainstorm. Here are some of their responses, including a characteristically honest one from the legendary and outspoken creative director, George Lois.
“You always hear about “All ‘brainstorming seskeeping negativity out sions’ are group gropes. of brainstorms. Like, A great art director people are just supposed [should] work with a to say happy things and copywriter, and then he write them on Post-it or she goes for the big Notes. Ideas can come idea that sears the virfrom both positive and tues of a product into negative energy.” a viewer’s mind and heart with no paralysing, Mike Simonian Principal, Mike & Maaike pragmatic, unambitious, half-ass ‘strategic think“Food. Must. Be. Present. ing’ to contend with.” When chomping, we George Lois Creative director, Lois Transmedia think better. No food, no brainstorm.” “1. Make it playful: Play Bradford Shellhammer Head of curation and merchandising, eBay makes it safe to think differently. 2. Draw: It “I see brainstorming as helps you visualise ideas. a tool to use when you 3. Think like a designer: need to take apart a Ask ‘What if?’ questions. problem. Success is gen- 4. Define your values: erating many different You can’t decide things dots that can be conby saying, ‘Because I like nected in many different it.’ You need to underways—not one stubborn stand what you believe solution. If the end result in. 5. Make people dance looks like the product after lunch. Then they of a mob, I have failed.” won’t fall asleep.” Desiree Garcia Design lead, IBM Watson
Illustration by Wren McDonald
Ayse Birsel Co-founder, Birsel + Seck
“Always ask why. And when you have your first answer, then ask why again. And again. Until you ladder up to the original cause of the problem to solve.” Mauro Porcini Chief design officer, PepsiCo
“Everyone—from the youngest to the most senior—has to come in with ideas based on research. We then test the ideas, assessing and editing them. Lastly, we build on the ideas that are getting traction, while keeping a few outliers in hand that can magically seem compelling again.” David Rockwell Founder and president, Rockwell Group
“Engage everyone in the room. Sometimes the quietest voices are the most powerful.” Autumn Furr Head of public relations, Rebecca Minkoff
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IN GOOD SPIRITS A taste of South Africa’s exclusive and innovative brands of cognac, brandy and whisky By Graham Howe
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“ T h e t o o l s I n e e d f o r m y trade are paper, tobacco, f o o d a n d a l i t t l e w h i s key,” wrote William Faulk ner. My own globetrotting whisky travels have taken me around the Scottish Highlands and islands, Ir eland, Tasm ania, t he Ke n t u c k y B o u r b o n Tra i l . . . sipping my way through a fabulous range of new releases around the world—and right here in South Africa.
distiller Andy Watts says, “Our grain, which is locally grown, provides the ideal source for the whisky, which is complemented by the sweet notes of the oak.” Distilled, matured and filled at The James Sedgwick Distillery (1886) in Wellington, Bain’s is double-matured in old bourbon casks for up to five years. This exceptionally smooth, full-flavoured whisky pays tribute not only to one of the most picturesque passes in South Africa but also honours Andrew Geddes Bain, the creative genius who built it.
VAN LOVEREN Van Loveren of Robertson recently launched Scottish Cousin, a blend of fine grain and malt whisky—distilled, blended and bottled in Scotland—to complement its Four Cousins wine brand. The first family-owned winery in South Africa to create its own whisky label collaborated with Angus Dundee, an independent distillery in Scotland. Scottish Cousin 5 Year Old (R199) is medium-bodied and smooth with a creamy fudge palate; Scottish Cousin 8 Year Old (R270) is light- to mediumbodied, with mellow honeyed, sweet cinnamon and roasted chestnut flavours. My favourite, Scottish Cousin 12 Year Old (R380), is full-bodied and luxurious, with a spicy, peppery palate of vanilla, chocolate and roasted coffee.
BAIN'S Riding a tidal wave of demand from markets from the Far East to the US, Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky (R249) is exported around the world. Competing against 70 countries, Bain’s won World’s Best Grain Whisky at the 2013 World Whiskies Awards, and the Whiskies of the World Trophy at the prestigious International Spirits Challenge in 2016. Acclaimed master
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Winner of the 2012 World Whisky Award for the Best Blended Whisky, Three Ships was South Africa’s very first single-malt whisky as well as the first to distill, blend and mature both the malt and grain components locally. The innovative James Sedgwick Distillery recently released the 2005 vintage of Three Ships 10 Year Old Single Malt (R525). Three Ships 15 Year Old Pinotage Cask Finish (R1 500) is the world’s first whisky finished in a Pinotage cask: imparting typical red berry fruit to the whisky, softening the malt component while complementing the sweetness of the grain. Distiller Andy Watts comments, “The idea first came to me in the early 2000s. Back then our industry was still very young and the world wasn’t quite ready to accept such innovation from South Africa.”
SCOTTISH LEADER Scottish Leader is the biggest global brand in a fabulous portfolio of whiskies acquired by Distell at a cost of R2.2 billion in 2013. I’ve enjoyed tasting Scottish Leader 12 Year Old (R320), an exciting new release in a
A true classic Bruichladdich is an Islay single-malt whisky produced since Victorian times.
repackaged portfolio of Burn Stewart blends like the best-selling Scottish Leader Original (R170) and the fruity, spicy and smoky Scottish Leader Signature (R220). The deluxe 12 Year Old blend of unpeated highland and Speyside malt and grain whisky won a gold medal at the International Spirits Challenge in 2016.
BRUICHLADDICH Bruichladdich is an Islay single-malt whisky produced since Victorian times at the landmark distillery of the same name. At a global Twitter tasting this November, master distiller Jim McEwan and whisky writers around the world sampled three of their most innovative spirits online. Trickle-distilled from 100% unpeated Scottish barley, matured entirely on Islay in a mix of American and French oak, The Classic Laddie (R939) is bottled unchill-filtered at 50% alcohol for maximum mouthfeel. This elegant whisky is fresh and lively, expressing the lively and fresh floral signature of Bruichladdich’s house style, with sweet vanilla, lemon drops, honey and tangerine nuances. Next comes legendary Port Charlotte (R1 100), a heavily peated Islay single malt made to my taste: a no-holds-barred maritime whisky with smouldering flavours of iodine, seaweed, sea salt, leather, tobacco, vanilla and pear. If you can afford it, try the explosive Octomore Virgin Oak Seven Year Old (R3 000), the most powerful peated whisky on the planet—and one of the strongest (60% alcohol).
BUNNAHABHAIN The rugged island of Islay off Scotland is the fountainhead of robust, smoky, peaty whisky for aficionados—home to legendary 1800s distilleries such as Bruichladdich, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Bunnahabhain. (After a few drams, you’ll be able to pronounce these tongue-twisters!) Owned by Distell, Bunnahabhain is known as the “gentle taste of Islay”; made from unpeated malt barley, it is bottled unchill-filtered to preserve the full character and depth of natural aroma, colour and flavour. I’ve enjoyed benchmark tastings of classic 12, 18 and 25 Year Old releases. Best start with Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old (R750): a rich, full-bodied whisky with signature gingerbread, banana and walnut-bread flavours.
JACK DANIEL’S Master Distiller Jeff Arnett, whom I’ve met over tastings in South Africa, has created a distinctive
taste profile for Jack Daniel’s 150th Anniversary Tennessee Whisky (R1 400) that combines American whiskey-making tradition with the innovations of modern-day craftsmanship. He comments, “Our coopers ‘slow-toasted’ barrels to bring out the rich flavours and aromas of the wood, creating a contemporary expression of an 1866 barrel char.” The grain bill is the same as the iconic Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7. Each drop was mellowed through sugar maple charcoal, before going into new American oak barrels. Bottled at 50% alcohol, the 150th Anniversary edition offers complex flavours of butterscotch and toffee followed by a full, smooth and lingering warm toasted finish.
BLACK BOTTLE Black Bottle (R300), a blended Scotch whisky, was first created by the Graham Brothers: a family of whisky merchants in Aberdeen in 1879. Skilfully crafted from a combination of famous Islay, highland, lowland and Speyside malt and grain whiskies, it was redesigned by Distell recently and relaunched worldwide. A deep cooper gold colour, the house-style of Black Bottle stays true to its origins: fresh,
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floral, fruity and spicy. Watch out for the mellow and fruity signature with balanced smoky, peaty flavours then sweet oak and heather honey—with spicy nutmeg and pepper nuances and a lingering smokiness.
GLENMORANGIE When it comes to innovative companies, Glenmorangie Single Highland Malt Whisky has been at the forefront of the Scotch industry for decades: pioneering cask-strength bottlings, winecask finishes and first-fill bourbon finishes. At the
HENNESSY & RÉMY MARTIN Cognac represents 5.7% volume and 7.6% in value of the total luxury alcoholic beverage category in South Africa, estimated at a worth of R1.1 billion per annum. Led by celebrity movie and rock-star brand ambassadors, Hennessy VS (R460) and Rémy Martin—two of the world’s top-selling cognacs—have succeeded in attracting a new generation of younger, hip consumers to the spirit. These are distributed in South Africa by Edward Snell, with the iconic Rémy Martin VS (R359), VSOP (R649), 1738 (R899) and XO Excellence (R2 150). Further growing the category, Honor VS Gold Edition Cognac (R400) and Honor VSOP, two exclusive brands from the House of D’Orsay, are the newest products in South Africa in the Blue Sky Brand Company portfolio of luxury spirits. The growth of cognac explains why KWV recently released the first XO cognac under a South African brand name, KWV Héritage XO Cognac (R2 300). Sourced, bottled and matured in the Cognac region of France, it is the outcome of an innovative partnership between the French Maison Charpentier (1895) and KWV. Double-distilled in traditional copper stills French connection and matured in French oak barrels, it is blended from 20 of KWV recently the finest “Extra Old” (XO) cognacs aged 12 to 30 years. released the first Extra Old cognac under a South African brand name.
VAN RYN’S Trumping entries from 90 countries, Distell won the coveted title of World’s Best Brandy Producer of 2016 at the International Wine & Spirit Competition—as well as Best Worldwide Brandy Trophy for Van Ryn’s 12 Year Old Distiller’s Reserve (R660). Van Ryn’s 12 has a fabulous character packed with ripe and dried fruits of apricot, pear and plums, opening up into a fruity palate. Van Ryn’s 15 Year Old Fine Cask Reserve (R1 160) and 20-Year-Old Collector’s Reserve (R1 500)—brandies with a voluptuous citrus, honey and chocolate liqueur character—also won gold IWSC medals. Distell’s portfolio ranges from blended to pot-still brandies including Klipdrift, Oude Meester and Van Ryn’s—as well as legendary cognac brand Bisquit (R420–R2 200), acquired by Distell in 2009. The IWSC Trophy for World’s Best Cognac 2016 was awarded to Distell’s Richelieu XO Cognac (R2 000).
annual Whisky Live Festival in South Africa, The Really Great Brand Company has led popular tastings of the brand available locally, including Glenmorangie 10 Year Old Original (R500), 18 Year Old (R1 400), the port-finish Quinta Ruban (R800), the sherry-finish Lasanta (R700), the sauternefinish Nectar D’Or (R800), and deluxe blend Signet (R2 500).
KWV In 2016, KWV again won the prestigious title of World’s Best Brandy/Cognac Producer and World’s Best Brandy for its KWV 15 Year Old, beating cognacs and brandies from 70 countries at the International Spirit Challenge. Watch out for KWV 20 (R1 185), KWV 15 (R600), KWV Imoya (R599) and KWV Laborie Alambic (R190)—brandies that won KWV four ISC gold medals.
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Chivas Regal is the world’s leading premium-blended Scotch whisky, enjoyed in over 200 countries around the globe: Somewhere in the world, a bottle of Chivas Regal is purchased every second of every hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The craftsmanship that goes into every bottle embodies a heritage that harks back to the 19th century. Chivas Regal 12 Year Old (R330) is a blend of the finest malt and grain Scotch whiskies. The way in which Chivas Regal is triple-blended makes it the smoothest and richest Scotch whisky in the world.
JAMESON Jameson has been one of the fastest growing whiskies in South Africa for over a decade, is the world’s number-one selling Irish whisky, and a top 10 global brand. Every bottle of Jameson Select Reserve (R400) is individually numbered on a gold neck tag with a striking jet-black label that carries the legend “Small Batch”. Handselected by the Jameson Masters to deliver an extremely rich and luxurious taste, Jameson Select Reserve is a rare selection of small-batch grain whisky combined with a high proportion of single Irish pot-still whisky aged up to 12 years. Tripledistilled, the blend is bold, sophisticated and incredibly smooth. The reserve collection includes Jameson Special Reserve 12 Year Old (R500), Jameson Gold Reserve (R800), Jameson 18 Year Old Limited Reserve (R1 300) and Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve (R5 000).
10 SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS. 30 SECONDS TO PITCH.
A SHARE OF $1 MILLION IS AT STAKE. WHO WILL MAKE IT TO THE TOP?
Watch Chivas The Venture Elevator Pitch online and on DSTV from 26 December 2016.
ENJOY RESPONSIBLY. NOT FOR SALE TO PERSONS UNDER THE AGE OF 18.
The Great Innovation Frontier
Wa lte r B aets
DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO
The most important habit of productive and innovative people? They know what they want.
Write a list of the things you’d regret not doing if you died tomorrow. Then write a list of the things you spend most of your time doing. Compare the two. If there’s not a substantial relationship between the things you spend most of your time doing, and the things you’d regret not doing if you died, you’re wasting your life. If you’re wasting your life, I really don’t want to take up much more of your time. But if you can spare another 10 minutes, here goes. Take another look at that list. Ask yourself why that list of things you spend so much time doing doesn’t reflect the things you really want and value. And then make a real effort to eliminate as many of them as you can. Productivity is not just about how busy you are. It’s about how well you’re using your time. And, crucially, it’s about how well your values—your life compass—is aligned with what you’re doing. “First, say to yourself what you would be; then do what you have to do.” Epictetus’s words have stood the test of time because they ring true universally. Many of us are not living in a way that reflects our values, and many of us want more time. But it’s also true that things are often simpler than we say they are, and excuses flow thick and fast. Life’s great mysteries don’t have to be as mysterious and unattainable as we pretend (even to ourselves). There’s not some secret sauce out there only given to the chosen few. Most of us don’t have what we want, either because we’re afraid to go after it or because we haven’t taken the time to find out what our core values are and, as a result, make the wrong choices when it comes to managing our time. Time management is not necessarily down to organisation. I know some excellent organisers who are lousy time managers on a personal level. They can schedule a calendar to within an inch of its life and devote not a moment of time to their personal development. They can be on time for every appointment, but will die not once having gone where they wanted to.
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Productivity is not just about how busy you are. It’s about how well you’re using your time.
Rather, it’s about knowing what you want. Google “Habits of highly productive people”, for example, and you’ll find list after list of habits. Six habits. Twenty habits. Forty habits. Sixty habits. One hundred habits. If you read all those habits, you’d still be sitting there now and you’d likely be very confused as well. So I’m going to give you the only important habit of highly productive people: They don’t sit for hours reading other people’s habits; they just get on with it, because they know what they want. You’d be better off sitting down and spending some quality time with yourself, drawing up the values that guru Dr John Demartini calls a “purpose statement”. In fact, Demartini recommends you do this at least once every three months (and, by the way, this also works on an organisational level). Look again at your two lists. If your “I want” and your “I am doing” lists match, life becomes a lot less exhausting. You’ll do more by default, because you want to—and chances are you’ll be more creative and innovative, and a better leader to boot. And you’ll have more energy for other spheres of life, because you’ll be stimulated and energised. Lastly: banish guilt. When your list of things you want out of life matches the list of things you spend the most time on, your life is not overtaken by pointless should’s. So make the most out of downtime and recharge for when you really need your energy. Make space in your life for your values to breathe, and good things will naturally follow.
Walter Baets is the director of the UCT Graduate School of Business and holds the Allan Gray Chair in Values-Based Leadership at the school. Formerly a professor of complexity, knowledge and innovation as well as associate dean for innovation and social responsibility at Euromed Management—School of Management and Business, he is passionate about building a business school for ‘business that matters’.
Fast Bytes Fast Company SA takes a look at the innovative new ideas, services, research and news currently making waves in South Africa and abroad
GET YOURS NOW! Acer Swift 7“small and speedy” Ultra-thin notebook powered by Intel’s new 7th-generation Core i5 processor, with Corning® Gorilla® Glass 13.3-inch full HD display Special feature: HD webcam with HDR imaging support Price: about R18 500 Availability: now at WebAntics.com
Microsoft Surface Studio “the thinnest LCD monitor ever built” All-in-one PC with 28-inch ultra-HD 4.5K touchscreen display (13.5 million pixels) Special feature: new Surface Dial device Price: $2 999 (about R42 800) Availability: Now on pre-order; will be available in limited quantities during the US holiday season, with broader availability early next year
Alienware/Dell/Tobii Alienware 17 “enhanced capabilities and realistic gameplay” Gaming notebook with VR–ready options, new hinge-forward design and the latest NVIDIA GeForce GTX 10-Series mobile graphics
AFRICAN INNOVATION The 2016 Appsafrica.com Innovation Awards, which took place in November, celebrated the best in mobile and technology from across Africa. “We had diverse entries from 25 countries, and both the finalists and winners are a testament to how technology is being used to disrupt business models, empower people, and drive positive social impact across the continent,” said Andrew Fassnidge, founder of Appsafrica.com.
This year’s winners: “Disruptive Innovation Award Domestly (South Africa) Social and Messaging Award Vula Mobile (South Africa) Best African App Award Sliide Airtime (Nigeria) Enterprise Solution Award Flutterwave (Nigeria) News & Entertainment Award Battabox (Nigeria)
Educational Award Mwabu (Zambia) Fintech Award BitPesa (Kenya) Social Impact Award Ask without Shame (Uganda) Brand On Mobile Award Mobi Hunter (South Africa) Women In Tech Award Faraja Nyalandu, Shule Direct (Tanzania)
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Special feature: The Overwolf app replays gaze patterns so gamers can track where they were looking during gameplay Price: from R29 000 Availability: orders from February 2017 (notebooks configurable to individual needs)
BRIDGING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE Tshwane’s free Wi-Fi project, TshWi-Fi, made possible by Project Isizwe, won the award for Affordable Connectivity at Wi-Fi NOW International in London in October. The City of Tshwane and Project Isizwe are bridging the digital divide by bringing Internet access to those who need it most, delivering free Wi-Fi to more than 2 million citizens in South Africa’s capital—the biggest deployment of its kind on the African continent. TshWi-Fi aims to digitally empower learners, thinkers, entrepreneurs and innovators in order to improve economic development, enhance educational outcomes, and increase social cohesion in communities.
RAISE THE ROOF Tesla and SolarCity’s first jointly branded product is a solar-powered roof tile that eliminates the need for traditional panels and longer-lasting batteries. Tesla CEO and SolarCity chair, Elon Musk, recently unveiled the integrated solar roof where photovoltaic cells are embedded right into the roof covering for an emissionsfree source of renewable energy to supply nearly all the power needs of a household. As they’re made from quartz glass, the tiles should last two to three times longer than asphalt versions—or, as Musk put it, “they should last longer than the house.” The product will be rolled out in 2017.
YOUR NEW BEST BUDDY
The City of Cape Town’s new Shark Spotters app will alert beachgoers and lifeguards to any sharks spotted along the city’s beaches this summer. The app provides current and accurate real-time shark safety information—updated by volunteers from the Shark Spotters organisation—on swimmers’ smartphones so they can make informed decisions about shark risks, even before arriving at the beach. Additional details include weather conditions, marine animal activity in the area, info on the amenities on the beaches, as well as short videos of isolated surf spots. The Shark Spotters app is available for free download from Google Play and Apple iTunes.
The virtual-reality market already boasts a number of top products such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Sony PlayStation VR and Samsung Gear VR. Now Microsoft has joined the augmented-reality space with its new HoloLens headset, which displays HD holographic images into your real-world field of view. But these products aren’t readily available in South Africa. Enter Big Apple Buddy, a shopping concierge that bridges this gap in international shopping—giving anyone the opportunity to purchase the latest tech gadgets directly from the US. Big Apple Buddy will have your chosen product personally sourced and shipped to your doorstep. The New York startup has already developed a loyal client base in over 110 countries, comprising mainly tech enthusiasts and developers who simply want the latest products quickly and hassle-free. DECEMBER 2016/JANUARY 2017 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A 121
Local conferences, talks and meetups we think are worth attending
Wavescape Surf Film Festival Date: 21 November to 10 December Location: various venues around Cape Town Cost: Art Board auction and Clifton screenings free; Fish Fry R40; Slide Night R120; other events R55 www.wavescapefestival.com Ocean lovers, wave riders and filmgoers can expect a jam-packed line-up of films and events at this year’s Wavescape Surf Film Festival, presented by Pick n Pay. Events include: the epic Art Board charity exhibition & auction, featuring top South African artists like Lionel Smit, Brett Murray and Peter van Straten; Slide Night, an evening of short talks by specialists deeply connected to the ocean; Clifton 4th Beach open-air movie night; Labia Theatre film screenings; and an evening of fun at the ever popular Fish Fry, among others. Visit the website for the full programme and check Facebook for updates.
a morning outdoor workshop from 08h00 to 13h00, in which you’ll learn the methodology together. The afternoon will be free time to get out of the building and use what you’ve learnt to build, test and sell. The evening session from 17h00 to 19h00 will involve an expert talk, show & tell—or something completely different!
BSides Cape Town 2016 Date: 3 December Time: 08h00–19h00 Location: Dimension Data Offices, Observatory, Cape Town Cost: R150 www.bsidescapetown.co.za This innovative one-day information-security conference, open to the public, is focused on providing a platform for sharing ideas and insights on topics such as security in software development; the proposed South African Internet Censorship Bill; the importance of using unique passwords; and privacy versus security.
Techqala Date: 2 to 11 December Location: various venues around Cape Town Cost: R40 000 (discounts available) www.techqala.com Techqala is a nine-day programme of guidance, talks, practical exercises, mentorship and direct access to experts who will take your startup through a dramatic growth cycle—much of it outdoors in some of the most spectacular locations in Cape Town. Each day will comprise
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Women Advancement Forum 2016 Date: 4 to 8 December Time: 09h00–16h00 Location: The Capital Empire Hotel, Sandton, Johannesburg Cost: R15 600–R45 500 www.womenadvancementforum.com Join m ore than 400 leaders
from all over the world who have helped in making great strides in gender equality, and the empowerment and
advancement of women in many areas: presidents, first ladies, businesspeople, entrepreneurs, women in politics, African women in the diaspora, female public office holders, professional/career women, and women (gender) advocacy groups. In addition to discussing the sustainability of development goals as related to the empowerment of women, the forum will celebrate and honour inspirational achievers in the empowerment of women, through the WAFTribute Awards and WAFThink-Gender Award.
I Code Java Event Date: 9 February Time: 08h00–16h30 Location: The River Club, Observatory, Cape Town Cost: R800 j-sa.co Some of the best developers in Cape Town will come together for this one-day event to share insights, tools, exciting innovation and best practice. Featured topics include computing with streams; building and maintaining micro-services; exploring FlameGraphs; and demystifying domaindriven design.
SUBSCRIBE The legacy of ROMEO KUMALO
Inside the businessman’s plans for an African ICT revolution “I don’t need to look at other markets— what I want to do is impact Africa.”
SECRETS OF THE MOST PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE How ultra-busy SA professionals—from a group CEO to a filmmaker—get so much done
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25 OF SA’S OWN MOST FORWARD-THINKING BUSINESSES including BUZZFEED, ALPHABET, FACEBOOK, HUAWEI, FNB AND MTN
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M a rk McCh le r y
NO LIFE HACK FOR LEADERSHIP
Why your privilege to lead a team is like a licence that needs to be renewed regularly
“UNEASY LIES THE head that wears a crown.” Leadership in William Shakespeare’s era was a birthright; it had nothing to do with skill, strategy, ‘right place, right time’ capitalism, or the 10 000-hour overnight success stories that we greedily consume and try to emulate on our path to individual entrepreneurial greatness. Longevity of rule was the equaliser, with the balance of power shifting as the result of brutal and sudden events. Basically: The king is dead, long live the king! The privilege to lead is more like a licence that needs to be renewed. This relates to all spheres of life, whether it’s a small team or a large company, a public-benefit organisation or your church group. It’s a critical acknowledgement that’s sadly taken for granted—but don’t worry, it’s not your fault. Theory is taught in educational institutions; our experience and reputation is developed through our actions; our leadership traits are, in some way, shaped by personal identification with our heroes. It’s our personal character that determines the path our leadership follows, and it’s the gratuitous tone of the stories we consume that forces us to focus upon ourselves. In 1992, MIT commissioned a study on the comparison between American and Japanese business as it related to competitive advantage. It was summarised in an observation that’s neatly underpinned by the stark contrast in the respective countries’ society and culture: America had strong individualism, and the challenge was to balance this with a good team approach if they were to match the Japanese productivity rates; Japan had a strong team environment, and needed individualism and creativity to sustain growth and relevance. Our rapid information-rich lifestyles feed the appeal of the ‘life hack’. In fact, throw that relatively new term into a headline and I guarantee you’ll give it a good look. This appeal grows exponentially as we flounder through the noise of our ‘instant demand’–fuelled lives. Change is
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Change is constant, but when we execute personal change, it’s followed through with enthusiasm and thought.
constant, but when we execute personal change, it’s followed through with enthusiasm and thought. Look at the titles of any published content on this subject: Awaken the Giant Within, Release Your Inner Superhero, You Are a Badass . . . and the list goes on. Having personally driven organisational change, I can tell you that the jargon-rich resources are enough to bore Stephen Hawking. The fundamental challenge lies in communicating the change elements to your staff. The phrase “change”, and all its iterations, simply spur resistance and antagonism in pursuit of self-preservation and the lack of will to adapt. Experience has taught me that true inclusive leadership means relying on a fundamental plan driven by individuals and small self-selected teams operating in an established environment, with new ideas. Innovation is rearranging something that already exists, leveraging the most powerful components and forces available. Great innovation manifests from new ideas being added to the innovation mix. Growth is multiplied by subtraction and rearrangement, rather than an aggregation of activities. Value is derived by growth, and true growth occurs where ideas and people collide and collude, and survives as a business through developing appeal to existing customers while attracting new markets—through the visible display of culture, innovation, value and power. I subscribe to the notion that sustainability is directly proportionate to the will and understanding of the collective—at home, work and society in general. In short, your team is your strength, and your influence starts and ends when you select those people to be part of the journey. Failure to empower and learn from this team is what causes us to complain about the uncomfortable crown. Mark McChlery is an established businessman and regular contributor to various media and innovation congresses on the topic of business. He has become a specialist in process and technology integration, with a rich curiosity in people dynamics and the exponential potential of a great idea.
WHAT IF YOU COULD CREATE AN ENTIRE BANKING SYSTEM WITHOUT A SINGLE A BANK? Most people would consider the above thought simply impossible, if not downright ridiculous. But M-Pesa was not created by most people. It was invented by individuals who believe in the power of ideas. M-Pesa is an African innovation, born out of necessity. Today it’s become the most successful mobile money transfer service in the world, and enables millions of people with a mobile phone, but not a bank account, to send and receive money. Do you have the potential to revolutionise an industry? There’s only one way ﬁnd out. Enrol today. Because a new world needs new ideas.