Page 1

CAN DROPBOX DOMINATE DIGITAL DATA? / BJÖRK’S CASE AGAINST STREAMING

SOUTH AFRICANS ON TOP OF THE WORLD HOW TRE VOR NOA H, CH A RLIZE T HERON, FA N A MOKOEN A , NEILL BLOMK A MP A ND OT HERS A RE M A K ING IT BIG A BROA D

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CONTENTS

May 2015

FE ATURES 32 Dropbox vs The World

The new tech war is a battle to own your digital data. Dropbox’s CEO thinks he can thwart the globe’s most formidable titans BY JJ MCCORVEY

40 Inside The Entrepreneur

COVER STORY 46 South Africans On Top of The World A comedian, a musician, an author, two film directors, an actress and actor: How our talented locals are making big names for themselves abroad BY CHRIS WALDBURGER

Being chosen as the next host of The Daily Show is an astounding feat for a comedian hailing originally from humble Soweto, South Africa. (page 46)

2   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A  MAY 2015

This new series looks at the more human aspects of having your own business. Fear is the first rite of passage BY ARIANE DE BONVOISIN

58 Tomorrow’s Designs Today

Design Indaba showcases those who are challenging convention and looking to future solutions to repurpose the way we live BY LOUISE MARSLAND


www.pwc.co.za/v2reality

From vision to reality. From innovation to value. Vision to Reality 2015

The PwC Vision to Reality awards programme celebrates #Emergingcompanies with technology-enabled solutions spanning across all industries. If you are an emerging company and have demonstrated the commercialisation of a technology-enabled solution, enter the PwC Vision to Reality awards programme! Go to www.pwc.co.za/v2reality for more information and entry details.

Follow us, share and like on: @pwc_za #V2Reality PwC South Africa PwC South Africa ©2015. PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc (“PwC”). All rights reserved.


Contents

NEXT 16 Artificial Horizon

Will our AI technological future be filled with dazzling hope, or apocalyptic doom? BY CHRIS WALDBURGER

56 Stealth Doctors

In the near future, microscopic robots could roam our bodies—delivering meds and killing tumours BY BEN SCHILLER

72 Hotel 3.0

Reaction Housing founder Michael McDaniel has gone from graphic designer to— potentially—saviour of disaster victims, with his Exo temporary shelter BY SARAH KESSLER

Björk loves technology, but considers herself a warrior for sound: “Guess what? This streaming thing just does not feel right.” (page 22)

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Contents

REGULARS

The mind is an expert at preventing budding entrepreneurs from accessing their inspiration; fear can mean the difference between pursuing one’s dream and not going for it. (page 40)

10 From the Editor 12 The Recommender 26 Hangin’ Free minima’s bespoke ceiling lights require no glue or fixings

30 Clothes Make The Man, But The Web Makes The Clothes

What a dress shirt says about the future of retail BY OM MALIK

44 Healing Hand Siddhartha Mukherjee wants people to think differently about cancer. Here’s how BY ADAM BLUESTEIN

54 Lady Willpower Lynette Hundermark is proof that a woman working in tech does not mean being a geek in the corner, coding BY JAMIE LANGEVELDT

66 A Study in Contrast Using both state-of-the-art and ancient materials,

Desnahemisfera’s Katedra desk is a piece for the ages BY SARAH LAWSON

68 Troubleshooting The Supply Chain

Intel’s Carolyn Duran is aiming to make all of the company’s processors conflict-free by 2016 BY RACHEL HELLER ZAIMONT

70 Street Smarts Cities around the world are ditching traffic lights,

and rethinking the relationship between pedestrians and automobiles BY JESSICA LEBER

82 The Great Innovation Frontier We don’t need superheroes at the helm—we need passionate, values-driven innovation leaders BY WALTER BAETS

84 Fast Bytes 88 One More Thing Why using Facebook, Google and Twitter to log into apps is a problem BY BARATUNDE THURSTON

CRE ATIVE CONVERSATIONS 22 Going Against The Streaming

Singer-songwriter Björk on keeping her new album, Vulnicura, off Spotify (“It’s about respect, you know?”) BY ROB BRUNNER

28 Welcome To OurHood

A private digital platform is putting the ‘neighbour’ back in ‘neighbourhood’ to connect local communities BY ANNELEIGH JACOBSEN

76 JT Foxx went from having a rusted old Ford pickup truck and a cheap suit to becoming one of the world’s foremost wealth coaches—and he’s helping others succeed, too BY EVANS MANYONGA

6   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A  MAY 2015

GUTTER CREDIT TK

Underdog Millionaire


PUBLISHER AND EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Robbie Stammers

robbie@fastcompany.co.za

ART DIRECTOR

Stacey Storbeck-Nel

stacey@insightspublishing.co.za

EDITOR Evans Manyonga

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Radka, Marcus Gaab, Ben Skla, Talia Herman, Jeremyville, Kirsten Ulve, Celine Grouard

DIGITAL PLATFORMS

CHIEF SUB-EDITOR Tania Griffin

By Digital Publishing Charles Burman, Catherine Crook

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PUBLISHED BY

Robert Safian

PUBLISHER

Christine Osekoski

EXECUTIVE EDITORS Noah Robischon Rick Tetzeli

DIRECTOR, NEW BUSINESS VENTURES

GLOBAL EDITIONS DIRECTOR Bernard Ohanian

MANAGING EDITOR Lori Hoffman

EDITORIAL CONTRIBUTORS

Cover: Ross Garrett Dollar Photo Club, WireImage/Getty, Gallo Images/Getty Images/Eamonn McCormack/ Dave J. Hogan/ Scott Legato/David Livingston Jurgen Banda-Hansmann, Raymond Biesinger, Daniel Salo, Lo Siento, Aled Lewis, Ian Allen, Paul A. Hebert, Timothy J. Reynolds, Rene &

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SOUTH AFRICAN EDITORIAL BOARD

ARTISTS

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ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER OF GLOBAL MARKETING

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Chris Waldburger, Rob Brunner, Anneleigh Jacobsen, Om Malik, JJ McCorvey, Matt McCue, Ariane de Bonvoisin, Adam Bluestein, Jamie Langeveldt, Louise Marsland, Sarah Lawson, Rachel Heller Zaimont, Jessica Leber, Sarah Kessler, Alistair Mackay, Walter Baets, Baratunde Thurston

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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. 8   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A  MAY 2015


FROM THE EDITOR

Influencing the global village In March, it was announced that South African comedian Trevor Noah would be taking the helm of the widely popular and highly respected The Daily Show— replacing the popular actor, comedian and film director Jon Stewart. This satirical news show plays a large part in American politics and sets the tone for most discussions. This in itself proves just how much South Africans have managed to make major inroads globally. Despite a highly complicated history, the burdens of a developing economy and myriad socio-economic challenges, South Africa continues to show it is capable of providing the world with world-class talent. I was fortunate to watch one of Noah’s shows, It’s My Culture, live in South Africa. The juxtaposition of comedy and politics made for good viewing, and I believe he will be highly successful in his new role as an American political commentator who started out in Soweto, South Africa. Others like Charlize Theron, Fana Mokoena, Neill Blomkamp and Gavin Hood are also making moves in the global village. What has perhaps impressed me the most is how these individuals have seamlessly slotted into their various roles. There has been no fuss, scandal or chaos— in actual fact, critics have come out in their droves to

10   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A MAY 2015

acknowledge their talents and competence. Perhaps one thing we can take from all this is the fact that borders really no longer exist. If you have something worth selling, it can be tailored to any audience, client or buyer. The interconnected world in which we now live appreciates and loves differently. We should not hold back if we have something to offer—the world will appreciate it regardless of background. Another captivating feature we have in this issue is the Design Indaba article. This world-class event is fast gaining the reputation of being a future trends-prediction gathering. I attended the 2015 edition and felt I was in design paradise. From the abstract elements, ideas and various projects being showcased, I truly did not know where to start. It was an amazing gathering that outlined the strength of the human mind in design terms. Also in this issue we look at artificial intelligence and the impact thereof; some believe it is the best thing happening for future advancement, while others link it with dread and doom. What is it? For whom is it? And what are the implications of using this intelligence? It is already on our sunny shores and influencing our day-to-day lives. I hope you enjoy this edition just as we have enjoyed researching the different elements while putting it together.

Evans Manyonga evans@fastcompany.co.za @Nyasha1e


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THE RECOMMENDER

What are you loving this month?

Jacques du Bruyn

Jen McKay

MD, Flume Communications

Director, Linktank

W H I S K Y B R O T H E R H Y D E PA R K

YOU CAN BU Y RE ASONABLE WHISK Y AT MOST OUTLE TS THESE DAYS, BUT YOU WON’ T NECESSARILY GE T A PERSONAL E XPERIENCE. I LOVE THE WAY WHISK Y BROTHER IN HYDE PARK ADDS THE E X TR A TOUCH BY OFFERING YOU A DR AM, TALKING YOU THROUGH THE NOSE, PAL ATE AND FINISH. YOU’LL ALSO FIND WHISK Y BROTHER IMPORTS ONLY WHISKIES, WHICH MAKES FINDING A UNIQUE BOT TLE THAT MUCH E ASIER. I RECOMMEND ANY THING THAT ’S PE ATED, WITH A SHERRY-CASK FINISH.

BOOKS

CEDERBERG CHENIN BLANC Oh, this wine… I get a little giddy just thinking of it. I was introduced to its perfect blend of crisp and creamy deliciousness by my friend, Dave, now a digital strategist in New York. On one of his trips home, he brought one (okay, maybe three) back from a wedding held there. Even on the way to your mouth, its aromas tell you this is something special. My circle of foodie friends and I often invite it back to our table.

Luthando Jezz Tibini DJ & Glenfiddich brand ambassador

GLENFIDDICH 18 YEAR OLD I’m currently loving the new-look Glenfiddich 18 Year Old. This is certainly one you need to have in your collection, especially if you’re a whisky lover. The flavours have not changed—it’s still the beautiful and award-winning single malt with a new premium look. Look out for this expression in mid-June 2015.

w

Belinda Mountain

Co-founder & director, Black Mountain digital agency

This book completely changed how I viewed myself and my place in the world. I had always seen my ‘shyness’ as a disadvantage, my dislike of public speaking as a weakness, my inability to hold the attention of a room with my storytelling as a failing of my character. And although I loved my close friends, I had always found continuous socialising completely exhausting, while my extroverted husband was in his element. Combining cutting-edge research with a wonderful gift for storytelling, Susan Cain demonstrates how the different personality types interact and just how much society misunderstands and undervalues introverts. This viewpoint has changed how I do business, how I approach relationships and how I parent my children. It has shown me how powerful introverts can be and how to make the most of the gifts I’ve been given.

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gutter credit tk

Q U I E T: T H E P O W E R O F I N T R O V E R T S I N A W O R L D T H AT C A N ’ T S T O P TA L K I N G BY S U S A N C A I N


DE STIN ATIONS David Jacobson

Co-founder & CTO, SYNAQ

C L U B M E D VA L T H O R E N S S E N S AT I O N S Winter paradise? A novelty to me until now. I had the privilege of being invited to go snowboarding with an array of extraordinary entrepreneurs, in a charming town located in the French Alps, Val Thorens. What awaited us was more incredible than I could ever have envisioned. The Club Med Sensations resort made the experience phenomenal in every aspect. From its funky retro yet modern design, prime location and the best slopes on our doorstep to ski or snowboard, made it a difficult holiday to beat. The resort had an abundance of amenities as well as great business lounges and bars, making it easy to entertain, engage and network with each other— stylishly and effortlessly, while taking in the majestic surroundings.

Alicia Butler

Co-founder & barista trainer, Molecular Bars

THE MARCH HARE Everything has a time and place, and the right context can make or break a good coffee experience: getting a weak cup of coffee from the garage vending machine after a night of partying, or going out of your way into the heart of the city to meet a friend for a R30 cappuccino in the basement of some art gallery, just for the experience of it. Coffee, to me, is an experience, and if you’re after a one-of-a-kind coffee experience, The March Hare is the perfect little coffee shop in the basement of the Museum of African Design in Maboneng. Everything from the unique coffee menu to the venue’s personality and ambience as you step foot in the door will leave an impression on you long after you’ve emptied your cup. A SPECIAL coffee experience to suit any taste.

Mike Sharman

Co-founder, Retroviral Digital Communications

WEBFLUENTIAL.COM

THE WEBSITE I SPEND MOST OF MY TIME ENGAGING WITH (FOR BIASED RE ASONS) IS WEBFLUENTIAL.COM—THE ONLINE PL ATFORM THAT CONNECTS BR ANDS WITH INFLUENCERS TO ROLL OUT ADVERTORIAL ACROSS BLOGS, T WIT TER, FACEBOOK, YOUTUBE AND INSTAGR AM. JUST SHY OF 19 MONTHS OLD, THIS SOUTH AFRICAN STARTUP HAS ALRE ADY AT TR ACTED MORE THAN 1 700 INFLUENCERS, WORKS WITH MORE THAN 600 BR ANDS, AND HAS A RE ACH OF MORE THAN 35 MILLION PEOPLE ACROSS THE GLOBE. MAY 2015  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   13


The Recommender

APP ALLEY Yolande Botha

Fred Roed

Scriptwriter, director & founder, The Brave Cartel

Founder & CEO, World Wide Creative

RDIO MUSIC

BUSINESS CARD READER PRO

This music-streaming service is my favourite app at the moment; it’s much like Spotify. It was started four years ago by the same dudes who created Skype. I love it because it’s simple to use, comprehensive, slick—and it’s social. I compete with World Wide Creative’s Johannesburg director Louis van Rensburg as to who has the best taste in music. He likes Afrikaans rap music, so I’m winning.

I love technology, and I’m proudly paperless. In the financial services industry, where my business operates, paper is still very much the order of the day, and printed business cards remain the most prominent method of exchanging contact information. Being able to scan a business card and convert it to an iOS phone contact without manually capturing information saves me time, spares me boredom and preserves my sanity. BCR allows you to record an image of a business card using your phone’s camera, and uses text recognition to convert the information to your contact list. It comes with standard integration to LinkedIn, Salesforce and Evernote—making it a seriously nifty little app. w

Pete Goffe-Wood

Celebrity chef on MasterChef South Africa

Kevin Fine

General manager, Jacaranda FM

LIKEMYLUNCH

E V E N T C L O U D ( BY K A G I S O )

We seem to be inundated with apps these days; I’m starting to wonder how many of them are actually necessary or useful. One of my latest finds is certainly a keeper: likemylunch lets you share pics of your dining-out or home-entertaining experiences with friends. It’s great if you’re looking for new restaurants and if you plan on travelling. It has great search capabilities that let you find what you need through people, places or ingredients. Warning: When posting lunch/dinner party pics, ensure you’re not sharing with anyone whom you might have forgotten to invite…

I’m blown away by the awesome technology of Event Cloud. It makes it possible for brands to talk to a cluster of participants at an event via Wi-Fi tech. The fun of it is that participants can receive exclusive content and share in the experience as a community, at no cost. They can upload information while at the event rather than having to say “I can’t tweet”—which often happens at concerts and mass-participation events. We’re using it more and more at Jacaranda FM events, and loving it!

Michael Renzon

CEO & founding partner, inQuba

A U D I O B O O KS F R O M A U D I B L E Since downloading this app on my iPhone, I’ve crunched through 12 ‘books’ in 12 months, including some pretty heavy reading… I mean, listening! On a six-hour solo mountain-bike ride, I cruised through Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, beautifully narrated by Jeremy Irons. Tougher cycle-listen experiences caught me trudging through Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, and more recently Michael Lewis’s Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt. I stay current with work-related content by listening on the road between meetings; my favourites include Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger, Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us by Seth Godin and The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson. Listening to story tapes is something we all loved doing as children—with Audible, it’s just as imaginative for adults. 14   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A  MAY 2015


NEXT


ARTIFICIAL HORIZON Will our AI technological future be filled with dazzling hope, or apocalyptic doom? By Chris Waldburger

MAY 2015  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   17


I N T H E PA ST F E W M O N T H S , E LO N M U S K , B I L L G AT E S A N D ST E P H E N H AW K I N G H AV E A L L I S S U E D WA R N I N G S TO T H E S C I E N T I F I C C O M M U N I T Y R E G A R D I N G T H E P OT E N T I A L T H R E AT O F D E V E LO P I N G A RT I F I C I A L I N T E L L I G E N C E (A I ) . T H E WA R N I N G ST E M S F R O M A B E L I E F I N T H E L AW O F A C C E L E R AT I N G R E T U R N S : T H AT T E C H N O LO G I CA L D E V E LO P M E N T S W I L L I N C R E A S E E X P O N E N T I A L LY A S T H E Y F E E D O F F E A C H OT H E R . In the case of AI, the artificial narrow intelligence in existence today (think smartphones, chess-playing computers and so forth) could, according to the likes of Musk et al., quickly develop into artificial general intelligence (a human-like intelligence not yet in existence—think of the computer HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey). This is where the problem arises. If an artificial general intelligence (AGI) is created, such an intelligence could easily deploy itself in service of creating an artificial superintelligence (ASI) which, unencumbered by biology, and operating with an intelligence far beyond human capabilities, could decide to refuse to be switched off and then embark on a perfectly rational mission to kill humanity in pursuit of a programmed goal such as ending spam email—or filling the world with paper clips. And so Musk is warning of “our biggest existential threat as a species”, while Hawking says “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race”. Musk is also putting his money where his mouth is by donating around R118 million to Vicarious and DeepMind Technologies (owned by Google), two firms committed to developing AI in an ethical and responsible fashion. Director of engineering at Google, Ray Kurzweil, is a firm believer in the close emergence of ASI, yet he is largely sanguine about this eventuality. He suggests that we are reaching a new epoch in history, which he calls the “singularity”, in which humans and machines will merge, immortality will be achieved, and a new non-biological cosmos will begin as humans upload themselves

18   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A MAY 2015

onto new hyper-intelligent machines. For Kurzweil, this eventuality is a mere matter of time. However one perceives AI and ASI—as a burgeoning golden age or as a potential extinction event—the future spelt out by our modern-day prophets is nothing short of astonishing. Could it possibly be true that humans could create minds vastly more intelligent than our own? Could a mind be non-biological? It is indisputable that at this present moment we have machines that can outperform humans in a multitude of tasks. In fact, that has been true from at least since the Industrial Revolution. We currently have computers that can outperform us in playing chess, answering generalknowledge questions and translating languages, among other things. These abilities have, by and large, provided seemingly endless opportunities for innovation in business and service delivery to consumers. Indeed, it is incredible how quickly modern society has unequivocally embraced artificial intelligence. The vast majority of people are entirely comfortable with onboard computers on aeroplanes, motor vehicles and mobile phones—computers that all undoubtedly employ AI. Yet, another advance in this long tradition of rapid development is currently under way in South Africa, where Metropolitan Health has deployed IBM’s Watson in its customer service division. Watson is a supercomputer capable of answering questions in natural language. It rose to fame in 2011 when it competed in the American quiz show Jeopardy!, beating out two former winners of the show to win the $1-million prize. Watson works by sorting through large amounts of data in order to produce answers to questions in a human fashion. Metropolitan’s ‘adoption’ of Watson vividly demonstrates the great potential of AI in dynamically opening up new avenues of service and product development. Watson has already been deployed commercially in healthcare when, in 2013, IBM partnered with the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in the United States to help doctors treat cancer patients. The computer was able to search vast volumes of published cancer literature and case histories in order to make informed suggestions about possible treatments. Metropolitan Health, meanwhile, provides medical scheme administration, health risk management and wellness solutions on a fully outsourced basis to medical schemes and employer groups, and currently provides services to more than three million individuals across various medical schemes and employer groups in South Africa. Chief executive Dylan Garnett states that Metropolitan has decided to partner with Watson in order to further the company’s ability to personalise customer service. “We believe that the right technology applied in the right environment with the right intent is an extremely powerful tool in enabling us to meet the needs of our clients. “A vast quantity of valuable healthcare data is only available in medical journals, pharmaceutical guidance notes, doctor notes and patient records. This data is in natural language, and not encoded for use by traditional computers. By understanding natural language, Watson can ingest


Elementary, my dear Watson Metropolitan Health CEO Dylan Garnett believes the company’s adoption of IBM’s supercomputer could be a gamebreaker in the healthcare industry.

this data without time-consuming and expensive preparation. Once ingested, this data joins the Watson ‘corpus’ of information that is available for use.” Metropolitan aims to utilise Watson in such a way as to allow the company’s agents in its contact centres to consult Watson as a ‘virtual coach’ in order to answer questions more effectively and in a more personalised manner. Because Metropolitan currently handles more than 12 million client interactions each year, Garnett believes Watson can be a gamebreaker in the healthcare industry. “Watson will also significantly enhance the consistency of responses and management of queries. As Watson learns, it will also pre-empt future enquiries and prompt agents to proactively share information. The customer experience is positively impacted, as responses will be consistent across interaction channels, gradually transforming the experience from transactional to intuitive. Interaction time will be reduced, and more customers can be serviced as the information recall becomes much faster.” As for the future, he believes the ability to record and interpret vast amounts of big data could revolutionise South African healthcare. Garnett asks us to imagine a future in which every citizen has a personalised wellness adviser powered by Watson, in order to mobilise the most up-to-date global knowledge of what works and what doesn’t in sustaining healthy lifestyles; every doctor interacts with each patient with complete recall and knowledge of everything that has

MAY 2015  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   19


gone before (because Watson never forgets); and in which rural community health workers have access to a Watson-powered ‘doctor in their pocket’ to help them serve their community more effectively. The picture he paints is undoubtedly positive. An artificial intelligence that can provide a kind of machinery to process information could be used for tremendous good in fields in which knowledge empowers so impressively. In this regard, it is completely understandable why researchers are moving full steam ahead to unlock all the benefits of this next step in computing. So why, then, the doom and gloom offered

in order to penetrate its mysteries. Yet, current research suggests that if Turing was right, then the brain is a machine, a piece of matter, unlike any other. So much so, that modelling it nonbiologically may be impossible. However, University of Cape Town computer researcher Dr Geoff Nitschke believes a reworking of current computer architecture, from silicon circuit boards and electric transistors, to an explicitly brain-mimicking neuromorphic architecture, may theoretically allow computers eventually to become deep-learning, artificial brains. “This means that the computer will be made up of artificial neurons and neural tissue engineered from replicated organic materials that make up biological central nervous systems. In such a neuromorphic computer, the electrical impulses firing on organic connections between the artificial neurons would be the software, and the physical network of neurons would be the hardware,” he explains. “Replicating a biological brain perfectly with a neuromorphic computer could conceivably give rise to the intangible ‘something more’ of our minds, or self-awareness that we associate with consciousness.” Nitschke is quick to point out that this would by no means be a foregone conclusion, even if the right biotechnology were developed. “However, if the computer remains a disembodied entity, like a brain in a jar, then consciousness seems unlikely, since thousands of years of evolution of brains together with our bodies seem to have played a key role in developing the capacity to problem-solve, reason, speak, experience a lifetime of events, and perhaps to even be self-aware.” He pours water on the idea that ASI is therefore inevitable. “The idea that ASI machines are an inevitable result of current technological progress in AI research is a fallacy. Examples of advances in AI are frequently cited in the media, but these typically do not address the ultimate goals of AI: to produce machines with intelligence comparable to our own and potentially far beyond.” Another problem in the narrative of an ASI on-the-horizon is the contention that surrounds what consciousness actually is. Nitschke notes that the broad disagreement surrounding the essence of consciousness makes it very difficult to envisage how it could be created. Indeed, philosophers of a classical bent continue to insist that a human-like artificial intelligence is categorically impossible because consciousness is, in fact, immaterial. The most famous of this set is the New York University professor Thomas Nagel, who recently endured some blistering critique for suggesting in his 2012 book, Mind and Cosmos, that consciousness cannot be understood by normal Darwinian evolutionary categories. To use an example, the process of seeing is easily understood scientifically (from photons to neurons) right up to the point where a subject sees. But who is conducting the seeing? Where is the sight taking place? Neuroscientists are beginning to suggest there is no foreseeable, materialistic answer to such a question. Some scientists have begun to assert that the brain is not synonymous with the mind, but rather a kind of transmitter for some kind of deeply enigmatic non-material substance— something analogical to an electromagnetic wave. If this is the case, ASI may be nothing to fear at all—simply because it is impossible on a fundamental level. Yet, even if ASI is not on the horizon, that does not alter the clear and present power and dynamism of the AI currently on hand or soon to be within reach. For example, Nitschke, like Garnett, asserts the incredible power AI has to make the enormous amounts of raw data available in our information age usable and valuable. This is a power not to be taken lightly. As per Garnett’s vision, this power can be harnessed for the common good, but it could equally be utilised for darker motives: health information, or deep surveillance. In this sense, figures like Musk and Kurzweil may both be right in an unintended fashion. Our technological future may be filled with dazzling hope or apocalyptic doom—or, more likely, a combination of both. In short, the threats and opportunities offered by the power of AI may be parallel to the threats and opportunities we have always faced in the form of our own human, non-artificial intelligence.

AN ART IFICIAL IN T ELLIGENCE T HAT CAN PROV IDE A K IND OF MACHINERY TO PROCESS INFORMAT ION COULD BE USED FOR T REMENDOUS GOOD IN FIELDS IN WHICH K NOWLEDGE EMPOWERS SO IMPRESSI V ELY. by the likes of Musk, Gates and Hawking? The issue is the belief that the leap from informational machine to a kind of consciousness wherein real decision making and conceptualisation abilities are conferred on a non-biological machine is both possible and imminent. (In Watson’s case, it is clear the computer merely sifts data—it has no real independent thinking ability of its own.) If this is the case, a situation is created in which the Law of Accelerating Returns is married with the Law of Unintended Consequences on the grandest possible scale. But there are many dissenters from the viewpoint of prophets of doom such as Musk, as well as the optimistic futurists such as Kurzweil. Many maintain that the possibility of achieving ASI is simply non-existent. For some thinkers, this scepticism is predicated on their view of the complexity of the brain, and the so-called ‘anti-progress’ of neuroscience as it discovers more and more how little is known concerning the relationships between synapses and neurons and subjective thought. Early computer theorists such as Alan Turing posited that the brain is nothing but a highly complex machine, the software of which simply awaits a more advanced science

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CRE ATI V E CON V ERSATION

Björk

Singer, songwriter, producer

“I love the handshake, you know? I really like to collaborate with people” H ER L A S T A LB U M WA S AVA I L A B LE A S A N A PP. H ER N E W V I D EO WA S M A D E FO R O CU LU S R I F T. I CEL A N D I C V I S I O N A RY B J Ö R K LOV E S T ECH N O LO G Y, B U T M O S T LY S H E CO N S I D ER S H ER S ELF A WA R R I O R FO R S O U N D

Interview by Rob Brunner

Your new album, Vulnicura, is an account of breaking up with your longtime partner. How does working on such emotional material affect your process? This has probably been the most impulsive album I’ve done. I just had to listen to my gut, what felt right. What threw me a lot was just how difficult it was. Every time I would want to skip it and just do a disco album, I [couldn’t] because it was this big lump of songs I just had to deal with. Most people who go through a period of grief, it’s a process. It’s like chapters in a book: You do the first chapter and then you have to do the next chapter. In that sense, it was a process that I wasn’t in control of. Speaking of not being in control, the album leaked two months ahead of schedule, forcing you to release it early. That must have been particularly upsetting. At that point, I’d had two years of things happening to me that I didn’t want to happen to me, so my Buddhist muscle had been well exercised. “Okay, another thing has happened to me that I didn’t want to happen to me! I have no choice but to deal with it.” So in a strange way, it was in the spirit of the album, in that you don’t have a choice. And I was dying to get this album out and over and done with. So I think in a way, it was a strange kind of blessing. Vulnicura is not currently available on Spotify. Why not? We’re all making it up as it goes, to be honest. I would like to say there’s some master plan going on [with the album release], but there isn’t. But a few months ago, I emailed my manager and said, “Guess what? This streaming thing just does not feel right. I don’t know why, but it just seems insane.”

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Why is it insane? To work on something for two or three years and then just, Oh, here it is for free. It’s not about the money; it’s about respect, you know? Respect for the craft and the amount of work you put into it. But maybe Netflix is a good model. You go first to the cinema and after a while it will come on ­Netflix. Maybe that’s the way to go with streaming. It’s first physical and then maybe you can stream it later. You have a long history of fruitful artistic collaborations. What have you learnt about working with other ­people—while keeping your own creative vision intact? You can’t really control it. If it’s fertile, it’s fertile, and if it isn’t, it isn’t. It’s similar to friendships. You know in your heart of hearts with a new friend if you’d still have something to talk about in three weeks or if you’d be bored shitless with each other. It’s also important to be truthful with each other. Every few weeks you have to check if everybody is still up for doing this or not. But I love the handshake, you know? I really like to collaborate with people. Your post-Sugarcubes solo career—which began in 1993—has closely matched the rise of the modern digital age. How has that affected the way you create and also what your music sounds like? A lot. It’s kind of funny because I’m actually not that good with technology. Usually people help me out. But I grasp pretty quickly the potential of it, even though I don’t end up reading the manual myself. Technology just gave me so much freedom to do things that I couldn’t have done before. When the laptop first came out, it gave me


Spot-defy

Gallo Images/ Getty Images/ Mark Horton

“It’s not about the money, it’s about respect. Respect for the craft and the amount of work you put into it.”


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Creative Conversation

a lot of freedom, in that I didn’t have to work with a group of musicians. I could be a tyrant. [Laughs] I mean, don’t get me wrong: I loved being in bands. But you make all these democratic decisions all of the time. That is really exciting and healthy when you’re a teenager and maybe into your twenties, but when you get a bit older, you know more what your individuality is as an artist. I kind of wanted to discover what is my music. Twenty years ago, you released the song “The Modern Things”, about machines that “multiply and take over” the world. Clearly, technology can have a downside, too. It’s like anything: It’s how we use it. There was an article in an Icelandic newspaper in 1905 or something when the telephone came up. They were like, “Oh, now people will never speak face to face.” And obviously, that never went away. There’s always that fear of the tools taking over. You have to define the morality of it: Are you going to destroy with it or are you going to be creative with it? It’s a choice. I’m not saying I always succeed. Definitely not. I’m as guilty as anyone of collapsing in front of ­Netflix after a long week. [Laughs] My daughter and I watch ­Adventure Time a lot. Your last album was available as an app, which uses your music to teach kids about sound, science and ­nature. It recently became the first app acquired by New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). I was really chuffed with how many people got into it. It’s now being taught in Scandinavian schools. Does this mean you’re getting tired of the old-­ fashioned album? Is that format, which is now more than 50 years old, going to disappear? It depends what sort of story you want to tell. I think there’s a reason [albums are] 45 minutes. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that movies are the length they are. It’s a certain storytelling-by-the-fire, cavemen, DNA instinct that feels really natural. But there’s all kinds of music. A lot of the songs I listen to, I don’t want to hear them as albums. They’re pop songs or whatever. And then there are other ones where I want to sit down and listen to a story. You and director Andrew Thomas Huang recently shot a video in Iceland for “Stonemilker” that will be available for Oculus Rift. It’s easy to get really intimate [with virtual reality]. It’s almost more intimate than real life. It also has this crazy panoramic quality. I think it’s really exciting.

“THERE’S ALWAYS THAT FEAR OF THE TOOLS TAKING OVER. YOU HAVE TO DEFINE THE MORALITY OF IT: ARE YOU GOING TO DESTROY WITH IT OR BE CREATIVE WITH IT?”

30-SECOND BIO Name

Björk Guðmundsdóttir Hometown Reykjavík, Iceland

Big break Released her first album— featuring a cover of the Beatles’ “Fool on the Hill” (which you can hear on YouTube)—at age 11

Solo career Eight studio albums, plus the soundtrack to the 2000 film Dancer in the Dark, in which she also starred. Has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide

Recent collaborators Venezuelan electronic artist Alejandro Ghersi (aka Arca), who helped create Vulnicura’s beautifully ­d esolate beats, and LA artist and filmmaker Andrew Thomas Huang, who directed videos for the album’s “Stonemilker” and “Black Lake”

On joining forces with a museum: “It’s just really complex: how the funding works and the deadlines and the bureaucracy. In the pop world, when you do videos, you can pretty much work at your own pace.”

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Can you see releasing an album for Oculus Rift? Maybe people could play along on virtual instruments. Yes and no. Andrew and I have had some conversations. When I did the app album, it was all based on touchscreens and the fact that I knew I could [create a virtual] music school—a dream since my childhood. I only did that album because I felt like I had content that made sense, that could relate to the technology. It can’t just be working with the gadget for the sake of the gadget. But also it’s about budgets. You can do apps cheaply. Apps was kind of punk, actually. It was like starting a punk band again. Filming for Oculus Rift is not. Another Oculus Rift video is being shown as part of a MoMA retrospective of your career, which runs from March 8 to June 7. The curator Klaus Biesenbach apparently approached you 15 years ago, and you said no. I can’t remember. He might have asked me and I just thought it was a joke. How do you hang songs on the wall? Why say yes now? He kept asking. He wouldn’t give up. He said we could do what he called a “mid-career retrospective”, which to me sounded hilarious. I mean, I’m very flattered, too. I just don’t think about my work in that way. I’m usually trying to work out how I’m going to do the next thing. What got me interested was that MoMA commissioned a new piece. So it was the chance to do something new, then, not just look back. Yeah, that was the main reason. Also, I had a conversation with my friend Antony [Hegarty, of Antony and the Johnsons]. I was 50-50 about it, and he was like, “Do it for women! Do it for sound!” I’ve been feeling like the daughter of my father, who is a union leader who fights for the lowest paid in Iceland. I became the union leader for sound in a visual environment. I don’t know exactly who the MoMA audience is, to be honest, but I’ve been having an imaginary audience, which is sort of the average person who doesn’t listen to music that much. She goes on a weekend trip with her family to MoMA and discovers sound a little bit, and she thinks, Oh, I actually love this. Sound waves going through my body: It feels nice! I’m going to listen to some more music.


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Hangin’ free M I N I M A’ S B E S P O K E CEI LI N G LI G H T S R EQ U I R E N O G LU E O R FI X I N G S Ten years ago, eyebrows were raised in architectural circles at the concept of timber specialisation. Fortunately, that didn’t deter Jacques Cronje— a self-taught designer with a background in building science who has made his mark creating beautiful timber homes across South Africa. He went on to establish Jacques Cronje Timber Design in Cape Town. Today, his deep respect for nature and curiosity in structure have materialised into his latest creative endeavour, minima—a range of bespoke, digitally crafted timber light shades and furniture. With no need for glue or metal fixings due to a delicate clip-in system using opposing forces of tension and compression, the minima statement pieces are

made using only CNC-cut, fine-grained birch plywood. The products are available in an easyto-assemble flatpack or can be pre-assembled.

The 2015 range of ceiling lights

• T he Ellipse light was inspired by the plastic-covered bubble lamps of the mid-century. • Tendu—meaning ‘extended’, or literally ‘stretched’—is the ballet term for the gradual extension of the leg outward until only the toes touch the floor. •T  he Lotus shaped light has been named after the crosslegged yoga position, or sitting asana.

• T he Orb range has an archetypal shape: The lampholder is positioned right at the top, which partially obscures the light source—emphasising the reflected light of the inner surfaces of the wood. • S ieza is the basic kneeling position before and after martial

arts classes, observed as a form of quiet respect. • T he Nook, Flex and Cusp—with their strong angular external form— show their gently curved internal space when illuminated. For more information and prices, visit minima.co.za.

Making light work The Flex (left) and Orb are two of minima’s new stylishly simple range of lamps

MAY 2015  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   25


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CRE ATI V E CON V ERSATION

Welcome to OurHood A PR I VAT E D I G ITA L PL AT FO R M I S P U T T I N G T H E ‘ N EI G H B O U R ’ B ACK I N ‘ N EI G H B O U R H O O D ’ TO CO N N EC T LO C A L CO M M U N I T I E S

By Anneleigh Jacobsen

Photographs by Jurgen Banda-Hansmann

“It’s kind of like reviving a nostalgia for something that we never fully experienced, actually. We know about it from movies and from hearing our parents talk, but not many of us have lived as adults in a context where you know your neighbours...” William Rupert Mellor trails off and his business partner and old school friend, Bruce Good, nods earnestly and takes over the train of thought. “Growing up, I would catch a ride to school with the neighbour over the road, but these days we’ve become so insular—it’s reached the stage where you only meet your neighbours from your block of flats when you have a fire drill.” Having spent time abroad (Mellor in London and Good in New York) and each having started his own successful and ongoing endeavour along the way, they reconnected back in Cape Town and the idea for OurHood—a digitally based, private platform where people can connect with their neighbourhoods—was sparked when they realised the massive trend toward buying local, street-market shopping, homegrown trading, and sharing was as strong in South Africa as anywhere else. And that the need to be able to talk to people within one’s community was possibly even greater here, where security concerns and crime rates mean neighbours could really use a way of instantly sharing news and information.

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Being able to communicate with your neighbourhood also means it’s easier to build a community. “That old sense of ‘neighbourliness’ is what we’re looking for, what we’re trying to foster through technology,” says Good, “and our whole view is that if you connect people, you can do more together than alone.” By allowing people to do more together at a neighbourhood level, they believe they can help build a “stronger, safer South Africa”. They started OurHood as a new venture in August 2013 with a basic mobile responsive website that was self-funded and did a soft launch in May 2014, which did so well that they attracted angel funding from a team based in London and led by another South African. “And at that stage,” says Mellor, “the elephant in the room was always the app—it had to be done, and soon!” So a portion of the investment funds went to developing the app on both iOS and Android platforms simultaneously, to make it as accessible as possible in the local market. Originally, the development was outsourced, but the business now has five in-house engineers doing development full-time. “Development is endless; there are always new possibilities, new ideas,” says Mellor. “So now we have a team in-house and we’re launching new things on the app all the time—like, at the moment, we’re developing a peerreview directory where your neighbours can rate local plumbers and doctors and things like that.” Good jokes: “Kind of like TripAdvisor for plumbers.” But what they don’t joke about at all is the privacy and security of their application and users. Every person who applies to become part of an OurHood neighbourhood is verified to ensure he or she actually lives in that area and is part of the community there: the person either sends in a utility bill, or OurHood mails out a physical postcard to his/ her home with a unique, handwritten code to be input on the website to complete verification. One has to be part of the neighbourhood to be part of, well, OurHood. This verification not only means people feel safer sharing and engaging within the app, but also that the efficacy of features such as notifications about security warnings, road closures and even loadshedding are highly targeted and get to the right people at the right time. And if you’ve ever tried to decode the loadshedding timetable online, you’ll know how useful that is! “It’s amazing how fast it’s grown,” Mellor says enthusiastically. “We used to joke about how cool it would be if we ever saw someone needing a ladder and someone else lending them one—and then not too long ago, suddenly it happened: ‘There’s a guy in Sandton who needs a ladder!’ We were thrilled!” Good adds, “Seeing people starting to talk to each other, starting to make this idea we had really come alive, becomes obsessive. We now have over 900 live neighbourhoods, and there are over 5 000 forum posts a month—we’re utterly addicted to watching it grow and work.” From a trial ‘Hood in Green Point, and then Camps Bay, the idea suddenly exploded in Johannesburg. “Sandton had arrived!” says Mellor, laughing. “And from then on, all our growth has been organic: Neighbourhoods are requested by users, and we’re building new ones


W H AT ’ S U N D E R THE ‘HOOD? This neighbourhood network isn’t going to the dogs, as these numbers prove:

900 ‘Hoods currently, and growing by around 10 a day

100 users on average per ‘Hood; some have more than 100 (some up to 500) and some have less

78 signups per day per average in April

4 977 Noticeboard posts so far this year

255 Crime posts

5 000 Forum posts per month

In full swing OurHood’s co-founders Bruce Good (left) and William Rupert Mellor say the platform’s growth has been organic, and they’re “utterly addicted” to watching this expansion.

at the rate of about 10 a day at the moment. We even have active neighbourhoods in Namibia, Botswana and Kenya.” Good says, “We’ve just had our first serious enquiry from a business in London which wants to launch it there, too. The excitement of seeing a business you started grow so fast, and then to have interest from Europe and the UK, is incredible.” OurHood functions as a mobile centre-point for a community and also forms key partnerships with community organisations such as neighbourhood watches and ratepayers’ associations which can be part of the ‘Hood at no cost—giving them a highly effective way to talk to their members, and helping add even more value to their services. The app has sections such as a Noticeboard for posting notices about incidents, traffic, lost dogs and cats, and the fact that someone two houses down is looking for a ladder. “I

actually sold my dishwasher on OurHood,” says Good, “to a guy who lives in the next block of flats! So much easier than finding what you want on Gumtree, and then realising you need to drive 45 minutes to Table View because you live in Town.” There is also a What’s On section for events, and a Local Deals section where the adverts reside. As a business, you can buy space to promote your product or new store, or even a locals-only deal, and target exactly the right people. From a user point of view, the ads are not invasive: You can choose to view them, when and where and if you want to. Down the line, it may also be possible to place orders for products and book services straight from the app—not only streamlining tedious chores, but possibly even easing tentative consumers into online shopping. And while the business model that sits behind the app is driven by advertising, the huge groundswell of interest across the country and beyond has created a type of franchise model that allows people who want to bring the app to their own ‘Hood not only to gain all the benefits the app brings, but also to create a business opportunity for themselves. “We have a lady in Protea, up in Soweto, who has just started a neighbourhood up there, and we also have such partners in other areas in Joburg, Durban and Knysna,” says Good. A neighbourhood, it seems, really does need a neighbour to be at the heart of it—driving local advertising and engagement within the communities they live in and love. Having spent two years developing great local partnerships and really deep tech to support them, the genuine belief in the idea of good neighbourhoods and neighbourliness is hard to miss, and bodes well for a future where tech brings us all back out into the sunlight to meet our neighbours.

MAY 2015  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   29


TECHNOVORE

CLOTHES M A KE THE M A N, BUT THE W EB M A KES THE C L O T H E S W H AT A D R E S S S H I RT S AY S A B O U T T H E F U T U R E O F R E TA I L

WHEN I WAS a little boy, my father took me to his tailor in the sleepy Delhi neighbourhood where I grew up. I distinctly remember Binks— its chaos; the reams of cloth, yellow chalk, and measuring tape; and even the smell of tobacco and chai. I felt like a grown-up as I was measured by the old tailor master. He noted my measurements in charcoal pencil, and a few weeks later my father brought home three crisp, white poplin shirts, which fit me perfectly and cost less than $1 each.

I experience this visceral sense memory when I visit the bright San Francisco loft that houses ­Trumaker, an online menswear company that ­specialises in custommade shirts. Trumaker is one of a growing number of upstarts—J. Hilburn, Knot Standard, Incense Shoes, Modern Tailor, the list goes on—using the Internet, advanced logistics, and a new breed of production methods to revive the idea of mass customised shirts, blazers, suits and even shoes. Personalised fashion and other consumer items have long been a fantasy of many Internet entrepreneurs. Until now. What upstarts like Trumaker are doing is applying your body measurements to a made-to-­measure pattern to give you a near-custom ­experience. Custom doesn’t translate to bespoke, in which the pattern is completely personalised just for you, but it is a step beyond what’s known as made-to-measure, in which a premade pattern can be enhanced with a few personal preferences such as collar style. And it’s miles better than what you find at mass retailers, where shirts can be too tight, too loose, too long; the sleeves bunch up; the torso billows like a boat sail—or all of the above. Trumaker is the brainchild of former Bonobos executive Mark Lovas and co-founder Michael Zhang, and Lovas says their company’s secret sauce isn’t that secret. It’s software that takes all the data about a person—fitting details, sizing and measurements, including photos—and puts it through a ­simple algorithm that creates an optimal pattern for each individual. “The more shirts we make, the more our system becomes efficient and fine-tunes our

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TRUMAKER’S SOFTWARE TAKES ALL THE DATA ABOUT A PERSON—FITTING DETAILS, SIZING AND MEASUREMENTS— AND PUTS IT THROUGH A SIMPLE ALGORITHM THAT CREATES AN OPTIMAL PATTERN FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL.

Om Malik

algorithm,” Lovas tells me. This pattern (which is based on a few master ones) is sent to a shirtmaker in Malaysia, where machines laser-cut the cloth and then workers stitch a customised shirt. If you followed the PC boom closely, then you know that mass customisation, when done right, can produce impressive results. Through most of the 1990s and early 2000s, Dell Computer was a red-hot company thanks to its ability to allow everyone to create their dream computer—so long as they stayed within a few parameters. Customers paid up front. Dell carried minimal inventory. And it was wildly successful. Fast-forward to today, and you start to see the similarities between Dell’s model and these online custom-clothing upstarts. Except they’re ­focu­sed on goods we buy more often than a computer. Like Dell, they charge before they cut the fabric, and there is no inventory except for the raw materials. No markdowns, either—and if the software does its job, no returns. “The more predictable, accurate and consistent pattern data is the real breakthrough, as it allows us to automate about 70% of the process,” Lovas says. These companies are far from being retail giants, but they point to a new reality. The Internet allows anyone to create and aggregate demand, and it allows them to cheaply tap into new technologies to automate processes that previously required humans. A few weeks after I visit Trumaker, my shirt arrives. The fabric is luxe, the buttons are top-notch, and there’s even a little “OM” embroidered inside the collar. The experience is a world away from that little tailor shop of my youth (and the price is about 140 times more than what my dad paid). But Trumaker, in one shirt, reintroduced me to the long-forgotten concept of a good fit.

Om Malik is a partner at True Ventures, an early-stage investor.

Illustration by Raymond Biesinger

DANIEL SALO

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FAST COMPANY PROMOTION

BRIGHT SPARK

Getting the green light

With its green technology, Wi-Fi hotspot capability plus surveillance and crimeprevention features, the Twerly street light could improve (and perhaps save) lives

Can you imagine a single innovation that could help solve seven problems all at once for our country? An innovation that could provide off-grid power, wireless Internet, public safety, job creation, fire hazard safety, blackout immunity, and an answer to the national cable theft epidemic. In developing the world’s most advanced green street light, a small team of engineers in South Africa have produced exactly that. One local entrepreneur, Nikolas JankovichBésán, is now ready to take the award-winning Twerly design to the streets of South Africa, and then on to global markets. With early interest from Cameroon to Australia—and one initial estimate of the company’s potential future value of around R2 billion—he plans to launch an office and manufacturing capacity in the United States within two years. Silicon Valley-based network, The Sable Accelerator (South African Business Link to Experts), is already partnering with Twerly to build the brand in the US, while also marketing its extraordinary spectrum of benefits to government officials. At a round-table meeting in the States in February this year, Naledi Pandor, Minister of Science and Technology, was briefed by Sable CEO Donovan Neale-May on scale-up pathways including pilots and fast-track partnerships; she showed “great interest”, according to Neale-May. He believes Twerly needs only an equity investor to storm millions in revenue and improve thousands of lives—and possibly save lives, given its surveillance and crime-prevention features. Hybrid street lights, featuring LED lights powered by photovoltaic panels and small vertical-axis wind turbines, are a rapidly growing feature of new and off-grid developments in countries such as Spain,

Nikolas JankovichBésán is ready to take the award-winning Twerly design to the streets of South Africa, and then on to global markets.

Canada and the US. Easily recognised—and unfortunately also heard—with their little wind propellers (horizontal wind turbines) and solar panels atop street poles, they are generally noticed in front of progressive retail stores or on university campuses. But the global market for this off-grid green technology is projected to be worth more than R160 billion by 2025 as municipalities and companies realise the savings of these stand-alone systems on energy and trenching costs for new developments. One North American company has already sold 6 000 units. Even the famed TOPGUN fighter-pilot school (US Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Programme) in Nevada has a hybrid lighting system. But it is a street light you can currently find only in a humble industrial park in East London, South Africa—echoing, and inspired by, futuristic aerospace technology. Rather than using a noisy propeller, the Twerly is partly powered by a whisper-quiet Savonius rotor. Producing power to its twin batteries in even a light breeze, 4 metres per second, the vertical-axis wind turbine, together with its PV panel, can light a street for an entire night after two theoretical days with neither sun nor wind. But, for Jankovich-Bésán, it is Twerly’s hidden technologies and potential as a modular platform for problem-solving applications which sees it stand alone in this key renewable energy field. It features the world’s smartest street light ‘brain’ that allows clients to control and monitor every aspect of the system, and will ultimately be able to house a miniature weather station that will collect data on rainfall, wind speeds, humidity and many other climate-control statistics. And this is simply Twerly’s pared down

Version I, as seen on a pair of poles in East London’s Industrial Development Zone. Now, Jankovich-Bésán says customised iterations of a Version II are set to dazzle government and private investors. In addition to motion-activated video surveillance capabilities, the new system will offer self-powered Wi-Fi Mesh Networks/ hotspots around each street pole—in a country where Internet access is both limited and crucial for development. Says Jankovich-Bésán: “As far as I know, we’re the very first company that’s going to offer Wi-Fi hotspots that are off the grid and which use renewable energy; that’s going to pivot the company from street lighting to a renewable Wi-Fi,” he says. “My vision is that, ultimately, we’ll hit critical mass: We’ll have suburbs where all street lighting will have been outsourced to private companies; where sewage and waste will be outsourced,” he adds. Nikolas Jankovich-Bésán is an entrepreneur and founder with full- and part ownership in a number of small businesses in South Africa. In addition, he has been the director of operations for KEPT (Pty) Ltd, a biometrics startup company. He has also worked as a financial planner in the asset management industry for over 20 years, and holds various local and international management diplomas.

MAY 2015  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   31


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MAY 2015  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   33


“W H A T ’S P R E V E N T I N G G O O G LE FR O M DISRUPTING Y O U R S U C C E S S ?” Drew Houston’s company may be valued at R120 billion, but here in GSB Faculty West 104 on the Stanford University campus, he’s being grilled like a newbie on Shark Tank. The three dozen students in this class, called Disruptive Innovation, are relentless, even though he’s been invited as a guest. Another pupil brings up what he believes is another giant threat: “Amazon [Web Services] was this huge competitive advantage for you when you were first starting,” he says. “But now they have this competing Cloud Drive.” 34   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A MAY 2015

Houston is the epitome of Northern California cool. With his full beard, hair sticking straight up and a silver hoop piercing the middle of his left earlobe, he leans back in his chair and placidly fields the queries, no matter how snippy. “Pretty much any big company, for any sufficient market, is gonna have some chips on the table,” Houston says, explaining why he thinks Amazon and Google now have services that compete with Dropbox. “That doesn’t mean it’s gonna work.” Houston, 32, finds himself in the dead centre of one of the tech industry’s most fearsome turf wars. Dropbox has the distinction of being the only cloud service—and perhaps the only startup— ever to compete simultaneously against Apple (R9-trillion market cap), Google (R4.4 trillion), Microsoft (R4.3 trillion), Amazon (R2 trillion), and Tencent (R1.9 trillion). The stakes are clear: Whomever controls your stuff may control the digital future. Over the last few years, storing and sharing data in the cloud has become an almost ubiquitous habit.

Illustrations by Aled Lewis


Houston, we have a problem

Gutter Credit Tk

Dropbox’s CEO feels your tech pain—and wants to fix it.

Photograph by Ian Allen

MAY 2015  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   35


Conventional wisdom had been that cloudbased storage was a commodity business, a digital file cabinet. But a better metaphor for the potential of cloud-based storage may be a portable office. “Your whole computing environment ought to follow you around,” explains Houston. “Your financial records, your health information, your music playlist... anything that’s ‘mine’. It’s a pretty long list.” Better yet, you should eventually be able to interact seamlessly with everything in that portable office: work on documents with colleagues, send email, chronicle inventory. About storage, he says, “that’s kind of the easy part. The more interesting part is, What can you do with it?” Unlike his amply financed competitors, which were all founded during the desktopcomputing era, Houston has been embedded in the cloud for eight years, ever since launching Dropbox in 2007. He’s not building smartphones, holographic lenses or selfdriving cars; his sole focus is solving the annoyances created by the invisible networked quilt that is modern computing. The cloud makes it possible to work from anywhere, anytime, but keeping everything safe and in sync is a massive software challenge. Our economy’s workforce is increasingly independent, mobile and flexible, and the line between work and home continues to blur. The traditional design of business computing was not built for how we work today. “[Employees] are basically saying, ‘I need to get my job done’,” says Maureen Fleming, a vice president at the analyst firm,

“EVERY DAY YOU HAVE AFTERNOONS BEING RUINED BECAUSE YOU OPEN UP A SPREADSHEET AND SOMEONE 30 FEET AWAY HAS BEEN EDITING THE SAME THING.” 36   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A MAY 2015

IDC. Those employees will gravitate to whichever service makes it easiest for them to do so. No one yet dominates the new global network, but Dropbox just may be the most adroit cloud company in the world, the one that has solved more problems for its users than any other. That’s why Dropbox is not just surviving its onslaught of competition, but is thriving. The company says it has more than 300 million users and 4 million companies using the service. According to IDC, Dropbox owns 27% of the consumer market for file-syncing and sharing documents, more than Microsoft and Apple. It is also the most popular file-syncing and sharing service used by businesses. More than 100 000 organisations—including Hyatt, Under Armour and Spotify—pay $15 (about R180) per employee per month for Dropbox for Business, while a tiny fraction of its consumers pay $99 (R1 200) per year for the Pro service. Our conservative estimate of all those paying customers (assuming five employees in each business and 1% of consumers) puts Dropbox’s revenue at approximately R5.4 billion annually, which is why the company is rumoured to be going public before too long. A potential IPO is just one of the many reasons 2015 is a critical year for Dropbox. Houston is already rolling out new features that enhance Dropbox’s utility, letting users do things such as save any file within an iPhone app to Dropbox with two taps, and edit Office documents without having to save them to a computer. These new additions will be a test: of Houston’s bet that Dropbox is a business and not merely a feature; of Dropbox’s ability to stay rigorously focused on solving customer problems at a time when it is growing madly; and of Houston’s ability to fend off his rivals’ cloud initiatives. Toward the end of the Stanford class, another future disrupter named Jordan bluntly asks Houston: “What made you the right person to start Dropbox in the first place?” In the jargon of Silicon Valley, he’s asking about what’s called founder–market fit. Why, Jordan wants to know, does Houston have more than a puncher’s chance against Amazon, Google, Microsoft and the rest? The first time I interviewed Houston, roughly four years ago, he was a young, happygo-lucky startup founder, recounting with charm and ebullience the story of the day Dropbox received its first major funding from Sequoia Capital, and how he had clicked “refresh” on his computer repeatedly so he could watch his bank account rise from $60 to $1 million. This time around he’s more guarded; some white hues are creeping up in his dark hair. We talk in a conference room decorated as if it’s situated in the cloud—cotton-ball-like material on two walls, sky blue chairs—at Dropbox’s headquarters in San Francisco’s China Basin, where he presides over 1 000 employees (double last year’s headcount). On a dry-erase board, a chart compares the storage size and prices offered by Amazon, Google and Microsoft. He checks his phone incessantly. It isn’t until we start talking product that Houston’s mood ticks up. Excited to learn that I am a Dropbox user, he wants to ensure I also convert from the default Apple photo-management tools to Dropbox’s version, called Carousel. “Here, I’ll show you,” he says, and he practically leaps toward my side of the table to demo how it creates a timeline of backed-up photos, and can simply delete duplicates from a smartphone. As he starts flicking all the way back to 2001 to a picture of himself with his MIT Phi Delta Theta brothers, I’m reminded of the commencement speech he gave at his alma mater’s 2013 graduation ceremony, in which he professed his admiration for people who were “obsessed” with solving a problem, likening them to a dog chasing a tennis ball. “Every time we find ways to save you 15 minutes to an hour, times hundreds of millions of people,” he tells me, “it’s, like, we save lifetimes of pain, every day.” Houston’s drive to mitigate eons of technology-inspired angst has been the energy that’s fuelled Dropbox since its inception. When he was just 23, Houston took a four-hour bus ride from Boston to New York, planning to use the time to work on a project. But he was stymied because he forgot to bring the thumb-size hard drive that held his files. Deciding he’d been inconvenienced by this sort of thing for the last time, he wrote the very first lines of Dropbox code during the ride. “A lot of the startups we fund, they’re still trying to figure out what to build,” says Paul Graham, co-founder of the startup accelerator, Y Combinator. “Drew knew.” In Houston’s application for YC’s summer 2007 session, he laid out his vision: “In the future, you won’t have to move your data around manually.” He explained that he’d created something that would make sure we’d have the same version of every file on all our computers. “It’s a very simple thing to describe,” says Graham, “but an unbelievably hard thing to execute.” From the start, Dropbox was almost magically simple: Install Dropbox’s folder on your desktop and, by simply dragging files into it, you could suddenly access them from anywhere.


CLOUD ATLAS HOW THE TECH GIANTS COMPETING TO CONTROL YOUR STUFF COMPARE

Gutter Credit Tk

Everett Collection (Sex Tape); Ufficio Stampa/Corbis (Bono and the Edge); Splash News/Corbis (Kardashian); Alamy (Sydney and Shanghai); Everett Collection (Despicable Me); Paul A. Hebert/Corbis (Lawrence)

A M A ZO N

A PPLE

D RO PBOX

G O O G LE

M I C RO S O F T

TE N C E NT

Product (launch)

WorkDocs (2014)

iCloud (2011)

Dropbox (2008)

Drive (2012)

OneDrive (2014)

Weiyun (2012)

Free storage

200 GB (30-day trial)

5GB

2GB

15GB

15GB

Up to 10,000GB

What you can store

108 000 self-­ published romance novels from the Kindle Store

Four copies of the Cameron Diaz/ Jason Segel flop Sex Tape

Two copies of all 226 songs recorded by Dropbox investors, Bono and the Edge

The 3 450 mostviewed YouTube clips (No. 1: Psy’s “Gangnam Style”)

40 000 PowerPoint presentations

Kim Kardashian’s selfie library, or approximately 20 million pictures

Price per month for one terabyte

R350

R249.99

R120 (Pro) About R180 for unlimited (Business)

R120

Free with a R94.99/month. Office 365 subscription

Free

Users

*

300 million–plus

300 million–plus

240 million

250 million–plus

300 million–plus

Dropbox’s one degree of separation

Dropbox is an Amazon Web Services customer

Dropbox turned down an acquisition offer from Steve Jobs in 2009

N/A

Google Drive users can sync folders with Dropbox in real time

Partnered with Dropbox to let Office 365 users edit and view Dropbox files

N/A

Where your stuff lives

Ashburn, Virginia; Boardman, Oregon, aka

Maiden, North Carolina, aka

Presumably Ashburn, Virginia; Boardman, Oregon; Dublin; and Sydney

Council Bluffs, Iowa, aka

Quincy, Washington, aka

IOWA’S SPIRIT;

WHERE AGRICULTURE MEETS TECHNOLOGY

In China, Shanghai, Tianjin, and Shenzhen; in the rest of the world, Hong Kong

ON THE RIVER, ON THE WAY;

A TOWN WITH A FUTURE

Dublin; and Sydney

and Mayes County, Oklahoma, among others

Regrettable early branding efforts

Zocalo, which sounds like a nice Mexican restaurant

MobileMe, which sounds like phone-friendly extras from Despicable Me

GetDropbox.com

Drive superseded Google Docs

SkyDrive, which sounds like a monorail ride

N/A

Intriguing new direction

WorkMail, its encrypted email service

My Photo Stream, which is like Dropbox’s Carousel but across all Apple devices

Badge, which lets users integrate the conversation around a document with the file

Supplementing its work-focused platform with the custom trip creator, My Maps

Will likely introduce a music-storage and streaming service on OneDrive this year

Partnered with IBM to leverage its consulting services to find business clients

Most recent embarrassing security breach

June 2014, when hackers wormed into Amazon Web Services customer Code Spaces

August 2014, when “The Fappening” revealed nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton

June 2011, when accounts could be accessed without passwords during a four-hour period

July 2014, when embedded links in PDF and .docx files gave site admins access to documents that linked to their site

December 2010, when users could download other users’ contact lists

None reported

Market cap/ valuation

Around R2 trillion

R9 trillion

R120 billion

R4.4 trillion

R4.3 trillion

R1.9 trillion

*The first rule of Amazon is: Never reveal exact user numbers.

Chart by Matt McCue


The simplicity inspired an almost cultish following. Whenever he or co-founder and CTO Arash Ferdowsi would overhear someone talking about Dropbox and they’d ask that person about it, he or she would inevitably say, “I love Dropbox!” or “Dropbox changed my life!” Houston recalls. “We’d look at each other like, Well... great! Cloud synchronisation, sweet!” Suddenly people had an easy way to share documents, including the kind of massive files that would trip up everything from Yahoo Mail to corporate Exchange accounts. That simplicity has driven Dropbox ever since. It is now integrated with more than 300 000 companies and services. Dropbox comes preinstalled on laptops, tablets and Android smartphones made by Dell, HP, Sony and Samsung. It’s a one-click service on Slack, Shutterstock and Vimeo. While it doesn’t come preinstalled on Apple products, Apple has had such a struggle with its own cloud services that millions of its customers rely on Dropbox. This ubiquity helped Dropbox make a deal last December with perhaps its most significant competitor, Microsoft, whose CEO Satya Nadella is pursuing a “mobile first, cloud first” vision. Subscribers to Office 365, the cloud-based version of the world’s most popular productivity suite, can now open and edit, directly from Office, the more than 35-billion Word, PowerPoint and Excel files they’ve stored in Dropbox. “We heard loud and clear in customer feedback that people wanted access to Dropbox,” says Kirk Koenigsbauer, VP of Microsoft Office. (Three months later, Microsoft opened up Office 365 to competing cloud drives.) Dropbox sure has come a long way since January 2013, when then–Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer belittled the company as a “fine little startup”. Houston has always been a fierce competitor, never cowed by the technology establishment. In his YC application, he predicted that Microsoft was too conflicted to ever achieve the universality it desired. In Dropbox’s first video demos, he taunts Google, which was rumoured to be working on a cloud service, code-named “Platypus”—a product now known as Google Drive. Houston opens a photo of a platypus, marks it with a big X, and syncs it across devices. Most famously, Houston rebuffed Steve Jobs in 2009, when Apple’s CEO offered to buy Dropbox. Once rejected, Jobs, according to Houston, retorted that Dropbox was merely

38   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A MAY 2015

“I WANT TO LEAVE A LOT OF BLANKS FOR OTHER PEOPLE TO FILL IN, BOTH BECAUSE IT’S LESS WORK FOR ME, AND BECAUSE IT’S SOMETHING FOR PEOPLE TO DEBATE.” a “feature” that Apple would kill with its own storage service. The Dropbox team did “freak out” over the release of iCloud, says CTO Ferdowsi. But Houston assuaged everyone’s fears. “He was really good at calming the team down,” Ferdowsi says. “He was more like, ‘This is a sign that we’re onto something.’ ” iCloud pushed the co-founders to create even more features for consumers, including automatic camera uploads—an immediate hit. “We felt like, Hey, we want to go beyond just syncing files,” says Ferdowsi. Houston is still translating his competitive fire into products. When I visit in January, the team is putting the finishing touches on its new “Open” button: a way for users to read and edit files without even downloading them. They’re also working on the Dropbox badge, a collaboration system to save teams from ‘Frankenfiles’—shared documents that contain multiple, disjointed edits. It’s a notoriously complicated problem, one that has frustrated many a user of Google Drive. “All of this seems like a little thing,” Houston says, “but every day you have afternoons being ruined because

you open an Excel spreadsheet to finish it up, and someone 30 feet away from you has been editing the same thing. It’s horrible.” He says this with the emotional conviction of someone whose heart has been broken. “Our dream is that, with Dropbox, this should be the first day in a long time that you go home early.” Houston is the driving force of Dropbox, but he has also shown the maturity to surround himself with an impressive network of mentors and advisers, most of whom have been counted out when faced with competition from established rivals. That list includes close friend and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is known to pop into Dropbox HQ from time to time; Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, a pioneer of cloud-based services; Dennis Woodside, a former Google executive who served as CEO of Motorola during the search company’s brief ownership, and who joined Dropbox as COO in April 2014; and Travis Kalanick, the CEO of Uber. ­Kalanick and Houston meet regularly for dinner and drinks to share notes on managing through an intensely competitive landscape. “In an engineering- and product-oriented organisation, there are complexities when you get to several hundred or several thousand employees,” ­Kalanick explains. “How do you create a place that stays innovative while it scales?” The question gnaws at Houston: How can he ensure every new employee is as passionate about ridding the world of digital inconveniences as he is? “The big challenge will be growing the company in a way that allows people coming in to quickly get up to speed and contribute,” says Woodside. It’s particularly hard for someone as obsessive as Houston. Described as an extremely hands-on “engineer’s engineer”, Houston participates every year in the company’s Hack Week, in which developers work on individual projects that often get fast-tracked to product status. He’s positioned his desk right next to the other engineers in Dropbox’s open office. The day I visit, multiple half-full water jugs have been abandoned behind three vertically positioned monitors while an open can of sour-creamand-onion Pringles sits in front. “He’s gotten a lot better at it,” VP of engineering Aditya Agarwal tells me. “Being able to frame problems and then relying on other people to come back with solutions.” During a product review I observe, Houston cuts through a boilerplate recital of statistics about Dropbox badge’s early trials with questions that repeatedly steer the discussion


back to the user. “Are there people who dislike it?” “Have users come up with any new requests?” “What other feedback do we have?” In the middle of a brainstorming session about new features, he tries to rev things up by rattling off suggestions from customers he met at the Consumer Electronics Show. He can’t relax until a loud, almost indecipherable clamour of ideas erupts. “You should just be able to just like, ping the file, or ‘Yo’ it,” he jokes, sending the room into uproarious laughter with his nod to the briefly hot notification app. “I want to leave a lot of blanks for other people to fill in, both because it’s less work for me,” he later tells me with a smile, “and because it’s something for people to debate.” Houston is also working hard to ensure Dropbox feels like a collection of peers, at all levels of the company. It’s a philosophy that appeals to many Dropbox employees. On a chilly night in San Francisco’s Financial District, Ilya Fushman, head of business and mobile products, and Agarwal join Houston and me for dinner at the Battery, an exclusive restaurant and private club. Despite the posh surroundings, Fushman and Agarwal wax poetic about the egalitarian culture Houston and Ferdowsi have created. “It’s really hard to pull off creating an environment of peers,” says Agarwal, a former engineering director at Facebook who oversaw the development of its News Feed. “We hold ourselves accountable to expectations, and at a bunch of companies, that ends up being centralised. Drew’s my boss, but I prefer to think of him as a peer and friend.” One way Dropbox encourages a distributed sense of responsibility is by giving new hires hefty tasks. This is particularly true of the small engineering teams brought in by acquiring startups. Houston, Agarwal and Fushman, who winkingly refer to themselves as “Deal Team 6”, have overseen more than 20 such acquisitions in the past three years, and Houston notes that nearly all of these acquihires still work at the company. “They end up with a much bigger playground than they had before,” Houston says. For example, Gentry Underwood, cofounder of the popular Mailbox email app that Dropbox acquired in 2013, is now head of design. It’s a strategy that comes directly out of the Mark Zuckerberg playbook. Dropbox badge, which was launched in

March this year, is a product of exactly this mindset. The idea was originally suggested by Max ­Belanger, an intern. “I’m like, ‘Dude, it’s not possible. No, don’t do that,’ ” Houston says, laughing. Belanger stuck with his obsession and proved its feasibility anyway. He’s now a full-time engineer. Maintaining a peer-oriented, obsessively focused company is about to become more challenging than ever. The cloud is now the hottest, most competitive sector of technology innovation. Amazon has rebranded its cloud service, giving it the more consumer-friendly label “WorkDocs” and adding email management, the ability to store and share files up to five terabytes, and mobile apps for both Android and iOS. In February, Apple launched a slicker, cloudfocused replacement for iPhoto on OS X. And perhaps, most menacing of all, Microsoft’s mobile and cloud-based productivity mandate is starting to pay off. The company is set to garner about R66 billion in annual sales of its cloud-based services. In just two months, Nadella spent R3.6 billion to acquire Acompli, an app that anchors Microsoft’s rejuvenated Outlook app, and Sunrise, a popular calendar app. Even Houston’s buddy Zuck may prove to be a rival—his company is testing Facebook for Work. With the increased competition comes a new kind of glare. The antisurveillance crowd inveighs against popular cloud-based services; most recently, Edward Snowden warned the public to “get rid of” services such as Dropbox and Google Drive, claiming they didn’t offer enough privacy features for users or advocate on their behalf. (Dropbox’s addition of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to its board last year did little to quell fears.) The attention ramps up the pressure to get every detail right. “Dropbox just can’t ever screw up,” Ferdowsi admits. “If we ship out a version of Dropbox that deletes data erroneously, at scale, it’s kind of the end of the company.” Dropbox’s offices feature a blue neon sign that glows, it just works. It’s both a goal and a constant reminder to be ever vigilant. Houston acknowledges a certain level of pressure. Two years ago, he started taking what he calls “think days”—secluded, long weekends in a hotel in nearby Palo Alto or as far away as Maui—to escape and meditate on Dropbox’s position. He often returns with long manifestos. A student of tech history, Houston puts in context the dilemma about which he’s obsessing. “A while ago, people might have put an MP3 in their Dropbox, but why would you do that now, with Spotify and Pandora?” He cites Craigslist as an example of what could happen to his company if it falls behind. “You used to see Craigslist used for everything. And then Match.com takes away some, StubHub, and then Airbnb comes along. It gets unbundled. And we’re like, ‘Maybe this is gonna happen to us.’ So we should do that to ourselves instead of letting someone else do that to us.” This is Houston’s biggest concern—not Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft or Tencent. He’s worried about the next twenty-something who wedges her way into his user base and peels off Dropbox’s features before he can build more of them. His paranoia is not without cause: One of his former engineers, fellow MIT alum Michael Grinich, is already gunning for Dropbox’s Mailbox with his new email startup, Nilas. This gets to the heart of those discussions Houston regularly engages in with Kalanick: “How do you make sure,” explains the Uber CEO, “that you don’t become the big company that becomes rigid, brittle and disrupted by the new guy?” Like the many purchases made by his friend Zuckerberg, Houston’s acquisition spree may be as much about neutralising potential threats as it is adding to Dropbox’s talent and tools. While Microsoft pursued its splashy deals, “Deal Team 6” quietly added crews that build tools to let users create collaborative documents and assign to-do lists; that let designers share and work on CAD files; and that even have created a cloud-based word processor that Dropbox’s customers could use instead of Microsoft Word. Each feature could have chipped away at Dropbox’s utility. Now they will be integrated into Dropbox and rolled out later this year. Houston tells me that one of the first things he shows to new hires is a slide show that includes the logos of Netscape, Myspace, RIM, Lotus and Friendster. It almost seems absurd to me that a startup not even a decade old is already worried about being upended and becoming a cautionary tale. “What do these companies have in common?” Houston asks his new acolytes. “No one wears their T-shirts anymore, except maybe as a Halloween costume.” There’s a stack of free Dropbox T-shirts when you enter the offices. Houston is hell-bent on making sure they don’t become ironic garb for some Stanford business-school student with his head in the cloud. jmccorvey@fastcompany.com

MAY 2015  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   39


INSIDE THE

40   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A MAY 2015


ENTREPRENEUR Funding. Business model. Leadership. Technology. All important, but too often the entrepreneur’s personal journey gets overlooked. This new series focuses on what it really means to commit to an entrepreneur’s way of life. First up: Fear

By Ariane de Bonvoisin

Fear can mean the difference between pursuing your dream and not going for it. It can mean the difference between living an average life, meeting the standards of what is conventional—or, as Swedish artist Avicii sings, “liv[ing] a life you will remember”. Fear is at the root of our actions, choices and eventual decisions that shape our life. MAY 2015  FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A   41


For nearly 10 years, I had been working in the corporate world in New York City for three giant media companies. With every career move I made, I became a little less happy, made a little more money but felt a lot more trapped in a life I didn’t want—until I found myself, at the age of 28, running Time Warner’s almost R6-billion venture capital fund. It then dawned on me that I had climbed a high ladder, but that it was either the wrong ladder or leaning up against the wrong wall. So, what was I supposed to do? Leave it all behind—all the hard work, the prestige, the pay cheque? To go do what? Start an idea? But what idea? What would people think? How would I make money? I was a corporate girl, not an entrepreneur! And that’s when fear arrived. And it brought along most of its friends: doubt, impatience, anger, disapproval… What are the common fears confronting an entrepreneur?

FEAR OF HAVING NO SAFETY NET This usually encompasses money at its core. From where is your next pay cheque going to come, and how are you going to be able to provide not only for yourself but often a family as well?

FEAR OF HAVING NO CERTAINTY, NO PLAN, AND NO IDEA OF WHAT’S NEXT Yes, the entrepreneurial life is the opposite of comfort, routine and knowing what to expect day to day. Yet, that can be very exciting.

FEAR OF FAILURE Shame and humiliation of not succeeding in whatever your next endeavour is can create such fear, that many of us don’t even start or give something a try. Great entrepreneurs, though, are not hijacked by what people think or might say. They are human and still prone to the fear of failure, but they are able to take action.

FEAR OF NOT KNOWING WHAT TO DO, WHAT YOU LOVE, OR WHAT IDEA TO PICK The mind is an expert at preventing budding entrepreneurs from accessing their inspiration. It finds countless ways to stop you, putting even more fear in the way. Watch the mind, but go beyond it to the creative part in you.

FEAR OF ALL THE GOOD IDEAS HAVING BEEN TAKEN ALREADY Scarcity of mind is not a quality of good entrepreneurs. On the contrary, they see more of everything: more ways to make money, more good people to hire and with whom to work, more investors to put in money, more people wanting to use what they are offering… Abundance is their word.

FEAR OF NOT BEING GOOD ENOUGH This is at the root of so much of our behaviour. The mind will dictate all the reasons you don’t have what it takes. You’re not alone here. Sometimes this belief never goes away, but you can still march ahead proudly. Let me ask you: What about the fear of never giving your idea or side project a real chance? What about the fear of not showing yourself—and even your children—that it’s possible, and even important, to do what you love? What about the fear of being bored, not learning, not growing as a person, not contributing, and simply being tied to someone else’s rules and clock? And the fear of not having more time to spend with your family and kids as they grow up, or never being able to travel and explore the world? Don’t be afraid of squeezing the best out of life, of finding out what you’re made of; taking the path less travelled, trusting that things will work out in the end, that there is always a way, and that being an entrepreneur is a fun, crazy and wild ride. Some of the biggest fears show up even before you make the decision to change your

life. Once that’s done, the fear always subsides. A feeling of courage often takes its place, or a deeper belief in yourself, as you know what it takes for you to follow through. And my own story? Well, it took me two years of facing my fears before I found the courage to make a change, to find my inner resolve and my faith in life; to allow my identity to shift away from the certainty of a permanent job in the financial/business world to the inspirational/personal development sector. And, most importantly, I realised I was fed up of being in a career I no longer loved and of hearing my inner voice tell me each morning: “You’re in the wrong job!” So I trusted that voice more than all the fears. I resigned, travelled a bit to change my perspective and, in the last few years, launched two websites, wrote four books, started doing keynote speeches and, most recently, released a new app: Mindful365—living a conscious life, one day at a time. I was not a writer when I started, had never built a website let alone raised money; I hated public speaking and had a fear of apps and technology in general. But now I’m more myself and a hell of a lot happier day to day. Yes, fear does come along: when you’re writing the business plan, pitching investors, launching a website for the first time, figuring how to meet payroll etc. But fear isn’t in the driver’s seat anymore; a bigger part of you is. A part that knows, in the end, there is nothing to fear other than missing out on the chance to change your life. Listen to that inner voice. What is it telling you? Is now the time? What do you love? What idea keeps coming back to you? What choices would you make if you weren’t afraid? Why do you want to be an entrepreneur? To quote the late Nelson Mandela, “I learnt that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

REMEMBER THE FOLLOWING WHEN FEAR SHOWS UP: 1. Identify what inside you is stronger and more courageous than your fear, and why you want to become an entrepreneur. This is your personal fuel to which you can keep coming back.

2. Always breathe more consciously when the fearful thoughts arrive. When the breath is calm, the mind is also much calmer. Learn to meditate—it’s the secret sauce.

3. Whatever you end up working on, remind yourself that you are helping others. When everything isn’t only about you, things often work out easier. The ego and its fears are a little less in control.

4. It’s always a good idea to stop, take a break, change your state, and come back to what you are working on. Fear doesn’t like being interrupted, so take a timeout when you need to.

Ariane de Bonvoisin is a life-change expert, speaker and entrepreneur who now lives in Cape Town. She is the founder and CEO of First 30 Days (www.First30Days.com), and author of The First 30 Days: Your Guide to Making Any Change Easier, as well as Living Healthier, Pursuing Your Dreams and What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Writing A Book—and her latest, A Foot in Both Worlds, in progress. Visit www.arianedebonvoisin.com for more information.

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THANK YOU 300 MILLION TIMES

Honda's cumulative worldwide motorcycle production reached the 300 million-unit milestone in September 2014.The 300 million-unit milestone was reached in the 66th year since Honda began motorcycle production in 1949 with the Dream Type-D. "Thanks to support from our customers and all of the people involved in development, production and sales, Honda was able to reach the 300 million-unit milestone. We will continue to provide products that will please our customers in each country and region in the world.

www.honda.co.za facebook.com/hondasa twitter.com/hondasa care@honda.co.za Toll Free: 0800 466 321


MASTER CLASS

From doc(tor) to doc(umentary) Mukherjee wants to help people think about cancer differently.

Healing hand T H E AU T H O R O F C A N CER H I S TO RY TH E EM PER O R O F ALL MALAD I ES I S B R I N G I N G H I S M E S S AG E O F H O PE TO A PB S FI LM B A S ED O N HIS BOOK

By Adam Bluestein

Photograph by Rene & Radka

Cancer is a difficult topic, but Siddhartha Mukherjee’s 2010 book, The Emperor of All Maladies, was such a compelling look at the history and future of the disease that it turned into a critical hit and unexpected best-seller (as well as the winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-fiction). Now Maladies has been turned into a three-part, six-hour documentary that began airing on United States broadcaster,

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PBS, from March 30. Directed by Barak Goodman (Scottsboro: An American Tragedy) and executiveproduced by Ken Burns, the film has an ambitious goal: to shift the popular conversation around cancer by emphasising the impressive progress that scientists are making in both understanding and treating it. “Most people still haven’t fully swallowed the changes that life sciences have brought about in our lives,” Mukherjee says.


“The interaction of basic and applied science has had a transformative effect.” Mukherjee, a professor at Columbia University’s Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center and a practising oncologist, explains how he’s getting people to change the way they think about this under-discussed subject.

MAKE IT PERSONAL Patients’ experiences drive Maladies’ narrative both on the page and on screen. “Throughout the book, I tried to intersperse real-life stories with vast scientific breakthroughs or failures,” says Mukherjee. “Ken and Barak and I agreed that the film— although it’s a history—also needed to follow people in real time to show how the abstract world of knowledge converted into the real world of human patients. We wanted to convey the excitement: This is science brought to life. The patients’ stories show how we’re seeing the war play out in real life, in real terms.”

BROADEN YOUR VIEW

COURTESY OF PBS (MUKHER JEE AND BURNS)

To reach a wide audience, Mukherjee realised he needed an inviting approach. As a stem-cell biologist who spends most of his time in a laboratory, he knew a lot about cancer at the micro level, but the issue was how to pull in lay readers. “I had to take a step back and ask, ‘Where are we in this landscape?’ ” he says. “To answer that question, I had to take a historical approach. History is the tool that allows us to understand the future from the past.

That was the genesis of the book. Although there are 4 000 books on the history of the Civil War, nobody had written a book on the history of cancer.”

ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS An avid reader who considered majoring in philosophy before turning his focus to medicine, Mukherjee believes his broad education helped him frame the book. “My scientific training taught me how to ask questions in the laboratory,” he says. “But it’s outside the lab where you have to figure out whether the questions are important or not. The scientific and humanistic approaches have to be combined in some way—so you can be extremely incisive on one hand, but also know that the questions you’re asking are valuable enough to carry real thinking.”

PAGE TO SCREEN THREE LESSONS MUKHERJEE LEARNT WHILE TURNING HIS BOOK INTO A FILM

C E L E B R AT E P R O G R E S S Mukherjee says that he and the filmmakers were careful not to put an overly optimistic spin on our decades-long war on cancer. But it’s impossible to deny that real progress is being made—and quickly. “We’re making discoveries by the day that are being translated into new therapies,” he says. “Hope is not an artifice in the film. There’s a sober quality to it, because every inch that’s been gained was gained on the backs of thousands of patients. But inches have translated into feet, feet into territories, and the progress has been remarkable.”

“A rule we had on camera was that no one should speak with props: Your hands should be able to convey anything. When you see that on film, it’s amazing. You see the brightest minds—Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners—using just their hands. That’s great filmmaking. You realise that storytelling is so much more powerful than anything else.”

Story is king

Know when to ‘switch brains’

Revise. Then revise again Dynamic duo Mukherjee with Ken Burns, who is executive-producing the PBS film

“In science and in filmmaking, when you’re starting out, being too critical can kill off a great idea. In that early phase, it’s a very intuitive kind of brain that works. In contrast, when the work matures, you want to be sceptical. You want to be critical. You have to know when to switch over, inside your own brain, between those modes.” “When the film was fully shot, the entire crew sat down and watched the whole thing for six hours straight one evening. Then we had the most important conversation— intensify that, weaken that, change this around. And this process happened not once, but two or three times—and every time what emerged was a more refined product.”

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SOUTH AFRICANS ON TOP OF THE WORLD How our talented locals are making big names for themselves abroad

Ross Garrett

By Chris Waldburger

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Crazy normal Trevor Noah has a distinctly South African ability to take prosaic ugliness, the real issues of everyday life, and allow his audience to see it in a poetic way.


Despite a highly complicated history, a relatively small economy and years of global isolation, South Africa has never failed to provide the world of celebrity with its own bright talents.

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Gallo Images/ Getty Images/ Eamonn McCormack

D

In March, it was announced that South African comedian Trevor Noah would be taking the helm of the immensely popular and influential The Daily Show, a late-night talk and satirical news show that provides running commentary on American politics; an astounding feat for a comedian hailing originally from humble Soweto. Noah takes the chair from Jon Stewart, an actor/comedian/ film director who has become part of the American landscape when it comes to both comedy and political debate. The intriguing aspect of the appointment is that Noah, a foreign comedian, will—by default—become a much-observed American political commentator, albeit in the guise of comedic entertainment. One can’t help but think the show’s producers, besides having in mind his unquestioned comic talents, would also have felt that Noah, in his personal history as a South African, presents himself as a kind of canvas for discussion of the big issues facing the body politic globally. In his first appearance as one of Stewart’s ‘correspondents’, Noah wryly observed, in the wake of a series of high-profile police shootings, “I never thought I’d be more afraid of police in America than in South Africa… It kind of makes me a little nostalgic for the old days back home.” But that does not mean Noah will be playing off his heritage for cheap laughs. In his first appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, he noted that he hates being introduced as a comedian from Africa: “They make it sound like a guy in leopard skin’s going to come running on the stage.” Noah, who moved to the United States in 2011, has always had an international flavour to his style, likely consequent to his ability to speak six different languages, as well as his propensity to tour the world. He grew up in South Africa as the son of a black mother and a white Swiss father, whose union was considered illegal under the apartheid regime. Noah recounts that his mother was briefly imprisoned as a result. He would take the material of his upbringing and transfigure it into comedy in specials such as the now classic, That’s Racist. With Noah’s willingness to make light of serious issues, it was perhaps no surprise that the announcement of his taking the chair of The Daily Show was met with some serious controversy, with critics sifting through old tweets to find apparently anti-Semitic and misogynist material. Noah, besides being defended by Jewish leaders, would defend himself on Twitter, stating: “To reduce my views to a handful of jokes that didn’t land is not a true reflection


A million ways to succeed in the West In 2013, Vulture/New York Magazine named Charlize Theron the 68th Most Valuable Star in Hollywood: “We’re just happy that Theron can stay on the list in a year when she didn’t come out with anything... [A]ny actress who’s got that kind of skill, beauty and ferocity ought to have a permanent place in Hollywood.”

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South Africa’s own rendition “South Africans are at last beginning to feel that they can tell all kinds of stories,” says film director Gavin Hood.

Intriguingly, that other big South African Hollywood celebrity, Charlize Theron, shares something in common with Noah: both have seen the ugliness of domestic violence up close. Theron’s mother shot her father in self-defence, while Noah’s mother was herself shot by an ex-husband. Whether this points to the statistics of household abuse, or the virtue of both Theron and Noah in transcending tough circumstances, it perhaps also hints at the South African desire to overcome. As history recounts, Theron would go on to win an Oscar for portraying, in all her darkness and complexity, Aileen Wuornos: a real-life serial killer in America who, following a childhood marred by trauma and abuse, goes on a killing spree of men, after defending herself against rape as a prostitute. Renowned film reviewer Roger Ebert named Monster the best film of its year, and wrote: “What Charlize Theron achieves in Patty Jenkins’ Monster isn’t a performance but an embodiment... it is one of the greatest performances in the history of the cinema.” Theron has since added social activism to her cinematic career, launching the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project to stem the ongoing HIV/Aids pandemic in Africa. CTAOP awards grants to community organisations on the ground for the purposes of preventing HIV transmission.

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In addition to this, Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, named Theron a UN Messenger of Peace in 2008, reading in his citation: “You have consistently dedicated yourself to improving the lives of women and children in South Africa…” Theron is not, however, the country’s only Oscar winner. When Gavin Hood won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for Tsotsi, the film adaptation of a novel by South African theatre giant Athol Fugard, he went one better than Darrell Roodt’s nomination for his film, Yesterday. Hood has since gone on to direct some massive blockbusters in Hollywood, notably Wolverine, Rendition and Ender’s Game— featuring stars such as Hugh Jackman, Reese Witherspoon and Harrison

Gallo Images/ Getty Images/ Dave J Hogan

of my character, nor my evolution as a comedian.” Comedy Central, the cable channel responsible for the show, issued its own statement: “Like many comedians, Trevor Noah pushes boundaries; he is provocative and spares no one, himself included... To judge him or his comedy based on a handful of jokes is unfair. Trevor is a talented comedian with a bright future at Comedy Central.” Perhaps what makes Noah’s future so bright is a distinctly South African ability to take prosaic ugliness, the real issues of everyday life, and allow his audience to see it in a poetic way: as something ironic, tragic, and thus deeply and humanly comic. In this way, he is, somehow, able to use a kind of acid humour to discuss the likes of Boko Haram, continued racism, all in a way that provokes debate within laughter. Such a formula has launched him to the forefront of US media. But Noah is just the latest in a long line of South Africans who have captured the world’s limelight.


Under the table and dreaming

Gallo Images/ Getty Images/ Scott Legato

In early 1991, vocalist and guitarist Dave Matthews decided to put on tape some songs he had written—and the Dave Matthews Band was born.

Ford. For a South African audience who grew up with Hood as the protagonist in the rugby drama, The Game, on TV1 (as it was then known), his subsequent rise is nothing short of meteoric. Hood, who was at pains to describe Tsotsi not as a black film but as a universal coming-of-age story, believes South African cinema is on an upward curve as it matures as a nation. “What is truly exciting is that South Africans are at last beginning to feel that they can tell all kinds of stories. Which is exactly the point of a liberal democracy.” Hood himself studied law at the University of the Witwatersrand, where he came across a case that would inspire him to write the screenplay for the acclaimed, A Reasonable Man. After his television work, and winning an American award for his script, he would go on to bring his script to life—leading

him next to Tsotsi, and then to Hollywood lights. His next film is titled Eye in the Sky, and will examine the rise of covert drone warfare. “We are all connected electronically, but we’re more disconnected now than ever before. We can pinpoint whom we attack now. When a missile is fired, the crew is asked to go back and inspect the bodies. It’s shocking and troubling, but it’s making us more aware of the consequences of our actions.” The film will star Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul and Alan Rickman. Coincidentally, Hood’s high school career at St Stithians College in Johannesburg would briefly overlap

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This little chappie went to Hollywood Sharlto Copley first met Neill Blomkamp in the mid1990s, and they have since become a dynamic and creative filmmaking duo in the US.


Gallo Images/ Getty Images/ David Livingston

with yet another celebrated South African export, Dave Matthews, of the Dave Matthews Band. After being born and schooled in Joburg, the future indie-rock superstar would leave South Africa to avoid military service (Matthews had been raised a pacifist Quaker), and would settle in New York before moving to Charlottesville, Virginia, where the band would form around his songwriting talents and gradually build a global cult following. In 2013, he would bring his band ‘home’ for the first time, playing to sell-outs in Cape Town and Joburg, along with frequent collaborator, folk singer Vusi Mahlasela, as well as the legendary Hugh Masekela. Matthews is a double Grammy winner, whose music frequently displays its South African roots. He recalls that playing music with the men who worked at his uncle’s dairy would be formative in his career. Perhaps a more recent South African breakout has been the director/actor duo of Neill Blomkamp and Sharlto Copley. Blomkamp, like Matthews, would emigrate to Canada straight after attending high school at Johannesburg’s Redhill (along with Copley). From film school in Vancouver, Blomkamp would establish himself as one of television’s leading animators before catching the eye of The Lord of the Rings supremo Peter Jackson, who agreed to produce a film based on a short film previously made by Copley and Blomkamp, titled Alive in Joburg. The film was District 9, an eerily familiar story of aliens living in segregated slums in Johannesburg, and it would go on to be a global smash hit—garnering Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. Blomkamp would later direct Matt Damon and Jodie Foster (as well as Copley again) in the high-grossing Elysium; and after something of a misfire with the artificial intelligence film Chappie, he is set to take the helm of James Cameron’s Alien franchise, with Sigourney Weaver due to return to play the iconic Ripley. He has shown his oeuvre to be one of blending social commentary with science fiction, and creating an interaction between the two. It was this facet of his filmmaking that led him to being named in 2010 as one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. The citation, written by legendary director Ridley Scott, speaks for itself: “From time to time, there are people in the film industry who appear on the horizon with a unique vision. South African director Neill Blomkamp is one of those rare people… His first feature, the improbable but utterly engaging alien-apartheid allegory District 9, has already brought him more acclaim than most filmmakers will ever achieve... I know that we all look forward to seeing what lies ahead for this game-changing filmmaker.” Meanwhile, Copley has gone on to star in The A-Team,

and opposite Angelina Jolie in the fairy-tale adaptation, Maleficent. Equally now a part of the big-time Hollywood acting game is Fana Mokoena. Born in the Free State’s Kroonstad, he has come to fame playing a Rwandan general in the haunting Hotel Rwanda, as well as a fictional UN secretary-general in the Brad Pitt feature, World War Z. He most recently played Govan Mbeki in Long Walk to Freedom. After his breakout in the zombie film, World War Z, Mokoena noted: “I don’t want to be typecast… I think there’s a very limited understanding of us as artists on this continent. We are seen as this type, so it would be amazing for me to break that mould.” In short, South African actors are slowly becoming a staple of big Hollywood fare, even while our directors demonstrate their unique visions from behind the camera. As Hood and Blomkamp so clearly demonstrate, South Africans have stories to tell. And one of our most acclaimed storytellers is Nobel laureate, the novelist JM Coetzee.

South African actors are slowly becoming a staple of big Hollywood fare, even while our directors demonstrate their unique visions from behind the camera.

Coetzee, a former professor of Literature at the University of Cape Town, has written the masterpieces Waiting for the Barbarians and Disgrace, subtly pulling apart the strands that make up both the apartheid and postapartheid zeitgeist. Indeed, in winning the Man Booker Prize twice (for Disgrace and Life & Times of Michael K), he has offered his vision of a haunted and haunting South Africa to the literary and academic world. This, in turn, has created a reputation for Coetzee of being the most esteemed (yet enigmatic) English author currently alive. Coetzee, along with Noah, Theron, Hood et al, demonstrate what all South Africans already know: There is talent aplenty in this country to compete internationally, as well as offer art distinguished by a South African edge. These forerunners have all bashed down the door; it is now simply a matter of who wants to follow.

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Next

MY WAY Go, go, gadget girl Hundermark says she is a geek at heart who lives and breathes mobile.

Lady Willpower LYNET TE HUNDERMARK IS PROOF THAT A WOMAN WORKING IN TECH DOES NOT MEAN JUST SIT TING IN THE CORNER, CODING

By Jamie Langeveldt


“IT IS MUCH BETTER FOR ME DEVELOPMENT-WISE TO BE AMONG INDIVIDUALS FROM OTHER SECTORS TO LEARN ABOUT OTHER INDUSTRIES, CHALLENGES, HIGHS AND LOWS” The scarcity of women in the technology sector, both locally and abroad, is well documented. The key to females making giant strides in this sector is through trusting their abilities and not being intimidated by their immediate environments, believes Lynette Hundermark, co-founder and chief product officer of Useful & Beautiful (U&B), a boutique South African company that delivers engaging mobile experiences. This powerful role model in technology encourages other women to do what they are passionate about. “It took me a year longer to have the courage to do what I am doing. I was afraid of failure; I looked out and only saw men doing it. I had to take that leap of faith and go with it and trust that I could do it. Yes, there are loads of men— but once you reach out to them, they are actually very encouraging and supportive, and welcome entrepreneurs of all genders. Perseverance and consistency is the key,” she adds. Hundermark feels that women should not shy away from entering the tech sector. “Females in particular seem to think that working in tech means you have to be a geek in the corner, coding. While sometimes it may start out that way (I was one of those geeks in the corner for almost eight years), it certainly does not have to stay that way.

Tech is wonderful, dynamic and so full of progress. If you are willing to embrace it, there are no limits to what you can achieve,” she told WomeninTechZA. As an expert tech commentator and opinion leader, Hundermark is making her mark (excuse the pun) in the world of digital marketing. She co-founded U&B with George Reed while they worked at Prezence Digital, creating mobile solutions for big brands such as Ster-Kinekor, Leisure Books, Old Mutual, General Electric and bidorbuy. The company creates mobile apps and mobi sites that are tailored specifically for the African market. “We believe that by being focused on the mobile space, we can offer this premium expert service to our clients. “U&B combines the best of creative and technology expertise to create products that are both ‘useful’ and ‘beautiful’ to the person using them, and to the business that has invested in them,” Hundermark explains. The name was inspired by a quote by English designer and poet, William Morris: “Have nothing in your house that you do not

know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Or in this case, on your mobile. She dedicates a large part of her time to clients. “I work very closely with clients or businesses to help them understand how mobile can fit into their current processes. I spend a lot of time understanding my clients’ needs, challenges and objectives so that I can empower them with a mobile strategy that not only fits their target market’s needs but also adds value to their business. I also make sure their mobile strategy fits in with their overall business strategy so that mobile is not treated as a silo,” she notes. Hundermark’s decision to bootstrap her business has contributed to shaping who she is as a female entrepreneur, she says. “It’s taught me responsibility and made me very ‘streetaware’ businesswise when it comes to managing budgets, cash flow, expenses and accountability. It has helped me learn the true value of things, and I have definitely grown in character—more so in the last nine months than I ever did while working at a corporate

for 15 years,” she adds. She believes every woman needs a role model who can help guide and inspire her. That is why she is involved in a variety of mentorship programmes that aim to build a greater community of passionate people—particularly women—in the tech and mobile field. She is also a firm believer in networking with other females, and is a member of the recently founded VOICES Female Networking Club that officially launched in April. It gives women a platform to ‘find their voice’ and to make them visible to the business world. “What is so lovely about VOICES is that it isn’t limited to a particular sector; women can come together from all fields and chat. Some organisations are quite industry-specific, which is not a bad thing but, for someone like me who is an expert in my field, who is around tech people all the time, it is much better for me development-wise to be among individuals from other sectors to learn about other industries, challenges, highs and lows, and to be inspired by other women in other fields,” she notes.

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PROTOTYPE

Next

1

2

1. The corkscrew

2. The scallop

This swirly robot was ­d eveloped by teams in ­ Israel and Germany. Don’t be scared: “It’s not like you ­inject them and then they move around the whole body,” says r­ esearcher, Alexander ­Leshansky. Instead, doctors direct the robot via an external magnetic field, which also provides power. What it’s good for: ­Agility. With a diameter of barely a micron (a human hair is 50 to 100 microns), the corkscrew is too small to navigate the strong current of the bloodstream. But its size does let it move through tiny spaces such as the pores of a cell membrane.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Germany have developed a device that pulls itself along by opening and closing two shell-like silicone wings. What it’s good for: Power. The 800-micronwide bot keeps moving even in thick bodily ­fluids. It would be able to deliver a drug directly to the gel-like vitreous of the eye, for ­example—a more effective way of getting medicine where it’s needed.

3. The cage The nickel-coated cage developed by researchers in South Korea, Hong Kong and Zurich is about 100 microns long, and is also powered by electromagnetic field. What it’s good for: ­C argo. With its large surface area, the cage is able to transport more drugs than other designs, and could even possibly transport cells to be used for tissue and ­organ regeneration.

Stealth doctors M I CR O S CO PI C R O B OT S W I LL D ELI V ER M ED S TO PL ACE S N OT H I N G EL S E C A N R E ACH

By Ben Schiller

Tiny machines that roam our bodies, delivering drugs and killing tumours: It sounds like science fiction, but someday— depending on how long it takes ­d evices such as the three seen here to reach the market—it’ll be just plain science.

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3

Illustration by Timothy J. Reynolds


YOUR BRILLIANCE

CAN MAKE A

DIFFERENCE This private sector initiative brings together Innovators, Technologists, Researchers, and Entrepreneurs in a global innovation ecosystem. The goal is to crowdsource top technologies that could be leveraged and scaled to tackle the daily challenges of impoverished and under-serviced people around the globe. Our ideation platform, powered by IdeaScale, acts as a tool to confront the many challenges UNICEF is looking to tackle by allowing community members to post ideas, interact with experts, and vote, thereby allowing the best ideas to bubble up to the top. Think your idea has what it takes? Join our community and see how Your Brilliance Can Make a Difference! Connect at causetech.net

CAUSE tech

.NET

Š 2015 CMO Council and BPI Network


Tomorrow’s designs today WE NEED PEOPLE WHO CAN CHALLENGE CONVENTION AND LOOK TO FUTURE SOLUTIONS TO REPURPOSE THE WAY WE LIVE By Louise Marsland


The Poise chair Louw Roets is a Cape Townbased product designer who believes in creating conceptual pieces that have minimal impact on the environment, such as this chair made with kudu leather, bent plywood and oak veneer.

Design Indaba is one of the world’s premier gatherings of global design thinkers, artists, brand strategists and marketers. The objective of the annual six-day festival held in Cape Town each February— comprising conference and expo, music and film festivals, fashion shows, food and installations— is to create a better world through creativity and sustainable design.

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This event is for any person in the creative industries —and, indeed, business—to put on a bucket list. It is up there with the annual Cannes Lions International Festival  of Creativity in France and the SXSW art, culture and technology festival in Austin, Texas, in terms of stature and importance. Design Indaba challenges conventional thinking and offers solutions to complex global problems. Ideas are explored, played with, expanded. It challenges different thinking and inspires creativity. It aims to use design to come up with sustainable solutions for the planet and takes visitors right outside their comfort zone. The number of people attending the conference, expo and sideshows runs close to 50 000 for all the events, including the conference simulcasts in other major centres in South Africa. The bespoke conference, featuring sought-after local and international speakers, is the main event—headlining the best design thought leadership in the world. It is straddled by the expo, which showcases those ideas and concepts in tangible form, featuring fashion shows, food trucks, art installations, jewellery, furniture, solutionbased design products.

Each of the three conference days features between 10 and 15 speakers, drawn from all creative disciplines across the globe. This year was exceptional, with performance art from world-renowned artist William Kentridge; a sideshow to the best brands in the world from the eccentric Stanley Hainsworth, an actor of moderate fame and now chief creative officer of Tether; Los Angeles food truck culture founder, Roy Choi; Saturday Night Live designer Emily Oberman; to the forthright Dan Wieden, founder of the world’s largest independent advertising agency, Weiden+Kennedy—the brand architect of Nike’s success—and our own Robbie Brozin, founder and owner of Nando’s. The following were the key takeaways for brands and the creative industry at this year’s festival, from the stellar conference speaker line-up:

NOTICE THE EDGES South Africa’s most internationally acclaimed artist, Kentridge gave a jaw-dropping performance on the last day of the Indaba, incorporating his art and dancers and music on the main stage, all directed by the master himself. He entreated the audience to practise peripheral thinking, to look at what is going on “at the margins”. “Circling my studio, there is a consistent peripheral vision and text. Parallel to this peripheral vision is a peripheral thinking… I am interested in the porousness of thoughts.” His advice was to free-associate, to allow random thoughts, to follow the trail of those thoughts that pop up and see where they lead and the questions they pose. “In the studio, elements outside of the frame are crucial to the pressure of thought. Art is not to defend the centre, but to be open to that which is essential to the centre. Our understanding of history, imperfect and idiosyncratic, is always shaped by our own biography.”

FAIL HARDER The core message from legendary ad man Wieden of Wieden+Kennedy, the largest independent agency network in the world, was to give yourself and your people permission to fail—and then fail harder. Wieden, who coined the Nike tagline, “Just Do It”, elaborated: “You have to be able to fail if you are going to do anything worthwhile. I encourage people to ‘walk in stupid every morning’.” He said culture was why his agency was a global success; establishing a culture where people are allowed to fail enables them to take greater risks, thereby generating the provocative advertising for which Wieden+Kennedy has been known to produce for clients such as Nike.

Most Beautiful Object in SA Inspired by a snake skeleton and nicknamed The Boomslang, the lowmaintenance and low-impact curved steel-and-timber Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway winds and dips through and over the trees of the arboretum at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town. The project was a collaboration between Mark Thomas Architects, and Henry Fagan & Partners.

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This is My Africa Michelle Liao creates traditional jewellery using precious and semi-precious metals, while incorporating alternative mediums such as scoobie wire, paper and resin.

BE APPROACHABLE Human interactions are the most meaningful life events, believes Hainsworth, originally an actor who appeared in the movie My Private Idaho alongside actors River Phoenix and

Keanu Reeves; and then went on to become one of the most famous creative directors, working on Nike, Lego and Starbucks. In 2008, he founded Tether, a global creative, cross-discipline studio. He gels his receding hairline into two “devil’s peaks”; it makes people come up and talk to him, creating connections and conversations that would never have happened otherwise. “Our lives are a series of intersections. In life, the most powerful things are the human interactions we have. I talk to everyone.” On brands, Hainsworth rhapsodises: “Brands are religious, and we try to get the converts.”

CHALLENGE ASSUMPTIONS

It is so important for the creative mind to be exposed to other ideas and cultures, and for our thought patterns to be challenged hard to stimulate new ideas and inculcate a design-led culture.

When The Workers digital product design studio founders Ross Cairns and Tommaso Lanza got together, they had no plan. They set up their studio and refused to define themselves in a particular design philosophy. In fact, they became “serial collaborators”, not defining themselves by one medium or design direction but rather embracing them all so as not to restrict their thinking or creativity. “We wanted to expose ourselves to a palette of opportunities… this is what we bring to the table,” said Lanza. They have immersed themselves in digital technology and their After Dark campaign for the Tate Modern—featuring robots that users could control from their computers to view the priceless art—went interstellar. “Challenge expectations; don’t have assumptions of what is and isn’t.”

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IMAGINE THE IMPOSSIBLE The Pecha Kucha (a presentation style in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each) section of Design Indaba gives top design students from around the world the opportunity to present their final-year projects. Kathryn Fleming from the Royal College of Art investigated how biotechnology could give the human race the ability to assemble genes in a different way to build new kingdoms of species. For example, zoos could implement species survival plans, including hybrid animals, to maximise their strengths and enable them to live in more urbanised environments and interact with humans. She imagined all kinds of new

animal species including a combination cat/dog with six legs that creates a light show with reflective fur; or a gazelle with the neck of a giraffe and balance of a goat, which can harvest fruit from overhanging canopies. “I have imagined these creatures to ask if we can become designers and creators of our own wilderness, where we can create beautiful future life forms that can continue to evolve as our world changes around us,” she explained.

POSITIONING FOR CREATIVE DISRUPTION Creative and brand specialist Shubhankar Ray disrupts branding. “A brand has to stand for something in the 21st century. In modern culture, there are many messages—and the ones that tick are relevant because you can feel them. Today, it is the impact of what someone does that matters—the opposite of advertising.” Ray, the global brand director at G-Star, “recontextualises” brands, creates creative disruption by breaking the rules—like getting the late great actor Dennis Hopper to strut a runway at New York Fashion Week and recite 18th-century poetry for the denim brand. “A lot of this stuff is cheaper than advertising and creates more of a splash,” says Ray. He has also created a record label for G-Star, a virtual nightclub/museum, pop-up gallery; and the world’s first denim made from recycled ocean plastic and nettle, in a campaign fronted by musician Pharrell Williams. Take 2 Philippe Bousquet and Carrie Pratt have designed a lounge chair made from a shopping trolley, merging their love of design with their desire to live more consciously and carefully on the planet. This design rethinks the concept of a discarded, broken-down item and reimagines it as something of value.

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THE CHANNEL OF YOU Ray also advises brands to earn media, not to buy media. “It is smart to own media and earn media. Media gives context to content. Consumers today are looking for more immersive ways to engage with the media. Today, everything is condensed down into one channel: The Channel of YOU!” He believes brand impact, which is a driver of earned media, is cheaper and more efficient than the brand awareness created by advertising where “a lot” of money is needed. This world is one where boundaries are blurred and artificial conventions no longer apply. Brands need to create desire for people to want them to enhance their own ‘Pinterest lives’.


AFRICAN ATTITUDES

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MARKETING BEYOND THE NUMBERS A B R E A K D O W N O F T H E C O N T I N E N T ’ S A R C H E T Y PA L C O N S U M E R L A N D S CA P E : W H AT D O A F R I CA N S WA N T AND NEED?

W

SURVIVOR Whether subsisting off the land, living in slums or struggling to support large numbers of dependants, survivors are anxious about safety, job security and being able to get by. They take comfort in things such as friends and family.

BOSS

In our pan-African segmentation projects over the past few years, we identified over 50 consumer segments. While each is dependent on the culture, history, language and specific context of that market, a number of common themes emerge—giving eight archetypal African consumers. This map provides a starter kit for brand messaging and product development that meets real needs, and taps into ambitions and attitudes of consumers in the markets they are trying to enter.

Optimists are the jokers, jesters and lovers of life. They are sociable, outgoing and positive—believing things are good and getting better. Optimists connect with brands that give them a reason to smile.

MENTOR Mentors are the wise, respected members of the community. People seek their advice and guidance, and trust what they have to say. They can be community leaders, religious figures, traditional healers or anyone with a concern for the community who wields influence for the common good. They are typically humble and conservative, and are not swayed by trends or fads.

Caregivers are the largest segment of consumers, showing the importance of nurture, care and ubuntu to Africans. Sociable and networked in their communities, they get a sense of fulfilment from providing for loved ones and contributing to the well-being of others. They have down-to-earth family values, a no-nonsense approach, and look for brands that offer good value. Traditionalists are sceptical of outside influences and dislike the arrogance of foreign brands. They are fiercely proud of local culture and customs—whether national, tribal or religious. Traditionalists are sociable and community-minded, choosing brands that honour the way they like to do things.

global and local brands looking to expand, it’s surprising how little has been written to help marketers understand consumers in this vast, complex and diverse continent. Building powerful brands requires deep insight into people’s needs and motivations—not only their economic status or demographic data.

OPTIMIST

CAREGIVER

TRADITIONALIST

ITH SO MUCH interest in Africa from

THE AFRICAN CONSUMER

Alistair Mackay

Settled, stable and financially secure, bosses have an attitude of power and privilege. Their focus is on themselves and their immediate family, but they are often influential in the wider community or their religious institutions. Brands win bosses over with luxury, respect and discernment.

INVENTOR

CAREGIVERS ARE THE LARGEST SEGMENT OF CONSUMERS, SHOWING THE IMPORTANCE OF NURTURE, CARE AND UBUNTU TO AFRICANS.

Africa is buzzing with inventors. From tech entrepreneurs in Kenya’s Silicon Savannah to street traders, to artists and crafters—inventors are creative, energetic and indomitable. They love brands that help them express themselves or create something new.

GO-GETTER Go-getters are young, aspirational and highly ambitious; they work hard and play hard. They are receptive to Western brands, tastes and technologies but intensely proud of their local culture and place in the world. Go-getters influence youth culture; it takes understanding their ambitions, the cultural icons they find cool, and offering top-notch customer service. Alistair Mackay is marketing manager at Yellowwood Future Architects. For demographic skews, segment sizes and examples of how to connect with these key archetypal consumers across Africa, download Yellowwood’s latest white paper: “African Attitudes— Marketing beyond the numbers”. Contact Mackay via email: alm@ywood.co.za.

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From bread to Toast Adriaan Swanepoel, who has been collecting little plastic bread tags for years, is giving them a second chance at life. He has crafted beautiful lighting features called Toast, by linking the tags with metal rings to form a mat that resembles chain mail.

THE IMPORTANCE OF PLAY British designer Dominic Wilcox has dedicated his life to finding the ‘place’ where ideas live. He works from a tree sometimes to get away. He has come up with wacky concepts stimulated by ideas such as: a dual-use coffin/work desk conversion for people who work hard all their lives and then die; and Name GPS for those who forget names in social situations. His crazy ideas are fun and bring playfulness to the fore. “The ideas are all there, waiting to be found. They are all around us.” The key points by these impressive speakers were supported by presentations that challenged the status quo, such as

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Ng’endo Mukii who questioned the prevailing image of Africa, projected out there as a continent plagued by death, destruction, disease and danger. She questioned what the indigenous African is and the conflict she felt on seeing how the media in her native Kenya, for example, portrayed what being African means. “How can we move forward positively with this image of Africa?” She produced an animated film, the acclaimed Yellow Fever, with music and dance to experiment with the idea of a disappearing sense of self, using dancers and animated drawings. Self-proclaimed “textile nerd” Cindy Khumalo is inspired by African designs and traditions from her home continent in the textile patterns she produces in London. Her designs are a blueprint of imagery from traditional Nguni culture and the intricate beadwork designs that characterise it. She collaborates with people from indigenous communities to take their art and craft further in her designs. It is this that makes Design Indaba so unique: this eclectic collection of artists, designers and thinkers from around the world who challenge convention and look to future solutions to repurpose the way we live. It is so important for the creative mind to be exposed to other ideas and cultures, and for our thought patterns to be challenged hard to stimulate new ideas and inculcate a design-led culture.


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WANTED

The new

A study in contrast T H E K AT ED R A D E S K , CR E AT ED BY S LOV EN I A N D E S I G N FI R M D E S N A H EM I S FER A , I S A PI ECE FO R T H E AG E S

By Sarah Lawson

Photograph by Marcus Gaab

Kerrock—a composite material similar to Corian—is strong yet malleable, making it ideal for creating Katedra’s sleek, futuristic surface. Embedded in one corner is an AirCharge surface charger, which will juice up a cellphone on contact.

The old

The timeless

Designer Dejan Kos used wood from the Siberian larch tree—the old-world counterpart to today’s indestructible composites—for the drawers. “Wood is an ancient material,” he says. “It’s the first building material, and I left it rough because of that.”

Katedra means “cathedral” in Kos’s native Slovenian. The desk’s combination of rough and graceful materials is meant to evoke the place where the terrestrial meets the ethereal. —Around R30 000, depending on exchange rate

Divine inspiration “You don’t work behind the desk,” says Kos of his design. “The desk works for you.” 66   FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A MAY 2015


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Troubleshooting the supply chain I N T EL’ S C A R O LY N D U R A N I S S E T T I N G A H U M A N I TA R I A N PR ECED EN T FO R T H E R E S T O F T H E ELEC T R O N I C S I N D U S T RY

Early last year, Intel released the world’s first microprocessors built entirely from conflict-free minerals. Carolyn Duran, Intel’s supply chain director, explains how she achieved the milestone.

The problem For years, government commanders and rebel ­m ilitias in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have earned an estimated R2.2 billion annually through the illicit trade of gold and so-called 3T minerals (tin, tantalum and tungsten)— crucial ­e lements in consumer electronics such as cellphones and tablets. The revenue has financed a brutal ongoing conflict resulting in the deaths of millions of innocent people. Intel no longer wanted to contribute to an economy of suffering.

The epiphany Identifying how conflict minerals entered Intel’s supply chain would be key to eliminating them, Duran realised. Smelting plants, where raw ore is refined, offered a convenient place to trace the origin of minerals, if only the facilities would comply with a transparent auditing process. That would take some convincing.

The execution Over five years, Duran and her team visited 91 smelters in 21 countries, using Intel’s purchasing power to put pressure on smelters to do the right thing—that is, develop and implement an auditing system to track minerals so corporate buyers can source responsibly. “We

ask for due diligence not only to understand where the material came from, but [to verify] that it’s not inadvertently or directly funding conflict,” she says.

The result Nearly half the world’s 3T and gold smelters have now passed conflict-free audits, shrinking the market for illegally traded minerals and reducing warlords’ profits. Duran hopes to be able to declare Intel’s entire product line conflict-free by 2016, and to inspire companies in other industries to do the same with their metal products. “This is not a problem that Intel or any one company can solve on its own,” she says. “We’re proud to be a leader in this area, but we’re not in it to be the leader; we’re in it to get more people engaged.” —Rachel Heller Zaimont

Steely resolve Intel, working with the non-governmental organisation, Enough Project, has convinced parts of the jewellery industry to join the conflict-free pledge.

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Photograph by Talia Herman


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BIG IDEA

Roughing it Founder Michael McDaniel designed the Exo to be both rugged and recyclable.

Hotel 3.0 R E AC T I O N H O U S I N G WA N T S TO PR OV I D E D I S A S T ER R ELI EF— B U T FI R S T I T H A S TO G E T T H E H YAT T H OT EL CH A I N O N B OA R D

By Sarah Kessler

Photographs by Ben Sklar

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One side of the Austin headquarters of Reaction Housing is utterly unremarkable, a big industrial space with a long row of desks and a bunch of computers. The other side is a tent city. Well, not tents, exactly. Roughly 2.7 metres high with sloping roofs and curved skylights, the structures are called Exos, and they look more like something with which you’d blast off into space than something you’d take on a

backpacking trip. Inside, two sets of bunk beds fold down from the walls, leaving a person-size aisle clear in the middle. The walls themselves are made of a proprietary blend of metal and plastic that’s engineered to be recyclable. Just barely translucent, they give the place a soft, homey glow. Reaction Housing founder Michael McDaniel, a Mississippi native who would nevertheless look just right in a Texas cowboy


hat, steps into one of the Exos and sets his coffee cup down on the floor. “All the bones of this thing are the same as the disaster unit,” he says. Except for the blue polka-dot wall decoration. “We’re going to have these be horizontal stripes,” McDaniel says. To be clear: Reaction Housing’s mission is to make temporary shelters for victims of natural disasters. But before the Exos help victims, they’ll serve as crash pads at a music festival, the result of a deal that Reaction made this summer with the Hyatt hotel chain in the United States. “People were kind of worried about music festival-goers after the show, coming back a little tipsy and seeing the dots,” McDaniel adds. I’m here in Texas to spend the night in a disaster response unit, but the Hyatt prototype is, if anything, even more important than the original to the company’s long-term success. That’s because, if McDaniel is going to house even a single disaster victim, he’s going to have to make a lot more deals with companies such as Hyatt. Like much of the world, McDaniel was appalled by what happened in the aftermath of

Hurricane Katrina in 2005. With available housing all but destroyed, about 20 000 people had to spend six days on cots in the Louisiana (now Mercedes-Benz) Superdome. The stadium had no air conditioning, no showers, too few toilets and too much garbage—all of which compounded into what the Los Angeles Times called “a sweltering cesspool of human misery”. McDaniel, however, was more than appalled. Then a graphic designer at design and innovation consultancy, Frog, he was moved to action. He began sketching ideas for a better solution. What he envisioned was a kind of modern tepee, something that could be shipped easily and was movable by hand, but which would provide privacy, security and enough modern conveniences to make it feel at least a little bit like home. Inspiration arrived in the form of a sleeve of Styrofoam coffee cups. McDaniel decided to mimic their stackable design, with a rigid onepiece ‘cup’ structure and a separate ‘lid’ for the floor that could travel separately. According to his measurements, about 16 of them could fit, stacked, on the bed of a single semitrailer. Each unit would be light enough for four people to

THERE WERE, IT TURNED OUT, NO NATURAL BUYERS FOR THE EXO.

Floor to ceiling Reaction and Hyatt employees move an Exo into position. The ‘lid’ portion, which forms the base, is heavier than the ‘cup’, which can be moved by only four people.

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Big Idea

G IMME S H E LT E R F O U R P R OTOT Y P E S T H AT N E V E R M A D E I T IN TO T H E F I E L D (AT L E A S T N O T Y E T ) Cabin in the woods All Exos have outlets for occupants to charge their devices, and in the future they may be outfitted with Internet of Things–compatible sensors.

carry together, and no tools would be necessary to set it up. After the birth of his twin girls in 2007, McDaniel spent most of his paternity leave constructing a full-scale model Exo in his backyard out of whatever he could find at the hardware store. It was heavier than he wanted it to be, but it was enough, he thought, to prove that his idea was viable. Oh, boy, was he wrong. There were, it turned out, no natural buyers for the Exo. Temporary housing is not necessary for most disasters. It’s both more comfortable and economical to rely on hotels, churches and schools to house the temporarily homeless; only in a Katrina-scale disaster is an Exo-style shelter even useful. And then there was the price: While McDaniel was targeting non-governmental organisations as potential customers, a single R70 000 Exo was sometimes more than their entire budget per disaster. Discouraged, McDaniel went to then-Frog president Doreen Lorenzo for advice. With her help, he settled on a new approach: find enough commercial buyers to be able to offset the cost to aid organisations. In 2013, McDaniel took a sabbatical, and he and his designs went out on the road looking for investors. By the time Hyatt discovered Reaction Housing at a startup competition in 2014, McDaniel had secured enough funding to be able to quit his job at Frog and devote himself to the new company full-time. Hyatt needed an innovative idea: Airbnb was making a killing by providing housing for big events such as the Super Bowl and South by Southwest (an annual set of film, interactive, and music festivals and conferences in Austin), and Hyatt executives thought that if they could add additional

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AbelNook

rooms on an on-demand basis, they might stand a chance at competing. “It was corporate love at first sight,” McDaniel says. Hyatt is starting small. It has purchased 40 specially designed Exos. They sleep two people each and have slightly bigger beds with custom mattresses, linens and robes, and a separate private bathroom. Hyatt also bought 40 standard Exos that will be donated to disasterrelief organisations. It’s a Toms Shoes–style buy-one-give-one model. It’s 8 a.m., and McDaniel has returned to the Reaction Housing workspace, armed with a box of breakfast tacos. “How was your night?” he asks me as I creak open the door of my Exo. Truth be told, even with solid walls and high ceilings, it did feel like sleeping in a tent, albeit a very clean tent. More like glamping than camping. The future of McDaniel’s pods is full of questions. How much will it cost to store and transport the units? How will Reaction, or Hyatt, arrange for electricity and running water? Will Hyatt stick around as a customer after the pilot programme is over? (The company plans to test them out this winter; it had to put off an experiment at the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California when McDaniel couldn’t manufacture them in time.) What other customers may be interested? McDaniel believes he can sell to construction and gas companies to use as worker housing, but he has also fielded enquiries from people thinking of Exos as hunting lodges, guesthouses, offices, playhouses and doomsday Armageddon shelters. The more commercial clients he lines up, the more likely he’ll be able to get his Exos into the hands of those they were designed for—non-profit relief agencies. “That’s the irony of it, isn’t it?” McDaniel says, grinning. “Capitalism.”

What was it? A trailer with adjustable legs that could be set on uneven terrain, didn’t require any tools to set up, and folded flat for shipping. Why didn’t it work? The co-founders are still looking for investors to foot the bill for manufacturing.

Zipflat What was it? A set of collapsible plastic walls that could be shipped flat, opened, filled with insulating foam, and used to build a house. Why didn’t it work? At about R1 200 per 920cm2, “it was too expensive,” says co-founder, Scott Jewett.

Home2O What was it? A system developed by a team of researchers at the New York Institute of Technology to use plastic water and cooldrink bottles as durable roofing material. Why didn’t it work? Aid organisations weren’t interested. Instead, the team is hoping to sell to a company like Pepsi or Coca-Cola which would want to donate shelter after a disaster.

NYC Office of Emergency Management prototype What was it? A multilevel unit that could be used in urban communities where there isn’t much space for trailers. Why didn’t it work? Hopes remain high that it will. OEM employees have been living in the prototype on a rotating basis since last June as part of a yearlong trial. After that, the agency plans to use the data to create a set of performance specifications that can be used as a national model for emergency housing.


24th Annual International Association for Management of Technology Conference The Graduate School of Technology Management at the University of Pretoria, is privileged to host the IAMOT 2015 conference in Cape Town from 8 — 11 June. Conference Theme: Technology, Innovation and Management for Sustainable Growth The primary focus of the conference is to bring together local and international researchers, scholars and industry participants to exchange and share their experiences and latest research results in all aspects of technology, engineering and project management as well as industrial and systems engineering. For more information on the conference, registration and accommodation, visit www.iamot2015.com

Contact details: Prof Leon Pretorius, Conference Chair Email: iamot2015@up.ac.za www.iamot2015.com


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CRE ATI V E CON V ERSATION

JT Foxx

Serial entrepreneur, philanthropist and wealth coach

Underdog Millionaire J T FOX X S TA RT ED W I T H N OT H I N G M O R E T H A N A RU S T ED O LD FO R D PI CK U P T RU CK , $974 A N D A CH E A P SU I T. N OW H E’ S CO N S I D ER ED O N E O F T H E WO R LD ’ S FO R EM O S T W E A LT H COACH E S , A N D I S S H A R I N G H I S K N OW LED G E W I T H OT H ER S

By Evans Manyonga

“I think the whole world thinks Africa is a good opportunity, except Africans. I think sometimes you just have to get out of your country to realise how great it is.” I’m sitting with JT Foxx in The Westin’s ON19 Restaurant on the (yes, you guessed it) 19th floor of the hotel, and the bird’s-eye view brings Cape Town’s magnificent Table Mountain into focus. But we’re speaking about another landscape. “The African business landscape is the Wild Wild West of opportunity,” he adds. I’m trying to find out ‘the real deal’ about this entrepreneur and philanthropist, setting aside the preconceived ideas influenced by what I have seen, read and heard. Foxx is young, confident, articulate, and his excitement about the continent is palpable. “The people are great, and the time is perfect for growth and opportunities,” he continues. “Entrepreneurship and development is at its fastest and, out of all the countries I do business with—over 30 different countries—Africa has presented the biggest opportunity.” Only in his early 30s, Foxx already owns more than 50 businesses and brands—in the fields of wealth coaching, property investment, technology, insurance, fashion and motivational speaking, among others—and hopes to bring that total to 75 by the end of the year. But he does not keep his business secrets to himself. He shares his knowledge at his global Mega Partnering

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and Mega Marketing events that are always sold-out, highly charged affairs which have had notable guests such as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and actor/ politician Arnold Schwarzenegger. “We have done over 100 events in South Africa, through which we have created thousands of success stories. It’s about marketing, branding, growing your business, increasing your profits, passive income and property investing, and soon we will be talking about Internet marketing. It’s ‘think American, act South African’,” he explains. Foxx also coaches some of the world’s top entrepreneurs including three-time Super Bowl champion Michael Irvin, designer lingerie tycoon Michelle Mone, and South African billionaire Robert Gumede. His soon-to-bepublished book, Millionaire Underdog, is about how to start, grow and explode one’s business against all odds. Based on his own business theories, the book aims to help underdogs become millionaires. Foxx’s drive and passion is also evident in his philanthropic pursuits. He sits on the board of The Eric Trump Foundation, which raises money for terminally ill children at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Since launching his own JT Foxx Foundation, which helps children in need all over the world, his involvement in charity has grown. “I want to get more involved with helping at the University of Pretoria and taking care of kids with cancer. I have also recently got involved with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Unite, Donna Karan’s Urban Zen, and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.” He studied political science at university, but says what he learnt in that time did not prepare him for the entrepreneurial world. “It was a lot of theory. It’s like 3x + 4y, or dissecting a cat; it didn’t help me with business, and that is the problem with conventional education. I don’t think orthodox formal education ever really prepares us for how to do business.” JT was born to middle-class parents in Montreal, Canada. He had a speech impediment, and struggled to fit in. “I lived in Canada for about 17 years and, because I had a speech impediment and two younger sisters who


Nothing is over! JT Foxx and his students with Sylvester Stallone at Mega Partnering 9 in Los Angeles, donning their Rambo-style headbands (JT Foxx Power Ties)


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Creative Conversation

were very different from me, I was picked on as a child. I was very much the underdog, the loser,” he recalls. Foxx got into business nine years ago through property investment. He managed to close over 500 property deals without spending any of his own money. “I then got into radio and had a show in Chicago which was broadcast in the United States (Los Angeles, Washington, Houston) then in Canada (Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal) and became nationally syndicated. About six years ago, I started speaking and coaching, then buying companies through getting involved in hedging and diversifying.” To achieve so much at such a young age, he must have had great role models who inspired him. “Actually, I have had two role models. The first one is George Ross, Donald Trump’s right-hand man who is also a guest judge on Celebrity Apprentice; he is my coach. The second is [motivational speaker] Nido Qubein, who has been a tremendous inspiration in my life. They have taught me how to think big and to have transformational thinking. I have been coached in ways Donald Trump has been coached. They have told me what to do, and what not to do.” Foxx believes his line of business has unlocked his creativity and moulded his thinking to always look ahead. “Your job as an entrepreneur is to be in the future. The job of the manager is to always be in the present, and your employees will always be in the past. As an entrepreneur, you are paid to think, paid to come up with ideas; you have to focus on what you are great at and delegate the rest to focus on being a CEO marketer. That includes coming up with the vision, and the team to implement that vision—as, perhaps, Apple’s Steve Jobs did so well.” To keep his creative juices flowing, Foxx dedicates 30 minutes of his time every morning to strategic thinking. “During this time, I just focus on one idea. Rather than horizontal thinking—like, I need a brand, I need a logo, I need to do this or that—I focus on vertical thinking. I think about how I can increase conversion. It’s a deeper process on one topic to uncover deeper lying issues,” he explains. “That’s usually when I get that ah-ha moment. Every ah-ha moment you get is a game changer for your business.” Foxx has been called the world’s number-one wealth coach in various business circles. “I have coached some very successful people, from celebrities to powerful leaders. We have programmes for those who are either starting a business, those who are novice entrepreneurs, and those who are experienced. For those who are more experienced, I tend to take part in their business; I have a vested interest. “And the good thing is that the coaching programme is tailored around their needs,” he continues. “Sometimes our South African students have South African coaches; sometimes they have American coaches or coaches from other parts of the world. There isn’t one

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TO KEEP HIS CREATIVE JUICES FLOWING, FOXX DEDICATES 30 MINUTES OF HIS TIME EVERY MORNING TO STRATEGIC THINKING. “EVERY AH-HA MOMENT YOU GET IS A GAME CHANGER FOR YOUR BUSINESS.”

30 SECONDS W I T H J T F OX X JT started building his global business empire with real estate investing in the US, and is now involved in companies ranging from men’s fashion to multiple technologybased businesses. He has business interests, companies and clients spanning the globe from the US, Canada, South Africa, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand and, most recently, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. He is widely considered a top global speaker, coach and now consultant.

How would you sum up yourself? I asked my coaches to describe me, and some said “the next billionaire”, others said “game changer”, “innovative”, “transformational”, “disruptive”. So everyone has different words for me, and obviously these are all words I take to heart.

Favourite quote? “Success is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice.” It is a quote I came up with as I signed off on my first radio show about seven years ago.

Favourite book? The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump.

Favourite pastime? To help speakers, entrepreneurs and business owners have a better life.

book or manual that fits all. Coaching has to be adapted to every single person individually to meet their needs and goals.” Foxx is currently launching a new reality show with Robert Gumede, about creating more business successes in South Africa through showing various business owners the power of marketing, branding and relationships. “Also adding a little bit of drama, some people will be coachable, some won’t,” he says. “We will also be breaking down barriers such as black working with white, for example, to show that they are not pigeon-holed. In South Africa, it is all about BEE [black economic empowerment]. They say: If you don’t have BEE, you can’t succeed. And black people think white people had the opportunity for 400 years while, on the other hand, white people think black people have all the opportunities right now. I want to bring out a different side to South Africa, to break down those barriers and have a transformational show,” he explains. South Africans tend to think they can become great entrepreneurs once they leave the country, says Foxx, but they soon realise how much easier it was for them back in South Africa in terms of opportunities and legislation. “They go and do business wherever, and see how great they had it [here]. I think people are limited by the belief of ‘I can’t’. We’ve had a lot of South African students who came to America to meet people like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Al Pacino, Sylvester Stallone and [American businessman] Jack Welch. Once they were surrounded by other very successful entrepreneurs from all over the world, they realised they could do anything they set their minds to. As a result, they came back to South Africa and dominated; they have become leaders in this country. So sometimes you need to see how good you had it, and then come back to a different environment,” he explains. Foxx believes the future holds many opportunities, and remarks that South Africa is one of his favourite business destinations because of these opportunities. “I’ve just purchased a brand new company that focuses on technology and apps; South Africa has one of the largest telecommunications markets on the continent [according to the 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor]. I see myself continuing to grow and helping businesses here: buying more companies that will revolutionalise South Africa, and taking companies global.”


GLENFIDDICH AND FAST COMPANY SA

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More than 100 guests from various business sectors attended a whiskytasting and networking event organised by Glenfiddich and Fast Company SA. Held in Kramerville, Johannesburg, it was a classy affair with a live band making the occasion even more enjoyable.

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1 Luthando Tibini, Robbie Stammers, Kerrin Black, Ellis Mnyandu, Evans Manyonga 2 Kerrin Black, Dave Nemeth, Adele Moolman Memeth 3 Robbie Stammers, Ellis Mnyandu, Evans Manyonga

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THE GRE AT INNOVATION FRONTIER

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WE DON’T NEED SUPERHEROES T H E VA L U E S A N D V I S I O N O F I N N OVAT I O N L E A D E R S C O U N T A S M U C H , I F N OT M O R E , T H A N T H E I R C R E AT I V E CA PA C I T Y O R T E C H N I CA L A B I L I T I E S

W

HEN WE READ about the world’s most

innovative organisations, we inevitably read about the creative geniuses at their helm. Would Apple be Apple without Steve Jobs? Without the engineering genius of Elon Musk, would Tesla Motors be the first startup car company in America to make a go of it in 90 years? Undoubtedly, the abilities of those at the top play a vital role in driving innovation, but it may have more to do with their values and vision and less to do with their creative capacity or technical prowess. Take Musk, for example: In addition to being an engineering mastermind, he exudes his values and passions. A little boy’s thirst for invention and space exploration is combined with a deep commitment to building a better, greener world. “If something’s important enough, you should try. Even if the probable outcome is failure,” he commented last year in an interview with 60 Minutes. Jobs was similarly driven by a passion—in his case a love of simplicity in design, born in childhood and honed when he became a practitioner of Buddhism. And he is rumoured to have personally evaluated every single new design idea at Apple on this basis. The best innovation leaders, therefore, are also values-based leaders and are almost always prepared to live their passions and set the tone of the organisation. It is not unlike being the coach of a successful football team: The innovation leader does not necessarily determine the rules or how someone must play; they transmit their understanding of the game and share their experience, after which the players themselves must act. Clearly defined, understood and lived values literally define ‘how the game will be played’, how a company will operate. They can provide the entire organisation—

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WHAT IS REQUIRED ARE PASSIONATE, VALUES-DRIVEN PEOPLE WHO ARE PREPARED TO STICK THEIR NECKS OUT FOR WHAT THEY BELIEVE IN.

Walter Baets

even if it operates across many different continents— with a compass with which to steer through the difficult waters that we all know come standard. Allan Gray, one of South Africa’s most successful financial entrepreneurs, understands this intimately. He built his business on that back of a simple core value of creating security for clients, which has stood the test of time and helped guide Allan Gray Proprietary Limited through many a stormy sea—including the last financial crisis. “The stock market is driven by greed and fear, and we wanted to meet real needs, not wants,” he commented in a recent interview with the University of Cape Town Business School’s GSB Business Review. “What investors need is the feeling of security that comes with a good rate of return without too much risk. That became our rationale, the sense of purpose for the business (rather than just beating the market). We set out to win the trust and confidence of our clients by excelling on their behalf and being very client-centric.” Of course, Gray has been proven right by the global financial crisis, which showed the weaknesses of an exclusively capitalist philosophy. By having a purpose that goes deeper than profit, companies are more likely to survive and thrive. But in delivering on this purpose, innovation leaders must also be able to gather the right team around them to roll out their vision. Motivational speaker Dr John Demartini has a recipe for high-performance teams and it starts with recruiting people who share your values. If you can align the purpose of employees with that of the organisation, there is no limit to what the organisation can achieve, he maintains. Many of the world’s top innovation companies do just this. At Virgin, Sir Richard Branson famously made innovation one of six key characteristics the company evaluates when screening new employees. To get hired at Virgin, you must demonstrate a “passion for new ideas”, you must “make your creativity apparent”, and show “a track record of thinking differently”. Not everyone can be lucky enough to be Elon Musk, Steve Jobs or Richard Branson but, as I have said here before, innovative companies do not actually need a superhero at the helm. What is required, however, are passionate, values-driven people who are prepared to stick their necks out for what they believe in—and then to have the wisdom to get out of the way, if necessary, and let the people who support this vision make it happen. 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 and 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’.


kunene river

Villa Margherita

skeleton coast safaris etendeka

ETOSHA

RUNDU the mushara collection TSUMEB

kamanjab

okonjima erongo home of africat wilderness lodge OMARURU OKAHANDJA

HENTIES BAY

villa margherita WALVIS BAY

WINDHOEK

SWAKOPMUND

pelican point lodge

airport

the olive exclusive

N SOSSUSVLEI

NAMIBIA KEETMANSHOOP LĂœDERITZ

OR NAMIBIA


Sophisticated and smart LG’s luxury 4G-enabled smartwatch, the LG Watch Urbane, allows users to make calls and measure their heart rate. The Androidpowered smartwatch features a metal body and stitched leather strap—a dramatic change from the sporty design of the LG G Watch R released in October last year. It has a 1.3-inch (3.3cm), 320x320 circular OLED display, 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 chipset and 4GB of internal storage, and is expected to go on sale within the next few months. It will be available in silver or gold.

Fast Company SA takes a look at the innovative new ideas and products currently making waves in South Africa and abroad

BYTES Platinum power Catch some sun Repurpose has created a stylish and sturdy all-purpose backpack out of recycled materials. In South Africa, the recycled school bags come equipped with solar panels to provide a renewable light source for children in disconnected areas. Attached to the top, the small solar panel captures the sun’s energy while students walk to school. When they arrive back home, the bag can power a small lamp for up to 12 hours so that they can complete their homework or studies at night.

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Africa’s first 100-kilowatt fuel cell that runs on platinum and natural gas has been installed in the Chamber of Mines in Johannesburg, and will provide baseload power to the entire building. The Platinum Power Fuel Cell is a joint project between the Department of Trade & Industry and energy company, Mitochondria. The cell could power 100 average South African homes.


Innovative minds lauded This year, four out of the 10 nominees for the Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) are South Africans. Launched in 2011, the IPA awards innovators for their home-grown inventions that contribute to the growth of Africa. The four South African candidates are the minds behind an environmentally friendly minicab (Neil du Preez), a scientific engineering educational box for children (Johann Pierre Kok), a product that examines the accuracy of tuberculosis diagnostic machines (Lesley Erica Scott), and a fire detection device and alert service (David Gluckman).

Hisense and Red Bull Racing team up Hisense, China’s leading electronics manufacturer, in April announced a multi-year partnership with Infiniti Red Bull Racing. The announcement was made at the Shanghai International Circuit ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix, and complements Hisense’s sponsorship programmes in the US with NASCAR, The Australian Open tennis tournament, and Schalke 04 football team in Germany. “Infiniti Red Bull Racing is one of the most successful and most talked about teams in a sport renowned for technology, teamwork and competitiveness,” said Dr Lan Lin, executive vice president of Hisense Company Ltd. “Like Infiniti Red Bull Racing, we are a proud challenger brand and we continually innovate our best-in-class consumer products to stay ahead of the others. We look forward to sharing these with the team to help them throughout the season.” Team principal Christian Horner said: “Everyone associated with Infiniti Red Bull Racing is delighted to welcome Hisense to our team. Their approach to innovation and technological development is impressive, and we look forward to our partnership developing as the season unfolds.”The partnership means Hisense’s cutting-edge range of consumer electronics products will be supplied to the team, both at track and in the factory.

A phone with style The HTC One M9 is the company’s latest smartphone; it sports a 20MP rear-facing camera and 4MP UltraPixel front-facing lens for taking ultra-detailed pictures. It has a 5-inch (12.7cm) display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, 3GB of RAM, and combines BoomSound speakers with Dolby Audio. HTC calls the design “jewellerygrade”, with each phone hand-finished by craftsmen—and it certainly shows.

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Giving a leg-up With the help of cutting-edge technology, a South African goose named Ozzie was given a new lease on life with a prosthetic leg. It was designed using CAD and produced by 3D printer. As well as BunnyCorp, which undertook the 3D design, the group comprised 3D Printing Systems, which contributed materials; the J-Lee Inc unit, Hybrid Advanced Geometries, which offered use of 3D printers and its workshop as well as technical help; and the Centre for Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing from the Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein, which did the final 3D print of the leg. Ozzie’s owner Sue Burger is well known for her work in rehabilitating animals, and was the driving force behind the project.

Upcoming events Fast Company will be attending

EVENTS Maurice Kerrigan Africa’s Creative Negotiation Skills Course

African Utility Week & Clean Power Africa

Cabanga Conference Venue, North Riding, Johannesburg www.mauricekerrigan.com

Cape Town International Convention Centre www.african-utility-week.com

Do you have the skills and confidence to negotiate successfully? If you think only senior managers and executives brokering deals need sound negotiating skills in the workplace, you’re mistaken. Whether you’re a project manager negotiating for time and resources, an HR manager navigating the details of an employment contract, a procurement manager negotiating terms with suppliers, or a salesperson negotiating a deal—effective negotiation skills training can help you be more successful. And if you’re a manager, improved negotiation skills can help you secure trust and greater commitment from your employees. Over two days, this interactive, systematic and practical training course will give you the confidence and tools to tackle any daily negotiation challenge.

The 15th annual African Utility Week & Clean Power Africa is the only global meeting place, conference and trade exhibition for African power and water-utility professionals, and offers a unique networking opportunity for engineers, stakeholders and solution providers alike. The conference offers valuable business opportunities for utilities, municipalities, governments, regulators, large power users, and solution providers. The exhibition features 250 exhibitors from the international power generation, transmission, distribution, metering, clean energy, energy efficiency, project management and water industry, and represents the largest display of engineering technology for these sectors on the African continent.

5 & 6 M AY

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1 2 T O 1 4 M AY


Executive Think Tank 2015

Career Indaba 2015

Deloitte’s Greenhouse, Woodmead, Johannesburg www.nlighten.co.za/executive-think-tank

Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg www.careerindaba.co.za

During this intimate workshop, four of South Africa’s prolific speakers will take you through their unique experiences and provide insights into their ideas around key challenges that successful leaders need to consider in order to create sustainability and continue an ever present questioning of the status quo that ultimately drives advancement.

Career Indaba is South Africa’s number-one destination for students, learners, job seekers and young professionals looking to take the next step in their education or professional development. Whether their passion lies in engineering or music, art or accounting, or even how to fly a plane, there are a host of exciting opportunities on offer. This event effectively is a marketing, networking, branding and business acquisition exercise all in one, as exhibitors will come into contact with more than 5 000 Grade 11 and 12 Gauteng students and their parents, as well as university students and graduates exploring post-study opportunities.

SA Industry & Technology Conference and Fair 2015

Grand Designs Home & Garden Show

Gallagher Convention Centre, Midrand, Johannesburg indutecconference.org.za

Coca-Cola Dome, Johannesburg www.granddesignslive.co.za

INDUTEC is a synergistic mix of 10 events targeting the manufacturing, engineering, water, petrochemical, plastics and energy sectors. The programme will comprise international and local speakers sharing trends, benchmarks and best practice from which the industry can learn, as well as examples of excellence, cases studies and white papers. Topics under development include industrial and manufacturing competitiveness; political risk and governance; international competition; regionalism and localism; financing; infrastructural limitations; transformation; regulatory issues; and sustainability. The Fair comprises co-located events plus conferences, workshops and industry briefings.

Grand Designs is a joint venture between Montgomery Worldwide and Media 10, and is perfect for anyone who has an interest in interiors, kitchens, bathrooms, gardens, shopping, food and technology. This year’s theme is repurposed living: The need to reuse, repurpose and reinvent older objects is now a major trend that results in unique, once-off pieces, and offers a gentle reminder that we should embrace and celebrate our past, and not succumb to a disposable, always-now culture. Grand Designs Live is a unique platform to showcase your products to an engaged audience who are committed to spending money on themselves and their homes.

1 4 M AY

Michael Jordaan, CEO and intrepid entrepreneur who is well known for driving FNB to the top of the innovation food chain, will be talking about a disruptive culture in organisational structures, while prolific political commentator and talk-show host Justice Malala will lend a voice to the influence of politics on business. Rob Stokes, e-marketing wunderkind and founder/CEO of Quirk, will explore the realms of how technology in marketing is shaping the role of the senior executive; and Anton Musgrave, senior partner at FutureWorld and notable business strategist, will give context to technology and the way in which artificial intelligence is affecting the (business) world in which we live.

2 0 T O 2 2 M AY

Inspire Trade Expo 10 TO 12 JUNE Gallagher Convention Centre, Midrand, Johannesburg www.inspiretradeexpo.co.za Inspire Trade Expo is South Africa’s exclusive furniture, décor, design and retail trade-only exhibition. Buyers visiting the exhibition are not only retailers but architects, interior decorators and designers, as well as buyers for hotels, game lodges, B&Bs and corporate procurement officers within the industry. In order to keep it trade-only, Inspire has placed an audited verification process in place to ensure buyers visiting the exhibition are genuine trade customers placing orders and networking with potential exhibiting suppliers. Numerous buyers from South and sub-Saharan Africa are expected, sourcing products for development and looking to invest in large projects.

1 8 & 1 9 M AY

2 9 T O 3 1 M AY

Design Thinking Conference 11 JUNE Gallagher Convention Centre, Midrand, Johannesburg www.inspiretradeexpo.co.za Part of the Inspire Trade Expo, this conference is aimed at CEOs, MDs and executives across a broad spectrum of the industry, with the underlying theme of doing things differently and being a disruptor within one’s business sector in order to truly innovate and leap-frog the competition. This includes all aspects from redefining company structure to ambient marketing and game-changing strategies. It has been identified worldwide that design thinking is essential for a business to truly innovate, from products to processes, risk taking, testing and evaluation—with an empathy for the consumer. Fast Company SA is the strategic partner of this conference.

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THE GHOSTS OF APP PERMISSIONS PAST W H AT W E LO S E BY G I V I N G T W I T T E R A N D T H E L I K E T H E K E Y S TO O U R M O B I L E , S O C I A L L I V E S

account was hacked in March, I didn’t panic. I changed my passwords, and I enabled two-step authentication on Facebook, Twitter and Google. I knew that once a single account was compromised, it could lead to a domino effect of unauthorised access far beyond a single social network. I was proud of my calm, surgical demeanour.

WHEN MY FACEBOOK

Then I remembered that I use my Facebook, Twitter and Google accounts to access other websites, apps and services. I looked at which apps had access to my Twitter account: There are more than 200 (a printout is 24 pages long). Calm surgeon? More like a naive epidemiologist dealing with a potential viral outbreak. How did these social media juggernauts persuade me (and you) to outsource our trust to such a large degree?

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THE BIG THREE GATEKEEPERS HAVE AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF DATA ABOUT US. THEY’RE LIKE SANTA: THEY KNOW WHEN WE’VE BEEN BAD OR GOOD.

Baratunde Thurston

One answer is sign-up and login fatigue. New service equals new account equals new password to remember. I have definitely caught myself muttering, “Exactly why do you need to know my email address and have me upload a profile photo, random app I don’t really care about? Facebook’s robots already have that information. You’re a robot. I’m a feeble and exhausted human being. Have your robot talk to their robot and leave me out of it.” Thank you, Big Three. You’re reducing instances of humans yelling at robots, which can only help delay, if not prevent, the Terminator prophecy from coming true. If only this convenience were done out of altruism. By playing the role of trusted authenticator, they increase our dependence on them. I don’t just need Twitter when I get angry about the latest plot twist on Fox’s Empire. Now I need Twitter to log in to the Washington Post’s comments section, where I express my anger about the latest plot twist on Fox’s Empire. If I never used Twitter again, I’d still be a Twitter user, because the company is like the school janitor with a fat ring of jangling keys to various doors in my online life. The real driving force behind such functionality is to get all up in our data. Twitter knows that in February 2011, I signed up for My Pet Monster, and one month later joined UberCab, and one year later gave Instagram access to my Twitter feed. They put a tracker inside me and are learning far more about my habits than what I do on Twitter. The US National Security Agency (NSA) should have thought of this. Instead of secretly capturing metadata, it could have openly collected it by making the process of logging in to online services less annoying. If I had one Super NSA ID that I could use to pay for purchases and get on the subway, I’d save a lot of time, and the government—ooooh, now I see why people are freaked out. The Big Three gatekeepers have an enormous amount of data about us. They’re like Santa Claus: They know when we’ve been sleeping; they know when we’re awake; and they know when a new dating app gets hot because every new entrant is built on Facebook login and access to the friend list. You shouldn’t need to get hacked to realise the scale of authority being outsourced. I don’t want to return to a world where I need a separate key for every digital service. But given the information at stake, the Big Three need to help us manage it better. They could let us choose to revoke access for any app that we haven’t used in a while. They could be more transparent about what they learn from the permissions we grant. We’re putting a lot of trust in Facebook, Google and Twitter. They should have to re-earn it continually. Baratunde Thurston is the author of The New York Times bestseller How to Be Black and CEO and co-founder of Cultivated Wit, a creative agency that combines the powers of humour, design and technology.

Illustration by Kirsten Ulve

Celine Grouard

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Profile for Fast Company SA

Fast Company SA - May 2015  

Fast Company SA - May 2015  

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