OF THE BEST WORLD-CHANGING IDEAS
F eaturing AIRBNB, NIKE, VOLVO, FACEBOOK & more
TWITTER grabs a new playbook CEO Jack Dorsey
From politics to football— can his bet on live video woo the masses?
OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2016 FASTCOMPANY.CO.ZA
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Inside BRAAMFONTEIN’S coolest tech space How AFRICAN STARTUPS are making our lives easier ADIDAS targets women
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Learn and network with 40 Young South African entrepreneurs across diverse industries on 2 stages and in more intimate sofa sessions. Build skills by participating in workshops hosted by experts like Afri-entrepreneur Shaka Sisulu, Radio expert Catherine Grenville, Red Bull Amaphiko Social Entrepreneurship Academy, Fast Company Magazine, Pick n Pay Small Supplier Programme, and others. Hone yourself in SpeedMentoring Sessions. Connect and network with 1500 other passionate productive young SA Pioneers at the Friday evening Pioneers@Sunset event.
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C OVER F EATURE
LIVE FROM TWITTER HQ Inside CEO Jack Dorsey’s audacious plan to beat back Facebook and Snapchat by playing a whole new ballgame By Harry McCracken
S PEC IAL F EATU RE
INNOVATION BY DESIGN Fast Company’s annual celebration of the best in world-changing design, featuring Airbnb, Nike, Volvo, Facebook and more Begins on page 34
Something to tweet about CEO Jack Dorsey is hoping Twitter’s video streams of sports and other live events could increase the number of active users.
2 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A OCTOBER 2016
Turning innovation into action “[T]he fuel that powers the digital revolution are coffee, pizza and bandwidth,” says Prof. Barry Dwolatzky from Braamfontein’s new Tshimologong Precinct. (page 76)
FEAT U RES
11 TEN GADGET FLOPS WE CAN LEARN FROM
12 GETTING SCHOOLED
Product fails that tell the story of how we got to now BY DAN TYNAN
28 ADIDAS GETS IN THE GAME
With help from designer Stella McCartney and model Karlie Kloss, the brand is staging a US comeback by targeting women BY ELIZABETH SEGRAN
How Google usurped Apple and Microsoft in the education-technology market—and where the battle is going next BY AINSLEY O’CONNELL
20 NOW HEAR THIS
Doppler Labs is bringing computers to a new place: your ears BY HARRY MCCRACKEN
30 A CONVENIENT TRUTH How African tech startups are finding success in offering services that make consumers’ lives easier BY MICHELLE ATAGANA
76 VIVA THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION!
Why Braamfontein is becoming a vibrant innovation zone, shaping SA’s tech future BY KAYLA JACOBS
C REAT I VE C ON VE RSAT I ON
82 ACTING OUT
Actress and activist Laverne Cox talks about the intersection of art and politics, and the importance of civic duty BY JJ MCCORVEY
OCTOBER 2016 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A 3
REG U L ARS
07 FROM THE EDITOR 08 THE RECOMMENDER 86 HOLD ON TIGHT
Craig Drysdale’s ingenious Silver Cord is giving surfers a lifeline BY JAZZ KUSCHKE
88 THE GREAT INNOVATION FRONTIER The new generation of thinkers understands that 21st century design has to be sustainable BY WALTER BAETS
92 TEAM SPIRIT
How to prevent workplace mediocrity from infecting the whole culture of an organisation BY MARK MCCHLERY
90 FAST BYTES & EVENTS
To the drawing board Getting battered rather badly by a wave was the inspiration for Craig Drysdale’s surf leash. (page 90)
4 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A OCTOBER 2016
WE HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS. MEET A BMW GENIUS.
Innovation has always been a cornerstone for BMW. It’s not just the models in our showroom that set the trend, but the showroom itself. We are proud to introduce the BMW Genius – an expert who will assist with any queries you may have, deliver product demonstrations and even take you on a virtual test-drive. Whether you’d like to know which features are available in your dream BMW or how to use them, the BMW Genius will have the answer. Speak to the BMW Genius at Auric Auto: Reinhardt Salie 021 670 1113 Reinhardt.Salie@bmwdealer.co.za
215 Main Rd, Claremont, Cape Town Tel. 021 670 1100 www.bmw-auricauto.co.za
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EDITOR Evans Manyonga
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On The Dot
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No article or any part of any article in Fast Company South Africa may be reproduced without the prior written consent of the publisher. The information provided and opinions expressed in this publication are provided in good faith, but do not necessarily represent the opinions of Mansueto Ventures in the USA, Insights Publishing or the editor. Neither this magazine, the publisher or Mansueto Ventures in the USA can be held legally liable in any way for damages of any kind whatsoever arising directly or indirectly from any facts or information provided or omitted in these pages, or from any statements made or withheld by this publication. Fast Company is a registered title under Mansueto Ventures and is licensed to Insights Publishing for use in southern Africa only. 6 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A OCTOBER 2016
From the Editor
“Let’s think design, innovation, progress . . . and start valuing what we have”
IT’S EASIER TO TEAR DOWN THAN TO BUILD UP As various university campuses around the country literally go up in flames, in what is sadly becoming a normal turn of events, it’s important to reflect. We all have the right to express our grievances, real or imagined. We all have the fundamental right to be heard. So the question is, why are university students striking, burning buildings, creating chaos and generally making schools unmanageable? The answer: Because the majority feel they deserve free education at tertiary level. The striking students believe the SA government should be able to subsidise their education. Unfortunately, to put this point across at some campuses, these students are destroying their own institutions of learning. When the dust settles and the situation is resolved one way or another, what will remain will most likely be damaged infrastructure, strained relationships and reconstruction bills worth millions. And who will be most affected in the aftermath? The very students who are trying to ‘change’ the situation. As a former UCT student, it saddens me to see decades of history being wiped away in the name of economic demands for change by a government not housed on any campus. It’s not up to me to judge the validity of the students’ demands, though I sympathise with their grievances in a tough economic climate. I believe there should be a better means of expression that isn’t as costly or as destructive. With all the chaos, it has become more important than ever to get live news on the go. Twitter’s place in our lives has become essential; it is now easily the most significant source of live news. As Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey says in our cover story, “we are really good at delivering news faster than anyone else.” The service founded in 2006 has not been growing as exponentially as, say, Instagram, and there have been concerns that it may be heading for the cliffs. However, Twitter has its own place in the wider cultural infrastructure, and Dorsey wants it to focus on what it has always been
brilliant at: live news and events. Read about Twitter’s new plans to increase its audience by streaming live football games. The theme for this issue is “Innovation by Design”. This is Fast Company’s fifth annual celebration of the best in world-changing designs. From Nike’s new sneakers with self-adjusting laces to the underwater server farms of Microsoft’s Project Natick, the various innovations are simply mind-blowing. Fast Company US editor Robert Safian sums it up perfectly: “Design is so frequently misunderstood, yet it is critical in a world that is constantly in flux, and where each new challenge requires a uniquely tailored solution.” As we enjoy this great edition, let’s reflect on the state of South Africa today. Let’s think design, innovation, progress . . . and start valuing what we have as opposed to demolishing for the mere sake of rebuilding. Together we can thrive, but divided we will definitely fall.
Evans Manyonga firstname.lastname@example.org @Nyasha1e
Congratulations to the winners of our last subscription competition: Uys van Heerden and Gabbi Brondani. We hope you enjoy and are inspired by the book I’M IN by the Dragons’ Den SA judges.
OCTOBER 2016 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A 7
The Recommender What are you loving this month?
Lifestyle & fashion blogger, My Lime Boots
Favourite clothing item Louis ii Shirts: Any outfit is made in the detail— something that Louis ii fully understands. From honouring the craftsman’s way of individually hand-cutting the fabric, to the use of fine Favourite restaurant Emma King
Founder, MD, The Friday Street Club PR agency
ASH, Cape Town CBD: This restaurant is a collaboration between Publik Wine Bar, Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants and chef Ash Heeger. The menu takes a nose-to-tail approach to using every part of the animal, resulting in delicious and unexpected dishes. It’s not just all about the meat, though—the apple crumble with smoked bourbon sauce is next-level stuff. 8 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A OCTOBER 2016
single-needle stitching and mother-of-pearl buttons, a Louis ii Shirt is a contemporary piece that pays homage to the heritage of London’s Jermyn Street and Savile Row.
Odwa Matomane Co-founder, Domestic Connection
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People , by Stephen R. Covey: A Nonkululeko Nkabinde
Favourite online channel Super Soul Sunday: Oprah Winfrey has been a
Founder, presenter, The Woman CEO on YouTube
providing me with a more holistic perspective on what it means to be a human being, what the soul constant influence throughout most of my adolescent life. Today, I connect with her teachings is, and how our greatest power is sourced from it. via her OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) channel All the teachings stem from Oprah’s conversations with enlightened teachers/masters. No two on YouTube. It’s filled with many content-rich lessons are ever the same. shows, but my favourite is Super Soul Sunday:
good book that’s both a great read and holds truly valuable lessons in life and business. Covey’s book provides great guidelines for efficiency, self-growth, proactivity and personal change, which are tools essential to an entrepreneur.
FAVOURITE BEAUTY PRODUCT
Fast Company SA Robbie Stammers Publisher, Insights Publishing
Being Boss , by Jess Mouneimne: The author speaks from both the heart and the head on the trials and tribulations she has endured on both a personal and business front, with refreshing honesty and complete sincerity. She admits where her own shortcomings tripped her up and what she did to overcome them. Any person starting a new business venture of their own should read this book. Like myself, you’ll find many of your own personality traits, obstacles and observations within her story. She has a finger on the pulse of where business is going in our disruptive and ever-changing environment, and I certainly took home a load of new insights.
Founder, Get Published; radio presenter, 2oceansvibe Radio
Le Riche Naturals Brightening Face Mask: This product deeply nourishes, invigorates and revives my tired, lack-ofsleep skin—providing the ultimate boost when I need it most. Best news, it’s 100% natural and is freshly made to order.
OCTOBER 2016 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A 9
App Alley Raphaël Cristini Brand ambassador, The Botanist Gin
2016 South African Olympic Bronze Medallist, Triathlon
AccuWeather: Most of my training
depends on the weather, and I make plans accordingly. If I’m going to be competing in a very warm climate, I need to plan so that I can make the most of the sunshine and heat during the day. If it’s raining, I’ll plan my cycle or run to be indoors to
prevent any illness I may pick up. It’s also great to keep an eye on the weather when I have a race coming up, so I can choose the correct racing tyre and pressure. AccuWeather shows the weather by the hour, and you can select almost any city in the world.
Erasmus Bond Tonic: Named after
the inventor of tonic water. Simply enter your favourite gin brand, and the app will suggest the perfect tonic and garnish to match it.
Andreas Hadjipaschali Owner, Bravado Gaming
Tech journalist and presenter, Good Hope FM
Executive creative director, DUKE
MindNode: This is a phenomenally easy mind-mapping app
that you can use to map any facet of your life that’s in desperate need of mapping: whether it’s an important decision, a brainstorm, a meeting, your next movie script, the pros and cons of dating someone, or a diagram of all the different social media platforms to which you’re now subscribed. It runs off iCloud, so you can use it on your iPhone or iPad and any changes will sync to the desktop version.
10 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A OCTOBER 2016
A new app that puts all your travel information together in one place. It shows your hotel reservations, how to get around the city you’re visiting, gives recommendations for restaurants, bars and clubs, and indicates the top tourist spots to visit. You can download all the info and access it wherever you are.
Twitch: Each month,
more than 100 million community members gather to watch and talk about video games, with more than 1.7 million broadcasters on the world’s leading social video platform and community for gamers. Being involved in the e-sports industry, many of our teams and players are featured on some of the busiest channels of Twitch TV, where their games are broadcasted and shoutcasted live to thousands of people across the globe. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing, I can ensure I’m up to date on their results and performance.
10 GADGET FLOPS WE CAN LEARN FROM These products didn’t connect, but they paved the way for tech we now take for granted By Dan Tynan
Illustration by Markus Magnusson
Apple Lisa 1983
The first personal computer with a windowsand-icons-style graphical user interface, Steve Jobs’s visionary Lisa had one disastrous flaw: a staggering $10 000 retail price. Redeeming factor: Many Lisa features resurfaced with the more affordable and successful Macintosh.
IBM PCjr 1984
Quickly discontinued due to pokey performance, the first offspring of the IBM PC had an infamous, almost unusable keyboard and was incompatible with some software written for the original PC.
Microsoft SPOT watch 2004
Sony HDD Walkman 2004
Redeeming factor: The wireless keyboard connection was years ahead of its time.
AT&T Videophone 2500 1992
Nintendo Virtual Boy 1995
This little dingus used standard landlines to transmit jittery images of your loved ones at a painfully slow 10 frames per second. The cost? A cool $1 500. Redeeming factor: Today, video chat is commonplace (and free!) with Skype, Facetime and other now-familiar apps. The portable 3D game console displayed only two colours (red and black) and required users to lean into a stereoscopic display supported by short stilts. Dizziness and nausea soon followed.
Motorola Rokr E1 Apple iTunes phone 2005
HP TouchPad 2011
Redeeming factor: Nintendo had the right idea. Twenty years later, virtual reality would make a big comeback with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. A box that brought the Internet to your TV. But viewing low-res web pages on a cathode-ray TV using a dial-up modem and a clunky remote was less appealing than a Nash Bridges rerun. Redeeming factor: It helped convince tech companies that TV on the web was smarter than the web on TV.
Eleven years before Apple Watch, it could display messages, stock prices and weather reports on your wrist. But its bulky housing, tiny screen and short battery life drove SPOT to the pound. Redeeming factor: The concept was solid, and all of SPOT’s features are now standard on smartwatches. The digital-music player required users to convert MP3s to Sony’s native ATRAC format using the cumbersome Connect online store. Redeeming factor: Its failure helped persuade Sony to ditch its proprietary media format, helping rid the world of user-unfriendly digitalrights-management schemes. Finally, a much-awaited pairing of an iPod with a cellphone. But this Motorola–Apple collaboration had a stingy 100-song limit and no way to download tunes wirelessly, making it more frustrating than futuristic. Redeeming factor: It pointed the way toward the iPhone. HP’s first tablet ran WebOS, the operating system behind the much-loved Palm Pilot PDA. That’s all it had going for it. Buggy, slow and lacking apps, it was dead in less than three months. Redeeming factor: Its visual metaphor of displaying info and apps as “cards” is today used by Google Now’s and Apple’s operating systems.
Google Nexus Q 2012
The big flaw with this media-streaming device: It could only access content from the Google Play Store or YouTube. It also cost way more than earlier-to-market players Roku and Apple TV. Redeeming factor: It served as a precursor to Google’s Chromecast, a far cheaper and more versatile streaming gadget that remains popular.
OCTOBER 2016 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A 11
GETTING SCHOOLED How Google is beating Apple and Microsoft in the battle for America’s classrooms By Ainsley O’Connell 12 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A OCTOBER 2016
A Mozart duo echoes through the dim auditorium of Philadelphia’s String Theory high school, performed by a pair of plaid-skirted violinists reading music off their school-issued iPads. In other classes at the performing-artsthemed public charter school, students use their iPads to plot DNA data, design graphics, and make movies. At first glance, the school is a model Apple education customer, buying into both its hardware and iOS ecosystem.
Illustrations by Matt Rota
A more complicated reality lies beneath the tablet glass. Teachers at String Theory distribute curriculum via Apple’s iTunes U—but students use Google Docs and Google Drive to complete and submit assignments. “They get the full App Store experience, and they can also use all the functionality of Google,” says Christine DiPaulo, the school’s director of innovation. “It’s the best of both worlds.” Apple may not share that perspective. Since the Apple IIe desktop computer found a home in California schools in the ’80s, ushering in the era of the classroom PC, Apple and Microsoft have vied for the attention of American students. With the introduction of the iPad in 2010, Apple had a tool poised to displace the PC as an education essential, and the app-based software to go along with it. Within a few years, the company was selling millions of the touchscreen devices to schools, eclipsing Microsoft, which was marketing its own devices and free Office software to students. In 2013, Apple devices accounted for 50% of shipments to US classrooms, according to research firm Futuresource Consulting. Microsoft, despite its lead globally, came in second at 29%. It’s an entirely different picture today: Google now dominates K–12 education in the United States, even in schools, like String Theory, that have formal relationships with Apple and Microsoft. Just five years after Google introduced its bare-bones Chromebook laptop—which runs a software suite that includes Gmail, Google Drive, Hangouts and more, and retails for as low as $150 (just over R2 000)—the search giant has topped both Apple and Microsoft in US education sales. It shipped more than 5 million devices to US buyers in 2015, roughly twice the total of each of its rivals. In the first quarter of 2016, the Chrome operating system’s share of shipments to US classrooms hit 51%—a number that will continue to While Apple rise, according to Futuresource. and Microsoft “This is a real battleground,” says were waiting for Mike Fisher, Futuresource’s associate multimilliondirector of educational technology. dollar contracts, At stake: the roughly $43-billion enterprising (R617.9-billion) worldwide market teachers were for educational hardware and manoeuvring to software, which is expected to put Chromebooks double by 2020, even as the global into students’ PC market declines and tablet sales slow. And the significance hands. extends beyond the classroom. If students develop familiarity with an operating system at an early age, or so the thinking goes, they will prefer it in their future professional lives. (That’s certainly been Microsoft’s strategy; the company, which still leads education sales outside of the US, emphasises that proficiency with applications like Word and Excel is a critical workplace skill.) Caught on their heels in the US, and anxious that Google’s Chromebooks will soon repeat their success overseas, Apple and Microsoft are fighting to regain momentum. First, they need to convince educators that in a world of rapidly changing technology they can give both students and teachers a competitive edge. In a classic Google move, the company began infiltrating American schools not by selling products, but by giving something away for free. It started wooing teachers in 2006 with Google Apps for Education, a software suite that includes classroom-management tools, along with Gmail and Google Drive. By observing classes and incorporating teachers’ ideas into the products, Google won millions of converts to its education
E D -T E CH 10 1 Classroom technology in the information age 1971 Three teachers invent the Oregon Trail computer game to teach students history and maths skills. It infiltrates schools one floppy disk at a time.
1983 Apple donates an Apple IIe each to roughly 9 000 California public schools; its products have been classroom mainstays ever since.
1991 Buh-bye, chalk. The digital Smart Board allows teachers to display interactive information from their computers.
1996 Texas Instruments releases its TI-83 graphing calculator, used to solve complex maths problems (and pass notes).
2005 Nicholas Negroponte launches One Laptop Per Child to bring affordable computers to children in the developing world. It falters, but is a precursor to Google’s Chromebook.
2010 Schools across the country start experimenting with the iPad to offer self-directed learning experiences.
2015 The Chromebook overtakes the iPad as the best-selling education device in the US.
2016 Facebook and non-profit charter school network Summit Public Schools begin releasing their selfdirected learning platform to schools across the country.
tools. (Facebook began following Google’s footsteps a few months ago, supporting California’s non-profit Summit Public Schools charter network in the rollout of learningmanagement software built with the social network’s engineers.) Google’s resource investment started paying off when the company introduced the Chromebook in 2011 and adopted an unorthodox early distribution strategy. Most education sales in the US happen at the district level and involve months of needs assessment and negotiation before devices are, generally, shipped by the thousands. Google, impatient to gain traction, simply bundled 30 Chromebooks together with a charging cart and a printer and started pitching them to schools. While Apple and Microsoft were waiting for their multimillion-dollar contracts to come up for renewal, enterprising teachers were manoeuvring to put the affordable, easy-to-share Chromebooks into students’ hands. “We found teachers who were able to secure budget and go and buy those for their classroom,” says Rajen Sheth, director of product management for Android and Chrome in business and education. “[Chromebooks] were flying off the shelves.” That initial flurry of interest in the devices turned into an avalanche in 2014 as state-mandated achievement tests moved online. Forced to adapt, districts around the country upgraded their Wi-Fi and snapped up no-frills Chromebooks by the tens of thousands. Today, more than 60 million students worldwide use school-issued education accounts for Google’s standard productivity apps each month, from email to spreadsheets, while their teachers use Google Classroom to create class websites that serve as a central hub for assignments, notes and more. The Chromebook has its detractors. Some educators say that browser-focused laptops fail to engage students in the same way as touchscreen devices like iPads and Surface tablets. Students perceive the iPad as a personalised device that enables creativity, says String Theory co-founder Jason Corosanite—a
OCTOBER 2016 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A 13
difference that, in his view, justifies the higher price tag, typically in the range of $400 (R5 485) or more. After Corosanite’s school switched from laptops to iPads in 2011, he says, students’ time spent on tasks, an indicator of learning in progress, “went through the roof.” Apple executives similarly argue that iPads, with their cameras, gyroscopes and rich library of apps, are uniquely suited to encourage the kind of creative problem solving that American schools seek to nurture. They can be used for just about any kind of hands-on lesson. “iPad doesn’t have to be left on a desk,” says Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice president of product marketing and applications. “It’s a microscope, it’s a video camera.” With the two-year-old iPad app Playground Physics, for example, students can film friends out on the swings, and then track and analyse their arc of motion. The app, developed by award-winning design studio Local Projects on behalf of the New York Hall of Science, is emblematic of the type of wow-worthy content that first drew educators into the Apple ecosystem. Such apps still sell iPads. But today, there is good (if not great) educational content available for all the major operating systems. At the same time, teachers and administrators are increasingly interested in the kind of management tools that Google’s Chromebooks are uniquely suited to deliver: setting up student accounts, updating software, grading homework, and more. And with classroom Wi-Fi improving, schools can take advantage of free access to Google’s massive cloud servers, which store student data and sync updates to homework assignments. Plus, administrators can manage the Chromebook remotely—an enormous advantage for short-staffed district technology teams juggling thousands of student and teacher accounts. In response, Apple has started rolling out its Classroom App, giving teachers the means to control all the devices in a classroom, and has introduced tools that make it easier for schools to generate and manage login IDs. Microsoft also now has a “Classroom” offering as part of its Office 365 Education suite, which provides teachers with a way to organise course materials and to communicate with students and includes the cloud-based collaborative software OneNote, a rival to Google Docs. This new software may check the right boxes, but Adam Newman, founding partner at education advisory firm Tyton Partners, predicts that Google will retain its edge due to its strong bond with teachers—not to mention its price. He sees a place for Apple as a premium product, “but it will be as a lighthouse, not necessarily as a real share leader.” Microsoft is better positioned, thanks to its global advantage. The challenge, says Newman, is that “there’s a complexity to what Microsoft is offering, and in a lot of places that complexity can be overwhelming.” Teachers just want tech that works, no hassle. In June, however, Microsoft took a step toward charming teachers—and repositioning itself at the forefront of innovative learning—with the launch of Minecraft: Education Edition. The classroom-oriented version of the popular computer game, which teaches children computational thinking and other STEM building-block skills, is now available for between $1 (R13) and $5 (R38) per student. (Microsoft acquired the company that developed the game for $2.5 billion/R34.2 billion in 2014.) “There’s really nothing like it among our competitors,” says Tony Prophet, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for education marketing, adding that the game has generated “huge excitement from educators around the world.” Google, meanwhile, is onto the next platform. Last year, it began using Google Cardboard to allow students to take virtual-reality “field trips” as part of their regular art, history and science lessons. Already, more than 1 million students in 11 countries have taken one—and more are on their way.
14 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A OCTOBER 2016
B E HIND T HE S CRE E N S Education’s top three technology players offer software suites designed for education. How do they compare?
Apple’s App Store boasts more than 170 000 education apps and offers its own iBooks Author and iMovie tools to students. The new Apple Classroom app gives teachers the power to control what students see and do on their iPads. Plus, teachers can launch apps, observe progress, and reset passwords. The search giant is strongest when it comes to classroom management, allowing teachers to create digital home pages for their classes and use them to make announcements, post assignments, and moderate discussions. But with more than 200 VR field trips now available through its Expeditions tool, Google is building a distinctive library of educational content as well. Microsoft’s Classroom is similar to Google’s, including the ability to integrate with any online grade book. And like Apple, Microsoft gives teachers the means to control students’ devices. Its Take a Test app lets them block functions like copy and paste when students are taking an online exam.
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Sheer Driving Pleasure
Fast Company promotion
Taking a 120-year-old iconic brand into the future How the Rand Show is planning to disrupt the exhibition industry
There are very few South African brands that have survived for over a century; it is, in fact, a great achievement for any brand anywhere in the world. In the age of disruption, it is tough for any business to stay ahead of the curve—even entire industries are finding themselves having to metamorphose and reinvent completely. The expo industry is certainly no exception, and in recent years we have seen dozens of newcomers added to the specialised expo assortment. There is an expo or trade show for almost everything, from crafts and weddings to babies and boats. In many ways, though, the boom could well be over, as recent years have shown a decline in both the number of exhibitors as well as visitors to these niche events; they remain relatively static from year to year. Consulting with some of the country’s leading trend and design specialists, the organisers of the Rand Show believe they are now ready to become the most anticipated event on the expo calendar once again. The show already boasts the largest footfall, with more than 200 000 middle- and upper LSM individuals passing through the gates of the largest expo centre in southern Africa over the Easter holiday period. It is the sheer scale of the event that ultimately will allow it to transform and provide a broad range of entertainment, catering to a host of different age groups and interests. Craig Newman, a stalwart of the exhibition industry and current chairperson of the Rand Show, explains that the brand has changed ownership several times over recent years, and a lot of work had to be done by him and his team to put it back on track to where it once was many years ago. “The past three years have seen a change in strategy that once again provided appeal to hundreds of thousands of South Africans. We are now ready to really leap and innovate,” he says.
18 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A OCTOBER 2016
One of the biggest differentiators of the Rand Show is the diverse assortment of products and entertainment that appeals to a far broader sector
Recent studies conducted by the Rand Show and strategy consultant, Trend Forward, have shown that people are wanting fantastic experiences instead of aspiring to spend money on physical items. “If we can create an amazing experience coupled with great products, we have an event that will be a win-win for all,” says Dave Nemeth, owner of Trend Forward. He goes on to explain that the focus over the next few years will be on design, as there are very “design-centric” consumers across all LSMs who are currently being ignored—making design in South Africa still very elitist. “We find that most of the current design platforms have been speaking to the same audience for many years, and continue to do so. South African design has really matured over the years and we are starting to make a mark on the international design world, but we need to expand the appreciation locally.” Design needs to be promoted among the youth as well, so that they can understand the opportunities that lie within this industry and how they can pursue a career in one of the hundreds of facets that design presents, says Nemeth. Based on this, 2017 will see the launch
DATES TO DIAIRISE
14 to 23 April 2017 Expo Centre Johannesburg, cnr Rand Show & Nasrec Road, Johannesburg
A brief history of the Rand Show
of Johannesburg Design Week, which will run over the same period as the Rand Show but create a completely new dimension that will benefit the entire industry and elevate it to a larger audience—vital for the growth and prosperity of design. Design Week aims to bridge this gap by putting on professional, engaging workshops and talks catering for students, the general public as well as industry professionals. By aligning this with the Rand Show, a large percentage of professionals who are on leave over that period can attend a master class for an hour while still being in an environment that is exciting and engaging for the rest of the family. While the Design Week programme is still in the process of being organised, the following areas already have been identified: Public Workshops—Understanding the importance of design and how to get involved. Maker Movement—The importance of this and how the youth can benefit. Design as a Career—Workshops by chosen institutions, aimed at school leavers. Design in Education Trend Talks—Trade and related industries. Master Classes—Aimed at trade professionals, offering avenues that will improve their business. International speakers.
The show was first held at the Old Wanderers cricket ground in November 1894 by the Witwatersrand Agricultural Society, which had formed in March of the same year. The second show was opened by Paul Kruger on March 13, 1895 at a venue called Milner Park, which is today the site of the Wits West Campus. It was held again in 1896 and reestablished subsequent to the end of the Anglo-Boer War in 1907. In 1936, the Rand Show was called the Empire Exhibition. The 11-day show was historically an agricultural exhibition for all South Africans where livestock, poultry, yearlings, farm products and equipment were shown and judged, with prizes awarded in the form of gold and silver medals. In later years, it also featured industrial and commercial exhibitions, and would eventually attract f oreign participants who would exhibit country pavilions
One of the biggest differentiators of the Rand Show is the diverse assortment of products and entertainment that appeals to a far broader sector, making the expo relevant and attractive to the entire family. “We are really going to capitalise on this”, says Nemeth, “and we are currently not only looking at all the aesthetic elements of the expo but also creating specialised sections such as the Design Pavilion, which will be an incredible journey of furniture, decor and design spanning 13 000 square metres. Trading for many brands has been difficult over recent years, and by innovating this iconic brand we believe this will once again become the ultimate expo experience— allowing exhibiters to do incredible sales as well as brand building while three-quarters of the country are on holiday. Product categories are currently being refined, and the events are being reimagined to guarantee an ultimate day out and an incredible experience. This is not just another expo.” If you are an innovative, up-and-coming brand that needs exposure, or a wellestablished brand wanting to reconnect with your target audience, the Rand Show gives you immediate access to 200 000 upper-income families over 10 days. In this digital age, many companies no longer have physical interaction with their consumers and do not even realise how their perceived customer has changed over recent years. Having the right strategy and exhibiting at a large expo such as the revitalised Rand Show could be a vital move toward reconnecting with the consumer on the ground and taking your brand forward. “We will also be launching an informative blog for exhibiters, where we will be educating them on how to have a successful exhibition and ensure they get the maximum return on investment,” adds Nemeth. (Information on the release date will appear on the website and Facebook page.) Design Week aims to become one of the most exciting events in Johannesburg, and eventually an essential part of the international design calendar. For all enquiries, contact Dave Nemeth on 082 652 0976 or email: email@example.com.
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World Changing Idea
NOW HEAR THIS Doppler Labs thinks the next frontier for wearable computing is your ears—and with Here One, it wants to lead the way BY HARRY MCCRACKEN Photographs by Justin Kaneps
Audio guides With their smart earbuds, Doppler Labs co-founders Noah Kraft, left, and Fritz Lanman are bringing augmented reality to ears.
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I’m trying to listen as Doppler Labs co-founder and CEO Noah Kraft walks me through his company’s new smart earbuds over the din of a crowded restaurant, but the cacophony of chattering diners and clanking silverware is overwhelming. I can’t make out a word. Then, all of a sudden, the background noise disappears. Kraft’s voice comes in loud and clear. It feels a little magical—even though we’re not actually at a restaurant. I’ve been getting a demo at Doppler’s San Francisco
headquarters, and all of that background noise was a simulation, pumped into my ears—and then muted—via a cobbled-together tangle of earphones, microphones, circuitry and other components. In November, Doppler plans to ship a pair of sleek, wireless earbuds embedded with the same technology, allowing anyone, anywhere to neutralise the hubbub of a real restaurant. Paired with a smartphone, the $299 (just over R4 000) Here One buds will stream music and answer calls. They will also be capable of remixing your world’s audio in a variety of subtle and sophisticated ways. In addition to letting you filter out specific sounds—a baby’s cry, your talkative colleagues—the buds will be able to add effects, such as reverb to live music, transforming a neighbourhood club into a concert hall. If you are at a concert hall, they’ll be able to overlay the music with streaming commentary, or even let you listen in on a performer’s backstage conversations. You’ll be able to tune into a ballgame while you’re on a run without blocking the sound of oncoming traffic. What this all adds up to is a new form of augmented reality— one that has a shot at being both practical and socially acceptable. Google Glass flopped, in part,
because wearing a computer display in front of your eyes turned out to be an awkward, off-putting way to interact with the rest of society (a lesson for MagicLeap’s upcoming headset and Microsoft’s Hololens). But people already walk around with buds in their ears—why not exchange them for a pair that’s designed to enhance the world, rather than simply tune it out? Doppler is scrambling to launch Here One in time for the holidays. Its ambitions, however, are lofty enough to keep it busy for years. “We want to be the future of computing,” Kraft declares. “If Microsoft put a computer on every desk, and Apple put a computer in every pocket, at Doppler Labs we want to put a computer, speaker and microphone in everyone’s ears.” To fuel this mission, the company has raised some $50 million (R689.5 million) in funding, from major venturecapital firms as well as musicindustry bigwigs such as David Geffen, Quincy Jones and “Uptown Funk” creator Mark Ronson. Now Doppler just needs to integrate a complex array of hardware and software technologies into earbuds that are a mere 20.1 millimetres tall—less than the diameter of a nickel.
“What if we could curate how we hear the world? What if we could give ourselves more control?”
The red-bearded, 29-yearold Kraft is an infectiously enthusiastic salesman, the kind of person who grows only more animated when he’s short on sleep—which, as the CEO of a startup working furiously to hit its product-launch timeline, he often is. “I lose my voice every day by about 5 p.m.,” he says. San Francisco doesn’t exactly suffer from a shortage of hyperenergetic young tech CEOs, but Kraft, unlike most, is not a born geek. The idea for Doppler sprung from his lifelong love of music. After studying international relations and history at Brown, he produced movies (including December’s boxing drama Bleed for This, executive-produced by Martin Scorsese), started a rock band, and even worked on a friend’s electronic-music tour, helping to pick clubs and promote shows. As the tour went from venue to venue—usually small
rooms with subpar acoustics— Kraft was struck that his friend’s music sounded different in every space. “What if we could curate how we hear the world?” he recalls asking himself. “What if we could give ourselves more control?” By 2013, Kraft had the glimmer of a smart-earware concept in mind, but knew that he needed someone with tech experience to help make it a reality. When Fritz Lanman, a former Microsoft executive who engineered the company’s prescient investment in Facebook, considered backing his idea, Kraft instead talked him into becoming Doppler’s co-founder and executive chairperson. Lanman’s credibility and connections soon helped recruit alumni of companies such as Amazon, Apple and Nest. For his part, Kraft sold Lanman on a plan that involved shipping progressively more sophisticated products and learning about design, manufacturing and marketing along the way. Everything that Doppler has done since its founding has been homework for the Here One launch. First came 2014’s Dubs Acoustic Filters, earplugs designed to make music sound good, but quieter. A year later came the Here Active Listening earbuds, which let you perform audio tricks
T HE E A R S H AV E I T By building computers into earbuds—and connecting them to smartphones and the Internet—Doppler can perform a wide range of functions, with more on the way: LISTENING TO MUSIC
AT A MUSEUM
ON THE ROAD
The Here One app lets you adjust the sound of live music to your preferences. It can also, through content partners, give users the audio equivalent of a backstage concert pass.
Here One will be able to connect users with a partner museum’s audio guides and beacon technology to offer visitors location-specific insight into the art.
Here One’s ability to layer streaming audio on top of the sound that surrounds you in the real world will let it deliver commentary, statistics and more while you’re at a sporting event.
Doppler’s technology can turn down the drone of airplanes and subways. Longterm, Doppler wants to be able to intelligently tweak what you hear using factors such as geolocation.
The Here One earbuds will be able to help users focus on the audio of the people around them—useful for conversing at restaurants, bars and loud clubs.
OCTOBER 2016 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A 21
World Changing Idea
such as tweaking how live music sounds and minimising the engine noise on an airplane. Rather than attempt a full-blown retail rollout, the company offered the earbuds to backers of its Kickstarter campaign, which raised $635 000 (R8.7 million). Then it partnered with Coachella to sell them to attendees at this year’s music festival—in part to make clear that Doppler’s goals go far beyond competing with Beats and Bose. In a tent, the Doppler team walked users through the earbuds’ fancy sound filters, showing them how to block out the sound of the crowd—or the entire festival—with a swipe of a finger. “We had 4 000 people wearing a tech product in their ears,” says Kraft. “If it had been a headphone, that wouldn’t have happened.” The Here One buds will have similar audio-manipulation capabilities as Here Active Listening, along with the ability to auto-suggest settings depending on a user’s location. They’ll also be able to stream audio, which permits them to play music and make calls. More important, it enables Doppler to work with content partners, such as museums, sports teams and music venues, to deliver audio commentary and other enhanced experiences. That’s just the beginning. Doppler wants to get increasingly better at eliminating noise, and if it’s going to turn down the volume on distractions such as sirens and wailing infants, it needs to be able to identify them on the fly, in a multitude of variations. (It’s not just babies that have distinct voices; European sirens sound nothing like their US counterparts.) That’s a formidable artificial-intelligence challenge that has not been the subject of much research, so a Doppler team is collecting vast quantities of real-world audio for analysis. “Where speech recognition has thousands of published papers, environmental audio classification has dozens,” explains senior software engineer Jacob Meacham as I chat with him
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in a lab dominated by a subwoofer so big it doubles as a couch. “On our second day, we were at the forefront.” The implications of such research go far beyond Kraft’s initial yen to make live music sound better. Here One isn’t a hearing aid; if it were, it would be subject to a torrent of medicaldevice regulations that the company is happy to avoid for now. But two key members of Doppler’s team—VP of product Kennard Nielsen and Kristen “KR” Liu, director of accessibility and advocacy—are hearingimpaired and enthralled by the possibility that its technology could help others by amplifying conversations and suppressing background noise. “I’m 38 years old, I’ve worn a hearing aid my entire life, and all of a sudden [with Here One], I’m hearing things I’ve never heard before,” Liu marvels. Even as Doppler puts the finishing touches on Here One, it’s tinkering with features that won’t be ready anytime soon. One such project is using the earbuds for real-time language translation. When I get a demo of this work in progress, I feel a tad silly: I have to don a backpack that contains a pint-size desktop PC and the largest battery you can legally carry on an airplane. But I understand why the company is investing in the effort when a Doppler staffer says, “Buenos días, amigo. Cómo estás?” I hear, “Good day, friend. How are you?” Kraft watches and beams. Afterward, he emphasises that Doppler isn’t sure how, when— or maybe even if—it will deploy translation to consumers. “We know we want to get there, but we’re not going to compromise our ability to ship this first product,” he says. Once again, he’s taking things one thoughtful step at a time. And if this next one is well received, he just might realise his dream of putting a computer in every ear.
Sounding off Doppler Labs struggled to find a manufacturer that could meet the challenge of squeezing its technology into an earbud.
L I T T L E B UD S, B IG T E CHNOLOGY For Doppler, stuffing a powerful computing platform into two tiny earbuds required a variety of hardware and software engineering feats. Here are some of the highlights:
EARBUDS Each one contains circuitry with a multiprocessor, low-latency audio system, a high-fidelity speaker, three microphones, and a battery.
STORAGE CASE The pocket-size Here One case doubles as a charger, providing up to an additional six hours of streaming.
APP Doppler’s smartphone app acts as a remote control, allowing users to adjust how they hear the sounds around them.
CONNECTION Buds use near-field magnetic induction technology to communicate with each other and stream content from apps on a user’s phone.
2017 @RAND SHOW
14-23 April JHB Expo Centre, Nasrec CNr Nasrec Rd & Randshow Rd Johannesburg, South Africa
Come and learn from some of the industries best. From photo-editing to graphic design and animation.
Book now to see some of the industries leading professionals talking about design. Talks cover Fashion, Architecture, graphic and Interior design.
Come and learn from some of the industries best makers and maker organisations. Get involved, build, create and innovate.
Come and see some of the best local design. Furniture as well as products, it is all on show during design week.
Fast Company Promotion
24 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A OCTOBER 2016
Enterprise digital transformation P w C South Africa and Google’s joint business relationship w ill help companies thri ve in a changing world
OCTOBER 2016 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A 25
Fast Company Promotion
Under a global master agreement with Google, PwC South Africa has entered into a local joint business relationship with the tech giant, with the aim of bringing new and innovative solutions to companies across Africa. The rapid pace of innovation in technology has fundamentally changed how and where work gets done, driving organisations to transform their businesses for the future. Together, PwC and Google aim to help that digital transformation happen. From Google, companies get unprecedented innovation and digital solutions; while PwC brings deep industry experience, a broad range of business services and client insights, from strategy through to execution. Together, PwC and Google will help companies succeed by leveraging PwC’s business insights along with Google’s products such as the G Suite apps and Google Cloud Platform. In doing so, PwC and Google will guide companies seeking to break new ground in their businesses—not only to compete with new entrants and adapt to disruptive market forces but also to lead the innovation themselves. “Ultimately, our collaboration is about helping clients to embrace their journey to the cloud, and transform their organisations to thrive and maintain relevance in a rapidly changing world,” says Liesbeth Botha, PwC’s Africa strategic digital transformation leader. PwC has also begun introducing the Google Cloud products to its own operations. It is transitioning its staff across Africa to G Suite apps, transforming how they collaborate and driving enhanced productivity and innovation.
SHARED SPACE Shared space The newly PwC Innovation The newlylaunched launched PwC Zone aims toZone create, and Innovation aimscollaborate to build unique customer experiences. create, collaborate and build unique customer experiences.
Imagination to create, knowledge to transform, space to co-create These days, it has become essential to experiment and ultimately build new value for customers. Brands we loved only a few years ago have become stale, and entire industries have been up-ended or disrupted. With access to more information and more options, customer expectations are now higher than ever before. Customers don’t compare you to where you were last year. To stay ahead, you must find a way to add new value to people’s lives and create meaningful and lasting connected experiences.
What the PwC Innovation Zone will mean for your business – Innovation
Moving into the white space Experiment and learn, identify new opportunities, exploit them fast, and bring ideas to life that don’t exist in the market today.
Maximising business value Execute strategies across layers of the organisation, show results quickly, adapt to changing
conditions, and close the gap between analysis and results.
Improving people’s views Create experiences customers not only want but need, by putting yourself in their shoes, understanding their needs, and empathising with their position.
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Objectively viewing the connected world Whether building from the ground up or extending existing capabilities, start with your business requirements and architect a technology solution that’s scalable and reliable.
Identifying data insights that matter Fuel the integration of your digital and offline strategy by understanding how you are performing today, and how you can perform better tomorrow.
Unlocking new business value Dissect your business agnostically, optimise your marketing channels, and identify new opportunities for growth.
The following workshops are offered at the Innovation Zone to help you find new ways of engaging with your customers: – Fiercest Competitor
Immersion-journey workshops harnessing exploration and decision making—from divergence to convergence—to turn an abstract view into concrete actions that engage both the rational and emotional.
– Digital Transformation
With a deep understanding of business transformation, innovation, digital and insights into where industries are headed, our teams help you identify ways of migrating your business into a digital world.
– Fintech Integration
Understanding financial technology trends is just the beginning. We can help you figure out how to use fintech to convert disruptive threats into opportunities.
– Data Analytics Lab
We help you understand and cluster your data into visualisation dashboards that help guide strategic customer insights and enhance experience.
– Ideation Lab
Do you have some great ideas but aren’t sure what to do with them? Commitment from ideation to rapid prototyping to building an MVP, we can help you build some of your most disruptive digital ideas.
You can wait to see which approach appears to work and hope you’re not too late—or you can be where your customer wants to go. To help prepare for this change, PwC launched its first Africa Innovation Zone in Cape Town in July 2016, in its new offices located in Silo 5 at the V&A Waterfront. Created in collaboration with local artists, the space aims to break the corporate mould and drive people to think about business issues differently. “Bringing design thinking into this PwC space gives PwC the ability to co-create with multidisciplinary teams, and to bring fresh insights to problems worth solving,” says Michael O’Carroll, PwC Cape Town Innovation Zone and Google alliance driver. PwC will also
– Google Lab
The Google/PwC alliance aims to help clients with the deployment of the Google Cloud applications in their digital transformation journey (G Suite and Google Cloud Platform).
use this space to collaborate with Google to reimagine a client’s digital transformation journey, using Google’s cloud technology (G Suite and Google Cloud platform). The PwC Innovation Zone is an ecosystem of the right talent and space that aims to create, collaborate and build unique customer solutions together. Its community of makers connect ideal human experience to business transformation that makes sense. It offers the best of an agency: • Immersion and acceleration labs. • Experience design across digital, mobile and physical channels. • Creation of data clusters linked to customer needs. • Co-creation, with multidisciplinary teams bringing fresh insights to problems worth solving. And it offers the best of a consultancy: • Resolution of complex organisational issues. • Exploration of disruptive business models. • Emerging industry insights and research. • Bringing together the best of PwC with clients and strategic partners to co-create something unique.
How the Innovation Zone devises the ideal ecosystem Right talent: PwC has a community of experienced business, industry and creative people who collaborate to build market relevant solutions. Right answers: People move faster than business. Mobile, social, data analytics and digital transformation will continue to evolve customer experiences and expectations. PwC has solutions that will move their clients beyond current trends and focus on the future. Right engagement: One can’t afford to lose time or momentum in a disruptive market. PwC’s collaborative engagement models help move their clients forward, regardless of whether they’re looking for the next disruptive idea, or if they have it but just don’t have the resources to make it real. Right environment: PwC brings together the physical and virtual worlds in the Innovation Zone. Their evolving facilities nurture collaboration and co-creation; a space to experiment, to debate—and in the ‘real world’ where ideas are born.
For further details, visit www.pwc.com/za or contact Michael O’Carroll at PwC Cape Town: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Behind the Brand
Leading the charge Adidas veteran Nicole Vollebregt is hoping to woo female athletes and nonathletes alike.
ADIDAS GETS IN THE GAME To counter shrinking market share, the athletic-wear giant is betting on women By Elizabeth Segran
Photograph by Clayton Cotterell
In a recent series of videos for Adidas, supermodel Karlie Kloss bakes, codes and practises ballet. Yoga instructor Adriene Mishler takes viewers behind the scenes of a video shoot. DJ Hannah Bronfman goes surfing, boxes and fries octopus. The lifestyle-meetsathletics campaign, tagged “Here to Create”, represents a change of strategy for the company, which has traditionally relied on ads that feature professional sports figures, usually male, at the top of their game. The videos are the latest instalment in Adidas’s campaign to capture an audience it hasn’t often targeted: women. There’s a lot riding on the effort. The company saw its share price drop by 38% from 2014 to 2015; in September 2014, Under Armour overtook it to become the secondlargest sportswear company in the US, behind Nike. (Adidas managed to reclaim its runner-up position this past August, but the pressure is still on.) The problem:
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Though Adidas remains nearly synonymous with soccer globally, in the US, it hasn’t been keeping up with trends—particularly the rise of athleisure. Overall workoutwear sales have increased 42% in the past seven years, with newer entrants in the sportswear market, such as Lululemon, H&M and Zara encroaching on market share. In response, Adidas put together a sweeping plan to appeal to women, including a new leadership structure and novel approaches to creating and selling a broader range of female-focused products. There are early signs that the strategy is working: North American sales increased by 32% in the second quarter of 2016, spurred by smart partnerships and a renewed focus on running gear. A team of three new leaders are helping Adidas execute the strategy. In February, Nicole Vollebregt, a 20-year veteran of the company, was named its first head of global women’s business. She’s joined by Alison Stewart, the newly appointed senior director for Adidas’s women’s division, and former Lululemon CEO Christine Day, who acts as a strategic adviser
“The performance technology we have, whether that’s fabric or running shoes, is huge. That’s something that all of those fashion brands don’t have.” for the company. All three are focused on cultivating what Adidas calls the “versatile female athlete”—the woman who wants stylish gear that can withstand sweat. “We realised that we needed a different approach to
how we address the female athlete as a brand,” says Vollebregt. “We work with every business unit [in the company] to make sure we are delivering products and experiences she wants.” Pure Boost X, a running shoe the company introduced in January, is a prime example. Rather than taking a male sneaker and sizing it down, as it has done in the past, Adidas created a shoe specifically for the female foot (see sidebar for more). The company is emphasising its long-standing Adidas by Stella McCartney line of workout wear, naming Kloss the face of the 2016 collection. In addition, it’s promoting a line of wearables, including a bra with a built-in heart-rate monitor. “The performance technology we have, whether that’s fabric or running shoes, is huge,” says Vollebregt. “That’s something that all of those fashion brands don’t have.” It’s one thing to create products for the versatile female athlete, and an entirely different challenge to get her attention. Data collected from MiCoach, Adidas’s fitness training app, suggested a solution: Create a community. After MiCoach revealed that women tend to exercise in groups, Adidas announced a partnership with Wanderlust, which stages wellness events around the world. Adidas now sponsors Wanderlust’s regular “mindful triathlons” (5k, yoga, meditation), and the pair will collaborate on festivals featuring influencer athletes. Uniting women through yoga classes and events may be a page straight from Lululemon’s playbook, but for a company with Adidas’s scale, it can be leveraged in new ways. “When we embark on something new, it may take us a little longer because we are a big organisation,” Vollebregt says. “But once we decide on an initiative and turn on the tap, we can ramp up extremely quickly because we have thousands of our own stores globally.”
One-two punch DJ Hannah Bronfman shows off her boxing skills in one of Adidas’s “Here to Create” videos.
F IL L ING OU T T HE R O S T E R How Adidas is targeting female athletes with new products and initiatives 1
Pu re Boost X Adidas used motion-tracking technology to study the movement of the female foot and designed the Pure Boost X to match it. The sneaker features a floating arch for extra support, as well as material engineered for a flexible fit.
MiCoac h Train & Ru n a pp Because data showed that women are motivated by community, Adidas updated its app to include a social feed that allows users to share workout stats with friends. 5
Wa n de rl u st pa r t ne rsh i p In addition to collaborating on events, Adidas and Wanderlust are building an influencer programme in which Wanderlust participants will lead running and yoga classes. There’s also an apparel collection in the works.
Wea ra ble s Adidas’s smart bra, introduced in 2012, is outfitted with sensors that measure calories burned, heart rate, and other performance indicators. It pairs with the MiCoach smartwatch and the Train & Run app, allowing users to adjust their effort based on real-time feedback.
Aven ue A In February, Adidas launched its first subscription-box service. The boxes, which are distributed four times a year, feature a celebrity-curated selection of athletic gear, including a full exercise outfit with sneakers and accessories, such as the MiCoach Fit smartwatch .
“ Here to Create” ca m paig n Adidas brought in advertising firm 72andSunny to create the series of ads that present a fuller picture of a woman’s life, from athletic pursuits to family-centric moments. It garnered nearly half a billion impressions.
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A c o nve n i e n t tr ut h
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How African startups are finding success with services that make consumers’ lives easier
GUTTER CREDIT TK
By Michelle Atagana
Art credit teekay
It’s 8 p.m. and I’m starving. I consider chewing on the cover on my mobile for sustenance. I’m waiting for Joycee Awojoodu, the founder of ORÍKÌ, a luxury skincare brand based in Nigeria. She’s exploring the expansion of her products to South Africa, and wants to find interesting and more convenient ways to solve her customers’ skincare problems. Skincare on demand, she says. I’m meeting with Awojoodu to discuss her ideas of what e-commerce and technology can do for any business on the continent. Her main idea now revolves around piloting the concept of a digital beauty consultant that creates beauty packages to which customers can subscribe. All they have to do is answer a few questions and the consultant will email ways to solve their skin issues and suggest products that they can have delivered on a quarterly basis. In the last five years, 11 African startups have raised around $560 million (R7.6 billion) in funding for varying ventures in the tech sector. From e-commerce platforms to router alternatives, all have benefited from increasing investor appetite in the continent’s startup ecosystem. And as 2016 rolls on to its close, it seems there’s no slowing down in investments, despite economic difficulties in some markets. And why not? African businesses are not only starting to see their own potential but the universal value of their ideas and products.
OCTOBER 2016 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A 31
This renaissance period in Africa’s tech growth is being championed by a group of ondemand, subscription-based and peer-to-peer startups that are built around making people’s lives easier through fuss-free technology. There are a number of companies succeeding in this, including South Africa’s SweepSouth, a company that takes the bother out of cleaning your home. The once-off service allows you to book—on your mobile or tablet or PC—a housekeeper to clean, wash and iron however many times a week you’d like. Another South African startup, RainFin, uses a peer-to-peer model for personal loans, allowing users to borrow from or lend to people quickly and easily using the platform. “The more successful startups going forward in Africa will be the ones that look at the convenience issue,” says Knife Capital’s Keet van Zyl. “I think more African startups are starting to realise that they need to start solving basic African needs and problems. One of the avenues to do that is opening up another e-commerce channel. It is easier to adopt behaviour than change culture.” However successful these companies turn out to be at serving consumers, there needs to be success in the business space too: models that create a sustainable ecosystem for businesses like these, rather than just heavily relying on critical mass for success. “Business models around these subscription-based businesses need to
be diversified to not just benefit users but also address sustainability. Often the real business models that enable these companies to become profitable are something different to the obvious use-case: utilising the underlying subscriber base and adding payment options, add-ons, insurance products or other related functionality,” says Van Zyl. Nigerian entrepreneur Victor Asemota argues that there’s a new kind of “on-demand” model emerging in Africa, one whereby individuals serve the needs of groups of people with a common problem, and provide a muchneeded service such as grocery shopping. He says companies like Mile12Market.com and BalogunMarket.ng are now interfacing actual traditional markets to provide this service to people online. African startups are beginning to think differently about how they approach business. Entrepreneurs are thinking about the African consumer’s immediate needs. They’re looking to address latent trust issues as well as convenience. Recently launched Shypmate is a peer-to-peer shipping company aimed at Africa’s growing online shopping audience. It allows users to purchase an item online, and rather than pay expensive shipping costs or lose out because the site doesn’t deliver to their location, it has the
A better business model Subscription-based startups should not just benefit users but also address sustainability, says Knife Capital’s Keet van Zyl.
product delivered by someone already travelling to the customer’s area. Ghana’s Tress is an Instagram-like app for hair enthusiasts that allows users to get tips as well as discover new hairstyles from likeminded individuals. According to the app, it’s a “passionate community of black women from around the world, sharing and discovering new hairstyles.” These subscription-based services are a growing trend, but they need to be major opportunities that can operate anywhere and which grab the attention of investors. This is a big challenge for African entrepreneurs when it comes to scaling a business across a continent with a potential consumer base of 1.2 billion people. In 54 countries with more than 1 000 languages and varying tax structures, different ways of doing business, and connectivity issues, are these 1.2 billion problems or opportunities for solving systemic problems that simply need localisation?
Entrepreneurs are thinking about the African consumer’s immediate needs. They’re looking to address latent trust issues as well as convenience.
On-demand is in demand Nigerian entrepreneur Joycee Awojoodu is working around a concept of a digital consultant that creates personalised beauty packages to which customers can subscribe.
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FAST COMPANY’S FIFTH ANNUAL IBD AWARDS SPOTLIGHT THE BEST PRODUCTS, SERVICES AND IDEAS OF 2016: 26 EXPERT JUDGES PORED THROUGH MORE THAN 1 700 ENTRIES AND SELECTED FINALISTS IN 11 CATEGORIES. READ ON FOR A LOOK AT SOME OF THEIR PICKS FOR DESIGN THAT IS MAKING A DIFFERENCE
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INSIDE Page 40
Google’s logo revamp
Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Microsoft’s HoloLens, and HTC’s Vive Page 44
Nike’s HyperAdapt 1.0 sneaker Page 45
Airbnb’s mobile app Page 46
Volvo’s Concept 26 interior Page 52
Domino’s Zero Click ordering Page 54
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National Museum of African American History and Culture
A BOLD MONUMENT TO THE BLACK EXPERIENCE For its first 72 years as the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, was a slave territory, and the five-acre tract on which the new National Museum of African American History and Culture sits once contained a slave market. So even before the ribbon was cut or the foundation laid, the building, which opened September 24, was already firmly rooted in the geography of America’s most inhumane and violent institution. Yet instead of sadness, David Adjaye, the museum’s lead designer, saw celebration. He knew all about slavery, segregation and lynchings, as well as more current reminders of that shameful legacy, such as the killings of Trayvon Martin and other innocent black men, women and children. But Adjaye wanted to capture a broader view. “I refused to see the African-American story as tragic,” says the Tanzanian-born, Britishraised architect. “Instead, it is an extraordinary journey of overcoming, and shaping, what America is.” That idea was a touchstone of the building’s design; the $540 million (R7.4 billion), 37 000-square-metre structure is literally encased in the symbols of African-American triumph. From the visually striking exterior to the carefully designed exhibit-hall environments, Adjaye and his team—in collaboration with architecture firms the Freelon Group, Davis Brody Bond, and SmithGroupJJR—have created what he calls “a spatial narrative”, by which he means that the building itself tells the story of the African-American experience. Located on the National Mall near the Washington Monument, Adjaye’s metallic, multi-tiered structure consists of three inverted box shapes that thrust upward. Inspired by Yoruban caryatids—traditional wooden sculptures of female figures found in East Africa that are often topped by box-shaped crowns—the design is meant to recall both the head wraps worn by many black women in the US and hands raised in praise or prayer, a common symbol in African-American spiritual life.
Photograph by Ike Edeani
Tiers of emotion Architect David Adjaye wanted the building itself to tell a story.
“I was fascinated with how these [shapes] were connected,” says the much-lauded architect, who has constructed prominent buildings such as the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo. “It was so uncanny to make connections between the Yoruba caryatid and modern expressions in black America. They became clues to the architecture of the building.” The lattice exterior, which is made out of 3 600 bronze-coloured castaluminium panels, references ironwork patterns created by 19th-century enslaved workers in New Orleans and Charleston, South Carolina—an homage to the skill and the unpaid labour of these craftsmen. Established in 2003 by an act of Congress, the museum is being overseen by founding director Lonnie Bunch III, a long-time Smithsonian executive. Adjaye, whose group beat out hundreds of other firms for the commission, was named lead designer in 2009, and construction started three years later. While the building was in progress, Bunch and his team—in consultation with historians and luminaries such as Oprah Winfrey and Colin Powell—amassed around 34 000 artifacts, mostly from private collectors. Ideally, the curators want to create dialogue and “complicate questions of race, agency and history,” says deputy director Kinshasha Holman Conwill. “The hope is that people will leave here transformed and wanting to learn more.” That seems likely. During a pre-opening tour in June, when the interior was still essentially a construction site, the space exuded a solemn dignity. Workers wearing hard hats were guiding cloth-covered display items into various exhibition spaces, and the partially completed rooms were full of shipping crates and dangling wires. But things were far enough along to offer a sense of what the experience will be like. The overarching idea is that a visitor’s journey through the museum mirrors the rise of African-American people’s position in society. Exhibits begin three levels underground, where low ceilings and a lack of natural light create a somewhat claustrophobic effect. That heightens the emotional impact of galleries such as Slavery & Freedom, which displays a 5m cotton tower, artifacts from a wrecked slave ship, and two log cabins, including one that housed enslaved people on Edisto Island, South Carolina. As you move upward, rooms feature a lace shawl owned by Harriet Tubman, Emmett Till’s coffin, a plane flown by Tuskegee Airmen, and the original Soul Train sign. The exhibit halls
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Making history Tours of the museum begin underground, then rise into sunlit galleries as the subject matter grows more uplifting.
are much more than just expertly curated trips through time: They resonate because America has still not decisively resolved the complex issues that make the museum so necessary in the first place. One of the most powerful moments comes about halfway through, when museum-goers arrive at a room called the Contemplative Court. Underground galleries give way to aboveground halls with high
ceilings and picture windows, where the museum focuses on more-optimistic topics such as sports, music, visual arts, hair and style. The Contemplative Court’s sunlit stone benches and soothing water feature offer a space “to reframe what you experienced and contextualise it,” says Adjaye, who hopes visitors will sit for a few minutes and reflect on the nation-shaping hardships they’ve just seen. “Then you move on up into the light.”
Alan Karchmer (top and left); Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images (right)
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Spring’s accelerator boot camps
A FEMALE-FOCUSED HELPING HAND
Startup accelerator Spring, which launched last year, nurtures businesses that benefit adolescent girls in East Africa and South Asia. In 2015, the group organised a design-focused boot camp in Nairobi, Kenya, and similar projects are now set to take place in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. Here are some of the businesses that took part in the Kenya sessions. —BL SANIVATION
Started by a pair of Georgia Institute of Technology grads, this company instals free toilets in homes that don’t have access to a sewer system (it charges a fee to cart away waste, which it then turns into charcoal briquettes). The Sanivation toilet addresses several issues related to public pit latrines, such as sanitation, privacy and safety. “We look at girls as indirect consumers who can trigger purchases,” says co-founder Andrew Foote, who assembled focus groups at schools in Kenya to help design toilets that would most appeal to young women. TOTOHEALTH
The Nairobi-based family-health company aims to reduce maternal and infant mortality by using SMS and voice technologies to send advice and reminders to expectant and new mothers. Spring helped Totohealth design a content system that’s aimed at teenagers. “[Teens] are more on their own than somebody who is carrying a pregnancy in a stable relationship,” says Fonda Ruiter, a paediatric and public-health specialist at Totohealth. “They do not have the support an adult would have.” TINY TOTOS
Tiny Totos is working to improve day-care facilities in poor Nairobi neighbourhoods. The company helps train caregivers to create safe and nurturing environments, and also provides funding and business coaching. “We just want kids to have a place where they can be kids,” says Tiny Totos co-founder Emma Caddy. “To learn, be confident, and find a kick-start to rise above the squalor of their surroundings.”
Kinduct’s stats app
A data-crunching sports tool
When the LA Dodgers recently wanted a better way to analyse players’ health and performance, they turned to Kinduct’s Athlete Management System, which gathers information from various sources—Fitbits, RFID chips, electronic medical records—and packages it all in an easy-to-navigate app. Users can click through charts that find patterns in individuals or teams. “[Sports organisations] had all this data, but it wasn’t connected,” says Kinduct CEO Travis McDonough. “Now we have this layer of predictive analytics that can tell an athlete, ‘Hey, you’re trending toward an injury.’ ” Kinduct is also offering the app to personal fitness trainers and corporate wellness providers, and it’s experimenting with ways hospitals may use it to help patients. —KL
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Palette cleanser Google’s Lee helped modernise the company’s colourful visuals.
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Google’s logo revamp
A NEW LOOK CONNECTS THE DOTS Perhaps you didn’t notice when Google updated its logo last year. The changes were relatively subtle, with a cleaner, sans-serif typography replacing the original’s highly ornamental lettering. But the revamp was actually a big deal, and not just because the logo is viewed trillions of times a year on Google’s search page. It reconceives the logo as an interactive visual device that adds functionality, using a clever animation of dots to communicate various responses to user actions. We spoke to Jonathan Lee, a Google creative director who helped spearhead the redesign, about how he approached the biggest change yet to the company’s visual signature. —Mark Wilson Why change the logo now? We wanted to future-proof the brand. There are things we know are coming: We’re designing for wearables, to have our brand work on a watch face or in Android Auto in cars. That was the core momentum builder. The logo is designed to react to users. It employs four animated dots to help people grasp what’s going on while they’re interacting with Google products. Why was that important? The intention was to allow a new level of expression in our interface and for our brand. We’ve been investing heavily in using motion. The way the dots move communicates more than just, “Hey, we’re dots.” How something behaves after you interact with it gives you a better understanding of where you are in an application. Right now, the primary expressions are that it’s listening to you speak [in voice search] and is showing that it’s actually catching some sound from you. It also can show you that it doesn’t understand what you said. How nervous were you before you introduced it? It was so nerve-wracking the day of, knowing that we had worked for months and months with the collective effort of so many people. I was frankly ecstatic and relieved that people responded so well. It’s kind of a complicated thing to ask the world to understand.
Photograph by Ina Jang
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Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Microsoft’s HoloLens, and HTC’s Vive
A N E W WAY O F SEEING Last year, Pokémon Go instantly transformed augmented reality from a geeky-cool niche concept into a mainstream phenomenon. But if you really want to experience AR’s world-changing potential, you can’t just download an app and start chasing after Charizards. Serious augmented reality—and its cousin, virtual reality—finally arrived this year in the form of several impressive products that could mark a big evolution in how we connect to the digital world. Microsoft’s AR device, HoloLens, started shipping in March (it’s currently available as a $3 000/R41 300 developer kit; the company says a cheaper consumer version is in the works). The headset, which vaguely resembles ski goggles, layers 3D digital imagery on top of your regular field of vision, creating a seamless blend of the real world
Illustration by Rich Tu
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Technology Will Save Us’s DIY toy
and computer-generated content. Meanwhile, Facebook’s Oculus Rift and HTC’s Vive—also released in early 2016—offer fully immersive experiences that place you inside stunningly convincing virtual worlds. At $599 (R8 200) and $799 (R11 000) apiece, the strap-to-your-face screens are as pricey as they are exciting. “We’ve all used mice and keyboards and touchscreens, but AR and VR represent a new way of interacting with information and digital services,” says Lewis Ward, an analyst at IDC. “We’re not sure what we’re going to find yet in this new user interface paradigm, but it could turn out to be as disruptive as touchscreens have been in the past decade.” Each of the three devices is a technical feat. Invented by a teenager in his Long Beach, California garage, the Rift solves problems that had bedevilled engineers and designers for decades, such as motion sickness–inducing interfaces and bulky, uncomfortable hardware that prevented extended use. The Vive’s biggest achievement is its pair of headset-linked handheld controllers, which are easy and intuitive to use, making the experience exponentially more engaging. And HoloLens nails the dizzyingly complex challenge of stuffing a 3D projector and room-mapping camera into a lightweight, wearable device that doesn’t need to be tethered to a separate computer. As tantalising as these platforms are, there are still some significant barriers to widespread adoption. The Vive and Rift need to be hooked up to powerful, expensive computers in order to work, pushing their true cost into the thousands of dollars. And HoloLens currently suffers from limited processing power and a relatively small field of vision. To put it another way, none of these products is likely to be the iPhone—a breakthrough technology that immediately and radically remakes the landscape. Instead, they seem more akin to Steve Jobs’s original Macintosh computer. When it arrived in 1984, the Mac failed to catch on in the broader market. But its many widely imitated features—most notably its mouse and transformative graphical interface—went on to define personal computing for decades. Even if the HoloLens, Rift and Vive don’t themselves grow into the kind of mass-appeal gadgets that inspire mainstream acceptance, the breakthrough solutions they offer could lead to generations of evermore-sophisticated VR products. And to be sure, the devices make you gasp with wonder when you use them for the first time; it’s one thing to read about the promise of virtual reality, and quite another to experience how utterly transporting the technology can be. “The demo that got me was Medium for Oculus, which lets you sculpt in 3D,” says designer Rob Girling, whose firm, Artefact, is building developer tools for VR. “It feels like [open-world building game] Minecraft times 1 000, times 10 000. But it still feels like a demo.” Ultimately, that’s the biggest early issue with AR and VR: The content currently available for these platforms seems intended to showcase the promise of the devices rather than to provide fully realised and satisfying experiences. But more meaningful interactivity is tantalisingly easy to imagine. Augmented reality could one day become a normal part of everyday life, feeding us a constant stream of information about our environment. More immediately, we could start seeing practical applications such as AR how-to manuals that layer instructions on top of tricky projects, making experts of us all. And VR, in addition to potentially transforming the gaming industry, could, for example, let us watch football games from the point of view of our favourite team’s starting quarterback. “The killer app has yet to come,” says Jake Barton, a designer whose firm, Local Projects, creates immersive digital experiences. “But what happens when you get the Spielberg of VR?” —Cliff Kuang
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A wearable just for kids Roughly the size and shape of a bicycle bell, the Mover Kit is an enticing device that budding technophiles can design themselves. “First, kids invest in putting it together,” says Bethany Koby, CEO of Technology Will Save Us, the digital toy company behind the kit. “Then they learn how it works. We tried to understand what inputs and outputs would spark them to invent their own games.” After following the assembly directions, kids can connect it to a computer and use the easy drag-and-drop coding interface to program it to light up in response to physical-activity cues (a jump of a certain height, say). Then they just strap it to their wrist or bike and head for the playground. —CK
Nike’s self-tying sneakers
A futuristic shoe Technology that lets you avoid lacing your footwear has existed for decades: It’s called Velcro. But Nike’s HyperAdapt 1.0 sneakers, due to go on sale later this year, offer a much more sophisticated solution. The shoes are outfitted with tiny sensors that detect when wearers slide in their feet, activating a small motor-and-pulley system that automatically draws the laces to a certain degree of tightness based on the size and position of the foot. Buttons next to the tongue allow for easy adjustments depending on user preference and type of activity. But the HyperAdapt is not just about performance and convenience. The shoe is intended to be as engaging as it is technologically impressive. “You can feel it tighten, hear the motor run, and see the laces [move],” says Nike senior innovation engineer Tiffany Beers. “It’s a shoe that ignites three senses.” —CD
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Travel agent Airbnb designer Amber Cartwright is building a digital product that better serves both hosts and guests.
Airbnb’s mobile app
A VA C AT I O N - S TAY UPGRADE When you rent an Airbnb, there’s no front desk or concierge, so the company’s app is especially important. It guides guests through the entire process: not just selecting a place to stay, but communicating with the host and discovering things to do nearby. To make that experience as effective and engaging as possible, Airbnb significantly overhauled its app last year, simplifying its interface and introducing thoughtful filters to make it easier to search listings. When it came to creating those filters, “we learnt that words like trendy aren’t useful, because they don’t make you think about what you’ll be doing on your trip,” says Airbnb design manager Amber Cartwright, who oversaw the process. “What is useful is a word like lively, which [indicates] what kind of trip you’re making, like whether you’ll be going out at night with friends.” The app also introduced a new algorithm that surfaces the freshest, most popular and most useful host recommendations for nearby restaurants and activities. Next, Airbnb plans to revamp the app’s host-focused functionality, which lets listers handle transactions and guest interactions via mobile. The idea, Cartwright says, is to “build out more complex business tools for them to set prices and manage listings and schedule their time. We want to help them to be micro-entrepreneurs.” —CK
Photograph by Noel Spirandelli
Revolution Precrafted’s houses
A FAB COLLECTION OF PREFAB STRUCTURES
Want to live in a house designed by one of the world’s most famous architects? A Manila, Philippines–based real estate developer named Robbie Antonio has tapped an impressive list of big names to each create something for his line of covetable, prefabricated structures that can be easily purchased online. His company, Revolution Precrafted, is set to start shipping the houses and gazebo-like canopies this year. Prices average around $300 000 (R4.1 million), which doesn’t include the cost of the land or site preparation, and superstars such as Jean Nouvel and Daniel Libeskind are working on designs. Antonio provides an early look at three of Revolution’s offerings. —Diana Budds
(1 ) MARCEL WANDERS
Known for his witty tongue-in-cheek furniture, the Dutch designer has now debuted his firstever house, a glass-walled rectangle supported by ornate columns that look like they’re intricately woven. “It’s a perfect example of how an interior designer thinks,” says Antonio. “He conceived of a detail and stuck by it.”
( 2) ZAHA HADID
Before she died in March 2016, the renowned architect created this wood-and-metal pavilion, which can cover an outdoor dining table or decorate a backyard. The biomorphic form is meant to resemble a bone-tissue pattern. “A house is something you need, but a pavilion is a want,” says Antonio. “It’s an art piece, it’s sculptural, and it’s functional.”
(3) TOM DIXON 3
Volvo’s Concept 26 interior
A different way to drive
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The British furniture and housewares designer concocted a boxy steel-frame house that’s perched on stilts, making it perfect for shoreline locations. The building is shipped as a surprisingly lightweight kit that’s assembled on-site. Residents can easily add rooms to the modular structure as space is needed. “You want more [room]?” says Antonio. “Buy four.”
With Concept 26, Volvo has created a prototype of a car interior that tackles issues raised by the prospect of full automotive autonomy. “It is answering very human questions that were neglected in the tech-focused conversations around autonomous vehicles,” says Anders Tylman-Mikiewicz, GM of Volvo’s Los Angeles–based innovation lab. “It puts people at the centre of the experience.” When the car is driving itself, there are two passenger modes: relaxing (the seat reclines) and working (a retractable table slides into place). In either mode, the steering wheel recedes and the passenger-side dashboard flips to reveal a screen with a list of options—from sending emails to watching Netflix—that are curated based on how long the drive will take. Trip too short for that entire Game of Thrones episode? The car can choose a route based on what you’d like to get done; you’ll arrive at the end of the show. —CK
Illustration by Peter Judson
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Nascent Objects’ modular electronics
A P L AT F O R M F O R C R E AT I N G YOUR OWN GADGETS If you’re someone who’d rather invent a new device than get the latest thingamajig at Incredible Connection, Nascent Objects can help. The California-based company, working with design firm Ammunition, has built a modular system that lets anyone make their own electronics. Using a broad assortment of parts—batteries, cameras, sensors and so on, as well as software to run everything— makers can snap together products for fun or as marketable prototypes. “We designed the components to have individual value as discrete, smart puzzle pieces that can be easily rearranged into a myriad of devices,” says Ammunition’s VP of product design, Victoria Slaker, who spearheaded the project with Nascent CEO Baback Elmieh. “Iteration can happen quickly and inexpensively.” Nascent has prebuilt a few examples, such as a wateruse sensor called the Droppler. The rest is up to users’ imaginations. —Nikita Richardson
Photograph by Timothy O’Connell
Their own devices With her mix-andmatch system, Slaker is encouraging budding tech innovators.
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The Atlanta Falcons’ Mercedes-Benz Stadium
AN EYE-OPENING SPORTS FACILIT Y Stadiums with retractable roofs are commonplace, but there’s never been anything like the new home of the Atlanta Falcons, which is set to open for the 2017 season. Instead of a flat panel that slides back, Mercedes-Benz Stadium has an innovative oculus design that recalls a camera lens. It’s one of many forwardlooking elements of the $1.5 billion (R20.7 billion), 71 000-seat stadium. The project’s lead architect, Bill Johnson, explains. —BL THE ROOF
The oculus’s eight segments each retract in a straight line, but an optical illusion makes it look like everything is rotating—a spectacular effect on such a large scale. “One goal was for people to come from all over the world not just for a football game, but to see the structure,” Johnson says. And while most retractable roofs take more than 15 minutes to open, the oculus’s clever mechanism and light materials let it accomplish that task in as little as six. THE TECHNOLOGY
Just under the oculus will sit a unique, 360degree “halo” HD screen that, at five stories tall and 335m long, will be more than triple the size of any other NFL video setup. IBM, the project’s technology partner, will wire the
Illustration by Ryan Peltier
facility with 6 400km of fibre-optic cable, build advanced security systems, and help create future interactive experiences. “The idea,” says Johnson, “is to provide a game-day spectacle that can’t be experienced at home or in a bar.” THE ENTRYWAY
One of the most striking features is the 50m-high entrance, which is far more inviting and dramatic than a typical stadium design. Massive glass triangles let in natural light and connect the stadium to Atlanta’s skyline. THE SEATS
To increase home-field advantage, end-zone seating is steeper than usual, creating “a wall of fans that forces the opposing team to play into an intimidating environment,” Johnson says. THE ECO FOOTPRINT
The Falcons’ new home will likely be the firstever LEED Platinum–certified stadium. Solar PV panels in the parking area will power electric-vehicle charging stations, and the property is connected to the Atlanta Bike Trail Network. On-site vendors will prepare some dishes with vegetables grown in the stadium’s urban garden, which will exclusively use rainwater harvested on-site.
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AN ELEGANT MOBILITY SOLUTION
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Unlike most wheelchairs, which look institutional and utilitarian, the Go is ultrastylish—a truly covetable accessory that’s meant, says designer Benjamin Hubert, to “look cool lined up at the club.” And it isn’t just eye candy. Though wheelchairs are used by more than 2.2 million Americans each day, they tend to be one-size-fits-most affairs that ignore how different people’s bodies can be, especially when disability is involved. The Go is custom-tailored to its owner’s shape, in part via a full-body scan and 3D printing. The wheel rims are lined with hundreds of tiny silicone knobs, which, when paired with specially designed gloves that come with the chair, help minimise rotator-cuff injuries by improving grip and reducing arm fatigue. — John Brownlee
Photograph by Mitch Payne
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Fairphone’s smarter smartphone
A D E V I C E T H AT ’ S M ORE THAN ITS PARTS
Tired of having to upgrade your phone every year or two? Amsterdam-based Fairphone designs devices that are meant to last. The Fairphone 2, released last December, has a modular design that makes it easy to replace the battery, screen and other components. It’s part of a broader effort to make products that are socially and environmentally responsible. Fairphone cofounder Miquel Ballester lays out how his latest device improves on the smartphone status quo. —Belinda Lanks AN ECO-FRIENDLY APPROACH
Fairphone’s catalogue of easy-to-instal parts makes upgrades simple and affordable. Want the latest camera? Instead of buying a whole new phone, just swap in an updated photo unit. The Fairphone 2 also allows two SIM cards, so you can use separate personal and work numbers. “That has an immediate environmental benefit,” says Ballester. “Instead of walking around with two devices, you have one.” HUMANE FACTORIES
Before it started manufacturing the Fairphone 2, the company enlisted a Chinese NGO to assess the labour practices of its Suzhou-based manufacturing partner. As a result of the findings, Fairphone started a programme to upgrade the plants (such as improving safety exits), convert many temp workers to full-time employees, and make other improvements. CONFLICT-FREE COMPONENTS
Many smartphones contain minerals that are sourced from troubled countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, where mining often funds armed groups that brutalise civilians. Fairphone tries to ensure that the gold, tungsten, tin and tantalum it buys is conflict-free—without abandoning those countries by purchasing elsewhere. “We want to show that it is possible to source from these high-risk areas, but in a better way,” says Ballester.
D.light’s A1 Lantern
A truly bright idea
Illustration by David Plunkert
When Sam Goldman was a Peace Corps volunteer in the West African nation of Benin in 2004, he saw a boy get seriously injured in a kerosene-lamp fire. So later, while attending Stanford’s design school, Goldman—working with fellow student Ned Tozun—decided to create something that could better serve the more than 1 billion people around the world who lack electricity. That school project grew into San Francisco–based company D.light, which, after coming up with several less-affordable iterations, last year introduced a solar-powered lantern that’s safe, reliable, and, most important, inexpensive. The A1 is more than twice as bright as kerosene lamps and can withstand years of daily use. It costs just $5 (R70)—the amount a family would typically spend on kerosene in a three-week period. “Our goal,” says Goldman, “was a light that was essentially no-risk in a world that is full of risks for our customers.” —Kim Lightbody
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Project Natick’s server subs
A data saver making waves Cloud computing relies on huge data centres that are difficult to protect, time-consuming to build, and expensive to cool. A team at Microsoft Research is trying to solve those issues with a concept called Project Natick. Their surprising idea: steel containers that can be submerged in the ocean. “Some people think it’s awesome, and others think we’re sort of lunatics,” laughs project lead Ben Cutler, whose group created a 3m long prototype that last year survived a test in the Pacific. With roughly half of the world’s population living near water, submerged data centres make sense. Water can cool servers naturally, and new centres are relatively fast and easy to build. Cutler also hopes to tap into natural energy sources such as tidal farms, making the idea as green as it is practical. —Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan
Graava’s action cameras
A smarter way to capture the action Artificial intelligence meets video editing in this small device, which solves the GoPro’s biggest issue: You never know what to do with all that awesome footage. Created by San Francisco design firm Matter, the Graava has sensors that track changes in sound, acceleration, heart rate (the camera syncs to third-party monitors like the Apple Watch), and other data points while you’re filming. Its software uses that info to choose key moments and stitch them into a shareable highlight reel of whatever length you choose. “When we think back on our lives, it’s those moments of drama, passion or activity that become our memories,” says Matter founder and chief designer Max Burton. “Graava mirrors that.” —Claire Dodson
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Domino’s Zero Click ordering
A C R E AT I V E WAY TO PURCHASE PIZZA Pizza chains have long courted customers with gimmicks like stuffed crusts and meat-heavy specialty options. And while Domino’s also offers its share of shameless waistline expanders, the company has distinguished itself by emphasising technology and experience design. The goal: to make transactions as frictionless as possible. “In that instant when our customer is thinking, What should I get for dinner?, an easy ordering experience can make a world of difference,” says Dennis Maloney, Domino’s chief digital officer. Domino’s has been at the vanguard of pizza tech since at least 2008, when it launched its popular tracker function, and lately it has been increasing its digital efforts. In May 2015, it introduced emoji ordering, which lets customers summon dinner by tweeting a pizza icon. Less than a year later, it became the first fast-food company to release an Amazon Echo application that enables users to order via voice command. The company’s latest breakthrough takes effort reduction even further: no-click ordering. Save your info and preferred order ahead of time, and you can summon food simply by opening the app. A timer appears, counting down from 10. At the ding, your order has been placed. That’s it—no additional buttons to push, no decisions to make, no effort whatsoever. All of these innovations are driven by Domino’s AnyWare system, a cloud-based hub with customer profiles that can be accessed from a range of platforms. With AnyWare, Call of Duty addicts can order on their PS4, for example, and Ford drivers can use their car’s Sync system. While the number of purchases on some of these emerging platforms is small, “a lot of this is about exploring technology and staying on the forefront so we’re there ahead of our competitors,” says Kelly Garcia, VP of digital development. “We’re learning so that we’re ready when they break out.” Overall, Domino’s digital strategy is paying off, with the app and US website pulling in more than $2 billion (R27.6 billion) in digital sales a year—more than half of its delivery revenue. In the second quarter of 2016, same-store sales jumped almost 10%, a spike the company attributes in part to its tech efforts. The next step with Zero Click will likely be to make it more customisable, and Maloney says Domino’s is experimenting with other ways to improve the delivery process. “Pizza shouldn’t be creating angst with our consumers,” he says. “It’s supposed to be a fun food.” —MW
Photograph by Kevin Van Aelst
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A F R I E N D LY FAC E F O R PAT I E N T S When healthcare platform Zocdoc launched almost a decade ago, it didn’t give much thought to its logo, opting for a traditional, conservative design that cost just $80. Since then, the site—which connects patients to doctors and manages appointments—has blown up into a business valued at $1.8 billion (R24.8 billion), expanding to reach more than 60% of the US population and working with large hospital systems such as New York’s Mount Sinai. In 2015, the company decided it was time for a rebrand, and it tapped global design agency Wolff Olins to reimagine its overall look and feel. The result is friendly and human-centred, complete with an anthropomorphic logo that turns the letter Z into an expressive, emoticon-like face. Wolff Olins North America president Tim Allen explains the changes. —Meg Miller What are the problems with the branding used by traditional healthcare companies? There are all these familiar visual cues like shields and crosses. Everything is blue and green. It is all about security and authority, which are needed in this market, but it’s gotten unbalanced. There’s also this inherent hierarchy that happens: You’re the patient, we’re the caregiver. For Zocdoc, we were trying to create a partnership between patients and healthcare providers and create an identity and an architecture that expressed that. Central to your solution is Zee, an adaptable avatar that expresses human emotions like perplexity, happiness and relief. What was your approach? We wanted to make the logo dynamic, responding to the patient’s needs and emotions. Zocdoc wanted something a little more grown-up, but still retaining
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that spirit of being smart, caring, intuitive and compelling. Healthcare is too often a frustrating and bewildering experience. Zocdoc is on a mission to cut through that confusion, so we reimagined the brand experience from the patient’s perspective, aiming to make Zocdoc a place of trust and ease. We created a visual identity that could put a smile on your face when appropriate. How important is design in shaping the future of the healthcare industry? At the root of design is the process of solving problems with creativity. There’s no way to take on the new healtcare challenges of affordability, access, obesity, wellness, or preventive care without design. Functionally, you’re designing for people so that they can achieve goals. Emotionally, you’re hopefully creating a sense of wonder and delight.
See www.fastcompany.com for the full list of 272 honorees in 11 categories.
Photograph by Sacha Maric
What’s up, Zoc? Branding expert Allen and his team helped healthcare platform Zocdoc tweak its image.
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“We’re really good at delivering news faster than anyone else,” says Dorsey, foreground, with, from left, Periscope CEO Kayvon Beykpour, CFO Anthony Noto, CMO Leslie Berland and COO Adam Bain.
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FOR THE CHATTERING CLASSES—POLITICOS, CELEBRITIES, ATHLETES AND MEDIA—TWEETING IS AS ESSENTIAL AS OXYGEN. CAN CEO JACK DORSEY’S BET ON LIVE VIDEO, INCLUDING THURSDAY NIGHT NFL GAMES, WOO THE MASSES?
By Harry McCracken
PHOTOGRAPHS BY IOULEX
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that surged with a billion and one stories. Every one was different, and they combined in unexpected ways to create new stories. Fishing one out of the torrent took patience, but could be enormously rewarding. This ocean is the subject of Salman Rushdie’s 1990 fantasy novel, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, a book unfamiliar to me until Jack Dorsey spontaneously urged me to read it as we chatted in the Aviary, a secluded spot at Twitter’s expansive San Francisco 58 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A OCTOBER 2016
headquarters. “I think you’d really like it,” said the company’s co-founder and CEO, smiling intriguingly. “It reminds me of Twitter.” Once you read Rushdie’s fable about “a liquid tapestry of breathtaking complexity”, as I rushed to do, it’s obvious why Dorsey sees parallels between it and the service he helped launch in 2006. (Told of Dorsey’s affinity for his novel, Rushdie, who tweets prolifically about everything from politics to baseball for an audience of 1.2 million followers, says he’s “tickled” and is “happy to have been 16 years ahead of the game.”) In the book, the sea of stories is being poisoned by a bad guy who prefers silence to speech, and an intrepid lad must try to restore its splendour. Dorsey’s intrepid task? He must rekindle the promise of Twitter’s first several years, when the company aspired to be the first billion-user Internet service. Dorsey was famously fired as CEO in 2008, returned as executive chairperson in 2011, and succeeded Dick Costolo as CEO last year. (He also launched the financial-services company Square and is still its CEO.) Now his role is widely, and uncharitably, seen as a rescue mission for an endangered institution. The company’s challenges are manifold. Since Twitter’s 2013 IPO, its stock price has halved. While Snapchat and Instagram have exploded in reach, Twitter has been unable to fix its intimidating learning curve that discourages new users. In its most recent quarter, it reported 313 million monthly active users, an uptick of only 3 million from the previous quarter. (Facebook, despite having more than five times as many users, added 60 million in the same period.) Revenue for the quarter and Twitter’s estimate for the next one fell short of analysts’ expectations. And the platform has been dogged by charges that it is a haven for hatemongers and other miscreants. That’s led some well-known users to flee and commentators to publish think pieces with apocalyptic titles like “The End of Twitter”. Yet for all the eagerness to write Twitter’s obituary, it remains a central piece of our cultural infrastructure. It’s where Donald Trump drives the election news cycle, Shonda
“This is not a pivot,” says CMO Berland of Twitter’s focus on live events. “This is who we’ve always been.”
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Rhimes takes TV viewers behind the scenes of her many series, and Bill Gates shares infographics about progress in tackling the planet’s most important problems. Even seemingly mundane tweets are fodder for news stories (“Ellie Goulding Writes Mysterious Tweet After Getting Back in the Studio”) in a way that happens far less often elsewhere, Facebook included. Dorsey is pushing his company to turn that cultural relevance—a place where news is both conveyed and made on a moment-bymoment basis—into a growth engine. In late April, Twitter reclassified its iOS app on the App Store, moving it from social networking to the news category. This had the practical effect of vaulting the service out of Facebook’s shadow into a No. 1–in-its-group spot. But the move also signifies how Twitter is working to redefine itself. What Dorsey wants is to reset the game— or, more precisely, to stake out an entirely new one. Comparisons with Facebook have followed Twitter from its earliest days, rarely to its advantage. The results of this new framing could leave Twitter looking less like a social network that can never match Facebook’s scale than like a new kind of media company. Emphasising news and commentary over networking, Twitter believes, dramatically broadens its appeal. In surveys, non-users told the company that they “felt that in order to really use Twitter, they had to be tweeting every day,” says chief marketing officer
Leslie Berland, whom Dorsey recruited from American Express earlier this year. While devotees saw Twitter as an essential way to stay up on the news, those who weren’t active thought it was primarily another way to share stuff with friends and family. “Many of them said to us, ‘You know, I don’t have anything to say,’ ” Berland explains. “They come in thinking we’re a social network.” To fuel a shift in perception—among consumers, marketers and investors—Dorsey, Berland and COO Adam Bain are betting big on live video, exemplified by a high-profile investment in live-streaming National Football League programming. Already, Twitter’s new focus, Dorsey says, “has been really emboldening, because now you can actually see it—it’s here, and now it’s here, and now it’s here, and now it’s here,” using his hand to mark off recent accomplishments on the edge of the table we’re sitting at. “And it’s getting better and better every single day.” Dressed in a white T-shirt and black jeans, the bearded 39-year-old is preternaturally calm and thoughtful. That’s his normal demeanour, but it’s particularly striking given that our discussion of Twitter’s strategy is taking place less than an hour before he hosts an analyst call to discuss the company’s disappointing results. “Happy endings are much rarer in stories, and also in life, than most people think,” Rushdie cautions in his novel. “You could almost say they are the exceptions, not the rule.” It’s not surprising to reveal that the young protagonist in his story ultimately
triumphs. Dorsey is writing Twitter’s next chapter right now—a kaleidoscopic quest featuring looming adversaries, bedevilling trolls and artificial intelligence. And it all kicks off with football.
•• On April 5, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced, via his first tweet in 19 months, that Twitter had won the rights to stream 10 Thursday Night Football games for the upcoming season. The news shocked the sports-media world. Speculation about likely partners centred around Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Verizon. If Twitter wanted to make a bold statement about its streaming-video aspirations, it couldn’t have picked a better way to do it. “In traditional media, it’s a widely held view that the NFL created Fox Sports,” says John Ourand, media reporter for Sports Business Journal, citing how the then-fledgling Fox network used football rights to build a media empire. It’s also, Ourand adds, “a widely held view that the NFL created ESPN, [which] charges cable companies a ton more than any other channel. The fact it has [Monday Night Football] is a big reason.” The NFL deal marks a new evolution in Twitter’s impulse toward live events, which goes back to its earliest days. Back then, the service was, as one 2007 article snarked, “full of news flashes about which variety of latte a friend just ordered at Starbucks.” But some members were already using it to follow
UNDER THE INFLUENCE SIX VIBRANT COMMUNITIES ON TWITTER THAT DRIVE THE LARGER CONVERSATION
. Black Twitter
. Media Twitter
. NBA Twitter
A community of African-American writers, comedians, activists and entertainers who advocate for social justice (e.g., #BlackLivesMatter) as well as lead the conversation around pop-culture icons like Beyoncé (#lemonadesyllabus)
A collective of journalists and editors that often features discussion and critique of other media people, sites and articles
A gathering of pro hoops players, coaches, analysts and fans who obsess over the draft, Golden State Warriors’ point guard Stephen Curry, and hidden messages in LeBron’s tweets
Must follow: Writer and activist Feminista Jones (@feministajones); actor and activist Jesse Williams (@iJesseWilliams) Trending topics: #OscarsSoWhite, a critique of the heavily white Oscar 2016 nominees that bubbled out of Black Twitter and onto the red carpet, leading the Academy to broaden the diversity of its voting members
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Must follow: BuzzFeed Politics reporter Andrew Kacynzski (@BuzzFeedAndrew); The Cut writer and model/DJ Gabriella Paiella (@GMPaiella); New York Times Magazine editor Jazmine Hughes (@jazzedloon) Trending topics: #Longform, a hashtag created to showcase high-quality, heavily reported journalism from reputable outlets in an age where Internet readers are flooded with clickbait
Must follow: Los Angeles Clippers’ forward Blake Griffin (@blakegriffin32); Goodwin Sports Management digital media marketer Nate Jones (@JonesontheNBA) Trending topics: #NBAfreeagency, a central location for critiques and rumours around the NBA’s free-agency players, like Kevin Durant’s move this year from the Oklahoma City Thunder to Golden State
and discuss current events, and even hear from newsmakers such as then–Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, one of the first Twitter celebs. That same year, MTV used Twitter to enhance its Movie Awards and Video Music Awards shows by enlisting stars to tweet during the events. As smartphones improved, Twitter looked beyond 140-character chunks of text, acquiring Vine, a not-yet-launched, Instagram-esque way to capture and share videos in 2012. Even Vine videos were (until recently) only six seconds long, they’ve been widely used to share compelling imagery of newsy events such as the 2013 suicide attack on the US Embassy in Turkey. Periscope, a video-streaming platform that Twitter purchased in early 2015 (also shortly before it launched) is even more news-friendly, enabling users to broadcast high-quality live videos of any length from a smartphone in real time. It’s been increasingly integrated into the Twitter app, where live Periscope videos play inside tweets. Twitter’s move toward live streaming actually predates Dorsey’s return. In late 2014, then-CEO Costolo asked Bain and CFO Anthony Noto to formulate a plan for investing in content. When the National Football League announced an auction for the right to stream a single 2015 game between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars, Twitter was reportedly among the bidders. Twitter lost that auction to Yahoo, which paid $17 million (R233 million) and then
delivered a resounding flop: Although Yahoo claimed 33.6 million views, analysts calculated that only 2.36 million actually watched, making it the least-seen game in NFL history. To those inside Twitter, the NFL’s onegame experiment confirmed the distinctive opportunity that they had. It was “the epiphany of ‘We can really own this,’ ” says Twitter’s Noto, who had been a star linebacker at West Point and the NFL’s finance chief from 2008 to 2010. “People are already talking about these games on Twitter,” he says. “They clearly are engaged in conversations with each other while they’re watching the game. How do we create an experience that leverages the great content conversations happening on Twitter with the actual content that they’re talking about?”
Dorsey says that Twitter can give partners such as the NFL something other tech companies can’t. “We’re doing the thing that people have been doing for close to 10 years, which is: They watch a screen, and they tweet about it,” he says, motioning toward an imaginary, big HDTV and then cradling a phantom smartphone in his hands. “We’re bringing that into the same screen, and, most important, we’re making that mobile, so you can watch it anywhere.” “We really ended up with Twitter because we thought it gave us a great opportunity for incremental audience reach and mobile reach,” says Brian Rolapp, executive VP of media for the NFL, which awarded these games to Twitter even though it wasn’t the highest bidder. “We have data that says seven of 10 of our fans have a second screen open [while watching games]. They’re texting, they’re playing fantasy, they’re on Twitter.” If superfans aren’t at home to watch a broadcast, the league would much prefer that they watch and cheer in the Twitter app than do something other than think about football. Twitter won’t confirm what it paid for its NFL rights, but it reportedly ended up plunking down between $10 million (R137.1 million) and $15 million (R205.7 million) to stream 10 Thursday night games during the 2016 season. That’s less than what Yahoo paid for a single game and a pittance compared to the $45 million (R617.1 million) per game that CBS and NBC are paying to air the same slate of Thursday night games. Twitter isn’t the exclusive outlet for the content, but the exclusive experience it’s offering has found some quick traction.
. Politics Twitter
. Advertising Twitter
. Finance Twitter
A gaggle of lawmakers, pundits, journalists, Republicans and Democrats who talk about the 2016 election and spark political movements like #BernieBro and #NeverTrump
A cast of agency creatives and execs, the marketers they serve, and the ad-obsessed who congregate to discuss controversial advertising decisions
A cache of investors, public-company executives and obsessive stock watchers who talk money and how it moves in the world economy
Must follow: Political commentator and CEO Angela Rye (@angela_rye); writer and frequent Fox News contributor Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) Trending topics: #ImWithHer or #MakeAmericaGreatAgain, the rallying cries of two polarising presidential nominees—Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump—used during an election where both have been unusually active on Twitter
Must follow: Consultant Cindy Gallop (@cindygallop); Tom Goodman, SVP of strategy and innovation at Havas Media (@tomfgoodwin) Trending topics: #KevinRoberts, as in the high-profile, now former CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, who resigned in August after implying that the gender disparity in advertising was “over”, shining a light on what’s seen as the industry’s surfeit of out-of-touch white guys
Must follow: Kit Juckes, macro strategist at Societe Generale (@kitjuckes); Joseph A. Lavorgna, managing director and chief US economist at Deutsche Bank (@Lavorgnanomics) Trending topics: #VIAB, or the ticker name for Viacom, whose up-and-down, seemingly never-ending stock-market soap opera has kept the financial enthusiasts on Twitter humming —Claire Dodson
TWITTER’S VIDEO STREAMS OF SPORTS AND OTHER LIVE E V ENTS COULD SOLV E M U LT I P L E P R O B L E M S AT O N C E .
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Long before its first live-stream—Jets versus Bills on September 15—top-tier marketers including Anheuser-Busch, Ford, Nestlé, Sony Pictures and Verizon had signed on as sponsors.
•• Twitter warmed up for the NFL season this year by streaming events such as Wimbledon and the Republican and Democratic conventions. In early August, I caught its coverage of the red-carpet premiere of Warner Brothers’ Suicide Squad, hosted by a couple of bespectacled BuzzFeed reporters hyperventilating with anticipation over the comic-book supervillain team-up and its stars. Below the video window, a feed of tweets from everyday Twitter users alternately shared the BuzzFeed guys’ excitement and mocked their exuberant nerdiness. Twitter used real estate in users’ feeds to deliver an audience to the stream, and a tweet from Jared Leto (who plays the Joker in the film) helped the premiere become a top trending topic on the entire service. The whole thing was a goofy, good-natured dry run for more meaningful streams to come, and it showcases Twitter’s unique power to turn an event into a conversation. Twitter’s streaming experience can be enjoyed without having to learn any of the platform’s typical arcana. You don’t need to figure out whom to follow, how to use hashtags, or what to tweet about. You can even partake if you’re not logged in or don’t have an account at all. In short, it’s Twitter on training wheels—perfect for potential users who are intimidated by the classic Twitter timeline. If everything goes according to plan, Twitter’s live video streams could solve multiple problems for the company—by giving users, advertisers and content partners reason to look at the service in a fresh way. “If you think about the 313 million people who use Twitter, there’s at least another 313 million like-minded people who just happen to not use Twitter because they either tried it and didn’t get it, or they tried it with the wrong intentions,” says Joel Lunenfeld, the company’s VP of brand strategy, who spent years helping brands market themselves on Twitter before shifting his focus to helping Twitter market itself.
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PEERING INTO PERISCOPE HOW KAYVON BEYKPOUR’S LIVE-STREAMING APP FITS INTO TWITTER WHILE ALSO BEING ITS OWN THING If you’re not paying careful attention, you may think that Periscope is a live-broadcasting capability within Twitter, akin to Facebook’s Live Video, an offering that is said to occupy an outsize percentage of Mark Zuckerberg’s attention these days. Periscope videos, after all, appear seamlessly inside tweets. And each time you compose a tweet, there’s a “Live” button tempting you to broadcast rather than type. But Periscope is no mere feature. Like Facebook’s Instagram, it’s also an app unto itself, with its own community. That duality also exists behind the scenes, where Periscope is run by co-founder and CEO Kayvon Beykpour, who has a 54-person team and the freedom to shape the service’s destiny while piggybacking on Twitter resources such as the Cortex artificial-intelligence group. He’s also a member of Twitter’s executive
team, giving him influence over the company’s overall direction. By investing both in high-end, must-see programming such as NFL games and Periscope’s democratised approach to streaming, Twitter is covering the whole spectrum of live events. “They’re really part of the same mission,” Beykpour explains. “You can experience something live with other people and have a conversation around it in a way that makes the content more compelling.” On Periscope as on Twitter, those conversations can be ruined by abusive users. “If you’re broadcasting and someone says something negative, it’s almost too late, because you’ve experienced it already,” says Beykpour. Periscope recently fought back against the trolls with a new feature that creates mini-juries of users and lets them vote, on the fly, on whether a comment is offensive. The
tactic has helped—and its deeply Periscopey feel makes it unexpectedly engaging. So far, Periscope seems to be flourishing. In the first year after its March 2015 debut, Periscope racked up 200 million total broadcasts and reached an average of 110 years’ worth of video watched per day. Like tweets before them, Periscopes are becoming part of the culture—even showing up on television newscasts, where anchors have been known to be flummoxed by the hearts that bobble up as viewers like a video. Periscope’s personable nature, even when combating miscreants, helps explain why it has caught on in a way that earlier live-streaming apps did not. “It’s scary to be live,” says Beykpour. “It’s our responsibility to make it feel as frictionless and as notscary as possible.” —HM
“Our mission has always been to help people see the world in real time,” says Periscope CEO Beykpour.
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To reintroduce Twitter to non-users— and those who have given the service a try in the past but lost interest—CMO Berland launched a new branding campaign in late July. One digital ad shows an amalgam of imagery: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton; Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage; a Black Lives Matter march; Hamilton’s LinManuel Miranda; the Cleveland Cavaliers; and an obsessive Pokémon Go player trampling over the bonnets of several cars. It ends with a new, newsy tag line—“It’s What’s Happening”—and a flurry of bright colours meant to better evoke the service’s personality than its official shade of blue, Pantone 2382 C. The ads do an uncommonly coherent job of explaining why the uninitiated would want to try Twitter, a feat that has often eluded the company in the past. “The goal of that campaign, and this is just a start, is to clearly define Twitter,” says Dorsey. “You may have come in here assuming you’re going to see baby pictures from your friends. What you’re going to see is what’s happening in sports and politics and the world around you.”
digital media and TV,” says analyst Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research. The company “can legitimately compete for TV budgets. Not [digital] video budgets, but budgets that would go to premium television.” The NFL-on-Twitter ad experience will be familiar in many respects, with commercial breaks right where they’d be on a network broadcast. That appeals to marketers who now expect their digital advertising to be seen by prospective customers and are no longer smitten with the novelty of retweets. “The idea of putting something out there and praying it goes viral is really past us,” says Greg Hahn, chief creative officer at advertising giant BBDO. “You have to be strategic. If [Twitter is] live-streaming Thursday Night Football, that guarantees you some eyeballs. If you can guarantee a specific audience at certain times, then that becomes the new prime time.” Video has been integral to how Twitter makes money since 2013, when the company introduced an ad product called Amplify that lets marketers sponsor brief
•• Other sports leagues took note of Twitter’s NFL deal and began envisioning their own contests streaming live on Twitter. Twitter suddenly had a roster of premium events to set itself apart from rivals, attract new users, and engage current ones. In a rapidfire series of announcements in June and July, the company unveiled agreements to broadcast Major League Baseball and Hockey League games in their entirety, plus live highlights of English Premier League soccer and original programming produced by the National Basketball Association. It will also carry news programming from Bloomberg. For now, Noto says, the company is focusing on DVR-resistant live events rather than scripted programming such as sitcoms. Twitter is hardly the only digital company targeting premium streaming video. Unlike Facebook and Snapchat, though, Twitter has a now decade-long, good track record working with traditional media companies, sports leagues and brands. “We’re bidding against people with deeper pockets, but we’re still winning the deals,” says Ross Hoffman, VP of global media partners. “There are many instances where we’re the right partner.” “Twitter has a unique ability to bridge
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EACH TIME TWITTER’S STOCK PRICE DROPS, THE NOTION RESURFACES THAT SOME TECH OR MEDI A GI A NT M AY SNAP IT UP AT A LOWBALL PRICE. video clips. (The NFL, to cite one example, has been a significant Amplify client.) Today, the majority of Twitter’s revenue comes from video ads rather than text-oriented ones. “The response rate is higher for those video ads, and [users’] feeling for Twitter goes up
as well,” says COO Bain, who was a leading candidate to become Twitter’s CEO before Dorsey made his comeback. Unlike traditional network TV, Twitter can target users based on cues from their tweets. “If somebody is talking about being in the market for a car, we can help bring relevance there” by showing an automobile ad, says Bain. “If people are tweeting about going to the gym, there’s a whole set of athletic brands that want to be relevant in that moment.”
•• Twitter’s live video initiative, as significant as it may be, won’t displace the core experience of perusing tweets in a timeline anytime soon. And for many beginners, the service remains stubbornly impenetrable. Newcomers enticed by Twitter’s ad campaign could well lose interest before they understand what Twitter is trying to do for them. Dorsey himself can sound like a critic carping from the sidelines when he assesses the current state of Twitter. “Right now, you have to do a lot of work up front to build a great timeline,” he says. “And then you have to do a lot of work to dig through it, to find the most meaningful stuff.” Which doesn’t mean progress hasn’t been made. The effort to create a compelling live experience has refocused the company’s product-development efforts. As its streaming plans took shape, the service itself has become more intuitive and welcoming. In February, Twitter announced plans to finally start using algorithms to push the most relevant tweets to the top of users’ reverse-chronological timelines. (Change-phobic Twitter devotees flooded the service with the hashtag #RIPTwitter, though in the first couple of months, only 2% of users chose to switch the function off once it was implemented.) For the Rio Olympics, the company upgraded Moments—the Twitterpowered news section that debuted last October—by letting users follow a particular country, sport or event, and have relevant tweets automatically pushed into their timelines. Another major undertaking involves deploying artificial intelligence to help make sense of the hundreds of millions of tweets that get posted each day, along with photos and videos. For most of its history, Twitter was not exactly a hotbed of AI talent, but in mid-2014, the company acquired Madbits,
a startup that built technologies to help sift through giant repositories of images. Its staff became the foundation of Cortex, the team of AI specialists inside Twitter whose goal is to smarten up every aspect of Twitter’s services. Today, Cortex is being used to weave pieces of content together in brand-new ways. “In the case of a sporting event, there’s some expert commentary that you’re probably interested in, but you don’t want it to be only that,” says VP of engineering Jeremy Rishel. “If 100 people cheer, you want to know that, but you don’t want to read a hundred [versions] of the same tweet.” One of the early beneficiaries of Cortex’s work can be seen in Periscope. Engineers created a feature called Highlights that automatically stitches together mini-trailers for every video. “They were born from a very simple realisation that [our] average broadcast is seven minutes,” says Periscope co-founder and CEO Kayvon Beykpour. “If I have 20 broadcasts in my feed, am I really going to watch 140 minutes of video to catch up on what happened? Probably not.” In June, Twitter paid a reported $150 million (R2.05 billion) to acquire Magic Pony Technology, an excellently named London-based startup, and folded it into Cortex. Its algorithms, which Twitter plans to adopt for both Periscope and major-event video streams, analyse imagery to improve how a video looks, filling in detail that may otherwise get lost. “While you’re travelling home on the train, where you might have a spotty network, you can still see something with a look and feel that’s HD-like,” promises Dorsey. Strategic use of AI could also play a role in helping Twitter address its most notorious, seemingly intractable problem: users who engage, often anonymously, in misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of hate speech. It’s not that the company has done nothing to foil them; it’s just that the trolls often seem to be a step ahead. Recently, Dorsey says, “we’ve seen a trend—not just on Twitter, but on the Internet more broadly, and in the world—of really targeted harassment and abuse.” In July, when Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones was the subject of such a campaign and announced she’d be leaving Twitter, Dorsey personally stepped in and, in a tweet, asked Jones to contact him. The ringleader, conservative blogger Milo Yiannopoulos, ended up being permanently banned from the service, and Jones returned.
FOR ALL THE EAGERNESS TO WRITE TWITTER’S O B I T U A R Y, I T REMAINS A CENTRAL PIECE OF O U R C U LT U R A L INFRASTRUCTURE.
As an open network that doesn’t enforce the use of real identities, Twitter can’t eliminate harassment altogether. Truthfully, Dorsey seems more interested in helping users shield themselves from abuse than wiping all offensive content off the platform. “We want to make sure that people feel safe to express themselves freely, and for us that means that we’re providing really crisp and clear tools so that people can report, and people can mute, and people can block,” he says. “But at the same time, if people want to, they can see everything.” In this spirit, the company recently introduced options that let users hide notifications for people they don’t follow as well as “lower quality” tweets. “Twitter has made some progress with regards to safety, but has a long way to go,” says DeRay McKesson, the civil rights activist who has used Twitter to chronicle and organise protests seeking justice for unarmed African Americans killed by police. McKesson, who befriended Dorsey when they both marched in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, and remains a prominent Friend of Jack, has 536 000 followers but has manually blocked 19 000 other users. Ultimately, he says, Twitter’s value outweighs the hassle. “There are some days that are easier than others,” he allows, “and there are no easy answers.”
•• One day in mid-August, a bizarre rumour takes off on Twitter: The service itself is going to shut down in 2017. The company is compelled to issue a denial, and worried fans tag 100 000 mournful tweets #SaveTwitter. It’s hardly the first Twitter-borne death hoax.
(Just ask Robert Redford, Paul McCartney or Cher.) Still, the fact that it surfaced at all is evidence that many people perceive the company’s condition as fragile. Even in a worst-case scenario, the threats to Twitter’s well-being are not remotely existential. The company has $3.6 billion (R49.3 billion) in cash (and equivalents). It makes about $24 (R328) per US user annually, and in its second quarter, it generated $175 million (R2.3 billion) in earnings before interest, taxes, and depreciation, up 45% from a year earlier. That said, unless the company proves it can grow, its universe is destined to shrink.“I’m still bullish that there’s a need for a product that, when you pop it open, tells you what’s going on in your world,” says Josh Elman, who was an executive at Twitter from 2009 to 2011, and is now a venture capitalist. That service, he believes, is “a billion-user product. Will Twitter the company get its exact product to do that? That’s a good question. It’s harder to reignite momentum than it is to keep fanning the flames.” Each time Twitter’s stock price drops, the notion resurfaces that some tech or media giant may snap it up at a lowball price. Google and Facebook, both of which once coveted the company, have probably long since moved on, but perhaps an old-school player such as AT&T could make a run at it. Another theory has the company going private: In early August, speculation centered on a rumour that former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who together reportedly control close to 10% of Twitter stock, may team up to buy it outright. Twitter would prefer to create a future for itself that inspires confidence on Wall Street, thereby driving its stock higher, warding off bargain hunters, and preserving its independence. That, ultimately, is what its new focus on news and live video is all about. As Dorsey and I wrap up one of our conversations, I lob him a question about his long-range vision—the sort that most tech CEOs are only too happy to tackle. Maybe I shouldn’t be shocked when he throws it back in my face. “I think the present is so much more interesting,” he says, politely but insistently. And for Twitter, it is. This company has so much at stake right now that the future isn’t some far-off destination. It’s what’s happening. firstname.lastname@example.org
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You see a Chartered Accountant
WE SEE RESPONSIBLE
THAT KNOWS NO LIMITS TO GROWING A COMMUNITY Mose Kutadzaushe CA(SA), CFA, MBA Founding member of Supreme Brands & Investment Specialist: Investec Asset Management
The aptitude and discipline of CAs(SA) know no limits, because their continued professional development, dedication and ambition to seek opportunity is what drives them. Mose Kutadzausheâ€™s entrepreneurial spirit, backed by his technical training and global experience as an investment specialist, has influenced the success of his business, and has also provided opportunities to the community he serves. Thatâ€™s why, when you partner with a CA(SA), you are harnessing a wealth of experience that knows when and how to seize an opportunity. To read about this story and other stories, please visit www.findacasa.co.za
Fast Company Promotion
Our future leaders Mee t the countr y ’s s tand-out char tered accountant s of 2016
The Top 35-under-35 Award was launched by SAICA’s Accountancy SA magazine to recognise the young future leaders in South Africa. The winners are chartered accountants who have worked exceptionally hard to accomplish their career aspirations while changing the lives of the less fortunate in communities around them. The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants, the country’s pre-eminent accountancy body, is widely recognised as one of the world’s leading accounting institutes. It serves the interests not only of the chartered accountancy profession but also of society in general through its key objective of upholding professional standards and integrity.
HERE ARE THE TOP 35: Overall winner: Entrepreneur Mose Kutadzaushe, 32
Founding director, Supreme Brands; Investment specialist, Investec Asset Management
Just eight years ago, along with 3 million other Zimbabweans, today’s high-flying yet humble entrepreneur Mose Kutadzaushe fled his motherland in desperate search of a financial oasis. Disillusioned by the hopeless economic situation of Zimbabwe—and by medical insurance companies that defaulted on payments to hospitals, leaving his sick father and many other patients stranded in a pitiful condition—he was driven to action. South Africa did not offer him the immediate comfort. Kutadzaushe tells how, besides coldcalling contact people on websites, he walked 7km to the nearest Internet café in Joburg to send off
job applications, then log off, sit outside and wait to log on again to check if perhaps some company had hopefully responded, and then head home—only to return the next day. This went on for three months. “The job-search phase in South Africa will always remain a crucial period in my life,” says Kutadzaushe. “I was a chartered accountant who had passed Level 2 of the CFA examination and yet I could not find an employer who was willing to sponsor me for a work permit.” And then one day, it finally happened. He managed to land employment at Deloitte Consulting after his critical skills work permit was approved by the Department of Home Affairs. “This episode taught me two crucial lessons: First, failure is a reality of life that we all experience, but can overcome with time and perseverance; second, and more importantly, being unemployed is very painful—it diminishes self-confidence and makes one doubt one’s self-worth.” Employment meant Kutadzaushe could provide for himself and his family and, most importantly, he could afford his dad’s dialysis. However, supporting his family alone was not enough for him. His challenge was now greater; the dream was bigger. He wanted to make a difference in his entire community, and began searching for a way he could become more relevant. He received various awards during his five years of articles he pursued straight out of high school, and is said to be one of the most solid recruits Deloitte Zimbabwe has made in the past decade. Then CEO of Deloitte Central Africa, Tawanda Gumbo, took a keen interest in Kutadzaushe and soon became his most influential mentor. Labouring by day at Deloitte Harare and buried in books at night, Kutadzaushe successfully managed to complete his BCom degree through Unisa. His studying
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toward the CFA Charter while also taking on his CTA examinations proved to be a tough challenge. With his go-getter spirit, Kutadzaushe lost not time and immediately sat for examinations to convert his CA qualification to a CA(SA) one, and soon landed a secondment to work at the Deloitte Philadelphia office for a three-month stint. When he returned from Philadelphia at the height of the economic crisis in 2008, inflation was soaring, imports were drying up, and shortages abounded; his family couldn’t even afford to pay for his father’s treatment using Zimbabwean currency. Kutadzaushe handed in his resignation to Deloitte Harare and, with ambitious hopes, set sail for South Africa. Greatly inspired by the spirit of micro-enterprise that existed in Zimbabwe, he returned from South Africa in 2009. This time he was armed with new connections and additional business knowledge as well as an avid eagerness to be part of rebuilding his country’s economy. Kutadzaushe quickly realised that one of the leading challenges that needed to be surmounted in Zimbabwe was the declining capacity utilisation in the manufacturing industry. “I sat down and made a list of very defensible products that would be somewhat insulated from prolonged severe economic downturns.” Based on the list he came up with, toilet paper was a clear winner. “It was an underpenetrated product in terms of local manufacturing in Zimbabwe and it was a necessity that all households would need to carry. With this knowledge, I read up on the manufacturing process, the available suppliers of the relevant machinery and production inputs, as well as the things that would be required to build a successful brand from scratch,” he says. “At this time, I did not have any personal savings, but I found the toilet paper idea to be very exciting. I reached out to as many people as I could think of, and sold the idea of starting a toilet paper manufacturing company with the view of raising money to build the company. I also hired competent sales, production and administrative staff to support my mother, whom I had earmarked as the CEO. The company started as a small manufacturing concern that was consistently cash-strapped. Through this experience I learnt how to manage a business that has very limited resources.” In 2010 Kutadzaushe teamed up with three friends and founded Supreme Brands, which has cumulatively generated over R70 million worth of revenue and created employment for 77 employees. Today it supplies all leading retailers in Zimbabwe and occupies more than 80% of the nationwide toilet paper shelf space in some retailers. “Although this can be seen as an economic contribution to the country, in my mind this is also the greatest social contribution that I have made to my society. My employees can take their children to school, buy property and, most importantly, avoid the emotional torment of being unemployed,” he stresses. “I am currently in the process of introducing Zimbabwe’s only locally manufactured baby diapers under Supreme Brand’s Maruva® brand name. I have been investing in Zimbabwe when many of my fellow citizens have been turning away, and I will continue to do so. The economics of the country and industry are compelling if one gets the branding and distribution right. I intend to leverage my wide distribution network to introduce multiple non-perishable ‘necessities’ into the market. I am particularly drawn to the sanitary industry, given this is where our current expertise lies. In the long term, I intend to grow the company into a regional conglomerate that operates in the SADC [Southern African Development Community] region.” With his mother CEO of Supreme Brand, today Kutadzaushe manages as a non-executive director. Through Supreme Brand’s great successes, he applied and was accepted by Stanford Business School where he completed his MBA in 2013. There-after he realised his dream of working for Goldman Sachs in the US where he thrived on the three-year, fastpaced and exhilarating career. In May 2016, he started in his new role at Investec as an investment specialist, and is excited to be using his finance and operational experience on the African continent once again. “I plan to spend the rest of my career investing in Africa, and becoming a credible asset manager who helps to connect providers of capital with talented entrepreneurs who need assistance scaling their businesses,” Kutadzaushe says. “Knowing that over 90% of Zimbabweans are classified as unemployed is a sad reality that continues to hit me hard. To the extent possible, I hope to play my part in my country’s and continent’s development by becoming a business leader who provides employment through forming and supporting scalable business ventures.”
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Category winner: Corporate Huzaifah Elias, 34 Director of Africa Operations, GUD Holdings (Pty) Ltd
Huzaifah Elias has excelled in virtually everything he has put his mind to. When entrusted with the strategic initiative of expanding GUD Holdings across the African continent, his results would be, yes, outstanding. Elias’s default temperament is calm and inclusive, yet he is incredibly passionate about his role at GUD Holdings. A born optimistic, he is a leader who inspires and gives hope even when it seems dire—as it often does in Africa—and it is this optimism that drives his team to be worldclass and achieve the heights they do. And he’s a man who also places great value on a good laugh. His first and greatest mentor, his late father, taught him a love for learning and books (and the sports field). “He demanded, rightly so, excellence,” says Elias. “Straight A’s were not good enough; it was the quality of them that counted. I think about him and his advice every single day of my life.” Graduating with straight A’s and in the top 10 in the region, he began his studies at the University of Natal and exuded such excellence that he received dean’s commendations throughout all years, merit awards in numerous subjects, and awards from the KZN Society of Chartered Accountants, as well as the Top Economics Student Award. After graduating cum laude with a double scholarship, Elias launched into his articles at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Durban, where he was rated one of the highest article clerks in his time. He enjoyed a secondment to Dubai, which was a great experience for him—but when asked to stay
on, he did so only for an extra month; his home was South Africa and that was the place he wanted to make his mark. With GUD Holdings (Pty) Ltd being the number-one manufacturer of automotive filters in South Africa, Elias enthusiastically joined the team as the group accountant and group internal auditor, and was exposed to complex taxation, accounting and international trade matters. Excelling in this field, he developed key strategies still saving the group millions today. However, his passion was really in commercial analysis, and along with the financial director he analysed the business—from purchasing and manufacturing right through to sales—and presented his findings to the management committee and recommended actions. “This was so well received by the business that I was promoted to the role of commercial and technical finance manager, a great hybrid role that meant I was the centre for all technical tax and accounting issues, but was allowed the freedom to analyse business profitability.” Elias was awarded the Business Leader of the Year Award for showing exceptional leadership
skills. Shortly thereafter, the business saw the need to expand into Africa and required one of their best leaders to take on the challenge. Always keen to break out of his comfort zone, and with the aim of learning more, he accepted the opportunity with both hands. Following his highly successful tenure in the commercial and technical finance fields, he was entrusted with the strategic initiative of expanding the group on the African continent. Starting out as a team of two, including himself, they walked the streets in Africa building up data and meeting potential customers and marketing their products. Great results garnered him a second nomination as a finalist for Business Leader of the Year. Elias evaluated various countries for investments, drawing up business plans and turnkey solutions. The team expanded and broke ground in Mozambique where they put up their first international structure as a department in 2012, which was a huge success. Thereafter, he set up GUD Filters Zambia Limited where he was involved, right from the start, with the construction and opening of a distribution centre ready to supply the market. Sales in Zambia have increased 60% since launching in 2013. He was also awarded the coveted Teamwork Awards in 2011 and 2012 for pulling together cross-functional teams across the business to achieve strategic goals. Promoted to director of Africa Operations in 2013, Elias has managed to build up complete operating businesses in some of the most difficult countries. With a return on investment greater than 150% per annum, these businesses exceeded profitability targets and revenue doubled. “Operating in Africa can be incredibly frustrating and difficult, especially when there are language barriers. When we expanded into Mozambique and Angola, it was clear that we could not continue without an interpreter. Further, all legal contracts and documents have to be in Portuguese. I began to learn Portuguese in the little free time I had. I can now read contracts and have a conversation in Portuguese. I even presented to live television, dignitaries and customers in Portuguese at the grand opening of the Mozambique distribution centre. The same applies to French, and on a recent trip to Morocco this proved very valuable—even though my knowledge of French is not as advanced as my Portuguese,” he says. “We have since expanded into Nigeria where we put up a third-party warehouse, as well as to Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda, to name but a few of the 15 countries we are active in and have developed tailor-made solutions for. Last year I took over the Zimbabwe operation, which includes an air filter manufacturing plant. All of these expansions have been centrally directed and I now have experience in logistics, international trade, distribution, manufacturing, forex trading, among others—a greatly rounded experience which I am truly grateful for. From two people, my department has expanded to more than 50 employees and is still growing. I am excited to be a part of it.” Elias puts principles before profits, always. “Those principles include loyalty, partnership, ethics, long-term vision and sustainable business practices. Operating in the murky waters of Africa creates many opportunities for wanting to take the path of least resistance. But principles should always come first. This is why we can have a business that is now in its 66th year—and growing.”
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Fast Company Promotion
Category winner: Academia Nico van der Merwe, 35
Associate professor in Financial Reporting, North-West University
With his impressive résumé and academic achievements, Nico van der Merwe could have opted for many lucrative offers in the market—but instead he chose to transform the education system. At the age of 26, he was promoted to associate professor in Financial Reporting. He describes himself as a born academic, as if he were designed to impart knowledge. “It is one of my greatest passions in life,” he says. Van der Merwe is the CA(SA) programme leader at the Potchefstroom campus of North-West University (NWU). “I try to be a balanced academic, dividing my time between teaching, research and management.” He has successfully delivered a number of master’s students and has published seven articles in accredited journals: a research output that is arguably significantly higher than that of the average CA(SA) academic of his age. As the subject chair for Financial Reporting and later the CA(SA) programme leader, Van der Merwe played a significant part in building up the NWU CA(SA) programme to what it is today. “We try to unlock the full potential of students, and this requires the highest level of commitment from our lecturing team. The successes of the programme cannot be attributed to any individual; it is the collective effort of the team.” He credits his achievements to hard work, the influence of various mentors at NWU, and the continual support of his family. Van der Merwe is also an innovative thinker and believes in continuous growth. “I subscribe to the Kaizen philosophy [Japanese productivity philosophy of constant, continual improvement], and continuously endeavour to improve myself and whatever I am responsible for to manage. I am not content with the status quo; there is always room for improvement.” As the CA(SA) programme leader, he also played a big role in the standardisation of the CA(SA) programme on the various campuses of the NWU, and the establishment of a parallel-language medium of instruction in the programme on the Potchefstroom campus. When probed on his views on education, Van der Merwe confirms that this is hugely important in South African society. “It has been said that education is the single most important tool to develop our people and safeguard their future and that of this country.” He echoes
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the words of Confucius, who once said: “If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of 10 years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.” He believes that a significant number of the challenges in South Africa can be solved through education, and he strives to make a difference in this sphere. “My students often ask me why I chose to be an academic, and I tell them it is because I want to ensure they are formed to be the best CAs(SA) they can possibly be. In that way, I am also contributing to the profession, even though I am not in practice.” Van der Merwe believes the country still has some way to go to realise the full benefits of education, although progress is being made. “One area that is increasingly in the spotlight is the accessibility of education. This includes contentious issues like tuition fees and language. Universities aim to achieve balanced solutions while taking into consideration limited resources and the constitutional mandate to protect all cultures and languages.” He believes the various debates should continue, and has confidence that acceptable solutions will be found. He encourages young CAs(SA) to consider a career in academia. “It has been extremely fulfilling thus far. Some CAs(SA) in practice have the misguided idea that academics do not work as hard, but this cannot be further from the truth. Academia has many challenges, and academics who want to make a difference work long hours—but it is so rewarding to see learning taking place. I would not trade it for anything.”
Xolani Sithole, 32
Patrick Martin, 34
Lyndsay Maseko, 34
Financial director, Rema Tip Top
Senior lecturer, University of Johannesburg
MD, Sebenza Forwarding and Shipping (Pty) Ltd
In 2008, Lyndsay Maseko became the first black CA(SA) to be appointed at UJ. Since then, he has lectured in all four accountancy disciplines, three of those at CTA level. He treasures the unique opportunity he has to mould, encourage and nurture the future of the profession. “Lecturing is a passion—one that ensures I never work a day in my life.”
Xolani Sithole started his career at Sebenza as group financial manager eight years ago. He has since achieved a 60% reduction in audit time and costs, and improved the BEE rating from a level 5 to a sustainable level 2. Sithole recently implemented a turnaround strategy that moved Sebenza from lossmaking (R17 million) to profitmaking within six months.
After Ryan Mer’s secondment to the Grant Thornton LA office, he returned to South Africa to pursue his entrepreneurial aspirations. He and his business partner were approached by CQS, an established player in the audit software space, to join on their venture. “Improving how all the major banks and audit firms in SA go about doing confirmations has been a major achievement.”
Soon after joining Rema Tip Top / Dunlop, Patrick Martin— continually looking for challenges and business growth—initiated and implemented strategic planning. He requested the group to make a small investment in drafting a robust joint-venture agreement with a BEE partner he had identified, resulting in the establishment of Dunlop Industrial Africa (Pty) Ltd. It is expected to achieve north of R100 million in 2016.
Ryan Mer, 32 MD, CQS Confirmations
Rikus Vorster, 32
Abed Tau, 28
Kamini Moodley, 34
Garth Pretorius, 33
Rikus Vorster’s career started at Deloitte, where he served his training contract, after which he went on an audit secondment to Deloitte Boston. Upon his return, he spent one year in commerce as a financial manager, and then returned to Deloitte Joburg as manager within the Assurance service line. When the Nigerian CFO position became available, he was asked to take on the role. He had the key responsibility of ensuring international standard financial transformation and sustainability within the finance department. “I have been in this position since January 2014, and it has been an unbelievably eventful time—from a professional and personal point of view.”
Abed Tau is the co-founder of Tuta-Me—the ‘Uber’ of tutors. In the past, tutoring was a hit-andmiss matter of pairing the two, but the app permits a more selective approach. Tuta-Me validates tutors, thereby enabling students to select the one who best suits their needs and availability. The system also vets tutors as to experience, qualifications and criminal record. South Africa’s very first ondemand tutoring edutech startup was a finalist in the MTN App of the Year Award for 2016. Tau has closed the seed capital for Tuta-Me that values the startup at R5 million. His big picture is creating microentrepreneurs through impacting education.
Kamini Moodley joined STANLIB Multi-Manager at a time when the organisation was going through an enormous amount of change. She managed to find structure amid the lack of it, and it is this attitude that has allowed her to be noticed by her superiors and peers—snapping up the role of head of manager of research just 18 months after coming on board as an analyst. Moodley is also a co-owner of a private company called AvantGarde Cooling that is focused on greener, more energy-efficient sources of heating and cooling. Corporate social investment is another of her passions. The power of instilling selfbelief in our youth cannot be underestimated, she says.
Garth Pretorius was raised in a struggling Cape Flats community of Elsies River by his single mother, who instilled in him the importance of a good education. His career began with his articles in 2006, which he completed at the AuditorGeneral of South Africa (AGSA). While there, he worked his way to senior technical manager, followed by a short stint at an accounting and advisory firm. He joined EY as a senior manager in 2014 and within 12 months was promoted to associate director. On July 1 this year, he became an EY partner in the firm’s Financial Accounting and Advisory Services division.
CFO, Deloitte Nigeria
Co-founder, Tuta-Me; director, Thamani Financial Services
Head of Manager Research, STANLIB Multi-Manager
Partner: Financial Accounting and Advisory Services, EY
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Nirakasha Sookraj, 31
Ismail Seedat, 34
Sedzani Musundwa, 33
Manager, Thuthuka Bursary Fund at University of Pretoria
Daylan Staude, 33
Group reporting and taxation manager, One Africa Media
Having completed her articles at Moore Stephens CJL, Nirakasha Sookraj joined the Bidvest Freight Division as a finance manager at Bidvest Tank Terminals. This role proved to be a steep learning curve, where she was continuously challenged to think differently. She played a key role in keeping the finance team focused on their core goals, and embarked on numerous projects that assisted in streamlining processes within the organisation. Thereafter she was recommended for an opportunity to become a finance director at Bidvest SACD.
Ismail Seedat moved up the ranks to senior manager at KPMG in Durban, in a unit that provided opportunities to audit banks and unit trusts to industrial and FMCG concerns. The partners nominated him for a secondment to Grindrod Freight Services, as acting divisional head of finance. “The opportunity arose at One Africa Media where I am now responsible for financial oversight of our Nigeria and Ghana operations. I excelled in innovative thinking by identifying a niche in funding Nigeria’s financially excluded population.”
After completing her articles at a Big Four firm, Sedzani Musundwa immediately went back to the University of Johannesburg to give back to the system that had helped her achieve success. After five years, she decided to join the University of Pretoria (UP), as it is well recognised for its research output. About 14 months later, Musundwa was offered the post of Thuthuka programme manager. “Here was a role that meant teaching would not be the only tool I could use to effect change.” Today she proudly heads up the Thuthuka Programme at UP.
Prior to joining the University of Fort Hare, Daylan Staude spent 10 years in practice at Moore Stephens in East London. In 2011, he joined the University of Fort Hare. For two years he lectured Accounting III, and in 2013 was placed in the role of PGDA/CTA taxation lecturer. He is also involved in the Tax Honours degree, is subject head of Taxation, and the PGDA/ CTA programme co-ordinator. “I have developed my passion for teaching and cannot think of a more suitable and rewarding career.”
Financial director, Bidvest South African Container Depots
Gerhard Visagie, 33
Johan Ferreira, 34
Tumi Hlongwane, 32
Investment director, Acorn Private Equity
Group financial director, Rolfes Holdings
Founder, CEO, Mohau Capital (Pty) Ltd
Directly after his CA(SA) traineeship, Gerhard Visagie was employed in the fast-paced private equity industry at Acorn Private Equity, and appointed as one of the youngest investment directors of a private equity firm in SA. Within his first year of employment, he concluded his first private equity transaction and has since concluded numerous others, the largest being R190 million. Visagie also founded an investment holding company that invests in listed equities in Africa.
While successfully climbing the corporate ladder during his employment at Optimum and part of the Glencore Group, Johan Ferreira completed his MBA. After a two-year stint in Switzerland with Glencore International, he returned to South Africa as group financial director of Rolfes Holdings, where he has successfully established a diversified and skilled team within seven months, and has been involved in investor presentations.
Three years ago, Tumi Hlongwane set out to launch her own business, Mohau Capital: an advisory company that offers valuations, capital raising and due diligence services to a broad range of clients in various sectors. At the height of South Africa’s recent drought, Mohau Capital managed to assist a client in the agricultural business to raise capital. Hlongwane and her team demonstrated sustainability and a strong business case in the midst of tough economic times.
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Lecturer, Taxation and Taxation (Honours), University of Fort Hare
Johnathan Dillon, 34
Associate professor, division head, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Immediately after articles, Johnathan Dillon took up a position in academia, lecturing Management Accounting and Finance (MAF) at CTA level. He is pleased with the successful mentoring system he has implemented and which he oversees for the Thuthuka CTA students. Promoted to associate professor in January 2016, Dillon is currently developing an MCom programme specialising in Strategic Management Accounting and Finance.
Stuart Allan van der Veen, 30 Founder, MD, Paper Plane
Pieter van Niekerk, 31
MD, Health Sherpa Holdings
Pieter van der Zwan, 33
Justin van Wyk, 34
Associate professor and tax adviser
CEO, Big Concerts
Paper Plane is an advisory firm that designs and informs strategy for integrating tech into the future of clients’ businesses, using a network of leading scientists and entrepreneurs. Says Van der Veen, “After a secondment to London and Singapore, I proposed two tech solutions to challenges I had identified at Deloitte.” Both were accepted and he spent the next few months delivering those initiatives before starting his entrepreneurial journey. Paper Plane has collaborated on the African Exponential Fellows to solve the continent’s grand challenges.
At age 31, Pieter van Niekerk is currently the MD of his own consulting firm specialising in merger and acquisitions in the medical and pharma fields Starting off as an article clerk at PwC Bloemfontein, he ended as a manager with PwC in 2013. He moved on to Ascendis Health, which today has a R7-billion market capitalisation. At 29, he was promoted to deputy CFO, gaining excellent experience in the mergers and acquisitions side of a business and overseeing operational and financial issues in a listed group with multiple local and offshore subsidiaries.
Pieter van der Zwan became involved in the KPMG Academy, supporting students studying toward their honours and CTA qualifications. “This made me realise I have a real passion for the academic environment. At the end of 2009, I applied for a position at North-West University and was appointed as senior lecturer from the beginning of 2010.” He now advises companies, government institutions, and accounting and legal firms. “I would like to be involved in setting up and establishing a South African tax journal that could provide a platform to produce research of use to the National Treasury.”
Since February 2016, Justin van Wyk has been CEO of Big Concerts, recently acquired by Live Nation Entertainment. He has grown the group’s value by 300% and seen it become the largest and only liveentertainment company in Africa to feature on the Top 100 Worldwide Promoters List, with interests in touring, ticketing, concessions, hospitality, merchandise and venue management. He has successfully created business models for the use of the 2010 World Cup stadiums for live entertainment and has hosted some of the biggest names in music.
Siyanda Gule, 29
Louw Barnardt, 28
George Diab, 32
Charl de Villiers, 31
CFO, Vantage Capital Group
Founder, MD, OutsourcedCFO
Co-founder, MD, Tailor Me (Pty) Ltd
CFO, Stellar Capital Partners Limited
Siyanda Gule’s private equity career began at Vantage Capital as financial controller. With his good work ethic and sharp technical skills, he was approached by three partners to start a new private equity firm, Kleoss Capital, where he assisted with fundraising presentations, admission of investors into the fund, and deal sourcing. In June 2016, Gule rejoined Vantage Capital Group as CFO, heading up the finance function of a fund manager with R8 billion assets under management.
The general lack of financial knowledge of many private companies was one reason Louw Barnardt formed the concept of an outsourced CFO. He and Dana Pretorius founded their financial management boutique straight out of articles in December 2013. OutsourcedCFO has helped raise more than R100 million in growth funding for startups in the last 12 months, and has an annualised growth rate exceeding 100% per annum. (Barnardt was one of Fast Company SA’s Top 20 under 30.)
After articles, George Diab opted to pursue a career in tax within KPMG. As a “little” side project to learn more about starting up and operating a business, he and a colleague started a bespoke suit company, Tailor Me, whose items would be accessible and affordable to the SA market. Soon his company was gaining momentum; Diab decided to give it his full attention and resigned from his full-time job. Within a year, he hired three team members, secured a luxury showroom in Parkhurst, and turned over R3.4 million in sales.
Charl de Villiers started his career at Deloitte, and was retained as audit manager for a portfolio of select financial services clients in the asset management and reinsurance industries. He later joined ConvergeNet. During the 2015/2016 period of conversion of ConvergeNet Group to Stellar Capital Partners, he laid the foundation for Stellar Capital as a newly established listed investment holding company to preserve and enhance shareholder value.
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Fast Company Promotion
Raymond Ledwaba, 30
Chantelle Loots, 34
CFO, Bombela Concession Company
Carlo Botha, 32
Founder, MD, Blue Recruiting
Toward the end of his articles in 2010, Raymond Ledwaba was seconded to the PwC Chicago office for seven months. He has also enjoyed work experience in Egypt, Kenya and other African countries. Just months after he started toward his MBA, he joined Barclays Africa Group in its Product Control (Change) team, where the corporate and investment bank implements systems and processes in 12 locations across the African continent.
After successfully completing his articles, Graeme Marais became a game ranger in the Sabi Sands reserve. “It was an opportunity to objectively assess what I really wanted to do with my career,” he says. He conceived the idea of building a financial recruitment business linking the financial staffing needs of KPMG’s clients with the career ambitions of the CAs(SA) in its alumni network. In just more than two and a half years, Blue Recruiting has placed more than 100 CAs(SA) (and partqualified candidates) at all levels.
In her role at Bombela Concession Company, Chantelle loots is living her dream as a young independent woman rocking the corporate world. The company was awarded the contract for the multibillionrand Gautrain Rapid Rail Link, and Loots has played a major part in the success of this public transport system. Her knowledge of financial modelling enabled her to build a new budget model that is dynamic, reliable and accurate. Management and the board of directors now place great value on this model for financial planning and decision making.
Carlo Botha has enjoyed various industry experiences from mining to hospitality, agriculture and wine. He successfully led Stellenbosch Vineyards in implementing a new ERP system and completing it 30% below budget. Each initiative in which he has been involved as head of finance has seen improved profitability. “Top management has the responsibility to do whatever we can to create profitable businesses that can make a difference in people’s lives,” he says.
Greg Magid, 27
Vice-president of Product Control, Barclays Africa
Graeme Marais, 34
Financial manager, Stellenbosch Vineyards
Alta-Mari Grebe, 34
Financial manager, DCD Wind Towers (Pty) Ltd
Liaan Kretzschmar, 33
Waseem-Ahmed Carrim, 28
MD (UK & Ireland), VAT IT Group
In 2014, Greg Magid joined the VAT IT Group’s London office to help develop, launch and monetise a new app, the VAT Cloud. Since then, he and his team have implemented the app with the top expense management systems. Over the past year, Magid has taken over management of the group’s UK & Irish subsidiary. This branch is the largest VAT recovery business in the group, with 23 staff and more than 1 000 clients. “Since January 2016, our branch has met monthly targets with approximately 30% yearon-year growth.”
Alta-Mari Grebe comes from a purely financial background and was thrown in the deep end of the manufacturing and renewable energy space. But she has thrived and excelled in this male-dominated world. In December 2013, she joined DCD Wind Towers, the first wind tower manufacturing company in South Africa. As the youngest senior manager, she was responsible for setting up the entire finance department; it became customary for Grebe to take over other operations when those managers were struggling.
Liaan Kretzschmar was selected to his current role in January 2014. “I have made an impact by bringing stability to the local company while the business has been undergoing substantial change and growth. I am particularly proud that I have, together with the MD and wider management team, delivered strong financial results to our parent company, despite significant economic challenges”. He was one of only six candidates globally to be selected in 2016 for Jaguar Land Rover’s development programme, Advance, which develops high-potential leaders toward future senior leadership and executive roles.
Waseem-Ahmed Carrim is one of the youngest CFOs to be appointed within the public service. He started out as an academic article trainee at the University of Pretoria. During his first year as CFO, the NYDA achieved an unqualified audit opinion; in the second, it achieved its first clean audit opinion from the AuditorGeneral of South Africa, reduced irregular expenditure by 97%, eliminated all matters of noncompliance, and achieved its highest organisational performance in history—placing the NYDA in the top tier of government agencies.
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Finance director, Jaguar Land Rover SA & SSA
CFO, National Youth Development Agency
You see Young Chartered Accountants under 35
WE SEE RESPONSIBLE
Business Leaders IN A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
Left: Nico van der Merwe CA(SA) Middle: Mose Kutadzaushe CA(SA) Right: Huzaifah Elias CA(SA)
To become a winner of the Top 35 Under 35 competition, a CA(SA) needs to demonstrate exceptional strategic business skills, knowledge and foresight, which makes them truly remarkable. Couple this with their aptitude, discipline and professionalism and you have a winning formula for success, which sets CAs(SA) apart from their peers when it comes to responsible, results-driven leadership. To read about this story and other stories, please visit www.findacasa.co.za
VIVA THE DIGITAL RE VOLUTION!
HOW BRAAMFONTEIN IS BECOMING A VIBRANT INNOVATION ZONE, SHAPING SA’S TECH FUTURE By Kayla Jacobs
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“We’ll use this as a public entrance, and there’ll be a public coffee shop and snack bar here in the courtyard. We’re thinking of putting a tree in, and some shade cloth and stuff … [Y]ou’ll come in through these doors. There’ll be big windows up on these walls to get some natural light in.” Plans for a new recreation centre? No, this is the coolest tech space in Africa.
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Brainchild of Professor Barry Dwolatzky, director of the Joburg Centre for Software Engineering at Wits University, the Tshimologong Precinct has been developed over the past three years into a productive, creative and innovative centre for existing businesses, techpreneurs and aspiring startups. Situated on Juta Street in a row of buildings that once housed a nightclub, warehouse, office and retail space, Tshimologong (a Setswana phrase meaning ‘place of new beginnings’) is the latest example of urban renewal in Joburg’s Braamfontein—and the starting place for many exciting developments and opportunities available to the neighbourhood. “Silicon Braamfontein” is the up-and-coming technosphere of ihubs and technology centres, and initiatives such as Tshimologong are underpinning the City of Joburg’s focus on economic growth over the next five years, supporting information and communication technology programmes to inspire and enable entrepreneurs to put their ideas and innovations into action. According to Prof. Dwolatzky, the precinct was inspired by the many other innovation zones he had visited throughout the world: London’s Silicon Roundabout, Boston’s Kendall Square, Nairobi’s iHub, among others.
Teraco, one of the founding partners in the Tshimologong project
Professor Barry Dwolatzky, director of the Joburg Centre for Software Engineering at Wits University and driving force behind the development of the Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct
Professor Barry Dwolatzky, JCSE/Wits University
“ W H E R E I N S O U T H A F R I C A W O U L D A N ECONOMIC CLUSTER FOCUSED ON DIGITAL HARDWARE, SOFTWARE AND CONTENT HAVE A GOOD CHANCE OF SUCCESS? BR A A MFONTEIN CERTA INLY TICKED A LL THE BOXES.” He then asked the question, “Where in South Africa would an economic cluster focused on digital hardware, software and content have a good chance of success?” His answer? “Braamfontein certainly ticked all the boxes”. The town is close to Wits, a major research university; it’s in an already existing business hub with well-connected transport and data networks; and is home to a welleducated population from both South Africa and the rest of the continent. He identified the row of Wits-owned buildings in Juta Street and set about raising funds for the renovation thereof. He also enlisted the support of a number of key stakeholders: City of Joburg through its Department of Economic Development, the Gauteng Provincial Department of e-Government, IBM Research, Microsoft, Cisco, Datacentrix, MMI Group Ltd, the Telkom
FutureMakers InnoTech Programme, Airports Company South Africa and the Technology Innovation Agency. Teraco, South Africa’s biggest data centre, is another founding partner in the Tshimologong Precinct project. It is proud to support the foresight and vision of Wits University and the JCSE in creating a vibrant digital technology hub in Braamfontein. The company believes Tshimologong will support much-needed skills development, job creation, entrepreneurship and the rejuvenation of Joburg’s inner city. Teraco plans to partner with the hub in providing co-location space as well as positioning Tshimologong to become a member of NAPAfrica, the continent’s largest Internet exchange point. The precinct is not the first entrepreneurial initiative supported by the City of Joburg. Its #Hack.Jozi Challenge, now in its second year, enables young digital entrepreneurs to access a one-year programme of support services and business networking. Winner of the 2016 competition, Neo Hutiri, is the founder and developer of Technovera: a medical startup that allows people with chronic conditions to collect their repeat medication without the inconvenience of long queues, by making use of a tech-enabled service called a smart locker. These secure lockers, based at clinics or other health centres, are loaded with patients’ prepackaged medication. Once this has been done, the system sends patients an SMS or email including a one-time PIN, which can be used together with their ID number and mobile number to access the locker at a suitable time. “Winning the #Hack.Jozi Challenge gave us a platform to engage the City of Johannesburg’s health team in a meaningful way,” Hutiri told Fast Company SA. “The funding was like oxygen, and enabled us to move and develop at a faster rate . . . I strongly feel that the City of Johannesburg has created a platform that makes it easier for entrepreneurs to position their solutions and impact the lives of our residents. It is up to us to take on
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these challenges and push hard. Technology is a great enabler.” As part of the City’s aim to achieve an average of 5% economic growth over the next five years, it is focusing on a mixture of targeted-investment attraction (key sectors such as ICT), SME development, improved service delivery and urban rejuvenation— upgrading inner-city areas such as Braamfontein into business hubs to bring about economic growth and empowerment
sponsor of the annual Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival in Braamfontein. Projects like Tshimologong are contributing immensely to the growth of the South African economy, creating a platform for young entrepreneurs, startups and existing businesses to share ideas through events, showcases, programmes and networking opportunities. By providing everything they need in one space, the precinct is aiding the digital revolution. “I’ve always said that the
HUB OF ACTIVITY IDEA SPACES INSIDE THE TSHIMOLOGONG PRECINCT IBM Research Lab Advances big data, cloud and mobile technologies to support South Africa’s national priorities, drive skills development and foster innovation-based economic growth
TSHIMOLOGONG IS CREATING A PLATFORM FOR YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS, STARTUPS AND EXISTING BUSINESSES TO SHARE IDEAS THROUGH EVENTS, SHOWCASES, PROGRAMMES AND NETWORKING OPPORTUNITIES.
Open event room where members can showcase their work, brainstorm and share ideas
Joburg Centre for Software Engineering Supports research and training initiatives for the software development industry
Tall Room Exhibition room where tech entrepreneurs can display their latest innovations and designs
DIZ Collaboration space for creatives, innovators and programmers to grow jobs through hi-tech startups and skills development
iClub Future contemporary collaborative work and event section
of entrepreneurs. A year ago, the Braamfontein Wireless Mesh went live— giving the entire area free 100% Wi-Fi access, with each citizen receiving 300MB per day per device. ICT investors (such as Microsoft, IBM, Telkom and others) have been encouraged by the City to co-locate at the Wits-linked hubs. The CoJ is also the main
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fuel that powers the digital revolution are coffee, pizza and bandwidth,” adds Prof. Dwolatzky. He believes digital innovation is the future, and a key to solving the country’s problems. “Joburg is building our national ability to shape that future through the partnerships and capacity created via Silicon Braamfontein.”
DAV Centre Gauteng’s Design and Validation Centre tests and evaluates potential new technology to provide quality assurance services, stimulate ICT entrepreneurship and support the township economy
The Interchange Space to share interesting ideas
Professor Barry Dwolatzky, JCSE/Wits University
The new Wits Tshimologong Precinct in Juta Street, Braamfontein opened on September 1.
Open area where innovators meet and hang out, featuring a canteen and coffee shop
OF THE BEST WORLD-CHANGING IDEAS
Featuring AIRBNB, NIKE, VOLVO, FACEBOOK & more
Inside BRAAMFONTEIN’S coolest tech space How AFRICAN TECH STARTUPS are making our lives easier ADIDAS targets women
TWITTER grabs a new playbook CEO Jack Dorsey
From politics to football— can his bet on live video woo the masses?
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9 772313 330006
“We’re really good at delivering news faster than anyone else,” says Dorsey, foreground, with, from left, Periscope CEO Kayvon Beykpour, CFO Anthony Noto, CMO Leslie Berland and COO Adam Bain.
FOR THE CHATTERING CLASSES—POLITICOS, CELEBRITIES, ATHLETES AND MEDIA—TWEETING IS AS ESSENTIAL AS OXYGEN. CAN CEO JACK DORSEY’S BET ON LIVE VIDEO, INCLUDING THURSDAY NIGHT NFL GAMES, WOO THE MASSES?
By Harry McCracken
PHOTOGRAPHS BY IOULEX
LIVE FROM TWITTER HQ 56
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I T IS MORE THAN A M AG A ZINE, I T'S A MOV EMEN T The Digital version of Fast Company South Africa is now available on Apple iPad and Android tablets
“I JUST WANTED TO GET IN THE ROOM”
Breakout artist Cox is using her platform to battle misinformation and create new narratives for the transgender community.
Actress and activist Laverne Cox, who plays Sophia Burset on Orange Is the New Black, has put transgender issues front and centre in television and in politics. She talks about being a role model, election-season scapegoating, and how an alien transvestite helped her find her voice. I N T E RV I E W BY J J M c C O RV E Y
This month, you’re starring in the TV remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. What drew you to the role of Dr Frank-N-Furter, the “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania”, which Tim Curry memorably played in the original? I became obsessed with Rocky Horror when I was in college. I connected deeply to the message of the film; the song “Don’t Dream It, Be It” became a personal mantra. And Tim Curry’s iconic performance just transformed me. At the time, I was gender-nonconforming: I had a shaved head, and I wore false eyelashes and makeup, but I didn’t identify as female yet. So this movie and its gender fluidity were everything to me.
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Hair: Ryan Randall at The Only Agency; makeup: Deja Marie Smith
Photograph by Dan Monick
There’s a lot of singing in this role. How did you prepare for it? I really started working on my [lower-range] chest voice again. For a long time, after I first discovered that I could sing really high, I exclusively sang in my head voice. I’ve met other trans singers who struggled with finding their voices during and after transition. Being comfortable with our voices is a really big deal. It wasn’t until about a year ago that I started accepting that I have a deep voice, too. And once I was ready to deal with that, the universe brought me something really spectacular: the role of Frank-N-Furter. Now I can sing a full octave range, and you get a taste of that in the movie.
“I try to keep artistic decisions out of the realm of the political. Though, certainly, it’s all political.”
When the legal drama Doubt airs next year on CBS, your character will be the first series regular on broadcast TV who is trans—and is actually played by a trans actor. Why has it taken so long for trans actors to break through? For years, a lot of people in this industry didn’t think trans actors existed or had the talent to deliver when roles came along. There’s a business part, too. Sometimes you need a name just to get funding. And we have not until recently had any famous trans actors. But if you don’t cast trans people to play trans—or to play any role—then we don’t get the opportunity to become stars and amass the clout to carry a movie. It becomes a circle where we don’t get opportunities. I just wanted to get in the room, to have them see what I could do.
After the Civil Rights Movement, a lot of TV shows debuted—Julia, with Diahann Carroll, The Cosby Show—that helped challenge viewers’ stereotypes of African Americans. Do you think your work has a similar effect? I hope so. Frank-N-Furter is an alien from another planet [laughs], so Frank-N-Furter is not really reflective of the day-to-day realities of transgender people. With Doubt, my character is an attorney who is a black transgender woman and is fighting for the rights of others. Hopefully, it’ll encourage the public to see me in a new light, and maybe see trans people in a different light as well.
Fortress of solitude Through her character on Orange Is the New Black, Cox has spotlighted the issues faced by transgender prisoners.
You are so symbolically important to people. When you’re making career choices, do you feel that you have to keep the trans community in mind? I think about that, but I have to grow as an artist and push myself. So when it comes to decisions about playing a particular part, I really think about the challenge. I think about the humanity of the character, and who I might be working with on it. I try to keep artistic decisions out of the realm of the political. Though, certainly, it’s all political. And you’re not shy about using your platform to fight for causes. You’ve drawn attention to transgender murders and taken a stand against LGBT–unfriendly laws. What motivates your activism? I remember having a conversation years ago with my brother about this. I’m political anyway, so the question was: Do I speak up, do I speak out? [There had never been] a conversation in the mainstream media that challenged the ways in which trans stories were told. I wanted to change that, to create space for myself as a full, multidimensional human being, and hopefully give other trans people space to do that as well. A lot of it is just about seeing a need and speaking out, ’cause somebody’s gotta do it. It’s a civic responsibility. You have been a vocal opponent of North Carolina’s HB2, the so-called Bathroom Bill, which forces individuals to use restrooms that match the gender on their birth certificate. We’ve recently seen large organisations like Target, PayPal and the NBA join activists in protesting it. What does that signal to you? I was very excited when I heard that the NBA was pulling the AllStar game from North Carolina. When people discriminate, there need to be consequences. There are over 100 anti-trans bills that have been introduced in the past year. One hundred. It’s really about scapegoating trans people during
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an election year to turn out a particular party electorate. It’s important that we push our own narratives, instead of all of the misinformation about trans people that folks want to try to perpetuate. Free CeCe, a documentary you executive produced about a trans woman who spends a lot of time in solitary confinement in a men’s prison, had its world premiere in June. On the most recent season of Orange Is the New Black, your character spends a significant amount of time in solitary. Did you help develop that storyline? That was the writers. They had done the research, and when I got the script, I was like, Oh wow, here we go. My hope is that through Orange Is the New Black and Free CeCe, we can begin to have conversations about solitary confinement in this country. It’s cruel and unusual punishment and needs to be banned. Solitary can result in psychological and emotional effects for the rest of someone’s life—paranoia, hallucinations. Often people who have been in solitary are suicidal. Kalief Browder is a person I can’t help but think about. Do you know that story? [As a teenager, Browder spent years in solitary while awaiting trial at New York’s Rikers Island. He committed suicide two years after his case was dismissed.] I do. It’s so sad. When he got out after being in solitary for years, he lost the will to live. Your character, Sophia, goes to a dark place while in solitary, really strippeddown physically and emotionally. How did you evoke that? Obviously, I’d had conversations with CeCe over the years about her experience. It’s a scary place to go, because it has to be real for me—so that it’s real for the audience. You are stripping someone of something fundamentally human when they are not able to have human contact. You’ve been open about a past suicide attempt. Yeah, I’ve talked about that, yes. Did you draw on that experience as well? There have been times in my life when I certainly have wanted to end it,
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30-SECOND BIO Laverne Cox HOMETOWN
Mobile, Alabama MAJOR ACTING CREDITS
Orange Is the New Black (Sophia Burset), Grandma (Deathy), The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Dr Frank-N-Furter), Doubt (Cameron Wirth), Freak Show (Felicia Watts) FIRST OPENLY TRANSGENDER PERSON TO
Play a trans regular character on a broadcast TV show, receive an Emmy nomination in an acting category, appear on the cover of Time magazine, or receive a wax figure at Madame Tussauds ON THE LGBT COMMUNITY
“We need more people of colour in positions of power at LGBT organisations, more trans people, different perspectives. And we need more queer and LGBT perspectives in black organisations, so we are not getting myopic.”
The doctor is in Cox, as Dr Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, was inspired by the gender fluidity of the original.
so yeah. As an actor, you shouldn’t tell all your secrets to the public. You have to have something for yourself to draw on. I tried to go into those places in my own history when I felt very isolated, and then worked to amplify those sensations, those states of mind. What was it like for you growing up in Alabama? It was a mixed bag. It’s important to note that the black community that I grew up in, in Mobile, was supportive of me as a good student who was talented. I studied dance, I did public speaking, I won a lot of talent shows. But I had to suppress my gender stuff and my femininity. I was bullied a lot, and I internalised a lot of shame around that. But I survived it. And everything that I went through has “As an actor, you made me who I am today.
shouldn’t tell all your secrets to the public. You have to have something for yourself to draw on.”
What inspires you? I love excellence. Leontyne Price, who is an opera singer, is my idol. Her voice is so brilliant, but so is her work ethic, her discipline. On Facebook, I’ve been sharing videos of [1990s gymnasts] Dominique Dawes and Kerri Strug— that amazing Olympic moment when [Strug] vaulted and landed on one foot. You know the hours of work that went into that. It’s a grind, but there’s no substitute for just doing the work. There is something inspiring about that.
HOLD ON TIGHT Craig Drysdale’s ingenious Silver Cord is giving surfers a lifeline By Jazz Kuschke
“After not having been in the water for a while, I went surfing. I hadn’t realised how fit one needed to be, and on my very first wave I got battered rather badly. The very first thing that went through my mind was, ‘Please don’t let the leash snap.’” Fortunately for Capetonian Craig Drysdale, it didn’t break—but the experience sparked an idea to create a surf leash that’s fully functional, by normal
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industry standards, with an added element of backup safety. The cord that attaches a surfer to the board is an obviously crucial piece of equipment, but it has remained pretty much the same, while many other hardware facets in the surfing industry—board materials and design, wetsuits, clothing, among others—have undergone major developments in the past few years. Drysdale is not your average inventor. In fact, he’s had a varied and interesting career. “Most of the time, I’ve been involved in marketing and product development, but focusing more on business strategy,” he explains. “Even during my corporate days, I applied an entrepreneurial approach to the various projects I was involved with.” His career path has taken him all over the globe. “I’ve been fortunate enough to learn and experience various cultures, and this diversity has allowed me to obtain “Having a great an understanding of so many different product is nothing elements of business. I’ve been involved in without the ability licensing, retail, wholesale, banking, the to understand Internet—and even did some work with non-governmental organisations.” In a and penetrate way, then, his history combined with his the market.”
passion for surfing and his ‘lack of fitness’ all led to the development of the Silver Cord: a revolutionary new surfing leash that includes elements such as an inner cord that activates when the leash breaks, an emergency Bail Safe Device as well as three interchangeable components. While the idea struck Drysdale right away, the R&D process took a fair amount of time. “Initially, I created a demo from various materials as well as making use of the facilities offered by the Cape Craft + Design Institute,” he explains. “They offer fantastic support at little or no cost. The facilities are amazing, and the staff even better.” Drysdale also applied for a patent early on. “Once the patent application was filed and I was confident that protection was in place, I flew to China to test the viability. I spent a month in China working with a suitable factory,” he says. After three weeks of working 14-hour days, the first workable solution was finally complete. “We had applied different heats, different methods of extrusion and even different inner-cord
S A F E S URF ING How the Silver Cord leash works with its other components: INNER CORD The leash is hollow, containing a cord with a breaking strength greater than the leash. The leash is fully functional, but when it breaks, the inner Silver Cord stays intact and allows the surfer to retain his or her surfboard. The surfer can then either make his/her way to the safety of the beach, or continue surfing. The inner cord works much like a safety parachute.
BAIL SAFE DEVICE Should a surfer want to be disconnected from the surfboard in extreme conditions—after a big wipeout, strong currents, or as a result of entanglement—there’s a unique quick-release pin (the Bail Safe Device) that will immediately disconnect the surfer and the leash. Inside men Drysdale (right) enlisted the help of surf experts such as Craig Jarvis (left) to ensure his product could compete on a global stage.
insertion methods,” he explains. After that massive first leap had been taken, Drysdale had to walk the road to market in a very competitive realm; he enlisted the help of some heavy hitters in the surfing industry. “Having a great product is nothing without the ability to understand and penetrate the market,” he remarks. The surf industry is complex and insular. The best way to overcome this is by acknowledging one’s weaknesses and playing to one’s strengths. “I needed the best guys on board to reach a global stage. Steve ‘Spike’ Pike is a guru in swell and weather patterns. These elements are closely aligned to our brand ethos, so I needed his insights. Craig ‘Jarvi’ Jarvis is an expert in his field of marketing. I’ve known him since my teens and there was an element of trust. To ensure longevity, I actually allocated a percentage of my company to him. There’s nothing better than being surrounded by motivated people. These guys speak a different language, a language I
INTERCHANGEABLE PARTS The Silver Cord’s three components—cuff, leash and rail saver—are all interchangeable. Should your leash break, a simple screw system will allow you to replace the broken component (the leash) to the existing ankle cuff and rail saver. Similarly, should the surf be much bigger than anticipated, you can simply replace the leash component with a longer and thicker leash, utilising the existing rail saver and cuff. Components will be sold in packs or individually, which will cut down on leash costs going forward.
simply don’t understand. I needed to harness the skills of experts in the field.” The launch press release was disseminated in early September, just before the Surf Expo Drysdale attended in Orlando, Florida. “The reaction from the media and the trade was overwhelming. The product was featured on all major trade websites and many blogs. Social media lit up and feedback was mostly positive.” Because the surf market is liquid, with constant R&D across products and technologies, Drysdale and his team chose to engage the audience in an innovative way. “We didn’t approach the audience trying to demonstrate a new product. We simply presented an already functional product with additional benefits,” he says. “Having the right people around allows one to focus on the critical success factors required for a smooth launch and rollout. I had to remain focused on the product quality and executing the plan accordingly. I never doubted the support team beside me. This freed up my time to concentrate on other factors like appointing agents, understanding the channels and being competitive.” In terms of business model, Silver Cord’s approach is uncomplicated. “We create quality and functional products that appeal to a wide sector of the market. We have appointed agents in the key regions around the world,” Drysdale says. His goal? For the brand to be considered best practice. “We will never compromise quality or functionality. A moral success would be to make significant contributions to the environment and specifically assist in the preservation of sea life.” Already making significant global waves, it’s more than likely this South African invention will change the way surfers approach safety and functionality.
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The Great Innovation Frontier
CLEAN, GREEN DESIGN MACHINES The new generation of thinkers understands that 21st century design has to be sustainable
Increasingly, architects the world over are becoming aware of the power of green design. On the African content, and in South Africa specifically, it’s no different. The US construction think tank, Dodge Data & Analytics, recently noted the increase in green building initiatives in South Africa, reporting that in 2015 nearly half of the year’s construction took place with a view to sustainability. In fact, South Africa was top among the 13 countries surveyed—the average level of green construction among other countries being much lower at 24%. Richard Gray, CEO of Harcourts SA, said the majority of South African firms surveyed expected over 60% of their construction activities to be green by 2018. “Green buildings,” he wrote, “are rapidly becoming the big story of the real estate industry.” There’s certainly some variation in how ‘green’ is understood: conserving resources, not damaging the environment and/or drawing inspiration from the earth or the animal kingdom, building in harmony with nature—but by and large it’s about being smarter about what we build and why. Conventional buildings, by contrast, have a large carbon footprint and use vast quantities of water and energy. There are several rewards, awards and inspiration available for green building, with the Green Building Convention recently held in Sandton leading the way locally in showcasing and celebrating design excellence. The upcoming AfriSam–South African Institute of Architects Awards for Sustainable Architecture will be announced in October; the Department of Environmental Affairs’ new headquarters in Tshwane is on the shortlist. But glory is not the only reward. Sustainable architecture has the potential to bring greater returns to investors too, by reducing long-term running costs. One of the AfriSam–SAIA judges, architect Richard Stretton, told Business Day that for too long, money had been the most important factor in building designs. “Most buildings are just a physical manifestation of spreadsheets,” he said. “You invest x on a property and get an expected return.” But if one thinks a little bigger, the cost of running a building by far outweighs the initial cost of investing in it. Green buildings are not only friendly to the environment; they also incorporate design that’s functional and less resource-intensive overall. “Mature”
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Architects and builders will need to mobilise and innovate—in a way not seen since the aftermath of World War 2— to reduce the pressure on resources.
Wa lte r B aets
sustainable architecture, said Stretton, moves away from the strictly revenue-driven model and looks at the bigger picture, matching its designs to the needs of the environment and the community. All these advantages aside, we simply have to conserve resources. It’s no longer a choice. Fast Company US’s Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan recently reported on “the other housing crisis”—as citizens of a small Alaskan community, Shishmaref, voted to relocate owing to climate change—while YourRenewableNews.com added that with colossal expansion of urban areas expected in the coming decades, approaching construction the way we always have will simply not be possible. Architects and builders, says Campbell-Dollaghan, will need to mobilise and innovate—in a way not seen since the aftermath of World War 2—to reduce the pressure on resources. Fortunately, looking around at some of the innovations popping up across the globe, it appears many are already heeding this call—especially in Africa, where there are far too many examples to do them justice here. In Franschhoek, Cape Town, Ecomo built a compact modular prefab home that was entirely solar-powered; South Africa’s Department of Transport and the Airports Company South Africa recently unveiled the country’s third solar-powered airport; in Freedom Park in Mitchells Plain on the Cape Flats, you’ll find the sandbag houses that are both cheap and functional; KwaZulu-Natal’s Africa Centre boasts a 15-metre water tower thermal stack to assist ventilation, with locally sourced and environmentally friendly materials such as eucalyptus poles being used. Its stormwater is channelled into wetlands, and the garden uses grey water. Further afield in Zimbabwe, biomimicry is finding its way into large constructions: Harare’s Eastgate Centre shopping mall, for example, borrows its design from termite mounds, built to maintain a constant temperature using natural heating and cooling vents. Egypt’s El Mandara Sustainable Eco-Lodge has transformed run-down, previously abandoned dwellings into a “serene oasis” using green design principles. Ray Mahlaka for Moneyweb recently argued that “South Africa has fast adopted the green building movement” and is setting an international standard for sustainable construction. I would add the rest of Africa to that assessment. And let us hope, for all our sakes, that the trend continues. Walter Baets is the director of the UCT Graduate School of Business and holds the Allan Gray Chair in Values-Based Leadership at the school. Formerly a professor of complexity, knowledge and innovation as well as associate dean for innovation and social responsibility at Euromed Management—School of Management and Business, he is passionate about building a business school for ‘business that matters’.
GONE WITH THE WIND … IN 5 SECONDS
Wild cat There are noticeable feline hints around the new Maserati Ghibli’s grille and headlights.
The new Maserati Ghibli’s styling and performance will blow you away BY EVANS MANYONGA
There are cars, and then there’s the Maserati Ghibli: Italian style and elegance, and the pace of a devil on wheels. This is strictly for those who live and breathe luxury and class. And a bit of supreme power. Maserati’s latest addition to its model range is a four-door sports executive sedan—the first E-segment model by the Italian luxury brand. By combining breathtaking design with exceptional handling qualities and outstanding performance, the Ghibli appeals to the heart, the head and the soul, making the dream of owning a Maserati more accessible. With the Ghibli, the Italian marque produces two concurrent four-door sedan models for the first time in its 100-year history. It is the second model after the flagship, the Quattroporte, to be manufactured to new benchmark quality standards in Maserati’s new state-of-the-art production facilities in Grugliasco, near Turin. In line with Maserati’s long tradition of naming cars after winds, “Ghibli” originates from the hot and dry, dust-bearing desert wind descending from the interior highlands of Libya toward the Mediterranean Sea. The first Maserati Ghibli, the mark “I”, was launched in 1967 as
a two-door, two-seater grand tourer with a V8 engine and 246kW. The Maserati Ghibli II appeared in 1992, with a 2.0-litre V6 engine and 228kW: the highest kW/litre output ever at the time. Today’s Maserati Ghibli range offers unmistakable class, topquality performance and a thrilling yet comfortable drive in an eye-catching sedan. Both versions of the petrol range, Ghibli and Ghibli S, feature a newgeneration twin turbo-charged 3.0-litre V6 engine and an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission. With its power output of 305kW, the Ghibli S races to 100km/h in 5.0 seconds and reaches a top speed of 285km/h. The Ghibli delivers 246kW, a top speed of 263km/h and acceleration of 0 to 100km/h in 5.6 seconds. The Ghibli S is optionally available with the Q4 all-wheel-drive system. The Ghibli S Q4 accelerates from 0-100km/h in just 4.8 seconds, up to a top speed of 284km/h. The Ghibli Diesel, with its 3.0-litre V6 engine, has been developed exclusively for Maserati by VM Motori under the watchful eye of powertrain director Paolo Martinelli, a legendary ex-Ferrari F1 engine designer. This new engine produces a best-in-its-class power output of 205kW. The new Ghibli shares parts of
its core architecture, chassis, suspension architecture, V6 engine and ZF 8-speed automatic transmission with the flagship limousine Quattroporte. It is, however, 173mm shorter in the wheelbase and 291mm shorter overall, as well as 50kg lighter. Dynamic and precise handling is guaranteed by the car’s perfectly balanced 50:50 weight distribution, while the sophisticated suspension system and limited slip differential make every ride even more enjoyable. Achieving five stars on the Euro NCAP crash test, the Ghibli provides peace of mind for all occupants. While the Ghibli features all classic Maserati design traits, its exterior emphasises its determined personality. The outline of the body reflects a coupé-like philosophy for the four-door sedan, while there are noticeable feline hints around the Ghibli’s grille and headlights. The pronounced grille draws a line back to the iconic A6 GCS of the 1950s. The shape of the headlights converges onto the Trident symbol, with every angle designed to attract the eye to Maserati’s legendary marque. The distinctive C-pillar delivers much of the Ghibli’s coupé-like stance and hosts the classical
Saetta Maserati logo, carrying on a tradition dating back to 1963. The side profile is dominated by a swage line that runs from the three unmistakable Maserati air vents behind the front wheels and finishes in the rear lights themselves. With its long wheelbase, a total length of 4.97m and wide tracks, the Ghibli demonstrates a perfect blend of sportiness and elegance that’s second to none in its class. The Ghibli enters the E-segment of the sports premium market with a tangible advantage in cabin craftsmanship and detailing. It also sets itself apart with a unique, cockpit-inspired dashboard design that perfectly matches its sporty and youthful character without compromising on the highest level of refinement and sophistication. Key elements such as the 8.4-inch Maserati Touch Control and the fine Italian leather finish underline the cabin’s timeless sporting character. Optional features include the 10-speaker premium Harman Kardon sound system or the 15-speaker Bowers & Wilkins high-end audio system, Blind Spot Alert, Siri integration, WLAN based WiFi and a wide range of customisation options that cater for the most demanding individuals.
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Fast Bytes Fast Company SA takes a look at the innovative new ideas, services, research and news currently making waves in South Africa and abroad
VR ARCADE IN THE CAPE After its huge success at the Electronics & Gaming Expo in July, VRCade (vrarcade.co.za) has set up shop at the V&A Waterfront’s Workshop17 in the Watershed. The VRCade is a virtual-reality arcade where you can don the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive to get some game time on these awesome headsets. VRCade MD Zach Joubert aims to make VR more accessible to people, “giving them a topnotch experience without the investment”. The arcade will provide a number of enticing VR games including rally driving and zombie hunting at Stadium on Main in Claremont, Cape Town.
TECH-FRIENDLY TRADING Having been granted a licence by the Financial Services Board, ZAR X (www.zarx. co.za) is South Africa’s newest, cutting-edge and affordable stock exchange. This signifies a new era in tech-friendly and user-focused share trading. Among the benefits offered to investors are T+0 or real-time settlement, which effectively eliminates settlement risk in the market—plus fintech innovation that will allow investors to transact via their mobile device. Greater efficiency is accompanied by enhanced security of investor assets, and the provision of value-added services such as free safe custody facilities. Senwes and Senwesbel were the first companies to list, and commenced trading on October 3.
FNB GOES MOBILE As the country’s foremost tech-driven banking institution, FNB has launched its own branded mobile phone—the first bank to do so. The ConeXis comes with an FNB SIM card and a number of FNB apps pre-installed, with the bank’s logo on its startup screen. Specs include: Android Marshmallow, 8GB of RAM, 2 540mAh battery, LTE connectivity, 8MP back camera and 5MP front camera, among others. The bank also launched FNB Connect Unlimited Calls, allowing subscribers unlimited local calls to any network for only R399 per month. See www.fnb.co.za/promotion/ConeXis for participating branches. 90 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A OCTOBER 2016
PAYMENT TECH FOR TOWNSHIPS MasterCard Africa has teamed up with local fintech startup iKhokha (www.ikhokha.com) to expand mobile cashless payment systems to hundreds of informal townships businesses. Over six months, the two companies will pilot the project by distributing 700 mobile point-of-sale terminals to cash-based businesses in the Durban township of KwaMashu, in Ladybrand in the Free State, and later in other areas. The iKhokha system allows small businesses to track cash, card and mobile transactions, and provides unsecured cash advances to owners based on trading history. The focus is on businesses at the main trade and transit points where volumes of people are high and cash-related crime is a serious problem.
The Speed of Trust Conference Date: 26 October Time: 07h00–16h30 Location: Gallagher Convention Centre, Midrand, Joburg Cost: R7 400 per delegate (discounts available) speedoftrust.co.za Delivering on any strategy, no matter how good it is, depends on the credibility of your leaders and the culture they create. High-trust organisations have been shown to achieve a 286% higher shareholder value than low-trust organisations. Learn how to lead at the Speed of Trust from Stephen MR Covey, a sought-after adviser on trust, leadership, ethics, sales and high performance, and author of The New York Times bestselling book, The Speed of Trust.
ITWeb Brainstorm CIO Banquet Date: 27 October Time: 17h00–22h00 Location: Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg www.itweb.co.za The red carpet event for CIOs, where results of this year’s ITWeb Brainstorm CIO Survey will be announced. The banquet is a sophisticated affair that reflects the importance of the data being presented. The research will reveal deep insights into what the country’s top CIOs want, and unpack the issues that keep them up at night. This will help business and tech leaders evaluate and improve their strategies to remain competitive in a hyperconnected world.
KAMERS/Makers Stellenbosch Date: 1–6 November Time: 09h00–17h00 Location: Anura Vineyards, Stellenbosch kamersvol.com/events/kamers-stellenbosch With 150 handpicked exhibitors, this is South Africa’s most dynamic pop-up retail platform: one that gives hundreds of talented entrepreneurs a supportive and nurturing environment. Expect a celebration of local design, craft, art, music, food, wine and more.
AfricaCom Date: 14–18 November (festival); 15–17 November (conference & exhibition) Time: 09h00–17h00 Location: Cape Town International Convention Centre Cost: various, including free visitor pass with limited access tmt.knect365.com/africacom The week-long affair is a festival of thought-provoking content, immersive satellite events, and unique networking experiences. The new programme consists of 20 actionpacked tracks and features. New satellite events include IoT & Smart Cities Africa, Telco Big Data, and the LeadersIn Africa Summit and Headline Keynotes.
Local conferences, talks and meetups we think are worth attending Design Mission Africa Date: 17 & 18 November Time: 09h00–20h30 (Thurs); 09h00–17h00 (Fri) Location: Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg Cost: various www.designmissionseries.com/africa The Design Mission Africa, organised by IDE Global, is a platform strategised for the transformation of the procurement practices of the continent—enabling business units to achieve value from buyer–supplier relationships by
facilitating ample dialogues among the key stakeholders of the industry: developers, architects, interior designers, builders and contractors, PMCs, brand owners, hotel owners and operators, among others. Come enjoy an interactive conference agenda, pre-scheduled face-to-face meetings, and structured net working activities.
SME ScaleUp Date: 23 November Time: 07h30–20h00 Location: Vodaworld, Midrand, Johannesburg Cost: R1 000 (meals, access to the exhibition and networking sessions) smescaleup.co.za This event is an informative session for entrepreneurs and business owners to learn how to develop growth strategies and expose opportunities to create jobs in the SME sector—particularly in the era of industrialisation. Each speaker will share strategies and tools to effectively manage various aspects of a business. You will gain insight on how to manage business compliance, and how forwardthinking SMEs have scaled their businesses against all odds.
Women in Government and Business Leadership Summit Southern Africa Date: 29 & 30 November Time: 08h00 (Tues); 16h00 (Weds) Location: Crowne Plaza Johannesburg—The Rosebank Cost: R8 500 per delegate www.incebaconsulting.com This summit presents a platform to organisations and institutions across the SADC region to discuss, exchange ideas and experiences as well as provide recommendations or solutions toward meeting women empowerment goals as expounded in the SADC Gender Protocol on Gender and Development. Participants will discuss women leadership development, effective gender inequality corrective measures, aligning government and private sector policies with the SADC Gender Protocol objectives, sustaining gains made, and formulating strategies to improve on the shortfalls in the development of women.
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M a rk McCh le r y
INCOMPETENCE KILLS How to prevent workplace mediocrity from infecting the whole culture of an organisation
IN 2013, ONE Republic released their smash hit, “Counting Stars”. The hook affirms: “Everything that kills me makes me feel alive!” I’ll go out on a limb here and state that everyone can identify with this. Completely unrelated to the song, some two years later Robert Tracinski explored “The Paradox of Dogma” in a post on politics for TheFederalist.com, and my lizard brain linked these messages and got me thinking about our interactions in the workplace. As I borrowed powerful snippets of insight from a myriad of channels, I started to form a view on working success as a utopian dimension of dynamic workplace, happy team, cultureis-king messages that bombard us when we read or watch business success stories. Cigarette packets and any bottle containing alcohol legislatively display warning labels advising you that even if you get any joy or satisfaction from the product— dare I say, if it makes you feel alive—it will kill you! You have been warned! We need a sign at the front door of our office, disclaiming that “Incompetence Kills: Likely to cause stress, diminished confidence, and could potentially lead to a sense of despair.” Mediocrity has become commonplace in society, highly visible in the public sector and largely scuttled to the storage closet in the private sector. Many of us, on all levels of the structure, contribute and suffer from it. Consider a marriage or long-term relationship: the initial excitement you experienced; going out of your way to spoil your partner and doing things to keep the flame alive. Now fast-forward a few years. You still have an innate sense of loyalty and, indeed, love. But you don’t wake up early to fix breakfast in bed; you skip past the flower aisle when making the pesky daily stop for bread or milk on your way home; you make social plans on the fly, and simply co-habit. In real terms, the thought of doing what’s expected is the driving force of no longer innovating or using your initiative and creativity. Now think of your career (or is it your job?): The mindset that somehow, by working harder, you’ll achieve your goal suggests that if you pour enough water into a volcano, you can stop it from erupting, right? A lack of performance in the workplace can lead to conflict, back biting and gossip, and absenteeism—which all direct the business down the road of low productivity
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When someone’s struggling at work, it’s not simply a lack of care or drive or laziness; there’s generally something bigger at play.
and staff retention rates that infect the culture of an organisation. Over a long period of time, the sustained attrition of morale results in team mass destruction. I read somewhere that factors that make the difference in generating excellence are based on the strength of the interpersonal relationships in the team, encapsulating happiness factors, talent, habits of team members, perspectives, and the patience to practise, practise, practise. It’s common knowledge that humans have two basic needs: to look good and be right—which, unmet, may generate similar fight or flight reactions that manifest from physical threat. When someone’s struggling at work, it’s not simply a lack of care or drive or laziness; there’s generally something bigger at play. We all have a natural desire to excel, coupled with a deep yearning to achieve. Unfortunately, in the face of what seems like an insurmountable obstacle, we lose spirit. Spirit is the cornerstone of creativity and, ultimately, culture. In the 1920s, Harvard University initiated the Hawthorne experiment: the first known academic studies on the effects of social dynamics in the workplace, based on the principle that adults spend an overwhelming majority of their life in this environment. The interpersonal relationships in the workplace are the primary relationships that build or break the spirit of our people. While the Hawthorne experiment suggests some attention is better than none, it has evolved to support the view that there’s an attention gradient. This is best visualised as a ladder: At the bottom there’s no attention, and the next rung is negative attention— supporting the view that bad attention is better than none at all. At the top of the ladder is continuous and tempered reinforcement, where celebrating the small wins metabolises the culture to hunger for the big wins. Generally, people who are happy in the workplace are successful in their lifetime. Alas, it’s the unhappy employee, usually perceived to be the indifferent colleague, who will achieve mediocrity, portray mediocrity and, at worst, probably teach mediocrity. Mark McChlery is an established businessman and regular contributor to various media and innovation congresses on the topic of business. He has become a specialist in process and technology integration, with a rich curiosity in people dynamics and the exponential potential of a great idea.