10.24.18

Resolution Circle names Gideon Potgieter as Chief Executive Officer

BY john 2 MINUTE READ

Resolution Circle has announced that its Board of Directors has appointed Gideon Potgieter as Chief Executive Officer and member of the Board of Directors effective immediately. Potgieter previously held the position of Group Senior Manager Business Development and has served as Interim CEO since May this year.

“During the time of renewing the focus of Resolution Circle in support of technical professional education, I’m pleased that Mr Gideon Potgieter has been selected as CEO. This selection brings both the element of continuity and change – this remains helpful for a transition.” says Prof Saurabh Sinha, Resolution Circle’s Chairman of the Interim Board and UJ Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation.

Gideon studied electronics obtaining his National Diploma and later his National Higher Diploma at the institution that has now been amalgamated into the University of Johannesburg. He later completed his MBA at the Rotterdam School of Management at the Erasmus University. Gideon has worked in several industries ranging from High-Tech Electronics and Information Technology to Automotive, Education and Medical Insurance in South Africa and abroad.

Most recently he became involved with the product and technology development for startups in the Bio-Tech, Clean-Tech and High-Tech areas through Resolution Circle.

Since joining Resolution Circle in 2014, Gideon has spearheaded major strategy and technical shifts across the company’s portfolio of products and services.

He has also been fundamental in redefining the company’s core offering, which is professional technical training and programmes for market readiness, targeted at learners from TVET, comprehensive universities, e.g. UJ, and universities of technology. The company also offers skills development modules that are not necessarily linked to a qualification and short learning courses in Technology like Arduino, Fibre optic, Programmable Logic Control (PLC) and Solar PV. The current Arduino and PLC courses are building blocks of the Industry 4.0 revolution.

Having started his career in electronics, then moving onto computer hardware and networking. Gideon has followed the same path as the company’s interns, so he understands their needs. He also had a great understanding of the the needs of the industry.

“During my time at Resolution Circle I have become involved in the product and technology development of other companies, and I have learned a great deal about the start-up and entrepreneurship scene in South Africa,” says Gideon, “I believe in participative management – I encourage and appreciate the input of employees and look forward to working with and leading my team in taking our strategy forward.”

“The opportunity ahead for Resolution Circle is vast, but to seize it we must focus clearly and continue to transform. A big part of my job is to accelerate our ability to bring innovative products to our customers more quickly.” Gideon adds, “I would rather try something and fail than not trying at all.”

 Speaking on behalf of the board, Prof Saurabh Sinha says, “We believe Gideon has the right operational and communication skills and leadership abilities to deliver improved execution and financial performance.”

About Resolution Circle

Resolution Circle is a training hub that prides itself on providing experiential learning opportunities to undergraduate electrical and mechanical engineering students from universities of technology, practical in-service project training, various short-learning and candidacy programmes applicable to the ever-changing world of engineering and engineering technology. We are a University of Johannesburg initiative.

For more information visit: www.resolutioncircle.co.za

10.17.18

Innovative Staffing Solutions trains 2 000 drivers ahead of Transport Month

BY john 2 MINUTE READ

October is Transport Month and a reminder that a well-developed and properly maintained transport infrastructure is critical for economic sustainability and growth in South Africa. This year’s theme – Transport, the Heartbeat of Economic Growth and Social Development – underscores this reality.

Innovative Staffing Solutions Managing Director, Arnoux Maré, says transport is a key contributor to the country’s GDP. “The sector is an important driver for development and job creation in the country. Notably, transport GDP reached an all-time high of just over R 27.1 million in the first quarter of 2018.”

Maré is however concerned about October’s fuel increase and its impact on the transport industry and job creation in this particular sector. The department of energy has attributed the increase to the weakening rand exchange rate, the increased prices of crude oil and the import prices of petroleum. “The fuel increase is the biggest in the country’s history and could potentially have catastrophic implications as it will extract a further R2.5 billion a month in transport costs from an economy that is already on the ropes.” 

Since starting his business seven years ago, Maré has grown the outsourcing company’s driver complement from a handful of drivers in 2011 to more than 5 500 drivers in 2018. “We outsource drivers to clients in various industries, which means we need to make sure they are competent, well-trained and happy to be working for us.”  

This year, Innovative Staffing Solutions invested in two trucks dedicated for truck driver training. “We couldn’t expect our clients to relinquish their trucks for training purposes, so we decided to buy two trucks – a Renault Kerax and a Volvo – to allow us to train truck drivers on a daily basis.”

This year, more than 2 000 drivers have undergone training. “Advanced truck driver training is conducted by certified trainers and each driver undergoes three to four hours of training. The trainers spend one-on-one time with drivers to test their driving skills and brush up on their road regulation knowledge,” says Maré.

He points out that truck drivers have an enormous responsibility. “Not only are they responsible for driving heavy, expensive vehicles that can cause extensive damage if they crash, they are also responsible for carrying valuable loads from one destination to the next. So it is imperative that they are highly competent and display a high degree of reliability and accountability.”

With more companies beginning to realise the benefits of outsourcing their non-core functions, Maré expects his driver complement to grow significantly over the next few months. “We believe we are making a significant contribution to the transport industry by creating thousands of jobs and making sure our drivers are well trained and fully supported.”

This support includes making sure they are getting competitive salaries and other benefits. “Earlier this year, we negotiated an excellent deal for our drivers with one of the major medical aid players in the country. This was a ground-breaking move, because historically, drivers have either not had medical aid or been on below-par medical aid packages,” adds Maré.

Innovative Staffing Solutions also manages drivers schedules carefully to reduce driver fatigue and has advanced fleet technology monitoring systems in place to reduce the chance of accidents and ensure drivers and their cargo get to their destinations on time. 

Maré says Transport Month, which was initiated in 2005 at the Transport Lekotla, is an important reminder for South African citizens of the important role transport plays in their lives. “Our transport infrastructure is like the body’s circulatory system – it feeds all aspects of the economy and without it we would not be able to grow and thrive.”

09.04.18

Benefits of AI

BY john 4 MINUTE READ
How AI is addressing grand challenges across the African continent

Singularity University co-founder, and renowned Futurist, Ray Kurzweil, said: “We have the opportunity in the decades ahead to make major strides in addressing the grand challenges of humanity. AI will be the pivotal technology in achieving this progress. We have a moral imperative to realize this promise while controlling the peril. It won’t be the first time we’ve succeeded in doing this.”

As we gain a better understanding of the scope, and depth of possibilities opened up by AI-based technologies, we’re starting to see some impressive developments that are addressing grand challenges in the areas of healthcare, education and agriculture across the African continent.  

AI in healthcare 

The African continent is in dire need of better healthcare. Many of the continent’s doctors seek work abroad, there is a prevalence of fake medicines and practitioners, and patients living in remote and rural areas have limited access to clinics. Even in the busy cities, available hospitals are often understaffed and under-equipped, and simply cannot cope with the volume of people they need to treat on a daily basis. This overload is exacerbated by local clinics transferring patients to larger hospitals due to a lack of skills and medicine.

In South Africa, there are a number of new health-tech platforms that are working hard to improve the medical sector. Essential Medical Guidance (EMGuidance) is a mobile, and web-based clinical support platform for medical professionals that provides instant access to locally relevant medicines, information, clinical guidelines, tools and care coordination information. A lite version of the platform is also available in eight other African countries. Their recently launched free offering for public and private hospitals, is already being used by Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg. It lets hospitals publish their own guidelines, medicine, formularies and call rosters in the app, which creates huge efficiencies for the hospitals using it.

Cape-based start-up, Aviro Health, is focused on creating digital health solutions that enable everyone to access high-quality healthcare. Their flagship product, Ithaka, is a mobile platform that empowers patients to navigate healthcare systems and manage their medical journeys for chronic conditions such as diabetes or HIV.

Nurses in primary care settings are already using the company’s ART Treatment Mentor to help treat HIV patients, while UCT pharmacology uses it as part of an HIV hotline. Not just for South African’s the app is currently in use by Jhpiego, a public health group in the Ivory Coast.

Kenya’s ConnectMed mDaktari app enables patients to use video links like Skype to consult a doctor either once-off about a condition, or to receive continuous support for a chronic disease. Understanding that not all patients will have access to personal mobile devices, the company plans to roll out physical computer stations in pharmacies and cyber cafes to enable access for all. 

Through the service, patients are able to get a diagnosis, prescriptions, sick-notes, and referrals should they be needed. In Rwanda, Babyl Health provides a comparable solution.

ConnectMed’s users can be treated for minor ailments such as cold and flu symptoms, coughs, sinus infections, sore throat, urinary tract infections, gastric issues such as heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, vomiting or diarrhoea, and can receive sexual health advice and contraception, and address children’s health and common illnesses, as well as anxiety and minor depression, among others. 

The ConnectMed team is currently using AI technology to develop a Symptom Checker that advises patients on if and how urgently they need medical care based on their symptoms and history;  Zipline, whose drones are powered by AI technology, is working directly with Rwanda’s National Centre for Blood Transfusion, making as many as 150 deliveries of lifesaving blood platelets to 21 transfusing facilities daily, in western Rwanda. 

The possibilities arising from the use of drones, including the delivery of vaccines and other life-saving medicines, are a game-changer on the continent.
SOPHiA Genetics’ clinical genomics solution is being integrated into the clinical workflow of hospitals in Cameroon, Morocco and South Africa.  SOPHiA is helping to analyse patients’ genomic profiles enabling doctors to offer better diagnosis and care.

Digital health solutions have certainly moved passed the early offerings which were predominantly focused on being able to book appointments online. Today, across the continent, patient healthcare records and history are digitally captured so they’re available to be accessed by whichever medical practitioner can see the patient on that particular day.  
 
AI for precision agriculture 

While much of Africa still uses traditional farming methods, companies across the globe are using AI to develop autonomous robots that are capable of handling essential agriculture tasks such as harvesting. 

Deep-learning algorithms are helping to analyse drone, and software-captured data, providing valuable insights for crop maintenance and soil health; and machine learning models are being used to predict environmental impacts on crop yield.

Innovations in the African Agri-tech sector have increased over the past two years, particularly in Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana. Advancements in this space are helping farmers to access affordable, modern farming technologies that are helping to improve productivity and income. 

Disrupt Africa’s Agrinnovating for Africa: Exploring the African Agri-Tech Startup Ecosystem Report 2018, records 82 agri-tech start-ups in operation across Africa by the start of 2018, with 52 per cent of these ventures launched in the past two years. 

Today, cell phones applications are enabling farmers in many ways, empowering them with information such as local weather updates, allowing them to monitor soil moisture, or alert them to potential plant disease and pest infestations and how to treat them. 

Kenya’s UjuziKilimo provides farmers with real-time, actionable, sensor-based data coupled with advice on fertilizers, seeds, weather and best practices to ensure they practice productive and sustainable agriculture. The platform uses machine learning, and data analytics, coupled with a comprehensive agricultural database and precise farm data, to provide detailed insights for their farmers and service providers.

In South African aerial data-analytics company, Aerobotics, is using drones and machine learning to enable farmers in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and the UK to better manage their crops, and detect early stage problems. 

A positive view of the future

AI and other exponential technologies do have the power to solve some of Africa’s grand challenges, and we should approach the potential with a positive view as the AI will enable us as humans to do and be much more just like electricity did in the industrial revolution. It’s exciting to see a number of AI start-ups in South Africa and across the continent. Now is the time for more constructive conversations, for the exchange of ideas, and for more collaborations between futurists, technologists, entrepreneurs and innovators. AI offers the chance to overcome obstacles, and create new marketplaces that will benefit everyone.    
08.28.18

When it comes to AI it is all about horsepower – Which horse to pick?

BY john 4 MINUTE READ
We hear from Brett StClair, the CEO Siatik, one of Google’s leading Premier Cloud partners in Africa and platinum sponsors at AI Expo Africa, as he discusses where we are today with AI and state of the art data processing techniques.

It has always been a dream to build machines that could imitate humans and perform human-driven tasks. The world of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been around since the early 1950’s when scientist Alan Turing determined how to measure the maturity of AI, including testing a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. 

Ray Kurzweil, well known Futurist, Director of Engineering at Google, and co-founder of the Singularity University, has predicted that by 2045 we will reach the point where machines will have become more advanced than humans. This ‘singularity’ hypothesis describes the point at which artificial super-intelligence will trigger both unimaginable technological growth and changes to human society. AI brings with it scary ideas about robots taking over the world but, as the field advances, it is clear that the technology is still in its infancy and will rather play an augmenting role in business and in bettering human lives.

Currently the field of machine learning is undergoing a huge rise because of two key technology trends: the first being Cloud Computing and the second big data. The two go hand in hand.  However, far too often we see South African CIOs trying to separate the two fields. 

The reason that they go hand in hand is that firstly you need vast amounts of very fast, very cheap storage. Next, you need access not only to unlimited computer but the fastest computer. 

This is what you ultimately need to properly programme machines.The more compute you have, the faster you can train machines and save time, from weeks to minutes. A great example comes from PPS: they ran a neural net to do propensity modeling on the likelihood of whether an existing client will buy finance products. Previously this would have taken a huge amount of code and over 3 days to process.  Using Google’s neural net the machines were trained twice in just 19 minutes.

Google has been leading the field in machine learning for over 10 years. It all started with Google releasing a white paper back in 2003 on its File Storage system, which re-invented how data can be stored across many virtual devices. 

This was not long after Google released its very important Mapreduce white paper which explained to the world how the company manages the huge task of indexing the world’s internet data. This paper was released to the open source community where the world of hadoop and unstructured databases sprouted from. This was the start of Big Data being available to all. 

Today Google is still releasing Big Data solutions in the format of Big Query and Big Table, which are massive databases powered by a lot of compute or horsepower, on a pay-as-you-go model. Meanwhile, too many South African businesses rely on locally hosted machines; some even try do statistical solutions using Excel, because these are tools that have traditionally been used.  But it’s clear that it is time to re-skill and harness new modern tool-sets.

The next major evolution has been in the world of Machine Learning (ML), where processing units are being configured into “neural nets” like Google’s Deep Mind, powered by either graphical processing units or, more recently, Google’s Tensor Processing Units (TPUs).  In its current version, the latter can process 96 Peta-flops (1 million servers in a data center is the equivalent)! All of this power is avail from Google on a pay-as-you-use model, which saves business and researchers millions of dollar in upfront investments.

We’re proud to say that  Siatik is part of this extraordinary tech revolution, as one of Google’s leading Premier Cloud partners in Africa. We help business move compute to the cloud and to modernise infrastructure, from virtualisation to containerisation with kubernetes. We also help your business productionize your data-set from SQL (or any database) into Google’s Big Database services, as well as use simple tools like Auto ML, which starts to make AI as easy as using Excel. What we are seeing in the market is that most South African businesses want to be using the sexy stuff like Tensorflow and Docker, but they are still hosting on servers on site.  This is where we come in to migrate and modernise your workloads.

The place on 9-11 September 2018, Century City Conference Centre, Cape Town, South Africa, AI Expo Africa 2018 is focusing on real world applications and trends driving the Artificial Intelligence (AI) economy in Africa and seeking to build the largest business focused AI community across the continent. 

About Siatik

At Siatik we see the future business as a business that is driven by data and powered by algorithms. We offer a worldclass service where we know we are backing the winning horse.  Author” Brett StClair, CEO Siatik, www.siatik.com  (0839816343).  Brett and his team are Platinum Sponsors of AI Expo Africa and will be speaking, hosting an AI skills workshop and running a live demo booth in the expo hall (Platinum Stand 5, 10th -11th September).
About AI Expo Africa
Taking place on 9-11 September 2018, Century City Conference Centre, Cape Town, South Africa, AI Expo Africa 2018 is focusing on real world applications & trends driving the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Economy in Africa and seeking to build the largest Business focused AI Community across the continent. With 400+ delegates, 50+ speaker programme, 40+ exhibitor Expo Hall, Innovation Cafe and workshops, the event is aimed at CxO / C Suite delegates with the primary goal of educating business leaders about AI applications and opportunities impacting the Enterprise today as well as generating real business and learning opportunities for sponsors, speakers & AI innovators across the region. If you would like to join the event as a delegate or would like take up one of the exhibition, Innovation cafe or speaking opportunities simply visit the links below.
Register– Last chance for a ticket
Sponsor– Secure your company a place in the Expo Hall & networking evening
Press and Media.
Phone: +27 7957 33206
Twitter: https://twitter.com/aiexpoafrica
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AIExpoAfrica/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/1357288


08.03.18

Women and girl-led innovation takes centre stage at #sheinnovates Africa Festival in Cape Town

BY john 3 MINUTE READ
Calling all aspiring female innovators, entrepreneurs and future leaders! The first-ever #sheinnovates Festival for Africa has reached our shores and will create an exciting platform to inspire a new era of female innovation and the advancement of women and girls in technology and entrepreneurship.

The #sheinnovates Festival for Africa brings together some of the leading local, African and global voices in female innovation, entrepreneurship and technology through a series of talks, workshops and functions held over two days. The festival, taking place on August 6th, includes sessions on ‘Making innovation work for women and girls’, ‘Innovation with purpose’, and ‘Purpose-driven partnership’ all aimed at breaking down barriers to the advancement of female-led innovation in the African and global economy.

 

The #sheinnovates Festival for Africa will be held in Cape Town and is hosted by SAP Next-Gen in association with The Female Quotient and Startupbootcamp AfriTech. The initiative forms part of SAP’s global commitment to ensuring women and girls across Africa are empowered to take advantage of the opportunities of the 21st century economy.

Cathy Smith, Managing Director of SAP Africa, says closing the STEM skills gap for the next wave of female tech leaders and entrepreneurs will be essential to bolstering economic growth and further unlocking technology’s capacity for social good. “Our commitment to innovative practices that advance gender equality has given rise to several strong internal programs such as the Business Women’s Network, an employee driven network that provides opportunities for women to share their professional insight, support other women, and influence SAP on diversity issues. By supporting programs such as #sheinnovates, SAP endeavours to play a leading role in driving the diversity narrative beyond SAP to the broader ecosystem.”

Creating platforms for female innovation, inclusion

#sheinnovates was founded under the UN Women’s initiative Global Innovation Coalition for Change (GICC), a dynamic partnership between UN Women and key partners from the private sector, academia and non-profit sector that was launched in 2017. It aims to develop the innovation market to better support women and accelerate the process of gender equality and women’s empowerment by building awareness of the potential of women-developed innovation; identifying key barriers to the advancement of women in the fields of innovation, technology and entrepreneurship; and working collaboratively to identify and address such barriers at an industry-wide level.

Ann Rosenberg, senior vice president and global head of SAP Next-Gen, says the initiative is in line with SAP’s global efforts to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals. “By fostering a movement today to empower young women as purpose-driven leaders for the future, SAP Next-Gen is supporting SAP’s commitment to the UN SDGs, including Goal 5: Gender Equality,” said Rosenberg. “SAP Next-Gen invites companies, academia, purpose-driven partners, tech community leaders, institutions, students, and citizens to join us to advance gender equality and inspire young women as purpose-driven innovators.”

As part of the #sheinnovates initiative, SAP Next-Gen in collaboration with The Female Quotient is establishing #sheinnovates Girls’ Lounges at universities around the world. According to Rosenberg, the Girls’ Lounges aim to encourage more young women to pursue STEM education and gain skills as next-generation purpose-driven innovators who can accelerate solutions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. “Following the launch of the first South African SAP Next-Gen Lab at the University of Cape Town in April, the new #sheinnovates Girls’ Lounge will provide female students with a space to think, create, and develop innovation-led projects that support girls’ career development in STEM areas while preparing a new generation of female workers for the 21st century economy.”

Leading the charge in supporting female innovation

The #sheinnovates Festival for Africa is held in partnership with Startupbootcamp AfriTech, a leading Cape Town-based accelerator focusing on high-growth startups in blockchain, connected devices, payment solutions, capital markets and asset management, integrated supply chain, e-commerce, financial technology, retail technology, insurance technology, alternative financing, identity management, digital connectivity, data and behavioural analytics, and enabling technologies.

“As one of the most recognized and impactful accelerators on the African continent, Startupbootcamp AfriTech must lead the charge in supporting female entrepreneurs as they disrupt the status quo. We are passionate about joining the chorus of male voices supporting women in tech and we strive to embrace this approach in every element – including our team members, startups, and partners. Most recently, one of our 2017 Alumni, Pascale Henke of Brownie Points, was nominated as a Top 20 under 30 in Tech. We are also excited that 2 female founders, Tomilola Adejana from Bankly and Tebogo Mokwena from Akiba Digital have been selected for our 2018 programme,” shares Philip Kiracofe, CEO of Startupbootcamp AfriTech. “Our commitment to place women at the forefront of innovation and social change extends to the events that we host. It’s fitting that we will celebrate the launch of our new world-class campus at The Foundry, Cape Town, with the #sheinnovates event, and Nsovo Nkatingi, the SBC AfriTech Programme Manager, will kick off the event.”

The #sheinnovates Festival will take place on August 6 at Startupbootcamp AfriTech in Green Point. Entry is free, but seats are limited.
To register visit sheinnovates on sap.com
Join the digital conversation on Twitter @she_innovates @UN_Women @SAPNextGen using the hashtag #sheinnovates.
 
08.01.18

Business enablers driving new change in a digital world

BY john 3 MINUTE READ
What is an enabler? Large enterprise often attempts to drive new strategic change initiatives across the organisation but often fall short of the desired execution. This can be because disparate projects are mobilised with little alignment to long term vision and sometimes led by different teams and executed in different ways. 

Successful business transformation can be realised when the enterprise sets a five to seven-year business vision, plus strategic business enablers, that will help them get there. An enabler considers the current market and organisation conditions and guides the direction of business transformation initiatives. 

Enablers need to be agile while staying aligned to the long-term vision. For example, an organisation can’t only have a vision to grow revenue without considering the evolving market and organisational condition which requires a fundamental shift to realise the new growth. 

New revenue may require a shift in how the organisation manages and analyses its data, which in turn might require new data science skills or analytics and visualisation tools. In this instance, an enabler for this organisation may be that it needs to become a ‘data business’, which could include projects such as: setup a data stewardship model; migrate data to cloud storage; training data analytics API’s; recruit data scientists and enhance digital IQ of employees, which will all in turn help realise new revenue growth. 

Getting an enabler ‘officially endorsed’ by the executive board is a necessity to implement supporting transformation projects for all areas of the business. The business unit and functional leaders will then be held accountable to identify, manage and report on how they will execute each enabler using a list of priority projects. 

Communicating the successful implementation of these projects associated with each enabler is also critical to demonstrating to the organisation and its clients that change is happening and against market relevant factors. Digital dashboards, infographics and town halls should be used to reiterate the necessity to drive support and execution of priority projects linked to these enablers. 

Identifying and prioritising these enablers requires time and support from senior stakeholders with input from young talent, who are excited to lead new change for the organisation. A quarterly review process can be established to propose new and updated enablers. These reviews should be superseded by sufficient market and organisational research to understand what new factors will help the entity realise its long-term vision. 

What are some of the market trending enablers for 2018:
1. Build a data business: an imperative to operating in a digital world. Appointing a digital stewardship lead that can map, test and regularly ensure that all data is accurate and complete is the start. Then pick the most applicable cloud solution for storage, analytics, machine learning and visualisation and migrate relevant data today. 

Recruit and train top data scientists that can abstract insights and build solutions using clean reliable data.
2. Build your digital IQ: one can’t become a data business if leaders are not digital savvy. Mobilise learning and development programmes to quickly up-skill resources on trending digital concepts.

3. Adopt an agile culture: mobilise training programmes to shift teams away from Waterfall project management to a more agile, lean start-up collaborative approach to doing work and solving problems. 

4. Build new collaborative workspaces: invest in creative collaboration spaces (AKA “innovation zones”) where teams can break away from the norm and creatively use spaces to interact with clients and colleagues to solve old problems in new ways.

5. Simplify operating models: review the adequacy of how you work and run processes within the organisation. Assess if the way you work aligns to how your people want to work.

6. Promote digital collaboration: besides efficiency gains in new operating models, people can contribute significantly more effort to realising new growth if they are mobile and able to collaborate digitally on the go from anywhere.

7. Invest in new services / products: a typical innovation funnel of regular ideas surfacing and cycling through a review and funding process.

8. Focus on what matters: Build and market a new centre of excellence space showing your clients and people that you are leading experts in emerging digital trends, for example a centre leading research into blockchain for the financial services sector. 

These enablers can’t be successfully implemented through agreed projects without an adequate change-management programme and supporting team to lead the change. A formal Change Leader needs to be appointed, who sits in the office of the CEO and has his/ her full endorsement to implement all priority projects with functional and business unit leads. A standardised change management approach and supporting team bring confidence to the organisation that constant change is okay and new value is just around the corner. 
07.31.18

Thinking a century ahead

BY john 3 MINUTE READ

Sustainability
and climate
change are two
focal points within the global
warming discussion as our
environment becomes more
vulnerable each year. 

Fast
Company SA chats to
Ludovic du Plessis, Global
Executive Director of Louis
XIII – the most exclusive
spirit on earth – about his
company’s campaign to
help inspire a more
sustainable future for the
next generation. 
You recently launched
your campaign
called ‘100 Years’ in
collaboration with
Pharrell Williams. 
Can
you briefly tell us more
about this campaign?
LOUIS XIII partnered
with Pharrell on this
innovative project due
Thinking a
century ahead
Inspired by sustainabilit y,
LOUIS XIII launches the
‘100 Years’ campaign to
help bring awareness
to global warming
to a shared dedication
to environmental issues. 
The original song is a
creative expression of
the delicate relationship
between nature and time,
and the effect humans
have on their environment.
Each decanter of LOUIS
XIII represents the life
achievement of generations
of Cellar Masters, so LOUIS
XIII must always think a
century ahead. 
100 Years premiered
during a private listening
party in Shanghai in
November 2017, where
Pharrell presented the
song for one time only.
The exclusive performance
was recorded onto a
record made of clay from
the chalky soil of Cognac
and stored in the cellars
of LOUIS XIII in a state-of-the-art
safe that is only
destructible if submerged in
water. 
If sea levels continue
to rise at such an alarming
rate due to climate change,
scientists project that in
100 years a significant
portion of the world’s land
might be underwater. The
only way to guarantee this
original piece of music will
be heard again in 2117, one
century from now, is if we
address the consequences
of global warming – if we
do not change our way of
living, future generations
will never be able to hear
this song. “100 Years: The
Song We’ll Only Hear If We
Care” by Pharrell Williams
will be out in 2117, but only if
we care. 
You partnered with
actor and visionary John
Malkovich in 2015 where
you created 100 Years:
The Movie You Will Never
See. Can you tell us more
about this artistic work
and what it represents?
In November 2015, we
announced an original
film starring actor John
Malkovich, which envisions
Earth one hundred years
from now and will not be
released until 2115. 
Directed
by Robert Rodriguez, 100
Years: The Movie You Will
Never See was inspired
by the century of careful
craftsmanship and patience
it takes to create each
decanter of LOUIS XIII
Cognac. To ensure that 100
Years remains secure until
its official premiere in 2115,
one century from now, the
film was placed in a stateof-the-art
safe which will
open automatically in 100
years when the timing is
complete. One thousand
guests from around the
world received an exclusive
invitation to give to their
descendants to attend
the premiere of 100 Years,
on November 18, 2115, at
the House of LOUIS XIII in
Cognac, France.
The focus point in South
Africa and across the
world is sustainability. 
How are you contributing
to a more sustainable
future?
The central goal of “100
Years: The Song We’ll
Only Hear If We Care” is to
raise attention for global
warming and support
the international effort to
stymie climate change. 
LOUIS XIII must always think
a century ahead, as the role
of the Cellar Master is to set
aside the finest eaux-de-vie
as a legacy to his successors
for the coming century.
Our intention with this
project is to be a flag bearer
for this major issue of the
21st century. 
The project
was devised as an artistic
exploration of the way our
actions today shape the
world of tomorrow that we
hope will sensitise as many
people as possible to be
attentive to their actions.
Preparing the legacy
we will leave behind for
future generations is an
integral part of our brand
DNA, and our involvement
in the international effort
to combat climate change
is not only legitimate,
it is imperative. Since
each decanter is the life
achievement of generations
of Cellar Masters, LOUIS XIII
must always think a century
ahead, and the stability of
our environment ensures
not only the future of LOUIS
XIII Cognac, but also the
world around us.

Expanding through innovation

BY john 4 MINUTE READ
South Africa’s small businesses represent 90% in all economies and contribute 40% towards the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM). 

However, small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups are still facing real challenges within the industrial ecosystem. The start-up failure rate is alarming and worrisome, with 80% of small business likely to fail within the first five years of inception.

The Innovation Hub is an innovation agency which fosters transformation and entrepreneurship, as well as the full development and operation of The Innovation Hub Science and Technology Park. It was established by the Gauteng Provincial Government through its Department of Economic Development, to leverage innovation in order to promote economic progress and competitiveness within Gauteng. 

It is a trusted innovation agency and partner of choice in fostering transformation and entrepreneurship, and a driver for economic development, change and industry competitiveness through innovation. 

The Innovation Hub enables smart businesses to develop and commercialise innovation and technology through creating new business opportunities and adding value to mature companies, fostering entrepreneurship and incubating new innovative companies. As well as generating knowledge-based companies and jobs, building attractive spaces for emerging knowledge workers and enhancing the synergy between industry, government, academic, research institutions and partnerships.

BURGEONING SUCCESS OF BUSINESSES 
Committed to helping small business owners to become tomorrow’s business legends. 
The Innovation Hub utilises several enterprise development programmes to accelerate innovation in South Africa. These programmes include: 
Maxum Business Incubator,which consists of Maxum Smart, an enterprise development programme which offers business development support to start-up companies in the smart industry (ICT and advanced manufacturing).

Maxum Digital provides business development support to digital start-ups in gaming, animation and virtual reality, as well as supports unemployed graduates and township youth in collaboration with Wits University. Maxum Digital strives to place South Africa as a front-runner of gaming, animation and virtual reality by supporting and training entrepreneurs with a passion for the industry.

And Maxum Media, which provides business development support to media production start-ups in collaboration with Kagiso Media and Urban Brew Studios. 

[email protected] focuses on bioeconomy (agro processing and health), and therefore provides business development support to start-ups in the health sector (biopharmaceuticals, medical devices and diagnostics, indigenous knowledge-based nutraceuticals, nutrients, cosmeceuticals, cosmetics) and agriculture (agro-/food-processing, bio-processing, smart agriculture) sector. 

The support is provided in collaboration with the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) and eGoliBio Life Sciences. 
The latter is an incubator that serves as a development agency for the commercialisation of bioscience products to identify potential entrepreneurs with innovative technologies to convert biosciences research into commercially viable venture.

The Climate Innovation Centre South Africa (CIC) provides business development support to start-ups and small businesses operating in the green economy sector (focusing on energy, water and waste sectors). It was established in collaboration with the World Bank infoDev and is also supported by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).

eKasiLabs is a business incubator operating in various townships in Gauteng, in collaboration with various partners, including academic institutions and local government. 

The incubator promotes a local culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, by providing business development support to start-ups in different sectors, that can contribute to the growth and development of the township economy.

mLab Southern Africa is a registered non-profit organisation that is powered through the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, the Department of Science & Technology, The Innovation Hub, the V&A Waterfront and the World Bank infoDev. 

It is a mobile applications laboratory, which incubates innovation and entrepreneurship in the mobile channel, in order to stimulate the use of mobile solutions in government service delivery.

HARNESSING SKILLS DEVELOPMENT FOR THE NEXT GENERATION
In the skills development sector, The Innovation Hub renders a range of skills development programmes which include:
CoachLab: a youth-targeted skills development and postgraduate leadership development programme, which focuses on ICT and engineering sectors through internships, mentorships and learnerships. It aims to bridge the gap between academia and the demands of the industry. It is managed by The Innovation Hub in collaboration with prominent industry partners, government and academia.

Code Tribe (an extension of CoachLab) is a bursary programme aimed at developing the next generation of software developers. The programme trains young mobile developers for the Android Operating System, backend and Cloud platforms while using SCRUM Agile methodologies.

FabLab is a school programme aimed at promoting the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship at school level and creates a platform for identifying and nurturing entrepreneurs at an early age.

fostering innovation
The Innovation Hub runs the following innovation-enabling activities.
OpenIX is an Open Innovation Exchange that delivers tangible solutions to real challenges posted by solution seekers in government 
and the private sector. 

The platform connects leading African researchers and entrepreneurs with new opportunities to commercialise their innovations. 
Gauteng Accelerator Programme (GAP) Innovation Competitions, recognise, reward and celebrate top innovators in the ICT, Biosciences, Green and Medical technology sectors. The competitions target innovative ideas that have a potential to significantly impact the Gauteng economy. 

Mo-vation is an information sharing platform that aims to build a culture of innovation, collaboration and learning amongst entrepreneurs at any level. An entrepreneur shares their experiences and knowledge in their industry and the audience participates with their own questions and stories from different sectors to create an atmosphere of belonging, to network and grow. 

Innov8 is a a flagship networking and collaboration platform that provides an opportunity for industry thought leaders to share their experiences and offer advice to the entrepreneurial community.

innovation enabling spaces
The Innovation Hub also offers collaborative spaces both in The Science Park and throughout the Gauteng region.
Office Space/Tenants: The Innovation Hub provides high quality office space to knowledge-based enterprises in a number of multi-tenant buildings. These include individual serviced offices, with flexibility to accommodate large and small companies.

Conferences, events and meetings: The Innovation Hub has 11 conference venues with the capacity to accommodate up to 250 people in cinema style. The facilities include a 15-seater video conferencing room, VIP lounge and various hot desk options.

Land for development: The Innovation Hub Science and Technology Park is strategically located at the heart of the Smart Corridor within close proximity of leading research, academic and national institutions such as CSIR, University of Pretoria and the Department of Science and Technology. 

Individual plots are available on-site for companies looking for land to build offices, that are uniquely designed on a long-term lease basis. 
Companies operating in The Innovation Hub’s priority sectors have preference, as they are well-suited to benefit from the vibrant atmosphere exuded by an innovative communit

Behavioural changes in a digital working world

BY john 3 MINUTE READ
Hat are these “new ways of working”, and what behavioural changes do we see? We’ll explore four of these: the self-help culture, collaboration, “always on”, and how meetings are changing.

In the world of “apps”, and with the emphasis on a good user experience in the development of applications, it becomes easier and more intuitive to use and navigate the software solutions. When a new solution is rolled out, the training of users is easier and more pleasant, in some cases almost playful. 
The nature of modern solutions is also that the “normal” user has a lot of functionality at their disposal and it’s easy to become an expert. 

What happens then, or should happen, is that back office and support staff doing admin work are reduced, and staff at higher levels in the organisation do more for themselves and delegate less. 

This type of behavioural change seems to be quite difficult for the older generation, whether it is because of status, or whether it is just not easy for them to learn new tricks. Either way, the result is that the adoption for the more senior staff is in general slower and more difficult. 

The modern productivity platforms, such as Google’s G Suite in particular, but also Microsoft’s platform and several other products and apps, are essentially collaboration tools – they enable people to work together better and in real-time. 

The origins of these products and platforms are mainly email and calendar functionality, and the ability to create digital documents and send these around as attachments to emails. 

This original functionality basically mimicked the paper-based process, which has developed over centuries. 

Adoption of email, and writing a digital document meant learning how to use a computer to do things that we were already doing on paper and in mailing systems. 

We were, however, almost always working alone when writing, or at least aspired to the one-man office, or a private study 
at home. 

Enter the shared-folder apps such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and Sharepoint, and the ability to simultaneously work on the same document with other users such as in Google’s Docs, Sheets and Slides apps. Always knowing where things are and working together in real time on documents, presentations and budgets create a whole new paradigm. Our colleagues see and know what we’re doing and thinking in real time, and everyone’s much more productive together, but suddenly the pace is almost too fast. 

We’ve grown used to the waiting time between sending and receiving a document from a co-worker, so we can do other stuff. Now we have to plan our days in a whole different way.

The “always on” world created by digital is entirely at odds with the nine-to-five workplace culture that many of us grew up in. At first, we embraced it, and worked harder and longer hours, because we could extend our workplace to our homes, but then we became overworked. 

Enter the concepts of “work-life balance” and “flexible working” in terms of hours and location. These are attempts to get our boundaries back that we have lost because of the always on, always available, always able to work that digital has enabled. 

Discipline now doesn’t mean getting to work on time every morning – it means making sure that you take regular breaks, be “device-free” in some circumstances and to contain your social media time. 

Besides writing and thinking, the other core daily activity of the knowledge economy is conducting meetings. Our physical workspaces and even some of the most important roles in the organisation have been designed to facilitate and conduct meetings. 

Our status is built around meetings – where you meet, who you meet with, what you eat and drink during your meetings, and the job grade level of the minute-taker. All of this is changing with Skype, Google’s Meet and the collaborative productivity tools. 

We can instantaneously have a meeting, anywhere, and share notes that become the agreed minutes without cumbersome iterations, or even the agenda point to agree on the minutes of the previous meeting.
 
People’s roles are affected, and our workplaces have to be reconceptualised for these behaviour changes. The concept of a meeting might disappear, or have already disappeared in some cultures, and perhaps we’ll just have conversations and discussions going forward.

On the one hand old habits die hard, and it’s difficult to teach an old dog new tricks, but on the other hand, we love to explore, experiment and play with new toys, and humans are curious and inquisitive creatures.
 
Some of us will learn and mould these new behaviours to make us more efficient – evolution and survival of the fittest will take care of the rest. 
06.28.18

Accelerating startups and disrupting industries

BY john 11 MINUTE READ

Startupbootcamp (SBC) is one of the leading global, early-stage tech accelerator programmes in the world. Fast Company SA caught up with Philip Kiracofe, co-founder and CEO of SBC Africa, and Zachariah George, co-founder and Chief Investment Officer of SBC Africa. 


Can you give us an overview of the Startupbootcamp organisation?

Zach: SBC grows startups globally by giving them direct access to an international network of relevant partners, content, investors and mentors in their sector in more than 30 countries. Founded in 2010, SBC operates 21 accelerator programmes in 20 locations annually around the world.

It is the only multi-corporate and multi-geography focused accelerator programme that helps corporations solve critical business challenges through disruptive innovation. SBC does this by engaging with top-tier tech startups that can integrate with SBC’s corporate partners and simultaneously grow and scale them quickly. Presently, 79% of SBC alumni teams are still active and 71% have gone on to raise additional funding from many of the world’s leading VCs and Angels.

Last year, the global Startupbootcamp network launched the first-ever Africa-based SBC programme in Cape Town. SBC Africa is a leading accelerator focused on high-growth startups in blockchain, connected devices, payment solutions, capital markets and asset management, integrated supply chain, e-commerce, FinTech, RetailTech, InsurTech, alternative financing, identity management, digital connectivity, data and behavioural analytics and enabling technologies.

The accelerator is anchored by leading corporate sponsors Old Mutual, RCS, BNP Paribas Personal Finance, Nedbank, Woolworths Financial Services, and PwC that will support and grow the programme and selected startups. Global sponsors include Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and Cisco. The programme is also supported by several service partners including Cloudworx, VC4A, Inner City Ideas Cartel, Brevity Law and The Loudhailer. Due to the B2B nature of the companies SBC works with, the primary focus is to create strong commercial opportunities for innovative tech ventures, thereby providing them a clear route to market through strategic partnerships with leading banks, insurance companies, telecoms and retailers across the continent.

How would you define being an entrepreneur?

Philip: It’s a combination of passion, vision, audacity, and arguably a dose of insanity. There is a great quote from George Bernard Shaw that says: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

In more mature ecosystems in the US, Europe, and Asia, there are many stakeholders (media, investors, corporate partners, developers, and early adopters) who support and fuel the entrepreneurial process. In Africa, startups have even more hurdles and challenges, so entrepreneurs here must be willing to defy conventional wisdom and often walk a lonely road. Being an entrepreneur is also a lot about being resilient enough to accept setbacks and constantly learn from experiences – good, bad or ugly.

What advice do you have for ‘techpreneurs’ who are looking to make a name for themselves and bring their product to market?

Zach: There’s a lot of advice we can give based on our experiences meeting hundreds of tech entrepreneurs over the last few years in Africa.
But here are our top 10:

1. Evaluate technologies dispassionately before you get involved. Avoid falling in love with your idea or your product.

2. When developing an idea, understand the behaviour of the focus customer segment. It’s easy to assume wrong and just as easy to fail.

3. Customers don’t pay for the world record – they pay for a solution that either saves them money, makes them money or makes their lives better.

4. Be aware of the long-term impact of short-term benefits; it’s a long winding road to commercialisation.

5. Tick the “stupid” things first; incorporation, equity, defining roles and responsibilities and authority will enable you to focus on the core task of making it happen.

6. The market will frequently put a higher perceived value on the solution than what the technology team might imagine, but this will only be known once you get there.

7. Don’t assume that the tech team has all the answers simply because they are the best at what they do. Your vision may be the only right one, simply because you have one.

8. There is such a thing as too much rocket science. When you’re being enamoured by what the technology is, ask what it can do and how soon it can do it for real people.

9. When communicating, keep it simple. People hear what they want to hear –depending on motivation and relevance.

10. Identify team-related issues early and work on resolving them. They won’t go away. It’s ego – not lack of funding – that’s the primary cause for startup implosion.

 What, in your opinion, does it take to run a successful company?

Philip: A successful company is one that remains in the perpetual pursuit of failing (vs failure). In order to be truly disruptive, companies must never hesitate to take risks, especially big risks. Fail often and fail fast is the modus operandi, as that enables companies to do customer validation and discover product-market fit so that they can scale as quickly as possible.

You launched your first Africa-based programme in 2017. What were some of the challenges and successes?

Zach: It took us around 18 months from inception to execution to get Startupbootcamp off the ground in Africa. The concept of corporate venturing in Africa was pretty much non-existent until about 3-4 years ago. Interactions between large corporations and startups in Africa, prior to 2014, was mostly limited to either CSR/CSI/enterprise development initiatives and/or pure
M&A, and innovation within corporates was mostly internally focused.

In 2015, we ran the first-ever corporate-backed pilot accelerator programme for tech startups in Africa supported by Barclays Africa, and followed that with an accelerator programme for the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation in 2016. Both these programmes were very successful and several ventures that were part of it ended up getting substantial commercial traction and receiving significant investment capital. Getting large corporations to source external innovation through light, lean experiments, pilots and proof-of-concepts (PoCs) with disruptive tech startups was a pioneering step forward and was made possible thanks to some truly bold and visionary executives at our corporate partners. Startupbootcamp Africa, which is based on a truly open innovation driven ecosystem around corporates, mentors, investors, talent and startups has now made it possible for corporates to be more innovative and solve serious business challenges and simultaneously get startups access to market, clients and distribution channels to help them scale and grow more effectively.

 This year, SBC will be hosting FastTracks in several cities. What are some of the outcomes you are expecting from these events?

Philip: This year, we will host a total of 19 FastTrack events across Africa, the Middle East and Europe, with 14 on the continent. Each city offers a unique insight into the particular challenges of the region. In Zimbabwe, where access to cash is very limited, 4 out of the 10 startups at our FastTrack were cryptocurrencies. In Ghana, there were several intriguing AgriTech businesses. Lagos delivered some great FinTech solutions and also 2 startups tackling transportation solutions. In East Africa, we met some very exciting founders with big visions for digital commerce services and mobile-money.

While we always hope to meet founders who may end up in the SBC Accelerator programme, the simple reality is that we can only host 10 companies per programme, so the vast majority of the startups will not get in, despite being very promising. So one of the most important outcomes is that every startup that attends leaves with tangible and material benefits. Each team receives nearly 2 hours of feedback from 5 different sets of mentors which can help propel the company towards greater validation. FastTracks regularly result in collaborations between the startups and our corporate partners.

Why the need for accelerator programmes – especially in South Africa and Africa?

Philip: African startups and corporates operate at a significant disadvantage compared to their competitors in Tier 1 tech ecosystems. Accelerators help founders move along the validation curve much faster by providing opportunities to work closely with some of the most innovative corporates on the continent. We also invest a significant amount of time working with the senior leadership of the corporate partners who are fully committed to transforming their internal cultures to be more lean and agile. Startupbootcamp creates a safe sandbox where that collaboration can take root, risks are centrally managed and then launch takes place. Our estimate is that alumni of these world-class accelerators can compress 12-18 months of growth into 3 months.

Can you give a couple of examples of success stories that came from startups’ involvement with SBC?

Zach: One of the things we are most proud of at SBC Africa is how so many of the startups in our 2017 cohort have pivoted their business models to be smarter in the way they acquire customers and scale their businesses through ways that are both cost-effective and resource-light. By engaging commercially with our corporate partners (both inside and outside of our programme) through 32 proof-of-concept projects, experiments and pilots, they were able to shorten their route to market, prove traction and be much better positioned to raise capital. Although it is hard for us to choose just a couple of our success stories, it is worth highlighting specifically the extent of the impact across different sectors. Here are examples of startups from two seemingly diametrically opposite verticals, fintech and social-tech:

DusuPay – A payment infrastructure startup from Uganda came into our cohort with around 1,000 customers and a good track record of implementing cross-border payment solutions across several African countries. Through our accelerator, they have now added South Africa to their roster, tripled their customer base to over 3,000 users, established key strategic partnerships with several banks, retailers, lenders and payment aggregators, as well as completely restructured their legal and operational entities to make them more efficient and simpler to work with.

Brownie Points – Brownie Points originally came into our cohort as a social enterprise helping non-profit organisations get more volunteers on board to make the process of volunteering more structured, streamlined and coordinated. Through our accelerator, they have now developed a tangible and scalable commercial business model where small and large corporations can run entire CSI programmes that actively engage employees by combining all forms of giving – money, in-kind, time and skills through the Brownie Points tech platform. The platform, often touted as the ‘Discovery Vitality of Volunteering’, now simultaneously encourages, facilitates and incentivises individuals and businesses to volunteer and donate; helps nonprofit organisations set and reach goals for external support to improve and scale their impact; and promotes innovation-driven philanthropy by using online technologies to make a big difference.

Can you tell us the story behind the Green Eggs & Ham book?

Philip: The classic tale by Doctor Seuss helps illustrate the quest for Product-Market-Fit (PMF). To discover PMF requires extensive experiments to validate the assumptions. Through a series of build-measure-learn iterations, entrepreneurs can develop and refine PMF, as opposed to ‘discovering’ it in a magical Eureka moment. In the book, Sam I Am undertakes dozens of failed tests for his product in the market before he ultimately finds the right customer and achieves PMF.

How important is digital transformation/disruption in the future growth of Africa?

Philip: One of the most intractable and impactful trends that we face this century is the relentless population growth. According to UN projections, global population will increase by roughly 4 billion people in the next 80 years, and Africa will account for a staggering 90%. By the end of this century, the 3 most populous cities in the world, and 12 of the 20 largest cities on the planet will be in Africa! It is simply impossible to imagine how we can adapt to municipal growth rates of 400-800%. The only possible path forward will be a profound disruption across every aspect of life. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, disruption is literally an existential necessity for Africa.

If one accepts that world view, then the next logical question is ‘where will the disruptors come from?’ We fundamentally believe that the entrepreneurs who are living here and facing these challenges every day have the best understanding of the market conditions and therefore the best chance to develop the disruptive solutions. Startupbootcamp is here to discover, support, and scale those companies so they can compete on a Pan-African and global stage.

 What are some of the digital trends you can forecast for the upcoming year?

Zach:

1. A.I. – The New Electricity: In every device, app and website, in every service interaction, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be the norm – the default expectation. AI will become the new electricity. There will be a rapid rise in machine-learning methods, and a huge demand for data scientists.

2. Humanity 2.0 is Coming: Forget ‘Augmented Reality’. Think ‘Augmented Humanity’. What separates humanity from other species on the planet is our incredible ability to imagine and invent ways to “hack” the world and achieve the outcomes we want. A lot of use-cases will fundamentally upgrade human ability rather than replace humans. Our technology will be co-pilots, not auto-pilots, and together we will achieve new levels of efficiencies that have never been seen before – like real-time translation of foreign languages

3. Entering a world of Zero UI: We will start shifting to a world of seamless tech from the visual world to the intuitive, where emotions and expressions, speech and gestures will manipulate our data and devices rather than buttons, i.e. Zero UI. Screenless interactions with products and rather interactions with the world based on mood, tone of voice, etc.

Questions for Philip

Can you predict which sectors and industries will undergo major disruption in the next few years?

Not a chance. Trying to predict the specific verticals with the greatest potential is far beyond me. And this is one of the explicit reasons that we are not running a programme targeting any particular sector. We are betting on ‘Africa’ as our vertical and believe that there is potential for major disruption in literally every industry. One of the most critical lessons we teach our founders is to be relentlessly engaging and to constantly be searching for PMF. The market always decides which products have a chance and ONLY then can we help them scale. So we can be industry agnostic while still ensuring that the founders get the full benefits of our expertise.

Your trajectory spans from technology to real estate to various entrepreneurial ventures. You’re quite accomplished: you’ve summited Mount Kilimanjaro, completed Ironman triathlons and a Comrades marathon. How do you balance work and play?

My wife would certainly argue that I don’t balance work and play very well at all. Fortunately, she is also an entrepreneur so she understands – or at least tolerates – my intensity. Given my role as a CEO of an accelerator, it’s not surprising that I tend to take things to the extreme. The draw of these big challenges for me is how to shift one’s perspective to win the mental game. When I trained for Comrades, I was living in NYC and we had a group of friends that transformed endurance training into social outings. Instead of boozy brunches or bar-hopping, we spent our weekends on long, leisurely jaunts around the city. We once ran the entire perimeter of the island (52km) in the middle of a snowstorm.

What would you do with an extra hour in your day?

One of the secrets to getting more done is to find growth hacks in unusual places. I attended a military academy for university and one of the life skills they taught us was how to sleep faster than normal. This allows one to get the equivalent of 8 hours of sleep in 5 hours of elapsed time and those extra hours of ‘found’ time are invaluable. Sadly, I still feel like there is never enough time to achieve everything on my bucket list.

Questions for Zachariah

You were an investment banker working on Wall Street before you came to South Africa. What drew you to this country, and to Cape Town specifically?

Post the global financial crisis of 2008, after spending a couple of years at Barclays in New York, I came to Cape Town on holiday in 2010 to catch some of the action at the FIFA Soccer World Cup. Cape Town certainly lived up to the hype of being the ‘San Francisco of Africa’, with its stunning views of the mountain and ocean, the winelands, the art deco, music, food, theatre and culture. What I did NOT expect to find in Cape Town were 5 critical elements that create a self-sustaining, growing entrepreneurial ecosystem:

1. Young, talented, tech-savvy entrepreneurs – developers, designers and digital marketers from top-tier technical and business schools opting to pursue an entrepreneurial path by working with startup founders.

2. A growing pool of risk capital from high net worth individuals, families and Angel investing groups that are gradually becoming aware of early stage venture capital instruments as an alternative asset class.

3. Corporations looking beyond traditional ‘internal’ innovation and product development programmes by venturing into the realm of expedited external innovation through partnerships with startups disrupting ‘business-as-usual’.

4. The emergence of accelerators, incubators and high-growth entrepreneurial support organisations that provide the ideal channel and means for corporates to administer proof-of-concept pilots with startups.

5. An active, willing and ‘red-tape light’ government (at the national, provincial and municipal level) that seeks to promote greater economic development by providing incentives to small/medium sized businesses through incentives like tax subsidies, R&D grants, etc.

From mechanical engineer to Stanford University to venture capitalist to a parent to having an album on iTunes. How do you manage to do it all?

For starters, let me say this – it’s not easy. One side of me is very analytical, ambitious and purpose driven – always looking to pioneer big, impactful changes in business and society. Having gone to good schools and worked for top-tier firms, I have an inherent desire and responsibility to leave a lasting, impactful legacy through my work that goes beyond just a job or a career. But the other side of me is very creative and artsy. I have been a singer and musician since I was 13. I read and write quite a bit, enjoy competitive sport and am a big lover of the performing arts. But the one thing that grounds me through it all is being a parent. My 4-year-old daughter and two teenage stepchildren have the uncanny and beautiful ability to remind me that life is about experiences and moments that make you come alive, and that at the end of the day, we are all just human beings with hearts. Significance, not success, is ultimately what matters.

There are five tenets I try my best to live by (from ancient Toltec philosophy) –

1. Be impeccable with your word

2. Don’t take anything personally

3. Don’t make assumptions

4. Always do your best

5. Be skeptical, but learn to listen

What would you do with an extra hour in your day?

One of the things I cherish most about my childhood growing up in the Middle East in the 80s and 90s was the abundance of books on classic English literature, fiction, non-fiction, travel documentaries, etc. as well as the volumes of old-school music (rock ‘n’ roll, blues, jazz, classical music) that I was exposed to. In the insanely digital world we live in today, I would love to spend a magical extra hour each day reading classic works of fiction, listening to incredibly talented singer-songwriters or go for a hike in the mountains!

For more check the May issue of Fast Company magazine.