04.03.19

For Connecting Clients with Reliable, Quality Contractors

BY Saarah Survé 2 MINUTE READ

Since the age of 18, Joshua Cox has been passionate about improving our world. Founding a social enterprise however, was something unexpected. He studied nature conservation at Stellenbosch University and thereafter worked in the non-profit sector in community development. After a failed business attempt, he met Simon, who inspired him to start Fix Forward in 2009.  

“The inspiration for Fix Forward came from assisting Simon. He runs a small business doing basic building works. He made paving bricks for me and asked for a reference letter to help secure a large paving contract. 

“He won the project, and his business started to take off. One evening, driving away from visiting Simon, it occurred to me that there was an opportunity to provide similar support to other small contractors,” Joshua says. 

Joshua has spent the last 10 years figuring out how to do just that, effectively and sustainably. Fix Forward matches people who want building maintenance or renovations with trustworthy contractors. “Contractor listing sites and even personal recommendations don’t come with any guarantees. Our ‘job done’ guarantee is what really sets us apart,” he explains. 

Fix Forward sources its tradesmen from client recommendations and existing contractors. Some approach the company directly, requesting to be part of their 12-month entrepreneur development training programme.

All contractors go through the programme, which involves coaching and mentoring as well as monthly workshops on topics such as marketing and financial management. “The programme is very practical in nature and is aimed at equipping our contractors with critical personal and professional skills that enable them to develop and thrive,” explains Joshua.

For Joshua, true innovation is when a new idea (or combination of old ideas) brings about a step towards change in how a problem is addressed.

“To solve society’s near-overwhelming social challenges, I believe this type of innovation is required. We cannot settle for doing things ‘a bit better’. We need radical ideas to bring about radical change for a healthier, happier world.”

Read more in the March/April issue of Fast Company South Africa.

03.20.19

For Bringing Machine-Learning Solutions to Market

BY Saarah Survé 2 MINUTE READ

Frans Cronje, Co-founder and Managing Director of DataProphet, left his job to develop a technical skill in artificial intelligence (AI). He had his sights set on monetising his newfound passion by either starting his own business or joining a team that were AI-focused. Thus, DataProphet was born. Along with the help of a friend, Frans noticed a gap in the market for a company that would consult and build machine-learning solutions. Later, they would gain enough knowledge to build and offer their very own product. 

How has DataProphet used AI to propel the industry forward?

As factories have become increasingly mechanised, the amount of data that they produce has increased significantly, but the approach to analyse it has not changed. It’s still usually done in a very human, static manner (i.e. someone will pull data from a machine and spend days analysing it). It’s not uncommon for there to be much more data than someone could feasibly analyse and this is where AI comes in. It excels at ingesting and then interpreting the data, and providing a small set of the most relevant information to the operator. We developed OMNI with the same objective in mind, except it performs that analysis continuously, for every machine in the plant, knowing what is happening everywhere, and then providing that feedback to the operator before a defect occurs. 

What makes DataProphet innovative?

By building a team that is interested in the development of the field of AI, and enabling them to bring that interest into their work, we continuously innovate.  One of the most interesting, difficult decisions we made was to move to deep learning as a sub-field in AI. This decision was in contrast to the typical 80/20 rule that is common in business.  Within AI, there is an older class of theory – consisting of a set of algorithms – that provide results that are often nearly as good as those produced by deep learning. Plus, they are often easier to implement. Early on in DataProphet’s history, we decided to focus on deep learning with the expectation that the newer field would enable us to innovate in the long term, and we have seen that to be true.

Read more in the March/April issue of Fast Company South Africa.

03.07.19

For Reconnecting People With Mother Nature

BY Saarah Survé 1 MINUTE READ

Rise above 

Inspired by the raw challenges that comes with being an entrepreneur, Ulrico Grech-Cumbo, Co-founder and CEO of conservation-led immersive storytelling studio Habitat has successfully married tech and nature through virtual reality. Habitat produces specialised virtual reality (VR) content that sends users on immersive wildlife experiences that both educate and evoke a sense of empathy. “By physically involving people in the stories and lives of wildlife and other humans, we can get them to care more, learn more and donate more,” Ulrico says. “We have been producing our own wildlife documentaries as well as immersive experiences for conservation NGOs which are used as fundraisers. We’ve wor-ked with WWF and Conservation International to do this, and they have broken fundraising records and achieved incredible ROIs as well.”

Open season

Given the impact Habitat has had on the commercial VR space, the company is aiming to create a space for people to experience the many facets and narratives of  Habitat’s VR. Creating access for all is a major part of their plan. “These results have inspired the idea to work towards building a physical facility where people can use all sorts of immersive technology to learn about wildlife and the natural world in a deeper way,” explains Ulrico. “Very few people are privileged enough to be able to experience wild animals in their natural environments, and to date, zoos have been the only way for people to learn about them.” And now, that is all about to change.

Read more in the Fast Company March/April 2019 MIC edition.