FastCompany (FC) in conversation with Liquid Thought CEO, Zulfiq Isaacs (ZI)
FC: What is the current state of the digital consulting/innovation agency industry?
ZI: The digital innovation agency industry is booming locally, spurred on by an accelerated pace of disruption and supported by a new age of product studios and venture builders that are on a mission to prove how valuable co-creation can be for speed and agility.
Fuelled by a growing ecosystem of start-up disruptors, venture capitalists and corporate innovation, these types of agencies areequipped to enable and realise the vision and objectives of the entrepreneurs and pioneers behind the ideas.
As a result of Covid-19, the world has been forced to rapidly adapt to new business practicesand embrace digital channels like never before. This has placed even more emphasis on theneed for speed and the advantage of a proven track record to bring products to market quickly, with the objective of failing fast and pivoting oriterating towards the next growth milestone.
FC: Major challenges faced by Digital Innovation agencies?
ZI: Some of the major challenges faced in our industry include:
1. Low volume of high calibre creative / technical skill at affordable prices and the rate at which new talent can be up-skilled
to contribute meaningfully on projects and deliver high-quality work;
2. Lack of access to funding, but more specifically capital to co-invest in the ventures they are building;
3. The lead times to secure projects and get commitment from client s on their innovation initiatives.
4. A lack of industry partnership / alliances to grow and promote SA as a destination for innovation delivery globally;
5. Perception of value when it comes to the role of the venture builder and the relative cost for the IP that gets created as a result of the expertise and experience;
FC: How Liquid Thought stays abreast of industry trends?
ZI: To stay relevant, we ensure our workforce are encouraged to always keep learning and stay abreast of the latest trends in technology and design and best practice when it comes to digital innovation. This includes online learning, peer-to-peer, attending meet-ups along with tech and innovation led local and global conferences.
We also have show-and-tell sessions to learn from best-in-class innovation and connect with our peers in the start-up community both locally and abroad.
FC: What has kept Liquid Thought going during good and bad times?
ZI: Our resilience as an organisation is embedded in our name “Liquid Thought” that stands for Fluid Thinking and aligns with our
problem solving nature and our ability to adapt with agility. This approach combined with our entrepreneurial spirit and growth-led mindset has enabled us to navigate both good and bad times. We are always looking for opportunities and find solutions to the problems we solve for clients, but apply the same ethos to the challenges we face as a business. We call this mantra Innovation at Work and subscribe to the philosophy of “Being like water” or in our case, “Staying Fluid” enabling us to both survive and to remain competitive.
FC: What is the current Liquid Thought standing in the industry
ZI: With 21 years of digital track record behind us, we can be considered one of the OGs of the industry. As one of the first movers in our field, we have pioneered the industry that is now coming of age and have served as a digital innovation partner for many leading brands across a range of industries in the process.
F C : W h a t a r e L i q u i d T h o u g h t ’s c o r e competencies?
ZI: 1. Concept Ideation and Design Thinking
2. Business Model Innovation
3. Platform Architecture and Building
4. Product and Project Management
5. Go-To-Market Services
6. Commercialisation and Operational Support
FC: What is Liquid Thought’s approach to problem solving?
ZI: We approach problem solving in a collaborative way, led by design thinking and supported by research and data. Our engagement model sees our team partnering with our client on a journey of co-creation. This brings about shared ownership from the get-go and ensures alignment of both parties upfront.
FC: Impact of work by Liquid Thought: Case study of client success.
ZI: 1. AlphaCode – We were one of the key partners appointed by RMIH to ideate, design and build the AlphaCode brand, concept and platform from the ground up, including seeding the platform that
has today become one of the leading fintech communities and vc investors in this space in South Africa.
2. RushTushFit – We ideated, designed and built this app for one of the leading female entrepreneurs and influencers in this space, digitizing her business and enabling her App to become one of the leading apps in this fitness category locally. Apple selected the RushTushFit app as one of the best in class for fitness apps in Africa having featured the App during Africa Month 2022.
FC: What is the Future of Digital Innovation Agencies?
ZI: Digital Innovation Agencies are destined to become pivotal players in our ecosystem, if not already, and will continue to grow and accelerate many of the start-ups and corporate innovation opportunities in the market. I see the convergence of high-end strategy-led consultancies combined with Venture Capital Funds and Product Studios, made up of strong design, technical and marketing skills to bring about powerhouses that will create the future tech-led juggernauts on the continent and beyond.
FC: Where to next for Liquid Thought in the next five years?
ZI: We see ourselves at the forefront of this innovation race and playing a leading role in building a sustainable and world-class capability and ecosystem out of South Africa. As such, we are planning to launch a “One in a Million” innovation challenge in 2023 aimed at attracting start-up founders with a call for entries to select best-in-class ideas to be sponsored with a co-investment of up to R1M worth of pre-seed investment value to incubate these ventures and supporting them by taking their idea, ideating and validating the concept for them with a prototype followed by a full MVP build and go-to-market package. At the heart of this, is a continuous investment in our future talent and ecosystem, aimed at building out our product portfolio with a focus on bootstrapping scalable ventures that can attract external venture funding and be successful independently.