If you think you’ve done a lot in your life, think again. On Friday evening, a boy of 14 got up and presented his idea and business during the Cape Town Entrepreneurship Week (CTEW), and immediately raised the bar for what people of his age should have accomplished by their time.
Jacques Blom is from the Cape and currently attends high school, but that didn’t stop him from spotting a gap in a market and going for it. He was busy on Facebook, trying out a colour changer app that would make his profile look different and exciting – but the app was a hoax and asked him to complete a survey. This got him going on iStyla, a profile theme changer for Facebook. And he’s built it all by himself.
I was quite impressed by the site and how the business model works. New users sign up via Facebook and install free or premium themes. The code for the theme or style is injected into Facebook on the user’s side, through the browser plugin, but such that if one iStyla user visits another iStyla user’s profile page, their Facebook design will temporarily change to that person’s design. Where I got impressed was that Blom’s user base helps create the product – designers can design new styles, and the cherry on the top: an affiliate program which allows users to earn money based on how many new people they refer to iStyla. In fact, a user might just receive a commission for having their current style viewed by someone else! These last two points make me believe this can go far.
Right now, the site already has over 3,000 users and over a thousand Likes on it’s Facebook page. Blom’s profiles on StackOverFlow, StartupLi.st, Crunchbase and VentureBeat prove what the youngster has put into this so far, all on his own. It would seem the site uses a freemium model, with no charge for anything as of yet. And right now, with Facebook covering a billion users a little while ago, all he’ll need is traction.
The producers of The Digital Edge Live Show set to take place in Cape Town in October, put some time aside to do an in-depth interview with international speaker Nathan Martin, CEO of Deeplocal who will be headlining the event. Coined by Forbes Magazine as “Willy Wonka with a toolkit from Mythbusters”, Nathan has been instrumental in shaping innovation in the ad industry with projects like the Nike Chalkbot robot for the Tour de France and the Prius bicycle with mind-controlled shifting.
With clients that include the likes of Nike, Toyota and Volkswagen, and awards that include AdAge Small Agency of the Year Northeast and Cannes Lions Grand Prix, Deeplocal (with Nathan at the helm) is a force to be reckoned with in the digital marketing sphere. Here’s a sneak peak of how the conversation unfolded:
Q: What do you love about the digital marketing industry right now?
A: What excites me most is the competition to be creative. When Deeplocal entered the industry almost four years ago, I don’t think many creatives were pushing (or able to sell through) ideas that really blurred the boundaries between art and advertising. Having come from the art world, I see many ideas and work that remind me of the creative use of technology of my previous life. As more work that defies categorisation begins to exist, more clients begin to buy in to more wild ideas and more amazing work is brought to life. And the best is yet to come for digital marketing.
Christo Davel is a veteran of our local internet community. He made waves with his 20twenty virtual bank startup more than 10 years ago and now he’s back helping consumers understand their spending habits – enter 22seven.
Click play below to watch the video interview. Full interview transcript below.
Charl: Christo Davel, welcome to Bandwidth Blog video.
Christo: Thank you.
Charl: For the readers of Bandwidth Blog, before we get into 22seven I just want to talk about one of your previous companies. Along time ago you started a very innovative company called 20twenty which was just an online bank right in the dot com boom and bust. tell us a little about that.
Christo: 20twenty launched in 2001, so it was you right, it was right in the flux of the dot com boom and bust. The idea was to create a bank that people would ultimately love, um, using tech to make that possible. The challenge then was to convince people that banking online is a viable option. We had to convince people it’s safe, that you don’t have a branch so it shows you how long ago that was. But our backer was Sambo Bank and Sambo went into curatorship six months after we launched. So the truth is that 20twenty was only alive for six months. I stuck around, we were committed not to let our customers lose any money, and eventually sold to Standard Chartered Bank, 18 months later so that was quite a fascinating journey. (more…)
Rob Stokes has built one of South Africa’s most successful digital agencies – Quirk. BWB video takes you inside what it’s like running a mega multi-national agency. Click play below for the interview and you will find the full transcript below.
C: Rob Stokes welcome to Bandwidth Blog video.
R: Hello Charl nice to see you.
C: Congrats on all the recent success it seems that Quirk is just cleaning up all the awards.
R: (laughs) I think we’ve got a long way to go.
C: OK. Tell us about the early beginnings of Quirk you know legend has it you started in your bedroom.
R: That is a true legend strangely and embarrassingly to admit. I was in my third year of business science at UCT and I ran out of money and an entrepreneur makes a plan and so I started a business called Quirk and here we are today.
C: Beautiful story for your memoirs or autobiography one day.
R: It is yah. I think, tough beginnings make for hopefully a resilient business and we certainly had some tough beginnings so I’m hoping we will make it long term.
C: Tell us about Quirk today – the amount of staff, office locations etc…
R: So we got three agencies – Joburg, London and Cape Town. We’ve got about 200 staff in the agency side of the business and there’s about 100, 120 of them in Cape Town, 50 or 60 of them in Joburg and I think about 30 in London. We’ve also got a couple of other businesses. We’ve got an online education and training business specifically focused on marketing training called Quirk Education that’s got about 10, 15 people in it. We’ve got Brandseye which is an online reputation monitoring software. That’s also about 10,15 people and then much smaller business Idea Bounty which is a crowd sourcing platform and yah, the biggest of the three offices is Cape Town which is I guess because we were birthed here, which is in many respects our HQ but I see that momentum shifting increasingly to Johannesburg particularly next year. (more…)
In the mid 90s, while still in high school, Matthew Tagg founded Web Africa, one of South Africa’s leading ISPs. We sat down with Matt and spoke about his humble beginnings selling hardware to generate funds to bootstrap his ambitions for starting an ISP with partner Rupert Bryant. We discover how they went from ducking out of lectures to attend to support calls into building Web Africa into a 100M+ a year company with 115 staff.
We also talk about his latest movements, like stepping down as CEO and handing over the reigns to experienced telecoms executive Tim Wyatt-Gunning (Tim and his partner started Storm Telecoms which they sold to Vox in a massive transaction several years ago).
Matt plans to move to Silicon Valley this year to build a new business and he gives us the inside scoop into what his future plans are.
Matt also discusses the uncapped saga that MWEB started a few years ago, how SEACOM has effected the South African internet connectivity landscape and we speculate if Telkom will ever drop their mandatory line rental fee.
Before I give away too much, watch the video – there’s great insight into how to run an ISP in South Africa from one of our local leaders in the space.
Note – Web Africa is a Bandwidth Blog hosting partner.
At 26 years old, entrepreneur Tobie van Zyl is CEO of moneysmart, one of the emerging online personal financial management platforms in South Africa. It is a platform that provides an innovative approach to organising financial data, and enables users to take control of their finances in achieving their goals. After entering the online financial market in 2008, Tobie has rapidly worked his way up to become one of the youngest entrepreneurs in the financial sector to go independent in the country.
Tobie told BandwidthBlog how it all began.
Tell us about your first business experience?
Whilst I was in school in a little town called Worcester back in 2000, there was a big demand for heavy metal music, something that I was and still am very passionate about. I saw this as my first business opportunity. I had all the latest records and shared them with my friends at school. I carried around a portable tape player and at break times I provided kids on the terrain with some hard and loud tunes. The platteland had no exposure to this kind of music. I was fortunate enough to have access to Google in my bedroom. I would google where to find heavy metal music and eventually came across a site called Silent Screams. Back then it was run by female Bass player Jen Rooms from a Hard Core band in Cape Town called Neshama. I worked in my parents garden, washed the cars to get some money to buy the records from her. She had all the latest unheard bands, it was perfect to introduce it to the rock ‘n roll kids at school. So eventually I got orders and started selling CD’s then T-Shirt and Belt Buckles.
What lead you to settle in Cape Town?
I grew so fond of music that it got me to start playing the guitar, but there was one problem – it was Worcester, no one has ever played in a band and at school everyone was pretty much into rugby whilst I was into skateboarding. I met with a kid around the block and got him into guitar playing, he is now my best friend and is one of the most successful up ‘n coming internet markers in the country – Dawie Bester. I took over on vocals and became a singer. I told my father I was going to become either a bad ass rock star or a producer of a big ass rock band like Tool, Guns ‘n Roses or Motley Crue. My father said he would not pay for me to study music if I wanted to become like one of the guys in the posters I had on my bedroom wall. He wanted me to take over his Financial Services Practice but, since my band members graduated from high school and needed to go study we all had to move to Cape Town, so obviously I rebelled and left the town in pursuit of this rock star life.
Nasper’s CEO Koos Bekker paid a visit the 2oceansvibe radio studio on Wednesday morning for an exclusive interview on the “Hard Willi” show with Richard Hardiman and Lindsay Williams.
Prompted by their own questions, as well as responding to tweets from listeners of the show, Koos covered a range of topics, from radio and print media, to the local and international online landscape.
Naspers is a leading multinational media group and over the past two decades the group has evolved from a traditional print media business in one country, to a broad-based e-media company in multiple markets. Naspers’ principal operations are in internet platforms (focussing on commerce, communities, content, communication and games), pay-television and the provision of related technologies and print media (including publishing, distribution and printing of magazines, newspapers and books).
Touchlab, A division of Media 24, recently launched the go! South Africa travel app.
Listen to the podcast of the live interview below:
Alan Knott-Craig is likely the most talked about local Internet entrepreneur at the moment. After his tenure as MD of wireless Internet provider, iBurst, Alan moved to Stellenbosch and started a mobile applications investment company. Enter World of Avatar, consisting of approximately 14 mobile related businesses, some of which were launched and incubated from within WOA while others were acquired.
Then Alan made his boldest move yet – he met with Herman Heunis, founder of South Africa’s most popular social network, MXit, and convinced him to sell. The acquisition was widely covered and the price was said to be a massive 9 digit number.
Some say Alan bought a technology past its prime with the likes of BlackBerry’s BBM and Whatsapp enjoying huge growth on smart phones. Alan saw it differently. With the next billion or two of the African population not even connected to the Internet yet, there is huge scope to provide communication tools to ‘feature’ and ‘dumb phone’ users. However, they aren’t overlooking MXit for smart phones and will aim to release a new version – said to be a game changer – in April 2012.
Alan Knott-Craig is a deal maker and with a huge community as bait, has set out to close several deals that will continue to drive MXit’s growth and revenue. Recently he setup an embed deal with Opera and has several similar deals in the pipeline. (more…)