NetProphet was a technology conference in Cape Town. It was held on the 12th of May. This is a live blog of the entire proceedings from the conference brought to you by Memeburn reporter Mvelase Peppetta.
To see what happened as it happened, read from the bottom up.
[Mvelase] : Great day at Net Prophet, in fact beyond great, it was truly inspiring. The future of the tech industry is certainly looking bright. Check here and here for articles written by the rest of the Memeburn team reporting from Net Prophet and watch the site for more in the coming days.
It’s the “after-party” now, I will try find Seth Rotherham to explain his sartorial choice of fire-engine red pants…
And don’t forget to join the crowd-sourcing initiative for the Net Prophet Bursary.
I mean — it’s easy — at least you’re not Rich Mulholland who got shot with the t-shirt cannon in each butt-cheek at R10 000 a pop…
[Mvelase] : Good question from the audience; some businesses are doing very well being “closed brands”, is it necessary for all brands to be open. Xenopolous allows that it may not be for everyone, however adds that a brand ignores this changing world at it’s own peril.
[Mvelase] : Xenopolous closes with a good simple message: “Social media has changed the world. In order to remain relevant, we [brands] have to open up.”
[Mvelase] : Xenopolous talking about how brands need to be ‘open’, as in dialogue is king. The brand is “co-created with consumer”, that existing brands through “devolution” can become an “open brand”.
I feel as though I’ve heard/read this speech a thousand times before.
However, if you haven’t picked up on this yet; on behalf of everyone else, I welcome you to the 21st century.
[Mvelase] : Xenopolous quotes Bob Garfield when he writes on “listenomics”.
[Mvelase] : He explains the reason was because brands can learn a lot from bands and celebrities such as 30 Seconds To Mars and Lady Gaga who have not only fans, but actual armies of supporters, the Echelon for 30 Seconds To Mars and “Little Monsters” for Gaga, who act as brand ambassadors, for free online.
They make the band a “cult” online. They’ve, in effect, devolved the control of their brand to their fans.
[Mvelase] : Up next is Jason Xenopolous, speaking on digital marketing. He is the Chief Executive Officer of Native, one of Africa’s largest Full-Service Digital Agencies. His talk starts with the video of 30 Second To Mars’ “Closer To The Edge”.
I hope there’s a good reason why I have to watch (wannabe) hipsters on a big screen right now…
[Mvelase] : One can see why Rabana was selected to be one of the Old Mutual’s entrepreneurs in the guide.
[Mvelase] : Audience member asks, how she stayed motivated through the dark times of starting her company. She answers that essentially it was passion; she knew that there was nothing else that she’d be rather do. In answer to second question, she says that the relationship between her company, Yeigo and TellFree works because it’s a “marriage”, both companies need each other to work.
[Mvelase] : Rabana telling us about her company, TellFree, now… I’ll forgive her for this unscheduled ad-break, she’s given a very good talk.
[Mvelase] : She’s taken us on a history of how she ended up founding her own business — something highly unusual for a young black woman — as opposed to joining the safety of a corporate.
Lessons’s she’s learnt include: “You can’t outsource your competitive advantage and expect it to work out”, that in the South African internet/tech funding climate, the risk models were often too traditional, that there are a lot barriers for foreign investors meaning we’re missing the Angel investors found around the world, they had to build personal relationship to get investment.
Another lesson she learnt was that “secrecy doesn’t protect an idea”. Don’t know what the Winklevii would say about that.
[Mvelase] : Up next is Rapelang Rabana, CEO of SA based, software development organisation, Yeigo, with a talk titled, “Eagles don’t need parachutes”.
[Mvelase] : Much, if not all, of what is being discussed in the audience Q&A are the very same questions Memeburn placed to Waibochi.
In reply to my tweeting, “People, East-Africa is leaving us in the dust.” Magazine editor, Kojo Baffoe, said, “East Africa has been ahead for a minute. SA needs to recognise more that there is innovation beyond its borders in Africa.”
He couldn’t be more right.
[Mvelase] : Incredibly impressed with this speech. Best by far in my opinion. A lot that South Africa, and rest of developing world can and should learn from East-Africa. Waibochi is not the Bill Gates of Africa, he’s the John Waibochi of the world. Entirely different from anything that’s gone before him.
[Mvelase] : Silence in the hall as Waibochi speaks. Probably as a result of “All the south africans sitting depressed at #netprophet as they see how awesome #kenya is at mobile”, as someone tweeted.
What’s that about South Africa being the economic titan of Africa again?
[Mvelase] : Looking at the trends that have happened on the internet, Waibochi cites how in East-Africa you can do what you do on your credit card, you can do on your mobile. mobile which I remind you, isn’t necessarily something high-end.
Even governments in East-Africa have embraced mobile with “not very fancy” apps, but importantly, apps that work.
This is a trend I must say I have noticed starting in the South African government.
[Mvelase] : This “revolution” is being seen across various sectors: mHealth, mAgriculture, mEducation, mShopper, mTransport, mNews, mFinance, mEntertainment, to name a few.
[Mvelase] : One of the things they’ve had to do in East Africa is to recognise that whilst there is a market, they need to work with platforms that work on lower-end mobiles. However this is now changing with the “Android-wave”, being experienced in developing world.
[Mvelase] : He’s now talking about East-Africa’s “internet-boom on speed.” Everythiing that happened in the West from the mid to late 90s has till now, has been replicated in their market in three years.
[Mvelase] : Study shows that in Kenya 95% of the market sees the mobile-phone as a business tool. The success of initiatives/tools such as MPesa in East-Africa shows this is certainly to be true.
Furthermore this market, isn’t the iPhone/iPad market.
[Mvelase] : He starts off giving us some statistics on the impressive business/web (via mobile) intersection in East-Africa.
[Mvelase] : We’re back and it’s straight to the next speaker, John Waibochi, CEO of Virtual City, an innovative Mobility solutions provider in Kenya. Memeburn had an interview with him earlier this week which you can read here. He’s talking on Business Mobility in East-Africa.
[Mvelase] : While we wait, a selection of tweets on the power-outage:
“Use the #Joule as a backup power supply. #netprophet”
“@permjotvalia Welcome to SA This must be another first for you.”
“Someone just mentioned Julius Malema and the power went out.. #netprophet ha ha ha”
“After party starts early #netprophet”
“Eskom has taken the decision that e-commerce is not the way forward, power out … #netprophet nice eskom..duh!”
“Plugging in the #Joule brings down the power at #Netprophet”
“Power out @ #netprophet. However the glow from all the devices help”
On that note, I’ll be back — when the powers back.
[Mvelase] : ESKOM! Power outage! Can’t say it’s Eskom for sure though. All we know is the powers out. Difficult for a tech conference to run without power.
[Mvelase] : Buckland notes that though SA is generally hard on itself regarding internet penetration (12% if memory serves) he says we do have a larger audience than some developed nations.
[Mvelase] : Rotherham notes that Matthew Buckland said “crap” and “shit” and wonders if thats okay. As Matthew is Memeburn’s publisher I wonder if this gives me, as a writer, implicit approval to add “colourful language”.
[Mvelase] : Discussion breaking out over Flipboard. Rotherham not that big of a fan, whereas Cohen is. The talk pivoting towards news aggregation now and the difficult relationship there is between aggregators such as Flipboard and publishers such as the New York Times.
[Mvelase] : Cockcroft quickly steps in to mention that not all agencies are that bad.
Agencies have been getting slated on this panel.
[Mvelase] : Rotherham says that as he started 2oceansvibe as a blog, he doesn’t have an existing relationship with the agencies but rather a close relationships with the brands themselves, he’s seen something new. However, he does also see that as 2oceansvibe grows, they’re starting to be forced to work with the agencies.
[Mvelase] : Buckland says the advertising model being used — which we as Memeburn also use — gives him nightmares. He feels that we’ve imported the model from print media to online media. Says that we need to look at something different ie ponsorships and partnerships which are a stronger, more subtle form of advertising, but equally powerful form of advertising. However the impact of these is harder to measure.
Cohen summarises what he said as “online media is the kakkest business to be in”.
[Mvelase] : Cohen of 24.com says multiplatform publishing is important because you need “large audience”. Looking at the recently released stats, with 24.com leading the charge as most viewed South African news sites, they’re doing something right.
[Mvelase] : My opinion, when you look at the kind of people who read 2oceansvibe, his market is, what he says makes sense. They are the people with iPhones and iPad 2s. However, to shut out the people who may want to view the site even though they don’t encompass the target market, doesn’t make sense.
In summation though, Rotherham does feel there’s a need for multi-platform publishing.
[Mvelase] : Seth Rotherham is surprised to hear WAP still exists. However, he does say you need to engage where your readers where they are. Interestingly he says he’s found with 2oceansvibe you “don’t need to engage with Facebook”, that “2oceansvibe is it’s own Facebook”.
[Mvelase] : In terms of are we reaching different or the same audience when publishing across a number of platforms Matt Buckland says though many say you need to be on as many platforms as possible, you need to choose the one that is best and most used by your audience. He reminds us that one must remember WAP, which though not as sexy as an iPhone app, is where most South Africans and Africans are to be found.
[Mvelase] : Geoff starts off by answering the question with only 5.8million people online in SA, do you think that this, publishing across multiple platforms, is something we need to be considering at this stage?
Nikki has wondered whether the small technical difficulty being experienced is as a result of Seth’s very red pants.
[Mvelase] : And it’s the panel session! This should be fun. It includes Nikki Cockcroft who’s lenghty business history you can read here, as faciliitaor, Seth Rotherham of lifestyle blog 2oceansvibe.com, Matt Buckland of Memeburn and Creative Spark fame & Geoff Cohen, the General Manager of 24.com. They’ll be talking about digital media.
Let it be noted that Seth Rotherham is wearing a pair of violently red pants.
[Mvelase] : Goes on to say that there needs to be “tax incentives” for investing, which ties in with what he said earlier about there being tax incentives in the UK when it comes to investing.
Though, when it comes to tax-codes it’s not that simple.
A short, sharp to the point presentation. Have to say I like that as compared to some of the rambling talks we’ve had.
Questions from audience: Tells him, pretty bluntly, that South Africans have heard this before, what are the specifics? Valia answers what is needed is that South Africa needs to have one or two great success stories, following all the advice he and others have said, from which others will join into the business of Angel Investing. Give the true quote of Darwin, not “survival of the fittest”, but rather, those who adapt fastest, will be those who succeed.
[Mvelase] : Looking at what makes a good startup: he says, “Pipeline management doesn’t exist”, agencies are aware and can help and support start-ups, that the idea that “there isn’t enough money(investors)” is not true and that there is a network of “angel investors” willing to invest.
I hope he’s right about that.
[Mvelase] : He questions the generally accepted idea of everything government bad and everything private sector good, which pivots against what was said in the “social business” talk.
[Mvelase] : He now runs flightsandpartners.com a fund management business and beyond that is involved with many other companies in a number of capacities. He says some very lovely things about South Africans: we’re apparently very nice — something in the heat of election season — I think we often forget.
[Mvelase] : Vallia equates “Angel Investing” to marriage: “hope over statistical reality”. His blog, which is how all this was started, was picked up by some Candanians in October 2008 and by 2009 he was working with the Canadian government. Whilst there, he invested in 5 companies. It was then he was asked to mentor in London for Seedcamp, from which Old Mutual picked up on him and he ended up in South Africa.
[Mvelase] : Telling us of his history — how he ended up in South Africa. Asks for forgiveness for using a PowerPoint presentation, which somebody recently tweeted me is neither powerful nor makes a point. Hopefully this speech isn’t like that.
[Mvelase] : And we’re back. The next speaker is, Permjot Valia who is the founder and CEO of Help with Sales Ltd. He has been an active business angel for several years having made over 25 investments in start ups. He will be talking about Angel Investing.
[Mvelase] : Video of recipients of the Net Prophet bursary scheme being aired. You know, that these three got to continue with their studies thanks to Net Prophet, makes the entire day/event worth it. Today alone, the scheme’s raised R30 000. R90 000 rand more needs to be raised. Pledge via Twitter using hashtag #netprofitbursary or go to the site linked above to give. Every Rand counts.
That’s it from me for now. Check back in an hour, after lunch, for more from Net Prophet.
[Mvelase] : It’s the “thank-you sponsors” part of the day.
[Mvelase] : “Joule” is the 6th Trending Topic, either my take on that talk was out of sync with everyone else, or the new religion of being “green” is live, well and thriving in South Africa. I go for the latter…
[Mvelase] : Net Prophet now the number one Trending Topic in South Africa on Twitter.
[Mvelase] : Finishes off to a rousing applause. I guess you could say the main message of the speech was –we need South African solutions when it comes to tech development. Forget (he used another word beginning with F) how the US does business.
[Mvelase] : Chris Roper, editor of the Mail & Guardian Online, tweeted this; “Apparently, Rich Mulholland’s entire talk is a pisstake. Sigh.” Couldn’t agree more Chris.
[Mvelase] : Citing some of the ridiculous amounts of money being thrown around in Silicon Valley on start-ups…
Part of the talk about their being a new tech (around social-networks in fact) bubble developing perhaps?
[Mvelase] : I hate beige pants, Mulholland concurs and tells the men in the audience, “your willy knows when you’re wearing beige pants.” You know when a guy walks out of the bathroom telling you about how the tap just suddenly spurted a few drops of water on him. Again, think about it…
[Mvelase] : Mulholland, it cannot be denied, is a very entertaining speaker, but after laughing for so long, quite often, one’s left asking, “So what was that talk about again?” We’re now talking about button-up jeans, which he says must’ve been invented by women. Think about it for a second…
[Mvelase] : Up next: Rich Mullholand. Right out the bat says “F**k me!” but explains his talk will be on “The Silicon Valley Myth.”
[Mvelase] : Questions: Are good intentions enough? Praekelt feels no they’re not. Rather than having some great big intention, look to something small, and make an impact. In that regard I’d say, look at the intiative, #TBD
Another question are their ways for a social business to be self-funding, not have to rely on a “for profit” business. Praekelt says yes, entirely possible, but a business that is for profit, isn’t necessarily precluded from being a social business.
Another question asks, what are they going to do with this explosive data they’re getting from these polls, (which are only a month old), “what next?” Praekelt says they’re looking to work with social services and government to work with them on changing these opinions.
NetProphet is a technology conference in Cape Town. It starts later today at 9am. Please check back here for live updates and commentary from the conference, brought to you by Memeburn reporter Mvelase Peppetta.
[Mvelase] : Interesting stat: 82% of their audience know that HIV/AIDS is a life, not death sentence. Sad, but not surprising stat, 23% of their users (teens) believe the reason rape happens is because women wear clothes which are too revealing. Another sad stat: 30% of their users feel their is NO chance of them getting work after high-school.
[Mvelase] : Speaking on Young Africa Live, a very exciting new portal on HIV/AIDS, on which information can be found here. Within two days they had 20000 users, a growth they never expected.
[Mvelase] : Cites 10million “rich” people and a far larger number which I missed, of poor people.
[Mvelase] : Feels that a social business is important in that entrepreneurs more than governments are better suited at dealing with the world’s staggering poverty. An idea which makes sense to me.
[Mvelase] : Speaking about how to build a social business, in particular, a business with a social impact. Feels that there’s is something fundamentally wrong with building businesses that are only interested in profit-maximising. A social business isn’t just non-profits or the part of a normal company which looks at social welfare. It’s something entirely different.
[Mvelase] : Up next is Gustav Praekelt who is the founder of Praekelt Digital.
[Mvelase] : Second question asks what interesting trends has he noticed when crowd-sourcing information. Gossier says, he’s the ability to detect the weight, power, reputation of a person who is giving you information.
[Mvelase] : Questions from audience: Question for/from developers. The “quality of the data sets”. Gossier says crowd-sourcing data-sets isn’t only way, but a good way that can/should be used with traditional means.
Slightly above my understanding… Well, to be honest, very much above my understanding.
[Mvelase] : This notion of quid pro quo, Gosier feels can be used — if one’s inclined to — to monetise. Cites Old Mutual’s Entrepreneurs Guide as an example of that.
[Mvelase] : Spays that this “participation and collaboration” that’s going on is best thought of as what happens on a “football field, or as I’d say soccer”. Americans…
[Mvelase] : “QuidProQuo” the Ushahidi platform’s value isn’t technology or the openness. It’s about the value the platform gives users, ie “victims” (a term Gosier uses, but also explains he doesn’t like) being able to place what’s happening to them in a larger context, whereas volunteers and first responders use it to help, and news-producers use it to see and learn what is happening.
I’ve never used Ushahidi, sounds very interesting definitely going to be looking at it soon.
[Mvelase] : Gosier says all internet is crowd-sourcing. Cites some of the well known crowd-sourcing models ie Wikipedia which as he says isn’t based on people getting some kind of monetary gain from being involved, therefore the question is “why” they do it, and how can you make it work for you? The why they do it is what he dubs “currency”.
[Mvelase] : Gosier talking about Radical collaboration and trading on social currency. Looking at how all social-networks are “trading places”, and just like a normal market-place looks incredibly chaotic from the outside, but very organised when you’re on the inside.
[Mvelase] : Tshirt gun put away. Next speaker, from US, who’s worked with a number of top-selling US artists including Kanye West and Gwen Stefani — Jon Gosier. A frequent speaker at TED conferences around the world… Should be good.
[Mvelase] : Woah they have just brought out a Tshirt gun to shoot Tshirts across the crowd. This is a first. Look hectic. someone is going to get hurt
[Mvelase] : Now for the T-shirt giveaway!! Pick us pick us! Front row on the left!
[Mvelase] : …and we’re back!
[Mvelase] : Old Mutual talking about their “Do Great Things Entrepreneurs Guide” featuring 38 of South Africa’s top Entrepreneurs. Check the site for a number of articles on this initiative and a list of all the entrepreneurs.
[Mvelase] : Second question cites the Tesla — the sports car EV — and makes comparison that what Joule wants to do is to be the Model-T of the electric vehicle. What the question is exactly, not so clear — very rambling. Blake says they Joule cannot be a “Model-T” of today. The Chinese have cornered that market. Their plan is to look at the upper-middle class sector as possible customers.
[Mvelase] : Questions from audience…First question (joking) “Does Eskom know what you’re doing.” Though Blake does explain that Eskom is working with them: essentially that there is enough electricity in South Africa to power electric vehicles (as usage drops overnight, when cars would be charged).
[Mvelase] : Blake says that though they’d like to go in production tomorrow, they want to create a quality product for their consumers. The first Joule plant will be in East London — chosen for fact that Eastern Cape government has incentivised them to go there. Production will start in 2015, which then will be a decade after the Joule company was launched.
[Mvelase] : Blake now making note of the great support — as they find it — they’ve received from the South African government.
She also mentions the current design of the Joule is five years old, yet car still not in production and says that when they do go into production, the car will need a redesign. I wonder if this won’t that just slow down the release of this vehicle though? 6yrs and no product seems awful slow…
[Mvelase] : In all honesty, nothing new being told in this talk. Even if you haven’t followed developments regarding the Joule, or aren’t a “green-warrior”, much of what is being said here is something that you would be familiar with.
Diana Blake, mentioning that the Joule company founded 6years ago, doesn’t just want to make the Joule for South Africans, but wants to be an international company. Namely to export. Citing growth the company is experiencing at the moment.
[Mvelase] : The solution to creating a product that will allow for sustainability? The product needs to be : attractive to mass market,. affordable, makes business sense and makes use of existing legislation (ie taxes and subsidies).
[Mvelase] : By 2020 10% to 25% of cars being produced, will be electric vehicles, which will not “steal” from existing car markets but actually constitute new growth. Governments around the world, US and UK leading charge either taxing normal vehicles or subsidising electric vehicles.
[Mvelase] : More stats: 800 000 000 million vehicles in world set to double by 2030. We’re overwhelmingly dependent on fossil-fuels, and we need to change that.
[Mvelase] : Joule — the electric car — talk is up now. Stats regarding global warming being cited. Noted global-warming demialist, Ivo Vegter, (check his columns for Daily Maverick) seated behind me furiously typing away…
[Mvelase] : Rippel done with his talk. A lot of interesting information. eCommerce certainly an industry to follow.
[Mvelase] : Question from audience — Not enough mobile payments systems here locally. Rippel: Talking about Mpesa in Kenya. This is an example of how Africa getting around traditional ecommerce payment solutions like Paypal etc.
[Mvelase] : Rippel says the key factors for ecommerce success is: 1. Embrace Mobile 2. Leverage Offline, 3, Cash in King and 4. Build Trust. MIH taking Africa very seriously!
[Mvelase] : Africa has a great potential for ecommerce..it has a BILLION people. Like India, similar to China. There is an emerging middle class. Not a question of IF but WHEN
[Mvelase] : Don’t neglect Offline marketing, says Rippel when it comes to promoting your ecommerce service
[Mvelase] : Trust higher in established markets… trust is low in emerging markets – an issue for ecommerce. How do you solve? Rippel says MIH tries to provide a more controlled, trusted environment. Ie Kalahari guarantees that you get the service — does not follow Ebay model where you meet seller.
[Mvelase] : Rippel singing Mpesa’s (mobile money) praises — and mentions this is key for ecommerce in Africa
[Mvelase] : What he’s learnt for a successful eCommerce strategy: embrace mobile — don’t rely only on “traditional” web services. leverage offline — which means, don’t only rely on online to advertise your service. Go to where the users are to bring them your service. Cash is King — as credit card, and other “banking service penetration is low in Africa, look to services such as MPesa.
[Mvelase] : Rippel using MIH, his company, as an example of what kind of services Africans can and choose to use for eCommerce.
[Mvelase] : Mobile penetration being brought up. The level of penetration 92.7million in Algeria & 92.2 in South Africa being highest two, seen as a great way eCommerce can grow in Africa as a whole.
[Mvelase] : Some of these indicators include….. Above 5% GDP growth for much of Africa and a growing middle class (320m Africans!)
[Mvelase] : Rippel says — lots of indicators hint to a great future for African Ecommerce
[Mvelase] : Looking at state of Africa… Rippel says still nascent but lots of potential. Ecommerce happening in three main internet countries in Africa… Egypt = 17.1 million users (17% penetration). Nigeria = 44m users (29% penetration of internet <- Wow high for AFrica).... SA only 6m users...12% penetration... not quite the internet powerhouse....
[Mvelase] : eCommerce, an internet service that people generally embrace after a few years online, is on the rise around the world, Rippel says.
[Mvelase] : Oliver Rippel up first to give his talk on the “CUrrent state and future of eCommerce in Africa. Open with a quick dig at the (poor) state of the coffee, a much buzzed about issue.
[Mvelase] : Pretty cool, the conference is being live-streamed on netprophet.co.za
[Mvelase] : Rob Gilmour up to get Net Prophet up. Giving us a short history of what Net Prophet is and how it started.
[Mvelase] : Cool TwitterFall screens at NetProphet. This place is buzzing. Sitting in front row and waiting for first talk….
[Mvelase] : Not related to Net Prophet, but hearing news that Memeburn was featured on Al-Jazeera an hour or so ago. Very exciting news. Anyone have any details?
[Mvelase] : Hey peeps at the conference and watching remotely… I’ve arrived at the conference… now busy setting up — please check back later for live updates and commentary. It’s going to be a ride!