Global Entrepreneurship Week at Tech City UK

Imagine a hub for innovative companies, tech startups and international investors; all in the same part of town. In the UK it’s not just a dream, it’s a reality. It’s called Tech City and you’ll find it in East London, where it’s grown up around the old Silicon Roundabout.

As part of their efforts for Global Entrepreneurship Week, they are hosting the Tech City UK Entrepreneurs Festival, a  weeklong event with  over 300 companies from across the world, all meeting with over 50 Top Entrepreneurs and investors.

The first two days will be an intense boot camp with mentors and investors, where startups get empowered with pitching skills and product development. These are some of the top minds in business globally.

Following the sessions with investors, the Tech City UK Entrepreneurs Festival will also allow the Top 20 companies to pitch their ideas to investors and mentors. The opportunities are huge for those presenting, successful businesses have the change to gain new business, mentorship and investment.

You may also want to hear from the Top 20 Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs and Investors who’ll be sharing their experiences on Saturday the 19th.

We take off for the Tech City UK Entrepreneurs Festival this Saturday, which will be held from 14-19 November on London’s East End.

Follow us at @Mongezi or @WordStarters and check out the Tweets of what’s happening and send some of your questions and ideas of what you’d be interested in.

Discovery Invest Leadership Summit: Raising the bar

 

 

Since its inception in 2009, the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit  has consistently challenged leadership issues of the day. This summit was the first to bring Malcolm Gladwell to our shores, and continues to engage and inspire audiences with the help of high-calibre international thought leaders as speakers. It is definitely a conference worth marking on your calendar. This year it happens on the 21st of September.

Raising the bar

The inaugural 2009 summit featured Sir Richard Branson, Malcolm Gladwell and Wendy Luhabe amongst others. In 2010, they outdid themselves again with insights from Adrian Gore, Nassim Taleb and Tokyo Sexwale. This summit transforms our ideas of what a “headline speaker” is and who to look out for.

This year, they’ll have me – in the audience – not as a speaker. (Well, for this year at least.)

This year’s draw-card speakers include Al Gore, Graça Marcel and Chris Anderson (Editor-In-Chief at Wired – not to be confused with curator of TED). It is expected to shift paradigms. And I have high expectations that it will. The idea that Chris Anderson will be there, is enough for me to go.

In addition to his role at Wired, Chris Anderson is also the author of “The Long Tail” and “Free”, both of which change your perspective after reading them. His thinking is current. He writes the kind of material that is for this time – for the ever-transforming digital age. In both books, he creates a vivid image of how any thriving business model became profitable online.

In “The Long Tail”, Chris Anderson delves into what creates a niche and how the blockbuster culture was eradicated. It demonstrates, through research analysis, why the future of business is selling less of more. He goes into how the lowest selling songs on iTunes create niche categories in themselves. How having 1000 True Fans (as first written by Kevin Kelly at Technium) is the way to go and why niche has eliminated traditional business theories of creating and developing for the masses.

That leads me to how the rules of leadership have transformed over the ages. These interesting times we live in demand that leaders focus on building communities (“tribes”) and on creating a compelling story that connects people. I look forward to hearing what he proposes the new way of leadership for niche audiences, is.

This conference comes at a time when my search for leadership ability has reached levels of obsessions. It became evident to me, that leadership is a significant way to coordinate change and create a community of people for a cause. So, they have a lot of high expectations to measure up to.

If you would like to get an idea of how Chris Anderson thinks – have a look here.

If you would like to follow the conference, search for #DILS11 on Twitter.

To become involved in the search for leadership, take a quick look at their blog or book your tickets here. The conference is on the 21st of September at the Sandton Convention Centre.

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Photo of The Long Tail by: topgold on Flickr

 

Your Great Following Is An Illusion

Whether a customer pays you or not, they have expectations. Do you know what they expect?

This past Friday I went to a show in Johannesburg, where DJ Premier was playing. In a nutshell Premier, for me, is one of Hip Hop’s superheroes a ninja. An icon. He wields nanchuks that are foundation of Hip Hop globally. The one DJ and producer whose work we listened to growing up and shared with friends.

15 years later when Premier comes to South Africa, we wouldn’t dare miss his show. And we didn’t, as you would expect.

The show was organized by Kenzero, a local highly influential DJ, who also does another show (Party People) that has a huge following. He has a well established brand in the local Hip Hop scene, and his is a name most people are likely to know.

Perceived value

While having dinner with friends, who also wanted to see Premier just as much, we had a conversation about the value of things.

The tickets were worth R180 at the door (about $29 US), which is more than you would pay at an up-market nightclub. But it’s fine – it is Premier after all.

If you pay for something, regardless what the amount is – it creates expectations. I already anticipated being blown away both Kenzero and Premier. They are both respected names in the scene and supposedly lead the pack.

The set played by Kenzero was quite good not great, which was unexpected given his following. We knew all the songs, when we expected to hear a bit of what we haven’t. Perhaps that’s part of what he sells.

Understanding that what you sell is not always what people buy is key. I bought into that event because of the profile I heard of it. The value people place on what they exchange for your product – be it money or attention – is significant to them and you may lose them if those are disconnected.

Meet expectations

What does a potential raving fan expect when they use your service for the first time?

The following you have and the word people spread about you is what the masses have in mind when they interact with you for the first time. For as long you raise the bar above all those expectations, you win.

When you approach new interactions on the basis of arrogance from past successes, you stand to lose more than your following. You may think – “but I’m the exception not the rule”. But I wasn’t because some of the people I was with agreed they didn’t get what they expect.

Are you selling what people expect to receive?

The illusion of a great following

When you are of the impression that your fanbase makes you, you are bound to stuff up.

The wake up call I had this past weekend was how much of a consumer most service providers and sellers perceive their customers as being.  We tend to disregard that people – all of us – want to be treated as individuals. I don’t care that you are servicing a million other clients.

Let’s face it, a huge client base bring with them even more expectations. You have to work more at managing expectations and exceeding your past success. The conversation changes when. . . you no longer provide an experience worth talking about.

The death of the superhero

DJ Premier is one of the all the time Hip Hop music superheroes. He ‘s one of the producers and DJs you wanted to listen to in the 90’s even now, but a lot of talent has risen since then.

I went there expecting him to play a lot of new music, which he didn’t. Without discounting the great music which he played, his 2-hour long set had some things I still question.

There was an artist with him who does not match up to the talent he used to produce in his early days.

After over 12 years of listening to Premier, I was quite disappointed with the presentation at that gig.

It is quite disheartening for me to say – I don’t think I’ll ever view him the same again. The childhood hero has lost me as a fan because of that 2 hour set. That brings me to the last point.

A brand is. . . . . .

. . . . . the collective perceptions people have of you and the dealings they had with your service offering.

Let’s bring that home. For all the years I listened to Premier, shared his music, recommended it to friends and raved about him – I was spreading a marketing message. So was he. That is how and what his brand was to me and the people I spoke to.

Your clients speak and their word speaks volumes to them than any marketing message you send out about yourself. We think the people around us are more credible than the billboard across the road. Even the radio presenter.

These collective messages that surpass your marketing by far. That is what creates a brand.

How are you spreading a positive message?

Photo by: eyesore9 on Flickr

NetwebTV Tech4Africa Special

I recently wrote about the Tech4Africa Conference, which actually turned out to be amazing. More awesome than the conference itself were the organizers, who gave me an all-access blogger pass. Emerging Media and the Tech4Africa team are rockstars.

We interviewed some of the speakers, delegates and Seedcamp participants.

The Tech4Africa Special

In this NetwebTV special, we spoke to:

  • Gareth Knight, the founder of Tech4Africa, about how it was received and whether the change he foresaw ago when we spoke was achieved.
  • Gareth Ochse – the founder of iSigned and one of the competitors in Seedcamp Africa. I heard they are also one of the companies who qualified to attend Seedcamp Week in London

Speakers and delegates

We also caught up with some of the speakers and delegates who gave us their views on development in Africa as a whole.

Erik Hersman, the co-founder of Ushahidi spoke their development and how it’s changing lives. It is also one of the most talked about projects on the web.

Mark Kaigwa, a Creative Director and Entrepreneur shares his views about the conference and what it means for Africa. Kenya is 4 to 5 countries away from where conference was, so Mark came a long way.

Clay Shirky was the keynote speaker at the conference and he also took a moment to speak to us. In a nutshell – Clay is a professor, speaker, thought leader and an icon in all things economics, community and open source.  He is the author of 2 books and shares his expert views on how social phenomena were started small and grew globally.

Take a look at the video below and share some of your views with us in the comments.

Entrepreneur of the Year Award

It is not often that you get appreciated for the hard work you do. The sleepless nights. The pitches you don’t get called back for. But lucky for you, someone out there is watching.

This morning in the mail, I got something that might excite you. At least I thought it would.

Sanlam and Business Partners are giving away up to R100 000 in their Entrepreneur Of The Year Award. It’s also quite easy to apply from what I saw.

The requirements in their three categories are also simple enough. Before you think it’s too good to be true. You have to prove that – by their standards – the three most important financial risks of your business are quantifiable. The application form has more details on that. 

Categories and minimum requirements 

  • Emerging Entrepreneur (business younger than three years old)
  • Business Entrepreneur (turnover up to R20 million)
  • Medium Business Entrepreneur (turnover greater than R20 million

Of course, you are not motivated by the cash prizes. But they are offering those too.

Cash Prizes

  • Category winners will receive R20 000.00
  • R100 000 in cash for the overall winner along with the opportunity to attend an international conference or trade show, as well as extensive public exposure. That should help in acquiring the much needed sales.

Download the entry forms and more information to enter.

Spread the word as far and wide as possible as well. . . . Good luck!

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Image by : xtrarant on Flickr

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Learn from the best at Tech4Africa

In the third episode of NetWebTV, I was fortunate to interview Gareth Knight. His views on building a business, I have followed since (with a bit of tweaking for context). Now, any opportunity available to hear him speak I cease every time.

The episode is more about how he built a company that got acquired and a project he was developing at the time called Tech4Africa. As he put it then, it was meant to be a conference that brings global viewpoints to the African context. The chicken in me at the time thought it was overwhelming and impossible. Fast forward to over a year later, the idea has spread online and tickets have become more coveted than a black BMW M6 convertible in Soweto.

More accessible than the shiny M6

This conference, being the first of its kind in South Africa and possibly Africa, might have been inaccessible for people in South Africa. Mostly the entrepreneurs who need to attend it. That’s one of the questions I asked Gareth off camera.

Seemingly he gave that a lot of thought to that and worked it into the package. Not to mention having tickets that are discounted to make it even more worth your while. The caliber of speakers and topics they have challenge current thinking. I find that a significant influential force in contemporary business ethic.

Is it for everyone?

No. And like all things that are really worth your time and investment, it shouldn’t.

The conference is very focused. It is about technology and how it affects you as an entrepreneur. The knowledge of speakers like Clay Shirky, is definitely for people who want to make real and rapid progress. Fortunately, not everyone is that person which means there is only a few of you out there. Otherwise there would not be such a great demand for you.

I was meant to tell you more about the learning prospects at the conference.

Tech4Africa Scholarships

One of the major things lacking in Africa is the skill needed to develop globally competitive businesses, but the conference also addresses that. The discounted tickets already make it easier to attend, but in partnership with Old Mutual, the conference also has tickets for people who need to need learn.

Below are some workshops and what they are about:

1. A masterclass in Usability and Accessibility

Gain expert knowledge from a global leader in usability and accessibility

Usability tests are an excellent way of discovering problems with a product or service.

2. Google University

A deep dive into Google Analytics and Adwords

Google Analytics is a powerful web analytics tool, AND it’s free, and Google Adwords is a great way to drive traffic to your site. However, you get the most out of them when you understand how they work, and how to customise for your needs.

3. A Masterclass in Architecting applications and Advanced Javascript

Learn best practice for developing applications that enable you to work fast and agile, whilst being robust and secure; and learn advanced features of the JavaScript language to create complex applications

4. Successful digital projects

A strategic look at the digital project implementation lifecycle, for decision makers and programme managers.

Whether you want to or not, you are now project managing a group of (hopefully) willing people to create a product that you are attempting to get done in an (un)reasonable amount of time, within an (in)sane budget.

For the entrepreneur there is Seedcamp.

Seedcamp is a programme created to jumpstart the entrepreneurial community in Europe, and now Africa, by connecting next generation developers and entrepreneurs with over 400 mentors from a top-tier network of company builders; including seed investors, serial entrepreneurs, product experts, HR and PR specialists, marketers, lawyers, recruiters, journalists and venture capitalists.

The scholarship applications close tomorrow.  Go on, signup and read more here.

Aside: No BMWs were dreamt of during the writing of this post.

A matchstick that made it to a movie

In July of 2009, I announced the Netweb Event for that month with a video give away sponsored by Missing Link. Little did we know that the prize would go to an amazing project I had been following for a while.

One Matchstick, a concept where the founder is trading a single matchstick till she gets to offices through a series of trades, is a lesson in innovation.

It was simple for us – start a competition that benefits small business and give it to the most deserving company after our delegates have voted. From that simple definition came being an MC at the premiere in Johannesburg, being in Cape Town for another and making interesting contacts along the way.

The lessons

– You are as big or small as you think you are.

It ‘s because one matchstick that I went over 1000 kilometers away and made contacts I wouldn’t thought of on my own.

– Small has to do with efficiency than size.

The size of this project meant all we needed was a notebook, a DVD Player and a room of 30 people for it to be successful.

– Naming is very significant

We called the prize a corporate video when we gave it away, but Telana referred to it as the “One Matchstick Movie”.

You are invited to the “One Matchstick Movie Premiere” sounds better than being invited to the “Launch Of The One Matchstick Corporate Video” any Sunday afternoon. Yes, the Johannesburg premiere was packed on a Sunday afternoon.

If a single matchstick can make it happen, that changes the whole game.

Please view the One Matchstick Movie below.

Connecting and traveling 9000 kilometres at 25km p/h

When Telana called me last week about Ruan a cyclist who aimed to explore South Africa for 60 days. I thought it was an interesting story to follow and bring to you, along with the lessons it would come with.

Little did I know that the lessons would start sooner than he’d leave. I then had a meeting with the guys from Hotel Formula1, who later expressed some interest on following Ruan’s story. Before the week was over we had negotiated sponsorship for free accommodation for 10 days in 7 cities around South Africa.

Some lessons I got during the 5 days:

  • Connect people who want to meet.
  • Follow-through on an opportunity.
  • Help someone without expecting anything in return; it gives you a great feeling.
  • Build your reputation as a person of value.
  • Have genuine interest in other people than you want them to have in you.
  • A connection goes farther than a sale.

On Friday the 13th, without even realizing it was Friday the 13th, we met with the senior management team of Hotel Formula1. They all wanted to participate in the handover and you could see the genuine interest in them as well.

Ummm, what does that have to do with anything?

Under normal circumstances I would have been to a series of meetings offering a product and much later got a moment with the CEO, if ever.

Being a connector and finding opportunities to do it places you in a different position. You are no longer a company that is selling to a possible client, but a friend giving your client an opportunity further themselves.

Ruan will be travelling approximately 8 600 kilometers at 25 kilometers per hour over next 54 days. He’ll meet interesting people and along the way and there’ll surely be some more lessons over the next few days. I will be documenting some of the developments for you in the next few days.

Photo by: Ruan on Picassa

Not tech savvy . . .

So why don’t you attend the BarCamp in Johannesburg tomorrow? The BarCamp is an unconference  where anyone can raise a relevant topic that you think is worth sharing at the session. Besides, geek has been the new cool for a long time long time now.

Some active  and influential online professionals will be attending, sponsoring and presenting over the 2 days of this prestigious gathering. If you want to find out how the movers of social media locally are doing it, this is one of the places to be.

Some of the proposed sessions that will be covered:

  • Add your session here, it can be as short as 5 minutes
  • Build a quick Twitter mashup using Django & Jquery in 30 mins
  • Guitar Hero multi-playa – just to unwind
  • OSSA – FLOSS Lobby Group
  • JavaFX

Go to the page and proposed your own session, if you have anything to offer. They also welcome sponsorships and other contributions.

Signup here to attend and you’ll be boat-loads more tech-savvy by Monday.

Netweb Event this past Wednesday

The Netweb Event in Johannesburg this past Wednesday was very informative and got us talking till long after we had to leave. I’d like to thank everyone who made it exciting and worth the long chat we had afterward.

I would like to especially thank:

  1. Noto Modungwa of NM Consulting – for delivering a current and relevant talk on knowledge management and how small business can improve the circulation of intellectual property in their companies.
  2. Afromedia who sponsored the website we gave away.
  3. The great guys at Cappello in Ghandi Square.

To all the remarkable people who attended and made it one of our most remarkable Netweb Events yet, you are all rockstars.

Congratulations to Infinity Learning who won our website give away, as one of 4 finalists.