19 January 2015

My next adventure: the social impact startup, forgood.

You might have guessed it by now, or seen the sneaky LinkedIN update. Finally ready to announce my next project.

I have to say, it took a bit of getting to. It took about 6 months to get over the closure of Real Time Wine. It took 50+ meetings, lots of wine and PS3 and some fairly interesting alignment of stars for me to finally find something I really wanted to have a crack at. It even took a long overdue realisation that, as exciting as some corporate digital spaces are, corporates keep saying they want rainmakers and yet remain too scared to hire them. I guess that's how life works. The wheel turns and you hop on and hop off when the universe decides the timing is right.

Philosophical rambling over. I am extremely excited to officially announce that I've taken over as CEO of a social impact startup called forgood (as of November 2014, but we've been in "stealth"). Vomit. I said stealth.

I say "taken over" because it's an interesting scenario. The company has been incubated inside another NGO (Heartlines) for a while now, but never really kicked on. They've tried some stuff, learned some stuff, built some stuff... What we're going to be launching next week (and you can have a sneak preview if you're interested) is brand spanking new - so we're calling it a startup. Because it is.

Here's the lowdown. You'll have to wait for the launch next week for even more information. Got to have something for my journalist mates to talk about. If they're gracious enough to give me even half the support I got for Real Time Wine, this should be fun.

forgood is a for profit, but in the social impact space. That means we're trying to change the world (and make it a better place) - and make money at the same time.

High concept pitch: forgood connects people to causes.

Lower concept pitch: forgood connects individuals / groups / staff members who want to make a difference - with the causes that really need their help.

If I've still got you... the bigger vision: we're building out the plumbing (the glue?) of the NGO industry by creating technology and user experiences around volunteering and donation processes. We're taking that plumbing and turning it into a cloud platform for business - to handle their employee engagement and staff volunteering activities. Think of it as sort of software-as-a-service-for-CSI.

The moonshot: well, if you manage to collect and own the data, relationships and activity between people, companies and causes... just imagine what you could do ;)

I've got an awesome team slogging away to get everything ready. There's some incredible executive support (of which you'll learn more later) and we're opening up a funding round shortly. We even have a paying client (a big brave corporate that's pioneering this platform with us) - hopefully they'll let me talk about them soon.

forgood allows you to RESPOND to Needs or Campaigns, create your own personalised OFFERS and REPORT on the impact of these connections. 

So. I'm back in startups (you'd think I would have learned my lesson). And hey, if we're the 1 out of 10 this time (that succeed), not the 9 out of 10 (that fail) - we might just get to change the country and the continent a bit.

I'm going to be counting on y'all to help me get the message out. We're targeting 28 January 2015 as the launch date. Tick tock. Get your Tweets ready for next Wednesday. More news soon.

In the meantime - follow us on Twitter (@forgoodSA) and LIKE us on Facebook (http://facebook.com/forgoodSA). 

Andy out.

13 January 2015

Property 24's #PerfectHome campaign and competition...

Property24 recently asked me what I thought my #PerfectHome would be... They're running a competition, giving away a bunch of homely prizes to people tweeting about their #PerfectHome and linking to cool properties they find on the site.

They thought it was a wine farm. Must have been the Real Time Wine vibe.

Hah! Don't they know that the easiest way to make a small fortune is to start with a large one and invest in wine? It appears this meme carries through to quite a few disciplines...

But it did get me thinking, especially about how your definition of a "perfect home" changes drastically depending on life situation. Take kids. My perfect home has to be kid proof. That's not only kids falling off balconies and into pools - but also kids destroying my priceless collection of X with a long, drawn out Mutant Turtles vs Batman sword battle (with ninja stars as secondary weapons).

Homes are tricky.

So my choice isn't going to be a home home. It's going to be a holiday home. There'll be less chance to break things through sheer restriction of the amount of time you can actually spend there. 

Recently went to Umdloti in Durban. What an awesome seaside town. None of the pretentiousness of Ballito or Umhlanga. Property prices about 50% cheaper. Beaches less crowded. Peaceful. Chilled. Lots of old people. Great bunnies.

If I had to pick - a little beach house there would do me fine. Like this one. I'll start saving. It's a lot more attainable in Umdloti than it is in Cape Town. I'm guessing you still have to be German to get a beach house there.

Don't you love the palette furniture? So chilled. My family has done something similar before, little palette furniture tables and chairs in an outside "breakfast nook".  


Here's the #PerfectHome ad, although it doesn't mention the Twitter based competition. Go have some fun, tweet using the # and dream a little :)

*please note this post was paid for.
**but I got to talk about beach houses - and my kids - so wah!

09 December 2014

A different kind of "giving" - my first experience with ForGood.

It's XMAS season and I've been thinking a bit about the "donation" industry. I suppose off the back of investigating the NGO space.

If you think about the average South African’s “giving” behavior, you’ll probably find it’s very similar. At least that’s my theory.

Take something as simple as a black bag of clothes, something generated out of middle-upper class households every few years as we “refresh” our wardrobes. Typically, I’d guess this black bag would go one of three places.

  • To your domestic helper (if you’re lucky enough to have one).
  • To your church (if you’re religious)
  • To a charity you’ve always supported - some organization with which you have some form of light relationship (and one within a reasonable driving distance). 

In my case, it’s always through my domestic helper to any Cause she deems worthy in her local community. And that’s fine. More than fine in fact - at least these clothes are going somewhere where they’re needed.

But what if you could more? Not give more. But make that act of giving a bit more effective?

This is essentially what ForGood (www.forgood.co.za / @forgoodSA) is trying to do. They’re a tech product in the social impact space that connects people to Causes (charities / NGO's / NPO's). But more importantly, they’re trying to make a more meaningful and impactful connection. Which Cause actually needs that big black bag of clothes RIGHT now? Which Cause could make more use of it? What if the “giver” (not sure I like that word, sounds a bit holier-than-thou) could have some choice over which charitable sector they’d like to help out?

The site does this in one of two ways. Firstly, you can respond to a set of existing needs. Secondly, you can create an “offer” which is then distributed to a set of Causes.

Back to that big black bag of clothes. I had one. So I went the Offer route – and I have to say, it was a pretty magical experience. The hunger that these Causes displayed was insane - the first call I received was literally 5 minutes after clicking submit on the site. The relative impact (in ways I hadn't even thought of) these Causes wanted to create was both humbling and horrifying. After all, it’s just a bag of clothes… To know how much it was needed was something new for me.

If I made any mistake, it was choosing too quickly - but that’s only because it’s so hard to differentiate between who needs something more. The Cause I ended up giving the clothes to was simply the first one who replied. But some of the subsequent replies were so moving that I fear my clothes cupboard is going to get a second working over soon.

In the end, sure, it’s just donating some old clothes. But it felt like more of an experience. And that’s what life is about, isn’t it? As South Africans, I think we’ve become patently aware that this third world country thing is a Team Sport. If we don’t all find a way to chip in, we’re not going to make it. Perhaps here’s an easy entry point.

Check 'em out. Interesting local product.

The grateful recipient of my simple bag of clothes was Amcare Alberton (a bit of a drive for sure).

From their site:

“AMCARE is a multi-purpose health and social development organization servicing poor and vulnerable persons in the Greater Alberton area of Ekurhuleni. We render a variety of services to poor and vulnerable people ranging from sheltering victims of domestic abuse, to caring and support of Orphaned and Vulnerable children to rendering psycho-social support to Elderly residents…”

Visit Amcare on forgood: https://www.forgood.co.za/Cause/Index/Amcare

Visit forgood on Facebook: http://facebook.com/forgoodSA

Visit forgood on Twitter: http://facebook.com/forgoodSA

Or give the product a whirl yourself, go “create an offer” here: https://www.forgood.co.za/Offer/CreateOffer

08 December 2014

Startup. The best podcast a tech entrepreneur will ever listen to.

That sounds melodramatic. But I mean it to be. Startup (http://gimletmedia.com/show/startup/) is probably the best produced, most emotive and most story packed Podcast I've ever listened to.

Billed as the "behind the scenes story you never get to hear, the one often consigned after the fact to a garage success story". It's the story of a guy coming out of NPR (public radio in the US) and doing a startup, while recording it every step of the way.

It's impossible that you won't find something to identify with in this story. The difficulty of naming a company (it's the only horrid result, Gimlet Media, ouch). The emotional drain on your spouse. The brilliant ideas that hit you 3am only to be turfed the next day for being patently ridiculous. The enormous amount of practice it requires to "pitch" (the episode where the protagonist pitches to Chris Sacca is probably one of the most real entrepreneurial moments you'll ever hear recorded). The list goes on.

It's riveting listening. They're 8 episodes in. Each episode is under 30 minutes.

Do yourself a favour and go back and start from the beginning. Thank me later.

17 November 2014

Mapped In CT. Another startup ecosystem initiative...

Another Cape Town startup ecosystem project. Some would argue it's another one that does what Silicon Cape is fairly good at - talking about themselves. But hell. You have to give them credit. They're doing a better job exposing the startup industry and building a vibe around the technology sector than anyone out there.

Remember, this is off the back of the recent FNB funding injection and a steady stream of companies and events. Even the odd success story. It's all good for the startup economy, whatever you may think of the Silicon Cape approach.

Fascinating little effort from 24.com. Their description follows.

Mapped In Cape Town is a visual snapshot of the Cape Town startup ecosystem. It follows the law of density: the denser the map, the better the ecosystem. Mappedinct.com is an innovative and interactive digital map that allows tech start-ups based in Cape Town to list their businesses free-of-charge.

So let's take a look. As of 17 November 2014.

158 Companies. Impressive. And only 20-30 of them are agencies. I bet you they've only got half the list, both of agencies and of actual startups. Maybe even a third of the list. That means we're starting to get to "1000s" of people involved in the startup sector, in just one city. Very cool to see it all in one place.

Services. Oh please, Product people at 24.com, won't you put a rating and commenting (ala App Reviews) system in place? Differentiate yourself from a directory service - that would be both brave and cool.

Co-working spaces. Cool, necessary. Freelance City. Home to much coffee, networking, slightly lower than average production outputs (at least I've found - too many people distractions).

Investors. Haha! The old faithful. There are plenty more where these guys are, most just probably don't want to be pinned on a map. Again, you have to give these guys credit. Investing at this early stage in an ecosystem is hella brave. Glad to see they keep putting their hands up and keep helping out. If they had a dollar for every bad pitch they heard...

Mapped In Cape Town. It's a MVP, for sure. But anything that gives people the confidence to go out and start something (simply because they can see others are too) is good in my books. I hope they don't go down the directory route and find a way to make the data a bit more meta, a bit more useful - so this becomes a destination site, not a once off.

Well done lads and lasses. Good version 1.

Disclaimer 1: I'm ex Cape Town. I'll go back one day. Any mild bitchiness is because I'm mildly jealous. And I wish Joburg would pull up their socks and do stuff like this. But I guess we're too busy making money. Ha! Boom. Joking. Really.

Disclaimer 2: This is a paid for post. Views are my own though.