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. 

06 November 2014

MindBullets: Open Data Brings Freedom But Transparency Breeds Fear (1 November 2020)

I haven't published one of FutureWorld's great MindBullets in a while. I tend to only publish the ones where I'm thinking about the trends they're talking about - or they're just too good not to share. Here's a doozy.

We live in amazing times, times where technology is often changing quicker than we are - which means that as we mature alongside a platform or trend, the way we use it tends to change, the way we interpret it tends to change and our long term issues sometimes arise many years after we've become accustomed to the efficiency that technology brings.

I'll never forget a line from a Corey Doctorow talk which speaks about privacy and data. He (paraphrasing) says that the problem with the privacy actions or non-actions we're taking today, is that the consequences of such actions are so far removed from the action itself, that it becomes really hard for us to identify where we're creating future problems. You share all your drunken photos with Facebook as a kid. That only (might) hurt you 10 years later when you're on a job hunt.

There's this tussle between open data on one end and personal data privacy on the other. Who's drawing the line? Can we have both at the same time or are we doomed to swing to one end of the spectrum and just accept the consequences?



Privacy out the window as Big Data goes naked

Dateline: 1 November 2020

There has been a big push from private enterprise as well as government in the last decade to unshackle data in all its forms and make it easily accessible. Society has been persuaded that it's in our best interests if open data is the norm rather than the exception, because it's good for growth, oversight and preventing corruption and exploitation.

But there's a dark side to naked data. Some things just need privacy to develop and grow. Investors have always felt it necessary to keep things confidential when projects are at an early stage. People want to have secrets. It's just human nature.

When the printing press was invented, the aristocracy and intelligentsia of the time opposed mass publication, fearing it would erode their power. But innovation has been driven for hundreds of years by the sharing of ideas and the publishing of discoveries.

Open data evangelists are promising freedom. Freedom from elitists, freedom from domination and discrimination, freedom of choice. Transparency rules, they say. Transparency leads to the democratization of information, and puts power into the hands of ordinary individuals.

What's needed for naked data to succeed is privacy of personal data, and trusted verification of social and market data; a double-whammy that prevents fraud and identity theft and also creates granular data for market efficiencies. Can our Big Data custodians provide it?

Fear lurks in the back of everyone's mind. What if the data exposes me? I might lose the leverage I've worked so hard to acquire. Can I be protected, as well as being free?

(for the original story, links and supporting documentation, visit FutureWorld MindBullets)

04 November 2014

ZA Tech Show Episode 317 - Shopzilla Attacks!

Brett Haggard and Andy Hadfield get together (just the two of them) to talk about some big e-commerce deals, some startup investment, some new gadgets and some leaky cloud services. Topics under discussion (more specifically) comprise:

  • The Kalahari Takealot merger;
  • The Silicon Cape R3m funding from FNB;
  • Vodacom’s Smart Tab 3G;
  • iPhone 6/6 Plus coming on the 24th October;
  • The Plex app for Xbox One; and
  • Leaked Dropbox Passwords and Snowden’s take on not using the service.

Our technology picks of week are:
  • Andy picks Dan Brown’s Inferno; Momentum for Chrome; and
  • Brett picks knowroaming.com

Available on iTunes or listen on Seed.TV