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  • Could Chinese venture capital back African innovation?

    Chinese venture capitalists have clearly stated their desire to see the success of the western venture capital process replicated in their country. State and private firms have begun to take initiatives and institute policy reforms in recent years in order to meet that target. The Hualu Group, one of the biggest Chinese state-owned enterprises which focuses on the audio and video industry, has been quietly forging ahead in the tech sector. In 2010 Hualu Group's new video website adopted a business model which combines videos with e-commerce, including the broadcasting of popular TV series, interactive advertising, and sales of Blu-Ray...

  • Company Office

    Designing for emerging markets, the challenges businesses face in Africa

    Emerging markets are full of opportunity for the clever entrepreneur. Across Africa, Asia and South America are countries with millions of underserved consumers. These people may be living on very little, but their basic needs are similar to those of wealthier people in more developed countries. In their paper, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, C.K Prahalad and Stuart L. Hart explain that “low-income markets present a prodigious opportunity for the world’s wealthiest companies to seek their fortunes and bring prosperity to the poor.” This opportunity exists for any company, whether it’s wealthy or not. Designing for emerging markets,...

  • Will computer-generated narratives make journalists redundant?

    There’s been an undercurrent of paradox kicking up dust in my otherwise clinical views on technology. I've tried to suppress it, but it keeps bubbling to the surface. I consider myself not only pro-technology, but obsessed with it, and someone who is neither afraid of the future nor the technology that it will bring. When I first read about Stats Monkey a software project lead by Stuart Frankel - a former DoubleClick executive - and Kris Hammond - a Northwestern University computer science professor - that could automatically create sports stories based solely on raw game data, I had a...

  • Cognician: A thought is a terrible thing to waste

    The mind is the greatest tool available to man and thoughts and ideas are its most profound expression. One idea could change the entire human race if managed properly. However, a great idea is useless unless you do something with it, and modern society can make it very hard for us to map out our ideas. Enter Cognician, a software platform and an Adobe Air application designed to organise your thoughts and ideas and create a "user-friendly" guide for your thinking. On Wednesday the site launches a new tool called "The Decision Book", which aims to assist customers with...

  • Hipster: ‘Something cool is coming soon’ to a city near you

    People all around the "twitterverse" have been bragging about signing up for an exclusive invite to a site that does... well, hmn.... what it does is still unknown. But the site in question, Hipster, is a placeholder that has been generating some serious online buzz. Click onto the site and all you get is a beautiful picture of a city (if you are in the United States, your city specifically). You are welcomed by the rather cryptic message "Something cool is coming", then you are required to enter your email address to get the exclusive invite to this alleged...

  • Corporates embracing social media for information workers

    When musician Dave Carroll flew on United Airlines, his guitar was broken by careless baggage handlers. Employees and customer care were indifferent and the airline offered no compensation. So Dave responded by creating a music video called “United breaks guitars” and United felt the wrath of citizen journalism, the social web, and millions of airline travellers. In just 10 days the video received nearly four million views and over fifteen thousand comments on YouTube, and to date the video has been watched over nine million times. It’s an example of how well technology works for the consumers dealing with...

  • eCommerce startup SnapBill launches to a global audience

    SnapBill, a South African startup specialising in online invoicing and billing systems, launched out of beta on Tuesday to a global audience. The company facilitates online billing systems for businesses requiring automated recurring or subscription billing and payment collection. Its international competitors include the well-known Freshbooks, Invoicera, BlinkSale, BallPark, Invoice Machine -- and to some extent services like Chargify, Recurly, Spreedly and CheddarGetter. The self-funded venture, developed by entrepreneurs Josh Yudaken and Jaco van Wyk using the profits from their web hosting company Lusion Technologies, claims to have acquired "over 1 000 active South African SME and enterprise users, some...

  • How to lose a VC funder in one sentence

    Raising funding for a new venture is always difficult. Entrepreneurs going down this road will have to shrug off many pessimists and naysayers along the way.... but sometimes they are their own worst enemies. As a venture capitalist you need to have a great sense of humour as you wade through your dealflow. We receive written requests for backing all the time, and we've kept some of the gems and put together a list of actual funding requests received by PoweredbyVC, a leading South African Venture Capital company, between July and December 2010. Because of confidentiality, some info is...

  • Collective buying: Great for consumers, but what about providers?

    Social media is slowly being adopted amongst the hospitality industry, and the phenomenon of collective buying as developed by Groupon is serving to reinforce the fact that the times they are a-changing. But how much value will this new business model add to an industry already battling to remain profitable? Social media, at this time in it's evolution, is beginning to leverage the awesome potential it has for crowdsourcing and collective action. It's a critical juncture, particularly for the hospitality industry, as these two worlds converge and begin to find some common ground. But first, a little insight into the...

  • Ad network startup secures R15m VC funding for int’l expansion

    Cape Town-based online and mobile advertising network Ad Dynamo has announced a second round of funding via venture capital firm Invenfin, the Remgro Group's investment arm. Its CEO, Sean Riley, says the capital will be used to fund Ad Dynamo’s "international expansion programme into key foreign territories". Riley refused to discuss the funding amount but an insider close to the deal told Memeburn that the investment is in "the R15-million region". The source claimed the new VC tranche would value the company at between US$8-10-million. Riley famously took Google South Africa to the Competition Commission in 2008 in a...

  • Why startups move to Silicon Valley

    I'm constantly meeting companies that have moved part of their operations to San Francisco/Silicon Valley. Usually it is the CEO and/or the marketing and sales group that moves. Loic Le Meur, a serial entrepreneur, founder of Seesmic, did the same several years ago, moving to San Francisco from Paris. In a guest column in the UK Daily Telegraph newspaper, Le Meur explains why he moved: "In the Valley, the best companies, entrepreneurs and investors are all in one place. It feels like a campus. Everything you do, from the morning run to the coffee run, is a networking opportunity." Compare this to...