You don’t need to be a programmer to start a start-up

coachingTechnical Skill vs. Managerial Skills

We’re living in the age where ICT technology is becoming a dominant theme. Almost everything and anything contains technology. ICT (Information and Communications Technology – or Technologies) is an umbrella term that includes any communication device or application, encompassing: the internet, cellular phones, computer and network hardware and software, satellite systems and so on, as well as the various services and applications. Many individuals have created their fortune by using all the benefits that ICT has to offer, examples of these people are Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page and Steve Job.

Lately there’s been a natural gravitation toward the Internet of Everything (IoE), and the majority of new innovative ideas are software base. Where does that leave common entrepreneurs who have nothing more than a brilliant idea but a complete lack of technical skills? Does that mean that if you do not have any technical background, software skills, you will not make it into this new world of technology? It’s debatable whether technical skills are fundamental for the tech industry.

As a founder of brilliant ideas, you are in-essence the project manager. So what skill do you need to successfully manage your ICT project, definitely not technical skills? Being a project manager of an IT project does not necessarily mean that you need to possess IT qualifications/skills and experience among other things to successfully manage the project. The power of successful project lies in the hand of a good project manager who possesses additional essential skills such as people skills, leadership skills, risk management, scheduling, budgeting, planning and resource management.

“Whether a founder has a technical background or not, the opportunity to turn a great idea into a business is becoming a global phenomenon. There are a ton of resources and services out there for young companies to help you get off the ground—from legal advice and access to free technology services, to incubators and accelerators that take a hands-on approach to mentoring young companies.”  – Steve Guggenheimer, chief evangelist for Microsoft.

But having said that, being a project manager of technical venture does not imply to be completely oblivion to technologies. In my opinion, it helps if the project manager is technically aware. It doesn’t mean he/she needs to be able to do the job themselves, but they should have an appreciation of what it takes. As a project leader, there is a need to be able to estimate how much effort is required to complete all of the required tasks; therefore a little bit of technical background knowledge on the specific project goes a long way.

As Steve Guggenheimer said: “incubators and accelerators that take a hands-on approach to mentoring young companies.”. We, at the Cortex Hub, believe to provide guiding platforms for entrepreneurs who feel overwhelmed by their lack of technical skills.

Thank you; hope to hear from you soon. Join us at the cortex hub and you will not regret it.

HOW TO MARKET A SMALL BUSINESS

The first step to marketing a small business would be to create a Corporate Identity (CI) for the business. This step has a cost implication but like most things in businesses it will pay off at the end of the day. My advice, don’t go too big. This step should come immediately after the registration […]

Original Thought

start-up idea“It’s hard to identify what to work on because original thought is hard.”

– Sam Altman. The Days Are Long But The Decades Are Short

***

Part of the hardest work of innovation, in any sphere, is original thought.

It isn’t building the product. (Which is pretty hard).

It isn’t the spending time with clients to understand, intimately, why they use your product like they do and what you need to do to make that product better. (Which is even harder).

It’s not even building the team or building the business. (Which is itself, really hard).

It’s coming to the first great idea that allows you to do all of those things.

Part of the reason that original thought is hard is because of the fact that – as people, we’re raised to find comfort in groups that are, in most ways, like ourselves. Doing something that may alienate us from that group is, understandably, a scary thing.  Another reason, however, is due to the deeply ingrained mysticism around great ideas.

Starting from the time we’re young, most of us are silently conditioned to believe that truly brilliant ideas belong to a lucky few who are gifted with a rare breed of genius, and an insight that normal people just don’t have. Its easy to believe that Einstein or Zuckerberg could have a world shifting idea. But is it just as easy to believe that, that one guy who dropped out of school, wandered bare foot around India for a while and took a lot of psychedelic drugs could come up with an idea that’s going to shape the way people communicate for the next ten years or more?

Our inherent beliefs about this are normally based more on anecdotal evidence rather than hard fact. There are exceptions to this rule of course. As an example: Joel Spoksly, co-founder of Stack Overflow started his famous blog on the admittedly shaky claim that you don’t need a good idea to start a company. What you do need is good people who could make a difference.

***

ed-edd-n-eddy-hd-wallpaperOne of the most nefarious things about learning that people can’t do this is how its done. It’s so subtle, and starts so early that most of us never even realise its happening. For example:

Enter: Ed, Edd and Eddy, hatching yet another scheme to fund their ever expensive Jawbreakers habit (a quarter was a lot of money in those days). Ed is the brawn of the group. Edd (“Double D”) the brains. Eddy though? he ties it all together – he’s the leader. The original capitalist. The salesman. The deal maker. While Double D can put the specifics together, and Ed can handle all the heavy lifting, Eddy is the real brains behind the outfit. Eddy is the one who hatches the schemes. Eddy is the one who has the great ideas.

And where do Eddy’s great ideas come from? Who knows. They’re either already in motion before we arrive or, on those occasions where we do see their formative moments, they come as a flash of brilliance brought on by some seemingly inane or incomprehensible thing said by Ed or Double D. Eddy’s great ideas just seem to come to him.

Enter: Wile E. Coyote. A planner. A trapper. A predator looking for his next meal. Day after day, Coyote hatches yet another ill fated plan to catch the Roadrunner. A bird who’s abilities seem to include running through painted walls and generally defying the laws of physics. But where do Coyote’s ideas come from? Nowhere. They just seem to appear as a light bulb above his head.

The flashes of brilliance and the “light bulb moments” are easy for most of us to recognise. We’ve seen them, over and over, from the time we were old enough to watch cartoons. Though we’ve been learning, almost from birth, to recognise the markers of an idea, the tools required to form and validate those ideas haven’t been as well formed.

***

William GatesEnter: William Gates. Building a BASIC interpreter for the Altair 8800. Bill and his partners have seen something that other people don’t. Computer prices are falling. And they’re falling at such a rate that in the future, selling software on them is going to be a viable business. And that if they provide a BASIC interpreter, more people will be able to make software, meaning more people want to buy computers to make and use the software. Bill and his partners have the chance to create a market.

But where did this idea come from? It’s been a build up. Bill and his partner, Paul, have been working on computers for years. And by the time this opportunity came up, it wasn’t just a basic idea – they’d been in the industry for so long that they knew what was happening inside it.

Gates’ and Allen’s story is by now, a famous example of a tech company that went big. But you’ll note that I haven’t used the idea that they’re famous for, but rather the one that got them started. Which led to the one for which they’re famous (the Operating System deal that made Microsoft what it is today). The reason I’ve done this is to illustrate something – that ideas in the real world don’t flow the same way they do in the stories.

Tom and Jerry. Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Bugs Bunny. Mark Zuckerberg. The overwhelming tendency is not to talk about BackRub, but to jump straight to Google. To skip the part about the cat gaining advanced cognitive abilities – and skip to the great mouse trap.

I’m being a bit facetious of course, but the models we grow up with do not lend themselves to showing something fundamental about original thought: That original thought is not a quick conclusion, but rather a journey through sometimes distantly linked ideas that is sometimes slow and painful and on rare occasions quick and easy.

Part of a founders gift is to understand this journey and build a product, a team and a business that is able to take the lessons learned from this journey and turn them into something tangible and lasting.

***

Beginning the Journey

Like Rome and good ideas, great founders aren’t built in a day. Part of the difficulty to finding a quick path to becoming a great founder is that there simply isn’t one. Though great founders (specifically of technical companies) tend to have a few things in common, the evidence suggests that they can be vastly different. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are remembered as founders of two of the greatest technology companies of our time. But the two couldn’t be more different.

While one of Bill’s greatest strengths was his understanding of the ebbs and flows of the Personal Computer industry, Steve made his mark by focusing, almost singularly, on the design of his products. While Mark Zuckerberg was a coding guru at 14, Brian Chesky, co-founder of AirBnB, still isn’t a techno-wizard at 34. Unlike professions like Medicine or even Teaching, where the barometer for what a good Doctor or Teacher may look like, has already been set and is, within certain limits, easier to emulate – there is no clear cut definitions for what a good founder looks like. The dual roles of luck and timing further exacerbate this in a startup. A great startup founder, may have a great idea a great team and even a great business. But, by some stroke of nature, the will of the market may simply not take it up. And that’s it, even great founders can go out of business without the market supporting them.

Enter: the Message Pad, Apple’s little known first attempt at creating the – then non-existent – tablet computing market. Built in 1993, the Message Pad had a 6 inch screen and weighed 800g (the iPad Air has a 9.7 inch screen and weighs 469g). The Message Pad ran the Newton OS and an innovative text recognition system. Complete with a calculator, scheduling and notes, the Message Pad was slated to be the next big thing in tablet computing. Unfortunately, it never lived up to that grand expectation. Technical difficulties associated with the Message Pad made it the butt of market jokes – it even got a spot on The Simpsons. It would be 17 years until Apple cracked the Table code and released the iPad.

We know from history that Steve Jobs was not a bad founder. And we also know that the tablet market would eventually be a great one. But even good founders, and good ideas, are subject to market forces.

To Apple’s credit, they didn’t quit on what they felt was essentially a great idea, even if they didn’t get it right the first time. Great founders learn with experience, just like great ideas grow a little clearer with time spent in front of  customers. The  “in front of customers” part of that is especially important. There’s just no overstating how important it is to get customer feedback while the product is still evolving. Good ideas can get lost down their own paths when founders are left to their own devices. Ideas that are critiqued in the harsh light of customer feedback tend to become better products much quicker, and far more often than those that don’t.

***

Growing a Good Idea

When I was younger and the world was slightly more simple than it is now, one of my favourite shows was a cartoon named Animaniacs. From time to time, the show covered the antics of three old cartoon stars named Yakko, Wakko and Dot while they ran around the Warner movie lot. The rest of the time the show was a variety of skits and bridging segments about things I didn’t really understand, but were funny all the same. One of the skits in the show was a segment called “Good Idea, Bad Idea”. The skit basically went through a number of ideas that may be good things to do and others that just weren’t. For example:

“Good Idea: Tossing a penny into a fountain to make a wish.

Bad Idea: Tossing your cousin Penny into a fountain to make a wish.”

– Animaniacs, Good Idea, Bad Idea Skit

The goal of the show was to be funny instead of to provide founders with good ideas to implement, so they were, more often than not, simply there for a laugh. The nature of the skit highlights something in real life, though: Good ideas and bad ideas can, sometimes, be really difficult to tell apart.

For clarity, I think it’s important to mention that what matters when implementing any idea is the execution rather than the idea itself. Good ideas, done badly, are often indistinguishable in their result from bad ideas done well. Both are very likely to fail.

Considering this, the question then becomes: How does a founder differentiate a good idea from a bad one?

***

Part of what follows from believing that good ideas come out of nowhere is a misunderstanding about how most of them grow.

Most people will agree that a great core idea is critical to making a great business:

Of course people are looking for new ways to search the Internet based on what everyone else is looking at. Of course people want to be able to stay in other peoples when they travel instead of a hotel. It all just makes sense now. But did it all make sense when Google and AirBnB started?

The short answer is no.

When Larry and Sergey started BackRub (what Google was called before Google), they were actually late to the game. Instead of having a first mover advantage, BackRub was coming into a market that was already dominated by search giants like AOL, Yahoo! and MSN.com. What’s more, the industry has already agreed that search portals are bum game in and of themselves, and the real value is to get advertising revenue out of them since so many people need to use them. This was the established business model for search engines at the time that BackRub started.

But Larry and Sergey realised something. Something that all of us who’ve grown up on the internet recognise. Ads are annoying. No one wants to see a pop up offering them the next big thing in burning fat all they really want at that time is to find out where the nearest (and greasiest) pizza joint is. Larry and Sergey were originally against this. And they started a search engine that not only didn’t bombard people with Ads, but showed people which greasy pizza joints other people were looking.

When Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk started AirBnb, their idea was equally tenuous. The hotel industry had been standing for ages and for all intents and purposes, was (and still is) pretty entrenched as the defacto choice of home away from home. But Brian and Joe had a problem: They needed to make rent and they were broke. Luckily, there was a convention in town soon and hotels were packed – people had nowhere to stay. They realised they could make up their shortfall by just renting out their own home for the exact amount that the people needed at a radically reduced rate compared to their hotel counterparts.

They put up the ad, and as can be expected, people came to live with them for the conference. And what’s more, they had a great time. Brian and Joe were great hosts. They did the conference, they got to know each other, they took pictures. They did all the human stuff that one generally doesn’t get to do when living in a hotel in a strange town where they don’t know any of the people. Brian and Joe provided a living space, but they also provided something much more important: a community.

The two companies have very different origin stories, but both of them share one thing in common. Both of the companies saw a problem that people with the solutions that currently existed (there were already search engines and hotels when Google and AirBnB came into existence) and they went out solving it. One, by solving a problem its own founders were having (making rent), and the other by solving a problem that a lot of people were having (having a good search experience).

The common factor in Google and AirBnB’s story is the crux of what differentiates a good idea and a bad idea. A good idea is one that has market applicability. A bad idea is one that doesn’t – just that simple. A good idea solves a problem that enough people want to solve. Implementing a good idea is all about finding a way to reach those people with your solution. Said another way, a good startup idea is one that focuses on making something that people want. A bad startup idea is one that focuses on making something people don’t want.

The Value of Women’s Organisations in Young Women Empowerment

Professional-womenIt’s a well-known fact that the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), are currently dominated by men. According to South African Women in Science and Engineering, only 40% of South Africa’s scientists, engineers and technologists are women.

More and more programmes today are being created to ensure that women are being more involved in the industry. Among these are organisations that support the achievements of women in the STEM fields. With the lack of women in these fields around the world, organisations where one can meet like-minded people are extremely important. Young women in particular who have an interest in technology but do not have an idea of how to be involved and bring value to the industry are able to use these as a learning ground for their own careers.

An observation I made, however, was that most of these organisations were for already “seasoned” entrepreneurs who have owned multiple businesses over the years. What I’ve found to be lacking, are organisations focused on empowering young women, especially in the STEM fields.

As part of the biggest women’s organisation in South Africa, namely: the Business Women’s Association of South Africa (BWASA), I’ve come to the conclusion that many 25 year olds like myself trying to make names for themselves in the STEM fields yearn to be exposed to women who run multi-million dollar and multi-national companies, but are not aware that these organisations exist. In most engagements I’ve made over the past few months, I am usually the youngest person to attend, and it got me thinking:  One has to search rigorously online to find these organisations, and only once you’ve found a contact from within the organisation, do you then realise that there is a host of other women’s organisations available in the country. But why are they not readily available to young women, especially from high school, university and entry-level professionals?

With the changing times and young people being more than willing to start their own organisations, there are young women organisations that have been created for the purpose of upskilling young women in tech. The support from organisations such as BWASA and We Lead, and also Everywoman which is a UK organisation which runs similarly to BWASA, would help in the growth of Leadership or Entrepreneurship programmes, as the network of women in these fields may help young women grow at a faster rate. Exposure to professionals and entrepreneurs that have become a success in the industry is important, as young women need to know that it’s possible. In order for more young women to be involved, support structures from well-known women’s organisations needs to be established.

In keeping with the spirit of Women Empowerment at the Cortex Hub, a great initiative began last year for Women’s Month. Our flagship event, Women Hacker’s Unite, was created to help in addressing the lack of women in technology. In our engagements with various women in the tech industry, we established how important and how valued Women Empowerment is and how important it is to be addressing this issue.

Defining A Start-up (Why we don’t call it small business)

From-Startup-tp-Grown-up“One thing we can agree on:  The key attribute is its ability to grow. A start-up is a company designed to scale very quickly. It is this focus on growth unconstrained by geography which differentiates start-ups from small businesses.” – Paul Graham, Y Combinator Accelerator Head.

The term start-up refers to companies that have been recently launched, generally in their first 3 to 5 years of operation. However this is not a hard set rule, companies could take longer or exit the start-up phase faster. It also seems there is consensus amongst thought leaders that explosive growth is paramount to meeting this definition.

It became a popular term during the dot-com bubble of the late 90’s, when technology companies were under high demand from investors. This misleads many people into believing that start-ups can only be information technology companies. The reality is that a company from any industry vertical can be a start-up, as long as it’s a new business that uses innovative methods to grow really fast and is not limited by geography.

Scalability is to a start-up, what a racket is to tennis. You’re simply not in the game if you don’t have it. So no, your uncles’ coffee shop on 5th avenue is not a start-up, unless it’s scaling like Starbucks. You want to build a company that fulfils the specific needs of your immediate community? That’s great! but it’s no start-up.

Start-ups; we don’t call these types of businesses “small business” because they never small for very long. There is strategic intent to pursue growth. The iterative process of going back to customers and finding out what’s needed to improve, then improving and get more customers, is core to what this type of business is. The entire business model is specifically designed to maximise growth. The initial size allows for flexibility with much less bureaucracy, this enables start-ups to take advantage of opportunities much faster than established corporations. The growth attracts funding and funding can buy more growth which attracts more funding until the beast has matured.

Some successful founders have stated that they would define a start-up by the culture a business has developed. Namely having a dynamic culture in which most if not all the employees, feel like they have a big impact and work collaboratively to deliver that impact. I disagree with this view; I agree that there is a start-up culture. However a company may or may not be a start-up even if it has a start-up culture. Put differently, all start-ups have a start-up culture because it is core to their strategic intent but non-start-ups can adapt this culture as well. Achieving such a culture is fast becoming the holy grail for large corporations that want to rejuvenate and keep up.

In summary, start-ups are defined by scalability, the tool used to achieve it is innovation, and the inherent advantage is flexibility.

The stance communicated here is my own; however as a member of a team currently running an Incubator Accelerator, my colleagues and I thought it important for ourselves to discuss this definition. As it speaks to the type of businesses we wanted to create at the Cortex Hub. In our discussions we had very similar views and have used this definition as the core of our business take on acceptance criteria. I think this highlights the importance of the definition and the impact of its interpretation.

The Regulation of the OTT-Service Providers in South Africa

Written by: Sivu Ngcaba

On Tuesday January 26th 2015, the South African Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications & Postal Services, sat in a debate listening to South Africa’s network operators requesting the regulation and implementation of policies to govern Over-The-Top (OTT) Service Providers, who constitute a part of the Internet; a small part but a crucial one none-the-less.

The request emerged from the realisation that the network providers, claim to be losing a substantial portion of their revenues. This claimed loss is partially due to many South Africans using OTT Services, to communicate, as opposed to the conventional methods of making phone calls and sending messages, which have been substantially much more costly to do for many consumers.

In this article, I shall examine why we as consumers, champions of innovation, and South Africans in general, should be fighting this regulation proposal.

Why We Should Be Fighting It As South Africans:

We live in a country characterised by extremely high levels of inequality. The rate of inequality in South Africa has left many economists facing the challenge of what measures to take in eradicating inequality within the capitalist world that we live in even after 22 years of being a democracy.

Within the Information and Communication Technology space, the problem of OTT shows its face in the form of the digital divide.  Now, there are a lot of factors that play a role in the existence of digital divide within our society.

One factor leading to digital divide is the Lack of access to the infrastructure that households and communities can use to connect to the Internet. Digital Literacy also presents a constraint in ensuring all South Africans get the opportunity to fully utilise the benefits that come with the existence of the Internet.  A third constraint and perhaps more characteristic of South Africa, is our income inequality problem.

With these considerations in mind the popularity of OTT-services amongst consumers is self explanatory.  In a society where being able to communicate the old way would cost one 80c an SMS, OTT services provide a platform that is much cheaper and are more affordable.  These old prices automatically exclude a great portion of South Africa’s society from the right to communicate.

Why We Should Fight It As The Champions of Innovation:

The Cortex Hub is an incubator/accelerator where we breed the next unicorns and game-changers within the startup ecosystem.  Startups are the answer to the development of the emerging economies,  and a characteristic of the most revolutionary startups to have come out during the last few years has been their utilisation of the Internet in delivering necessary services to a bigger portion of society.

WhatsApp, Facebook and many other applications, which have been developed, are examples of these startups that we now call OTT service providers.  To implement regulation on them will be detrimental to the economy, as we would now be deterring young people, our entrepreneurs at the Cortex Hub, from wanting to create the next social media applications that could change how we communicate and interact with one another in the near future.

As a country if we do not encourage the continuous use of OTT, we would then fail in encouraging innovation and creativity, but instead, implement a regulatory framework that protects industries that do not want to innovate!  We would in essence, be breeding a spirit of complacency in them.

Why We Should Be Fighting It as the Consumers:

As consumers we should be fighting the regulation proposal because we want markets with low barriers to entry, and a number of product options so we can be able to change options when unsatisfied.

This encourages producers to constantly seek to improve their services, and it creates an environment of opportunities for the consumers who may decide to venture into entrepreneurship, should the products available in the market be unsatisfactory.

To implement regulations to protect our network operators from fair competition would not be fair to consumers or the South African economy as a whole! It would be as absurd as implementing regulations to protect the telegraph industry in a time where communication technology has advanced so much, in order to ensure they maintain a market share.

In analysing this debate, we should go back to the reasons for the innovations that have occurred within the Information and Communication Technology sphere.  We innovate to make life easier for everyone, and as an emerging economy, one of our aims is to include all members of society in the acquisition of communication and information knowledge.  The world is a very unpredictable place, and we just never know where, and from whom the next big break through in the advancement of humanity will come from.

Bearing the above said in mind, to exclude a portion of society from being able to interact with the rest of the country and the world in order to protect our network operators who have become complacent seems too high a price to pay!

Open Letter to Stakeholders

Dear Stakeholders

Firstly, a big thank you to everyone who has helped The Cortex Hub this year. This includes, but not exclusive to, our board team, entrepreneurs, partners, sponsors and everyone who played a vital role in making this year a success.

We would like to take this opportunity to give you an update on what has been happening within the Cortex Hub this year and what we would like to achieve in coming year.

The Cortex Hub

Established in January 2015, The Cortex Hub is an ICT business incubator which aims to produce global ICT players through leading research and development, business incubation and business acceleration platforms that will activate, nurture and support technology innovation. Since its inception, the goal of The Cortex Hub has been to create an innovative society that is able to sustainably leverage current technologies towards solving societal problems.

The vehicle for achieving this goal has always been through the establishment of sustainable technology start-ups, strong partnerships with universities, ICT providers, entrepreneurs and other business incubators to create a robust entrepreneurship ecosystem within and beyond the Eastern Cape region. Though the task is itself quite large, we believe that the right mix of committed people, enthusiasm and hard work will help in building the bridge between the dream we have proposed, and the gains of making it a reality.

Oracle Certification

Our timeline consists of a number of explicit subdivisions designed to guide our entrepreneurs in the journey of starting and developing their own businesses. The training portion of the timeline, which fulfilled its objective of equipping them with the skills and knowledge required to create the products they will bring to market at the conclusion of 2016, was critical during this period.

Through the training provided we saw our entrepreneurs learning various skills from expert teachers provided by the Oracle University, which set them up with the knowledge required not only to build their own products and services, but also prepared them for later certification from the Oracle University.

One of the highlights of this period occurred on 20 July 2015 when The Cortex Hub had the pleasure of hosting some of the Oracle University’s highly esteemed Directors for the graduation ceremony. The visitors consisted of Wendy Beetge, Oracle’s Transformation Director; Pragasen Moodley, Oracle University Director; delegates from MICT SETA and the founder of The Cortex Hub and Chairman of Dimension Data MEA, Dr. Andile Ngcaba.

The Cortex Hub is proud to announce that each of its entrepreneurs underwent and successfully completed Oracle University’s Java Fundamental (SE7) Training. Widely known as a staple in the software industry, this training enables our entrepreneurs to develop enterprise grade software using the Java programming language. Pursuant to this, our entrepreneurs now have the opportunity to further pursue four levels of certification, namely: associate, professional, master and expert, in areas such as database, Linux and various other business applications.

We are extremely proud of our entrepreneurs and grateful to the Oracle University and mostly, extremely excited to see how the skills acquired during this training will contribute towards the game-changing companies that will soon emerge from The Cortex Hub.

Click here to read our Oracle University blog post.

Women Hackers Unite

In celebration of women’s month, August 2015, the Cortex Hub hosted its inaugural Women Hackers Unite Hackathon and Conference. About 100 women from across the continent gathered at the Cortex Hub in East London. The women came ready to work for 72 hours to come up with a creative and business savvy software solution to a problem currently facing women.

Women Hackers Unites’ main focus is to empower and encourage women to showcase their talent while solving problems relating to the theme presented in that year. Preparation for Women Hackers Unite 2016 has already started and the theme will focus on developing solutions that affect the youth of today – #YouthEmpowerment.

Click here to read more about Women Hackers Unite.

What The Entrepreneurs Have Achieved This Year

The Cortex Hub time line emphasises learning in its first year. Our belief being that a successful entrepreneur is bolstered not only business smarts and boardroom savvy, but by an understanding of the industry that they function within.

Our entrepreneurs started this year by building this foundation, gaining an understanding of the national and international bodies which regulate the tech industry. These included internet bodies such as ICANN, academic bodies such as IEEE and bodies in emerging industries such as the Connected Car Consortium.

Following this brief introduction to the industry, our entrepreneurs have completed training in a number of fields including alternative energies, the Internet of Things, Big Data, Machine Learning and Cyber Security and Warfare. This theoretical knowledge has been further bolstered by practice, with our entrepreneurs founding internal Research and Development focus groups in each of these fields. The mandate of these focus groups has been to take this knowledge from theory and make it real by finding applicable business cases and creating products that can be sold to real customers.

We are proud to say that to date our entrepreneurs have built product environments that have facilitated the building of prototypes based on customer demand and will be able to ship products by February next year.

San Francisco Trip

During the week of 23 October to 1 November, The Cortex Hub sent delegates consisting of board members and entrepreneurs to San Francisco, USA. The objective of the trip was to familiarise the representatives of The Cortex Hub with the entrepreneurial culture and eco-system of Silicon Valley while giving the team an opportunity to assess incubators/accelerators which in turn will help them construct an informative decision on which incubator/accelerator to partner with from that region.

The partnership will enable us to relocate our best performing business or the entrepreneurs that shows the most potential and development at the Cortex Hub to the chosen partner incubator/accelerator in order for them to learn Silicon Valley techniques used to scale businesses, whilst also receiving exposure to some of the world’s most powerful venture capital firms and investors.

Click here to read more about the trip and the findings from the team about the accelerators and incubators in Silicon Valley.

Future Highlights of What We Want To Achieve Next Year with The Cortex Hub

Achieving the goal of creating global ICT players will require The Cortex Hub to provide business creation platforms that allow for its entrepreneurs to both think at scale, and effectively create businesses that will have a meaningful impact on global markets.

The Cortex Hub aims to achieve this goal through three vehicles, namely:

  • An incubation platform, which will behave as a learning and development platform that will give entrepreneurs both theoretical and practical experience in key business fields such as assessing markets, pitching ideas, creating products and using the lean approach to develop platforms;
  • An acceleration platform, which will provide entrepreneurs with focused mentoring if for their specific start-ups as well as giving them greater exposure to further funding opportunities and the global Venture Capital community; and
  • A global connection platform, which will give our entrepreneurs access to a global community of entrepreneurs, experts, academics and stakeholders that will allow them to challenge their thinking with industry while building their reputation outside the Hub.

While The Cortex Hub is certainly no stranger to business incubation, our recent visit to Silicon Valley, coupled with guidance gained from an international community of friends and mentors, informs our decision that this is the right choice to building something world class. We look forward to building on the learnings of 2016, and are sure that this will be a fruitful year.

It goes without saying that the achievement of this goal impossible without the continued support of our mentor and advisor communities and the support gained from our corporate partners. While the contributions of each individual partner has been extremely important, The Cortex Hub would like to specially thank both Convergence Partners and MICT SETA for their special contributions towards establishing The Cortex Hub and to keeping it running through the contribution of entrepreneurial stipends – a gesture which opened the doors of The Cortex Hub to a number of entrepreneurs who would have otherwise not have been able to join us for this year.

We look forward to working with each of our partners in the coming year and know that we will continue to do more together.

Regards

The Cortex Hub Team

 

The Cortex Hub CEO: The journey – Luyolo Makalima.

LuyoloI would like to thank the entire Cortex Hub community – the Chairman, Remote team, Entrepreneurs and also the illustrious visitors who have attended the Cortex Hub days on end, for the heartfelt support they have shown me throughout my term as CEO in the first generation of what will soon be the greatest incubator in South Africa and ultimately Africa.

This journey has been an incredible one, working with people who really rose to the occasion at all times in assisting in running and coordinating the Cortex Hub very ably in a period of hard work, structuring ,organising, articulating and implementing of strategies and plans of the Cortex Hub’s ambitious idea. This stage has been of refining raw talent, such that each of the 32 entrepreneurs have the necessary skill set to yield a successful business in the very near future.

I have personally learnt a great deal about the running of a complex structure such as this. Learning to typically encourage the entrepreneurs to devote themselves full-time to their new ideas, set curriculum and structure was the most rewarding skill learnt. There is no doubt that The Cortex Hub can only grow in the right direction with the new CEO, Mr Mandilakhe Hlaula, great things shall prevail. Good luck my friend.

About Luyolo

Luyolo Makalima is an innovative young man who is always striving for opportunities to grow beyond limitations. Ultimately his goal is the discovery of new things in the world around him. He is the former CEO at The Cortex Hub.

Luyolo matriculated in 2007, and holds a Bachelor Degree in Construction Management from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU). He has served in positions such as National and International Relations Officer in the Green Campus Initiative, and was a finalist in the NMMU Sanlam Business Challenge. He also served in a Non-Governmental Organisation, Bluebuck Network as a Media and Marketing Manager, and was a delegate for the Association of College and University Housing Officers in the Southern African Chapter Conference.

Luyolo recently represented The Cortex Hub at a technology conference, Skolkovo Startup Village in Moscow, Russia

Big Data (What is Big Data)

Written by: Athini Bashe

There are a number of questions that arise when one talks about Big Data. This is the first blog in a series that will talk about Big Data. The aim is to help readers understand:

  • What Big Data is;
  • How Big Data can help corporate and individuals;
  • What the advantages and disadvantages of Big Data are; and
  • How Big Data can (or is) helping South Africa and the entire world.

What is Big Data?

Before getting too technical, let’s define “Big Data” – Big Data is a phrase used to describe the enormous volumes of structured, semi-structured and unstructured data being generated in the world today. Why is Data so important? Well, Data allows you to understand what is going on at a given point in time (real time analytics), but it also allows you to foresee and predict things based on the data you have already gathered. Having these large data sets stored on storage medium becomes an issue when it comes to processing and analyzing the data. There are a number of technologies built to help you turn Data into information.

What is structured, semi-structured and unstructured data?

Structured data is the data stored on a relational database that has some schema on write. Here’s an example: Let’s say you have a database that contains information about customers then inside the database you would have a customer’s table with a predefined schema for storing data in rows and columns (customer_id, customer_name and customer_address).

Semi-structured data does not conform to a formal structure. Examples of semi-structured data would be xml and csv files.

Unstructured data is your pdf, doc, emails, and posts on social media, GPS data and videos.

Storing large amounts of structured, semi-structured and unstructured data on one storage medium requires a lot of computing power. Now the question is what are the technologies that are available to store this data? We will get to this in a few posts.

I believe there’s a lot that Big Data has to offer and I will continue blogging and discussing the use cases for big data; the platforms that can be used to manipulate Big Data and most exciting of all, the future of Big Data.

In my next post I will be touching on a bit of history about Big Data and the benefits that Big Data can offer. In the meantime, please feel free to comment below.

UAV’s (drones): Where Are These Flying From?

Written by: Natasha Mahlathi

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, famously known as “Drones” have been trending for a while now but where these magnificent pieces of technology surfaced from is the most common question being asked.

In this blog I will refer to UAV’s as drones have been around for centuries, they have not always been used as aerial technology in fields such as conservation, commerce, search & rescue and scientific research in the lengthy list of its usages. Its origins can easily be traced to the military. The first reusable radio-controlled aircraft in the thirties was built for target practice by the Royal Marines and is often considered the earliest incarnation of the models used worldwide today.

drone

The figure above depicts an Aerial Target (AT) developed in 1916. AT was a radio-controlled, unmanned airplane conceived in the late 1916s, designed both for defense and as a flying bomb. Even though these early drones do not specifically meet today’s definition of an Unmanned Ariel Vehicle, the concept was well established and is the result of these new and more technological aircrafts.

Today, drones are no longer solely operated in the military space, but there has been a major transition to smaller and more technologically advanced versions used for all sorts of purposes by companies and individuals and in various industries.

The first pilotless aircrafts were initiated or developed during wars even though they were primarily for surveillance and for serving war purposes. These gradually evolved and drones being used as training tools for anti-aircraft gunners is a testament to that growth. As a, result the war jet engines started to be applied to jet engines and other aircrafts.

Interest in the UAV technology has grown rapidly, with drones being more accessible and affordable. The culture of startups has greatly made pathway for more business to tap into the airspace economically as well. The future definitely looks bright and drones have a chance of being more useful with technology and policy makers finally catching up.

Look out for my next blog which will focus on the dynamic variance of drones and the impact that they have on the world.

Please feel free to leave a comment below.