Perspectives Innovation

Startupbus Africa: Danielle’s Diary. Day 1 – 5

  • Date
  • Summary / Author
    Danielle Reid

Australian digital designer and entrepreneur Danielle Reid is the co-founder of Capsule.fm – an application that connects people to their favourite online content through audio for when they’re on the move. She lives in Berlin.

At Startupbus Africa together with Chris from London and Dean from Cape Town, she is member of the team Sterio.me, a service which engages young African learners through a simple teacher generated phone-call to reinforce learning outside the classroom. Please read about her motivation here.

Please read Danielle’s blog from Day 1 to Day 5 and follow her and the buspreneurs on the road to develop their startups.

  • Funeral.ly wanting to be the Everbrite for funeral management.
  • Bribed  solving crime with a twist: by crowdsourcing the price of bribes to provide realtime market prices.
  • Pitch Me If You Can, a mobile matchmaking app for startups to pitch their ideas to potential investors or co-workers.
  • Workforce presenting a mobile-powered planning app for connecting workers and employers.
  • HumAid wants to make aid delivery efficient, finding an overlapping location between NGOs and disease outbreak.
  • Pela24, a solution to help people from rural areas diagnose symptoms and better identify disease.
  • GreenBack is an app-powered points scheme that let’s people raise funds and pay for clean, solar energy for families across Africa.
  • Sterio.me, a service which is committed to revolutionizing the mobile education for young Africans in remote locations through reinforced learning via a simple phone call from a teacher.

Startupbus Africa Day 1 / On the road from Harare to the border: Finding out what are we really passionate about.

After departing our beautiful accommodation at Imba hotels, we journeyed onto the big bus that was the promised place of innovation and excitement. I sat next to Thomas, a quick thinking, bright Australian who was living between Australia and Africa. The Startupbus team introduced themselves and we were asked to have a think about potential ideas surrounding energy, healthcare and mobile so that we could pitch to the bus and form teams.
Having heard some of the most prevalent issues surrounding Africa during the previous days event hosted by HyperCube, we were intent on addressing some of the issues highlighted, particularly in relation to the mediums and constraints that are imposed on connectivity in rural Africa. Mobile penetration is high and our concepts should be accessible and intuitive to use for all Africans. This meant that complex design and irrelevant platforms shouldn’t be focused upon, in favor of easy deliveries such as sms communication and basic functionality.
This in mind, I wanted to focus on a solution which was delivered in the form of audio or a simple sms, available to anyone owning a basic mobile device. The entrepreneurs took the bus isle, megaphone in hand and began pitching. We then formed teams, which was a difficult process on a moving bus, but created an intense energy.
Our team was formed not from the budding of an idea, but from the dynamic of a team. We had chatted earlier and I liked the energy of Chris and Dean’s expertise and together we started exploring a range of ideas. It was a funny way to work. We began with the medium, a basic mobile phone and looked back to see what kind of relevant concept could work for that. Initially, we were discussing a learning platform for farmers which was sms activated to guide the farmer through a difficult situation in the form of interactive sms instructions. We chatted for a few hours, before realizing that the idea was facing challenges and individually, we lacked inspiration.
Feeling delated, we sat quietly and resumed thinking, starting from the basics. The question “What are you guys really passionate about” was raised, which lead to a complete pivot and a fresh buzz. Dean began telling us more about his experience and introduced his company, which was in the audio industry. Excitedly joining in, I mentioned our startup, Capsule.fm was also in the audio space and Chris felt passionately about education in rural africa. Bringing these ideas together, we began discussing what would later be named Sterio.me, a free service which delivers reinforced, teacher generated audio content from teacher to student via a phone call. This idea captivated us because it was so simple and accessible to everyone. It saved a teacher time and engaged learners when they were out of the classroom.
Initially, we were considering using the platform as a way of delivering African folk tales, however we decided on a smaller, easier to manage user experience of a quiz directly relating to a lesson that had been taught that day. In the future, the content could be anything that can be recorded, opening up the service to many diverse areas.
The bus was stopping numerously at border control, where we exited the bus, reentered and got a small taste of rural African life. Exhausted, we finally arrived at The Ultimate Guest House post midnight and after eating, fell into bed, excited and inspired by the bus ride.

Startupbus Africa Day 2 / On the Road and in Johannesburg: The first chance to pitch our startups.

Last night’s accommodation was amazing and I awoke to Chris’ excited announcement that he had seen a baboon! Despite wishing to stay longer, we jumped back onto the bus in pursuit of Johannesburg. Sitting back in the bus, shaded by the lingering post-it notes that decorated our windows, we resumed working and discussed our strategy for the coming days.
Time had flown and before we knew it we had arrived in Johannesburg where we were kindly invited to work at Seed Engine, a co-working space in a spacious and energetic building. The walls were lined with fun quotes and the wifi password was particularly relevantly titled, “getshitdone”. Taking this plan quite seriously and in celebration of internet connectivity, we quite literally got shit done, finally deciding on a logo, colour scheme and had social media sites on Facebook and Twitter set up.
It was the first chance to pitch our startups and mentors had arrived to watch and give their feedback. We stood up, took the stage and began pitching, feeling finally like things were progressing. Many of the teams had come a long way already and it was great to see things taking shape in such a short time.
Fueled by pizza and coffee, we stayed and worked until midnight. Upon arrival at the hostel, the invitation of a swimming pool was too great to resist and some of the more eager entrepreneurs including myself jumped in for a refresher in the cool water.

Startupbus Africa Day 3 / Johannesburg: We marveled at what we had achieved in such a short time.

Waking up was surprisingly refreshing. It began by jumping eagerly into the swimming pool of the low key hostel we were staying in and offered gasping clarity from our cloudy heads from the day before.

Excited to get on the road, we lined up to visit the Branson Center for Entrepreneurship to work with the proud promise of stable wifi and a generous breakfast. Visiting Johannesburg was a stark contrast from rural Zimbabwe, where we had passed through gentle landscapes and sleepy towns. Johannesburg felt safely suburban and the city had a buzz of traffic surrounding the location of the Branson Center of Entrepreneurship. After breakfast in a trendy cafe with much desired real coffee and healthy “hipster” salads, we made our way up to the Branson centre, which was in a typically “Branson” red decorated building.

Typical start-up bean bags were scattered throughout the room. We were given advice on our pitches and warned of the 1pm pitch timeslot, where we would venture into the open public space, decked out with yet more beanbags, colorful umbrellas and microphones. We would be pitching to the public – anyone who was willing to listen.

In preparation, our group huddled together in a modern room, equipped with a mic and lighting and we excitedly plotted our moves to make a pitch to the public for noon. To validate our idea, we went out onto the streets with a video camera and approached people to ask whether they would participate in our market research.

We were  pitching Sterio.me, a service which engages young African learners through a simple teacher generated phone-call to reinforce learning outside the classroom.

It means that all learners need is access to a simple mobile device which can receive calls. The learner simply enters a code to begin a quiz containing content from a class taught earlier that day. By inputting a multiple choice answer, or a voice activated response, the learner can get a quick recap and reenforcement of the class taught. For the teacher, invaluable data is received which can be applied to assess the effectiveness of not only the class content, but track individual learners progress. In addition, data can be measured on a rural and national scale across learners receiving the content. It’s an easy process of a voice recording made by the teacher and uploaded into the Sterio.me portal. The portal also offers content created by other teachers, which can be used if a teacher can’t create content for that day.

Collecting real data was invaluable and we were quickly glowing with the responses to our three questions. A pair of teen boys in school uniforms testified that Sterio.me was great “yeah, that sounds awesome” they had said as we explained how we we reach those learners most in need. We filmed the whole thing and ran back to the Branson centre to build together something which could be cut into a quick validation video for our pitch.

The Johannesburg heat hit at 1pm as we huddled outside on the sunbaked beanbags awaiting us. Each team took the stage and had one minute to pitch. We heard ideas which would really make an impact – from a platform which linked unskilled worker teams with potential employers through an SMS, a system which compared the current price of a bribe; and a technology which streamlined the social and organizational element of funerals.

The public voted and Bribery was named winner. Cheering began and we made our way for lunch at a restaurant serving the typical and beloved burgers and fries, quickly becoming somewhat of a staple of us during our journey. We were full. Of ideas and food and hurriedly made our way back to the Branson centre for last minute work flurries. This was the time when we were really happy. We had our first working live demo! Magnus, the charming Danish organizer of Startupbus Africa entered and we were able to receive a live call through code activation, just as a rural African learner would.

High-fiving was the task at hand as we marveled at what we had achieved in such a short time and with minimal internet connectivity. On a high, we made our way for the bus on a journey to our hostel for the next night.

The bus is a curious place, meddled with cords and complaints of patchy internet and no battery. It’s a humbling reminder of how reliant of the internet we are back home and how obsessed we are with connectivity. Without the internet we chat. We chat about our idea. We chat about life and we chat about experiences. It’s really the best kind of learning – to have interesting and engaged entrepreneurs together in a place without distraction, guided only by the bigger vision of creating a meaningful impact through innovation in Africa.

 

Startupbus Africa Day 4 / On the road from Johannesburg to Cape Town. Neither the power or the wifi worked, so we had just a few hours laptop time …

We were reminded of just how reliant we are on internet and power today. The bus journey is long – a 14 hour ride down to Cape Town. As the day begun, we were excited about the prospect of some solid working hours on the bus, relatively free from distraction.
After leaving our accommodation – this time at a simple but charming place, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, we ventured to a local technical university before boarding the bus in pursuit of Cape Town. The bus was playing up. Neither the power or the wifi worked, so we had just a few hours laptop time before realizing that the most effective way of making progress was to give up on the technology for a while and actually talk about our ideas. It’s funny how the times that first appear counterproductive often manage to turn themselves into situations of great learning and joy.
We made lots of progress both on Sterio.me as well as getting to bond on a personal level and chat with other entrepreneurs. Chris and Dean are my co-founders at Sterio.me and both of them managed to make to push myself that little bit further. Chris is an Oxford dropout and is one of the most well connected people I know, despite his tender age of 20. He was so on it all of the time, managing to set up some key press and contacts which would later come in handy. Dean, taking care of the tech, was switched and and had a genuine insight into strategic management which would save us time and money. He thought with clarity and was so process driven that we managed to deport a working prototype on day 3.
The journey was long, so there is also time to listen to music, reliving every cell in my body. Our strategy had changed and we decided to sleep for the remainder of the bus journey and resume work upon arrival into the hostel.
The hostel was small and reminded me of school camps in Australia where strategic placement of suitcases is a priority. We arrived around 3am and lay in bed working. With internet, we learned that our web host required verification for our payment. After waiting for over an hour online in a web chat with the web host, we finally began chatting with someone, who required photo id and another credit card validation. Sending passport photo after passport photo and copies of the credit card, we kept getting declines because the photograph wasn’t clear enough. We were issued tickets to confirm each of the receipts of the emails we sent.
At 5am, after having no success, we finally got a ticket with the code “PIG” written on it, which we gratefully took as a sign to promptly delete our account and took up Thomas’ kind offer of hosting the website on one of his servers.

Startupbus Africa Day 5 / In Capetown. The perfect setting for the feeling of optimism in the air as we rode on the bus. We had bonded and made lasting connections.

Our hostel room floor is a pool of dirty clothes, overflowing suitcases and cables, all desperately charging from the previous days’ lack of wifi and power on the bus. Eager to get out early to see Cape Town and finish building our bus startups, we left for Bandwidth Barn, which was a trendy space reminiscent of a mixture of what felt like parts of Melbourne, with cafes serving organic food on the lower floor and co-working and creative spaces as well as offices above.
After being served delicious breakfast at Bandwidth Barn, we busily worked to finish our startups for the afternoon’s pitches. For us, that meant a manic rush to bring on a first pilot onboard to partner with Sterio.me, our startup. Luckily, Pastor Lovemore from Higher Life Foundation came through and we were ecstatic to be able to announce this, quickly weaving it into our pitch. We sat together in a small room, making last minute edits, cutting videos and getting feedback from mentors.
Often, we were inspired and motivated by other teams and team members. Many of the teams achieved amazing results in such a short time and without resources, getting incredible reach on social media, onboarding first customers and partnerships. Shaking things up from my daily routine and working with diverse talent is always both refreshing and motivating. My team at Capsule.fm are so switched on and an innovative team to work with and working with fresh talent inspires me to implement some of the methods and mentalities that I was influenced by during Startupbus Africa.
Time was slipping and we were eventually ready to travel to the venue of the pitches. Cape Town is a city that demands attention. The landscape is captivating and everything looked so clear, blue and crisp. It was the perfect setting for the feeling of optimism in the air as we rode on the bus. The energy and enthusiasm on the drive was high and our bus megaphone was used to sing karaoke.
  • The pitches began at the venue starting with Funeral.ly, wanting to be the Everbrite for funeral management.
  • Bribed was a crowd pleaser right from the very start, with a charismatic team and entertaining concept, solving crime with a twist: by crowdsourcing the price of bribes to provide realtime market prices.
  • Pitch Me If You Can came up next and presented a mobile matchmaking app for startups to pitch their ideas to potential investors or co-workers.
  • Workforce delivered a clear and polished pitch, presenting a mobile-powered planning app for connecting workers and employers.
  • HumAid wants to make aid delivery efficient, finding an overlapping location between NGOs and disease outbreak so that support is delivered to the right location.
  • Pela24 presented their solution to help people from rural areas diagnose symptoms and better identify disease.
  • GreenBack is an app-powered points scheme that let’s people raise funds and pay for clean, solar energy for families across Africa.
  • Finally, our team at Sterio.me pitched our service which is committed to revolutionizing the mobile education for young Africans in remote locations through reinforced learning via a simple phone call from a teacher.
Feeling proud of the calibre of ideas that were presented, especially despite all of the challenges that we faced along the way, we prepared ourselves to hear the results. In well deserved first place was Workforce and runners up were Bribed and Funeral.ly. The vibe was exciting and we were ready to celebrate the efforts of our hard work.
Going out that night really highlighted one of the major positive outcomes of being on the bus and spending time with diverse, quality talent. We had bonded and made lasting connections. Each of the teams had supported each other, pushed each other and inspired each other to go that little bit further throughout the journey and now was the time to really shake out that hard work.

Have a look at Danielle’s startup capsule.fm here. Connect with Danielle via LinkedIn.You can subscribe to sterio.me here.

Here you can find portraits of all buspreneurs, including their LinkedIn connections, as well as portraits of the founders of the Startupbus Africa venture and their sponsors. You can follow Startupbus Africa on Twitter and on Facebook and get more information on their website.