Launch Pad: Apply for RLabs Innovation Incubator and Accelerator 2013

After an exciting launch last month RLabs is now accepting applications for the Innovation Incubator & Accelerator 2013 cycle. We are looking for 5 social innovators who would like to take their idea to market and change the world doing so. The venue for incubation will be at the RLabs offices in Bridgetown, Cape Town and starts February till October 2013.

If you want to apply, send your idea via our contact page (describe in less than 200 words) by 17 December 2012. We will invite the most promising teams/ideas to present their idea on the 10 January 2013 to our panel where our selection will take place.

We will include in our decision making the amount we will invest which normally up to $20,000 for % equity in your company. The investment is a facility that you will have access to over the 9 months with RLabs.

We provide you with a desk/open space that you can use while in the Incubator. During the 9 month cycle we expect you to attend our weekly workshops and mentorship meetings. We will also invite experts to do special guest talks with all the start-up founders. You are also encouraged to be part of the Silicon Cape Network to leverage the resources and events hosted by this network.

The highlight of the incubation cycle is the RLabs Launch Day (next year to be held on the 10th October 2013) where all the startups are required to demo and showcase what they’ve been working on since inception. After the launch day RLabs continue to give advice and support but the access to the invest facility will end.

What are we looking for in founders are simple. We look for the “Crazy ones” who is innovative, highly motivated and not scared to take the risks (Experience and design flair is always welcomed). The ideas (which we believe will change) should at a minimum fulfill the following 3 criteria:

1) Idea that makes a social impact and leveraging mobile and internet technologies
2) Idea that have some insight into how to sustain the social impact and business
3) Idea that can be scalable and replicable

The ideal company would have 2/3 team members but we will consider one-person ideas. If you have what it takes message us here and tell us why you believe you should be in the RLabs Innovation Incubator.



Breaking News: RLabs and Bertha Foundation launches Kukua Fund for Social Entrepreneurs

RLabs have partnered with Bertha Foundation to launch an impact investment fund (Kukua Fund)to discover and invest in Africa‚Äôs high potential internet and mobile start-ups driving social change. The fund will provide micro investments to startups of up to US$25,000, human capital and mentorship, access to networks as well as business development. According to Marlon Parker, “We believe that Africa is alive with possibilities and that it’s filled with hidden “gems” of innovation that needs to be discovered. The Kukua Fund is therefore that impact investment vehicle uncovering the best Africa has on offer.”

What the Kukua Fund is really looking for is a crazy idea, strong team who is passionate about leveraging the power of mobile and internet technologies for social change. The Kukua Fund is an Africa-wide fund and welcomes applications from across the continent. For more information visit Kukua Fund and applications are now open for those seeking investments.



The new journey with Mxit Reach

By now most people would be aware that I’ve joined Mxit to head up the social development and non-profit company. I’ve been asked by a number of people why I opted to join Mxit and take on this new role. Below I give 3 reasons why I believe Mxit is possibly the best place for me to be at in this part of my journey and the possibilities it presents in reconstructing communities:

1) Mxit is Africa’s largest Social Network with more than 50 Million registered users (10 Million+ active users) and the 9th largest Mobile Social Network in the world. With such a vast community to tap into it presents a good stepping stone to launch social change initiatives at scale

2) It is an African Solution that is ideal to solve African and emerging market problems. This excites me because it allows us to leapfrog other solutions with an already solid team at Mxit.

3) Mxit has an amazing team leading the Revolution, being part of this journey and opportunity to work with such amazing individuals is definitely an opportunity to learn as much as possible and to contribute to its success.


M4D case study: Innovative solution to Zimbabwe’s change problem

It is always exciting to see innovative uses of mobile phones solving real-life problems. In Zimbabwe since 2009 the adoption of the mixed hard currencies monetary regime the one problem that has refused to go away is that of change. Retailers, small business owners, street vendors, bus operators and many others are struggling to keep up with the demand of change.

Many consumers would have to buy extra goods to get a rounded amount to solve the change dilemma. However, this problem has been addressed by a local mobile phone airtime business, Yo Time, that launched a product allowing consumers to redeem their change for mobile phone airtime. This is definitely innovative and presents a real solution to the problem many Zimbabweans face daily.

Read more about this story on TechZim.


RLabs Nigeria

Only weeks away from our team traveling to Nigeria to join our partners and hosts Youth for Technology . RLabs Nigeria will focus on developing and empowering youth in using technologies such as Mxit, JamiiX and Social Media tools to distribute health information and provide peer to peer counselling services.

It will also work on programmes to develop new innovations that can be used to address the social problems experienced in the local context. The RLabs partnership with Youth for Technology is made possible through the support of The Indigo Trust and the official launch will be later this month. Watch this space as we keep you updated with developments in Nigeria.



Africa’s most popular mobile social network Mxit partners with RLabs

Since its inception RLabs have always had a focus of using innovation to facilitate change and entrepreneurship as a model of sustainability. One of the key partners of RLabs over the last few years has been Mxit (Africa’s largest mobile Social network and Forbes top start up of Africa) who through providing RLabs access to its technology and using it as a tool for change.

Advice Support
This partnership enables the 50 million registered Mxit users to access professional counselling on various issues such as HIV, substance abuse and depression via mobile chat. Not only have this partnership made an impact in Southern Africa it also provided support to WHO with a safer hospital campaign in Indonesia last year. This partnership has reached more than 2.5 million people in need over the last 3 years via mobile chat, portals and feedback services.

Launchpad for RLabs Start-ups

Another aspect of the partnership which has proven to be successful is that a few of the social enterprises currently being incubated through RLabs have used Mxit as a launch pad and technology partner. The most well-known start-up is JamiiX which was our first product to be incubated and the partnership with Mxit has always brought lots of value to the growth of JamiiX. JamiiX is the platform currently being used in 17 countries world-wide with more than 500,000+ users being served via its FREE option and an additional 300,000+ users via its customized version.

Other start-ups who leveraged the RLabs and Mxit partnership are uusi (mobile jobs network with already more than 6,000,000 job searches in under 3 months, just under 40,000 mobile CVs uploaded and more than 50,000 users), MiGoX (open governance social platform), Urahisi (a mobile ordering service via Mxit) and others.

Global RLabs Support Partner

What really excites us of this new partnership is that Mxit and RLabs will work together in the countries where RLabs have a presence and where Mxit can be leveraged to be a key catalyst as the technology for social change in those countries. It will also allow the other RLabs hubs to innovate and come up with new products on the Mxit platform.

For us at RLabs having Mxit as a partner brings so much value as it not only allows us to grow the number of people we are impacting with social services, but it is also a valuable launch pad for new and creative social innovative products being developed by RLabs not only in South Africa but also soon via our other labs.


Why the world needs more Social Entrepreneurs

Currently in Amsterdam and over the last few weeks I’ve really been thinking about startups and the impact they can have in Society. It is also very difficult to find startups that adds value and meaning in society. Everyone wants to create the next BIG thing to be the next Facebook or Twitter, yet there are so many opportunities in creating startups that can make a difference and address the needs of society.

This was one of the reasons for starting RLabs, a Social Enterprise that uses web and mobile technologies to empower, equip communities and addresses the needs of people in need. Since the existence of RLabs it has empowered more than 4,000 people with digital literacy at NO COST and created support services to more than a million users over the last 3 years.

Currently RLabs have an incredible team of 28 full-time champions who are making a difference daily and RLabs as a startup also expanded its services and activity to 13 countries. So after this experience I share the following FOUR reasons why the world needs more Social Entrepreneurs:

1) The world needs entrepreneurs who can solve real problems and that have meaning to society at large. A great article by Fast Company encourages startups to build products that have meaning and explains why solving real problems are so rewarding on a number of different levels.

2) Social impact initiatives needs to be sustainable and the pure donor model or aid can’t sustain these initiatives. Developing sustainable models and through entrepreneurship are the only way to make a substantial and lasting impact.

3) Many of the problems in the world already have the right people to solve them in its context. It just needs a difference perspective on the problem to come up with a relevant solution for a social problem. Read the article by Harvard Business Review on how Entrepreneurs find opportunities.

4) Most solutions in society have a direct economic value and requires an entrepreneurship mindset to have the maximum impact.